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Couple's tribute to beautiful son lost to cancer

Ipswich couple Michael and Sally McAuliffe are taking part in the Tour de Cure cycling event next month to raise money for cancer research and awareness.
Ipswich couple Michael and Sally McAuliffe are taking part in the Tour de Cure cycling event next month to raise money for cancer research and awareness. Rob Williams
Conor McAuliffe died from cancer at age three. Photo: Contributed
Conor McAuliffe died from cancer at age three. Photo: Contributed Contributed

CONOR McAuliffe was a happy, gorgeous boy who rode his bike, loved rocks, made everyone smile and aspired to be the fifth Wiggle - a green one - when he grew up.

But just after his second birthday Conor's life and the lives of his family jolted to a halt.

They were in New Zealand where his orthopaedic surgeon father Michael was on a scholarship.

"Conor said he had a sore tummy, Mick felt his liver and it was quite large and within a day he was diagnosed with hepatoblastoma (liver cancer)," Michael's wife Sally said.

"So we moved, within a day, back to Australia because we had no family or friends over there and he had 15 months of treatment which involved chemotherapy, an operation which removed 70% of his liver and all that goes with that. His odds kept changing but they were basically 50-50."

But despite a naturally positive nature and his family's endless love, Conor's tumour stopped responding to treatment.

"In July 2006 they said there was nothing else they could offer him and 10 days later he passed away," Sally said.

"Until he'd gone I thought someone would come through the door with a cure.

"He is missing from our family. All our kids still talk about him. Amelia is three and she's never met him but she woke up sobbing and I said: 'What's wrong?' She said: 'I'm so sad; I just want Conor'.

"Things might change as you move along but I don't ever think you move on."

Michael and Sally asked the questions people in similar positions put to themselves - Why him? Why us? Why?

"Something we didn't realise is the difference between being told someone's going to die and actually dying," Michael said.

"It's that whole removal of hope I suppose - and happiness."

Sally and Michael have been involved in the Tour de Cure since 2011 when Michael rode the 10-day tour from Sydney to Melbourne.

Next month they will be riding in Conor's memory but also for people undergoing cancer treatment and those who have lost their lives to cancer.

"Being involved in the whole process from treatment to Conor dying gives you the motivation to just do your bit," Michael said.

"We have received tremendous support from so many different people and I think it's because cancer is so wide-reaching."

As an "on and off rider", Sally admits she is dreading the ride but knows it is all about Conor and other cancer sufferers.

"As everyone says, four days on the bike is nothing compared to cancer treatment," Sally said.

"I think we always knew we would do something that meant that he hadn't died for nothing.

"He was only three but he's still influencing people's lives despite the fact he's not here."

Mick and Sally McAuliffe are taking part in the 'Tour de Cure' cycling event to raise money for cancer. Their three-year-old son Conor (right) died from cancer. Other kids Isaac and Phoebe in the photo. Photo: Contributed
Mick and Sally McAuliffe are taking part in the 'Tour de Cure' cycling event to raise money for cancer. Their three-year-old son Conor (right) died from cancer. Other kids Isaac and Phoebe in the photo. Photo: Contributed Contributed

Riding for a Cause

Tour de Cure is a cycling foundation dedicated to raising funds and awareness in the fight against cancer.

Tour de Cure's second country tour will be held from August 27-31 with 28 men and women riding 520km from the Gold Coast stopping at Beaudesert, Warwick, Esk and Brisbane.

Sally and Michael will be joined in their Ipswich team by Martin McBain, Troy Mayes and Paul Langton.

Every rider doing the Tour has to raise a minimum of $5000 and to help the Ipswich riders reach this, go to tourdecure.com.au

Good Life Health Club is running a fundraising cycle class on Wednesday, July 24.

Sally and Michael are also hosting a Mulled Wine and Curry Night on July 27 from 7pm at Ipswich Girls' Grammar School with tickets $75.

For more details and bank details for direct deposit email sallymick@hotmail.com

Topics:  cancer tour de cure


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