Chapter XII: Leigh

Meet Leigh Van Der Horst.

Instagrammer at @leighvanderhorst

This is her story…


I am a 41 year old woman, wife, mother of 4, nurse, author and lover of words! I lost my beautiful mother to cancer in 2008, then aged 32, and penned a book (“Without My Mum”) in the hope it would help others who also experience such a terrible loss.

I am often reminded of how strong I am. And I guess in some ways, I am but I am also just like any other woman, just trying my best, trying to fit everything in and do right by everyone (and myself!). I am ultra sensitive, which I do like about myself; I can relate and be compassionate, but at times it can be a challenge, especially in those times when I might feel vulnerable. I am also a huge ‘yes’ person; I’m learning to say ‘no’ more. I hate to disappoint others but sometimes I just have to come first, or at least this is what I remind myself!


Self-publishing and then signing onto a major publisher were both huge dreams come true. It’s a daunting task when you hope to write and then release a book, and I believe it was sheer determination that got me through. It’s hard work!! I hope to complete book number 2 in the next year or two… The issue I have is there are many, many things that I still want to achieve, I just have to learn to be patient and sometimes, if something just doesn’t seem to work or if it has to be forced, I take that as a sign to let it go. It wasn’t meant to be. It’s in no way failure, it is just not the right fit.

True, solid, trustworthy friendships mean the world to me. I still have dear a friend I have known since I was 4. She is like a sister to me. Over time, some friendships alter, they change, and that’s ok. We all grow and change as we get older. I have a tight group that I love with all of my heart and I know they love me too. These people mean the world to me. I have made some online friendships that with people I care about too. I think this is a sign of the world we now live in. We have accessibility to more people. I am cautious though. Sometimes you are reminded that people aren’t quite who they seemed to be or they have an ulterior motive and from my own personal experiences, I remain very careful.

Happiness for me is peace. Having a peaceful and grateful heart. I think the experience of losing my mum taught me about what really matters in life and every so often I go off course as the world revolves in a fast pace around me, but thankfully, I know when this is happening and so, I go to ground, so to speak. I re-align with my morals, my loves, my choices, my hopes, my desires and my needs. I think it is really important to re-connect with myself regularly, otherwise I can feel really jaded by the pressures around me.

Mum and I went to London and Paris together before she became ill. It was the most amazing trip, one I will never forget. My family and I have been to some beautiful places, Fiji, Bali, Lembongan Island. We love the tropics! I am off to Africa and London later this year and we have plans to hire a yacht next year and do some sailing which is one of my bucket list items!!!

I am guilty for being really lazy actually and texting/messaging too much. I hate that this has happened so have been trying to call friends more to talk and arrange times to actually catch up in real life! I am shifting away from the digital way of life, I crave the way it used to be. I have set myself some goals and plan to inject a bit more ‘real time’ love into my life and less of the online type. I appreciate how convenient it is to be able to just shoot someone that message but we have changed as a society and I see my boys growing up in a less communicative way than I did and it saddens me. There is nothing quite like sitting with your girlfriends over lunch/coffee/wine and laughing till your belly hurts, and it’s damn good therapy too! This brings me back to what I previously said and one case of where I am saying ‘no’ more, to things that consume me online. I am shutting some doors and opening the 90’s back up in my life. That’s how I like to describe it, the 90’s where we all ‘spoke’ and ‘hung out’ and not in chat rooms but in REAL ROOMS!

So much and so many have influenced my life. I am influenced by experiences, I listen to the messages I receive through what I experience. I take on board: the good and the bad and I learn from it all. Obviously my mother influenced me, in a huge way. Witnessing her fight to live and then dealing with her death changed me forever. I admire many people in my life and I guess, they all influence me in one way or another. I know some pretty amazing humans!!

I hope for peace, as most people would, too, I suspect. The world feels just rather sad at the moment. I don’t watch the news anymore; it’s just too sad. So much destruction and pain, it is fed to us all day, every day, it can get very overwhelming. I hope we re-connect as people. I hope the online enormity of our lives has had it’s peak and will soon alter and the younger generations realise that real experiences far outweigh virtual ones. I hope we remember that kindness and compassion go a long way and we continue to care for the less fortunate and those around us who struggle, even those in our close communities. I hope obviously we don’t become a racist country, fall into the trap of judging people based on their race and religion. I have always felt very proud to be an Australian but lately, there seems to be so much blaming and shaming, it frightens me. We need to teach our children about having open minds and open hearts and that they must respect others regardless of colour, religion or sexuality.

I am always going to be a work in progress. And I’m ok with that!

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