Brad Walker was stuck in traffic and in pain from a toothache when he looked up and saw a sign for a local dentist. It was a stroke of luck and the start of a journey seeking treatment for not just his toothache but also undiagnosed head and neck cancer.
“I have a mate in Sydney who works in the dental industry. Coming home from work one arvo I called him as I had a crook tooth I knew needed to be pulled out. I rang him to ask if he knew a good dentist on the Central Coast. Turned out he did. The only problem was he couldn’t remember the name and would have to get back to me. I read out a name and asked if that was it. ‘Yeah’, he said, ‘How did you know that?’ I said, ‘You’re not going to believe this but I’m stuck in a traffic jam and looking at their office window as we speak, and have been for this whole discussion.’
Brad had the troublesome tooth removed and the dentist recommended he come back to have some further work done. So, two days later he was back in the chair. The first thing the oral hygienist noticed was a sore under his tongue which he’d had for about 10 years. “It hadn’t given me any grief so I’d just been ignoring it,” says Brad.
She insisted Brad see an oral surgeon for a biopsy. The results came back showing that he had a malignant tumour. She referred Brad to Professor Jonathan Clark at the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse in Sydney.
“Two weeks later I was under the knife, eight days later I was released early for good behaviour. That was a Friday, and on the Monday Lifehouse called to say the pathology was back and it hadn’t spread. So, from discovery to cure was only eight weeks,” says Brad.
Brad grew up in Bondi, spending every waking moment outside of school surfing and fishing from the age of 10. He now lives at Saratoga on the Central Coast and has become friends with the local birds, discovering an affinity with all things avian.
“I formed a relationship with a Kookaburra (Boss). He then bought around his mate. These two became quite comfortable visiting every arvo for a feed and a chat. This is year five and we are now up to four generations and expecting the next at the beginning of January,” says Brad.
Brad set up a blog (bradsburras.blogspot.com.au) about his bird feeding station (the Tapas Bar) and birdbath (the Tranquility Pool). A GoPro camera on the edge of the tapas bar allows Brad to take close-up photos of the birds feeding and squabbling.
“I take some pretty unusual photos. I’ve joined a bird forum on Facebook and would be one of their top posters. All my birds now have names and personalities. When I post a photo I write a short humorous story or comment to give the photo character,” says Brad.
Brad has been documenting his experience with cancer and hopes he might be able to help others about to start their journey.
“I want to alleviate some of the fear and anxiety others would be going through,” says Brad.
“I thought it would be a terrible experience, but it’s been nothing like I thought it would be and three weeks later I’m back at work.”