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 Update #11 Jack Richards’ journey final entry—RIP

21.01.20. With much sorry MM announces the passing of Jack Richards on the evening of January 19 2020. He passed peacefully surrounded by his children. RIP

13.01.20. As Jack so sadly wrote in his message this morning:
I am so fatigued I don’t think I’ll have the strength to write anything more. My best for all the faithful at Morning Mail. It’s been a great journey for me for many years now.
Please scroll down for Jack’s 10th and perhaps final entry!

16.05.19. Jack Richards in his battle against the evil cancer is most appreciative of the kind thoughts of support from commenters on this blog. Such kindness has prompted Jack to share a mini journey through his interesting life. We will include such updates if and when Jack chooses to share.
Update 2 begins: Thank you everyone for your kind words and support.

13.05.19. Dear Family and friends,

It really bolsters my outlook on things to know people are behind me in this. Death is something we all have to face at sometime but I’m a bit pissed-off that fate has chosen me to take that last great journey a decade or so earlier than I expected. Such is life, hey.
Here’s something of an update as I’ve decided to chronicle this whole thing; both for the relief it gives me to share some of the load and also as something of a guide to others if they are ever unfortunate enough to get a similar diagnosis.
I’m back home and actually feel quite well. A week ago I was sure it was my last day in this life. I got to Corryong Hospital where they pumped me full of morphine, stuck me in an ambulance, that took me back to Albury Base Hospital. After a CT scan they determined that my gall bladder had become massively infected for some reason.I spent that night being injected with morphine, not a drip but the condensed stuff in a needle, and the pain eventually retreated. I had a very fitful night, drifting in and out of consciousness, and being regularly injected.
Last Friday, just a week ago, they removed my gall bladder. I vaguely recall being on a bed outside the theatre for a number of hours – and then nothing until I woke up in recovery many hours later. It took a while to realise where I was and what had happened to me. I tried to move but couldn’t as I had a drip in each arm, both legs were swathed in some sort of pneumatic blankets that squeezed them every few minutes, I had a drain in my side, a catheter in my bladder and oxygen tubes up my nose.
I’d had “keyhole” surgery where they’d shoved 3 laparoscopes into my belly, pumped it full of air so that it blew up like a balloon, and removed my gall bladder somehow. The pain was still intense and made worse from the bruising and the air; but the worst thing was being completely unable to move with all these pipes and tubes stuck in me and being completely and utterly helpless.
Last Friday night was the worst night of my life and even the strongest drugs didn’t seem to have much effect. The slightest movement caused screaming agony. The worst thing and the most humiliating was that, at some point in the night, I lost control of my bowels and shat myself. The nurses had to come in, cut off my boxer shorts, clean me up, and then put me in a rather large nappy. I shat myself twice more that night and there’s nothing that robs a man of his dignity and pride more than to be lying helpless in a bed in a nappy full of shit. The bladder catheter was misery and seemed to press on a nerve that made me feel like I desperately wanted to pee plus it seemed to be about the size of a 1/2inch garden hose. They told me they shove something in, inflate that as far as a urethra will expand and then shove the garden hose up that.
On Saturday I recovered control of my bowels and begged them to remove the catheter – which, much to my eternal gratitude, they did. The pain started to dissipate after that and by Saturday afternoon I was able to get out of bed and take myself to toilet; albeit dragging a stand with several drips and the drain bag still attached.
The pain from abdominal bruising was still quite severe whenever I moved but that started to abate as well. The air in my stomach made swallowing difficult and caused intense pain just to swallow some water. But that’s now mostly passed.
By Sunday I started feeling human again but then they decided I’d contracted a lung infection and started me on powerful antibiotics for “hospital pneumonia” – a common disease from being bedridden and unable to breathe deeply.
By Tuesday I felt like I could go home but I’d been booked for a PET Scan for Tuesday that they then put off until Thursday. So I had that yesterday and the results were sent to Dr Richard Eek at the Border Cancer Centre. He’s an oncologist and a very good one I’m told. In any event, the last of the drips were removed yesterday and the last canula was also removed this morning. They’d taken so much blood that all my veins had collapsed, and they couldn’t find another vein to insert a canula, even with an ultra sound, but it didn’t matter and I had the one still in place for a week until it was removed this morning.
I saw Dr Eek who explained much to me, not that I remember much of it. The outlook is very grim indeed. I have metastasising Stage 4 cancer of the pancreas and that has spread to my liver. There’s a chance that, if I start on the nastiest chemo therapy on 29 May I mighty get 12 months, maybe as long as two years – but that will depend on how my body reacts to the toxins and whether I get some of the nastier side effects. The chemo destroys your immune system so you become very susceptible to any infection and that can become very serious very quickly. If that fails to make any difference to the growth of the tumours, then it’s palliative care and terminal care and it’ll be “game over” sometime in August.
Over the last few weeks I’ve had a number of CT scans, ultrasounds, MRI scans and PET scans. I’ve been thinking how lucky I am to have been born in The Lucky Country where even in a modestly sized regional city all these things are available and it’s barely cost me anything. How fortunate am I to live in a country like Australia where I can get this sort of treatment from such thoroughly professional people. I’m glad I paid all that tax now. There are countries that don’t have the machines, or the surgeons, or the drugs or the nursing and hospital staff that have been available to me at Albury Base or an ambulance to take me there from Corryong. We are truly blessed in this country. While I was getting all this lavish care I thought about people in countries like Venezuela, Yemen, Honduras, Cambodia and a hundred other countries with the same disease as me and who would just have died last week in the most abject agony.
Dr Eek gave me a whole lot of stuff to read about treatment options and the progress of this disease. I can’t bring myself to look at it just yet. I’ll take a few Endone so that I can step outside my body and normal state of consciousness and consider things objectively – like it was happening to someone else. I have no intention of being heroic in any way and will take as many and as much morphine and fentanyl and whatever else they have that will blot out both the physical pain and the psychological pain. There were so many things I wanted to do, nothing grand or outrageous, like to be around to take my grandsons down to the creek with a fishing line; be there to watch them play football or run around at Little Athletics; see them grow into men. Sadly their memory of me will be much like my memory of my grand-father who died in December 1955 when I was 4. Just a snapshot or two from a time so long ago.
I don’t fear death. I’ve never believed in an afterlife or a day of judgement or a spirit realm or anything else. Death is just eternal nothingness. All those trillions of molecules, forged in an ancient star, that assembled themselves into me in a gazillion to one chance about 68 years ago will disassemble themselves and I’ll revert to being stardust in a place where there is no time; just nothing at all.
I have to go back for more full anaesthetic surgery next week sometime. They are going to insert some sort of valve into my left shoulder so that they can use it to pump in the chemo. Apparently, I get a pump attached somehow in Albury, can come home, and then get the pump removed after 2 days over at Corryong hospital.
I’m so used to being waited on, having pretty nurses come around every hour or two, that I’m at a bit of a loss as to what to do with myself. I think Alice has lit the fire, so I’ll go in there and watch the football. Nothing much else to do on a rainy May afternoon.
UPDATE 2: 14.05.19
Both my parents lived well into their 80s and I thought I’d probably make it to that age as well. But then I think of the misery they had over their last decade or 15 years: my father had had his bladder removed due to cancer and had a colostomy bag attached to a stoma that greatly effected what he could do and where he could go. On top of that he had emphysema that made just walking to the mail box like running a marathon. Many times over his last decade he told me he wished he could die because his life just had no quality. My mother had a series of minor strokes at age 70 that turned into progressively debilitating dementia. She had once been a real mover and shaker and was awarded the Order of Australia for her 50 years work for various charities like the Red Cross, Catholic Women’s League, VIEW, Probus, Country Women Association, Crippled Children Society, establishing Womens Refuges as too many other things for me to remember. But she spent her last 5 years curled up in the foetal position in a nursing home unable to remember who she was let alone who we were. The person she had been simply disappeared over the course of a decade until there was just a body with a heart beat. When Dad died in 2010 and Mum in 2016 there was sadness, of course, but also a feeling of relief that their sufferings had come to an end.
Perhaps I am lucky that I’ll get the chance to die with my boots on, with my mind still functioning at 100%, and still able to go about my daily routine without much in the way of physical impediments. About the only thing I can’t do, as a result of the two operations I’ve had on my stomach, is to swing the block-buster.
At the end of October I started a fairly big DIY project. My house is a big old weather-board farm house with 120 square metres of verandahs on three sides. So my verandah is bigger than a town house I once owned in Canberra. In any event, the previous owner who installed these extensive verandahs extended them about 1.5m beyond the roof line at the northern and southern ends. As a result they were exposed to rain, ice, and blistering summer sun light and this became water damaged over the years, the nails came out and the whole had to be replaced. So, in October, I ordered a couple of lengths of 100x100x4 SHS, about 30m of 25x25x3 angle, 10 lengths of 4×2 timber. about 250 lineal metres of 75×19 pine decking, 75m of aluminium battens, and about 50 square metres of clear corrugated plastic roofing.
To cut a long story short I fabricated all the steel posts and trusses, replaced the water-damaged joists, installed the battens and roofing, tore up all the old decking and replaced that. I had 3/4 of the job done when I first took sick. All that was left to do was replace the joists and decking at the northern end of the house. I’d mixed and poured over 3000kg of cement to make sure the posts would never move and used lasers to make sure they were exactly where they should be. Anyway, on Friday my youngest daughter and her husband collected me from hospital, brought me home, and on Saturday and Sunday everyone pitched in and we got the last of the job completed. I am so pleased that it’s finished as I’d torn up the old decking and there was this massive hole 7m long and 1.5m wide starting at the back door. But, apart from some cosmetic painting and a few other little things, the job is finished and it’s such a load off my mind.
Over my adult life I was always into DIY things and did as many TAFE courses as I could. I learned to be a welder, oxy and electric, something of a carpenter, a small motor mechanic, an appliance electrician, a concreter, a brick layer and paver, an engineering draftsman, and a fairly reasonable painter and decorator. I have a 9m x 6m workshop and power and hand tools for just about every conceivable job that’s likely to arise on a little hobby farm. I think my workshop is better equipped than many a tradie’s workshop I’ve seen. The pity of it is that I’m the only one in the family who knows how to use most of these tools.
I have hand tools that have been passed down over the generations from my father, my grandfather and I even have an old wood spirit level, with a date stamp of 1902, that belonged to my great-grand-father. My great-grand-father was an interesting man. He joined the NSW Mounted Police in about 1882 and rose to be the Superintendent of Mounted Police for all New South Wales by 1918. My paternal grand-mother used to claim he was “the most hated man in New South Wales”. He was a very big man with hands like hams and was a real “old time cop” who, wherever he was stationed, dealt with petty crims in his own way i.e with his fists and the bull-whip he always carried with him. Wherever he was stationed, and he was stationed at a lot of places from Newcastle to Bourke petty crime dropped to near zero in a very short space of time. He didn’t worry too much about charging people or respecting their “human rights”; he just took the whip to them and ran them out of town. He was a very good horseman and rode everywhere up until he retired around 1930.
It’s very cool, no, it’s cold here this morning – as it tends to be in winter when you live along the western side of the Snowy Mountains National Park. I’m hoping the mists will clear and the sun will emerge so that I can get on with the little bit of painting and replacement of the barge-boards in on my last renovation project.
I still find it so difficult to believe that this s really happening to me. It seems like some sort of nightmare that I’ll wake from at some point. I know, intellectually, that it’s all true but on the emotional level I just can’t accept that I’ll shortly be going to that big workshop in the heavens. Sometimes I find myself asking, “why me”? And then ask myself, “Why not me?”
I recently read that about 3100 new cases of this particular cancer are diagnosed in Australia each year. So that means about 9 people get the same horrible diagnosis and prognosis as me every day of the week. I had a great mate, Jim, a fellow I house-shared with 1971-1974, who died of this exact disease in 2009 and he was a year younger than me; and another fellow I knew well, Steve, who was a great mate of my brother-in-law, who died from it about 5 years ago and he was 7 years younger than me. When Jim died he still had two sons in Primary school.
UPDATE 3: 17.05.19
Thanks everyone at MM for your kind thoughts and encouragement. I’m off to Albury Base Hospital to have a “subclavian Portacath” inserted in my shoulder. This thing is inserted into an internal vein so that they can administer the chemotherapy starting as from 29 May.
Winter seems to have come on early this year. It’s just after 6:00am and about -2 and ink-black outside. I have to drive about 160km to the hospital. Luckily I seem to have recovered quite well from my recent surgery and am feeling quite fit.
I desperately want to get away from the hospital early tomorrow so I can make it to a polling booth and vote against Shorten and the socialists. I am so hoping that, on Sunday morning, Scott Morrison is still Prime Minister.
UPDATE 4: 28.05.19

