Fred Conway (right) with his daughter Lisa (left). Picture: Contributed
Fred Conway (right) with his daughter Lisa (left). Picture: Contributed

Sore tooth led to life-changing diagnosis

FOR Fred Conway, family and the land are all he has needed in life.

Having faced homelessness earlier in life, the love of his family helped him turn around his life, quit tobacco smoking, and seek employment doing what he loves.

Mr Conway has worked as a ranger at Carnarvon Gorge for most of his career but he never thought he would spend so much time in a big city.

He was diagnosed with mouth cancer in March and needed to travel to Brisbane to undergo a 20-hour operation followed by ongoing lifesaving treatment.

Staying at Cancer Council Queensland's Charles Wanstall Apex Lodge in Herston, Mr Conway said he feels lucky to be alive.

"I've always had a 'life is what it is' outlook, so when I was first diagnosed I thought that was the end for me," he said.

"It all started with a sore tooth and after finally going to the dentist, he told me get it checked by a GP."

A small lump was found on his cheek that kept growing and further scans revealed a turn for the worst.

"I went in for surgery that lasted longer than 20 hours, where they removed as much as they could and used skin graphs from my leg and arm.

"That was in April and I've been here in Brisbane ever since doing daily treatment."

He is grateful to have been able to stay at Charles Wanstall Apex Lodge and appreciates the generosity of being able to stay without needing to give anything in return.

"It's just incredible the care I have received from Cancer Council Queensland," Mr Conway said.

"As soon as I get home, I plan to start fundraising to give back for all the help I've been given.

"Every dollar is important when it comes to funding the ability for ordinary folk like me to get the help we need, and there are plenty of us out there who need it."

Mr Conway's daughter Lisa said she has been touched by the support her family has received.

"It's very eye-opening when it happens to someone close to you, and we feel very fortunate to have been given help," she said.

"We wouldn't have survived this without being so close to treatment."

With his last treatment set for July 7, Mr Conway is excited to see the rest of his family and go home.

"I can't wait to see my wife of 54 years, my 10 children, and my 69 grandchildren - and number 70 is on the way!"

Cancer Council Queensland CEO Chris McMillan said it was people like Fred Conway that made the work of the charity so important.

"Our accommodation lodges offer around 100,000 bed nights each year in six locations across Queensland," she said.

"Patients like Fred often need to travel from regional and remote areas to access lifesaving cancer treatment they wouldn't otherwise receive.

"The lodges provide a critical lifeline of support to those who need to travel for cancer treatment, offering practical services like transport to treatment and peer support."