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Five months on from cancer diagnosis

Since the first sign of my brain cancer at the end of October 2023, life has been uncertain and changing constantly. The months pass in waves of treatment: chemotherapy, radiotherapy and numerous medications. Until the new year, I thought I would write about markets and products as I had in the past. That has not been possible yet. Life has radically shifted with my brain cancer, and I don’t know if it will ever be the same again.

Five months after my cancer treatment started, my days are different to anything I might have expected before it all began. I have accepted, for the moment, a new pace of life. Never in my life have I slept so much - which my doctors encourage. I wake around 8am, have coffee, breakfast and read the newspapers, and try to stay up until 11.30am. I then fall into a deep sleep until about 1.30pm, by which time I am famished. I eat lunch and try not to sleep again until going to bed around 9.30pm. The day goes slowly; I read and write when I can, although those things are more difficult lately. I go for walks a couple of times a day and might see friends or family. It can feel like I’m just waiting for the day to finish. But somehow, time passes.

Some days I find it all incredibly frustrating. Other days I don’t have the energy to be irritated. But after a lifetime of working, there is a persistent feeling that I’m now not achieving much. I’m having to redefine what “success” looks like, and accept that I don’t have the stamina to do everything I want to do. Each day I’m having to cope with a new normal, facing new limitations. It means approaching life in a completely different way to what I have previously. My focus has become getting through the day.

At the same time, I’ve been trying to grapple with what people do in retirement. It’s a question I’ve been asking friends lately. People stop working, or they work less, and the gap left by work needs to be filled somehow. Some take up gardening, some look after their grandchildren, others might play golf a couple of times a week. I can’t in my wildest dreams imagine that golf would keep me busy.

I just don’t know how to fill my time, particularly now with my vision problems making reading difficult. I’m grateful for a lot about my circumstances, cancer aside, but I’m not going to pretend I find it fulfilling in the way that work was. I’m now realising that six months is about to pass, and I have to find ways of occupying my time.

This illness is unpredictable. Doctors might think one thing but then something different happens. Those unexpected blows can be hard to deal with.

My wife, Deborah, has been wonderful. She not only takes me to every appointment, but also arranges catch-ups with friends, buys new equipment such as glasses and hearing aids (it so happens I needed hearing aids anyway and this was not cancer-related).

My family has been an amazing support. They watch the months tick by with love and care. Friends and neighbours have also been fantastic - dropping round with food and providing support and encouragement.

So that’s where I stand at the moment. After decades of writing and a dozen years with Firstlinks, I still want to contribute. But exactly how and when I do that is unclear. I may need to accept limitations and adapt to changes more radical than I ever would have imagined. My ability to stay motivated over the coming months is important. I literally do not know how long I will live, and the doctors change their treatments, doses and medicine regularly. As weird as this whole situation is, I’m going to have to keep coping with it for a while yet.

Deborah’s perspective

The last place anyone would want to have cancer is in the brain. It is our most complex organ and so much of its function is still being discovered. The particular area that Graham’s glioblastoma is inhabiting is the very inaccessible thalamus. As his wife, I'm constantly finding out new information about its function.

Put simply, it is the brain’s central hub and all senses (with the exception of smell) are relayed through it. A malfunction here will affect hearing, vision, touch, perceptions of temperature and proprioception as well as sleep, alertness and memory.

Graham’s treatment started with a biopsy to discover what type of cancer it was in order to use the best therapy against it. Then came the chemotherapy and radiation, a period of rest from that, and now more chemotherapy for the next six months. It’s a really hard slog. He is deeply exhausted and problems with his vision and the fluidity of his thoughts make it hard for him to read and write. So why has he pushed himself to pen this piece for Firstlinks? Largely because Graham is a writer. Editor of Firstlinks is the role he created to fit his talents of research and analysis, particularly about the nuances of superannuation, and his passion for writing with clarity and precision about the subjects he is fascinated by. To not write leaves a gaping hole in his world.

Less than a year ago, in response to a suggestion that we have not four but five weeks’ holiday in Europe, he stridently declared, “I work, you know!” Graham doesn't have a plan for retirement - quite the opposite. His intention, at least prior to this diagnosis, was to write until he’s 100, probably still playing football with mates from the Alive n’ Kicking football team. Even if he did have some notion of what retirement would look like, it would have been blown sky high by now. Attending to his health is work Graham has never had to do before. Having cancer is a full-time job, and one that leaves little energy for other ambitions in one’s life. It requires the strength of more than one person, and we’re here with him through it.


