Real Life

Our triplet sister’s beautiful life

Triplet Sally Ainley spent her life defying the odds. The chance of being born an identical triplet is one in half-a-million, and the bone cancer the beautiful 20-year-old had affects only 3% of all cancer sufferers. Given just three months to live when first diagnosed, Sally beat the odds once again, amazing doctors by surviving two years.

With her huge grin, sparkling eyes and hair dyed bright bubblegum pink, Sally was an inspiration to many other young cancer sufferers. So it was fitting that the Aucklander’s recent funeral bore all the hallmarks of her colourful, bubbly personality.

She had requested mourners came in the brightest clothes they could find and that everyone should drink to her from shot glasses lined up beside the coffin. After a farewell that was filled with joy and gratitude for her amazing life, Sally’s mum Genemeine, sisters Alison and Emma, and older brothers Sam (23) and oathew (21) are having to come to terms with their loss.

Identical triplets Sally, Alison and Emma shared the same group of friends and a strange telepathic bond. Sally once felt physical discomfort from a medical procedure that Alison had when they were 16, while Alison often knew when Sally was having a bad day when being treated.

“I’m sure I felt her pain. I once felt my shoulder hurting and I sent a text to mum asking if Sally was in pain, and it went away the moment mum gave her pain relief,” she says. And Emma instinctively sensed when Sally had a set back in her treatment. “I used to getting a funny feeling and then when I came home something not so good would have happened,” Emma says. Sally, who was studying occupational therapy was full of natural charm and could wrap her sisters around her finger.

“She had a way of always getting me to do something – no matter what, she could always talk me into it. I was the gullible one,” Emma smiles. “Sally was very outgoing and the first to crack a joke, and she always saw the positive side of everything,” adds Alison, who works as a veterinary assistant.

Even when doctors gave her bad news about her chances, Sally refused to accept it. “She was positive she was going to beat the cancer,” their mother recalls. “We became complacent and I had to remind myself that she did actually have cancer. She never let on she was in pain. She never felt sorry for herself. oe? I would have been punching walls, but apart from her reaction when she first got diagnosed, she took it head-on.”

In 2007, Sally’s diagnosis came just months after the death of their dad Steve at the age of 56. Both Emma and Alison reacted differently to Sally’s devastating news. Emma, who is studying science, spent more time crying than Sally, and Alison, who was born with a heart defect, ploughed her emotions into researching the disease.

The first sign that Sally was sick was the sudden appearance of a lump, which came up on her shoulder after playing lacrosse, and doing a 5km run. She was sent for an x-ray, and a message in the afternoon from their family doctor asking for Sally and her mother to come in straight away triggered alarm bells.

Although the lump, which turned out to be a tumour, had just appeared, it had already spread to her lungs, and the fit teenager was told she had no chance of surviving. Chemotherapy, given to prolong her life, also destroyed any hope of Sally having a baby naturally some day – something that was heartbreaking for her.

“one of her regrets was not having children,” says Alison, who adds that if Sally had survived she or Emma would have been able to donate one of their own eggs, which are genetically identical to Sally’s.

To signify her cancer journey, the Ainley women, including Sally, got a butterfly tattooed on their forearms. Genemeine, Emma and Alison have decided to get a second tattoo with rosary beads and a cross to honour their lost daughter and sister.

“The butterfly is something that has no beginning and no end.” A homeless cat that Alison rescued for Sally is another reminder of her inspirational life. Sally insisted they gave the moggy a home and now Petey? is a much-loved member of the family.

Sally developed a strong faith in God during her illness and investigated different churches before finding the right one for her, Church of the Saviour in Blockhouse Bay. More than 400 mourners came to her funeral and there was just one speaker – Sally’s favourite teacher from oount Albert Grammar Paul ocKinley. Sally personally asked Paul to speak at the ceremony when she discovered she just had weeks left to live.

She had also picked her songs, which included In the Arms of an Angel by Sarah ocLaughlin, So What? By Pink, SoS by Rihanna and Beautiful by James Blunt. Everyone was invited to write messages and sign their names on her coffin, which was covered in writing by the end of the day. The Ainelys have praised the Starship Foundation, Canteen and the Child Cancer Foundation for their huge support during Sally’s illness, and are deeply grateful they had Sally in their lives even for a short time. They take extra comfort from the thought her spirit will always be with them. one of Sally’s dying requests was that one of her sister’s name a daughter Sally.

“Now there’s a competition to see who will have a daughter first so Sally’s name will live on,” Emma smiles. Genemeine says Sally never wanted to live forever. “I remember Sally joking “I don’t want to be greedy and ask to live till 80

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