Liz Cantor – Ambassador Shake It Up Australia Foundation shares her PD story

Liz grew up in Sunshine Beach, Noosa, where her love of surfing was rewarded with a sponsorship from Billabong. She competed across Australia and Internationally for many of her teenage years. Now at 28, Liz has spent the past six years working For Channel Seven, since completing a Degree in Communications and Journalism at Griffith University on the Gold Coast.

Liz has appeared in two Australian movies, Gettin Square and Blurred and was cast in Blue Water High in 2005 as Corin Hardy.  These days you can catch her presenting the  Weather and Beach and Surf Reports for Seven News Brisbane, presenting the Gold Lotto Draws and as a regular on lifestyle shows The Great South East and Creek To Creek.

Following Shake It Up’s launch on 14th August, Liz contacted us to offer support in raising much-needed funds for research in the hope of finding a cure.

MY PD STORY

There are many diseases that tragically alter the life of people but the one that sideswiped mine… I knew little about.

As a bit of a drama-queen myself, I lorded my Grandma who had forged a career on stage as a prima ballerina. I fixated over the way she carried herself, her vibrancy, her immaculate presentation and her physical grace. “A lady should always look her best” and “beauty is pain” were wise words of hers. As a young girl growing up, they would play over and over again in my head; as I got my legs waxed for the first time, during the sting of my eyelashes being tinted…and learning how to carry myself with inner confidence.

When my parents told me that Grandma had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a recollection of Mohammad Ali came to mind. But the picture I conjured up was a strong charismatic man. It then came as a shock to watch the phases of my grandma’s disease aggressively attack her body. For someone whose passion in life was grace, to watch her uncontrollable shaking and mask-like face was gut wrenching. The disease attacked her body, but also her confidence and her sense of self. With an awareness of the fact that there was no cure, it greatly affected her soul.

She passed away just before I landed a role on a national show called The Mole. I was fresh out of university working countless jobs (such as waitressing and dog walking!) in-between working at television stations for free, when I stumbled across a little advertisement in the corner of a newspaper ‘If you love adventure and travel apply now’, with a Channel 7 logo below. “Great I thought to myself, this could be a new travel show, I could live the dream! I applied online and got a call to attend an audition. Countless rounds and interviews later, I received a phone call and was told I was being offered a spot on a show called The Mole. While I wasn’t sure if I was comfortable with the reality TV format, I was assured that this show was more about the game than the personas.

Three months later I found myself in a hotel room in Queenstown, New Zealand, the eve before completing a final challenge, which might see me win $200,000 dollars. I never entered the show to win the money, I entered it for the experience of working in the industry, a free trip to NZ and to tell you the truth thought I would last two weeks max! To say I was overwhelmed would be an understatement.

From the start of the show my instincts had pointed me towards who I suspected The Mole to be. In episode two our task was to count a paddock of sheep, chickens in a barn and needles in a haystack. The groups completed counting the chickens and sheep, but we failed to correctly answer how many needles were in the haystack– the answer was 599. I was quietly fuming at the shows producers – ‘how were we supposed to count 599 needles in hay’?. It bothered me as I kept battling it out through the shows eliminations. In week five, on the one day a week we got at home, I was walking my dog George and talking to my boyfriend on speaker phone, when I ‘really’ took in the picture of the phone keypad.

With the numbers were letters – with 599 the initials JWW, John William Whitehall my Mole suspect! I told my partner my theory; he said “Babe I think this show is sending you crazy”. I had told him I wasn’t the Mole BUT I was such the little performer that my family, his family and he himself were becoming increasingly suspicious of me.

That night before the final challenge of the last episode I woke up wet in sweat to my Grandma calling me “Lizzy, Lizzy”. Now I’m not one to believe much in spirits or ghosts, but my grandma was German and it had been over a year since I had heard her very distinctive voice… it was unmistakable. I opened my eyes and sat bolt up-right and I knew in that moment that I was on the right track. “Thanks Nan” I said to nobody and pulled out a pen and paper and wrote down a pact that I would donate $10,000 to research into finding a cure for Parkinson’s disease.

That week at the age of 23 I walked away from The Mole with $200,000.
Two years later my grandfather John would be diagnosed with the disease that took his wife. A year later he was gone. Shortly afterwards my dear, kind, charismatic brother-in-law (not a blood relation of my grandparents), also in the film industry developed Parkinson’s disease in his 50s. ENOUGH!

I did the best to keep my pact. I made phone calls to medical research facilities throughout Australia but had no luck finding a suitable fund for research into cures for Parkinson’s disease. While there were options to donate the money to some fantastic charities that look after the families of Parkinson’s sufferers, I ended up giving a portion of the money to research into degenerative neurological motor neuron diseases.

At the time I was amazed that the only charity I could find with the aim of finding a CURE for Parkinson’s was Michael J Fox’s American based team. This year with the help of a friend I stumbled across the launch of Shake it Up. When I met with Founder Clyde to offer my assistance in helping raise funds the reception was a gratitude that humbled me.

I am not the one to be thanked; Clyde’s helping me keep a very important pact.

Read more on how Liz has helped us Shake things up for Parkinson’s