'I named my tumour Hitler'

'I named my tumour Hitler'

Around the States
AMBO AND SURVIVOR: Noel O'Mara with his wife Kate.

AMBO AND SURVIVOR: Noel O'Mara with his wife Kate.

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Frontline paramedic Noel O'Mara turned to humour when it was time to fight for his life, when he's used to fighting for others.

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Noel O'Mara spent 27 years delivering babies, attending crashes and deaths but his mission to help people is not over.

He has been in the Queensland Ambulance Service since 1978, served a total 44 years now, currently as Executive Officer for the Sunshine Coast District.

The frontline paramedic and gastro-oesophageal cancer survivor is now a Lived Experience Ambassador with Bloomhill Cancer Care and launched its annual fundraiser Be There for Bloomhill this month.

Noel was diagnosed with gastro-oesophageal cancer in 2019. It was a shock, and the surgery, chemotherapy and radium therapy that saved his life were also "an assault on my body".

"I named the tumour Hitler and the chemo Allied Forces," he said. "I named it Hitler because it was evil, but it could be defeated.

"My specialist, knowing I had the stomach for that kind of talk, being an ambo, actually said 'mate, you know what we have to do for open heart surgery? That's a walk in the park compared to what's going to happen to you'.

"I was in theatre for 11 hours - what a marathon for him and the surgical team. I've got the scars to show for it but I'm alive to tell the tale, and for that I'm truly thankful."

A Mons resident and Ambulance Service executive, Noel heard about Bloomhill from a nurse during chemotherapy treatments.

"I met a remarkable nurse, who explained so many things to me, like how cancer can get in your head, what you can do about that, and about the scars and how to alleviate discomforts and address pain," he said.

AMBO AND SURVIVOR: Noel O'Mara.

AMBO AND SURVIVOR: Noel O'Mara.

"I was sceptical at first about the value of visiting Bloomhill Cancer Care - I thought it would be like an AA group for cancer survivors, and that didn't interest me. But Bloomhill turned out to be an incredible place.

"I hadn't been game to let anyone touch my scars but Audrey, Deb and Neila (Bloomhill massage therapists) have each been able to do wonderful relaxing 'soft touch' massage and cold laser treatment for me that has been so beneficial."

"The laser treatment has helped reduce the scars significantly as you can see in my before-and-after photos."

Bloomhill Cancer Care in Buderim launched its Be There for Bloomhill Appeal, seeking community support to bounce back from big drop in op shop income due to the COVID pandemic.

"If there is one year to support Bloomhill it's this year," CEO Christopher John said.

"We are preparing to redevelop our wellness centre from five to 14 therapy rooms so we can help more people, but the post-COVID building crisis is creating significant challenges.

"The op shops which supply about 75 per cent of the charity's income (in a normal, non-COVID year) have this year had sales dip so low Bloomhill was, until recently, eating into its savings to keep afloat.

"This year Bloomhill celebrates 25 years of providing individualised support, and we want to continue this for the next 25 years. With your ongoing help, we can."

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