Ramin Mani
April 17, 2024

Dear Graham and Deborah, thank you for sharing the update.
I have wonderful memories from your visit to Brazil the land of football fans. What a great football fan you’re , I truly enjoyed your visit. Wonderful couple, happy and full of energy. Wish you both lots of faith and strength to go through this difficult time.

Bev Durston
April 15, 2024

Thanks for your update Graham and Deborah,
You have been in my thoughts so it is good to know how you are, warts and all. It is very brave to share your difficult journey with readers, but it is just like you Graham. It is revealing to read about the challenges that you face as you fight against the disease and experience the constant medical changes.
Look after yourselves and continue to focus on whatever you need. Sending thoughts, prayers and strength to you and the family. Stay strong. xxxxx

Peter Sheahan
April 14, 2024

I very much appreciate reading the update you and Deborah have written.
It gives me an important update on how a dear friend is dealing with this "bend in the road".
You are steadfast. That quality is helping enormously in your recovery.

Tony Gangemi
April 13, 2024

So nice to hear from you Graham and Deborah, only seemed like yesterday we were at your place for work Christmas drinks and nibbles. Still keep an eye out for you at Allianz stadium to watch SydFC, hope to see you there soon. All the best with the treatment and recovery. Sending lots of love and well wishes.

Bruce Madden
April 12, 2024

Thank you for mustering the consideration of others to take the time to write an update, and to also rope in your wonderful partner Deborah's point of view!! That is the experience I have of you over many years - thinking about your readers and being their strong advocate. Wonderful, and may your recovery to good health be speedy from here. Best wishes!

Jeff Woodhart
April 11, 2024

Thanks for your very detailed and informative update Graham. I wish you very best wishes for your battle and thinking of you.
PS. Retirement isn't too bad !

Cheers to you and Deborah.

April 10, 2024

Good luck, Graham. Where there's life there's hope, and I'm praying for a good outcome.

Joseph Italiano
April 09, 2024

Graham and Deborah, I sincerely appreciate the update and I want to express my heartfelt wishes for a smooth journey through your treatment. Your health is paramount, and I'm grateful for the reminder of its importance. I extend my gratitude to Graham for his long-standing dedication, which has ensured many of us are in secure financial positions to navigate life's unexpected challenges.

April 09, 2024

the search you articulate so succinctly is the start of a journey. everyone's is different. everyone's is worthwhile. the removal of the noise of work deadlines allows the big existential questions to surface. For me, retirement changed how I experience time, how I face a new day and how I reflect on the day. If this resonates with your place in time and space right now, rewatching Groundhog Day might offer context/insights - and at least a good laugh.

Peter Nofal
April 09, 2024

Thank you for heartfelt and personal insights Graham and Deborah. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

Chris Davis
April 08, 2024

I wish you all the best with your treatment and your head space during this battle Graham

Ian Saines
April 08, 2024

Best wishes to you Graham. All the best throughout your treatment.

Michael Sandy
April 08, 2024

many thanks for staying in touch Graham, and best wishes for a speedy recovery

April 08, 2024

Thank you Graham for all the work you’re doing to date. Firstlinks is a treasure I stumbled across a couple of years ago. Admire your courage and perseverance. Thank you Deborah for sharing your thoughts with all the readers. There’s always hope.

April 08, 2024

If you have time to fill and feel up to it look for a volunteer group working in an area of interest.
They are usually full of like minded people, giving back to the community and making a difference to the world.
I was a difficult forced retiree but now "work" propagating native plants at a not for profit nursery.
Just a thought for a difficult situation.

William Jones
April 08, 2024

Thanks for sharing, Graham and Deborah. I had not long started our SMSF, when my wife’s indolent non Hodgins Lymphoma sprang into life, and 2002 disappeared in a blur of chemotherapy and finally remission. In 2006 it all happened again, but this time remission has remained, and we have watched our grandchildren grow, together with our SMSF. We realise that your journey has just begun, but we wish you all the best, and remember that the treatments continue to improve, as you go on this journey.

John Kelly
April 08, 2024

Keep getting going Graham. JK

April 08, 2024

Thank you Graham, and Deborah, for sharing such a personal update with us all. Since you first communicated your diagnosis I, like many others, have thought about you and your progress many times despite that we have never met. You are in our thoughts and prayers.

