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After two separate primary cancer diagnoses, Neil is lucky to be alive.
He has been giving back to the Portland and Glenelg Shire communities through Relay For Life ever since, fundraising for cancer treatments and research that helped him.
The Southwest Relay For Life is now in its 19th year in the Portland area.
“We’ve got one of the best committees going around. We’re so passionate about what we do and it’s a lot of fun.
“Everyone knows someone who has had an experience with cancer, and the dollars raised through Relay for Life directly improve treatments, supports patients and save lives. By supporting Relay For Life, we can all choose to do our little bit to help save lives.”
At 26 Neil was diagnosed with a germ cell cancer and the prognosis wasn’t good. He was told to pack his bags and drive the four-and-a-half hours to Melbourne immediately to begin cancer treatment. “I told my specialist I couldn’t go because I was getting married in two days. And he said, ‘You’ll have to cancel that’, so Jen and I had a difficult choice to make.
“I asked Jen if she wanted to marry a dead guy and she thought about this and said, ‘I don’t care if you’ve got two months, two years or two lifetimes, I still want to marry you!’”
Neil and Jen ended up getting married and going to Peter Mac hospital immediately after.
“Peter Mac became our honeymoon, where I had operations and started chemotherapy.”
Chemotherapy was successful to remove the tumours, but nine years later, he was diagnosed yet again with another cancer, seminoma.
“I’ve had two unrelated primary cancers; I think I’m the only person who’s survived a teratoma and seminoma I think I’m very lucky.”
Despite many difficult challenges in his life, Neil feels very fortunate and owes his positive outlook to strong support networks, family and life-long friends at Relay For Life.
“I’m passionate about cancer research; I think it’s incredibly important. I hope we can improve the quality of life during treatment and not just treatment options. The treatment I went through was really tough but since then, there have been so many improvements, and prognosis is so much better.”
Neil reflects on his 18 years spent doing Relays, first as a team member and a guest speaker, and for the past six years on the Event Planning Team.
“It’s not really work. Our meetings aren’t tedious at all, it’s really good. It’s just a great bunch of electric and positive people.”
Neil sees what touches people most about Relays is the connection and support. “I’ve had friends who haven’t survived cancer. The Relay candlelight ceremonies can be very emotional. Some incredible people come and talk about their lives and it’s so inspiring.”
“We provide the team captains with a lot of support, and we always encourage the social aspects of Relay. We try to make it a really fun environment and put them in contact with other team captains to share ideas.
“Anyone can be a team captain, and they’re the people you need to inspire; they’re the ones that can inspire others in turn.”
You can be like Neil and volunteer to help plan your local Relay For Life. Simply fill out this form, and we’ll help you find a role that suits you.