30 March 2022

Business proves a lifesaver for Yass woman

| Sally Hopman
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Two women outside shop

Susan Wade with her daughter Mandy Carter outside their Yass store, Comur House, which Susan believes has helped save her life. Photo: Sally Hopman.

Some people, when diagnosed with a life-threatening condition, choose to close the door on life, or at least put it on hold while they fight their illness.

Then there are those who opens doors instead – figuratively and literally – not only doing everything their doctor recommends, but something for themselves as well.

For Susan Wade, it was starting a business on the main street of Yass.

Susan first came to Yass back in 1971 after she married farmer Tony Wade who runs the historic Cliftonwood property. The couple had three children; Mandy, Simon and Belinda.

Susan was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 1995. Over the next two years she underwent life-saving yet difficult treatments including chemotherapy, radiotherapy and a bone marrow transplant. Added to that stress was the constant commute up to Sydney for treatment.

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Up until then, Susan had managed the Motor Registry in Yass, but took leave to seek treatment. But in 1996, she suffered a relapse and didn’t return to that job.

“In 1997, I was fortunate enough to have a bone marrow transplant,” Susan said, “which saved my life.

“Even afterwards when I went back to St Vincent’s Hospital, they were amazed at my progress. Mine was the 180th transplant so it was fairly new at the time.”

Specialists told Susan after the transplant that if she lived five more years, that would be great.

During those years, Susan said she made the most of her time, going on drives down the coast, enjoying lots of retail therapy and spending quality time with friends and family.

Woman in shop

Working through her illness has been like lifeblood for Susan Wade of Yass. Photo: Sally Hopman.

When the five years passed, Susan said to herself, “Right, I’ve made it, what am I going to do with the rest of my life?”

During her retail shopping therapy, Susan said she saw how shabby chic had become such a “thing”.

“There was nothing like that in Yass back then,” she said.

Comur House – her first business – was born in 2002 in the main street of Yass. Today it boasts a wide range of gifts, homewares and clothes, all with a vintage, country feel which appeals to her local rural clients as well as those who regularly travel from Sydney.

“Yes, it was a bit scary because I’d never done anything like this before,” she said. “On the first Thursday before we opened, I thought, ‘I can’t do this’, but then I said, ‘yes, we can’.”

Susan was 52 at the time. still fragile from her bout of cancer but determined, with the help of family and friends, to make the new business work.

Today, 20 years later, Susan can still be found behind the counter of Comur House. She still greets all her regulars by name as she works alongside her daughter Mandy, who now manages the shop. And when she’s not in the shop, she’s at home doing the bookwork or on buying trips up to Sydney with Mandy.

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But those 20 years have not been without more medical woes.

“My health has gone up and down over the years,” Susan said. “I had to have open heart surgery back in 2015, then I got thyroid cancer, I’ve had two hip replacements and have had three fractures in my lower spine – but I’m OK,” she said.

“My passion is and always will be the shop. I would spend 15 hours a day here if I could. I’m passionate about it because it kept me so busy when I was sick that I didn’t have time to worry about it. It’s been a godsend.

“When you’ve had cancer twice any time you even feel a little sick you think you’re going to get it back again.

“But when you work hard and when you have such loyal customers – we have people coming in who have been coming in for 20 years or so – and when you have such a supportive family as I have, you can get through it.”

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