Booragoon resident Peter Symonds will have a lot to reflect on as he slogs through the 12km HBF Run for a Reason at the end of the month.
Diagnosed with throat cancer in January 2015 and jobless a month later when his employer went into liquidation, Mr Symonds and wife Kirsten embarked on the hardest year of their lives.
After enduring 33 doses of radiation to defeat the disease in his neck, doctors discovered a neuroendocrine tumour on Mr Symonds’ pancreas. A successful September operation provided hope, but was dashed when scans revealed the cancer had spread throughout his abdomen.
The community, including parents from Brentwood Primary where the Symonds send their children Amy and Lee to, rallied around the family in their time of need, providing home cooked meals, collecting the kids from school and even organising a complete backyard blitz for the couple.
All the while Mr Symonds refused to give up his fight, rewarded with the first real good news of his battle when he learned about peptide receptor radionuclide therapy after requesting to see a second oncologist midway through 2016.
The treatment, also known as lutate, involves injecting radioactive particles into the blood, which latch onto and slow the growth of tumours from the inside. It is available for patients with neuroendocrine cancer through a free trial run out of Fiona Stanley Hospital but because of Mr Symonds’ previous throat cancer diagnosis he was ineligible to take part.
Instead, because the procedure is not covered by Medicare or private health insurance, the Symonds have been forced to fork out $9000 for each injection carried out at Hollywood Hospital – three so far, with up to two more to come.
“People say I’m unlucky but I consider myself one of the lucky ones – I’ve got great family that has helped to pay for the treatment, great friends and great support,” Mr Symonds said.
“I’ve done three rounds so far and I’m about to start a fourth. “You do 14 days of chemotherapy and right in the middle you have one of the radiation injections.
“The last time I went in for scans they told me the two tumours on my liver have gone completely, and the ones around my femur and lymph nodes had shrunk a lot too.
“It’s not over or anything like that, the doctors are very optimistic and it’s all positive but I’m definitely not one for mouthing off until you’re finished.”
Mr Symonds will have only just completed the fourth round of treatment when he takes part in the HBF Run for a Reason on May 28 but he is not letting that get in the way of his training as he sets out to raise $10,000 for Cancer Council WA.
“I did the 4km Run for a Reason last year and it was a big deal for me because I had lost so much muscle,” he said.
“I remember when I first started exercising I was struggling to curl a 1kg dumb bell – I had nothing.
“It was only 4km but at the end of it I had a bit of a cry because I couldn’t believe I had made it.”
Mr Symonds followed up that effort with the 12km City to Surf last August and is now stepping up his training a few weeks out from the event.
“There are two paths you can take,” he said.
“After diagnosis I could have gone and sat in my chair at home and just faded away and my kids would have been in there every night watching me.
“I didn’t want them one day to be saying ‘Remember Dad? He just sat in that chair, he was so sick, poor Dad.’ I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me.
“Right at the start I said I’m giving this a crack, I’m not sitting around.
“It’s almost like a competition – there is this thing inside me trying to kill me and I’m just not going to let it. If it does get me, it’s got a major fight on its hands.”
This article originally appeared in Melville Times on May 8 2017