This is an edited speech given by Gail O’Brien at the launch of Stage One of our neurosurgical services at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse.
Eight years ago, my husband Chris O’Brien, a surgeon and humanitarian, succumbed to the brain cancer that he had been diagnosed with two and a half years earlier.
Support from generous donors like you has allowed us to begin neurosurgery and it gives me pleasure to commemorate the launch of neurosurgical services at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse.
It has been an arduous journey, bringing together an enormous number of dedicated and passionate people from all walks of life, working together for a noble cause. What a rare privilege to be part of this creative process and to continue to shape its future.
Chris O’Brien Lifehouse is my husband’s legacy, born as much as anything out of his own personal experience, having crossed the black line from doctor to patient. The day of his diagnosis is still crystal clear in my mind. I recall his escalating crippling headache, nausea, vomiting, confusion, visual impairment… and panic.
After a CT scan late that afternoon, a young neurosurgical registrar named Dr Brindha Shivalingam came with Chris’s great friend, Prof Michael Besser, to deliver the news to us.
Although 10 years ago, I can still feel the unspoken pleading in my eyes as they connected to hers: “We can treat it, but it is not curable” she said.
Despite my own health background, I could not absorb what she was saying.
And here we are eight years later. Although not overtly, we are still recovering from his illness and death. That is how it is with brain cancer.
Neurosurgery marks a significant turning point in the treatment and care of people with brain cancer at Lifehouse. We have come full circle.
The brilliant medical care that Chris received gave him precious time which he used to live, love and to leverage support for his dream of an easy-to-navigate comprehensive cancer centre to support patients through their treatment. It would be focused on holistic, compassionate care and underpinned by research and complementary therapies.
Chris knew this would be the key to unlocking better outcomes for the cancer he had – and for all cancers. In my role as Patient Advocate I am privileged to just be with our patients and families as they receive the same news that Chris and I did. We provide a safe haven.
I would like to thank you, our generous donors, for your courage and determination to take the tide at the flood and take the current as it serves so that we may achieve our venture.
Thanks to friends like you, our neurosurgical team is meeting a vital need. But for Stage Two of our service development, we still need to raise more than $395,340 for additional equipment such as the Jackson Table with 360° axis rotational capability, allowing our surgeons to best position patients for complicated neurosurgery.