ENDURING some of life's hardest knocks has only made Gayle Daetz a more determined and stronger person.
At just 19 years of age, Gayle was made a widow when she lost her young husband Howard in a truck accident. Their only son, Jody, was two years-old.
"It was so hard, we had only been married for two years,” Gayle said.
"We were able to get married with my parents' permission.”
Pushing on with life as a single mum, things began to turn around when Gayle met her second husband Evan, who soon after adopted little Jody as his own.
The young family moved out to Summerholm and life became as normal as could be expected.
But in March of 1993, tragedy struck again.
"Jody was diagnosed with leukaemia,” Gayle said with tears in her eyes.
"We had six years with him until he passed.
"Nobody can ever replace the loss of a child ... it's heartbreaking.”
Soon after she lost Jody, Gayle decided to make it her life mission to help others affected by a blood cancer.
Eighteen years on and hundreds of fundraisers later, she has collected an astonishing $300,000 for the Leukaemia Foundation.
"Everything I do is for Jody,” she said.
"I'll keep raising money for the Leukaemia Foundation for as long as I can and as long as people will still support the cause.
"I used to co-ordinate the Greatest Shave for a Cure, and started out in the Leukaemia Foundation of Queensland Ipswich Group.
"Then I formed Lockyer-Brisbane Valley Leukaemia Foundation branch with another couple of ladies.
"I was president of that for nine years.”
Gayle went on to become a leukaemia patient support carer for the branch in the Lockyer.
"Because I was Jody's carer when he was a patient, I got to know a lot of people who'd been diagnosed,” she said.
"I knew what he was going through during his treatment and saw it all the way through after his bone marrow treatment.
"I had to help, knowing there are all those other patients and families out there going through the same thing as Jody did before he passed away.”
Gayle was recently recognised as an honoured member by the Leukaemia Foundation at a special ceremony in Brisbane for her tireless work for the organisation.
"It was an amazing moment to be recognised by the Leukaemia Foundation for all I have done with them,” she said.
"The Leukaemia Foundation supported us when we really needed it.
"Jody relapsed in August 1997 and they were there for us. They helped us move into south Brisbane to be closer to the hospital and provided transportation to hospital visits.
"There were even volunteers available to take you shopping.
"It's hard being diagnosed with a blood cancer or any cancer but knowing the foundation will be there to support you through your whole journey... They are still supporting me, if I need someone or am having a bad day, I can call them.”
Gayle said the Leukaemia Foundation had grown since she first became involved.
"Back when Jody was a patient, it wasn't out there like it is today,” she said.
”Now they spend one million a year on research. If you donate to them, the money gets spread around to help patients all over Australia. The advancement in treatment since then is incredible, and in a way I have contributed to that with all my fundraising.”
Three years ago Gayle embarked on a new challenge and teamed up with Kate Collins to form Team J and J, to work together helping families who have children with blood-related cancers.
"The first J stands for Jody and the other J stands for Jordan and that was Kate's little grandson who passed away 12 months ago from leukaemia. He was two (years old),” she said.
"We are both dedicated and passionate about helping families who have children with blood-related cancers so it works well.
"I have to thank the businesses and the community for getting behind all of our sausage sizzles, craft stalls, high teas, and other events.”
Gayle said being able to point others who were affected by a blood cancer in the right direction for support was the most fulfilling thing.
"I'm out on the street ... and people reach out to me and I tell them to ring the Leukaemia Foundation,” she said.
"You are not alone if you are struggling; they will even come out and see you.”
Catch Team J and J fundraising up a storm next at Plainland's Hardware and Rural on Sunday, December 15.
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