Category Archives: Cancer

I Think They Call It Mixed Emotions

The last week in November was the 10th anniversary since being told I had cancer.

It was also the same week I was told I was no longer required to read the weekend news at Channel 7. The end of a 34 year career at SAS.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Joyous, that I had been free of cancer for ten years but sad, more than angry that my days reading 7 News were over.

I’ve moved on,on both counts, despite regular checkups to make sure the cancer is gone I rarely think about being so sick, but I am forever grateful that it was a point in my life that forced me to reflect on what, and who, really mattered in my life.

The days, then years that have unfolded since that dreaded statement “I’m afraid you have colorectal cancer, it’s a level 3 and we’re going to have to act quickly.”

Anyone faced with a life threatening illness knows after something like that your life changes forever, it can never be the same. It’s up to you to decide whether life is better, worse or just different.

Same with losing your job, although it does get harder as you get older.

For me, I see new opportunities unfolding, but not without effort, dusting off old skills getting back into media training, doing more MCing and public speaking.

Most exciting,  I’m retraining myself. My voice has been that of a news presenter for more than three decades. Now I’m going to put it to work as a voice over artist, you know reading those dreaded commercials. Maybe narrate some documentaries. However, the voice needs work, so I’m having lessons. Can you teach an old dog new tricks?

I’ve already ventured further into the internet, on social media and setting up a website for my new business. I made a DVD about dealing with cancer several years ago. Cancer - What Now? DVDCancer – What Now? has been exceptionally well received and has helped many cancer sufferers and their families.

I often give talks about dealing with cancer and now I have done a webcast which has received wonderful feedback.

So here I am, when many my age are enjoying retirement,  I’m truly re-invigorated and setting off in a number of new directions. I miss Channel 7 but like getting cancer maybe it was my time for a change and I just needed a push in the right direction.

Sorry dear, the garden is just going to have to wait.

Surviving Cancer – It’s Up To You

25481_120583241287061_120583057953746_301006_5433596_sOver the years since getting bowel cancer I have spoken to  literally thousands of people, in groups and individually about dealing with cancer.

While the medical opinion is that a positive attitude plays no part in your recovery or otherwise, I beg to differ.

Case 1.  After a talk I gave to a group a man in his early forties (let’s call him Ray) came to me and told me he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer.  He started sobbing as he said he feared death and couldn’t bear the thought of leaving his young family to fend for themselves.

At this point his wife interjected saying the prognosis was excellent.

The cancer had been detected early and treatment would rid him of the cancer.

Despite knowing this himself Ray was inconsolable.  His wife said he cried himself to sleep every night refusing to accept the doctor’s  positive prognosis.

Ray had become a burden on his family causing fear and uncertainty for his young children.  Nothing I said was going to change that.

Case 2  A woman in her  late 60’s was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer.  Her immediate reaction was “I’m too busy to have cancer. I’ve got so many things still to do.”

Years later she’s going strong, as for Ray I have no idea, but with his mental attitude the future looked bleak.

What can you take out of these stories?  Well, they’re anecdotal, no “evidence based” statistics.

But you tell me, wouldn’t Ray’s and his family’s lives been far better if he had a positive outlook.  It might not have changed the outcome but the quality of his life would have been far better.

I had some wonderful philosophical discussions about healthcare and complementary medicine with my radiotherapist.

While we didn’t see eye to eye on a number of things one thing he said stuck with me when we were talking about types of cancer treatment.

“Your mind is the most powerful form of cancer treatment there is.”

He said. “whether you have surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, naturopathy, homeopathy, or a combination of them, believe you have made the right decision.”

“Believe that your cocktail of treatment will work for you,  believe your course of treatment is the one that will rid your body of the cancer.”

The mind is powerful way beyond our comprehension.  We can use our mind’s to overcome fear, overcome pain, do things we once though impossible.  Surely cancer, any disease, is just another challenge for the brain.

Although the statistics are improving all the time people will still die of cancer despite the best treatment.

A positive state of mind mightn’t guarantee your survival but the time you have will be full of love and an abundance of joy.  You owe it to yourself and those who mean most to you to give it a go.

What have you got to lose?

Shit Mates Don’t Say

What do men talk about when they get together?

Footy, cricket, any other sport, gadgets, politics, work, women.

Where do health issues and private problems rate?  Down the toilet.

That’s pretty much why we blokes rarely go to the doctor, never have check ups and live by the maxim “she’ll be right.”

Well I’m afraid it’s time. Time for men to get smarter.  You can’t “tough  out” serious health issues but you can get treatment early before they get beyond help.

