Meet the Muses | Laura Doolin on adversity, friendship, and the gift of reaching out | Chupi
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Meet the Muses | Laura Doolin on adversity, friendship, and the gift of reaching out

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Meet the Muses | Laura Doolin on adversity, friendship, and the gift of reaching out

By Kim Brett,
Mon, Oct 03, 2022

Tags: Meet the Muses

“When you need the support of friends, just ask. It’s a gift to be able to help somebody and by asking for help you’re giving people that opportunity. I think it’s important for all of us to ask more of each other. When people say “if you need anything just ask” they genuinely mean it.”

To celebrate the launch of our Crown of Heroes, we reached out to our Chupi community and asked you to share the story of your hero. Submissions were invited on the theme of inner strength, reflecting the Crown of Heroes’ motif of courage, independence and achievement. Read the winning entry below along with our sit-down with chosen Chupi Muse, Laura Doolin, speaking on the importance of friendship and nature in face of adversity, and the gift of reaching out.

Sara's entry on behalf of Laura:

“My hero is my incredibly brave friend Laura Doolin. I have known Laura since primary school and we're both in our 40s now – she's always been one of the most positive, determined people I know. Through sheer force of will, Laura has become a brilliant swimmer and dedicated cyclist and loves to challenge herself in every way. She has completed races across Ireland and travelled the world alone, climbing mountains in Nepal and trekking in Peru.

Earlier this year, just as things were starting to open up again after a long lockdown living alone, Laura was feeling more positive than ever. All that changed in January of this year when she was diagnosed with breast cancer out of nowhere. She had undergone a scan to prepare for another procedure and the cancer was discovered. Within days, Laura was taken in for surgery which has been followed since then by a regime of chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and medication. As all her friends worried and fussed, Laura reassured us. She stayed so positive and strong, facing each new horror with her usual humour and determination. Right before the end of her most recent round of chemo, the relationship she had been so happy in ended unexpectedly. The timing could not have been worse and I was really worried about how her health could be affected. As with everything in her life, Laura overcame it, and she completed her last chemo treatment yesterday.

I am so proud of my friend, and so lucky to have her. I hope we have another 40 years of laughing at each other and I would love for her to have a beautiful piece of Chupi jewellery to celebrate her strength, humour and the kind, loving person she is. I know she'd treasure it.”

Tell us a little about your nominator, Sara.

Sara is one of the funniest people I know with a very dry, sarcastic sense of wit. Both of us are to the point, straight-talking people, so we’ve always gelled really well. We’ve been friends for a lifetime, our friendship has remained really strong throughout all life has thrown at us and in difficult times if anyone can make you laugh it’s Sara. Living close by to each other we have the opportunity to meet up regularly, for nights out, coffee, walks along the beach… One of many advantages of living by the coast. Sara has been a huge support to me throughout my life and especially in the last few months.

Sara mentions that you’ve done some pretty incredible things in your time – travelling the world alone, climbing mountains in Nepal, and trekking in Peru. What was that like?

I’ve always really liked a physical challenge. I was pretty young, about 22, when I decided to head off on my own – and although I was nervous I absolutely loved it. From my first trip I came to the realisation that my dream trip may not be everyone else's dream, while I love spending my holidays climbing mountains or cycling up a hill it’s not everyone's ideal holiday.

I get a huge sense of accomplishment from these trips and also love the adrenaline buzz from pushing myself physically. Also it’s only through these adventure type trips that you get to see the really remote, beautiful and untouched parts of the planet. There are challenges but it's so, so worth it. When I do expedition trips, it's the scenery and being connected to nature that gets you through the really tough physical elements. This year, I was meant to be going paddle boarding in Norway, but I had to cancel it. My doctor said ‘ When I said you can go on a holiday, I didn’t mean the arctic circle!’ but I’m determined to get there next year.

Do you have a highlight from these experiences or a particular moment that means a lot to you?

Completing my alpine climbing training in Switzerland. I was doing four 4,000 metre mountains in a week. That’s the one trip that stands out the most. You always have an edge of nervousness, but there’s giddy excitement as well. You do carry that sense of accomplishment with you in your day to day life when you come up against other challenges. You think ‘Ok, I got this, I’ve done harder things than this’. I also think travel helps to keep you grounded, being exposed to other cultures and seeing what other people go through on a daily basis makes you appreciate what you have here. That's one of the huge things about travel, realising how privileged we are.

After reading your story from Sara, could you tell it to us in your own words?

I had an initial scan, which was for something unrelated. That evening, they called me and said they needed to do another scan the following morning. When I went in I was met by a radiologist and a nurse and I knew instantly that this wasn't just a standard scan. That scan was followed immediately by an ultrasound, and then a biopsy. I knew at that point it must be serious as I was being seen so quickly… Within about a week, I had a diagnosis and three days later I was operated on.

