Life is short, eat dessert first
Sunday 12th Sep
Pancreatic Cancer fact:
Survival rates for most forms of cancer have been improving.
contrast, the five-year survival rates for pancreatic cancer have
stayed largely unchanged. Survival remains shockingly low - for the past
40 years it has lingered at less than 5%.
This is the worst survival outcome for any of the 21 most common cancers.
hesitated before writing this email but there's a valuable thread
between what I'm about to tell you and about the value of our
fundraising. It concerns the importance of medical research and the
possibility of good outcomes and especially, how they impacted me.
arrived in Sydney in 1988 with Nicki and 4 of 6 children (the others
were to migrate later). Keen to start our new lives, a few days later I
loaded wife, Granny and 4 kids into my brother's Tarago and set off to
see a business that I was interested in.
We did not get far.
Tarago vehicles were diabolically dangerous - both front passengers sat
totally exposed, basically above and forward of the front axle.
was a miracle that Granny and the 4 children were unharmed by the
head-on collision with the Daihatsu truck that veered into our path;
Nicki and I were much less fortunate. We were both grievously injured
and I was on life support for days. Royal North Shore Hospital staff
were magnificent; day after day they wheeled Nicki's bed from her 10th
floor ward to where I was in intensive care on the first floor so that
she could reassure herself that by some miracle, I was still hanging on.
machine was keeping me alive, I was vaguely aware that it was forcing
me to breathe until eventually, I regained consciousness.
was I? My head was in a fog. That was unsurprising. A white coated
man with stethoscope around his neck had appeared out of the fog and was
asking me damn fool questions.
is your name? How old are you? Who is the Prime Minister of
Australia?" I'd arrived as a migrant
5 days before the accident, but Bob Hawke was easy to recall. His next
question wasn't as easy: "What's the date?" I'd been out of it for days
and days, how was I to know? But white coat seemed satisfied that my
brain was still functioning and normal, a finding that many of my
friends might choose to question.
made history in this hospital" white coat told me "No one thought that
you could or would survive!" (I was too stubborn not to
survive). Indeed, for years afterwards, when doctors saw my X-rays they
recognised me because of the structural damage and the fact that North
Shore is a teaching hospital, so my case was widely discussed. Try to
imagine how confronting it would be to be instantly recognisable by your
coat (an intensive care doctor, I never learnt his name) said to me
"You must be very fit and strong to have survived the trauma, what were
you doing to be so fit?" I explained that I was training for marathon
and triathlon, running, cycling, swimming and despite my lack of success
in staying upright in a narrow canoe, kayaking. He listened, then was
totally brutal and said "Well, you've survived but you will never run
again. In fact, you probably will never walk unless you are assisted,
you will have to get used to being in a wheelchair and walking
will be possible only
with crutches. Or a Zimmer frame."
pelvis was crushed, I'd lost one hip joint (acetabulum) and my legs
were smashed, held together by long pins inside the bone. What a mess.
was in traction, with pulleys and weights trying to pull me straight
again. (did not work) I remained in the hospital, in traction for 3
months. The worst bit? For a very private person, toilet habits when
you are strapped to your bed in the ward are right up there.
And yet here I am now, not just walking but having made an undertaking to you that I'll walk 63km!
point I wish to make is that medical science saved Nicki and I despite
our both having extensive injuries, it eventually gave me my life back.
Surgery and technology has enabled me to walk, to cycle, to start a
business, employ people and to have a fulfilling life. While I'm not
exactly Twinkletoes or pain free, the medical treatment that I've had
has kept me alive against the odds and enabled me to do the walk that
no doubt that the contribution that we've all made to Pancreatic Cancer
research will in some small way, help others at some future time. So I
thank you, - if you wish to see our collection progress or how far I've
walked to date or to donate, click on this link.
And by all means, do share this email!
Here's my latest walk, complete with an aberration:
remained in the suburb of CastleCrag - I don't know what that spike in
the GPS trace on the map might be, that straight line that crosses the
water. There's no way that I could've crossed to Northbridge across the
bay. No walking on water this time.
In fact, the way I interpret the GPS data, it suggests that I crossed the bay under water, see the funny downward spike in the data:
Aberrations aside, my undertaking to you is to walk 63km this month.
