Adversity brings out the best in Nerida
Turning decades of adversity into years of generosity has earned Halcyon Glades homeowner Nerida Smith the prestigious Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for community service.
As president of the Lymphoedema Association of Queensland for almost 23 years, Nerida has led a community organisation giving support, information, and education to people living with the medical condition.
Lymphoedema is the swelling of an arm or leg due to a blockage in the lymphatic system, often caused by lymph node removal or damage due to cancer treatment.
Nerida lived with the incurable condition for 23 years without a diagnosis after sustaining lymph damage in a childhood cycling accident.
She only stumbled on newly available treatment and the existence of the association by chance in 1989.
Finding answers to her questions and support from people who understood was life-changing for Nerida, inspiring her to become involved in the association.
“When I found the help I felt so much more in control of my life, so I wanted to help others find the help I found,” she said.
“Peer support is very important when anyone has a medical condition."
“Often people feel isolated and they just don’t have anyone else to talk to who understands."
“The empathy is there when people get together and they’re just so thankful that they’ve found answers.”
Nerida’s long stint as president of the association has also been a journey of personal discovery for the mother of four and former home economics teacher.
“It brought out hidden talents in me and provided me with skills I thought I’d never have, like using a computer and public speaking,” she said.
“I’m glad I have this interest in my life even at this stage of life, I’m still able to feel that I’m useful.
“And since my husband passed away three years ago, it’s so lovely to have this to keep me going."
“Otherwise, if you haven’t got any purpose, you’re sort of at a great loss.”
Nerida, who runs the association from home, shared this part of her life with fellow Halcyon Glades homeowners during a well-attended presentation on lymphoedema in the community cinema.
One of the homeowners, who has the condition, joined the association following the presentation.
Several others, who indicated they knew people at risk, were thankful for the information presented.
“I’ve come to Halcyon to start the next chapter in my life and I’ve brought this along with me,” she said.
Nerida, who hopes to hold more information sessions at Halcyon Glades, received her OAM at Government House in Brisbane on May 22.
“It’s been rewarding, I’ve met lots of lovely people and it’s a great feeling to help others out,” she said.
“Receiving the OAM is the culmination of turning adversity into something good.”
For more information about the Lymphoedema Association Qld, visit www.lymphqld.org