Team Anstis: Ocean Grove local prepares for Tour de Cure
Aaron Anstis remembers exactly where he was 19 years ago when he made a phone call that would lead to one of the cruellest losses a person can experience in their lifetime.
Away at Falls Creek with a friend, a family member had informed Aaron of his father Trevor’s multiple myeloma diagnosis.
With the news came a sense of ambivalence – look to the sky for hope, or fall at the mercy of the mountains?
He was hours away from home and this suddenly became palpable, but the thought of a world without his dad’s humour was colder than the snow beneath his feet.
The wound cut even deeper in 2006 when Trevor lost his five-year fight. He was 49 years old.
“We had such a close-knit family. Dad was a wonderful role model – he was the life of the party, an extrovert who was loud and funny.
“My entire youth was spent in the truck with him on summer holidays. We had a very close bond.
“He lost about six inches in height because the cancer affects your bones and your bone barrow. He was also treated with the use of steroids, which made him swollen and puffy.
“How he looked physically was a struggle to see and being an active person that was difficult for him too.
“He lost a lot of strength, but the way he handled it certainly made it a lot easier on everyone else.
“He got on with life as best he could, and he always made light of the fact that he was a bit shorter and a bit unsteady of his feet. We’ve got some fantastic memories of that time.”
But grief tightened its grip in the years that followed.
Much like his father’s attitude during his illness, he didn’t take pity on himself. Instead, he bettered his mental state through exercise.
“I started bike riding about 10 years ago. I was trying to get myself fit and healthy because I was suffering depression at the time.
“Getting out and about was a good way to reduce the symptoms and side effects of depression. It helped me lose a bit of weight and it’s something I’ve fallen in love with.
“After his death I didn’t handle the grief very well. I was in my mid 20s and it took a while to come out of that. Once I did, I found what I could do to give back.”
Since 2010, Aaron has been fundraising for cancer research.
Next Thursday, March 26, he will ride in his second consecutive Tour de Cure – an Australian cycling event that raises funds for cancer research, support and prevention programs.
Aaron debuted on the course last year to honour his father, but this year’s ride (which will depart from Newcastle) will be even more significant the last.
Less than a week before Christmas (2019), Aaron’s wife Sarah was told she had thyroid cancer.
Thankfully the tumour was small, removed relatively quickly and no further treatment was needed.
Aaron said he and his wife were transparent with their two children Sunny, 11, and Nate, 9, about the scare.
“They (the children) did amazingly well. We were very open and honest from the outset.
“When you get a cancer diagnosis, people around you tend to freak out more than you do.
“We expressed to our family and friends that we were fine with it, Sarah was fine, and the outlook was good.
“We didn’t want anyone freaking out and asking too many questions in front of the kids.”
Aaron said both of these emotional challenges – first as a son and later as a husband – strengthened his gratitude for Australia’s leading treatment centres.
“The process was extremely disheartening, but it made us realise how lucky we were to be in a country that has such a wonderful healthcare system.
“We live in a city that has some of the world’s best cancer treatment centres like Peter Mac.
“(By riding in Tour de Cure) I’m insisting other people have that continuation of support like we did.”
Aaron will pedal an average of 150km a day during the ride, which will finish on April 3 in Noosa Heads.
He has raised more than $12,000 so far, surpassing his fundraising goal.
To donate to Aaron, head to tourdecure.com.au, click the donate option and search for ‘Aaron Anstis’.