Sara Turner
April 08, 2024

Not sure if I’m doing this correctly. Wonder if you have contemplated listening to aural books? It might be difficult to find anything on the fascinating subject of “superannuation “! However, there might be another area you might be willing to explore.
Also, thought a dictaphone ( there’s probable something far flashier around these days) that you could put your ideas on & have them transcribed.
I would be willing to type them out for you Graham.
Thanks for sharing your journey with Roger & me.
You are in our hearts & prayers

Mark Lewis
April 08, 2024

Hi Graham I have been a subscriber for many years now and firstly I thank you for your many valuable contributions over that time. I wish you all the best and admire your courage in sharing your journey with us all.

Nelum Soysa
April 08, 2024

Thank you Graham and Deborah
I am a reader of first links and appreciate your incisiveness and analytical skills very much .
All I can say is allow your self to relax and smell the roses , fell the breeze kiss your skin and face and enjoy the luxury of living in a nice place .
Prof Scolyer our Australian of the year had novel treatment for brain cancer .
It is a very bonding time for all who know you. Be gentle and loving to yourself .
Best wishes to both of you

April 08, 2024

Thank you Graham and Deborah for the insight into your journey. I appreciate your honesty and sharing your thoughts and the challenges you are facing. Graham, I am sure those reserves of doggedness and determination you showed as an opening batsman all those years ago will come in handy.

All the best to you both.

April 08, 2024

Graham, like many, I only know you through Firstlinks. That has been a great privilege.
Just know you have left your mark in my world, and I'm sure in many other people's world too.
Just do the best you can.

April 07, 2024

Hi, Graham and Deborah, thank you for the update, I know a person who had brain cancer, had all the relevant treatment, without consulting his medico's, he bought a decompression chamber, which he uses every night for about an hour, and his wife googled every natural vitamin etc, as she said they had nothing to lose, he is now cancer free, the medico's were never told what they had done and just put the cancer free status down to "some people are lucky, and the medication had worked" He still uses the chamber every night, and is in touch with an overseas doctor who also has brain cancer and has this chamber also, with the same results. I guess you would be unindated with "cures" but I wanted to share this story with you, God bless you and all the best

Geoffrey Francis
April 07, 2024

Thanks also for the update Graham and Deborah as a long-time reader. Made it out of hospice care just with Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma, so just appreciate you sharing your own experience Graham. Your account is very important and reinforcing for others on a similar journey. Best wishes.

April 07, 2024

Thanks Deborah and Graham for sharing your experiences.
Thank you, too, Graham for your incisive insights published over many years.

As a survivor of oesophageal cancer, I can identify with you on the many points touched upon in the update.
Establishing goals (no matter how trivial they may appear) and remaining focused are important coping strategies. Learning to accept the new normal makes life easier too.
Attending a support group has helped me throughout my journey and perhaps you might wish to consider this too.

With best wishes.

April 07, 2024

The very best to you both, family and friends…
The positive comments and replies made via this publication are true indications of the respect ? and admiration so many fine people have for you. You have achieved and continue to be a success and should therefore be extremely proud of all your endeavours.
As for football - many coaches believe ‘the best form of defence is attack’.

Shelley Fisher
April 07, 2024

Thinking of you both on this challenging journey. Did you read about Australian of the Year Prof. Scolyer who has had amazing success with the treatment of his glioblastoma? I’m sure you have, but in case you haven’t, thought I’d mention it…

April 07, 2024

Hi Graham. Plenty of well-meant advice here, some proven, some may not be. So ... just try and encapsulate your prime thoughts of the day, meaningful or not so, it doesn't matter, you have a wealth of perspective to make some points and statements. Be yourself. and I do hope your condition will allow you to carry on with reasonable happiness. Thanks, good man!!

Ralph Greenham
April 07, 2024

Thank you, Graham for sharing your challenging journey.
Very best wishes for your recovery.

Bob Kerr
April 07, 2024

Dear Graham and Deborah - I have both prostate and oesophagus cancer so I have some idea of what your going through. I always find the Mayo Clinic patient forum helpful and at times inspiring as is my local cancer support group. For myself I find a determination to keep positive combined with my church, physical and mental exercise the key.
My thoughts and prayers are with you both.
Robert G Kerr

April 06, 2024

Hiya Graham,thanks for the update.I'm still not very good at this but I hope all goes well. For continuing to contribute ,if you feel up to it,then perhaps. A conversation with Richard Fidler. I enjoy that while out cycling.Your story may be very good. When you did the podcasts the first thing I thought was,hang on,an FM jock.The morning DJ at WOLD ( dddddd) perhaps.This brings the thought that talking books are good. You seem to have the perfect voice for that.Two good bike rides seems to get me through a 10 to 12 hour book easily. Just a thought,perhaps a bit of narration for that. Hang in there mate,all the best.

