Stab Magazine | Conversation with a cancer patient

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Conversation with a cancer patient

Killerwhale is a positive guy. Especially considering what he’s about to go through. Guitarist Tim Cooney parties hard on and off the stage – the performances of his band, Goons of Doom (yup, the very same as Oz Wright!) are intense and completely committed. And we love em’ for it. Recently, Killer was diagnosed with […]

news // Feb 22, 2016
Words by stab
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Killerwhale is a positive guy. Especially considering what he’s about to go through. Guitarist Tim Cooney parties hard on and off the stage – the performances of his band, Goons of Doom (yup, the very same as Oz Wright!) are intense and completely committed. And we love em’ for it. Recently, Killer was diagnosed with a cancerous tumour in his head. He’s now faced with the prospect of intense surgery, as well as several months’ recovery and radiation treatment, which are neither pleasant nor cheap. In support of their brother, members of Sydney’s surf and music scenes are throwing a fundraiser, on August 13 at Beach Road Hotel, Bondi. Five stellar bands’ll lovingly take the stage, in an effort to raise cash towards Killer’s medical expenses. If you can’t make it to the night but still wanna help, you can click here to donate money towards the fund. Witty as all hell and nonchalant as ever, despite being faced with a life-changing experience, Killer gave Stab an honest and lucid run-down on the modus operandi.

Stab: How’d this all start?
Killerwhale: I had a runny nose for about a year, and it never got better, so I went to a doctor. He gave me some nasal spray, and I was using that for about five months, but it never got better. Up my nose looked really weird, so I went back, and he referred me to a specialist – he agreed, and did a biopsy on it. He called me when he got the results back and asked me to head down to his specialist clinic. By that time I was like, this doesn’t sound so good (laughs). Pretty much straight away they broke the news to me; said I had a Cell Carcinoma Cancer, and they were going to have to operate and commit to a whole recovery process.

How did you deal? Could you accept it at first? Yeah, kinda. I’m a pretty positive person. When they told me I instantly just wanted to deal with it and find the best solution. The hardest thing was one of my best friends died of lung cancer two weeks before that, so this felt like another kick in the head and hit really close to home.

Was there an immediate change in lifestyle? Straight after I got told, I bought a packet of cigarettes, smoked one of them and haven’t had one since. So, definitely. I quit everything straight away. I have just been doing heaps of herbs, and have cut out all sugar, dairy and red meat. I’m basically a vegan right now. My wife and I have been researching and doing whatever we can to help this operation run smoothly. After the operation and five month recovery process, I can eat a bit of red meat and drink a little beer. But I got to keep an eye on it for the rest of my life.

Is the cancer affecting you physically, right now? I feel completely fine! Nothing feels wrong with me physically, except my nose is runny. The cancer is slow-growing and isn’t anywhere else in my body, so I’m not affected in any other way than a runny nose.

Do you and are you going to miss aspects of your lifestyle? Right now I would love to have a beer and a cigarette (laughs). After my recovery, the way I party is going to be a lot tamer. I have had a lot of fun over the years, and I don’t feel like I need to go as hard. I’m pretty ready to slow it down, but I wouldn’t say I’m not going to have a couple beers here and there.

Has this had any relation to how you have treated your body over the years? The doctor said it has absolutely nothing with how I have lived my life. There is a couple of times I could tell you about where you might think he’s wrong, but the reality is it’s just a really rare cancer. It isn’t even genetic! It just appeared out of nowhere. My doctor, a nose specialist, said he sees 10,000 people a year – and only one person would have this.

How intense will the recovery period be? The radiation surgery will just make me pretty lethargic. I won’t loose any hair, like chemotherapy, but it’s still pretty rough on body.  Hopefully I will be able to surf in the afternoon of the days I get radiation therapy. I would really love to do that if I can.

How has the response been from everyone around you? It has been amazing. That’s why I’m feeling so positive, especially over the last couple of days. It’s given me a lot of strength and its coming from everywhere! Even from people I haven’t seen in ages. I feel blessed. It really is amazing. I don’t know much about the fundraiser (laughs), my mates have tried to keep it secret from me. I saw a flyer for it on Facebook last night, and that was really weird. Everybody was finding out, feeling sorry for me, but it didn’t seem like it was me. It was more like it was someone else, I almost felt like wishing myself luck! (Laughs).

Is it invasive, everybody always asking you about it? I made a decision from the very start to be completely open and accepting about it – I kept it on the down-low with work, so they didn’t worry, but everyone else knows all about it. I don’t hide anything, and I think that helps accepting it.

By now you know all the details of the operation? I actually found out a few more things recently. They’re going to cut the roof of my mouth out, then use a skin graft from my arm as a flap. They will take out four teeth, and then lift my face up to my forehead. The doctor will then completely remove my septum, and take out the entire tumour. The team will start taking a biopsy while they are operating on me, and keep digging till they get the results back saying there is no more cancer. When they have that confirmed I understand they’ll stop digging. I found out that they will take a skin graft from my thigh for my arm, and then they slice my neck open and attach all the neck tendons with tendons cut out of my arm (Silence).

How does that impact, mentally? I’m thinking about it quite a lot, especially last week when they told me all the facts. It was really rough. It’s daunting, kinda like I know I’m going to get beat up but there isn’t anything I can do about it. I just gotta wait and see.

What are you going to do after all this is over? I’ll defiantly be writing music. I’m honestly really excited about getting through this. I think it’s heads up from here – just handle it and let it all happen. I only realise now how young I am, all the things I can still do and I don’t want to waste any more time. Not that I have wasted time, and I don’t regret anything I have done, but it reminds you how much stuff you can still do. I’m super excited about that, I can’t wait to really up the anti, try more things, go surfing, be positive all the time and live life. – Ziggy Alberts


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