03 January 2018
We built ‘emu bush’ with the vision of creating a sustainable retirement lifestyle—an eco-home constructed from a shipping container and mud brick, all off the grid and solar powered.
Six months after moving into emu bush, I began to notice chest pain, and that I was getting out of breath easily. Amid all the planning and building, I hadn’t found the time to get on my bike as much as I used to, but I thought perhaps I was just unfit.
After my GP saw the results of my blood tests, he said it was a wonder I was still standing—my haemoglobin was that low. Over the next few weeks I underwent blood transfusions, a bone marrow biopsy, scans, X-rays and seemingly infinite blood tests.
The hardest part for me was the unknown—waiting around for a diagnosis and prognosis.
When I did receive the diagnosis of chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL), I was determined to kick it. I didn’t really ever think that it was something that would kill me in the short term.
A friend suggested that I stay at Cancer Council SA Lodge—Greenhill while I underwent my first round of what would be six months of chemotherapy. That’s three full days every month, for six months. It would have been an impossible commute every day from emu bush, 160km away.
Despite the obvious trepidation, I found the chemotherapy experience a very positive one. Each morning I was taken to the Royal Adelaide Hospital by shuttle bus, which is completely volunteer run. I could focus on what I was going through, rather than looking for and paying for parking. Everyone who looked after me at the hospital was able to answer my questions, and I found Cancer Council SA’s pamphlets and brochures so helpful to navigate what I was going through.
Returning home to emu bush was such a beautiful feeling. Pauline and I had discussed whether it was the right thing to do considering the circumstances, but as soon as we came home we knew that this was our place to be ourselves. After being in a hospital for three days, the peace, quiet, and total disconnect from everything was such a welcome sigh of relief. We were also totally isolated from infection, but still had access to a fantastic country GP twice a week.
To keep myself busy in those days immediately following that first treatment, I naturally turned to working on the property. I laid the foundations for an art studio which would also house guests who came to stay, before moving on to the 2,000 mud bricks, joinery and floor tiles, all made from recycled materials. Once we had this space, we began to host workshops that would allow us to share our knowledge and lifestyle with others who wanted to learn.
The experience of being diagnosed with and treated for cancer also inspired me to raise money for Cancer Council SA. Having been a keen recreational cyclist for over 30 years, competing in the Bupa Challenge Tour and The Lake Taupo Challenge to name a few, Ride for a reason was the perfect fit for me. As well as gathering sponsorship for my ride, we hosted fundraisers at emu bush, spreading the word about healthy, sustainable living.
My son, Andrew, is a keen cyclist, much like I used to be. He is coming from New Zealand to ride by my side, just another example of how he has shown me unwavering support throughout my entire journey.
It means a lot to me to be able to give something back while I can in return for all the support and services I have received—and may need again in the future—from Cancer Council SA. While I am currently in remission and feel fit, there is no cure and my CLL will return. My hope is that by raising money for cancer research and treatment, I can be given another chance in the future, and contribute to helping everyone who is going through cancer.
Support Kevin in his mission by donating to his Ride for a reason page, or by registering yourself. If you or someone you know is navigating their cancer journey, call Cancer Council 13 11 20 to receive information, support, and to learn more about the services available.