April 06, 2024

Our thoughts are with you.

Liam Shorte
April 06, 2024

Dear Graham & Deborah, thank you for sharing the update as we do want to hear for you but do not want to hassle you. Graham, you have decribed the situation that I see many of my clients face on retirement when their work or passion was the essence of their being (other than family of course). Now when my male clients turn 60 I give their partners this book 101 Things to Do With a Retired Man

I am not trying to be smart but it is really important for men to start thinking about what they will do in retirement well before the date or it can lead to serious bouts of depression and soul searching. This book is my way of approaching the subject in a light hearted way but then leading to a serious discussion as they approach retirement. Many female clients mention that without having a plan for reitrement, their husbands end up shadowing them around and that is not good for a relationship.

I wish to the very best and hope with all the Irish luck I can muster up, that you beat this cancer and get to write on for many years to come. Illegitimi non carborundum!

April 05, 2024

Thank you Graham and Deborah for sharing your powerful insights. I think of you often and completely understand your frustration as you travel this road . A beautiful young lady in the same situation once said to me "You have to go through a storm to get to a Rainbow". Your rainbow is ahead Graham. Stay strong and know that we all care and support you. Keep fighting and best wishes always.

April 05, 2024

Very much appreciate reading yours and Debbie’s update Graham. I suspect like many of your mates we are keen to hear of your progress but don’t wish to be a distraction whilst you focus your energy on getting better. I look forward to catching up for that coffee when the time is right. Mandy sends her love and recommends podcasts such as The Rest is History/Politics to help pass the time. Thinking of you.

Andrew Varlamos
April 05, 2024

Dear Graham and Deborah,
Thank you for the update. Wishing you the very best in your ongoing recovery.
And Graham, even though you're not yet able to return to appearing on the football pitch, I hope you're still enjoying watching football - although, clearly not the last 5 minutes of this morning's game. :)
Best wishes,
Andrew Varlamos

Rick Squires
April 05, 2024

Graham and Deborah,
It’s obvious from the comments that you have influenced a lot of lives in a very positive way. I always try to find time to read Firstlinks and was very upset to hear of your diagnosis. Thank you for giving us an update Best wishes with the treatment.

April 05, 2024

Hi Graham and Deborah

Thanks for the update. You won't remember me but we did speak at a Morningstar conference just after I think when Morningstary took on Firstlinks.

Like you I had no plan for retirment but knew it was coming. Eventually I made the decision to "graduate from paid employment" as I describe retirement. I had seen that the role I had left no further challenge and seeing in a new CEO after guiding him for a year, it was only fair to leave and let him go on his own.

I subsequently saw opportunities to volunteer in Tanzanian (after many years in international development) and so provide a transfer of skills. Perhaps that's something with your limitations taht you could do - mentoring and supporting others given the experience and knowledge you have.

Trusting all goes well with your ongoing treatement.

Carden Calder
April 05, 2024

Dear Graham and Deborah,
Thank you for your update, raw and real. This is a way to keep enriching the lives of those around you, even if we're the less important work ones in your world.

Your journey is one we, your readers and colleagues, care about. Many of us have our own struggles and amid those, triumphs that are modest to others but major for us. Grace appears, sometimes, amongst the maddest and baddest of life events and the wave of emotions those bring.

If you'd like to keep contributing, and writing is too hard, let me know how I can help. Happy to be your reader, writer (scribe?) or to record short interviews that might help you keep "writing" and contributing in a different form.

My very best to you both.

Christian Antoniak
April 05, 2024

Graham and Deborah,
Thank you for sharing your illness and life changing challenges. Very courageous to share your personal journey.
I love your articles. Please keep us updated on your journey.
Podcasts are a great 2nd choice if you find reading tiring. Best Wishes.

April 05, 2024

Graham, today your contribution was immense.

Jeremy Duffield
April 05, 2024

Graham and Deborah, thanks for the update. Bravely written and evocative. Best wishes to both of you.

