Ride for life: Dr Prashanth Prithviraj is taking part in the Great Cycle Challenge. Photo: SUPPLIED

From the desk of Roland Rocchiccioli – 18 October

October 18, 2020 BY

What would Australia do without its legion of loyal fund-raisers and volunteers in all sorts of areas?

EVERY day of the year, there are those teams of Australians who give so bigheartedly of their time in hospitals, opportunity shops, animals shelters, and the numerous other charitable community organisations peppered across the nation. They are those selfless individuals whose endless generosity of spirit keeps the country’s wheels turning.

Oncologist Prashanth Prithviraj is one of life’s altruistic individuals. An associate of the brilliant Professor George Kanourakis at the world-class Ballarat Oncology and Haematology (both of whom do much to help keep me oncologically stable), has set himself a daunting October challenge. A recent convert to long-distance bike riding, Prashanth said of his decision to take part in the Great Cycle Challenge, “Kids should be living life, not fighting for it, which is why I and the team are riding to try and raise $10,000 for the Children’s Medical Research Institute; to help them continue their work into the prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and the finding of a cure for childhood cancer.”

Perhaps it is related to age, but any report of a child dying fills me with deep despair; or perhaps it is because my own life was brought precariously close to the precipice at just 12 hours old.

I was born at home in the North-eastern Goldfields of Western Australia. The township of Agnew no longer exists, having vanished back into the hot red earth from which whence it rose, and danced and shimmered for a glorious moment. I arrived in the middle of a record heat wave. According to my late mother, Beria, the daily temperature hovered around 115-degrees for the month of February. On the night I was born, the sky at sunset was crimson. The unbroken, distant horizon appeared on fire.

At 10 o’clock the following morning Mrs Saunders wrapped me in a bunny rug, carried me into the blazing sun, then headed across the flat for butcher shop to record my weight!  I contracted sun stroke and screamed for two days. Finally, I was bundled into a jalopy and driven the 95-miles down the road to the Leonora District Hospital.

For 11 days, Dr Kristian Wilson, Matron Embley, and Nursing Sister, Robby Colombo, fought to keep me alive. According to Dr Wilson, my survival was “a bloody miracle!”

For whatever inexplicable reason, I have been feted by the most wonderful and generous people. Given the richness of my life, often times, when yet something else wonderful lands in my lap, I stop and contemplate what might have been.

Had the worst come to pass, I would have been buried in the Agnew cemetery; probably in an unmarked grave, in a forsaken corner of the world which is now completely forgotten. It is a bleak scenario and cause for serious reflection. I owe a debt of enormous gratitude to whomever it is that writes the scripts for our fragile, mortal journey.

The death of a child leaves an invisible wound which never heals. Every year, a close colleague reminds me of her bereavement: “It’s Simon’s birthday.” He died in 1964.

A moment almost too painful to remember, is the indelible funereal figure of a close friend struggling under the weight of his daughter’s small, white coffin as he carried her to the grave. Inexorably consumed by his grief, he could not bring himself to allow anyone to touch the coffin, or to help him carry the child on her final journey.

Any donation, however big or small, in support of the on-going medical fight, will help give these kids the brighter futures they deserve. Together, with your generosity, we can help to save their little lives.

It is hard to imagine a more noble, worthwhile, or heart-breaking cause, than that of fighting kids’ cancer.

An online fundraising page has been established for donations to sponsor Dr. Prashanth on his quest – riding to fight kids’ cancer. Visit greatcyclechallenge.com.au/Riders/PrashanthPrithviraj.

Roland can be heard on RADIO 3BA, every Monday morning, 10.45 and can be contacted via [email protected].