My apologies for not keeping MM readers up-to-date with my struggle against Stage 4 cancer of the pancreas. One of the costs of living in a rural location, a little patch of paradise to me, is that we don’t have high-speed broadband nor do we get unlimited data. I have a satellite connection but the best plan I can get is for 70 gigs a month. It would seem that my grand-daughter hooked her x-box up to the WiFi, which then proceeded to down-load games, and used up every last byte of my monthly data allowance. That’s why I have been rather quiet this last 2 weeks. I must admit, I was positively furious at the time; but she didn’t do it on purpose and the month has started so everything is sweet again.
It’s now been about 17 days since I got out of hospital and saw the oncologist. In that time, I have completely recovered from having my gall bladder removed and experiencing the worst few days of my life. The pain that Thursday, 2 May, was indescribable and I truly thought I was going to die that day. Indeed, when I got to Corryong Hospital, I asked the doctor to simply pump me full of morphine and let me go to eternity. She didn’t. Instead they did pump me full of morphine, put me in an ambulance, and sent me to Albury Base Hospital where, after a CT scan, they diagnosed a “necrotised” gall bladder. How that happened no-one knows but I suspect that it was caused by a liver biopsy I’d had done a few days before. I think that doctor knicked my gall bladder and that’s what caused the massive infection and subsequent days of abject misery.
Today, despite it being bleak and cold, as the Snowy Mountains can be, I feel perfectly fit. I’ve regained my appetite and have almost no pain – just the usual aches and pains and occasional twitches. It’s hard to reconcile how I feel today with the diagnosis I’ve been given. It just doesn’t seem real. One of the great ironies is that, while I was in hospital, and forever having my blood pressure, heart rate, oxygenation and blood tested they actually told me that I was in very good, even robust, health for someone of my age – well except for having an aggressive and always terminal cancer.
When I had that session with the oncologist, Dr Eek, who explained to me the course of treatment i.e. chemotherapy I must admit that I didn’t pay much attention. Perhaps I was just overwhelmed by it all – all those possible side effects and the sorts of things that can happened to me, especially septicaemia, that’ll kill me much faster than the cancer. They gave me stuff to read about chemotherapy and my particular flavour of cancer; but I haven’t read any of it as I find it all so depressing. I have chosen to ignore all that; go ahead with the chemo and see whether I’m one of the lucky ones who survives it with few, if any, side effects. I figure that, as I’m otherwise quite fit, it may help me to endure this treatment without much in the way of side effects. He did tell me that some of my hair would fall out – which is hardly going to matter as I’m already almost completely bald and always get a No#1 buzz cut of hair and beard. No-one will know the difference.
Since I started feeling better, I’ve been working on my great summer project. I live in a big old farmhouse; a farmhouse that started out as an average sized house, but previous owners added on some extra rooms as well as a verandah on three sides. The verandah is about 13 squares; bigger than a townhouse I had in Canberra 17 years ago. Whoever built it decided, for reasons I can’t fathom, to have the verandah at the north and south extend 1.5m beyond the roof line. As a result, it was open to the weather, the rain, the frost and blistering summer sun with the result that the bearers, joists and decking had all become water damaged and were suffering from damp rot. It’s taken me over 6 months, but I have managed to finish replacing all the damaged timber as well as constructing a roof that extends 1.5m beyond the north and south verandahs. I did all the work myself; made all the steel posts, trusses and so forth. I think I mixed and poured over 3000kg of cement to hold the posts in place; used hundreds of Tec screws, over 6kg of nails and about 250 lineal metres of decking plus all the 4×4 and 4×2 bearers and joist. It’s all finished and painted now and not a drop of rainwater lands on it anymore.
I’ve also busied myself with a few other little maintenance jobs I’ve been putting off for years. I’ve been getting this place in order just as I have been getting “my affairs” in order.
I went to see my lawyer and updated my Will; also got certified copies of “Enduring Guardianship” and “Power of Attorney” documents for the kids. I’ve sold all my investments and converted everything to cash that I am giving to my four beautiful children. I’ve also changed over the phone, electricity, internet, and any other bills I could think off into my eldest daughter’s name – she and my grand-daughter are going to stay on here after I go to eternity. I’ve also ordered an 8kw solar system that my electrician today told me will be installed and operating by the end of June. The cost of electricity is here is just absurd. There was a time when I’d be aghast if I got a quarterly bill over $400 – now I’m delighted if it’s under $1,000. My bill for last August-November was a $1,550! My electrician, someone I’ve been dealing with since I came here in 2003, tells me the solar system should “smash” the bills I’ve been getting by 75% at least … well for 9 months of the year. We tend to get a lot of winter fog here that can sometimes last for weeks. I’m in a valley with a number of creeks and the fog just sits here – while just 7km away I can drive through thick mist and suddenly burst into brilliant sunshine at 600m.
I am due to start chemotherapy on Wednesday, 29 May. I try not to think about it because, if I do, I become very frightened and very despondent. I have this “subclavian Portacath” they installed Friday week ago and that’s apparently where they’re going to hook up the pump for the “toxins” they think will prolong my life to a greater or lesser extent. Dr Eek did tell me he had one patient, with the same diagnosis, who lasted a bit over 5 years. The chances of that happening are 2.5%.
All I want is just one more summer. To see my fruit trees bloom again in spring; to hear the buzz of the bees; to have my extended family here for Christmas; to sit on my newly weather-proof verandah and enjoy the scent of my roses and the jasmine.; to watch my grand-children frolic in the swimming hole with my old Labrador and Karabar terrier. Just one more summer – that’s my goal; that’s my only goal.
One of my GPs at Corryong, a young and very attractive Chinese lady, told me I should prepare a “bucket list” and that, should it come to it, I can refuse the chemotherapy (should it become too much to bear) and opt for “palliative care” at home or wherever I want to go. She said palliative care would control all my pain, and pancreatic cancer is apparently very painful towards the end, but that I wouldn’t need to be in hospital until I need “terminal care”. Doctors really know how to cheer one up!
The truth is: I don’t have a bucket list. I’ve been overseas, admittedly more than 40 years ago, and I have no desire to go again. I don’t like sitting on planes for 20+ hours; hate living out of a suitcase (I had plenty of that with the job I had); hate eating in diners and restaurants 3 times a day; and hate being a stranger in a foreign country. So, I won’t be going OS. I don’t want to jump out of an aeroplane or bungy jump off a cliff or float around in a balloon. The only things on my bucket list, if you could call it that, is to go fishing in Tasmania with an old mate come the springtime and to have that one last summer here.
My old mate, Mick, has just bought a camper van and he’s in the process of fitting it out with all the latest conveniences. We first met in March 1970 when we were both junior clerks with the then Bank of New South Wales. Was that really nearly half a century ago? In any event, I worked at Katoomba branch and he worked at Leura branch – but we shared a room, with another bloke named Bob, at the Imperial Guest House in Lurline St, Katoomba. It was an ancient 2-storey weatherboard “Private Hotel” and the only heating was a kerosene heater in the TV room and the reading room on the ground floor where there was also the dining room and a ping-pong table.
Our room was on the upper floor and had a balcony facing onto Lurline Street. It was so cold in that room that the jug of water provided by the landlady was frozen solid nearly all that winter of 1970. If you wanted to use an electric blanket, and some residents did, she charged you an extra $1/week – but there were no power points in the rooms, so the hallway had extension cords and power boards from the few power outlets there were. Despite all that we had a great year and many a night carousing at the Carrington Hotel, Gearins Hotel, the Family Hotel and many a Sunday afternoon at the Road Bar of the Hydro Majestic at Medlo Bath. I fell madly in love a couple of times that year; but with one girl in particular. I’d just turned 19 and she’d just turned 17 and she was an angel come to earth – well I thought so at the time. I remember with such clarity one night from the beginning of September 1970. I was with her, it was snowing, and we were “making out” as the Americans say, and my room at the guest house was filled with blue light from the neon sign on the roof. Was there anything better than to be young, to be in love, and to have your whole life before you? Thinking of that I remember the lyrics from “Me and bobby McGee” i.e. “I’d give all my tomorrows for single yesterday.”
We moved on from there, lost contact for a decade or two, then found each other again – and, apart from being a lot older (and looking it) nothing had changed. We still carry on like we did when we were 19; laugh at the same jokes; remember all those good times we had 1970-1975. Maybe I’ll get to go fishing with Mick in Tasmania and looking for Lasseter’s Reef in the outback. I hope so.
Given that, at this point in time, I am pain free and feel quite well, it seems just so surreal that the chances are that I’ll probably die very soon. The doctors told me to have no more than 3 standard drinks per day – but my son and middle daughter have brought me some “gifts” i.e. bottles of Talisker, Macallan, Jamesons, and Proper 12 Scots and Irish whisky/whiskey. The way I figure it, once this chemo starts on Wednesday, I won’t be able to have a drink, so I’ll ignore the edict of 3 standard drinks a day until then. I like my whisky/whiskey with plenty of ice, so I figure it’s just flavoured water and probably does more good than harm. I once read that every bottle of Irish whiskey, made from the waters of Ireland, contains perhaps 50 molecules that once passed through the bladder of St Patrick – so maybe it has some miraculous healing powers.
Apart from that, a few whiskies make one more accepting of one’s fate.
I have given some thought to what is beyond this life. I don’t believe, indeed I’m 99% sure, that there is nothing after death; just like there was nothing for the billions of years that we existed as atoms and molecules before they, miraculously, assembled themselves into us. I once had an idea that time was like a giant roulette wheel, an endless loop, and that it might be possible to be born again; reborn into the present, the past, or the future. I’ve often had the feeling, as many of us have, that I have lived before in a different time. Perhaps it’s just a quirk of the mind and isn’t real but sometimes I’ve had visions, if you could call it that, more like a snapshot really, of being someone else and living a very different life in a very different place. Has anyone else ever felt that? Perhaps the Buddhists are right about an endless cycle of death and rebirth until we reach Nirvana? I guess I’ll know sooner rather than later.
I don’t feel sorry for myself. I’m not sitting around here weeping and asking, “Why me?” I’m not beating my breast or gnashing my teeth, and neither am I praying or begging the Sky Fairy for forgiveness and a miracle. I won’t be going to Lourdes and bathing in the pool there in the hope of a miracle. All I can do is put my faith in the miracles of modern medicine, that’s already saved my life 3 times in the last 6 months (I got pneumonia last December as well as what’s happened since April) and hope for the best.
I have no complaints about my life, no regrets. I’ve been very fortunate, very lucky … so much luckier than probably 99% of people who have ever lived or are alive today. I’m one of the very few people who ever achieved everything they ever wanted from life. There was never a time I didn’t have a roof over my head; never went hungry; never went to war; enjoyed robust good health until recently; took advantage of our education system and went to University and learned how to think and write; went to TAFE and became a qualified oxy and electric welder; learned carpentry; small engine mechanics; basic appliance electronics; brick laying and paving. I’ve been a student for most of my life. I had better than modest success in my various careers as a High School teacher and then as a Public Servant. I achieved my youthful dream of owning my own Pub with a juke box and pool table; and I retired at 55 in 2006. I retired to these few acres of creek frontage 40km from the nearest town, 2.5km from my nearest neighbour. I dropped out of society and sought solitude free from conflict and society generally. I have four children and five grandchildren (so far). I have known love and known rejection; I have been a winner and a loser; I have experienced great happiness and heartbreak; and yet I found great peace and contentment. I have watched the seasons come and go, the freezing cold of winter and the snow on the hills, the baking heat of summer, the beauty of the autumns and springs. I have no regrets. I’ve lived a very full and exceptional life.
All I want now is one more summer. Just one more summer.
I’ll keep you all informed of how I react to chemotherapy. I’m due to get the first treatment on Wednesday morning. I think I fear that more than I fear anything else. But it offers hope and that’s all I have left.
Cheers, Jack

UPDATE 5: 03.06.19.