Graham, I understand the “work is a huge part of my life/what now” dilemma is a real challenge. And don’t have the answer. I watched Jack Bogle create a remarkable second career after being Vanguard CEO (and after his heart transplant) through writing and speaking…up to sending out copies of his just finished final book(of a dozen) in his last days at 89. Inspirational, but even if I was that clever, I’m not sure I’d want to be that compulsive.

Perhaps the question is what drives you? It shouldn’t be feeling you need to prove something. You’ve contributed and proven so much. Is it creative outlet? That I can understand. The need to feel engaged in a creative challenge. To do something. To occupy oneself with interests. I get it. Perhaps it’s in opening up to a new and different area of interest. Finance, while fascinating and endless in its alleyways, is limiting. Will I (you) one day find something that interests us as much? I think I can, maybe.
Hope to see you some day when I’m in Sydney and discuss. Best to you.

Sara Huang
April 05, 2024

Hi Graham & Deborah,

I was quite moved by your story. My late father, who was a journalist in China, died of cancer at 69, pretty much on the job. He also had a passion for words and his work. So I understand what you and your family is going through.

My thoughts and prayers are with you!

Henry Jennings
April 05, 2024

Thank you both for your honesty and courage with this article. You are both inspiring, and I wish you a speedy recovery and looking forward to reading your articles for years to come. Life has a habit of throwing curve balls. It is how we deal with them that is important and shows what we are as a person. Cancer should not define us, the way you are dealing with it does. You are an example to us all. Stay string and get well.

Greg Page
April 05, 2024

Cancer is a shit-sandwich!

But, people like you I suspect will find a way back to happiness..I wish you well on your new journey. Greg

April 05, 2024

Graham and Deborah
thank you, for taking the time to share your very difficult journey with us. Do what you can when you can.
I have always enjoyed and looked forward to Firstlinks every Thursday morning and your articles.
But taking care of yourself is what's important right now.
Thinking of you and praying for you.

April 05, 2024

Graham, your commitment to sharing your valued insights was always appreciated before your diagnosis and now, after diagnosis, you continue to provide a different sort of insight that is no less valuable. Thank you.
Deborah, thank you too for your own insights.

Robert Spelta
April 05, 2024

That’s a most helpful update and so open; I’m sorry for you and yours that it’s in such circumstances.
Best wishes

Roger Fraser
April 05, 2024

Sorry Graham but Chemo and Radiotherapy is the worst treatment you can choose.
It will kill the cancer at the expense of killing you sooner that if you had not had it.
Consider a complete change in lifestyle.
No Alcohol,cigarettes,sugar,fried foods,meat,dairy,or gluten.Aviod heavy metals and toxic pesticides and GMO.No farmed fish.
No processed foods,No condiments./Sugar feeds cancer.
Cancer is caused by a viral pathogen and at least one toxin
Eat a plant based diet of steamed vegies and fruit .lots of herbs and spices.
Sunlight,fresh air and exercise. Read Medical medium /Anthony William on internet and get his books.Chris Wark....Chris beat cancer......Do not use Google use DuckDuckGo as a search engine.
You have a big job in front of you.
How do I know....I have cancer too.

Steve Martin
April 05, 2024

Thanks for the updates Graham and Deborah. Hang in there and keep fighting!
Lots of great comments from people wishing you well and offering advice from their own experience. For me, my Catholic faith has been a great source of comfort and hope when life has gone awry. There has to be a reason for these curve balls that hit our lives.
Like everyone I genuinely wish you a full restoration of your health. The cancer is the pits, but you have much to be grateful for a with such a wonderful wife and friends. Hope to see you back to writing articles soon! God Bless!

April 05, 2024

Thank you Graham and Deborah for sharing your experiences at this very difficult time. Graham, I can understand your need to find things to occupy your time and how difficult that is due to your current limitations. Have you thought about writing an investment book? Possibly you could dictate your main ideas section by section and then use an AI app to assist with the editing. Best wishes.

