Business, Health & Wellbeing

Inspired By… Jessica Gilchrist

You know those people in your life who just shine a little brighter, smile a little bigger and can be felt when they walk into a room? That couldn’t be more true of this incredible woman.

We met when working together in Event Management, it was Jess’ first full time role and it was evident that she had great things coming to her.

In 2014 she was asked to run her Aunt’s business Chocoholic Tours and in 2015 had taken over ownership. For this bubbly beauty, with a background in hospitality and tourism, it was a natural fit. And as Jess would have known no other way, she dived in to make it her own, learning all that is involved in small business. The numbers, management, leadership, brand identity, marketing and the strength in building a network.

One year in and she had found her momentum. She won’t say it, but I will. She was nailing it!

And while both Jess and her business were thriving, it was the unexpected, where for a crushing moment everything stopped.

Answering a phone call from her gynaecologist came abrupt words “We’ve found cancer cells.” Six letters that took Jess months to be able to pronounce herself.

With an appointment at The Mercy to meet an Oncologist already booked for the following day, Jess went back to work, sitting at her computer, trying to digest what she had heard.

Processing what it may mean and distracting herself from the possibilities. The tears started to fall. As I write this, so are mine.

While it is never fair, and it is never comprehendible, I can’t stop myself from asking “Why Jess?”

The following day she sat down with her new Oncologist to discuss her diagnosis and make huge decisions about her body and the treatments ahead. The surgery she needed was only done by her specialist twice a year, her cancer was rare and the complications were life changing.

And yet a second blow came when it was discovered her cancer had spread. A second surgery, chemotherapy and radiation was required to complete a radical hysterectomy. The devastation that she would never be able to give birth, and that at 27 years young she was about to enter menopause.

Seriously! Again, I find myself asking why? Why is the incredibly bright, innovative, positive and simply beautiful woman being dealt these cards?

With the news of her impending hysterectomy, Jess had a small window with her partner Liam to discuss and to complete IVF egg collection. With the expectation that they could retrieve up to 20 eggs, her third blow came when they could only retrieve four.

Jess’ immediate reaction was to complete another cycle and attempt another collection by deferring her surgery. Her focus was her future, the children she wished for, but it was the gut wrenching reminder from Jess’ partner Liam and their family who simply put, told her she may not be here if she wait’s another month.

This was breaking point.

For the first time Jess felt she had lost control. Her body shook, unable to walk, overcome by the weight of what had been and the anxiety of what was ahead. Hiding in her bedroom she described how she cried and cried continuously for 24 hours until Liam pulled her out insisting on fresh air and something to eat.

For such an incredibly strong and resilient woman, I can’t begin to imagine how dark those days were for her. For any woman at all.

Coming through her surgery and onto further treatment, it was in her dressing gown (no doubt it was pretty and pink – Jess’ signature style) that she would film video updates to her team. Remember the business she owned and run? Still going! I told you, she is amazing!

Although through her recovery, and into her remission, a new opportunity presented itself.

Her father Hugh asked her to join him and her brother Jake in an industry she knew nothing about, moving from chocolate to construction, and she shared this quote from Richard Branson, ‘If someone offers you an amazing opportunity and you’re not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later’

Given her new life perspective, time was more precious than ever.

Jess had big goals, and to achieve them she needed to make big strides. There would be new challenges, much to learn and master, but most significant to Jess, an opportunity to help those who helped her.

After selling Chocoholic Tours she began the steep learning journey that was the machinery hire business, establishing Pink Boots Hire and Pink Boots Foundation

My vision is much bigger than equipment hire.

I want to use this business as a vehicle to give back to the people that helped me through my cancer journey and I want to empower women in trade related industries.

Every person employed in the business wears pink steel cap boots as part of the uniform, with $10.00 from every pair sold going directly towards people across Australia that are affected by breast cancer.

But she didn’t stop there!

She has done the same with their machines, with $10.00 from every hire going directly to the Olivia Newton John Cancer Wellness Centre.

How truly inspiring! And, in honesty, not at all unexpected that this incredible woman would turn her situation into a tool to encourage and empower women.

Jess is, and has always been, a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. Even with all that has presented itself over the past two years, she still believes so. If I can promise you one thing, it is that this woman is going to make a huge difference. Forget Cinderella’s slipper, I’m getting myself some pink steel cap boots!

To follow more of Jess’ journey

and for those in the Melbourne bayside and south eastern suburbs, contact Pink Boots Hire for your next project (think builders, electricians, sign writers, plumbers or even a DIYer that needs access to a height and they can’t use a ladder) and start making a difference together!


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