Is there a word that engenders more fear than the word “chemotherapy”?
What it means is that you have a cancer that’s gone beyond any surgical cure and, possibly, your last hope is that a collection of “toxins” will kill your rapidly growing cancer cells while not killing too many of your good cells. The intent is to stop the cancer growing and, hopefully, extend one’s life for months, years or even result in a complete “remission” – if not a “cure”. If the toxins kill too many good cells, then you can expect a long list of possible side effects. Sometimes the side effects of chemo can be so severe that people just refuse treatment and opt for a pain-free exit from this life. We’ve probably all heard of, or known, people who have done just that; while we’ve also probably heard of people, or known them, where the chemo hasn’t caused unendurable side effects and they have beaten their cancer and gone on to live a normal life.
When you are first told that the only hope you have is chemotherapy, and you’ve heard all these stories about side effects, the first response is blind fear. Well it was for me. I had no idea what was involved or how it would be done or how I’d react to the toxins. All those “unknowns”; and there’s nothing quite as frightening as the fear of the unknown. When I was first told I had to have chemo (my only hope) I felt like a child lost in a forest at night – all those strange and frightening noises; wondering if some vicious wild animal was about to devour me; and the impenetrable darkness all around. I didn’t know what to expect and felt like I’d just been eviscerated.
I had my first chemo session on Wednesday, 29 May 2019, and, thankfully, it wasn’t nearly as terrifying as I’d imagined. I had thought they were going to attach a pump to the Portacath and that it would take maybe an hour and then I could go home – and I thought that because I hadn’t read the ream of paper they’d given me. Instead I was hooked up to a drip and sat in one of those electric recliner chairs for 5 ½ hours and then they attached the pump and I went home. It must’ve been terribly boring for my middle daughter who’d flown down from Brisbane to be with me; but she didn’t complain.
The chemotherapy I am getting is called “Folfirinox” which contains four toxins: Oxaliplatin, Irinotecan, Leucovorin and Fluorouracil. The list of possible side effects contains:
Allergic reaction
Breathing or swallowing problems
Nausea and vomiting
Diarrhoea (early onset)
Taste and smell changes
Heart problems
Infection risk
Low platelets
Mouth pain and soreness
Tiredness and lack of energy
Appetite loss
Diarrhoea (late onset)
Skin changes
Sun sensitivity
Hand-foot syndrome
Eye problems
Nerve damage
Hair loss
Skin colour changes
Nail changes
It’s now been three days and the only side effects I’ve suffered so far have been tingling and numbness in the hands if I touch anything cold, a little diarrhoea and a little nausea. The hand tingling only lasts a few minutes but is quite uncomfortable. I’ve managed to get it a few times from washing my hands and from the cold handles of a wheelbarrow. This reaction to cold can also happen in the mouth and throat should I drink anything colder than room temperature – so I’ve been drinking my whiskey with a little dash of warm water. The throat reaction can also happen as a result of inhaling cold air but, so far, I’ve escaped that.
The staff at the Border Cancer Centre were excellent. What surprised me was just how many people there were getting chemo on Wednesday. They must have at least 20 chairs and they were all full all day. Some people were only there for an hour or so while others, like me, were there for most of the day. I was surprised by the numbers; I guess that everyone knows that cancer happens, but it doesn’t really register just how many people do get it until you find yourself in a chemo chair as well and see the numbers.
The pump they gave me was a little bottle with what looked like a balloon inside it. That was connected to a tube that was attached to the Portacath implant. They gave me a “bum-bag” in which to keep the bottle and that I had around my waist and under my beer gut. It was a bit inconvenient insofar as pulling on a pair of jeans but otherwise caused me no distress.
After 46 hours I had the pump removed. I went to my local GP at Corryong and the Practice nurse removed it efficiently but only after she’d obtained a big plastic bin for “hazardous” medical waste. At the Cancer Centre they’d “educated” me on “toilette etiquette” and that is that I have to sit down to piss and make sure the lid is down before flushing; that if I throw up I have to vomit into bags they gave me and then put that in another bag and dispose of somehow – I guess I’ll burn it in the incinerator having no other method of disposal out here; make sure no-one uses my toothpaste or any crockery or cutlery I’ve used. I was also told to use condoms if I was “sexually active”! I wish! Sadly, that activity hasn’t been much of a feature of my life for quite a few years now.
Much to my surprise I learned that the toxins used in chemo come out in every bodily fluid, in all excrement, including saliva and that it can become an aerosol when a toilet pan is flushed. This aerosol can be absorbed through the skin of others and cause nasty things to happen. Luckily my place has two toilets and two bathrooms so I have banned everyone from using my ensuite or the towels in there or the shower or anything else that may be contaminated.
At the Cancer Centre they also gave me a fully charged needle to stick in my belly come 1:15pm today. It’s some sort of immune booster that stimulates the red blood cell production in the femurs. When I saw my GP yesterday, I asked if I could come over to the emergency department and get a qualified nurse to give it to me and give my eldest daughter a lesson on how to do it. It all sounds quite simple, but they did tell me that it’s possible for the needle to come apart if it’s not pushed with the proper pressure and I could lose the contents by accident. Given that they only gave me one and it’s vital to fight off possible infection I don’t want to stuff it up. Better to get a professional to do it. Apart from that, I have a serious aversion to needles (never have one at a dentist) and just don’t think I’m up to sticking it in my own belly.
Dr Nick, my GP, had a long chat with me after the pump was removed. He explained that the chemo wasn’t a “cure” but was part of my “palliative care” in that the intent was to stop, or slow, the growth of the tumours and extend my life. How long that will be depends on a very long list of factors – more factors than you need to predict the weather a century from now I suspect. He did tell me that I am looking well and quite fit at the present time.
Despite all the best efforts of my doctors this disease will kill me, and Dr Nick explained what will almost certainly happen. And that is that I’ll start losing weight (though I’ve gained a bit since I got out of hospital) and I’ll lose muscle mass and become increasingly frail. As I become weaker, I’ll find it increasingly more difficult to care for myself. My youngest daughter has quit her part-time job and is coming here to be my full-time carer – but I’ve insisted she continue with her University studies to become a Primary teacher – she only has a few units to get so she can study here and, hopefully, get a placement in one of the local schools. She is making a big sacrifice. In any event, with her help I may be able to stay at home until close to the end. The frailer and more unsteady on my feet I become the greater the burden it will be on her and my eldest daughter and my granddaughter (who have been living with me for a few years now). My eldest daughter works on a local dairy and does the morning milking, starts at 7:30 and is usually finished by 12:30-1:30. There’s no point her quitting as she needs the income and she can be here in the afternoons anyway. Qualified dairy-hands are becoming quite rare these days so there’ll always be work for her around here and along the Murray.
As time progresses and the level of my frailty increases, the day will come when I’ll need to unburden the girls and go into the terminal care unit at Corryong. Dr Nick told me it was the best one he’d ever seen anywhere. It’s a little 2-bedroom flat with a kitchen, ensuite and a private courtyard (where I’ll even be allowed to smoke!). Relatives and friends can stay overnight with me plus I’ll have the nurses on call 24/7.
He also told me that I can expect the pain to increase progressively but that pain is eminently treatable. I’m currently taking a drug called Targin which is a slow release oxycodone (Hill-Billy heroin) plus Endone (a faster acting oxycodone) when needed. He told me I as on a very low dose and that this can be increased by a factor of about 20. He’s also looking in to getting a special licence to prescribe medicinal cannabis to control the nausea I’m likely to get as well as for the pain relief and relief from the mental anguish I’m likely to suffer as the end draws near. It’s all very complicated getting medicinal cannabis and there are all sorts of laws and regulations that change from state to state. This complicated by the fact that I live in NSW but do much of my business in Victoria, including my medical needs. He also told me about a whole lot of services I can access – and all for free – including visits from the district nurse (but she/he’ll have to come from Tumbarumba because I live in NSW), counsellors, people who’ll drive me around and to Albury should it be necessary, someone who’ll clean my house. I won’t need most of it, or possibly any of it, as I think the system has been created to assist people with no family support network. Sadly, there are a lot of them.
I’m glad I had four children (1 boy and 3 girls) as without them I’d be truly stuffed; and I can’t imagine the loneliness others, without that support, must endure when something like this happens. I have been overwhelmed with the support I’m getting from family and friends – even my ex-wife came down for a visit last weekend, for my granddaughter’s 13 birthday, and stayed here. Our divorce was a bit nasty, but it was all 20 years ago and, with time and distance, everything fades to grey and it doesn’t matter anymore. There’s no point taking grudges to the grave. After the divorce I re-discovered myself and got a whole new life and, in retrospect, it was probably a good thing. After 26 years I think we’d tired of each other, grew in different directions, and there was little, or nothing left to hold us together. Such is life.
Despite all this a couple of things have happened recently that have given me much pleasure. The first was the election result and the nation-wide rejection of the Labor/Greens extreme Left platform that would have ruined this country in a very short period. The Socialists just can’t seem to grasp the lessons of history, and there’re plenty of them, that no country has ever taxed it’s way to prosperity; no economy, no business, can survive when its input costs are greater than its income; that there’s never been a time in human history when collectivisation or socialism has ever worked. It always fails and always ends up like Venezuela today. Once a government kills off private incentive the whole economy collapses like a house of cards. We’ve been saved from all that nonsense they were peddling about electric cars and shutting down coal-fired power stations, coal exports, mining generally, needing to shoot about half our cattle and sheep herds because they fart methane – and all the give-aways they’d promised without any way to pay for them. Maybe they planned to get the printing presses rolling and just print the money to pay for everything. Other countries have tried that, and I am the proud owner of a $100,000,000,000 (one hundred billion dollars) note issued by Mugabe’s Zimbabwe a few years ago. It’s completely worthless other than for curiosity.
The other boost to my outlook has been that the Penrith Panthers have won their last two games. I spent many of my formative years around the Penrith-Blue Mountains area and have followed the Panthers for the best part of half a century. My family used to live just two blocks away from the old Penrith Park and my Dad and I would often walk down there for a home game and then sojourn for a few ales at the old Panthers clubhouse. Many a good memory there.
Once again, my sincere thanks to MM readers for their words of encouragement. I’m hoping that my keeping of a journal on MM of my experiences with this disease may cast some light on what happens, and how it happens, and may remove some of the mystery around such things.


UPDATE 6, 09.06.19

It’s now been 10 days since I had my first chemotherapy session. I must admit that, leading up to it, I’d been terrified of the side-effects I’d heard about over the years and by the long list of possible side effects my oncologist warned me about. I expected to be mostly bed-ridden; stricken with nausea and diarrhoea; my hair falling out and being so fatigued I’d barely be able to feed myself or do anything else for myself.
That hasn’t happened.
I’ve had a few very minor side effects. Touching anything cold instantly causes tingling/pins-n-needles in my hands and sometimes numbness. But it doesn’t last long and isn’t terribly debilitating. I haven’t suffered any vomiting – just queasiness. Similarly, I’ve had no diarrhoea of any note – just what’s described as “loose stools” and occasional wind pains in the lower abdomen. I take anti-nausea and anti-diarrhoea medication occasionally, but it hasn’t been any great problem.
I haven’t had a fever, raging or otherwise, and my temperature has actually been a bit below the normal of 37c. I take my temperature three times a day with a flash digital thermometer and my biggest problem has been getting that to work early in the mornings. It’s cold here in the mornings and the thermometer doesn’t work below 16c! I have to warm it up in my pocket for anything up to an hour before it will work. Big old weatherboard farm-houses like mine, despite having wall and ceiling insulation, are hot in summer and cold in winter. I have a couple of reverse-cycle air-conditioners and a slow combustion heater but it’s still bloody cold inside first thing in the morning. I’ll see if I can find the instruction book and work out how to set the timer, so it comes on automatically around 5:45am.
The wood heater, a “Masport Colorado” really pumps out some heat but it takes an hour or two to get a good bed of coals going. I don’t usually light the wood fire until mid afternoon as firewood is nearly as expensive as electricity these days – though my local firewood supplier does a pretty good deal i.e. $220/load which is about 1500kg and it’s all well-seasoned red gum or yellow box and all split. I still have a few tonnes of wood lying around here from a couple of river red gums (widow makers) I had cut down about 18 months ago. They were dropping big limbs and becoming a danger. It’s good wood but still a bit green. I cut it all to size at the time and have burned most of the small stuff and what’s left are the big pieces from the trunks that are up to nearly a metre in diameter. They’re almost impossible to split with a block buster and I can’t swing one now anyway. I’ll wait for my son-in-law to pay a visit and he can swing the block-buster for a few hours. He’s something of a fitness fanatic and loves swinging the blockbuster and will do it for hours. I might help him out a bit. I have an old chain for the chainsaw and might sharpen that to a ripping angle and cut some split lines in the big blocks.
My firewood supplier, Big Brett, is the epitome of the hard man of the Snowy Mountains. He’s a huge bloke; probably 6’4” and 20+ stone; has a shaggy greying beard; wears a stained leather hat and I’ve never seen him without it; big boots and a stained over-coat and always travels with about half a dozen dogs. He has a few acres up around the snow line and lives by himself, apart from the dogs and his other animals – well he does now since he got rid of his last live-in girlfriend. She didn’t take it too well and came back and set fire to his place, but it didn’t do a lot of damage. He was philosophical about that and said she was a bit angry about being told to go home and no great damage was done. He does many things in what was once described as “rural pursuits”. He’s a drover and I often see him driving cattle from one place to another – and often for very long distances. He has a horse and all those dogs for both droving and his other occupation of being a professional shooter. He has a licence to cull kangaroos and shoots wild dogs, foxes and feral pigs. He’s also a deer hunter and reckons there’s nothing as good as a feed of fresh venison. He does his own butchering and meat smoking. He drives tractors, headers and harvesters as the seasons require and spends the summers cutting and splitting anything up to 200 tonnes of firewood that he then sells come the cold weather. He’s also a damned good fisherman and regularly catches big Murray Cod. When I owned the local Pub, he came in one day with some photos of two big cod he’d caught. I asked him where he’d caught them and he replied, “I got ‘em both in the top lip!” He’s quite a character and even has his portrait in the bar at the local Pub these days.
I bought a load of wood from him a week or two back (cash only of course) mostly because I wanted my eldest daughter to meet him and know who to ring should she and my granddaughter need firewood in the future. Big Brett said he’d look after them and I know that when he gives his word, he keeps it.
Insofar as my chemotherapy is concerned, well it hasn’t had any great effect on me at all. I’ve still been doing what I normally do around here. About a year ago I had an old WeatherWall air conditioning unit replaced by a new Mitsubishi inverter one. I got the electrician to remove the old unit that must’ve dated from the early 70s. The problem was that, to install that old unit, required cutting two holes, both about 18”x18”, in both the outside weatherboard wall and the inside plaster wall. I did a quick patch job at the time but this week I’ve been busy doing a permanent repair job and trying to “invisibly mend” the outside wall. The biggest problem I’ve had doing that has been the numbness in the hands when handling tools. I can’t seem to master using a tape measure and a pencil and square while wearing gloves, so I take them off and then get the numbness. In any event both holes have been patched, inside and out, and the only remaining problem has been that it’s too cold for paint to dry.
On Tuesday I have to go to the pathologist to have blood tests, ring the oncologist that afternoon to see if everything is OK and, if it is, go over to the Border Cancer Centre on Wednesday and spend another 5-6 hours getting my second dose of chemotherapy. I am hoping that progressive doses don’t increase the side effects; I’m hoping they reduce from not much at all to nothing at all.
I really feared chemotherapy but there was nothing to fear. It’s the unknown where one imagines the worst possible outcome that causes such eviscerating trepidation. But the reality is that it just isn’t all that bad – well, not for me … so far.


