Marathon effort

By Ewen McRae

Bob Carey-Grieve looks back on 2016 with conflicting thoughts.

While the Ballan man’s beloved Bulldogs lifted the AFL premiership cup, a night in November turned his life upside down.

Waking early in the morning to find he couldn’t move his right arm or leg, what followed was nearly two years of medical tests and treatment to find a path back to health.

“It was like waking from a nightmare, but I couldn’t remember it,” the father of two said.

“I got out of bed, tried to walk and fell straight down. At that point I did think it was a stroke, but my face looked fine so I ruled that out.

“I went to the hospital for assessment and tests, and the next day I was told I’d had two strokes at the same time.

“The most difficult thing about that was they couldn’t tell me why I’d had a stroke. My heart was fine, my blood pressure was fine, so no one could say what was wrong with me.

“The anxiety and fear around not getting that answer to ‘why?’ was worse than the stroke itself.”

Mr Carey-Grieve, 42 at the time, went through six months of treatments before a visit to a cardiologist at The Alfred Hospital revealed a 4mm hole in his heart.

“I couldn’t really do anything for two months from there, because any stress could make the hole bigger,” he said.

“You exercise, or you get anxious, or you have a curry, and it could make it worse.”

He had surgery to fix the hole in his heart, but was back in hospital just months later after his course of blood thinners led to a number of faintings. More tests soon revealed he had a tumor in his bowel.

“I had to phone my wife in floods of tears, it was just before Christmas 2017,” he said.

“On the first of February I had 30cm of bowel cut out, and a month later I came back for a meeting and they told me that of the 14 lymph nodes they took out, one showed signs that the cancer had spread.”

Mr Carey-Grieve underwent six months of chemotherapy. Now in the clear, he is preparing to run a half marathon at the Run Melbourne event on July 29 to raise funds for the Stroke Foundation.

The run will mark a year since he finished chemotherapy.

“People often say that I’ve had a run of bad luck, but slightly perversely I’ve been quite lucky,” he said.

“Whilst the stroke was terrible, it was an indicator that there were other things wrong. We may never have found the tumor without it.

“I decided that I’d had about a two-and-a-half year tangle with death, constantly stressed and in fear, and I needed a process to deal with that.

“So I started off with early morning walks, just 20 yards at first, but I kept going and now I’ve got the target of the half marathon.

“I now get up stupidly early, put on some heavy metal music and run off into the hills. I try to see the sunrise each day, and what a difference that makes to your entire outlook.

“If you start every day with a sunrise, I guarantee you’re in a good mood. I’m so happy to be alive and well, and probably fitter than I’ve ever been.”