Dear Cancer, Fuck You

Today I am sitting at my desk sad and numb to hear of the passing of Steve Jobs, the creative genius behind Apple computers, the iPhone, iPads and the many other computing advances he brought to the world.

I am sad to lose a true hero, I am sad that cancer had taken away yet another person in the world that I look up to. Fuck you cancer. If you were human I’d fucking beat you up.

As I am sure that you know when I am not working as a family doctor I work with a children’s cancer charity Camp Quality. This amazing organization helps bring fun, laughter and support into the lives of kids living with cancer as well as care, respite and financial support for the families of those same kids.

Two to three times every year I have the pleasure of taking a week away from my regular work and spending time with an amazing group of kids and adults, all whose main purpose in life is to improve the quality of life for people who are doing it tough.

It’s hard work at times, but man, it’s worth it. Take my most recent camp for example.

You can imagine that organizing medical care for more then one hundred people can be a rather big task to take on. There is researching the individuals’ health problems, preparing for potential problems, making sure that I and the three nurses I travel with are up to speed with the kids we will be looking after.

Other important issues like making sure there are enough lollies to sink a ship, ensuring my costume for the dance was “just right”, and liaising with parents worried about recent flu epidemics certainly make for a busy week beforehand.

Fate being fate I managed to not only put my back out 2 days before camp, but the day before I managed to rip my head open on the edge of my car boot. Not a happy chappy.

Three hours in a hospital emergency department and 8 staples in the head later I was home again frantically running around to do my final preparations for camp.

I’m the first to admit that there were times that I honestly thought that yes, it was too much, I just wanted to phone in and say “look I can’t make it”, but I would look at the many treasured photos on my iPhone that remind me exactly why I joined the team at Camp Quality in the first place.

Dr George and DaveTake my good mate Dave.

This photo was taken as Dave and I were preparing for our turn on a giant swing. Strapped tightly to my chest I don’t know which was more frightening, my fear of heights or the thought that Dave might get hurt in any way.

Living with multiple medical conditions Dave weighs in at a slight 18kg. He has significant physical and developmental delays and an immune system that leaves him open for any infection that may be going around at the time.

Now 13 I have wept many times looking after him. I can’t count the amount of times I have cried wondering “Will his be his last camp?”

Despite every thing Dave keeps on going!

He has a wicked sense of humour, he’s remarkably chummy with a female mate and I have never seen a kid his size clear a plate at the speed he does!

Dave has his ups and downs but my inner protection mechanism is so strong for this child, he will live forever in my heart, well after his body has failed him.

Within each camp is another special type of person, the companion.

Each companion is a carefully chosen adult who takes a week of their life to spend their time in a one on one role with a camper. Each companion has their own story. Many have had a relative who has had cancer, some have lost someone close, a few have had their own journey with cancer.

My mate BeeBee is a beautiful example.

I first met BeeBee when she was a camper.  One year after her last camp she returned to be trained as a companion to share her love for other kids who have lived with cancer.

Bright, crazy and a more than a little bit “out there”, she’s had her own journey with cancer and is more then happy to share her story. In fact she will proudly say that she is glad that she has had cancer.

“Had it not been for cancer I would have never met these amazing people in my life”…
“If I had never had cancer I would have never met each of you… I’m glad I had cancer.”

I was in the room the evening she shared that confession. Every adult in the room was crying.

BeeBee is a strong woman and her return to camp as a companion is an amazing act that helps each and every child living with cancer live with hope, strength and dignity.

The world needs more people like BeeBee. It is my dream that things like cancer will not be needed to help bring them out.

In a perfect world cancer would never exist…”Cancer would get cancer and die”.

Hero’s like Dave, BeeBee and Steve Jobs would be able to enjoy life without the burden of a body that refuses to co-operate. While sadly that is not the case we can live in the light of their courage and learn via their inspiring acts.

To quote Steve Jobs:

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

If you had nothing to lose, what would you do today? Lead with your heart, you would be amazed at what you can achieve.

Yours in good health, no matter what your body may say different.

Dr George


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