UPDATE: 7  30.06.19


About a month ago I wrote about how well I was coping with chemotherapy and how the side effects were minimal and of no great inconvenience. I had my second chemo session on 12 June and things were very different this time around. On top of the chemo I managed to contract a throat infection, laryngitis, with much production of phlegm and other assorted disgusting things.
Well … these last few weeks have been a journey through increasing misery and illness that greatly effected my “quality of life”. The biggest issue was that the occasional “queasiness” turned into constant nausea and, a week after treatment, to regular vomiting. There is nothing quite as miserable as carting a bucket or a spew-bag with you everywhere you go. There’s nothing to compare with that feeling that your stomach is like a little lake of water in a storm – sloshing here and there and eventually coming up in a sticky, smelly mess.
I went over a week with barely anything to eat. My mouth was so dry, almost free of saliva, that any food just stuck to the roof of my mouth and to my inner cheeks. I had to try to swallow, even water, against stomach/throat contractions that wanted to expel whatever I had in my mouth before it could go anywhere. Then there was the diarrhoea! And the coughing. And the wind! Oh boy, the wind! I remember once reading about a 19th century showman who could control his flatulence so well that he could actually play wind instruments with his bum. He appeared in many Royal Command performances and literally farted in the faces of all the crowned heads of Europe. With the amount of flatulence I developed I thought I might buy a French Horn or a trombone and see if I could go on “Australia’s Got Talent”.
Since I was diagnosed on 24 April I’ve lost about 25kg in body weight and am now a svelte 72kg. After many years of “sensible eating” and getting plenty of aerobic and strength exercise – none of which made much difference – I’ve finally reached my “ideal” weight for height and whatever else. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I have successfully defeated obesity. If you want to lose weight quickly and keep it off, just get a touch of pancreatic cancer and your problems will be solved swiftly.
In any event, I became so ill that my 3rd chemo session was called off. Instead I spent about 6 hours in the chemo chair being given drips of steroids and re-hydrating solutions. It was a long and boring day, but at the end of it I felt like I could take on Jeff Horn … well maybe not him unless I had the Adler 12 gauge in hand …  but anyway I felt alive for the first time in over a week. Comparatively speaking, I felt great. It’s amazing just how ill dehydration from vomiting and diarrhoea can make you feel – and that coupled with the weakness that comes from a near-starvation diet.
If I have a complaint about getting chemo at the Border Cancer Centre, it’s the fact that it is soooo boring. There is a long row of chairs, those electric recliner type of things, and everyone sits there with their drips and the machines that count the flow and have a timer as to when the bag will be empty. There’s no TV, no internet, no radio, not even any magazines. The lights in the oncology unit are extremely bright and seem to have been placed to shine directly in one’s eyes. So I sit in the chair, they stick a needle in my “Portacath”, and there I sit, staring at the nurse’s station and the toilet door for anything up to seven hours. The only thing of interest is the timer on the drip machine and how time seems to slow almost to a stop. While I was sitting there, bored rigid, I remembered that wonderful book (one of the many that changed my life) Joseph Heller’s “Catch 22” wherein a character named Dunbar deliberately seeks boredom because he believes that you live longer if you’re bored all the time; that time moves more slowly. Dunbar was right!
I saw my GP at Corryong yesterday and he suggested I should think about quitting the chemotherapy. He said that, given my week in hell caused by both the chemo and the laryngitis, there was a chance the chemo would kill me more quickly than the cancer. As he explained, the chemo destroys one’s immune system and an otherwise minor throat infection can quickly become a major health issue. He also explained that the chemo wasn’t a “cure” but part of my “palliative care” and was intended to stop (hopefully) or at least slow the growth on my tumours. My oncologist told me he had one fellow with my cancer who lasted over 5 years but eventually succumbed to septicaemia caused by a rogue infection.
The good news was that my last set of blood tests showed a reduced number of “cancer markers” whatever they might be. But I figure any reduction in anything has to be a positive.
I had determined that I’d endure at least 6 chemo session before deciding which way to jump vis-à-vis continuing for the full 12 session course. It’s the only hope I have, however slender it might be (but people do win Powerball) and I want to give it every chance of … “delaying” my enrolment day in the Terminal Care Unit. After 6 sessions I’m due to have another PET scan to see if there’s any measurable change. If the tumours are bigger there’s no point carrying on; if there’s no change it means it’s working to some extent; if they’ve shrunk it means I’ll have another summer.
I’m due to have my 3rd chemo session on Wednesday 3 July. Hopefully this “time-out” for an extra week and the antibiotics I’ve been taking will have beaten the throat infection and I won’t get the vomiting again. The worst thing about that week of vomiting was the “Midnight Special” where I’d start spewing around midnight and keep spewing every 20-40 minutes until 2,3, 4 or 5 in the morning. It’s bloody cold here and sitting up through the dark frozen nights with just the silence and a bucket on my lap was depressing to say the least. I found myself feeling sorry for myself a few times. At least my old black Labrador kept my feet warm.
While I was sitting up I did some internet research on pancreatic cancer and the “symptoms” that lead to it and the, almost always, fact that diagnosis comes too late for anything like a cure. I had them all:
• Sudden weight gain for no apparent reason (I went from 93kg to 125Kg in 3 years despite not eating any more than usual and getting lots more exercise);
• Sudden onset of arthritis in the knees and hips (I used to ride my Mountain Bike 20-50km a day but, almost overnight, my knees swelled and became very painful as did my right hip that meant I couldn’t get my leg over the bar of the bike);
• Sudden onset of Type-2 diabetes with no prior personal or family history and no history of high blood sugars;
• Recurring bouts of reflux (I thought it was because I grow my own volcanic chillies and make my own paste, sauce and ground chilli that I add to everything – I really like hot food – and thought I’d just overdone it) – hence the occasional burning reflux;
• Dark urine, which came and went with me, and that I attributed to taking Turmeric pills for arthritis – but it must have been the tumour in the early stages narrowing my bile duct;
• Sudden weight loss – after I was diagnosed with Type-2 diabetes I completely stopped using sugar in any way, stopped eating carbs as much as possible, cut out fatty foods and processed meats and upped my exercise by buying a few truckloads of cement mix, dirt and brickies sand and undertaking a number of construction projects that I did manually (I couldn’t cycle but I could push a wheel barrow and wield a mattock and spade). I even installed a cricket pitch that was great until the rain stopped and summer hit with a fury and killed the grass. I went from 125kg to 98kg in less than a year and the doctors congratulated me on beating diabetes. My blood sugars have been normal for most of the last 3 years;
• Fatigue for no apparent reason. About once in every 10 days I’d wake up feeling as weak as a kitten and just unable to haul my old arse outside to do anything. I figured it was exhaustion from doing too much heavy work the day before; and
• Vision changes. I’ve been short-sighted since I was 21 but over, what seemed like just a few weeks, I went from that (no way I’d have passed a driver’s eye-sight test without the specs) to having perfect long-sighted vision. The vision reverse is such that I now can barely read a book unless I have a magnifying glass or hold it at arm’s length. I don’t need glasses to drive any more and can see much better without them. It’s helped greatly with my little hobby of target shooting with small bore rifles. I’ll be getting some proper reading glasses in a week or two.
Taken individually, all those symptoms mean nothing, but a little passing inconvenience and all my GPs dismissed them as “just getting older” and as “metabolic syndrome” from advancing age. Over a five-year period, I guess there was no obvious reason to suspect anything else. For 98% of the time I felt, fit, robust and strong. Taken together, though, there’s an obvious pattern of things going awry – though they all seem completely unconnected and individually innocent. My GP apologised to me if I thought the medical system had let me down; but as he said, all these are common and passing ailments and they’re ( GPs) told they mustn’t speculate on pancreatic cancer and start ordering CT, PET and MRI scans willy-nilly. That would send the health budget bankrupt, unduly frighten people, and probably prove nothing. The pancreas is an organ that can’t be felt during an examination and can’t be seen on x-rays; it’s almost invisible to everything but the most sophisticated scanning devices. That’s why pancreatic cancer is called the “silent killer” because, by the time the first real symptoms appear (like the jaundice I got in April), it’s already “game over”.
On the upside, I actually ate a “normal serve” meal last night and didn’t suffer any nausea or vomiting. How wonderful it was to be able to eat!
Everyone’s got to die sometime. I surely don’t want to as I have plenty of things I need to do including a lot of doing nothing much at all.
If the sun comes out, I think I’ll sit on the verandah with my .22s and .17s and fire-off a hundred rounds or more at paper targets at 35m. How many other people can sit in their backyards and shoots targets on their own range? I have a 100m range as well as the 35m but that’s in an adjoining paddock and I use that mostly for big calibre centrefire rifles. The ballistics of .22s and .17s produce so much drop and wind deviation at 100m it’s a waste of ammo trying to hit anything smaller than a 44 gallon drum.


UPDATE. 8 9/09/19

I was supposed to have my 6th chemotherapy session last Wednesday – but I chickened out. I hadn’t recovered from the last session a fortnight before and felt too sick and just couldn’t face another seven hours in the chair staring at a toilet door with bright lights seemingly directed right into my eyes.
Since my last update about two months ago I’ve had two “cardiac episodes” as a side effect of the chemotherapy. The first was chest pain and dizziness. I took myself to the Urgent Care Centre at Corryong Hospital where they did a blood test which returned a very weak “positive” for “troponin” – a protein that indicates a heart attack. I didn’t think I’d had a heart attack and my GP explained that, though false positives aren’t uncommon, it would be best not to take any risks. I was loaded into an ambulance and carted off to the cardiac unit at Wodonga hospital where they did a series of tests and confirmed that I’d had a very minor heart attack. Following this my oncologist deferred any further treatment until I had seen a cardiologist – which I did a week later. After another series of scans and tests the cardiologist opined that I had a very strong heart for my age and that there was no evidence of any heart damage. So, after a three-week break, I went back for another dose.
This time I got “palpitations”, a “fluttering” heart and had a pulse jumping around between 130 and 165 beats per minute. I took myself back to the local hospital and my GP assured me that my heart wouldn’t explode but it was best to get further expert treatment – so into the ambulance again for that two-hour trip to Wodonga and another night on an examination table in an alcove. They didn’t have any spare beds. After about twelve hours of a racing pulse (and it was frightening) and several examinations and tests of various descriptions, they gave me a pill and a drip, and everything returned to normal.
The following Wednesday I had my 5th chemotherapy session as per the program. Thankfully I didn’t have any further “cardiac episodes” and, generally speaking, the side effects were on the mild side of things for most of that fortnight and I managed to be a bit productive with my latest home improvement project of installing awnings/eaves along the western side of my ancient wooden farmhouse. But last Sunday night the dreaded nausea and diarrhoea struck – and struck with a vengeance. I can’t say for sure that it was a result of the chemo, or whether I’d simply picked up a bug, but I spent a good part of Sunday night sitting on the thunder-box with a bucket between my knees. The retching was so violent that it felt like my ribs were breaking. By midnight the worst of it had passed but it left me feeling very weak, very sore, and very despondent. Between violent retches I decided to quit the chemotherapy and take my chances with mother nature.
Try to imagine the worst hang-over you’ve ever had – one of those ones where you’re still dry-retching the next afternoon and swearing to all the saints that you’ll never touch another drop – subtract the head-ache and add a slight nose bleed, and you’ll have some idea of what these nausea/diarrhoea attacks are like. A good attack, like I had on Sunday night, dehydrates one very rapidly and reduces one’s blood potassium and magnesium levels, which the chemo reduces anyway, and you’re left feeling about as low as it’s possible to go – absolutely flattened.
I turned up for my 6th session on Wednesday … but … I felt so lousy, and that Day Oncology Unit is so depressing, that I just couldn’t face it and I chickened out. My oncologist was a bit peeved about that and pointed out to me that having another break would possibly be deleterious to my treatment. He also pointed out that I was still alive after more than four months and that without the chemotherapy I’d certainly be dead already. That statement of fact shook me quite a bit as I’d as good as decided to call it all off.
For some reason I started to feel quite well after I left the Border Cancer Centre. On Thursday I got my ladders out and managed to get two 7-metre lengths of top-hat battens into place (it’ll take another 1 ½ battens to span the distance of 23.1m), rivet them together 3m above ground and then tec-screw them to the steel trusses. While I was atop the ladder my oncologist’s words reverberated with me – without the chemo I wouldn’t be up a ladder feeling a bit strong and energetic; but in my grave feeling and thinking nothing at all. I’d emailed my local GP, Dr Nick (and what a great GP he is!) and he rang me back late on Thursday afternoon to tell me that the last blood tests had shown that the chemo is working, and working quite dramatically, as my “cancer markers” had dropped from 2000 to 200 since May. He told me that he, and my oncologist, were disappointed that I’d chickened out on Wednesday because the progress had been so good. He basically, though in a polite way, told me to man-up and soldier-on whatever the side-effects throw at me short of constant near-death experiences.
I’ve been suitably shamed and will be back in the chair next Wednesday and I’m working on plucking-up the courage to see through all twelve sessions. This chemotherapy is not a cure, there is no cure for Stage 4 pancreatic cancer – but there is the possibility of living another year, a better than 50% chance, and about an 8% chance of surviving five years. If I make a year after the end of the chemotherapy, then it will have been a success; if I make two or three or five years it’ll be a miracle greater than anything ever recorded at Lourdes.
I have often commented on just how lucky we are in this country. Here’s further proof of why we should all get down on our knees and give thanks that we live in the best country at the best time in recorded history. After each chemo session they give me a needle loaded with a drug called Pegfilgrastim. It doesn’t cost me a cent and all I must do is keep it cool and have my daughter inject it into my abdomen 24 hours after my fluorouracil pump is removed i.e. usually mid Saturday afternoon. I didn’t give this needle much thought and presumed it was worth a few dollars, ten dollars at best. But I got curious as to what it was supposed to do. I knew it had something to do with boosting my immune system after chemo. Anyway, I googled it and nearly fell off the chair when I read this:
Pegfilgrastim treatment can be used to stimulate bone marrow to produce more neutrophils to fight infection in patients undergoing chemotherapy. Pegfilgrastim has a human half-life of 15 to 80 hours, much longer than the parent filgrastim (3–4 hours). In the United States as of 2015 the branded form costs between $5,327 and $8,191 a dose. As of 22 September 2015 a 6 mg/0.6 ml dose costs $15,016.29 in the United States.
I get my 6mg/0.6ml of it, plus the needle, for $0.00! That’s right, NOTHING at all.
I’ve had 5 doses of it so far and at the current exchange rate of cUS$0.68: A$1.00 it works out at A$22,082.78 per dose or $110,413.90 so far just for that one needle after each session.
No-one has ever mentioned to me what the stuff is worth i.e. (unless my arithmetic is wrong) about 50,000 times its weight in gold! All they’ve ever told me is to keep it cool, put it in the fridge the moment I get home, and inject it 24 hours after the pump is removed.
I used to whinge occasionally about how much tax I pay and about how much my private health insurance costs. After reading that about the cost of that needle in the USA I felt guilty about getting a tax return this year from my franking credits. Given that my two ambulance rides to Wodonga, with three paramedics, have cost $1,850 each – all covered by my AHM membership – I won’t be whinging about paying that $150/fortnight in private health insurance anymore either.
When I reflect on the wonderful care and treatment I have received at Albury Base, Wodonga, Corryong, and the Border Cancer Centre I can’t believe just how fortunate I am – and WE are, in this country. Compared to a great nation like the United States of America we are so far in front in the way of medical care for the common folk that daylight comes second. I still can’t quite believe that I have received all this care and treatment and that it’s cost me virtually nothing. If I lived in the USA, I’d be bankrupt, and if I lived in most other countries, I’d be dead.
Today, Saturday 7th September 2019, is particularly miserable here on the western slopes of the Snowy Mountains. It’s overcast, drizzling rain and there’s an icy wind blowing from the south-west. I won’t be climbing ladders today or hoisting battens into place – but I couldn’t be happier. I’m alive and mobile and feeling reasonably fit. I’m not in any pain and I’m not bed-ridden and, apart from the tiniest bit of queasiness, I feel just like I would if I didn’t have cancer at all. I think I’ll light the fire and lay on the couch and finish reading Ian Plimer’s “Not For Greens”. It’s a great read that exposes the Greens and the “climate change – anthropogenic global warming” scam for the utter fraud it is and just what total hypocrites are the Greens and the socialist Left collectively. While I’m doing that in warmth and comfort, I’ll reflect on the fact that, if I didn’t live in the best country there’s ever been, I’d be lying in my grave right now.

