Phillipa Challis. (Ivan Kemp) 245064_15

Next Wednesday Philippa Challis marks both four years since surviving uterine cancer and five years since losing her husband to another form of cancer.

She speaks to Luke Voogt about founding Laughter Club Geelong and Geelong Regional Cancerians, and looking on the brighter side of life.

Tell us about you…

I’ve lived in Manifold Heights for 30 years and my adult daughter is living with me.

I was Melbourne born-and-bred and moved down to the area. We had 10 wonderful years in Anglesea before we moved to Geelong.

My husband had a business in Anglesea and we had a holiday house there, so we could move straight in.

I’ve been a member of Zonta International for over 30 years and I’m currently a professional speaker and trainer.

Why did you establish Geelong Regional Cancerians in April 2018?

My husband Derek passed away on August 4, 2016. It all happened in a month. He had oesophageal cancer.

The surgery was successful but unfortunately his body had been through too much, having had surgeries for other health issues earlier in the year.

August 4 will also be exactly four years since I became a uterine cancer survivor in 2017. So it’s a bittersweet date for me.

I was lucky that I recognised the symptoms, got diagnosed and had a life-saving hysterectomy, all in under six weeks.

I wanted to give back to the community, educate people and make them aware, so I founded the Geelong Regional Cancerians.

We work to raise awareness of the symptoms of uterine cancer and fundraise for the Australian Cancer Research Foundation’s research into all cancers.

How did Laughter Club Geelong begin?

Laughter yoga first came into the world in 1995 when GP Madan Kataria started the movement in Mumbai, India, which has since expanded to 10,000 clubs in hundreds of countries.

I started Laughter Club Geelong in July 2002.

We do a range of activities at Eastern Beach each Saturday, which are now mostly online due to COVID-19. It’s about letting your inner child out.

Our activities start off as intentional laughter. But when you share it with other people, before you know it, it turns into the real thing.

Last weekend we held a Zoom session where we invited those who dared to dress in their pyjamas, a onesie or nightie.

What are your favourite things to do locally?

I love dining out at local venues, like Two Sugars in Geelong West, Mavs in central Geelong and Pier Street in Portarlington.

How are you coping with COVID-19?

The laughter sessions on Zoom help give people optimism and a sense of control. People are getting me to do laughter sessions all over the world, it’s heaps of fun!

What’s something about you that people might not know?

I used to race cars and I’m one of the founders of Women for Wheels.

I used to do hill climbs in a friend’s MGTF 1500 and amateur racing in another friend’s Mustang at Calder, Sandown and Winton raceways.

When I met Derek in the ’60s he had Valiant and that was brilliant for the Motorkhana.

Details: or search Laughter Club Geelong on Facebook