Finding a Path to Resilience
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Maura Luxford Maura Luxford is a woman making the best out of the worst time in her life.

In early 2009 Maura lost her first child, Hannah Rose Luxford-Matthews, to melanoma. But instead of falling apart, this inspiring woman from rural Kempsey has turned her grief into a drive to educate Australians on the risk of skin cancer – and in a very unique way.

Like many parents, Maura believed in the resilience of youth when Hannah was diagnosed with skin cancer. She believed Hannah, like any 20-year-old, would have it cut out and go on to live a full and happy life. But the tumour came back three times in one year and later spread to her liver and lungs. There was nothing doctors could do in the end. Within one year of her diagnosis, Hannah died of the disease.

Drowning in her grief, Maura felt an endless emptiness consuming her. A mum to two other children, she decided to rethink her life. Compelled to improve her health, a few months after Hannah’s death Maura hit the gym. Quietly crying on the machines sometimes, she started to notice a difference – she was losing weight and gaining inner peace.

In 2009, she started cycling. After a few months she was riding about 100 kilometres a week. And it was while on a ride, Maura had her life-changing moment. Reflecting on Hannah’s wish to tell all her friends to protect their skin and to raise funds to find a cure for melanoma, Maura decided to ride her bike to Melbourne to raise money and awareness of the disease.

In October of that year Maura hit the road, cycling 1680km from Kempsey to Melbourne, in what she called ride4acure. Stopping at schools, she presented an education program she created called Mela-What? to help young people understand the impact of UV radiation and cell damage.

Not wanting to stop, in 2010 Maura embarked on her second ride4acure, swapping her bike for three horses. She spent 86 days on the road, fundraising and speaking to more students and community groups about melanoma.

In 2011, her daughter Esther took to the saddle, riding 4600kms across Australia from Crescent Head to Perth, putting melanoma on the map as a young person’s disease. Accompanied by Maura with her son Joe, the trio presented Mela-What? to even more students.

Love competitions? Go in the free She Inspires competitions todayDetermined to make a difference, Maura has turned her personal tragedy into a force for good. This year her brave and inspiring efforts have been recognised by Sensis, which selected Maura for the cover of its Port Macquarie White & Yellow Pages book, under the theme Keeping Our Communities Healthy. Celebrating people who go above and beyond to improve the quality of life in their communities, the theme recognises Maura’s impact on skin cancer awareness.

Still overcoming her loss, Maura aims to dedicate the rest of her days to bringing ‘life’ to the loss of her daughter by helping young people and communities understand the steps to take to look after their skin. She has five tips for skin cancer prevention:

1. Understand UV ratings – find out what they mean and the impact UV has on our skin

2. Be sun safe in five ways – slip, slop, slap, slide(on some sunnies) and seek (shade)

3. Plan activities around UV ratings – realise what hours have the highest rating and schedule your day to make sure you’re not out in it

4. Understand the science behind melanoma – get involved in education programs such as Mela-What? to understand what causes skin cancers

5. Realise that skin cancer isn’t just about sunburn – UV rays exist 365 days a year, not just in summer or on hot days

Want to learn more or get involved in fundraising? Visit the Melanoma Institute of Australia.

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