UPDATE #9 17/12/19

Thank you for your kind thoughts. My oncologist stopped the chemotherapy in late October because it was robbing me of “quality of life” so I’m now just on palliative care – that is, ever increasing doses of morphine to control the pain. It seems to work most of the time. I have become, physically, progressively weaker and still suffer lingering effects from the chemo that seem to be permanent damage – like numbness in the fingertips and pins-and-needles in the feet and calves. My legs are so weak I need a walking stick or a walker to get around and get me in an upright position. I’m still suffering from the anorexia and taste-changes brought on by the chemo.
But I will make Christmas and possibly have my one last summer. According to all the statistics on Stage 4 metastasising cancer of the pancreas i.e. 11 1/2 months from diagnosis until death, I’ll probably die in April-May. There’s about a 20% I’ll last another year and a 4% chance of lasting 5 years.
So how long I’ll live is anyone’s guess – but enduring another winter here in the Snowy Mountains doesn’t look to be on the cards.
I’m grateful that I’m still alive and, mostly, able to function reasonable normally – especially as they gave me 3 1/2 – 6 months to live when they diagnosed me on 24 April. It’s now been 7 months and 3 weeks since that lightning bolt hit me out of the blue.
I’m also grateful that I’ve had the time to get my affairs in order and get as many things prepared as I can – including organising my own funeral. I’ve bought my eternal resting place: Row 2b Plot 17 at the lawn cemetery and have selected a coffin. It’s all a bit maudlin and macabre, I know, but it will have to be done sooner or later so I have done it myself. I sorted out all the financial stuff and the legal stuff like a new Will and appointing Enduring Guardians and Powers of Attorney.
Despite the side effects of the chemo and other drugs I’ve been able to get on with a lot of repair, maintenance and improvement projects around my little hobby farm. I try to keep busy, so I don’t dwell on the inevitable – when I have nothing to do, I tend to start thinking about dying and it makes me a bit despondent – unsurprisingly.
So, the cancer is now taking its inexorable course and there’s nothing more the medical profession can do for me. I have the District “Palliative Care” Nurse who drew up a pain management plan for me and it seems to be working as I don’t suffer from too much pain. Sometimes I wake with pain that is indescribable; it’s a dull ache from the ribs to the hips and the slightest movement is agonising – so I take instant release morphine and, after 10-20 minutes, the pain fades and I can get on with my day. I’m lucky to have 2 of my 3 daughters and my son-in-law here so I’m not short of carers.
The way this disease progresses is that I’ll become increasingly frail and feeble until I basically become bed ridden. I plan to stay at home until that happens and I can’t care for myself and need care 24/7 that the kids can’t provide. I’ll then go into the Terminal Care Unit at the local hospital and die there – and, by that stage, it shouldn’t take long for the end to come. I don’t know when that will happen; March or April or maybe not for another year. In any event, it’s all arranged – as is the funeral director and the cemetery. Until that happens, I’ll carry on as normally as I can.
I always wondered what I’d do if a bevy of doctors told me I had a terminal disease. As it turned out, I just came home and have carried on as normally as possible. I don’t have a “bucket list” and have no desire to do anything out of the ordinary.
But since I was given the death sentence last April a couple of things have happened that have lifted my sprits greatly – Shorten being defeated in May and Boris Johnson winning the UK election. I think the western world is starting to wake up to the danger of these Socialists/ Marxists/ Communists and their nation and economy destroying policies and cultish belief in rubbish like man-made global warming, multiculturalism, diversity, the whole disgusting pile of rubbish being forced on society by alphabet soup activists and so on. There’s a conservative revolution sweeping the western democracies, I think, and most people have had enough of the Left’s endless attacks on our culture, traditions and history. Sadly, I don’t think I’ll be around next November to cheer when Donald Trump wins his second term in office. That’s one big regret I have.

UPDATE: # 10 13/01/2020

A great deal has happened since my last update. It’s hard to believe what has happened. I have lost track of the days so can’t remember the chronological order of things in much detail I think it was Sunday, New Years Day that the Walwa fire really took hold and looked like it was burning to the south west of my place at Tooma and it was the one at Dunne’s Forest, to my north I should have been watching.
My daughters wisely panicked and got themselves in the car, the grandkids, and the dogs And managed to escape to Albury via Tumbarumba and Rosewod and find a dog-friendly motel ironically called ‘The Blazing Stump”. My son-in-law, Clint, and I decided to stay on and fight – so long as the power and communications stayed on. When the comms went out, Clint decides he’d follow  the girls to Wodonga via Corryong. I decided to stay on until the power went out and then get out.
My plan had been to get to Corryong, fill the car, go back home and pack sensibly for a few days and then evacuate via Corryong and Tallangata to Wodonga. When I got to Corryong everything was closed due to the power outage and the bowsers would work. My car had a range of 50km, just enough to get home but not enough to get out again. They’d closed the road behind me anyway.
It was like a scene from hell in Corryong; about 40 degrees, smoke so thick visibility was down to less than 100m and the sky was a red-orange glow I managed to find Clint at the relief centre but it was blacked out and in no way prepared for 100s of refugees. So we sat outside in the cars trying to think of some thing to do; somewhere to go. My problem was easily solved as I started to get faint, dizzy breathless and fatigue. Clint took me to the local hospital where I was admitted and spent a reasonably god night.
Around midday the next day the doctor told me there  was a convoy leaving town and suggested I be on it as it was unlikely that power would be restored any time soon – and the diesel generators only had about 15 hours fuel left and the town was also rapidly running out of water. So I climbed aboard an ambulance with another 5 evacuees and was dropped off in Tallangatta; at the RElief Centre. My mobile pone battery had died but they had a charger and I charged it up enough to make a call to my youngest daughter, Alice, who came over from Wodonga to collect me.
I had feared they’d all evacuated to Canberra, which they had decided to do and stay with their mother for the foreseeable. I couldn’t as I couldn’t see that I’d get a warm welcome from her or her “life partner”.
I Was lucky enough to get one of the last seats one of he last fights from  Albury to Brisbane. I flew with Virgin and they were very helpful and good to be. I managed a few days at my daughter, Emily’s,place but yesterday the pain ramped up another notch our two so sh got the ambulance for me
They brought me to Ipswich Hospital for further tests and observations; got another CT scan and am now in the palliative care ward and will be transferred to the Hospice tomorrow. It seems that the pancreatic cancer is now blocking  the stent while my liver is failing rapidly causing a return of the jaundice. I had thought I’d see my home again,but that is not to be. My remaining life span is measured in days or weeks – so this could be my last post for the morning mail. Thanks to everyone who has been so supportive over the last 8 months. The well is now dry!
Jack Richards

RIP. 8/8/1951 — 19/01/2020

{ 111 comments… add one }
  • Pensioner Pete 13/05/2019, 6:53 am

    Thank you for updating your situation Jack. I simply wish a miracle comes your way and the cancer departs. Best wishes from PP.

    • Aktosplatz 16/05/2019, 2:12 pm

      Me too, Jack.

  • Jarrah 13/05/2019, 7:44 am

    Praying for you Jack, hope the treatment somehow brings a miracle as per PP’s comment above. All the best, mate.

  • DT 13/05/2019, 8:32 am

    Very best wishes to you Jack.

  • Albert 13/05/2019, 8:40 am

    Hang in there Jack and best wishes to you.

  • Penguinite 13/05/2019, 9:06 am

    What a great intrepid soldier! Thanks for sharing! Hope our reading of your words lessens the pain and discomfort you are obviously suffering! Keep taking the Endone! Pain is so debilitating and energy sapping! Here’s a metaphorical hug to keep you going!

  • Lorraine 13/05/2019, 9:36 am

    Well Jack what a bloody shame. My Husband George also had cancer, Lung cancer, and apart from the out of pocket to the Professor in charge, we had all the services you have mentioned , top professionals top care and the hospice ,all paid for by our taxes. As you say we are lucky, the very best of luck to you on your next course of action. God be with you.

    • Lorraine 09/09/2019, 8:22 am

      thankyou for your update, the memories are of my George going thru the same path . Your have a good chance, and I remember the Professor looking after George , telling me when things got tough,”cancer does not cure itself” Hang in there.

      • Lorraine 13/01/2020, 9:07 am

        God be with You Jack , strong and tough and a conservative, we will miss you and your posts.

    • Lorraine 21/01/2020, 7:50 am

      RIP Jack Richards

  • nev 13/05/2019, 9:57 am

    Thank you Jack and we will keep hoping for your miracle. To your grand kids, wife and family and many who know you well I’m sure you are their hero.
    The fact that so many of us here at MM can say thank you for your great effort in bringing us up to date. We see your courage as heroic too.

  • Eliza 13/05/2019, 10:28 am

    May your God be with you Jack and thanks for keeping us updated on how you are doing and as always written with such clarity.
    Take Care but have as much fun as possible with your family and friends.

  • ibbit 13/05/2019, 12:14 pm

    Hello Jack – what an exercise in descriptive clarity your update is. And what a baptism of fire you have recently undergone. I, too, have reason to marvel at how lucky we are with our medical treatments. I fell and gave my head a good old wack, was carted off to hospital by ambulance, had various examinations, a CT scan which found I had a subdural haematoma. Paid not a cent. Am home with a sore head and an admonition not to drive for one month. Getting old is a bit of a bugger, but as with my father, I don’t consider you to be old. Hang in there.

  • Botswana O'Hooligan 13/05/2019, 1:10 pm

    Jack, for what it is worth I almost conquered the pain by running an auction in my head and selling it to the highest bidder for you see I am allergic to opiates and used to vomit after an injection so most of the stitches in my tongue and throat would tear out. I used to lie as still as possible and post that bastard of a pain to Peter Abeles and Bob Hawke, even Bill Kelty and his mistress but it never went away completely. After the first operation out of the seven my wife had to go back to Russia because immigration refused to extend her tourist visa by a few days so I had to fend for myself and liquified baby tucker more liquid and got it down in trickles. No wonder babies hate the stuff for it tastes like cats piss or even worse. Must be smoke in my eyes mate for they are running not because of my woes but for yours so I gotta go. For Christs sake hang in there and don’t ever give in, think about posting the pain to those Labor bastards. Bill M

  • TommyGun 13/05/2019, 3:17 pm

    Dear Jack,
    You have been through fire but have (by way of our excellent doctors, nurses and equipment as you say) come through and been given some extra time. I am glad! Thank you for sharing this visceral experience with us. I don’t think I would be able to cope as well as you have. I can’t add much to what other MM friends have said, except to say that you live in a beautiful part of the country; enjoy! (I worked for several years at Falls Creek; not too far away as the crow flies.)
    Best wishes,

  • polynomial 13/05/2019, 7:45 pm

    hope you get to do everything you set out to Jack.

  • Gregoryno6 13/05/2019, 8:05 pm

    I don’t know what to say. I’ve never been through anything like the ‘treatment’ you describe here.
    I’m in awe of your ability to maintain and persist. Because it sounds like a taste of hell.

