When Brendon was diagnosed with myxoid liposarcoma in April this year, his first priority was his family.
“I’m a father of two beautiful boys and married to my beautiful wife Luisa who is my rock. I’m blessed with a twin brother and the best parents anyone could ask for or have.”
This priority was a saving grace when the 32-year-old Greystanes local first noticed a lump on his thigh which kept getting larger. After visiting a GP on 2 March 2015 and undergoing an ultrasound and MRI scan, Brendon learned that a mass in between the skin and fatty tissue had been discovered. A referral to a specialist on 24 March 2015 confirmed it was a tumour that would have to be removed with surgery.
“As I walked out of his office it hit me for the next few days and all I could think about was my morality and my kids. I didn’t sleep a wink and when I did sleep I would wake up and be dripping with sweat.”
The chef was admitted for surgery on 1 April 2015 at Sydney’s Royal Prince Alfred hospital with his mum and wife Luisa by his side.
“That morning at 5am I woke up and kissed my boys goodbye. I was an absolute mess but I kept it together because I knew it wouldn’t do any good. Once there I was absolutely petrified as it was the first time I had ever been into a hospital and that’s when it hit me that this was real.”
The surgery lasted for just over two-and-a-half-hours with the surgeon removing the 10cm tumour plus 8cm of margins from his thigh including nerves, lymph nodes and muscle. Brendon spent the next three days in hospital.
“I was discharged on Good Friday and told that my PET scan was clear except for the tumour in my leg. I spent the next few weeks bedridden at home in a lot of pain, just watching TV and trying to sleep.”
18 days after surgery, Brendon learnt what the tumour was.
“I remember walking into the clinic with expectations that my doctor would tell me that everything was fine and that I’d just have to recover and get back to normal life. But he told me that the results had come back from the pathologist and the tumour was cancer.”
Brendon was diagnosed with myxoid liposarcoma, a rare type of soft-tissue cancer that occurs in approximately one in 100,000 people.
“I couldn’t believe it. I remember sitting there with my family thinking ‘wow this is surreal, this is not happening. I’m Brendon and I can’t get cancer, this isn’t how it’s supposed to go. I’ve got family, I’m young, I have everything ahead of me’.”
After further MRI and CT scans, Brendon was referred to an oncologist to commence radiation treatment starting on 1 June 2015.
“I had seven weeks of intense radiation and 37 treatments in total. I was pretty scared but realised I was in good hands.”
Despite the support of staff and family, the daily 45 minute sessions of radiation took its toll on Brendon.
“With the first week down I realised how tired and lethargic I was. Over the following weeks and especially in my last two weeks the radiation burn started to get progressively worse. It started to spread out reaching down past my 13cm scar and all the way around my inner and outer thigh, pushing up in between my groin and closer to my reproductive organs. I had to dress my leg twice a day to eliminate the pain and irritation from the burning sensation from the radiation.”
For Brendon, receiving the all-clear on 11 September 2015 was one of the most important days in his cancer journey.
Brendon also wants to raise awareness of cancer symptoms in men who often ignore their health.
“I just want to make young men aware that it’s important we don’t think we’re bullet proof and we go see the doctor straight away when we discover something that’s not right. Don’t think to yourself ‘nah she’ll be right’ because sometimes it can be too late.”
Brendon will need a PET scan and CT scan every three months for the next two years to monitor reoccurrence.
“I was told that the survival rate is 80 per cent with a 20 per cent chance that the tumour can reoccur. To go through something like this wasn’t my choice and it’s always at the back of my head but I’m very positive and that’s all I can be. I have been blessed with a beautiful family and I will never give up.”