The whole way through my treatment I’ve had an overwhelming sense of how lucky I am that this was found. It was a fluke find, and I got treated really quickly. I was diagnosed on a Monday, and 72 hours later I was waking up after surgery. With so little time between diagnosis and treatment I didn’t have time to dwell on my diagnosis or feel scared about the outcome, within three days of being told I had cancer I was being told they were happy with how the surgery went. We initially thought I would only need radiation therapy, and I thought ‘Brilliant, I’ll be finished with all of this in a couple of weeks.’ Then I got additional test results from the US, and found it was more aggressive than what we’d initially hoped, and they wanted me to do some precautionary chemo.

I’m really lucky in that when I was diagnosed it was post-Covid and I’d been working from home and been managing to get lots of exercise in, so I’d never been fitter in my life. So I faced my cancer journey in the best physical condition I’ve ever been and I think this really stood to me. I was able to continue walking, paddleboarding, cycling, and pretty much living my life as I normally would. I’ve been incredibly fortunate.

Looking back, I’m very proud of myself for handling it so well but I also feel incredibly fortunate for the sequence of events that led to my diagnosis. It sounds strange, but it couldn't have come at a better time in my life. I was in a job that I loved. I was very fit. My employers were incredibly supportive and had a huge network of family and friends around me.

Where did you find strength during difficult moments in your life?

I always try to get out into nature. Be it a sea swim, climbing a mountain, or cycling up a hill, physical exertion really calms me. For me, it's about forcing myself to take deep deep breaths, and to do that in nature just grounds you, centres you, and refocusses you. It’s about listening to your body and what it needs and taking every cue that you’re getting.

I draw a lot of strength from my mother. She raised five kids on her own in the 80s and she’s always set an example of battling through adversity. She’s very similar to myself, very much ‘dust yourself off, get back up and you’ll get through this.’ So far it’s stood me well and she of course has been a huge pillar of strength to me over the past year.

The biggest thing that I’ve learnt over the last twelve months is people do want to help. If you need somebody for a coffee or lunch or just to talk, send that text out because there’s twenty people waiting and all really wanting to help and wanting you to ask for help. It’s a gift to be able to help somebody and by asking for help you’re giving people that opportunity. I think it’s important for all of us to ask more of each other. When people say “if you need anything just ask” they genuinely mean it.

Do you have any day-to-day rituals that help you to find harmony or balance?

I do a cliff walk on the coast every morning before I start my day. It's a stunning piece of coastline that I’m fortunate to have on my doorstep and when possible I try to catch sunrise. Then I pop into my lovely local coffee shop and I’m set up for the day.

I’m also in a swimming club and as I haven’t been able to get in the pool while I’ve been in treatment I’ve been sea swimming - while doing my best to avoid the dreaded lion’s mane jellyfish. As I’m sure jellyfish stings and chemotherapy aren’t a great combo!

All of these daily rituals that help me find harmony and balance, I think we all found a new appreciation for these things during covid and hopefully it will be something we will get to maintain in the future.

What springs to mind when you think of a hero?

I feel like I’ve been surrounded by heroes during this past year, from doctors and nurses to family and friends. To me the definition of a ‘hero’ is very personal. And I also think you have to be your own hero, and that’s by being brave, and being kind, and being true to yourself. As long as you’re your own hero, by default you’re going to be someone else's, in being true to yourself and kind to others. I think ‘hero’ is often associated with bravery and courage and a lot of masculine traits, but it can be kinder and softer than that.

When you are in your eighties wearing your Crown of Heroes what is the story you will tell about what it means to you?

It’s going to represent friendship and how important friendship is when overcoming adversity. How important it is to support each other, to be strong for each other and to be there for each other. Everytime I look at that ring for the next forty or fifty years that’s what I’m going to think of. Also the sentiment behind what Sara wrote is really touching, she wrote things that friends don’t normally say to each yet we all think the absolute world of our friends. We’re each other's greatest supporters.

How would you describe your personal jewellery style and how does this shape your identity?

I tend to dip into my mum’s jewellery collection for special occasions. All of her jewellery has a history and a story behind it. There's something very sentimental about wearing something that belongs to her. She has a freshwater pearl necklace that I’ve loved since I was a child and I always get a very nostalgic feeling when I wear it.

I’ve never treated myself to a really good piece of jewellery before. I’m so excited to receive the Crown of Heroes and finally start my own jewellery collection that will be passed on. I’m also planning on buying the Tourmaline Hero Ring. Halfway through my diagnosis I saw it and said, ‘I love that piece of jewellery, the moment I finish treatment I’m going to buy that ring’. So that will be my first Chupi purchase.

What piece of advice would you give to your younger self?

Be brave. And be true to yourself. Follow your own beliefs and everything will work out.

What piece of advice would you give to someone thinking of choosing a diamond for themselves?

Don't follow trends, follow your heart. Go with the piece you’re most drawn to. And also, don’t rush it. I’ve been going back to the Tourmaline Hero Ring, for months constantly being drawn back to the same piece. Take your time and really enjoy choosing it, it's something you’ll want to be wearing in years to come.

Thank You to everyone who reached out to Chupi with your story. We were absolutely blown away with the stories shared and for the incredible vulnerability and strength shown in each one. As a thank to everyone who got in touch, we have made a donation to some select charities in their honour.

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