FOR Aidan Walsh, launching his debut novel at the Newcastle Writers Festival in April was the ultimate ending to an incredibly challenging chapter of his life.
The Mayfield father was diagnosed with Grade 2 astrocytoma – a form of brain cancer that typically affects children – after collapsing at work last year.
At the time, his wife was six months pregnant with their third child.
“I delayed my chemo for a couple of weeks, so that my wife could have a c-section and I could handle the baby,” Mr Walsh said.
“I think it was probably good that I was busy, to be honest.
“It was frantic, and it was stressful, but in many ways I think that was a good thing because I didn’t have much choice but to get going again.”
Going through cancer treatment had made him more determined to chase his dreams.
Writing had been a comforting escape.
“I just felt, and indeed feel, that I needed to forge on,” he said. “To get as much writing done as possible. To get the book out there. To relish what I can in the every-day. To do what I can to provide for my family and to enjoy their company.”
The opportunity to publish, and then launch, his first fantasy novel, The Game Bird – surrounded by his wife Libby, and children Freya, Felix, and baby Odette – had been “amazing.”
The fact that positive reviews for the book were beginning to roll in made it all the better.
But Mr Walsh doubted it would have happened so soon without the support of the Mark Hughes Foundation.
“They have been a huge source of strength, support and practical help over the past year,” he said.
“The thing they do that is really fantastic is sponsor brain care coordinators, and their job is to project-manage your illness.
“So rather than you getting bumped around from specialist to specialist, and repeating yourself millions of times, you’ve got this great central point of contact. I dealt with Sandy Nixon. She was really helpful.
“They come to most of your appointments to help you organise things. It would have been such a lonely experience in the old days without that.”
Mr Walsh urged people to support the Mark Hughes Foundation’s Beanie For Brain Cancer campaign. Beanies are on sale now.
“They’ve got a mixed focus that’s both strategic and practical,” he said.
“They provide grant money and contribute to a lot of research – because brain cancer survival rates haven’t really improved since the ’80s.
“But they also do a lot of things that help sufferers today.
“They are trying to make a difference in the longer term, as well as right now.”
Mr Walsh, who writes under the name Aidan R. Walsh, said he was grateful the type of cancer he had was slow-growing.
“You can live for quite a long time, but at some point – for reasons they don’t really understand yet, they turn into a glioblastoma multiforme – a really aggressive type of brain tumour, and that can happen very quickly.
“It can be a week, a month, a year, or maybe never.
“The idea of the chemo was that it could possibly delay that transition, but it is all pretty new stuff.
“When brain cancer is the single biggest killer of children of all cancers, I think there is a pretty compelling argument that it is underfunded.”
The Mark Hughes Foundation will contribute $2.5 million to the Australian Brain Cancer Mission, which aims to double the rate of survival in the next 10 years.
The Turnbull Government has committed to matching fundraising dollar for dollar, up to $5 million, to support the medical research.
Visit markhughesfoundation.com.au to buy a beanie.
“When brain cancer is the single biggest killer of children of all cancers, I think there is a pretty compelling argument that it is underfunded.”- Aidan Walsh, of Mayfield