The Amazing Race Australia 2022 winners Toni Hilland and Heath Curry are putting their best foot forward for people affected by cancer.
Toni, 39, initially diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015 and then terminal/secondary breast cancer in 2021, will walk 21 kilometers through Melbourne during Walking Stars, the city’s only night-time walking half-marathon, on Saturday, 3 December. Toni and her husband Heath, 33, signed up to raise cancer awareness and much-needed funds to support Cancer Council Victoria’s cancer research, prevention, and support services.
Walking Stars is a fun, non-competitive half-marathon walk. Walkers will gather at the Kings Domain start-line, where there will be a festival-like atmosphere, before embarking on a magical, star-lit walk at sunset through some of Melbourne’s iconic landmarks, including the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Federation Square, and the Shrine of Remembrance.
When she was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer, Toni wanted to create life-long memories with Heath.
“We did lots of walking on The Amazing Race, which included walking a donkey up a very steep hill! We’re an active couple,” Heath said.
Toni uses exercise as a way to escape from cancer. “I was a netballer. I always made my netball match during my treatment, no matter how ill I was. It was one hour of switching off and being with my friends. It helped clear the mind,” Toni said.
“We’ve had some of our best conversations, Heath and I, when we’re walking the dog. It’s a cathartic activity,” Toni added.
Heath said being active is wonderful for your mental health. “Exercising has been very helpful for my mental health, especially since Toni’s second diagnosis,” Heath said.
Toni and Heath were celebrating their Amazing Race win in late October when Toni passed out briefly. After an MRI at The Alfred, the hospital where she receives her treatment, it was discovered that Toni’s cancer has now spread to her brain.
“It was a shock. There’s a couple of tumours, which is not great news, but I still feel like me,” Toni said.
“I’m on a new treatment schedule and regime. I’m back on chemo, plus immunotherapy, every three weeks. We are seeing how that goes.
I’ve had my first treatment, and I have another brain MRI in a few weeks, and hopefully, it has stopped in its tracks or shrunk it,” Toni added.
Since doing the show, Toni and Heath have received inspiring messages of support from other people affected by cancer.
“We’ve received a lot of messages from people who have been diagnosed with cancer.
They’ve been like: You’ve made us stop feeling sorry for ourselves. If you can go out there and race around the world – and win – we can go for a walk every day,” Toni said.
Toni lives by the motto: Carpe Diem or Seize the Day.
“It’s always been a part of my life, and my dad always said that’s how I live my life. I’m always going a hundred miles an hour,” Toni said.
Heath agrees. “I try and follow Toni’s motto. She has shown me a lot since we’ve been together – how to grasp life and to go out there and live it,” Heath added.
Cancer Council Victoria’s Chief Executive Officer, Mr Todd Harper AM, said it was an honour to have Toni and Heath as official ambassadors for this year’s Walking Stars.
“We’re fortunate to have such an inspirational couple join us for Walking Stars. Walking Stars is a chance for those affected by cancer to get out there to let their hair down and have fun. It’s a chance to celebrate what they’ve already achieved.
It’s also a chance to help us help others affected by cancer. It'll certainly be a walk to remember,” Todd said.
Toni added: “We’ve raced around the world for eight weeks carrying very heavy backpacks, so the least you can do is come join us walking around Melbourne for a half-a-marathon.
“Let’s do this!”
Registration to both event formats includes access to an app, training and fundraising ideas, tips and advice and the chance to win fundraising prizes.
You can donate to Toni and Heath’s team here
For more information or to register, visit www.walkingstars.org.au