‘I won’t let can­cer beat me’

The TV vet­eran is stay­ing strong, de­spite doc­tors telling him he had just six to 12 months to live more than a year ago

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With his famous voice just a shadow of it­self af­ter weeks of ra­di­a­tion ther­apy for throat can­cer, TV pi­o­neer Mike Wille­see frankly ad­mits he didn’t ex­pect to be around to see this year’s Mel­bourne Cup.

Yet Mike, 75, has de­fied the death sen­tence doc­tors de­liv­ered to him af­ter he ex­pe­ri­enced stroke-like symptoms dur­ing a trip to Los An­ge­les to in­ter­view Paul Ho­gan in Septem­ber last year, only to later find out he had ter­mi­nal can­cer.

“I went in­side and burst into tears,” he says, ex­plain­ing he main­tained his com­po­sure driving home from the hos­pi­tal, even to the point of phon­ing his PA to tell her to call his five grown chil­dren to break the ter­ri­ble news.

“My big­gest fear driving home from that di­ag­no­sis was how to tell my chil­dren and what would hap­pen when I told them. I didn’t want to crack in front of them and that’s what I felt like do­ing driving home.”

It was a ter­ri­ble day for this le­gend of Aus­tralian TV, who hosted A Current Af­fair, Four Cor­ners and This Day Tonight. But he was given just a small glim­mer of hope in the form of a new drug called Keytruda.

“I was one of the ones who ap­peared to have a mirac­u­lous re­sult,” he says of his

ex­pe­ri­ence i with ih the h drug. d “Ih “I had d al lot of f can­cer in my throat, neck and lungs and it all dis­ap­peared. “I was cured – if you like to use that word dan­ger­ously with can­cer.” That in­cred­i­ble mo­ment when he was given the all-clear was to be short-lived how­ever, with new tu­mours dis­cov­ered weeks later. Still, this time doc­tors were con­fi­dent they could shrink the tu­mours with ra­di­a­tion and give Mike an­other chance at life. “The prog­no­sis now is rea­son­ably good. They can’t be sure but they’re pretty con­fi­dent they’ll beat the next round,” he says. “I’m in a much bet­ter place than I was 12 months ago. I didn’t re­ally have a fu­ture then and I do now, so that’s progress!” It sounds like a mir­a­cle, but Mike, a once-lapsed and now devout Catholic again, at­tributes his ex­tra­or­di­nary re­cov­ery to sci­ence rather than a greater power. “Not once did I think I had ex­pe­ri­enced a mir­a­cle,” he says. “Other peo­ple were get­ting great benefits from these new drugs and I thought I was just lucky I was one who ben­e­fited.”

And he con­sid­ers him­self an ex­pert on mir­a­cles af­ter spend­ing the past 20 years re­search­ing them and other su­per­nat­u­ral phe­nom­e­non af­ter pro­duc­ing Signs From God for Fox in 1999 – a doc­u­men­tary watched by 29 mil­lion peo­ple.

“It’s the best story I’ve ever cov­ered, with as­tound­ing re­sults and I want to write it,” Mike says, ex­plain­ing he’s so con­fi­dent of his fu­ture now he’s signed to write a book about his re­search into the su­per­nat­u­ral.

This week he launches the bi­og­ra­phy he started writ­ing when he thought he was about to die late last year, de­tail­ing more than 50 years as one of Aus­tralia’s most famous TV jour­nal­ists, cov­er­ing wars and famines and in­ter­view­ing prime min­is­ters, mur­der­ers, dic­ta­tors and s some of the world’s big­gest stars. He knocked David Bowie back for d din­ner, was courted by Ru­pert Mur­doch a and Kerry Packer, and made a for­tune p pi­o­neer­ing FM ra­dio, be­fore set­ting u up horse stud, which made him even m more fab­u­lously rich. He hap­pily ad­mits to be­ing sacked by chan­nels Nine and T Ten – and twice by the ABC. The thrice-mar­ried father-of-six, in in­clud­ing youngest child, Rok, 13, and g grand­fa­ther to 11 says he finds it hard to re­gret be­cause his mis­takes are part of who he is to­day. Nat­u­rally, how­ever, h he wishes his painful mar­riage break-ups ha hadn’t hap­pened. “I re­gret them but I don’t seek a magic wa wand to change them,” he says, adding th that he gave up on find­ing love af­ter the break­down of his re­la­tion­ship with Rok’s mum Gor­dana, who he re­mains close friends with. “Those times have gone,” he says. “I’m in a much bet­ter place than this time last year but I haven’t got long to go and I have a big fam­ily with this great amount of love. “It’s all about look­ing for­ward, see­ing my grand­chil­dren grow, and my chil­dren. I have one who is very young and he gives me a lot of joy and I want to be around for a while, es­pe­cially for him.”

He was the face of the ABC’S Four Cor­ners from 1969 to 1971.

Mem­oirs by Mike Wille­see (Macmil­lan, $44.99) is out this week. A mem­ber of the Lo­gies Hall of Fame, Mike loves spend­ing time with his grand­chil­dren. The TV journo with his sec­ond wife Carol and tod­dler Amy. With his third wife Gor­dana in 2007....

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