Roland’s story – in honour of Men’s Cancer Month

“When I was 34 years old, I thought I was invincible. I was a new dad to two young daughters, Jade and Amber. From the minute they were born, I was totally in love with my babies. I wanted to spend every moment with them, but I was also determined to provide for their future.

I burnt the candle at both ends.

It was 1988 and I had started my first bakery business. It became an immediate success, and after the first year I had twenty employees and working 18-hour days was typical. I was living on coffee and adrenaline.

For a few months, I had been ignoring the pain in my stomach. Then, one day I was rushed to hospital with a large swelling beneath my ribcage. I vividly remember the moment the doctors told me they had discovered a 20cm tumour wrapped around my intestines.

It was Burkitts Lymphoma, and I was told I had less than three months to live.

I remember looking at Jade and Amber’s uncomprehending faces at the end of the hospital bed and in that moment I decided there was no way that I wasn’t going to be around to raise my girls.

At first, I was offered very limited hope so I desperately sought a second opinion. I met with a young oncologist who was a big believer in cancer research. He suggested I try a chemo regime called MACOP-B that was very new at the time. It gave immediate results and I went through further treatment which included radiation and an autologous bone marrow transplant.

Amber and Jade were a huge part of my recovery – they were my life force

Twenty-nine years after I was first diagnosed with cancer, I can look back and count my blessings.

I recall there were times when frightening thoughts would cross my mind. In the wake of such a grim cancer diagnosis and treatment, I worried that I would miss my daughters’ precious childhood moments, and that I would never get to walk them down the aisle. Through the toughest times, the thought of another man stepping in to take my place as their father if I wasn’t around, was always a reliable motivator!

Six months later, my treatment was officially over. Shortly after I was told I had a high chance of leukaemia due to the high doses of chemo, and for the first few years I lived in the shadow of a relapse.

There has always been a 5cm mass present in my stomach, which is likely to be just scar tissue. I think of it as my talisman – it’s there to remind me to value each day, and keep me balanced in my approach to life and business. I am thankful that the only side effect of the innovative treatment was that my hair never grew back after the chemo. At least I didn’t have to go grey and I saved on shampoo!

I have been given this time to raise Jade and Amber, and their little sister Ava. Every day that I get to watch them fly is a miracle to me. I know that I am one of the truly lucky ones. Stories like mine are often too few and far between.

Everyday men are lost to cancer, and many others must live with the debilitating effects of painful treatment

This is why it is so important to continue to support cancer research into improved ways to prevent, detect and treat cancer.

When Jade told me she was taking action to support the Australian Cancer Research Foundation, I was so proud of her. I was thankful to be at her side as she shaved her head. A flood of memories poured in and I took the opportunity to phone and thank the doctor who helped me all those years ago.

ACRF supporters like you make life-saving discoveries possible. I know this because cancer research saved my life, and it will continue to save others, now and in the future.

Since my diagnosis, I have been in awe of all those new, more targeted treatments that provide better outcomes for all types of cancer.

And, there is still so much more we can do.

Cancer is smart, but when we join together, we are smarter

Each day I marvel at my extraordinary good fortune to have survived. When you donate to ACRF, you give more Australian men like me a better chance at survival.

Please make a donation this Men’s Cancer Month as an investment in the health of those you hold dear. Families like mine can’t thank you enough for your support of cancer research.”

Sincerely, Roland
Jade’s dad, cancer survivor and ACRF supporter