Rhys’ Story

In 2009 when I was initially diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma, I was enlisted in the Australian Regular Army as a Rifleman and at the time posted up in Townsville. The Defense Force showed amazing support during both my treatment on the Sunshine Coast and upon returning to regular duties at my new posting in Brisbane in 2010.

However, I was medically downgraded and due to being in remission with the chance of relapse was deemed not fit for deployment overseas. This encouraged my decision to see out my remaining obligated time within the Military and discharge in early 2012 to pursue another career. Although this curve ball was thrown my way at only 21, I was blessed to come out the other side a healthy, more determined and mature young man.

At 26, my life here in Caloundra is the best I could ask for given my previous circumstances. I am studying full-time at the University of the Sunshine Coast to become a Paramedic, a career choice I become more and more excited to be a part of as the course goes by. Part-time work at a beautiful restaurant right on the water at Kings Beach where a shift usually finishes with a dip in the ocean. And around a great social life my interest in personal fitness and keeping in shape is more a passion than hobby. An active lifestyle is one I have wanted to maintain since I was a child, I cannot express the frustration at watching my body wither away and being unable to take part in physical activity during my chemotherapy and radiation treatment. As the photos show, the chemo took an immense toll on my body and the battle to regain the weight and strength lost was grueling. Having overcome that, I am continually looking for ways to challenge myself; one lesson I certainly learnt is that the human body is capable of incredible hardship.

At the end of June this year I took off with a group of nine other men to walk the Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea. Since joining the Army back in 2007, this was always on my bucket list for both the physically demanding and emotional experience. It certainly delivered! During the long days of walking, I had a lot of time to reflect on my life; what I had endured and what I wanted to see myself achieving in the future. Since being cleared in remission, I have done the best I can to leave my battle with Hodgkin Lymphoma in the past and sweep the whole ordeal under the rug. This is evident with the number of people in my life who up until this point have had no idea what took place 5 years ago. I knew this mindset had to change ASAP.

Upon returning from Kokoda I had caught the travel bug and immediately began to make a list of incredible treks around the world that needed to be crossed off the list. Having to keep full time studies, work and other commitments in mind it was a struggle to find the ideal dates to work with to get my travel fix. Thinking 12 months in advance, both December this year and July next year have been locked down as the ideal periods to see more of the world. In the back of my mind I knew something other than coming back with a sense of achievement needed to be done. Considering my past circumstances, it was more than ideal for me to make an effort and invest some time and energy into supporting a cause that has not only impacted myself, but other individuals on the Sunshine Coast.

This new and improved selfless attitude is a massive breath of fresh air for me since returning from PNG, I have set the bar high both physically and in regards to the fundraising effort I want to achieve. Keeping this journey close to home on the Sunshine Coast I know will inspire the local community to get involved and motivate me to bring further support and care to those affected by Hodgkin Lymphoma. I look forward to being a part of this truly amazing and character building experience with you all!

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