Penny Holyoake on her bike with her dog, Jack, on her three-month trip around Australia.
Penny Holyoake on her bike with her dog, Jack, on her three-month trip around Australia.

Living life to the full

Penny Holyoak was diagnosed with bowel cancer in March last year – and the disease has so far defied surgery and two rounds of chemotherapy.

But she is living every moment to the full, and putting plenty back into life while she has time.

Penny is on ‘the home stretch’ of a motorcycle tour around Australia called Pen’s Courage to Change, a three-month trip she hopes will combine happy times with raising funds for the Quest for Life Foundation.

Quest for Life provides programs for people living with life-threatening illness, loss, grief, depression or trauma.

Since 1985 more than 70,000 people have attended Quest for Life programs.

Penny also wants to raise awareness of cancer.

The foundation had helped her cope with the shocking news, and with some of the aspects of her troubled past that still haunted her.

Her co-rider on a second bike is also her best mate, Jude Ricardo. Dawn Holland drives the van with the tents, supplies and cooking gear.

And in pride of place behind Penny is Jack, her 12-year-old bichon friese.

Despite his protective goggles, the heat and dust of the open road sometimes get a bit much for Jack, who has to retire to the comfort of the van.

Penny says she has achieved her aim, even though she has a fortnight before she gets home to Melbourne.
“It has been fantastic,” she said.

“People have been great, donating to Quest for Life and listening to my story.”

Once home, however, she faces a tough decision – to have more chemo or not.

“In March, 2009 my life changed forever,” Penny said.

“In one moment I faced my mortality by receiving the devastating news that I had advanced bowel cancer.

“Seeking guidance, I participated in programs run by the Quest for Life Foundation, a not-for-profit charity offering inspiration, education and support to people living with life’s greatest challenges.”

Penny says that while her future is uncertain, the programs gave her a sense of hope, peace and understanding.

“I realised I wanted to give other people hope and the courage to overcome adversity,” she said.

“And so was born Courage to Change, a ride that traverses every corner of Australia to send the message loud and clear.”

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