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Why I am raising funds Cycling in The Rio Tinto Ride to Conquer Cancer.

Updated on October 12, 2013

One of the main reasons why I am Cycling in the upcoming Rio Tinto Ride to Conquer Cancer in August, 2012.

What sparked it

One day just through an idle conversation these words were exchanged.

Standing in the Tattersall’s Gym with Barry; I, (Micheal Woolley) shared the story with Barry.

Barry then asked me to recap this story for you; In the hope that your actions will benefit yourself, and so many others, in the fight to conquer cancer.

For those of you who are about to ride or sponsor the charity cycle ride Rio Tinto Ride to Conquer Cancer, please read my story.

Ask yourself how can you help with Life Surprises:

Does this sound familiar to you?

Guest post from friend: Micheal Woolley

Generally fit all your life with middle age periodic spurts of extra fitness to challenge yourself including corporate Triathlons; non competitive runs; general training; cycling; motorcycling track days etc to ignite the senses; swimming; tennis; gym weights etc. Diet wise? I hear you say, generally well in terms of height, weight and body fat. Of course it could always be improved with more vegetables; lighter options at corporate lunches and dining out on weekends.


Generally we all delude ourselves on the frequency and maybe the volume but never the quality. Some have a big night twice per year, others more, but hopefully we all recover with new determination to become fitter. Others just carry on consumption. Fortunately quality not quantity ruled my life albeit I acknowledge the occasional over indulgence. Importantly for me as it turns out, I was not in a general drinkers category

with my consumption limited to two drinks only per occasional sitting. Chalk up another positive for the 0.05 road laws!

Stress levels?

We all have it. So we generally, myself included, all rate it as a demanding and rewarding career. However let’s face it the modern work life balance does become unbalanced in favour of work. Only you’re shared experiences with business colleagues; your own fitness levels; the love of your family, including the annual break make it all manageable and worthwhile.

Health Checks?

Generally performed as per the GP’s “body owners manual.” Well the general guy described above was I – Michael Woolley. In 2010 I turned 50 years of age. I made a real conscious effort to continue with my general fitness. I even bought a Merida 19 inch mountain bike but that’s another story.

In early January 2012, I decided to have a fitness spurt. I quickly reached superior fitness. Which I knew I also applied to my work life, as my peers tell me I am considered a tough competitor. Fortunately I work at JLT, a leading international insurance and risk advisor for distinctive reasons that will become clear.

On 28/2/2012, I completed my almost daily 5.30 am 1.5-hour vigorous gym workout.

The awaited me at 8.50am on Wednesday 29/3/2012. I advised my work colleague that I would be back in a minute after a visit to the bathroom. More a shock than surprise, I passed blood in my urine and just felt sick.

I went straight to my GP who after an examination arranged for various tests including an urgent ultra sound scan of my kidneys. It is always an interesting moment when the technician is one moment having a friendly chat and then changes to a formal engagement style.Knowing the technicians are not allowed to interrupt results the question I asked was -Should I see my doctor later today or wait for an appointment? The simple response came as: "Please visit your GP soon!"

By the time I had driven the 10 minutes home my Doctor had phoned me and asked me to come straight to the medical centre. What would you think?

Entering the GP’s office my wife and I had an unspoken “hope it is nothing serious exchange” when the Doctor said you have a large 11cm tumour in the left kidney (typically kidney’s measure 12cm) and is most likely cancer. I share with you that it is a surreal moment just like in the movies.

My GP whom I owe debt of gratitude, quickly embarked on medical logistics that suitedme just fine. That moment became the first round of a mental fight against cancer that is still going today.

That Wednesday evening we left for home with a plan that included a visit to the specialist Urologist for the Friday. , by midnight I was in an ambulance with a “morphine drip” en-route to emergency. For the record and against advice Imanaged to hobble down the front stairs and into the ambulance. Round two to me.

Wednesday 29/3 proved an eventual day. It felt like my body wanted to pass the wholekidney and time flowed into Thursday 1/3/2012.

Once stabilised in hospital and on some serious painkillers, arrangements were made tooperate on the Friday 2/3/2012.

came as I was wheeled away at 1.30pm Friday 2/3/2012. I felt brave right up to the point when my wife and I parted in the pre op area. But the surprise came in an unexpected way. The anaesthesiologist came for chat as per normal right just outside the surgery door and started to inform me about what happens inside the theatre. My facade response came that I don’t care what you do to me once I was under. I was trying to politely imply to him to shut up.