Russell Grigg
April 05, 2024

Hi Graham & Deb - long time - I've been out of fin services and caravanning around Australia for close to 3 years now - and only recently heard about your cancer troubles. A terrible scenario for you and your family. I thought of you when we were in Exmouth with the whale sharks!
We only planned to travel for 3-6 months but as soon as the big city was in our rear view mirror we realised how much more there is to life. We have reconnected with nature and it has reminded us how precious and connected all life is and how truly deeply connected we human beings are to nature. I think everyone got a reminder of this over covid during their walks. Being in nature brings so much satisfaction, joy and peace. The stresses a d pressures dissipate. Meditation in nature is - by definition - a wonderful natural therapy. I highly recommend as much of that as you can manage. Lots of beautiful places to visit within an hour of Sydney.
I am very grateful for the years I got to work alongside you at CFS. A more ethical, well-considered gentleman, financial services is unlikely to see.
With love and best wishes

Paul Bernasconi
April 05, 2024

Your ability to enlighten others has not diminished in the face of adversity Graham. A skill clearly shared by Deborah.
Best wishes for an improved journey for you and the family.
Kind Regards,

Peter Sullivan
April 05, 2024

Graham you are very hard on yourself. You don't think that you deserve this time for yourself, for rest, recovery. In fact, you owe it to yourself. You owe it to Deborah and your family. Take the time. Let your body fully recover. Frustration is just a state of mind. Work on that.

April 04, 2024

Thanks Graham and Deborah for sharing.

I got diagnosed with cancer in October 2022. In my case I'm a bit luckier in that I am on medication for at least a few years and maybe 10 years or longer before I will need to undergo the more debilitating treatments. So I can only sympathise with your situation and understand in part particularly the tiredness.

However I've enjoyed my interim retirement with a bit of travel, tried golf and playing bridge. The social things including meals and trivia have been probably the best.

A friend of mine does financial counselling. Maybe if you are up to doing this online you might enjoy it.
If not do things you enjoy when you can!

Rob Ferguson
April 04, 2024

Hi Graham and Deborah
I am a follower .
I have a lung disease that while debilitating I feel lucky to have v yours.
You have been dealt a bad hand.
I’ve read the long list of responses and agree with the utility of books on tape.
I am now a year into caring , with a wonderful young Nepalese male who helps with showering dressing , food etc and Jennifer my with takes the weekend shift plus the cooking and organisation burden.
It is tough to be a mourner and a carer in the open ended way Deborah and Jenny are confronted with.
I’ve tried I reduce Jens burden because in many ways Jens got the short end of the stick.
I’m very happy despite my fate because there’s no ambiguity, while for Jen there’s heaps of ambiguity and ultimate loss to bear.
Graham , you have ambiguity but that can be a mixed blessing in aggregate.
It’s a sad state for you both to be in .
I’m thinking of you both.

Paul Coghlan
April 04, 2024

Your old Economics teacher together with the other two star students of the 1975 HSC class, Alex and Anton, wish you and your wife all the best with your challenging life changing condition. Your comments about writing being a central part of your life reminds me very much of Ross Gittins in his recent reflections of being with the SMH for fifty years.

Nina Harris
April 04, 2024

Not being able to do the thing you love most, the thing you feel called to do, must be unbelievably frustrating. To contend with that at the same time as fighting for your life makes you nothing short of a hero. Thanks for making the effort to share your insights and journey with us, Graham. Both of you. Praying that your cancer story gets to have a happy ending. Much love.

April 04, 2024

There are two books which i have which offer hope by meditation.
The Silva Mind Control Method by Jose Silva - see pages 73 to 76
A Way of Doctoring by Ainslie Meares M.D. - page 141.
Good luck.

James Athanasou
April 04, 2024

Dear Mr Hand

I do not know you but i know you. Your weekly column andnewsletter have been an important part of my learning and development. Like other readers I am touched by your news and grateful for the update. May I wish you every strength and all the courage in the world. Our thoughts and prayers will be with you and your family for a successful outcome.

April 04, 2024

I was wondering how you were doing Graham. I am sorry to hear about your ongoing issues. You are what I call a 'live to work' person. The best thing for your type would be to drop dead of a heart attack whilst still working full time. I am the other sort - the 'work to live' type. My big life plan was to work really hard for 20 years, save and then retire (FIRE). I ceased working day and night at 46 years of age. I am now 54. For me the euphoria of not HAVING to work has lasted, no way would I go back to working full time. I also wanted to make sure that I had some time for me, while I was still young enough, and well enough, to not be restricted by the many health issues that come with aging. I have loved having the time and energy to pursue things I have always wanted to do, like becoming a dog owner. I have not run out of these interests...I do not have enough time.