I have been guilty of all the above and when my cancer was detected (purely by accident) it was almost too late.

The video campaign by Cancer Council NSW Shit Mates Don’t Say says it all.

Now I’ve just got to get my mates to watch it.

How To Get A Free Copy Of Cancer – What Now?

Eight Years Cancer Free – and I’m feeling great.

November 2004 was the darkest period of my life. To be diagnosed with cancer – colorectal, stage 3 bowel cancer was a life-changing, life threatening episode no-one would wish on their worst enemy.

Despite the bleak days that ran into weeks then months I came through bloodied but unbowed.

My doctors, nurses, other health care specialists, my family, my wife – especially my wife, lead me through a long, dark and at times terrifying tunnel to the light at the other end.

Cancer – What Now? DVD – 10 copies to give away

Not a day goes by that I don’t give thanks for being given a second chance.  It’s both sobering and humbling to think of those who have contracted cancer who have not been so lucky.

I try to give back – I regularly give talks to cancer support groups and organisations who want to hear my story.

I’m an ambassador for Cancer CouncilSAin all its wonderful work.

I made a DVD Cancer – What Now? with Cancer CouncilSA to help people dealing with cancer to give them back some control of their lives. But whatever I do somehow it never seems to be enough.

Two years ago I wrote an article on 6 Years Cancer Free – the sentiments are just as pertinent today, perhaps more so.

On the 8th anniversary  I want to give away copies of Cancer – What Now? so for the first 10 people to reply on Facebook or My blog The Good Innings I will give you a copy and send it to you post and handling free.

Nobody really wants a DVD dealing with cancer because if you do, it means you, or someone close to you is having to deal with the hideous disease.

If you have the need for Cancer – What Now? just leave a reply below and be among the first ten for a complementary copy.

I’m A Survivor

It’s almost eight years since I was diagnosed with cancer.  

Although dealing with cancer is a deeply personal and private thing living in the public eye means your life is often played out in front of the public. Like it or not it goes with the territory.  I must say everyone I came in contact with during my recovery was wonderful, genuinely caring and respectful.  For that I will be forever grateful. For all those who know my cancer story there are many more who don’t and I often get asked how I dealt with the most traumatic even of my life so the following is an article I wrote during my recovery.

“I’m sorry you have cancer” Nothing prepared me for the chilling reality of those words.

In November 2004, I was diagnosed with cancer in the lower bowel – but it was pure luck that I found out about the cancer when I did.

I remember vividly how the events unfolded – it was a beautiful, warm Spring day and my wife Eve and I decided pick up a couple of chicken yiros for lunch.

They went down really well and I headed off to Channel Seven (Adelaide Australia) to read the news.

By the time I got home about 8 pm I felt a slight chest pain – like moderate indigestion – we’ll it gradually got worse to the extend that Eve had to rush me to hospital in the early hours of the morning.

After very long and extremely agonising wait in casualty I finally was looked at – but by the time all the X-rays and examinations were over the pain had subsided and I was feeling pretty good.

The X-rays revealed a severe gastric disturbance and once the blockage had cleared I was OK.

But the doctor on duty said “Look while you’re here I’d like to do a few more tests.” It was those tests that revealed something nasty that shouldn’t be there.

A day later I went in for a full colonoscopy

There can be few more sobering moments in your life than when you are told you have a malignant tumour in your body. A level 3 cancer.

Although my wife Eve was sitting there beside me I had never felt more alone in my life – this was to be as much a battle of the mind as the body.

After the earlier test I went in suspecting the worst, I thought I was fully prepared for it – but nothing prepares you for that sort of news.

Everything said after that was delivered through a fog – I heard it all but understood little.

On that morning as I walked out of the doctor’s rooms I had an empty, lost feeling – believing and not believing I had cancer at the same time.

It wasn’t denial just a failure of an emotion charged brain to compute all the information.

Then the biggest hurdle of all, how to tell the kids. I have three children at the time they were 20 – 17 and 13.

Despite the pain etched on their faces they took in bravely as we told them in a matter of fact way what was happening

We decided that they had to be told everything as they had to live through my surgery and post operative recovery – which saw me make a slow and painful return to health over the following 12 months.

I have nothing but praise for the doctors and nurses who looked after me throughout my treatment and recovery.

Their care and concern was of immense help.

Luckily for me I had a wonderful support network – from my wife and family to close friends.

But what I craved most before undergoing surgery was information – I needed to know more about this cancer – survival rate, methods of treatment.

Once again I was lucky my wife is a homoeopathic practitioner and as such had studied medical sciences – she could explain what the doctor had said. After my fog had lifted I though of the questions I should have asked in his surgery.

