SHOCK DIAGNOSIS: ‘I thought that was the end for me’
A CENTRAL Queensland man feels lucky to be alive after he was diagnosed with mouth cancer earlier this year.
For Fred Conway, family and the land are all he has ever needed in life.
Having faced homelessness earlier in life, his family helped him turn his life around, quit tobacco smoking, and seek employment doing what he loves - working as a ranger at Carnarvon Gorge National Park.
However, everything changed in March when Mr Conway was first diagnosed and had to travel to Brisbane to undergo a 20-hour operation followed by ongoing life-saving treatment.
"I've always had a 'life is what it is' outlook, so when I was first diagnosed I thought that was the end for me," he said.
"It all started with a sore tooth and after finally going to the dentist, he told me to get it checked by a GP.
"Then a small lump came up on my cheek and it just kept getting bigger and bigger, so I went for a few scans and after a few weeks I was finally told it was cancer and that there was a second lump in my lymph node.
"I went in for surgery that lasted longer than 20 hours, where they removed as much as they could and used skin grafts from my leg and arm.
"That was in April and I've been here in Brisbane ever since doing daily treatment."
He said he felt "guilty and grateful" to be able to stay at Cancer Council Queensland's Charles Wanstall Apex Lodge in Herston.
He says he is not one to take things without giving anything in return.
"It's just incredible the care I have received from Cancer Council Queensland," he said.
"As soon as I get home, I plan to start fundraising to give back for all the help I've been given.
"Every dollar is important when it comes to funding the ability for ordinary folk like me to get the help we need, and there are plenty of us out there who need it."
Mr Conway's daughter Lisa Conway said she was touched by the support her family had received.
"It's very eye-opening when it happens to someone close to you, and we feel very fortunate to have been given help - we wouldn't have survived this without being so close to treatment," she said.
With his last treatment set for July 7, Mr Conway is excited to see the rest of his family and go home to Central Queensland.
"I can't wait to see my wife of 54 years, my 10 children, and my 69 grandchildren - and number 70 is on the way," he said.
For more information on Cancer Council Queensland's practical support services, go to cancerqld.org.au.