The surprise was that I would be awake for the first procedure of a spinal tap and with that he left. I had always pitied women as I had previously and incorrectly thought that awful sounding procedure was their burden. Not a good time for me to learn otherwise. It is strange how the mind copes. I went into strategic risk work mode. I then commenced a nervous dialogue with a theatre nurse and pointed out that the posters of porcupines and cactus and other sharp images on the walls should be replaced with pussy cats and ocean views etc, at least from a patients perspective. Her response didn’t soothe me to learn the posters were a Workplace, Health & Saftey reminder of the dangerous environment I was about to enter. arrived in a fluro flash at 9.00am on Saturday 3/3/2012 as the nurse turned on the room light and started talking to me. I knew I had been asleep post operation but I could not comprehend the nurse.

The pain and discomfort were very real. Tubes were inserted all over me and to my horror a painful catheter. Having no knowledge or prior experience of a catheter did not help. My own learning was to release urine very slowly to lessen pain – there I hope that helps someone. The nurse asked me if I could get out of bed? Honestly I thought she was kidding but it was explained that it was best for me to do so. although I literally yelled with pain, which I converted to pure gym rage determination to ascend, it is the decent back to bed that almost had me passing out. I hold my Urologist surgeon – Dr Ben Martin in high regard, not only for saving me, but his humanity towards all patients. Dr Ben confirmed he had performed a radical nephrectomy to remove a 11m cancerous tumour (renal cell carcinoma). Radical is an apt name as the cut across the body is 255cm. The good news was that Dr Ben avoided breaking my ribs. It is no wonder he works with an Oncologist – Dr Rick Abraham, who I can only describe as talented and casting a presence of a virtuous humble person that actually cares about patients. Dealing with cancer patient’s everyday takes a special person yet he still makes

an effort to assist cancer charity. Can you help in some way?

What your donations will do

Your financial generosity would have a direct impact on reducing all of the above surprises through hopefully better future early diagnosis and treatment of cancer. The arrived in teaching me patience and how to use mental discipline during the waiting period for the three-day waiting period on the lab results. The context is that without a “clear margin” around the removed kidney the consequences for the patient are serious. I can assure you the time is an experience in searching life, love and what is important. I made promises to God whom I had been out of touch with for some time. I am now living those promises everyday. The need to focus for me was important. Friends dropped by with books such as an

inspirational book on chopper pilots in Vietnam and the book by Lance Armstrong – It’s not about the bike - proved accurate and extremely valuable in my recovery.

After receiving the news of “clear margins” the patient then digests the news of the a risk that cancer may have spread through the blood stream. Imagine wanting to celebrate the “clear margins” and facing a real possibility of more issues. Post hospital discharge a PET scan was used to assess my whole body for other potential cancer sights. I was surprised there are only three machines in Qld and the patient queues are long. The cost is approximately $1,000 per scan and due to my stage four cancer diagnosis less the Federal Government rebate meant I only paid $70. I understand that if I was not stage four then I may not have had access to the PET scan and/or the cost may have been higher for the patient. This is not fair and reasonable and one that donations/political will could assist with. I count myself fortunate to have access to the ongoing drug therapy. Others aren’t so fortunate and the return rate of the kidney cancer is approximately 30%. Simply put more money is needed to help all.

 The CEO of JLT and my immediate manager both took personal time out and cared for my wife. It meant a lot to us and spoke volumes of the distinctive nature that JLT operates for clients and it’s own colleagues. My JLT work colleagues for there ongoing support.  Tattersall’s proved to be a real upright club and my wife remains grateful to the staff. There is real healing value in friends and family.

 Getting to know some real special caring nurses who made a real difference. They should be paid more.

 Beating expectations and setting challenges for myself. Pleased to advise that three weeks after my operation I returned to work; at six weeks I was back at the gym rebuilding my cut stomach muscles including swimming. I remain positive about my future and the experience has heightened my awareness of helping others even in small ways as believe me it makes a difference.

Hopefully my shared surprises will:

Encourage awareness for maintaining positive lifestyle choices

Contribute to fighting cancer,

Inspire others to fight as Life Surprises can affect us all.

The final word goes to my loving wife Annette whom I still adore after 25 years and has always been my source of strength.

Yours Sincerely

Michael Woolley

PS The above is not intended as medical advice. I have attempted to paraphrase my own

medical condition and treatment in lay terms. Please seek medical advice at the very

first sign of symptoms - it saved my life.

Have you been affected by someone you know who has been diagnosed with cancer?

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    • barryrutherford profile imageAUTHOR

      Barry Rutherford 

      6 years ago from Queensland Australia

      please feel free to ask question or comment


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