2011 for me was one of the most challenging periods of my life. Unfortunately, during such periods I have a pattern of retreat rather than engagement, instinctively preferring solitude when I feel overwhelmed with the world and unable to contribute like I feel compelled to. I have always had great dreams and ambitions of the contribution I can make in this world, and each year I seem to feel a building momentum towards some massive evolution in my path. Living a purposeful existence is something I feel as paramount in my life’s journey, purpose something I have had fleeting glimpses of but not felt embraced by for any significant amount of time. In reflection now I see one of my defining purposes of the last 5 years was to help a great mentor in my life on his final path of which we will all eventually walk.
22nd of February was the point I saw everything change. We had all heard in the office of the horrific earthquake that had just hit Christchurch in New Zealand and I was very concerned for my boss, mentor and friend, Maurice, and his family, all of which were there at the time. After some time had passed I finally got to speak to him, relieved to hear that both him and his family were all safe. A pervasive fear in his voice was evident, something I had never heard before from him. He was a man that was larger than life, driven to achieve and experience the wonders that our Earth and society offers us with a passion I had not witnessed before meeting him. Now however I heard a scared man, whose aging years had seemed to catch up with him in the terrifying moments of the natural disaster. I was not surprised to hear this, it was indeed a horrific event that shattered the peaceful city, some of the remaining destruction I was to witness myself many months later. During the conversation he complained to me of a pain in his groin and having difficulty to urinate, symptoms that he had never expressed to me before. Again, I was not surprised, thinking back to my Chinese Medicine training and the emotion of fear and its relationship to the kidneys and bladder, it all seemed to make perfect sense. I tried to reassure him as best I could sitting connected by phone on the other side of the Tasman sea. I was just glad that he was OK.
Returning to Australia soon after, Maurice was still visibly shaken by the incident, and was still complaining about having problems with urination. This now started to concern me. He was a man that I considered bulletproof, an athlete his entire life, in excellent physical shape for a man half his age, and one that NEVER complained about illness – he could never understand staff sickness at our company with the cry that he had only taken 3 in his entire career! Thus, these complaints obviously pointed to a malady that needed to be addressed. So began the merry-go-round that is the health system of Australia. I am aware that Australia has one of the best healthcare systems in the world and I feel fortunate that I was born here for myself, friends and family to have access to it. It is filled with caring health professionals that want the best for their patients. It is also a system that is ultimately accessible to all, regardless of socio-economic status. Sadly however, the diagnosis of his condition, which could have been ascertained quickly through a simple scan, took many months to occur. The process of being passed from doctor to doctor, with procedures being performed again and again for little gain and causing him great pain was really a disgrace. He, along with all those that were close to him became increasingly frustrated by all this, having no understanding or tolerance for the bureaucratic quagmire that Maurice was immersed in. Having some Health sciences training myself, and given the symptoms that he reported, I, along with his doctors it seemed, assumed that his condition was centred on his prostate, either due to cancer or some benign enlargement. As a man ages, prostate cancer becomes a common malady. In most cases, it is quite slow growing, so with early detection it is treatable with a combination of surgery and radiotherapy. Throughout this time I had in my head that this was the worst case scenario. So, if this were the case he would receive the necessary treatments and ultimately bounce back to his fit, life affirming self. I was absolutely devastated and completely unprepared when I received a call from him with the final verdict. They had finally done the necessary tests and it was confirmed that he had stage 4 posterior urethral carcinoma that had already spread to his lumbar spine, liver and lower lungs.