First Walk = 12.78
Second Walk = 9.44
Third Walk = 6.30
This Walk = 9.99
Total thus far 38.51km
I still owe you 24.49km
resolved to walk fewer bush stairs this time, I strode off onto the
roads of neighbouring CastleCrag. My plan was to stay on more or less
delightful suburb, CastleCrag is rather exclusive, extending along the
spine of a long narrow peninsula jutting into Middle Harbour.
Most homes are blessed with a waterview and many have water frontage.
I might've avoided steps, but not steeps
No steps? Stay on level? Yeah right.
It is a peaceful area, with a truly village atmosphere.
CastleCrag was planned by Walter Burley Griffin.
one of the many children's play areas, I found a bit of fun, a
sculpture by someone with a keen sense of humour, an effigy of a
mythical Griffin. The inscription, carved into the front of the plaque
reads "Walter, the burly Griffin".
Griffin (not the one pictured above, the other one) is credited with
having planned Canberra and Griffith as well as CastleCrag. One of his
legacies is that he liked to leave a pathway, an easement between the
rear of houses to enable the children to move around their neighbourhood
without having to go onto the street. Many of these easements form
part of the paths I've been walking.
wife Marion was also an architect, and a furniture designer. My
reading suggests that she made a major contribution to Walter's works.
also worked for the American architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. I don't
know who designed this striking home on Edinburgh Rd, but does it not
make you think of Mr Wright's design elements?
this architectural and planning thinkings had made me very hungry, so I
used one of the many little pathways in the area to find the perfect
spot for a break.
on the jetty, I contemplated a skinny dip but decided that based on my
track record with my questionable luck, I was not going to risk being
apprehended either by a shark in the water or an official out of it.
son James knows his father too well and had made me a splendid Father's
day treat (which he and daughter in law Jane delivered in a covid safe
I had packed a suitably generous slice. Energy food. Healthy as. Nom Nom Nom.
photograph was included especially for my good friends Garth, Hotzy,
Tammie and Simon, none of whom will believe that I don't stop at the
bakery in CastleCrag on every walk. No need, I have my own supplies,
thanks to James and Jane.)
happily, I could enjoy the view and reflect on our good fortune living
in a wonderful society where anyone may enjoy the peace, the beauty and
the public places.
You just have to make the effort to find them.
situated, conveniently close to the city, CastleCrag's original homes
and cottages are being modernised, enlarged and extended.
a bit lighter I ambled further quite happily, enjoying my largely
street walks, avoiding steps, appreciating the signs of spring all
one time the RTA (remember them?) were going to build a bridge across
middle harbour and this peaceful park is the site on the CastleCrag
peninsula where it was to have joined up.
The citizens of the suburb were suitably outraged and in the end, the plan was shelved.
My walk, and my plan to stay on easier ground was doing fine, until I came to this sign, advising "Beverley Blacklock Reserve"
which had one of these
led to . . . .You guessed it - seemed like it led to somewhere
interesting. Forgot my plan to avoid steps and took the plunge.
The steps led me down to the water's edge
and the ruins of an old stone jetty.
Contemplating old stone jetties made me very hungry.
Fortunately, I still had some sandwiches so I was forced to make another food stop and enjoy the peaceful space I'd found.
I'm becoming very good at food stops. It is an acquired skill that requires practise.
(note to self: do I need a larger backpack?)
Suitably refreshed, I set off again, following the narrow pathway along the edge of the cliff.
with a completely different perspective of the suburb.
Did I mention steps?
And did I mention 3 total hip joint replacements, 3 spinal surgeries, and a spinal fusion?
To say nothing of the physiotherapy.
are days when I don't feel much like tap dancing, but what I'm able to
do after such extensive, life threatening injuries is testament to the
miracles accomplished by modern medical science.
you for your support. I'm confident that one day, the 10 Australians
who are told each day that they have Pancreatic Cancer, will also be
told "But we have a very successful treatment for your condition."
We will have played our small part.
Where to next? Will I get food stops? Will James bake another cake?
Did I mention that, to his credit, my brother never asked for the return of what little was left of his Tarago?