HMAS Albatross firefighters are growing a mustache for a workmate whose family has endured more than their fair share of run-ins with cancer.
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Albatross firefighter Gary Gilbert and his wife Vickie were grieving deaths of close relatives, Gary’s mum had recently died of pulmonary fibrosis and Vickie’s mum and dad had recently died of cancer, when their daughter, Tegan, 33, was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“Our whole family been through hell and back,” Gary said.
“There were a number of deaths in our immediate family and then Tegan said to me, ‘I’ve found a lump, but there’s nothing to be concerned about.’ It turned out to be breast cancer. She was pregnant.”
Tegan was forced to undergo chemotherapy and have a mastectomy while pregnant and after just seven months in the womb, Tegan’s daughter, Scarlett, was brought into the world.
Despite being premature, Scarlett was healthy – a great relief to the family.
Tegan then endured radiotherapy and went under the knife to have her lymph nodes removed.
The treatment was successful – doctors told Tegan she was cancer-free.
Gary said his daughter navigated frightening territory with a calm resolve and a good sense of humour.
“The surgeon said, ‘I’m pretty sure we got it all,’” Gary said.
“Tegan’s response was, ‘I hope so, you took my whole breast.’”
The Gilbert family believes in the power of cancer research.
So Gary will take part the Cancer Council’s ‘Shitbox Rally’ for cancer research.
At a recent rally, participants raised $1.97M for cancer research.
“From my perspective, the only reason Tegan was able to survive this, being pregnant, was due to research,” Gary said.
“They have developed a form of chemotherapy that doesn’t affect the baby, retarding the growth of the cancer until she was able to have the baby and do radiotherapy.”
He has earned the respect of his peers, having dedicated nearly 30 years to firefighting, working for the NSW Rural Fire Service, Fire and Rescue NSW and for a private contractor at the navy base, where he has worked for more than 18 years.
Any funds raised in the Albatross firefighters’ Movember campaign will go to the Cancer Council via the Shitbox Rally.
Workmate Mitchell Pakes said they were more than happy to do their bit.
“He’s a good bloke, one of the kindest fellas I’ve ever met, he’ll do anything for anybody,” Mr Pakes said.
So far, Gary has raised about $1500, and with the help of his mates, Gary hopes to reach his target of $10,000.
Gary wanted to publicly thank a few people who had been particularly generous – Craig Solomon from Solomon Midcity Motors who has donated cars to the rally for three consecutive years, local surgeon Paul Jarman who has donated to the cause for three years straight and Shane Woodhouse, who organised a fireman’s calendar fundraiser and made a significant donation this year.
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