Baby joy helps Damien through cancer battle

Icon Writers / 30 Jan, 2023

Damien was diagnosed with stage 4 colorectal cancer in October 2019 at just 31-years-old.

He noticed blood is his stool, but otherwise was feeling fit and healthy thanks to his personal training regime.

Due to regular and intense personal training sessions, Damien went to numerous GPs who put the bleeding down to hemorrhoids.

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This went on for nine months.This went on for nine months.

Damien, Vanessa and Emmanuel
Damien, Vanessa and Emmanuel

“I was young and busy with work, so it seemed like more of an inconvenience than a priority,” says Damien.

“I felt fit and healthy at the time, so I didn’t give it the attention it needed.

“When it didn’t get better with over-the-counter treatments, I was finally sent for a colonoscopy to find out what was going on.

“When they finished the colonoscopy, I was told it was cancer and I would be booked into a surgeon to have it cut out.”

The next day, Damien underwent scans to determine the extent of the cancer.

“Following the scans, we met with the colorectal surgeon, and he informed us that there was cancer in the rectal area, which we knew, but that it was far worse than first thought as it had spread to my liver,” says Damien.

“I was 31-years-old at the time and I was told not to plan for my 40th birthday and I was only a 50/50 chance to make it to 35. That was devastating to hear.”

That night, Damien proposed to his partner, Vanessa.

“When things go wrong in our lives, we have always tried to stay positive and turn our day around,” says Vanessa.

“It certainly wasn’t how I thought I would be proposed to, but it really did turn our day around.

“It cemented that we were going to do everything we could to get through Damien’s diagnosis.”

In the days following Damien’s diagnosis, as they prepared for the gruelling treatment schedule ahead, the couple decided to freeze Damien’s sperm.

Damien, Vanessa and Emmanuel
Damien, Vanessa and Emmanuel

“We hadn’t talked about starting a family, but we realised it’s something we wanted to do,” says Vanessa.

“The doctor in the (fertility clinic) moved heaven and earth for us to get the sperm frozen before Damien’s treatment started.

“Normally it takes a month to get an appointment but given our situation, things moved very quickly.”

Damien underwent 12 rounds of chemotherapy soon after his diagnosis, which he responded well to.

In April 2020 he underwent a gruelling 12-hour surgery to remove the cancer from his bowel and liver.

In September 2020 cancer was again detected on his liver and shortly after he commenced chemotherapy at Icon Cancer Centre Chermside under medical oncologist, Dr Adam Stirling.

He has spent the past two years on chemotherapy to keep the cancer at bay.

“The team at Icon Chermside has become a second family to Vanessa and I. They take really good care of me, and I feel like I’m in safe hands,” says Damien.

Damien, Vanessa and Emmanuel
Damien, Vanessa and Emmanuel

“One thing we’ve found throughout this journey is that you need to trust your medical team.

“Adam is on top of everything. He is so thorough, which gives us peace of mind.”

On 18 July 2022, Damien and Vanessa welcomed their son, Emmanuel into the world.

They are grateful they had the foresight to freeze Damien’s sperm.

“Emmanuel is the light of our lives,” says Damien.

“It was pure excitement and relief when we found out we were expecting.

“I knew he would be my biggest achievement in life, setting up a family.

“To be honest, I had mixed feelings about bringing a child into the world knowing that I might not be here while he is growing up but it’s what Vanessa wanted.

“And I’ve been able to set goals to focus on, like being here for his birth and his first birthday. The goal posts keep moving in a positive way.”

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