What a gal!
By ANN-MARIE MAY
AT age 56, Joan-Mary Palmer started living.
It was then that she was diagnosed with breast cancer, but instead of giving up she wrote a list of everything she wanted to do before dying and 14 years later has achieved all her goals.
"Finding out that I had cancer was the push I needed to do everything I wanted to do," Mrs Palmer said.
On the list was completing a beauty therapy course, travelling the world, competing in ballroom dancing and doing the Higher School Certificate.
The vibrant 70-year-old's latest achievement was graduating from Southern Cross University with a Bachelor of Human Services, majoring in counselling.
Mrs Palmer describes the course as more than four years of 'blood, sweat and tears'.
"I had never sat at a computer before. I bawled for the first month. But it was a challenge, which was what I was after," Mrs Palmer said.
She has now mastered the computer and even admits that it's a fantastic new addition in her life.
As one of the oldest graduates in SCU's history, Mrs Palmer had no problem fitting in with her classmates.
"The kids didn't seem to think I was any older than them. When I accepted my graduation certificate the kids all yelled, 'good on you mum'," she said.
Mrs Palmer now volunteers at the Boambee East Neighbourhood Centre, where she offers free counselling two mornings a week.
Before tackling university, Mrs Palmer first had to cross n To Page 3
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something else of her list ? the HSC.
She completed this at the North Coast Institute of TAFE, Coffs Harbour, coming third in the State in biology.
"I thought 'God I'd love to do this', but told my husband Arthur that as it was nine to five he would have to do all the housework. He said that was OK, so I did it," she said.
It was because of her great results that she was told to go to university.
"I said what was I going to do at university? Someone said I should do this new course (Human Services) and major in something to help the aged. I was told to look after my own," she said.
Joining Mrs Palmer on her adventures has been her supportive husband Arthur, who partnered her in ballroom dancing and carried the bags as they saw the sights of the world.
Mrs Palmer is now taking a year off to relax, but don't think for a moment she is anywhere near slowing down.
"I'd like to go back to uni to do psychology. It depends whether I'm still alive," she said.
"I have done everything on my list and I'm still alive. I hope people will see me and think 'if you want to do something go out and do it'. Age is no barrier," she said.
And to all the sceptics who thought she was mad . . . achievements speak for themselves.