‘The bastard is not going to beat me down’: Fighting cancer for the fourth time

ABOVE: Carolyn and Laurie Bean in the garden at their Peacock Creek home. Photos: Susanna Freymark

Susanna Freymark

Laurie Bean sits on the veranda of his Peacock Creek home.

He isn’t what I expected of a 75-year-old Irish man who has had cancer four times.

He looks much younger and his Irish accent faded after he landed in Australia when he was 15 years old.

Laurie calmly explains how he has a tumour on his voice box that needs to be operated on.

He’s been through this before. His wife Carolyn sits nearby, she has been through this with him.

When Laurie was 35, he was diagnosed with breast cancer. He was operated on and the lump in his breast removed. His lymph nodes under his arm were removed too.

“I was stunned. I was always the bright, happy, positive one,” Laurie said.

“A lot of recovery depends on deciding – the bastard is not going to beat me down.”

After the cancer op, Laurie was relieved.

“I was depleted for quite a while but I thought good- that’s that,” he said.

For 20 years, Laurie was clear of cancer. With nine children between them Carolyn and Laurie were busy with family life.

Laurie was born with an extra kidney known as a duplex kidney, where two ureters come from a single kidney.

It was on one of his kidneys that his next cancer was found.

A tumour the size of a 50-cent piece was removed. His duplex kidney was removed too.

Then came bowel cancer. This affected the lower half of his body and he had to have an ostomy – this is a hole made by surgery to allow faeces and urine to leave the body through your belly.

Laurie must permanently wear an ostomy bag as he has no muscles to control how he goes to the toilet.

Laurie admits it isn’t easy.  His most embarrassing moment was during a round of golf with his mates when the bag broke.

“I had excrement all over me,” Laurie said.

The blokes told me to wash myself off in the creek and they found some clean clothes for me to wear, he said.

He laughs about that day and starts to put on his shoes. He’s off to play a round of golf at Bonalbo golf course with those same mates.

His cancer journey isn’t over though. Three months ago, his voice became hoarse. At first doctors though it might be laryngitis. The hoarseness didn’t go away. Laurie was referred to a doctor in Queensland.

He goes there on February 22. Laurie said he has to go private because there is a 12-month wait for the operation in the public health system.

“I might not have 12 months,” Laurie said.

The operation will cost $7,790.

Laurie holds up a pouch of tobacco.

This is my last one, I hope, he said.

He gave up smoking for 20 months after the bowel cancer. He wants to give it up again.

The community have rallied around Laurie and are holding an auction. Up the road, four young men who know Laurie are each auctioning two-hours of their time.

Laurie admires the garden once more before he leaves. It is his wife Carolyn who does all the work, he said.

Have they discussed Laurie’s possible death?

Carolyn’s eyes fill with tears. She wipes them as they fall down her cheeks.

“She doesn’t want to talk about it,” Laurie said.

The couple have their photo taken in Carolyn’s beloved garden before Laurie heads off for his round of golf.

He has a spring in his step and an inner strength to live his best life. Cancer has invaded his body four times, and each time he has ‘beaten it down’.

The auction fundraiser for Laurie’s op is at the Bonalbo Bowling Club at 5pm on Saturday, February 19. There will be tools, an electric guitar and much more up for auction.

MAKE A BID: Four young men up for auction
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