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EXCLUSIVE: How Carrie Bickmore turned her grief into a fight for cancer victims – and the milestone moment Australia helped create

''It's decades in the making.''

By Tamara Cullen
There's a hurried rush in Carrie Bickmore's voice, followed by a deep exhale and a laugh of relief as she breathes an energetic "Hello" down the telephone line. It's a busy Monday morning and the TV presenter is juggling work, personal and family commitments against a ticking clock.
"I forgot my [work] security pass, I'm puffy, sweating and still wearing activewear because I thought I'd try to squeeze in a run – I'm a bloody hot mess today. Too many things [laughs]!" Carrie, 40, tells TV WEEK.
Yet among the organised chaos that many working mothers like Carrie face every day, her list of growing achievements would imply it's all been a breeze. In reality, of course, it's nothing short of hard work.
Carrie lost her husband Greg Lange to brain cancer in 2010 and has since launched The Brain Cancer Centre. (Image: TV WEEK)
In addition to raising her three children – Ollie, 14, Evie, six and Adelaide, two, with her partner Chris Walker -- co-hosting The Project and fulfilling several side projects, the charitable star has been on a mission to raise funds and awareness for the treatment of brain cancer. Carrie tragically lost her husband Greg Lange to brain cancer in 2010 and has been honouring his legacy ever since.
After announcing her organisation Carrie's Beanies 4 Brain Cancer six years ago at the TV WEEK Logie Awards, her efforts have gone from strength to strength with many celebrities including Lisa Wilkinson, Amanda Keller and Samantha Armytage all getting behind the cause.
"I have a platform to get the message out there through TV, radio and social media. I'm so grateful because not everyone gets that and there are many wonderful causes out there," she says.
Now in a milestone moment, Carrie has announced the launch of The Brain Cancer Centre. In collaboration with the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, the centre will bring researchers, medical experts and scientists together to collaborate on the cause, and hopefully one day in the future, eradicate the disease.
This wasn't achieved alone, she acknowledges. It was the generosity of the Australian public who contributed $18 million in beanie sales.
"Every day I get messages from people who have lost someone to brain cancer." (Image: TV WEEK)
"It's blown me away," she says. "To think that many Australians are walking around with a beanie on their head is a beautiful feeling. Occasionally, I stop people and say thank you because I don't think they realise that it literally wouldn't be possible if they hadn't gotten behind it. I'm so grateful."
It was in 2015 that the TV WEEK Gold Logie winner took to the podium in a blue beanie and pledged her cause. The emotional moment hit the hearts of many, but the star says it could've all gone very differently had she not won!
"About a week before [the Logies], someone asked me what I was going to say in my speech if I win. I thought, 'What do you mean?' and then I stressed about it because even though I present on TV and radio, getting in front of people you know is so intimidating!" she recalls. "I wanted to use the opportunity to speak about another side of my world that few people knew about.
"Greg used to wear beanies to cover his many scars and bald patches, so I thought it was a nice gesture and a nod to him to wear one. We [my team and I] planned to have some beanies on hand for people in the ballroom to wear after the speech. I drove to a warehouse in Melbourne and asked for as many camping beanies as they had. But now I look back and embarrassingly think, 'What if I didn't win? I would've had to trudge home with a box of beanies [laughs]."
While her goal was to simply start a conversation, Carrie has provided much more than that. She has bent an ear, forged a connection and provided a semblance of hope to someone who is enduring a similar heartache.
At times, she admits, her plight is emotional and weighted in sadness as she continues to process her own loss, as well as bearing witness to others. But it's also her motivation.
"They aren't quiet moments [of sadness], they are intense and loud, but it's the reason I keep moving forward in trying to do all I can," she explains.
"Every day I get messages from people who have lost someone to brain cancer, or they themselves are going through it. We couldn't do something in our time when Greg was alive, and when you're in the middle of it, it's hard to concentrate on anything other than the treatment and the fight.
"So I hope there is a day when no one has to lose someone they love to cancer. And if you're sitting in front of your doctor, you might have treatment options. We didn't have that luxury with Greg. We didn't hear the hope – so that is what I want to provide for people, hope.
Carrie announced her organisation Carries Beanies 4 Brain Cancer six years ago at the TV WEEK Logie Awards. (Image: Nine)
"It's going to take time, I know that. It's decades in the making and I want to be there to see that change."
At home, Carrie's purpose only grows stronger as she watches Ollie, Evie and Adelaide begin to forge their own path.
"I'm so thankful for their understanding throughout this because it [the work] takes me away from them," she says. "But Ollie in particular can see and feel the purpose behind it."
But as Ollie edges into his adolescence and the two girls leave their toddler days behind, Carrie is desperately holding onto the precious moments – until they say otherwise!
Carrie has two daughter, Evie and Adelaide, and a son named Oliver. (Image: Instagram)
"It absolutely guts me [they are growing up]. I might have four more Summer holidays left where Ollie may want to hang out with me," she says with a laugh. "I go through periods where I try to pack all of it in and it's exhausting!"
In a year unlike any other, Carrie – who also celebrated her 40th birthday in lockdown in December – appreciates the stillness of being with those you love. And yes, there will be times of chaos and a few juggling acts like today, but Carrie knows what she wants most – to be present.
"Despite COVID-19 being horrendous for all across the world, lockdown has given us pockets of goodness as a family," she says. "We've really slowed down and enjoyed being together, and I was somewhat sad that it would come to an end. So, while the kids do want to hang out with us, I definitely want to be there."

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