Attitude, Belief, Confidence

After publishing her first book in her 90s, her life changed and so did many others.

Attitude, Belief, Confidence

In April 2014, I received the first printed copy of a book I had written titled The Challenging Journey. But little did I know, the publication of my story would open the next chapter of my life.

Initially written for the family, it was a warts-and-all story about my experience with my husband Don’s 20-year battle with dementia. I wanted to give my family a fuller picture of the disease and teach them that awareness of even the subtlest changes is important to record. Although I had only intended to share my story with friends and family, a friend who had worked as a university professor for many years convinced me to release the book to the public.

On the week of the launch event, the local newspaper had published a story about my book and word began to spread. In addition to the 20 friends and family I was expecting, an extra 60 people from the community were there to celebrate. Word of the story continued to spread after the launch and soon I was being asked to discuss the book for newspaper, radio and online interviews.

What is happening? I thought to myself.

Shortly after the launch, a lady from Dementia Outreach invited me to share my story with a group of 20 or so. To my surprise – and pleasure – I found myself at ease speaking in front of people who had a genuine interest.

I had been doing around two presentations a month when I was invited by Dementia Outreach to be a guest speaker at the Aged Care Symposium in August. This time I responded with a confident yes and kept an eye out for the promised programme to arrive in the mail.

When it came I had quite a shock and had to reread the programme a few times. I had been invited to speak to a group of 170 doctors, professors and various health workers.

“I can’t do this at my age,” I told the woman from Dementia Outreach over the phone, a rising panic in my voice.

“Of course, you can,” she said. “It’s the very reason we want you.”

Although I still wasn’t fully convinced, my son assured me that I would be fine and I decided to stick to my commitment. When I arrived, I was quite nervous but as my son had predicted, I was indeed “fine”. As I walked up those stairs and onto the stage, I realised how honoured I was to share my story, and I began to relax.

I was amazed by the reception, and the sound of the audience’s applause was ringing in my ears for hours after the speech. I was especially thrilled when, after hearing my presentation, the GNC Clinical Dementia organisation asked to use extracts from my book for an online health course in 2015.

A few years previously, when I was 85 and Don had been sick for some time, I had to undergo a life-threatening open-heart operation, suffered a massive stroke and found myself on a subsequent rollercoaster of hope and despair. As I was recovering, I wrote a list called “Things I Am Grateful For”.

Beside each letter of the alphabet, I recorded all of the important (and not so important) things for which I was thankful. For example, next to “A” I had written “Alive”, as I was grateful to have survived. Although I vowed to live by my ABCs, I admit that as I got better and the difficulties of looking after Don got worse, I let them fall by the wayside.

I have revised this list since Don’s passing and now beside “A” I write “Attitude” and beside “B” I record the “Belief” that my brain is not just there to fill space in my skull, but to give me “Confidence” and “Courage”. Sharing the ups and downs of our life together has led me to focus on the things I am grateful for and take the glass-half-full approach to life.

Telling my story allowed me to cast away negativity and gave me the courage to share my enthusiasm for the future, even at the ripe age of 92.

Despite the challenges of our final years together, I can now look back on our 63 years of marriage and remember Don as the smiling, singing man I married all those years ago.

Yvonne Hammond, 92, from Ballina in NSW, is a mother of two, a grandmother of three and a great-grandmother of two. Now retired, Yvonne enjoys volunteering and researching family history.

Do you have a tale to tell? We’ll pay cash for any original and unpublished story we print. Click here for details on how to contribute.

Ekkapol Chantawong (Left), coach of the 'Wild Boars' soccer team speak during a press conference for the first time since they were rescued from a cave in northern Thailand

Teach yourself to meditate and beat stress

Learn about the benefits of meditation and how it can help your daily life
Tattoo parlour owner Dave Cutlip, left, works on covering up a racist tattoo on the arm of Randy Stiles – who got it when he was “young and dumb”, he says

Meet the man eradicating racial slurs one offensive tattoo at a time

Tattoo artist Dave Cutlip donates his time to help people cover up racist, offensive or gangland markings they’ve come to regret.

The Red Tool Box

The Red Tool Box

United by a common desire to create, two art students form a special friendship for life.

The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough (1977)

The 10 best romance novels of all time

Books in which man meets woman, man woos woman (or woman woos man), and man and woman live happily ever after are a dime a dozen. Enjoyable, for sure, but not what you'd call memorable. So, the editors at Reader's Digest Select Editions have come up with a list of 10 of the best romance novels that tell favourite, and timeless, love stories, each of which goes above and beyond basic romance.
Words to Live By

Words to Live By

It’s not about adding years to your life but adding life to your years. So how can you feel – and look – younger at any age? Often it starts with a single word…