Michael O'Gorman has survived an advanced form of blood cancer and gone on to compete in triathlons.
Michael O'Gorman has survived an advanced form of blood cancer and gone on to compete in triathlons. Patrick Woods

Ignore your health at your own peril, survivor warns

MICHAEL O'Gorman's stubborn attitude towards his own health nearly cost him his life.

He wouldn't accept that he was sick, instead putting off seeing a doctor for six months after first noticing things weren't right.

It wasn't until he was in agony and couldn't breathe that he went.

By that time he had no choice other than to accept a doctor's diagnosis of advanced stage three myeloma.

The appointment was at 1.20pm on October 21, 2011.

He was in hospital by 3pm that day.

"At the hospital they said 'get your affairs in order'," Mr O'Gorman said.

"They couldn't promise me I would make it to Christmas."

Intensive chemotherapy and radiation therapy began the next day.

"Basically 95% of my bone marrow was diseased."

He had 24 broken bones, including all of his ribs, his sternum and some vertebrae.

The disease had disintegrated them.

His wife Lynne and teenage daughter Taylor helped him through the treatment.

"It was horrible but... as a family we just said no, we are not going to take it.

"We just resolved to stare it down."

Mr O'Gorman was watching the 2012 Olympics in his hospital bed when he made a promise to his teenage daughter Taylor that he would get strong enough to complete the Noosa Triathlon.

He survived a harrowing bone marrow transplant and was able to return home.

His first training session was a run to the end of the driveway and back.

 

Cancer survivor Michael O'Gorman pauses his training for a photo the day before his first Noosa Triathlon in 2013.
Cancer survivor Michael O'Gorman pauses his training for a photo the day before his first Noosa Triathlon in 2013.

He learned to swim and managed to complete the 2013 Noosa Triathlon.

"I didn't come last but I came close to it.

"It was just fun.

"My daughter and wife were right there at the finish line."

The 51-year-old has since competed in various triathlon and ironman events and is currently training for next month's Huskisson Long Course event in New South Wales.

"It's still an affirmation of health," he said of his desire to compete.

The entire journey has been a mental battle.

"Strength of mind, that is the thing that you can control.

"I told myself 'don't be a victim, just be stronger'."

While treatment has saved Mr O'Gorman, not all patients have had success.

Leukaemia Foundation CEO Bill Petch said 829 Queenslanders died from blood cancer in 2015, compared to 610 in 2006 - an increase of more than 35%.

He warned the causes of blood cancer were still largely unknown but an aging population could be playing an important part in the dramatic rise.

"More people than ever are dying of blood cancer and I for one am simply not prepared to sit idly by while the numbers keep heading north," Mr Petch said.

"Despite being the third biggest cause of cancer death in this country, many of us still aren't aware of the disease and the devastating impact it has on families in our communities."

Mr O'Gorman said the Leukaemia Foundation had helped his family with accommodation while he was in hospital.

His advice to other people around his age, particularly men, was to make sure they saw a doctor if something was wrong with their health.

"Five minutes could have saved me a lot of grief.

"It just got worse and I just kept thinking it would get better and it never did."


Splendid support grants

Splendid support grants

Splendour grants abound

Byron Shire builders win big

Byron Shire builders win big

Master Builders recognition for Byron Shire

Going above and beyond for Vets Without Borders

Going above and beyond for Vets Without Borders

Local vet volunteers in India

Local Partners