Sur­vivors En­joy­ing life

LifeStyle Wimmera - - INSIDE - By Dean Law­son

As a so­ci­ety we are prob­a­bly guilty of over-us­ing the term ‘sur­vivor’ when de­scrib­ing a re­silient in­di­vid­ual. While peo­ple who make it through an en­vi­ron­ment of war or ma­jor dis­as­ter are ob­vi­ous sur­vivors, we of­ten give the same la­bel to in­di­vid­u­als who en­dure up­heaval in a tur­bu­lent work en­vi­ron­ment or main­tain their place at the top of some so­cial or po­lit­i­cal heap.

In the past few years we’ve even gone as far as giv­ing the ti­tle to the win­ners of con­trived tele­vi­sion game shows.

But if we want to find some­one who truly fits the de­scrip­tion of a ‘sur­vivor’ we need look no fur­ther than long-time Hor­sham and Wim­mera com­mu­nity ad­vo­cate Bob Kir­sopp.

Be­yond the ge­nial smiles of Bob and his wife Mavis is a re­mark­able story that in­volves a long-term per­sonal health bat­tle, a bat­tle that has al­lowed the cou­ple to en­joy life into their 80s.

Bob and Mavis are op­ti­mists, and they’ve needed to be con­sid­er­ing Bob has fought var­i­ous forms of life-threat­en­ing cancer for more than 30 years.

Bob is a cancer sur­vivor, hav­ing beaten the odds not only once but three times, and he only needs to con­sider the num­bers if he ever needs re­mind­ing about his luck in life.

“Way back in 1986 at Peter Maccal­lum Cancer Cen­tre in Mel­bourne I was one of 232 ini­tial pa­tients. Now, I’m the only one left,” he said.

Bob and Mavis are fa­mil­iar across the re­gion, Bob as a Hor­sham coun­cil­lor for nine years, in­clud­ing two in the 1970s as mayor, and Mavis as a civil cel­e­brant for 35 years and re­spon­si­ble for mar­ry­ing close to 2000 peo­ple, as well as be­ing a Jus­tice of the Peace.

The pair also es­tab­lished Hor­sham Lawn­mower Cen­tre be­fore Bob took up a handy­man role in re­tire­ment, zip­ping be­tween jobs in his trade­mark Mini Moke.

The bat­tle with cancer started in Oc­to­ber, 1986, when Bob sought treat­ment for pain in his right shoul­der.

An x-ray and tests re­vealed cancer in the right lung, which prompted a three-month, five-day weekly course of ra­dio­ther­apy. He had a to­tal of 36 doses of ra­di­a­tion.

Bob said af­ter his ini­tial treat­ment he was told to go home and put his af­fairs in or­der.

“I was given six months to live,” he said. “And the ques­tion I asked my­self as I got closer to the date was ‘am I go­ing to be here to­mor­row?’

“At the same time Mavis tried to keep home life as nor­mal as pos­si­ble.”

Three-monthly check-ups turned to six­monthly check-ups and ex­tended to an­nual tests which con­tin­ued un­til 2014, 27 years af­ter the ini­tial di­ag­no­sis.

But there were oth­ers is­sues. In 2010

Bob was back get­ting ra­dio­ther­apy to treat skin cancer on his face and in 2014, af­ter a colonoscopy, was di­ag­nosed with bowel cancer. He un­der­went surgery fol­lowed by about five months of chemo­ther­apy.

And to com­pli­cate mat­ters fur­ther, Mavis, Bob’s back­stop through­out his health dra­mas, also be­came ill.

“You know through it all Mavis has been the bul­let-proof one, a great carer, and sud­denly she has a heart at­tack,” Bob said.

Mavis is still re­cov­er­ing from her ill­ness, adding that it has been Bob’s turn to ‘come to the party’.

“Now I have to do as I’m told,” she said.

Stay­ing in­volved

The Kir­sopps put down their suc­cess to ris­ing above cir­cum­stances to main­tain­ing strong con­nec­tions with peo­ple and ‘stay­ing in­volved’.

“One of the things Bob did for any­one go­ing through a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion and need­ing sup­port, in­for­ma­tion or some­one sim­ply to talk to, was make him­self avail­able,” Mavis said.

Bob said he trav­elled all over the place and some­times made re­turn vis­its. “I’d say

‘be pos­i­tive and look at me’ while per­haps ex­plain­ing var­i­ous as­pects of treat­ment,” he said.

“You have to be in­volved in peo­ple and projects. For 21 years I was an area co­or­di­na­tor for Neigh­bour­hood Watch. You can’t just sit around and feel sorry for your­self. I have a say­ing: live today and let to­mor­row take care of it­self’ and I stick by that. You just have to make the most of ev­ery day.”

The Kir­sopps have joined a com­mu­nity cho­rus in cel­e­brat­ing news that Hor­sham will be­come home to a new Wim­mera Cancer Cen­tre.

They agreed one of the worst as­pects of un­der­go­ing cancer treat­ment was spend­ing hours on the road trav­el­ling.

“All that go­ing back­wards and for­wards takes its toll. What’s hap­pen­ing is bril­liant. The worst parts are be­fore and af­ter treat­ment,” Bob said.

“I be­lieve it’s the great­est thing that’s hap­pened in Hor­sham for many years,” Mavis added. “The hope is that it can even­tu­ally evolve, in the long-term, from a respite and care cen­tre into a full-on treat­ment cen­tre. That would be fan­tas­tic.”

With both reach­ing an age of 82, Bob and Mavis are more than sur­vivors. They are also ex­am­ples of why it’s al­ways good to fight a good fight.

Bob and Mavis Kir­sopp

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