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How one man's Kokoda journey helped him beat cancer

Lest we forget the sacrifices young soldiers made on the frontlines of war so that Australians could enjoy freedom.
Lest we forget the sacrifices young soldiers made on the frontlines of war so that Australians could enjoy freedom. Geoff Potter

A FEW years ago I was getting ready to undergo a long and challenging medical treatment - 12 months of self-administered "chemo" to get rid of a liver disease. I had to get myself physically, emotionally and spiritually ready to cope. As is usual for me I attacked this from the physical plane first. Personally I have always found that if my body is in a good state then I have access to a mental discipline and outlook that ensure a growth mindset, that is, a view of possibility rather than constraint. As it turned out, I was definitely going to need that.

Beginning well in advance, to prepare myself, I determined that if I could complete the Kokoda Track just before starting treatment I would be in the best shape physically and mentally to deal with what was to come. So 12 months out that's what I did. I gave up alcohol, changed my diet and trained every day to build strength and stamina.

I also read. I read a lot of books on the events of the Kokoda Track, its history before the Second World War and of the incredible role that the track, its people and our young and initially inexperienced soldiers played in keeping this country safe from a determined, ruthless and relentless enemy. Authors like Peter Brune, JC McAllester, Peter FitzSimons and several others have highlighted the heroism and tragedy that bring the story of Kokoda and the battles that raged in PNG to light.

This is our recent history - within a generation - and I wanted to know more. What I wasn't prepared for, what affected me and brought to life what I had read in those books or seen in photos, and which made the journey a deeply spiritual experience, was the Bomana Cemetery before the start of the track at Owers' Corner.

The small trekking group I was with was given permission to enter before sunrise. As the sun rose over this pristine cemetery, I couldn't help but note the extreme contrast to the environment around that place.

It is surrounded by jungle-covered mountains and hills, accessible by a rutted road and yet it is a manicured and incredibly peaceful memorial for 3779 people, mainly men, many young, who fought and died in horrendous circumstances to keep us safe.

My journey from that day, including that trek and the 12 months of the very tough treatment regimen that followed, has been taken with the perspective that nothing that I encounter in my life goes close to what those brave souls gave to us.

Everything we encounter is about the perspective we bring to it. Make yourself worthy of their sacrifice. Lest we forget.

Topics:  cancer kokoda


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