‘I have lived with cancer for 30 years’
While Maryborough Military and Colonial Museum owner John Meyers researches history in semi-isolation due to the coronavirus pandemic, he tells the Chronicle his inspiring story of living with cancer for nearly 30 years.
MY CANCER journey started in 1990 when my wife Else and I took our first holiday in New Zealand.
This was about two years after we started a hardwood sawmill at Tiaro, in partnership with long-time friend Garry Dale and his wife Jill.
For a number of years I had suffered with digestive problems and while on the holiday it was worse than usual.
When we got back home I saw the doctor and still vividly remember the shock of receiving the news of cancer, especially as my mother had died of bowel cancer at 60 years of age and at that time I was only 48.
Within three days I was visiting the specialist at the Holy Spirit Hospital at Spring Hill in Brisbane.
He organised the CAT scan that confirmed I had cancer.
He recommended surgery to remove the growth.
Three days later, the surgery was carried out and I will never forget coming out of the aesthetic and asking Else if she knew the results of the surgery.
She burst into tears and said she would leave it to the doctor to tell me.
He said it was Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma and he wouldn’t try to remove it surgically as it was all through the arteries to the bowel, which he’d have to remove.
I was referred to a haematologist and oncologist specialist who visited the same day and recommended that I have at least six rounds of chemotherapy, with one round every three weeks.
He said I had 60 per to 40 per cent chance of living two years.
For the next five months, it was chemotherapy at the Holy Spirit every three weeks.
I recall visiting the specialist after having my first CAT scan in early 1991 to find out if the treatment had been a success.
Else and I were in his office holding hands and we could hear him in the next room shuffling through the X-rays.
He came through the doorway and casually said “it’s gone”.
Else and I just about collapsed on top of one another.
There was oral tablet treatment for the next few months, followed by a visit to the specialist every six months for check-ups until 2003 when the cancer reappeared but not serious as before.
For the previous 15 years I had been the CEO at Dale and Meyers in Tiaro.
Else and I decided to call it quits, bought a caravan and travelled around Australia for the next six months.
On returning to Maryborough in 2004, I was told the cancer was back and I needed another four rounds of the same treatment as in 2003.
Just after this we bought the J.E. Brown building in Wharf St and started the Maryborough Military and Colonial Museum.
In 2006, there was another four rounds of treatment before maintenance treatment of one round every six months at the Mater Hospital in Brisbane.
About 2012 I started having the treatments at St Stephen’s Hospital in Maryborough and after it closed, went to St Stephen’s in Hervey Bay.
The maintenance treatments were successful until 2015 when the cancer came back with a vengeance.
So then it was off to the Wesley Hospital in Brisbane for another six rounds of chemotherapy in the first half of 2016.
During one of these visits I asked the specialist how big the tumour was and he replied that it would be about two kilograms.
The black mass just about filled my abdomen cavity and was pushing up against the organs in that area.
Once again it was treatments every three weeks and this time the specialist insisted that due to my age I had to stay in hospital for about 12 days with nine days at home before the next round.
Fortunately, this time, due to improved medications, there was no sickness involved.
Unfortunately I only stayed in remission for about 18 months before going on another form of chemotherapy for several months.
This resulted in the tumour shrinking again and the specialist then started me on a new drug that worked well with my type of cancer.
It’s called Ibrutinib and is available under the PBS and costs the government nearly $9000 per month.
Fortunately it costs me only $6.50 per month.
I have now been on this treatment since 2018 and at the moment I am still in remission.
As mentioned earlier, we started the military museum in 2004 and with the assistance of 100+ volunteers it is now recognised as the best military museum in Australia, outside of Canberra.
There is no doubt the day-to-day running of the museum and the support of my loving wife have resulted in my still being reasonably active at 78 years of age and surviving cancer for nearly 30 years.