Priest honest, open about cancer battle

IN THE lonely, quiet moments between the tests, treatments and surgeries, Father Richard Ross says he has questioned his faith.

The Launceston Catholic priest and St Patrick's College chaplain was last week cleared of cancer for the second time, but he knows he will likely face it again.

Father Ross said his most recent cancer battle had left him flat, exhausted and empty from treatment.

``There have been all sorts of situations in my ministry where you're sitting with a family who have experienced a tragic death and they look to you for answers and you haven't got them, because there aren't any,'' he said.

``Having this experience myself over the past few years has added another dimension to that. 

``So I have questioned my faith . . . and in this second chapter I'm yet to fully resolve that journey, to be honest.''

Speaking at a World Cancer Day event at the Northern Cancer Care Centre yesterday, Father Ross said he felt it was important to be honest and open about his experiences, for his sake and for others.

``I hope people with cancer take away a bit of hope and inspiration and know that they can endure this,'' he said. 

``It's a tough journey, and I hope they also find the words to share their own experience with those that matter to them.''

Father Ross was first diagnosed with bowel cancer in March 2010, with 11 secondary tumours found in his liver and others in his lymph system.

``I had bowel surgery to remove that tumour, which was good, then liver surgery followed and two-thirds of my liver was removed,'' he said.

``Then followed six months of chemotherapy to mop up the mess.''

He was given the all-clear in December 2010, and lived two years cancer-free, before another tumour was found in his liver in February last year. 

``I had surgery in Melbourne to remove that, followed up with radiation to mop up the tumour bed within the liver, and then a scan to confirm that had all been successful found another tumour in the liver as well,'' he said.

``So that resulted in another six months of chemo.''

While now healthy, Father Ross said it was likely he would have to face cancer again.

``From here on it's chronic now, so that just tells me there will be others, I can expect that other tumours will pop up in the liver from time to time, and I just hope that they're in the right place that we can treat them.

``I've exceeded the average survival rate by about 150 per cent, so I'm pleased to say I'm beyond the realm of statistics.''

Father Ross said he would ease himself back into normal life, having thrown himself into work too early before.

``This time around I'm going to ease into that, and do some of those life-giving things that I find easy and fun _ like working with kids, and weddings and baptisms.

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