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Carers live the cancer journey too

Friday 1 November, 2019

David and Annette at Relay For Life

David felt out of place on the Relay For Life track – despite caring for his wife throughout her cancer diagnosis and treatment.

In fact, he resisted going at all.

The father of four grew up in a generation where everyone avoided talking about cancer, but today David wants to bolster his local Relay For Life event.

He wants to give back to the community who helped him feel like he was ‘finally doing something’.

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When David and Annette got married about 14 years ago, their respective families doubled in size.

David and Annette with their children

David, Annette and their seven children on the couple’s wedding day in 2005.

For more than ten years, things went smoothly, until one of Annette’s routine breast screens indicated a problem.

“She called me after her second visit where they did the ultrasound. She didn’t use the word ‘cancer’, but she said they had found something.

“I immediately panicked and hit doctor Google, and had visions of my wife dying of cancer and all the usual things you go through,” said David.

Later that evening, when David and Annette went through her paperwork, it finally sunk in – Annette was diagnosed with an aggressive breast cancer.

But there was hope. It was through sheer luck that Annette’s breast cancer was diagnosed in its very early stages.

David said that being a “typical bloke”, he didn’t call Cancer Council’s 13 11 20 support as he felt he could deal with Annette’s diagnosis himself. But he did find a trusted source of information in the website.

“Once I calmed down after the initial panic, I went to the Cancer Council website to get my facts because I didn’t want to be grabbing random data off the web.

“The online stuff was just absolutely brilliant and suited me,” said David.

Annette was swiftly operated on following her diagnosis, then underwent a year of follow up treatment including chemotherapy, radiotherapy and infusions to treat the hormonal side effects she experienced.

Annette receiving her first round of chemo in November 2016.

Despite all the couple went through, David feels fortunate.

“There were scary times, but in the overall picture – and compared to so many others – I feel we got off very lightly,” he said.

For a long time, David didn’t feel that he’d personally ‘been through’ anything, and up until his first Relay For Life, continued to feel this way.

Relay for Life is a fundraising challenge which brings communities together across Victoria to raise vital funds for people affected by cancer. Teams gather to celebrate survivors, remember loved ones lost and fight back against cancer.

Annette knew the best way to make David attend Relay For Life was by putting an appointment in his calendar. When the date finally arrived in late 2017, David reluctantly showed up.

“I didn’t want to go. When I got there, a Relay For Life coordinator spotted me and noticed me looking lost and miserable,” David said.

“They gave Annette her survivors sash and myself a carers sash and I really felt like a fraud – I felt like an imposter because I’d not been physically touched by the cancer myself.”

Once David started walking the survivors and carers lap at the event, he was unexpectedly overwhelmed. He walked the lap with tears streaming down his face.

“I can’t express the flood of emotion I felt as I, for the first time, came to see how cancer had affected me indirectly,” he shared.

David (left) and Annette (middle) attending at the Murrumbeena Relay For Life event last year.

“As a spouse you feel you can’t do anything – I couldn’t take every second chemo for her, I just had to be there and bring her a cup of tea. So, I didn’t realise what I had been through.”

It didn’t take long before David decided he wanted to play a role in fostering his local Relay community.

“We attended the closing ceremony the following day and I thought it looked like they were a little bit short on staff, and I wasn’t doing any charity work in my spare time,” explained David, and shortly after he decided to join his local committee.

David says anyone touched by cancer can get involved in their local Relay For Life, or choose one of Cancer Council’s many other fundraising events to help create a cancer free future.

“Relay is what suited me, and there’s so many different levels of involvement. You can just donate money, or you can simply turn up and walk with your survivors, put a team together, or join the committee,” he said.

“The love, care and help provided to me by the Relay volunteers was overwhelming, so I decided to join the organising committee and see what I could do to help others to experience the magic of Relay For Life.”

 Find out more about Relay For Life

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