We have close friends in the medical profession and they were at the end of the phone when I had a specific query and believe me there were plenty.

Acting on advice I consulted with two surgeons before choosing one. I did the same with my radiotherapist and I spoke with three Oncologists before choosing the one who I thought was on the same wavelength as me.

I wanted an Oncologist who would accept I would be using complementary medicine alongside western practices.

This of course isn’t for everybody but it works for me. Everyone has the right to pursue the treatment they think will work for them.

The six hour operation was successful but I was left with an ileostomy bag.

Psychologically that in itself was a big hurdle – but hey I was alive and if I had to wear a bag to help me beat it then that was a small price to pay.

Six months later I was back in hospital for the follow-up operation to get me off the bag.

I underwent 5 weeks of radiotherapy and a course of chemo – and along the way homoeopathy and naturopathic nutrition played their role in my recovery.

Many people diagnosed with cancer withdraw into their shell fighting their battle privately confiding in only close family.

For me it became quite the opposite – as a well known face on Adelaide TV I couldn’t venture outside without people stopping to ask how I was going and when I’d be back on the small screen.

They’d often say how well I was looking. Now I’d lost 17 kilos in two weeks and been through gutbusting surgery – I didn’t look all that flash.

But to me it didn’t matter – people who I didn’t know but felt they new me actually cared – every well wisher every “Good on ya mate” was like a shot of the purist anti cancer drug. It invigorated and empowered me – it still does.

If we are to beat cancer – we all have a part to play – sufferers, carers, friends, families, total strangers – the human spirit is all powerful.

If you know someone with cancer -and spot them in the supermarket don’t hold back – wish them well tell them their looking great – and it can work wonders.

I owe my return to health not only to wonderful carers but my total involvement in the decision making process – choosing the specialists and after much deliberation my course of treatment.

I was lucky I had the perfect support network – but as I’ve found from the many people who write to me in a similar situation – for a lot of people diagnosed with cancer there has been NO support network to help them through the most trying of times.

I talk a lot to cancer sufferers through cancer support groups and when they hear how I went about it they often say well that’s OK for you – you a professional journalist and you know how to research and investigate stuff.

Well up to a few years ago I’d agree I did have and advantage but with the advent of the internet – we can all be investigative reporters.

Only this week I typed bowel cancer into Google in half a second it came up with more than three million pages on the matter.

Now I must stress it’s not all good news – statistics and life expectancy can give you a negative outlook – but once you know your enemy and can look him in the eye you’re better equipped to defeat your demon.

So you have to sift through all the information – you must believe for a start that if your looking at statistics and percentages you’re one of those on the positive side.

Your doctor/specialist will do his or her best but you are just one of many patients.

You, personally have to become an absolute expert on your form of cancer, not in a medical sense but how it is affecting you.

Then and only then can you ask the right questions. It’s your life and your body, if your not happy say so, if you want a second opinion get it.

One of my specialists said something that has stuck with me – he said you can have surgery for cancer, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, homoeopathy, naturopathy, meditation – all of them, or just some of them.

But what matters most is your state of mind – it is the most powerful weapon in the battle against cancer.

He said you have the final say on the best course of treatment for you and once you decide, whatever it is, believe fully that you have taken the right course and it will help you back to full health.

The doctors do there best the carers and support groups do a wonderful job
but more has to be done.

Prevention, detection, treatment and care have until now worked in many cases as separate entities that’s a layman’s point of view – someone who has gone through the Cancer mill. Every effort must be made for a co-ordinated approach.

I’ve said to my boys now aged 26 and 23 remember what your dad went through – start having regular checks when you reach 40.

For a half a days discomfort (anyone who’s had a colonoscopy knows what I’m taking about) you can avoid a life threatening cancer and in my case 8 months of agony.

Nobody should have to suffer through cancer – but it’s all too common in modern society.

I’d never wish cancer on anyone it can be cruel, debilitating and all too often life ending.

My life has changed dramatically, my priorities have changed – my family, always important to me is now even more so.

The things I used to agonise and worry over I now see as not so important –

Life is good I love every moment. I’m a better person for having gone through the cancer experience.

During my recovery I hit on the idea of making a DVD for cancer patients, their families and carers. A source of information to answer the many question that come up almost on a daily basis and you can’t be constantly on the phone to your doctor.

Cancer – What Now? Answers many questions that come up. Like what is Cancer? What is radiotherapy? What is chemo? Choosing quality healthcare, Complementary therapies. How do I tell the kids? And Getting on with your life after cancer.

Of course the DVD doesn’t have all the answers but at the end of each chapter there’s an information page telling you where to go to find out what you need.

