Cancer: Meet it, treat it, beat it

Ben Peacock, author of Lessons from My Left Testicle, was at a buck’s weekend three days before surgeons were slicing open his stomach, “placing his guts on a tray” to remove his lymph nodes, and then squishing them back in. 

Experiencing sharp pains in his back, he told the audience at the Garvan Institute that he “did what he was supposed to do” – kept drinking alcohol to (unsuccessfully) ignore it.

25 year old stockbroker Tim Cussell put off visiting a doctor when strange symptoms (of what turned out to be Stage 3 bowel cancer) arose because of the unpleasant prospect of a stranger poking around his nether regions.  Finally finding time to visit a doctor, he was immediately booked into surgery and warned that he could die on the operating table.

Cancer; Meet it. Treat it. Beat it was the topic of the Young Garvan Forum’s most recent event on the 26 May.  Young Garvan was set up to educate and inform the seemingly bulletproof younger generation about health issues and the importance of medical research. 

Hearing the magic words “You. Have. Cancer” slams the door shut on one's previous life only to send them whirling through a vortex of hospitals, chemotherapy and radiation.  Ben told the forum how “everything in life is suddenly put on hold” – career, travel plans, plans to start a family - with all energy focussed on the daily rollercoastal of survival, specialists and treatments.

Medical oncologist Dr Catriona McNeil and Dr Darren Saunders, a senior lecturer in Medicine at UNSW provided tangible examples of recent medical research breakthroughs, stating that while cancer is the number one disease killer in the 18-40 year age group, survival rates have never been better.  Dr Andrew Penman, CEO of the Cancer Council NSW, emphasised cancer as a social issue with a heavy impact on both patients and the wider community.

With a newfound appreciation of how precarious life can be, Tim focused on enjoying what was great and letting go of the bad - bought an apartment, proposed to his girlfriend and changed careers.   He is organising a fundraising dinner for 2012 to raise funds for Lifehouse at RPA and the Bowel Cancer Institute.  As Ben Peacock soberly reminded us– “it’s not a given that everything will go according to plan”.

Lessons for the invincible Gen Y?
  • Visit a GP when something doesn’t feel right
  • You’re never too young to get your affairs in order
  • It can happen to you – so keep an eye on the important things in life

Join the Young Garvan Events & Fiestas facebook group to be informed of future events.