Can­cer fighter

Western Suburbs Weekly - - News - By DENISE S. CAHILL

FOR­MER Su­bi­aco Busi­ness As­so­ci­a­tion (now West­ern Sub­urbs Busi­ness As­so­ci­a­tion) pres­i­dent Ge­off Par­nell was un­der­go­ing a rou­tine check-up last year when doc­tors dis­cov­ered he had oe­sophageal can­cer.

The Floreat res­i­dent was forced to face his own mor­tal­ity and told to clear his di­ary for the next six months so he could have life-saving surgery. Mr Par­nell shared his story with the West­ern Sub­urbs

Weekly to warn peo­ple about the silent symp­toms and ed­u­cate them about easy and early de­tec­tion.

IN May last year, Ge­off Par­nell re­ceived news that forced him to face his own mor­tal­ity.

The for­mer Su­bi­aco Busi­ness As­so­ci­a­tion (now West­ern Sub­urbs Busi­ness As­so­ci­a­tion) pres­i­dent and Hames Sharley ar­chi­tect was given two weeks to clear his di­ary for the next six months at least.

The Floreat man was di­ag­nosed with oe­sophageal can­cer fol­low­ing a reg­u­lar five-yearly check up with his Su­bi­aco doc­tor.

As well as the rou­tine tests, the doc­tor sug­gested the 65-year-old have a colonoscopy and en­doscopy but th­ese tests would have to wait un­til Mr Par­nell and his wife Yvonne re­turned from an over­seas hol­i­day.

“They don’t nor­mally do the en­doscopy but my GP asked if I suf­fered from heart­burn and in­di­ges­tion, which I did,” he said.

“Three days after I got back I had both tests. The doc­tor thought I had oe­sophageal can­cer. It was a real shock con­sid­er­ing all the other tests were good.

“Within a week it was con­firmed and they needed to op­er­ate. I had no symp­toms and that’s one of the prob­lems with this type of can­cer.”

Mr Par­nell was told to can­cel everything for the next six months to pre­pare for the key­hole surgery at Fiona Stan­ley Hos­pi­tal.

It does make you think about what's im­por­tant in life. – Ge­off Par­nell

“I stepped down from the SBA (now WSBA) and took a leave of ab­sence from a num­ber of boards,” he said.

“Within a week I had a clear di­ary,” he said.

The 10-hour surgery puts more stress on the body and organs than hav­ing an open­heart trans­plant.

It in­volves tak­ing away half the stom­ach and cut­ting out part of the oe­soph­a­gus plagued by can­cer and then sta­pling the healthy part of the oe­soph­a­gus to the stom­ach.

The op­er­a­tion has a high mor­tal­ity rate be­cause it in­volves col­laps­ing a lung.

“I went through those thoughts of re­assess­ing what I’ve done in my life,” Mr Par­nell said.

“It does make you think about what’s im­por­tant in life.”

Fol­low­ing the surgery in June last year, Mr Par­nell lost 15kg in three weeks be­cause he could only eat baby food.

While he is back to solid foods now, beer is off the menu along with acidic and gassy foods like to­mato and broc­coli.

This meant the Par­nells threw a cou­ple of din­ner par­ties in the lead-up to the surgery to get through their wine cel­lar.

“Our friends ap­pre­ci­ated that,” Mrs Par­nell said.

Since the di­ag­no­sis, the Par­nells have im­plored their friends to get an en­doscopy and five out of the 20 who have, were found to have Bar­rett’s Oe­soph­a­gus that can lead to oe­sophageal can­cer.

Mr Par­nell is back on a few boards now but is “look­ing for dif­fer­ent chal­lenges” th­ese days.

WHAT would you do if you po­ten­tially had just two weeks to live? That is what Floreat res­i­dent Ge­off Par­nell faced last year when he was di­ag­nosed with oe­sophageal can­cer and told he had to un­dergo risky, but life-saving surgery two weeks later. Ge­off felt it was im­por­tant he was at peace with what he had achieved in life and the per­son he was. Now that he’s come through the op­er­a­tion and in gen­er­ally good health, he’s con­tin­ued to sim­ply be happy with who he is, what he’s achieved and en­sures he’s pas­sion­ate about his next chal­lenges. In this is­sue, Ge­off shares his story to warn oth­ers about the dan­gers of oe­sophageal can­cer and the im­por­tance of early di­ag­no­sis. His story also serves as a re­minder of the value of be­ing at peace with our­selves and our lives, re­gard­less of whether we’re fac­ing our own mor­tal­ity or not. Denise S. Cahill - Ed­i­tor

Pic­ture: An­drew Ritchie d460904

Ge­off Par­nell tells his story.

Pic­ture: An­drew Ritchie

FORM project of­fi­cer Ju­liana do Valle at the Sta­tion Mas­ter’s House and Goods Shed.

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