Many know Al for his commitment to the 2020 Bike Ride for Brain Cancer; training inside during the Canadian winter with plans to fly home to Australia in time for the ride. COVID put an end to that but what many didn’t realise was that Al was also in the midst of treatment for brain cancer.
Life for Al changed overnight at the age of 36. A huge seizure was the first sign of trouble and an MRI scan confirmed it - a brain tumour in his right frontal lobe.
Picture: Al and his wife Donica
It was suspected that the tumour was a low-grade glioma, however surgery revealed a grade 3 Oligodendroglioma - a slow growing sub type of glioma. The following months were very confronting for Al and his wife Donica, but they were fortunate in having 2 neurosurgeons as family friends to guide them through the sea of conflicting information and the challenges of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy treatments.
Since that initial seizure Al has not been able to drive, so it’s the ever-supportive Donica who’s been at the wheel getting him to and from the myriad medical appointments. They both recall the drive to Al’s 33 radiation sessions at a cancer centre 100km from their home as probably the most stressful period in their whole ordeal - they made this journey 5 days a week for 6 weeks.
Thankfully the list of appointments has started to settle down. The 12 months of chemotherapy finished in May this year, and Al’s most recent MRI showed what’s left of the tumour to be stable, which means MRIs are now quarterly, as are the appointments with his oncologist, neurologist, occupational therapist, naturopath and GP!
Throughout treatment Al has been chronically fatigued, but it’s the changes in his personality, mood and cognitive functions post-surgery that have been the cause of his greatest difficulties and frustrations.
Obviously, all these changes and uncertainties regarding the future have had a massive impact on Al and Donica’s lives and priorities. They are considering a move back to Australia, but definitely have some major travel plans high on their agenda - once COVID restrictions are lifted.
In the meantime, Al and Donica, along with a group of their Aussie mates, have formed the AusCan Team and continue to train and fundraise for the 2021 Bike Ride for Brain Cancer - to date raising over $25,000!
Al says knowing that brain cancer research is going on is what pushes him to do everything he can to live a happier, healthier life, which he’s hoping will translate into a longer life.
Al after surgery