There are links to the Cancer Council Helpline, which is a wonderful resource for anyone suffering from cancer.

Being given the cancer sentence sees your life change before your eyes and in my case I felt powerless to stop it.

I’m hopeful the DVD will help cancer patients take control of their lives, which in turn will help them chart a course to good health once more.

For more an information and to preview Cancer -What Now?
Go to http://www.cancerwhatnow.com.au/

Derryn Hinch – The Human Headline Tackles Cancer

Little good comes from a cancer diagnosis – your life change forever.  The best case scenario is you’ll make a complete recovery.

The worst case, the premature end to your life.

Most cases fall somewhere between – recovery, but life is never quite the same.  That’s when being grateful for just surviving plays a big part.

If you keep asking “why me?” and saying “my life is ruined” it most surely will be. But if you look on victory over cancer as a new beginning, life can be just as good, if not better than before – with some modifications.

The news over the past year that radio talkback host Derryn Hinch had liver cancer probably didn’t surprise a lot of people.  Derryn has had running health issues for a number of years most recently cirrhosis of the liver and almost dying from septicaemia four years ago.

The less charitable might suggest The Human Headline was up to his old tricks, keeping his name on everyone’s lips. Just some sort of publicity stunt to boost his ratings.

However, as time would reveal this was no stunt. Derryn did have cancer  and even if the bouts of chemotherapy do there stuff he will still need a liver transplant if he’s to survive.

In typical Hinch style all this has been carried out in full public gaze on his radio program on 3AW in Melbourne and his blog My Liver, My Life.

Now where is the good you mentioned earlier? I can hear you ask.

Well it’s in the fact that Hinch has been so public about it. The benefit to the tens of thousands of people going through cancer treatment is immense.

In my many talks to cancer support groups relating my cancer journey the feedback is constant “thanks for sharing your story,” or “you’ve given me renewed hope” or “now my husband might have a better attitude to his treatment.“I never thought to ask my doctor those questions.” etc

Knowledge is power and the more cancer survivors can network and share experiences the better off we’ll all be.

Many fighting cancer withdraw to fight a very personal battle privately, and it is their right.  But for those who look beyond their immediate circle can gain valuable support, knowledge and companionship. As psychologist Doctor Darryl Cross said on the DVD Cancer – What Now? “A problem shared is a problem halved.”

I wish Derryn well on his quest for a new liver. Certainly if a positive attitude counts for anything he’ll be still making headlines for years to come.

Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff – One Thing Cancer Teaches You

I had the great pleasure of addressing the Myeloma Foundation SA this week and chairperson Ian Driver reminded me that I first spoke to the group back in 2006.

The significance of that was that it was the first time I’d “gone public” since being diagnosed with bowel cancer in late 2004.

Those six years have passed remarkably quickly and more importantly on the health front incident free.

I have spoken to dozens of support groups since so it was a welcome return.

I told the Myeloma group how much I enjoy getting out and telling my story. Not that it’s anything unique. Sadly tens of thousands of Australian are going through the cancer ordeal every year.

The difference with me is that as a public figure, someone most Adelaidians feel they’ve known for over thirty years, my story is of interest to them.

Some use me as a barometer as to how they’re going dealing with their own cancer.  One man a few years ago came up to me and said. “G’day Graeme. I’ve been following your progress very closely. I got bowel cancer a year after you did, and I figured if that bloody bloke on TV can beat cancer, so can I.” We both had a good laugh.

I find talking about my cancer journey in public and the making of   Cancer – What Now?* helps people in a similar situation realise there is hope, that plenty can be done, but you must be pro-active and positive in dealing with it.

As I said to the Myeloma group if my talk helps them they must realise it bounces back and helps me too.  I always leave talking to cancer support groups envigorated and re-newed.  It’s a great feeling.

For those who have pre-conceived ideas as to the atmosphere at a support meeting as being gloomy and depressing I can I assure you the exact reverse is the case. There’s optimism and a positive vibe and most importantly there’s humour.

These people touched by cancer whether it be as patients, carers or family and friends have learnt how precious life is and to treasure every moment.

It’s  a real message for all fit, healthy and able-bodied amongst us to enjoy life for what it is and not to lose sight of what is really important. Don’t sweat the small stuff

It’s a lesson I learned after being diagnosed with cancer. A wonderful lesson, but a “bloody” tough way to learn.

*Cancer – What Now? is the DVD I produced in co-operation with the Cancer Council to help cancer patients, families and carers deal with cancer.

Available at National Pharmacies and online at http://www.cancerwhatnow.com.au