SOMETHING within Anna Bligh changed forever as she lay in a hospital bed, faced with the news her life was hanging by a thread.

Queensland's first female Premier was never going to let cancer win without a fight.

Mustering the indomitable, even stubborn, spirit that became a hallmark of her political career, the mother-of-two decided to dig in her heels and battle on.

And she won.

Now living in Sydney, and out of the political limelight, Ms Bligh said cancer had taught her an important lesson about enjoying the little things in life.

If that means tearing through the city's streets on a Vespa scooter, so be it.

"When I was sick in 2013, I made a commitment to myself not to take life at such an overwhelming pace," she said.

"It's a cliche, but it's a cliche because it's true - when you confront your own mortality, life becomes much more joyful and precious very quickly.

"I don't ever want to lose that."

Ms Bligh was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma after seeing a doctor about a pea-sized lump on her neck in 2013.

She underwent agonising chemotherapy treatment and faced the very real prospect of dying before she could see her sons have children of their own.

That is now all behind her and she has embarked on a new life - or, at the very least, picked up where she left off before entering politics.

"I'm in full remission.

"But I'm mindful that death is around the corner for all of us," she said.

Anna Bligh opens up on where she's been, where she is and where she's headed.
Anna Bligh opens up on where she's been, where she is and where she's headed. David Stuart

Back to her roots

Ms Bligh last year took over as Chief Executive Officer of the YWCA NSW - one of Australia's oldest welfare organisations helping disadvantaged young women and families to get back on their feet.

"I started my working life in a women's refuge as a welfare worker," she said.

"So for me, this feels very full-circle."

In her new role, Ms Bligh comes face-to-face with youths who have been given nothing by society, but are still striving to build better lives for their children.

"One girl I met had come out of nine foster homes. She was 17," she said.

"We provided a roof over her head while she was pregnant; we provided support for her as she went through all of her health checks.

"One of our team stayed with her during the birth, and then she stayed in our refuge for almost a year.

"During that time, we really helped her to become a good mum. I wonder what would have happened to her and her baby if that service hadn't been there. Those things really gladden your heart."



From The Heart: Australian Icons Speak Out.
From The Heart: Australian Icons Speak Out.



This piece is part of the series, From The Heart: Aussie Icons Speak Out from Australian Regional Media.


In this video series we have also spoken to great Australians including: 

Child safety heroes Bruce and Denise Morcombe,

Television icon Ray Martin,

Australia's most famous tradie Scotty Cam,

Wildlife Warriors Bindi and Terri Irwin,

Radio presenters Amanda Keller and Brendan Jones,

Celebrity cooks and soon-to-be parents Dan and Steph Mulheron,

Radio and television broadcaster Robin Bailey,

Regional construction magnate John Wagner and

Basketball icon Brian Kerle