    • luk1955 13/05/2019, 9:32 pm

      Agree Gregory. I have never been through anything like that but have seen other people go through that. JR is a brave man and composed of strong Aussie atoms and molecules unique to Australia. I will be thinking of the hell Jack is going through and wish Jack the best and hope that his suffering is easing.

      • Finn 17/05/2019, 8:44 am


  • Neville 14/05/2019, 1:17 am

    Ah Jack, what a time you’ve had of it! And, more to come. Hang in there mate! I have also had the gall bladder out; stones in my case. The pain was something shocking, so on that, I can truly say that i know what you went through.
    But I ain’t had all the other, and I can fervently say I bloody don’t want to! THAT lot, I ain’t got a clue what it’s like, so a big thanks for trying (VERY successfully!) to explain how it goes.
    Do keep your spirits up mate. Like so many others above, I wish you the very best!
    Cheers, Neville

  • luk1955 16/05/2019, 7:19 am

    Ah Jack. A man after my own heart. A DIY. I am of the same way. Lots of tools and a big barn to use them. My youngest son is a self taught mechanic who runs a motorcycle transport business. Does all his own vehicle repairs. Oldest son is using tools to do minor works, and the middle son is learning about renovations. As long as you can use the tools, you have a way of coping with this disastrous news. I saw what Alzheimers and a small stroke did to my mother, and it was not pretty. Thanks for the update.

  • Botswana O'Hooligan 16/05/2019, 7:47 am

    G’day Jack, we are a lucky country really although we bitch and moan about it a lot. You mentioning the care given you in a smallish town made me recall my early days in Russia just after perestroika when gunfights on the streets were common and all kinds of mayhem took place. Medical facilities were non existent and we lost our driver, a lovely young woman both in looks and spirit, from kidney disease. We didn’t know and she never mentioned it but dialysis would have saved her and there was none available. By the time we pilots found out and shipped her off to Vladivostok where treatment was available, it was too late and she died. I hired another driver, a young bloke who had not a word of English with the proviso that he learned enough to understand us in a month, and he did. His wife had thyroid problems and the only medicine available was iodine but I got stuff sent up (two of my kids are medico’s) and treated her. The driver was an ex Spetsnaz bloke who could turn his hand to anything too and when our Pommy made main hangar heater threw in the claw (we had a pussycat aeroplane according to the Russians because we kept it in a hangar and the temp never got lower than about -10C) our engineers had conniptions and ran the airwaves to the UK red hot trying to order a new guts. Sasha had a bit of a squint at the innards of the thing, went to the local aeroplane graveyard and came back with electrical panels with all sorts of stuff hanging from them. He wired it all in and the heater resumed operation. It wasn’t a pretty sight, and got a sort of a comment along the lines of–neat but not gaudy he said as he sewed the cats arse up with barbed wire– but it worked. I suppose we pilots were a soft touch but we bankrolled a lot of the Aeroflot girls when they pay didn’t arrive and they always paid us back. I had a small medical kit with a heap of anti biotics and used them when needed, no one died and our local workers thought I was some kind of bloody genius. That’s all changed now and Russia has caught back up with the World but I remember it each time I shave for my face is a bit lopsided from frostbite. Take it easy mate, don’t give in and keep writing to us.

    • Jack Richards 01/06/2019, 9:10 am

      You’ve had a very interesting life, Bots.

  • Penguinite 16/05/2019, 8:10 am

    Hey Jack at our age most of are having trouble swinging the old block buster! Keep smiling!!

  • ibbit 16/05/2019, 8:44 am

    Hello Jack, in a funny sort of way I envy your history. My father, being a farmer, like you could turn his hand to anything that needed doing around the farm, building a new house and fixing the refrigerator when he had the time. being just two of those things. He died at 63, but he was a “lucky” one – went out to weed his vegie garden and fell into it, dead from a massive heart attack on his birthday, of all days. Only 63, so l thought there really was no justice in the world.
    I loved the story of your great, great grandfather. Reminded me of the copper who policed our local town and farming district. There was almost no crime, but occasionally a teenager decided he would chance his arm and cause a ruckus. Sarge – a big man – would come along, administer a hefty kick to the rear end, cart him of to the “slammer” take him home when he had cooled of and tell his parents what he had been up to.
    He also was no respecter of human rights – might actually have sneered at the idea, believing as he did that folks had the right to live in safety and peace.
    Love your writing and hope you keep well enough to continue with your delightful updates.
    I echo the wish of some above for a miracle, but being a realist I know that living to the utmost during this time, is the best “miracle” a body could have.

  • Maryanne 16/05/2019, 9:15 am

    Jack, you’re a damn good writer too. Please keep the updates and reminiscences coming.

    I keep reading that young people today are the “best ever educated”. Tosh and piffle says I. They’re been warehoused in schools for far too long and that’s the opposite of being educated. Is ours the last educated generation?

    • luk1955 17/05/2019, 7:50 am

      Yes Mary we are the last educated generation. And it’s not education the students get now, it’s pure Hitlerian propaganda about how to serve and worship the state. And those large corporations. Be good little brownshirt fascists.

    • Aktosplatz 03/06/2019, 10:22 am

      I agree Maryanne, Jack you’re a very good descriptive writer, and you’re revealing real powerful history through your correspondence. I hope your family are seeing these reports of yours, written under duress, with so much clarity, painting pictures in words as you go. I am downloading these and keeping them if I may.

      And bless you for your courage.

      Best regards


  • nev 16/05/2019, 12:11 pm

    Great stuff Jack and so glad its therapeutic for you. I hope I have your strength when my turn comes, however it comes. Like I have said before you’re an inspiration.
    All the best mate!

  • Aktosplatz 16/05/2019, 2:20 pm

    Greetings Jack. I have often thought how I would be in your position. Now we are finding out because you’re telling all of us. On the one hand I flinch, but on the other, more importantly, you are showing us the life of a man who has lived life to the full, and will be the same right to the end.

    As I reflect, being the age I am, my own departure from this life can’t be that far away. We’re all different, and so my life has not been like yours from what I see of you, but nevertheless I too have had a very good life with all of its ups and downs.

    I have lived in 4 countries including Australia (arrived 1976) , and this one is the best by far, over the other three. And that’s because of people like you.

    May all our ‘transitions’ be peaceful with all broken fences mended.

    Thank you, Jack, God Bless.

  • TommyGun 17/05/2019, 6:26 am

    Lots of people like you built this country and made it what it is, Jack.
    I just want you to know I (and many others) appreciate your efforts.
    Agree with your sentiments about the bloody socialists!

    Best wishes,


  • ibbit 17/05/2019, 9:59 am

    Jack, a friend of mine went on the same journey as you are embarking on and he did it with courage and great patience. I admired him and I admire you.

  • Austin Ayforti 17/05/2019, 4:52 pm

    Thank you Jack for sharing this with us. There are so many of us sending you our very best wishes. I lost my wife to cancer over 6 years ago and understand about the porta-cath and your upcoming chemo treatment. I sincerely wish for you as smooth a journey as possible and feel that even with the possibility of some side effects the benefit far outweighs them.

  • Pensioner Pete 01/06/2019, 7:35 am

    Thank you for the update Jack.

    I have a next-door neighbor 70 years of age, she recently underwent a mastectomy and is now on chemo in hospital in the big smoke, some 1200km away, after her first dose this week she rang and advised she feels ok, but tired.

    My friend who is a retired shearer of 77 years age has finished his fourth dose of chemo for stomach cancer, it took until the third dose before he felt a bit crook, a little hair coming out and some weight loss. He, like you is fit as a Mallee bull. He had to travel to the big smoke for each application of chemo which is a right pain.

    Never give up hope, maintain your inner strength and you will see your summer and likely many more, miracles do happen, that I do know.

    Stay strong Jack and my best wishes are for you.

    Regards, PP

  • Botswana O'Hooligan 01/06/2019, 8:12 am

    Keep plugging away Jack and don’t forget to let us know when you catch a trout in Tassie. I like those smoked ones from around your way ($10 a throw in Woollies) and we have the odd one as a treat. I used to do a bit of fishing the easy way in Tassie as we hauled DC3 loads of fish back for the Melbourne markets. One night I went aft to do a bit of angling and the offsider missed the reporting call for our “centre Bass” position and FSU were asking “why” and laughed at my –sorry mate, was out fishing– When we landed I took a few of my catch to the Flight Service Unit and thus proved that it is possible to go fishing in a DC3 freighter. That would be frowned upon these days just as using Mr. Noble’s expanding bait for trout fishing would not be kosher.

  • Bh 01/06/2019, 8:20 am

    Love your outlook, Jack. All the best for whatever happens next.

  • luk1955 01/06/2019, 9:28 am

    Good luck Jack. All the best. Thanks for keeping us informed.

  • Eliza 01/06/2019, 9:38 am

    Your writing these updates Jack are more than keeping us informed, especially for me as you have given not only an incredible insight as to what you are going through but the walk through your life experiences has made me become much more aware and thankful for everything that has happened in my life. Thank you Jack and though it’s bloody freezing here in the midlands of Tassie I hope you get here for your fishing and I toast you with one of the best malt whisky I have ever drunk made here in Tassie, for at least your one more summer but hopefully many more. (Old Kempton Single Malt)

    • Botswana O'Hooligan 03/06/2019, 10:11 am

      I got conned into walking the Cradle Mountain track on the eve of my 70th. that six night, seven day trek hauling yr own tucker and gear. A son was supposed to carry the litre of single malt expedition bar and my bath but he left the single malt behind, something he will never forget ever again. It was just before Christmas time and we enjoyed two blizzards, a bit of sleet, and lots of mud. So much for a Tassie summer.

  • Karen 01/06/2019, 11:04 am

    Wow, what a read – you’re an inspiration Jack – thanks for sharing so much. I work in aged care and am aware of the challenges faced in later life which affects whole families, so can understand the situation you explained with your parents. It’s gut-wrenching. Kind thoughts and very best wishes to you.

  • JK. 01/06/2019, 11:25 am

    Jack may your wish for another summer be granted, good luck.

  • Jack Richards 01/06/2019, 11:42 am

    Thank you all so very much for your support and comments. It seems many of us have experienced this sort of thing with family and friends. I had my first chemo session on Wednesday and I’ve sent MM’s editor yet another update on how that all went. Thankfully, apart from tingling/numbness in the hands and my right thumb cramping occasionally, I haven’t suffered any side effects at all. The hand thing comes from exposure to cold and it’s bloody cold here this morning.

    Your support really means so much to me. I’ve had a very lucky life and the support I’m getting here, and from my extended family and friends, gives me the incentive to soldier on and not throw in the towel. Sometimes I get a bit despondent and think about chickening out and ending it all – but I won’t because I’d be letting down all you people and my family and friends – and letting myself down as well.

    I have read all your comments and would like to thank you all. I just hope I don’t become repetitive and boring and that you find being on this journey with me something worthwhile.

    • Austin Ayforti 01/06/2019, 12:43 pm

      Thank you again Jack, this update is wonderful and inspirational. Everyone faces situations alien and hostile at some time, your words are heartening. Learning a little of your history is great and I’m so happy that you have had a life with no regrets. My very best wishes Jack.

  • nev 01/06/2019, 1:18 pm

    Whether you’re able or not to let us hear from you Jack, doesn’t really matter.
    I feel privileged you have given us a look into your world. You remind me of Albert Facey’s book “A Fortunate Life” I suspect like him you always manage to face hardship and turn it into a positive outcome .
    A straight shooter and a fair dinkum Ozzy.
    We hope it breaks your way Jack and you catch a trout or 3 in Tasmania for many summers to come.

  • Bushkid 01/06/2019, 1:36 pm

    Thank you for the updates Jack. I’ve very recently been on a similar but much shorter journey with my husband. I wish you well, and success with your treatment.

    • nev 01/06/2019, 3:19 pm

      Sorry to hear about that BK. Please accept our commiserations. Hope your business is going well.

    • Neville 02/06/2019, 12:25 am

      Best wishes to you both, BK. All the best.

  • Honeybadger 01/06/2019, 2:49 pm

    Great to see such a positive slant on your unfortunate prognosis Jack. No maudlin ramblings and interesting thoughts on your life, conveyed so proficiently. Keep on enjoying those Talisker whiskeys, what the heck!

  • TommyGun 01/06/2019, 4:24 pm

    Thanks for telling us about your life, Jack.
    You may have a few sessions of chemotherapy without feeling ill; some people are more sensitive to it than others. Remember; if you’re feeling crook, the cancer is feeling worse! 🙂


  • Gregoryno6 01/06/2019, 9:31 pm

    You say you’ve been luckier that 99% of everyone wh0’s ever lived. But it’s clear from your words above that you made a good part of your own luck. You were ready to work when confronted by problems. When others might have shrugged and said ‘Aaah, whatever,’ you figured out solutions.
    I hope you get that last summer.

  • Botswana O'Hooligan 03/06/2019, 10:00 am

    Jack, remember one thing through all your travails that you give the rest of us hope because of your fortitude. Hang in there mate.

  • Neville 03/06/2019, 10:03 am

    Re your last para, Jack, where you say you hope describing your experiences may enlighten others a bit about the process; It has, and is, for me – a lot! – and I humbly thank you.

  • Grumpy-old-woman 03/06/2019, 12:39 pm

    Keep on keeping on.
    A positive attitude has proved a very effective medicine in these cases as studies show.

