Lymphoma just another hurdle for Ron
Ron Thomas had to start again after losing everything in Cyclone Tracy, so news that he had cancer was just another hurdle to jump. In fact, he endeavoured to make a joke of his diagnosis with non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) five years ago, his attitude being: “To hell with this thing that had the audacity to stick its nose into my life.”
“The determination to defeat it has become part of my life and each six-monthly check up helps to put it behind me,” said Ron, 81, of Tumbling Waters in the Northern Territory.
Ron was captain of the Berry Springs Volunteer Bushfire Brigade when in early June 2003 he found he had to push himself to keep going as he had no energy, as well as regular aches and pain. His GP put him through a thorough series of X-rays, scans and blood tests.
“She said my blood count was unsatisfactory and there appeared to be a problem with my lymph nodes,” said Ron who at the time was averaging 14 hours a week on the fire line.
The round trip to Darwin for further tests was 140kms and in early-July he received the results – an enlarged lymph node – and Ron was referred to a specialist at the Royal Darwin Hospital. According to an extract from his diary at the time “The problem is apparently non-Hodgkin lymphoma which is a form of cancer with no cure, but it can be controlled.
“It did not shake me as the symptoms (lack of energy, sweats and itches) indicated something unpleasant.
“I am not about to change my lifestyle in a hurry….I have things to do in the time ahead,” he wrote.
He began chemotherapy in September that year and the day after completing his second round of treatment he received a fire call. He wasn’t able to get the required help so Ron had to get out of bed to attend the fire himself.
“In August 2003 I had 25 skin cancers frozen off my face and arms to add to the misery.”
After four months of chemotherapy Ron was given the ‘all clear’ in December 2003 and again in January 2004 and he has been in remission ever since.
Ron and his wife, Phyllis, recently received a Long Meritorious Service Medal each and life membership for 10 years service as volunteers for the Berry Springs Volunteer Bushfire Brigade.
In his old age and retirement, Ron is “very fit”. He gives talks on fire awareness to hundreds of school children, does inspections and issues permits for the fire brigade, and is looking forward to his 60th wedding anniversary next March.