Well known Australian actor Samuel Johnson is no ordinary bloke and certainly couldn’t be classed as an ordinary brother. If you haven’t already heard you’ll be amazed at what he did for his sister. Ready?
He took a year to ride around Australia, fundraising and raising awareness for breast cancer, the disease in which his beloved sister, Connie, has received a terminal diagnosis. Did I mention it was on a unicycle? 15,955 km on a unicycle sounds, well, it sounds painful.
Samuel is probably best known for his role on the Australian hit series ‘The Secret Life of Us’, where he played the role of one of the main characters, Evan Wylde, and also narrated the majority of the show.
During his year long unicycle journey Samuel broke a Guinness World Record and raised nearly $1.5 million for The Garvan Institute of Medical Research. He explained to The Cutthroat Journal how the journey came about, ‘In the immediate shadow of finding out Connie’s terminal diagnosis I asked her what she wanted her legacy to be. She’s (Connie) different to me, she didn’t want to die in vain, I believe to a certain extent everyone dies in vain. Connie wanted to find a meaning in the madness and she desperately wanted to prevent other people and particularly other young mums from dealing with what she has had to deal with. The message is – early detection saves lives. I mean how could I say no to her? It was impossible for me to deny her that.’
It must take a huge toll on the body to complete such a feat and when we spoke to Samuel it was about 6 weeks after finishing the ride. Asked how he feels now his response is hardly surprising. ‘Ratshit mostly,’ he says, ‘really spent. It’s a huge come down after basically living in a bubble for a year. I’m definitely in the process of coming back down to earth.’
Since arriving home in February, it’s been straight back into it for Sam. ‘I don’t really relax ever. I’ve had 6 days off and didn’t know what to do with myself. I did some really normal stuff like walk the dogs watch some boxsets. But I’m a thinking person, I live my work. Mentally I’m in a fragile place and I believe there is nothing more dangerous than an idle man. If I can remain focussed I have a chance of maintaining some sort stability. If I’m not exercising I’m not coping. You can always tell how well I am by how active I’m being. Exercise for me goes along with happiness. I’ve just been at the boxing gym for a few hours and it keeps me together.’
‘The benefits for me on this journey have been abundant, I’ve gained so much from this experience. For me it was a great way to deal with Connie being sick. I don’t like hospitals so it was much better for me to be out there doing something about it rather than watching my sister sick in hospital. I basically had 12 months off. It certainly wasn’t a holiday, I worked every day for the entire day. But I also got to see every corner of this beautiful place we live in. I’ve lost every penny but spiritually I’m a billionaire.‘
Sam’s dream at the end of the ride was simple but something he thought might be unlikely ‘I’d like Connie to be there at the finish line,’ he had said previously. ‘The fantasy for me is that I cross the finish line in to her arms and she’s crying with pride and she’s still alive. As most people if professional sport will tell you, fairytales rarely happen, and I certainly don’t expect her to be there at the finish line, but we can hope.’ Amazingly, Connie was there to meet him.
As you’d expect, this journey and mission is far from over for Sam. ‘We are in the process of finalising a book deal (the memoir is due to be released around Christmas). I’m going to be writing it with Connie, which is really exciting, but it’s a massive task. We are continuing our community work, family fun days, fundraisers, whatever we can do to get the message out there and to raise more money. Currently we’ve raised over 1.5 million dollars but I have a new goal of 10 million, so there is a lot of work to do. ‘
And Connie’s health? ‘Connie is kicking goals. There’s no escaping the fact that she’s dying but she is really well. She’s on a plane every week spreading the message and just needs a few days rest here and there. She is a trooper’ he says. We wish this inspirational brother and sister all the best.
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