  • Botswana O'Hooligan 03/06/2019, 3:16 pm

    Just remembered something that might fill in a bit of time for you Jack. Photos of flowers and trees and places of interest in our great country that might interest you, even the Cradle Mountain area, other countries as well. Google –Tatters Flickr –and there are five and a half thousand odd great photos in different albums.

    • luk1955 10/06/2019, 8:21 am

      Nice area Nev. Too much snow for me along with too much cold. Lots of natural beauty.

  • TommyGun 04/06/2019, 5:35 am

    Thank you for your thoughts Jack.
    They really are inspirational.

    TG in Russia

  • nev 04/06/2019, 11:04 am

    Thanks from us too Jack, (Mr and Mrs nev).
    Grumpy old women a few letters above mentioned a good point. A positive attitude which you have in your favour, is half the battle in my opinion.
    We were always surprised after our apparent success how people who had had the bad news, through word of mouth would find us, to learn what we had done.
    Our plan from the onset was fairly simple, with one overrider, that we would stick at it no matter what, throw everything at it even the kitchen sink if necessary and our fighting arsenal did grow.
    So our message to these people was always very simple and it was soon easy to identify those who were candidates for success, remembering always, that they were still only likely candidates. But a positive attitude was always a stand out prerequisite as was strong family support which you obviously have in abundance.
    One of the people who inspired us was a woman we had heard about who is still alive and lives Bayside Brisbane. Was still juicing using an ancient mangle because that’s all she could afford. She invited us to come into her back yard and “I’ll show you the weeds that saved my life”. Margaret had been diagnosed with breast cancer 10 years previously which had metastasised to her spine, she could only stand with the support of a caste. When we saw her in Cleveland she stood and walked freely. It is now over 40 years since her remission.
    She was our inspiration and I must add, I did have a positive and trusting “patient”. Oh one other thing we had a pact between us, that I would stick anything down my throat that I asked her to put down hers except the raw organic calf liver juice which we brought down from Toowoomba each week.
    There are many things to mitigate the downside of chemo.
    All the best and keep that trout fishing trip vivid in your mind.

  • Jack Richards 04/06/2019, 4:41 pm

    Thanks again to everyone for your wise advice and support.

    “Organic calf liver juice”??? Really Nev? I can’t see myself ever trying that as just the thought makes me nauseous – like the thought of the food at Albury Base Hospital. The worst thing they had on offer were “mixed sandwiches” on half-stale bread. They were just repulsive.

    I am trying to maintain a very positive outlook. I keep telling myself that I can beat this, set a new world record for survival, and I try to imagine the chemo toxins as soldiers attacking and slaughtering the cancer cells. I refuse to let this dominate my life and turn me into a self-pitying wreck sitting around and moaning and feeling sorry for myself and being a burden on everyone else. I’ve been feeling quite well so I’ve been getting on with a lot of little jobs around the house and workshop I’ve been putting off for months or years because I had bigger projects to work on.

    I finally got around to making a steel door for the southern access to my workshop. I made it out of 25×25 SHS, 25×25 angle, and sheet of 1.6mm steel. I’d had an aluminium door that’d come from one of those little garden sheds but it lacked rigidity and flopped around despite 4 hinges. I made it last Tuesday afternoon. I painted it in Kill Rust hammer-finish charcoal but the result wasn’t too good as it’s cold here and, even though it was about 12 in the workshop, the steel was probably nearer 4. Despite the shitty paint job, it’s on, swinging and lockable.

    Today I’ve been patching holes in the western wall of the house. There used to be a late 70s model “WeatherWall” air conditioner that had never worked since I came here in 2003. The compressor had seized and the old CFC gas had leaked out completely. The problem with that old A/C unit was that it had an bottom inlet and a top outlet and, to install it, they simply cut two holes through both the outside weatherboards and inside plaster – both roughly 400mm x 300mm- and shoved it in. They installed it between the studs and removed the noggins. I got a new Mitsubishi reverse cycle unit installed about 18 months ago and got the electrician to uninstall and cart away the old WeatherWall leaving these two holes inside and outside. Today I’ve replaced the missing studs and cut new weatherboards to fit the holes – so hopefully tomorrow afternoon the liquid nails will have set and I’ll skew some long screws into them to hold them in place and give me something solid on to which I can attach the new weatherboard inserts. Then I’ll fill all the gaps, sand it all back, and paint it. Hopefully, by the weekend, no-one will ever know that the WeatherWall had ever been there.

    As many have said, a positive attitude can help a great deal. I have no intention of throwing in the towel and, once I’ve finished that hole-in-the-wall job I’ll start renovating my office-bedroom-ensuite.

    This place was jerry-built and the roof used to leak (took me many years and many experiments to find where and stop it – the main cause was a piece of ridge-capping that was a few inches short!) so there is water damage in the wood panelled ceiling as well as the plaster. My winter project is to fix all that and restore it to “as new”. It’ll be a big job. Luckily my middle daughter, Emily, and son-in-law are coming down from Brisbane for a few weeks in July – so I’ll have all 3 daughters here as well as Nathan and my son Ben who’s been coming down from Canberra every other weekend – my other son-in-law, Clint, will probably turn up as well. They want to “help me” and do this work but, and this will be the subject of my next update, none of them really know how to do anything of the handy-man DIY nature. I’ll supervise and give them all lessons on demolition, carpentry, plastering and painting. Last weekend I spent most of Sunday giving Ben and Elizabeth (my eldest daughter) a crash-course on how to use a chain saw and I’ve promised that, next time Ben comes down, I’ll give them a lesson on how to sharpen the chain using my electric sharpening machine.

    Tomorrow will be a significant day. It’ll be 6 weeks since the “gloom squad” came by to see me the day after I’d had the stent implanted to cure my sudden-onset jaundice and “bile duct obstruction”. The gloom squad was a posse of young doctors, about 8 of them, led by a young Indian woman (and a more dour and depressing person it would be hard to imagine) and they came to see me that Wednesday morning, 24th April 2019, and she told me I had incurable metastasised cancer of the pancreas that had also spread to my liver. She told me that the outlook was very grim and that, though she couldn’t be certain, I had something in the order of 6-14 weeks to live – max. She might still be right but after 6 weeks I’m feeling fine and a long way from dead. My oncologist has also given me some encouragement by telling me the chemo is a “6-month plan” while the chief surgeon told me that I’d be fine to go fishing in Tasmania in September.

    Who knows? I don’t. So I’ll just keep plodding along at my modest pace and see if I can set a new world record for surviving Stage 4 Pancreatic cancer.

  • Angela 05/06/2019, 2:13 pm

    Hi Jack.
    I’m from the Nepean-Hawkesbury valley originally, [love it always], love Corryong and the High Country, so can visualise with you your lovely surroundings. Thanks for sharing with us. I believe with the Buddhists thoughts have form and power, so know those who read your record are sending you love and encouragement until you do scatter your molecules and reassemble into …..stardust? along with all sentient life forms. Blessings upon your days.

  • Botswana O'Hooligan 10/06/2019, 8:02 am

    G’day Jack,
    My mate of sixty five years is getting the same treatment, at least I assume it is the same treatment for he gets fed some sort of drip over a five hour period every month for a melanoma that has “rushed” as we would say with bullocks. They gave him the same list of side effects as you but he reports that so far he has only had slight symptoms. He has another session scheduled for today so I had a yarn with him by ‘phone for an hour or so last night as I do once a week. We served our time together in The Isa as boilermakers until he lost all the calf muscle from one leg in a motor bike accident and swapped over to being a dental mechanic. We talk about everything except his creping demise, all one can do I suppose. Like reading yr interesting story, keep it up please.

    • Jack Richards 10/06/2019, 1:45 pm

      G’day Bots. I’ve had a lot of old mates and colleagues contact me since I got the diagnosis and prognosis and mostly we just talk about old times, what we’re doing now, family, the weather and just about anything other than my illness. They always say “What can I say?” about that and there really is nothing to be said. But it’s nice getting those calls and having a chat.

      Like you, there was a time when I was a welder/sheet metal fabricator(though never a boiler maker). I spent my days in a boiler suit, boots, gloves and helmet – the old fashioned type I still use. The automatic helmets were very expensive 30+ years ago and the boss was too lousy to supply them. Actually he was a pretty decent bloke while his son was a thorough pain in the arse with zero people skills. We mostly made things for the farming community: cattle feeders, sheep feeders, foot baths, ute trays, tool boxes, piglet feeders and, every now and again, big stuff for buildings. We fabricated a lot of columns and beams for the Tuggeranong Hyperdome in Canberra when they were building that in the mid 80s. I spent most of my time welding 1.6 sheet vertical down with a MIG, but I also used an old choke stick welder occasionally. I also got to do all the non-ferrous stuff with a TIG. It was mostly repairing cracks in aluminium castings or magnesium castings. Very occasionally I’d do copper or brass/bronze and stainless.

      The smell of argoshield and pure argon always brings back memories of those days. They were good days and, when knock-off time came, I could look around the workshop and see that I’d achieved something physical and tangible – unlike many of my other jobs. I once made a decorative staircase for the residence above the local fish and chip shop using Syzygy panels. It fitted up perfectly, from ground to 2nd floor, and the shop owner was thrilled with the result. I’m still proud of that job.

  • Margaret 11/06/2019, 6:10 pm

    What a wonderful writer you are Jack. You have a great outlook on life. I agree with you… keep positive as much as possible.

  • Botswana O'Hooligan 30/06/2019, 8:44 am

    Yr doing fine Jack, keep it up. On welding n stuff, that will be around for a long time yet to remind others that you passed that way. There are a few monuments around here in Brisbane to remind me that I was a boilermaker and will be around long after I am gone, a building at Rocklea Komatsu use (I did the roof trusses) the Centenary Bridge (some of the steelwork) I had to work part time because a co-pilot got about twelve quid a week and a boilermaker got about forty. A bit of advice about yr trout fishing in Tassie next summer. Don’t use Alfred Noble’s expanding bait, not because it is “not cricket” but the good folk in Tassie will get ideas above their station and all of them will want to get in on the act. Take it easy mate, especially if it isn’t welded shut or nailed down. regds fm Bill.

  • Lorraine 30/06/2019, 9:32 am

    Hang in there Jack, and think again on the extra Chemo, I have been with George my husband on the same path, and I often wonder if not having the toxins in the body , and the mess they cause, would have made day to day living an easy option.May God answer your prayers.

  • ibbit 30/06/2019, 9:57 am

    Jack, so sorry to read of your ordeal by chemo in your latest updates. I continue to admire your courage and descriptive writing as well as humor, ‘though I suppose if your meet misfortune with self-pity (although tempting), life would seem just that much worse.
    The description of your wood merchant, his header and combine driving, wearing of old stained hat and coat and so on, was a walk down memory lane for me.
    Keep cheerful Jack, and keep up your wonderful writing which, judging by the very good comments above, every one here appreciates.
    I wish you well.

  • nev 30/06/2019, 2:19 pm

    I guess I’m just like everyone else here at MM Jack, we’re all following your progress with all the hope we can muster. A number of us have been in this fight but only from the sidelines barracking for someone we love and doing what we can to make it better or even hope to win.
    But when it comes down to putting something on paper we don’t know what to say. You know you’re an inspiration to all, you do yourself proud by your humble strength.
    Most of us here are old enough to have climbed a few mountains and felt the despair in some deep valleys. We probably all have scars and know the score, additionally some of us think we could give good advice but won’t, except to say, I tend to agree with your Doc on the Chemo. When my wife declined it we were threatened with dire prognosis, yet when she passed the 5 yr mark they were quick to add her as a statistical success.
    So keep plugin them into your target mate and keep that Tassie mountain stream in clear view.

  • TommyGun 30/06/2019, 4:37 pm

    G’day Jack,

    Sorry to learn the chemo has given you such a beating. But, as I said earlier, it may have given the cancer a beating, too.
    Your writings are inspirational and it’s good to know that such terrible suffering has failed to extinguish your good humor and will to keep going.
    We’re past the Winter Solstice now Jack, and Spring is on its way. Followed by Summer.



  • Neville 30/06/2019, 7:33 pm

    As always, Jack, a wonderful and engaging writing style.
    I’m sure your results will be better – that bloody chemo smacks the 5h1t out of one, but if it’s that bad, it must be knocking the cancer about too.
    All the best to you; as TG says, yes, Summer is coming, and I’m sure you’ll see it in.

  • TommyGun 09/09/2019, 4:44 am

    Hey Jack!
    Wonderful to read your latest update.
    I was cringing while reading about how bad you felt and I was afraid you were going to give up the chemo for good. But, in the end you proved that you are made of tough stuff and have decided to go on. Good for you! Don’t give up!
    We are into spring now and summer is not far away.
    Have you had your vitamin D levels checked? (May be low due to winter.)


    • Jack Richards 09/09/2019, 9:45 am

      TG. I spend as much time as possible outside and get a pretty good dose of sunshine when it’s available. One of the side effects of the chemo I’m on is that it affects one’s skin and make it susceptible to sunburn rather than tanning. I’m supposed to cover-up and use plenty of sunscreen.

      I’ll stick with the chemo for as long as possible. I’ve just got to focus on the fact that feeling pretty terrible is a much better thing than being dead – though that is a bit hard to do at times. There’s nothing that abrades one’s resolve away like a week or more of constant nausea and vomiting. I am getting some more powerful anti-nausea medication so I’m hoping that will control the problem in the future.

  • Pensioner Pete 09/09/2019, 6:32 am

    Thank you for the updates Jack. As you say, what can one say about this battle of yours? Keep on battling, keep on writing and keep on being here.

    As others and said, most of us have either been on such a journey or have family and or friends who have fought or are fighting similar battles.

