The Atlanta Olympics came and went, another six weeks of living on adrenalin and very little sleep.
It was my first Olympics, and at the Opening Ceremony I could hardly comprehend the heights of human creativity, performance and organisation on display. It was thrilling, brilliant, breathtaking. The sight of Gladys Knight emerging from under the ground in the very middle of the stadium singing ‘Georgia’ brought me to tears.
After two weeks of the best sport in the world, marred by a fatal bomb attack in the middle of one night, I returned to inform my News Director that I would be applying for a year’s leave without pay to study the Bible at theological college. ‘You what - ? he spluttered. He tried to sound supportive yet had clearly been hit for a six. It’s not a common request in television newsrooms.
So in 1997, liberated from the constraints of TV, I grew my hair to collar length and spent a marvellous year as a full-time student. It was challenging, unrelenting, high-end theological study that included learning the original language of the New Testament, ancient Greek. Learning a language was also a first for me, but a delightful and enthralling discipline.
The year was punctuated by the death of my father in September after a heroic two-year battle with cancer. I visited him and my mother most weekends at MacMasters Beach. They were constantly amazed and amused at this new student in their lives. They deserved some payback for all the anxiety over my lack of work during my school years. It provided some much needed relief and a good excuse for a chuckle during those very tough months.
At the end of my studies I gained a Diploma of Bible and Mission and returned to work at Channel Seven as promised. I went straight back into front line reporting and planning for the Sydney 2000 Olympics. As well, with all the new theological knowledge crammed into my brain, I was eager to take on what was already a packed-out year of speaking commitments.
Just two months later the viral hepatitis hit. There would be no more reporting, no speaking and not much of anything else for more than two years.
From chapter 2 of I’m Not Crazy, I’m Just a Little Unwell – my journey through Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, published by Strand 2005