SINCE Lynette Williams died from brain cancer in April, her husband Billy, 67, has dedicated the rest of his life to help beat brain cancer so others don’t experience the same “horrendous journey”.
“In a very personal sense, brain cancer has taken the lives of Lyn, her brother and my father over the past 30 years, which has had a major impact on our families,” Billy says.
Lyn was first diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive cancer that begins in the brain, about two years ago before she died at the age of 63.
Before Lyn’s diagnosis, Billy says she was always a healthy person so it was a surprise when the horrible news came.
There were no hints to suggest brain cancer and Billy says the only noticeable symptom was that Lyn had become “dull” and she didn’t want to talk because the cancer was messing up her brain.
“Our lives were changed forever as we took a journey of surgeries, radiotherapy and chemotherapy treatment, seizures and continual medical appointments as we learnt the terrible truth about this hideous disease that attacks the very essence of human life, the brain and our unique and individual personality,” he says.
“It’s really touched our family in a deep way and we feel really compelled to be advocates.
“There needs to be more resources, better access for clinical trials and more support for families who are suffering.”
There are more than 100 types of brain cancer, but Lyn had the most aggressive and the most advanced, so after surgeries and chemotherapy it came back.
“It invades the brain and keeps popping up and you can’t do anything,” Billy says.
“We discovered, on this journey, that treatment across Australia is not anywhere near as good as it could be.
“We tried to find a clinical trial for Lyn but there was none and I don’t think it’s good enough.”
In the last 20 years there has been very little progress to improve the survival rates for brain cancer and Billy says there needs to be more funding for research, as well as support from the government and pharmaceutical industries.
“Brain cancer kills more children in Australia than any other disease,” Billy says.
“The mortality for brain cancer is equivalent to a car crash a day that has almost four fatalities.
“The attention to cancer has been, rightly, put on high-profile cancers and because of that, survival rates and treatments have increased.”
Now, Billy would like to see attention placed on brain cancer so it can have a similar effect.
He recently spoke to a Senate inquiry into low survival rates of rare cancers, such as brain cancer.
And soon, with the support of the Australia Ghana Association and the Brain Tumour Alliance Australia, will be hosting a dinner dance to raise funds for two causes that were close to Lyn’s heart.
“The evening will raise funds for brain cancer support and also for a small independent organisation in Ghana, which helps children and adults by providing prosthetic equipment and other services to help their recovery,” Billy says.
Billy and Lyn lived in Ghana for five years, and during that time Lyn became involved in the Orthopedic Training Centre (OTC) there.
To honour Lyn’s life, Billy will be returning to Ghana next year as a volunteer at the OTC to support their work.
“I feel committed to do this, knowing that Lyn would have wanted me to get on with doing positive things,” he says.
“If you’ve got life, live it. Get on with it. Don’t give up. I’m getting on with it.”
“Dinner Dance: In honour of Lynette Williams”, Southern Cross Club, Woden, 6pm, November 11. Tickets $85 or $800 for a table of 10 via btaa.org.au/even or call Billy on 0466 021447.