    My 72 yo neighbor for instance is traveling the path of chemo, then radiation and has done so since early this year, (breast and thyroid cancer) she doesn’t travel back and forth each fortnight for her dose, she remains in Brisbane some 1200 kilometres from home, and will be there until close to years end with a hope she may be home for Christmas Day at least, she has her moments and often sounds a bit crook, but is hanging in there. Her friends and neighbors and friends have rallied round and are taking care of her gardens and cats, making sure all is well at her home to ease her concerns. This is the advantage of living in a small bush town.

    My shearer mate is back from the Big Smoke from his few months of chemo (stomach cancer) and now has the all clear, however he went to Brisbane fit as a Mallee Bull, and now is slowly regaining his strength and is doing his work again at 77 years of age, because he was so fit to begin with the doctors reckon.

    At our age, there are many health issues which plague us, some life threatening and some just niggling away every day to give us the erits, but of it all, like you, we are best to grit our teeth and soldier on, never giving up until our time has come to collect our key for our next phase.

    Thank you again, Jack, for keeping us/me up to date on your journey, it gives me heart and I am sure, gives us the courage to continue, no matter what.

  • Austin Ayforti 09/09/2019, 9:19 am

    Hang in there Jack, thanks for the update. Keep climbing those ladders.

  • nev 09/09/2019, 9:35 am

    Gidday Jack, this is a pretty good news day when all is said and done especially when your Doc put the success of chemo treatment so far, into perspective, very encouraging.
    I suspect the struggle between 7 and 8 has been much tougher than you let on and the prodding along seemed merciless but you still had another go and that’s the measure of fight in a man and it’s paid dividends for you.
    I do wish they could do something about the environment in that bloody chemo room though. Keep warm to day and keep fighting mate.

    • Jack Richards 09/09/2019, 10:36 am

      I guess the lack of entertainment and the bright lights in the day oncology unit is so the nurses can see if anyone changes colour or has a bad reaction to treatment. I’ve found the best thing to do is take a thick and tedious book so that one can read a few pages and then drift off into a doze and thus the time passes more quickly. I have T.E. Lawrence’s “Seven Pillars of Wisdom” to read on Wednesday. It’s Lawrence of Arabia’s autobiography of his adventures leading the Arab uprising against the Turks during WW1. It’s actually quite interesting. Nothing much has changed in Arabia in a century it would seem.

      I’d hoped for some decent weather so I could finish getting these battens in place. There’s just one last piece that I’ll need to rivet and then tec-screw into place. It’s bright and sunny but a strong wind is blowing. I don’t think I’ll chance being 3-4 metres up a ladder until the wind dies away.

  • ibbit 09/09/2019, 12:56 pm

    Hi Jack, so far, so good. The rotten times you have after chemo have resulted in improvement, although you probably would not have thought that possible when so ill and frightened at times after the chemo.
    I remember reading a comment in our local paper from our federal political representative of the time about having broken his leg while in the US, landing in hospital for treatment and care. His comment on return was that he was glad to be back in a country with second to none health care. Was a change from hearing him lambast the then government about being determined to dismantle the system.

  • Botswana O'Hooligan 09/09/2019, 2:08 pm

    G’day Jack,
    You know, I used to think that the ANZACS were tough, and in particular the Light Horsemen tough because their mothers were terrible bloody cooks and if they could survive the tucker their mothers dished up they could survive anything, and they did! That was true of my mob anyway and I always maintained that my mother served her time as a dog poisoner for the Cloncurry Shire Council as did Grandmother, so maybe your mob had cooks like that for you are certainly hanging in there. Stay tough mate. Regds fm Bill

  • Neville 10/09/2019, 1:09 am

    Wonderful to hear from you again Jack! Hang in there, please – we all do want to hear from you again!! [grin]
    About the cost of the medication – J*sus Bloody Ch#i&t!!
    Yes – wonderful to be a part of this country!!

  • Pensioner Pete 17/12/2019, 7:34 am

    Best wishes Jack and I am grateful for the time you spend here uplifting our knowledge with your literary excellence.

    Have you tried the ‘magic’ oil, as in Rick Simpson style? Great for pain relief, and many swear by it’s ability to heal.

    • Susie 18/12/2019, 8:34 am

      PP. My cancer (Lymphoma) returned a third time and I got onto the ‘magic oil’. It has completely gotten rid of it! It is truly astounding! Cured a few other things that were wrong as well. The whole process only took a few weeks.
      Very best wishes Jack. Keep fighting and writing.

  • Eliza 17/12/2019, 8:01 am

    Like PP said, your writing imparts so much knowledge and is always uplifting and because of your honesty such a help to those who have been through or going through your latest walk in life.
    Thanks must also be given to your family for being there for you, Bless them all.
    Take care and enjoy each day as it comes.

  • DT 17/12/2019, 9:07 am

    Best wishes Jack.

    I have spent since August 2018 as volunteer carer for an elderly friend because her closest family members live interstate and have commitments, but I am retired. I have taken my friend on visits to family and to meet a long list of friends who have been friends since boarding school.

    My friend is now in palliative care in a nursing home assessed by NSW Health as a high care patient as she fades away from lung cancer, she has never smoked. Treatment commenced with chemotherapy and by January 2019 the Oncologist told us that her cancer activity had slowed, and when I used the word he had used during the previous appointment “contained” he replied “better than contained”. So until late July apart from a blood test, a scan and a visit to the Oncologist every two months and some aches and pains and other symptoms relating to the cancer, no chemotherapy.

    During August immunotherapy treatment was commenced because there was an indication that the cancer was active again. After treatment every 2 weeks by mid-October there was a loss of mobility, falling over even when using walking aids until I purchased a wheelchair for her and no appetite for food and she was admitted to hospital. Early in November she was admitted for permanent care in the nursing home which I visit to see her daily.

    Therefore, Jack, I really do understand your predicament and trust that you will be able to enjoy Christmas as comfortably as possible.

    Thank you for sharing your journey with us.

  • Botswana O'Hooligan 17/12/2019, 4:29 pm

    Good to hear you are still with us Jack, keep fighting mate. They gave me bad news yesterday about another cancer on my face that bolted and after the operation tomorrow I am going to need plastic surgery and felt pretty bad about that, but reading your notes this morning bucked me up a lot for I continue to survive. Thanks Jack, maybe we can team up and haunt houses or something but I am looking forward to hearing about a big trout you catch in Tassie next year. They are a bit backward down there and do not allow the use of Alfred Nobel’s expanding bait so remember that and use a grenade instead.

  • Botswana O'Hooligan 17/12/2019, 4:44 pm

    Am looking forward to hearing about a giant trout you are going to catch in Tassie Jack, just the FNQ measurement of distance between the eyes will do for a measurement mate. Hang in there for you are the Gold standard for stoicism and I am going to remember that tomorrow when they take to me with a knife to cut bits off and do a bit of plastic surgery afterwards to cover their handiwork. The surgeon is a female and left handed at that so in the discussion we had this morning about the procedure I stressed that she abstain from the grog this evening, other carnal stuff and delights as well, a decent night’s sleep to follow, and to wash her hands thoroughly before laying them on me tomorrow. Merry Christmas to you and yours Jack, bye for now. Bill M.

  • ibbit 18/12/2019, 9:47 am

    Jack, you write with such clarity that I am minded of Clive James and his wonderful 2014 poem Japanese Maple:
    I don’t know if this is appropriate, but among other wonderful lines are these -“your death near now, is of an easy sort/ So slow a fading out brings no real pain.” James lived for another six years after writing that.
    Things are not so easy for you, but no doubt there is some sort of hope as opposed to the stoic, almost mystical resignation of James.
    As Botswana writes above – it is to be hoped you catch a really big trout which, would no doubt, be a source of great accomplishment and pleasure.
    My grandfather, a fishermans’s fisherman always said of trout and salmon “they are smart and the catching of one makes me feel smart too.”
    Good luck with your treatment which would make mince meat of some, me included.
    Christmas greetings and happy wishes for 2020

  • John 13/01/2020, 8:22 am

    You wonder what part God plays in this but if he does have a role I,m putting in a prayer for you. And sending you some of my courage and strength for what its worth.

  • Botswana O'Hooligan 13/01/2020, 8:23 am

    Hey Jack, what a tale to sail out on, one we will remember for a long time. I don’t know if you or yours will read this but we live in the Western suburbs of Brisbane and about ten minutes drive from Ipswich so if you or yours want a hand just get Chaucer to contact me and I will do what I can.

  • nev 13/01/2020, 11:46 am

    No Jack the metaphorical well’s far from dry, from our view you leave it chock a block full of the achievements of a life well lived, full of inspiration for your family and those of us who follow who have more and more reminders than we would like, to look at our own fragility.
    Well done mate, Well done!
    Ps like Botswana O’Hooligan, we are not far away in the South East corner So if there is any need for beds, a vehicle or transport feel welcome to contact us likewise via Chaucer.


  • ibbit 13/01/2020, 6:03 pm

    Your God be with your, Jack.

  • ibbit 13/01/2020, 6:04 pm

    Your God be with you, Jack.

  • luk1955 13/01/2020, 10:22 pm

    It sadly looks like the end for you Jack. From reading your notes over the years, you led an interesting life. You had experiences that can only come from living to the fullest your own life. I will miss your entries and hope the end is not too painful for you.

  • Neville 13/01/2020, 11:23 pm

    I want to say ‘hang on’, Jack, and all that stuff. But ‘hang on” is really reserved for those times and situations when there’s something else possible.
    I am so very very sad Jack, that it looks like there’s not a lot that’s possible for you. Sometimes these things ease up, and one may get years; other times they hurry up, and one only has weeks.
    It has been an absolute pleasure for me to be a (small) part of us here at MM who have enjoyed your contributions, your wisdom, your dry humour, and your courage and strength, and a privilege to be able to follow your story. A life well-lived!
    Thank you, Jack! Thank you.
    I most fervently wish you an easy time of it. And maybe later on, you can operate the fickle finger of fate and whack us a message about what it’s like over there!! [grin]
    Yeah, perhaps not, but all the best mate.

  • TommyGun 14/01/2020, 10:28 pm

    I just read Jack’s 10th update.
    Of course I am glad it seems that the fire spared your house, Jack and that you escaped, only to end up in Ipswich. I am sure you would rather be at home. But sometimes life weaves a crazy path.
    When I first stumbled upon Morning Mail I quickly learned to identify with the posters and imagined a little of their lives through their writings. We shared several common themes, not the least of which was a common dislike of one PM Turnbull. The man we loved to hate.
    But I never imagined I would be following the suffering of one of us, described so accurately in the first person. All of us so helpless to help, other than voicing our sorrow. Wishing for a better outcome.
    For what it is worth, Jack, I regard your articles here on MM as literary gems and I will miss more of them. I am sure they are but a thousandth of the complex character that is Jack Richards. I regret I never got to shake your hand.
    In the words of the polar explorer Scott; it seems a great pity but I do not think I can write anymore.

    God Bless,


  • Theydon Wood 21/01/2020, 6:43 am

    RIP Jack

  • DT 21/01/2020, 6:50 am

    Rest In Peace Jack.

  • Peter W 21/01/2020, 6:50 am

    I came in late to your story Jack, but do RIP. You have been an inspiration, Sir!

  • luk1955 21/01/2020, 7:12 am

    I will miss your postings Jack. Too short of a life, but a life well lived and participated in to the fullest. So sad that it has all ended.

  • Honeybadger 21/01/2020, 7:40 am

    Vale Jack, rest in peace. Your commentary was always worth reading. One of the genuine Aussie old timers.

  • Pensioner Pete 21/01/2020, 8:04 am

    Rest in peace Jack, you will be sadly missed.

  • Bushkid 21/01/2020, 8:15 am

    Vale Jack.

  • Botswana O'Hooligan 21/01/2020, 8:23 am

    He has gone to a better place where there is no pain, RIP old fellow.

  • Albert 21/01/2020, 8:34 am

    Rest In Peace Jack.

  • Biking Voter 21/01/2020, 9:05 am

    RIP Jack. I hope there are no governments where you are now.

  • Eliza 21/01/2020, 9:55 am

    R.I.P Jack and what a brave fight to the end. Will miss your wit and wisdom.

  • nev 21/01/2020, 9:58 am

    A man I never met yet seemed to know so well, Rest in peace dear Jack.

  • Karen 21/01/2020, 10:39 am

    Rest in Peace Jack and sincere condolences to your family and friends.
    Your postings will be missed and remembered by many.

  • Neville 21/01/2020, 10:43 am

    You called it, Jack, same as you called so many other things here.
    You said you felt that would be your last post.
    For you, the last post is being heard here.
    Farewell mate.

  • JK. 21/01/2020, 10:54 am

    What sad news, he’ll be missed by so many, at least his pain is over.

  • Aktosplatz 21/01/2020, 7:23 pm

    What a man! What a life lived to the full. God be with you Jack and to your grieving loved ones who you have had to leave behind.

    We never met of course but it has been a real privilege to walk with you via your posts, which I carried with me on my Kindle. Vale Jack.

  • Jarrah 22/01/2020, 8:00 am

    RIP Jack, you have gone to a far better place.

  • crankykoala 22/01/2020, 10:11 am

    Many thanks for all your comments Jack, you will be missed.
    Rest in peace.

  • TommyGun 22/01/2020, 10:47 pm

    I only just now read the news. I am sure he is in a better place now.
    Australia is a poorer place without Jack.
    He especially enriched our lives here on MM.
    A pity we do not have more like him to hold the wastrels and Marxists to account.

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