Things that I did not really appreciate. The social aspect of work is really important and it was a big loss. I retired and that cohort of friends, my age, were unable to do things with me as they were still working full time. The huge amount of judgement I experienced was unexpected. I have always worked part-time since I ceased full time work, but very much on my terms and I enjoy it. I volunteer for a Ukulele teaching program and help run a music group. Most participants are over 65 years. I have reflected that for many, working full time until 67 years can be really hard. I have watched these people age and have concluded that there is NOTHING good about it, apart from still being alive. I knew about inflation, but I had not felt its impact pre-retirement. Wow that can have huge implications ...the house I purchased in 2015 $850K, now would need $1.5 million or so. Ouch.

Audiobooks can be fantastic if you like the narrator. Voice recognition dictation and narrating software have come a long way.

It is very hard to be motivated when you are feeing unwell. I do hope Graham, that you will soon be feeling better and can get back to writing. Remember you are currently working full time, for your health.

Elaine Collins
April 04, 2024

Thanks, Graham & Debra, for those compelling insights into the complexity and difficulty of brain cancer. I am sure I speak for the whole community of FirstLinks readers in being so impressed by the way you and your family are dealing with this most devastating of blows. Wishing you all the very best for treatment success.

April 04, 2024

Best wishes Graham and Deborah. Since Graham’s diagnosis, I have checked each edition of firstlinks hoping for a promising update.
Keep hanging in there, I hope your recovery continues

John "Porka" Peters
April 04, 2024

Handy and Deborah,

I have learnt from cancer in our family that there is a life pre cancer diagnosis and one after.

Handy, you have always been a person of strong personal beliefs, just focus on that and the fact that the goal posts have been moved but you are still aiming to score.

All the best.

Elie A
April 04, 2024

Hi Deborah et Graham. Thank you so much for the update. My thoughts and prayers are with you both.
During my journey with the big C (kidney and brain) I came across this comment by a cancer fighter saying that cancer was the best thing that happened to him coz it helped him re prioritise his life and what really matters. In my case I changed direction with respect to food and imagination. I confess that food was boring to the extreme but I believed it was shrinking the cancer with every meal. I also repeated this mantra “I am beating this crap” and I am getting better” I would repeat these every time I am there is a gap in my thoughts. I was very sceptical at first but I sort of brainwashed myself that it’s working. My prayers are with you in this journey. God bless you both

David Offer
April 04, 2024

Thank you, Graham and Deborah, for providing an update. An incredibly difficult time for you both but you still take the opportunity to generously share your experiences and learnings which for others helps build wisdom and knowledge. I wish you both all the best as you endure this battle.

Peter Milne
April 04, 2024

Take care Graham.
Kind regards
Peter Milne

April 04, 2024

G and D

The altruistic contributions you have made to others (enjoying it all the time) are shown by the many who are mentally with you on your difficult journey. To reach out to so many, and in turn be reached out in mutual support. What more could we have, given the randomness of life's vagaries?


Ian Radbone
April 04, 2024

I'm also retired, and if I have some spare time I binge listen to The Rest is History podcast. If you have any interest in history I'm sure you'd find it entertaining and you'd feel you'd learnt something.

Dr David Arelette
April 04, 2024

God Speed John Glen

Graham, I open every edition to see if there is an update, great to read this one. As a reference point, on February 20th 1962, John Glen was the first American to ride a rocket into orbit, at the time 95% of what was needed to reach the moon did not exist and all knew that this was a lowest cost government contact capsule and rocket. You are in much the same place, except for the lowest cost rule, it's a ride into the risky largely unknown, and it's an adventure of sorts albeit annoying parts on many days. I decided to take all change as an adventure, go where no one has gone before - I hope this helps.

kate Rolfe
April 04, 2024

Writing your reality is very helpful for people. So perhaps you can feel good knowing you can write about that when you are up to it. Without a deadline just when you feel like it. Your loyal readers will devour it and it will spark in them some self reflection of their own. Keep going

April 04, 2024

God speed to you both and thank you for sharing the tough journey.

Su Mon Wong
April 04, 2024

Graham and Deborah thanks for your health update. Please continue your "fight".

Just want to let you know that I always enjoy reading your informative articles including this special health update.

Please stay positive.

April 04, 2024

Graham and Deborah
Thanks for sharing with us.
I wish you both love and strength to get through the days that are ahead.

Lisa R
April 04, 2024

Wishing you courage, strength, and recovery, Graham, from a loyal admirer

Graeme McKenzie
April 04, 2024

All the best Graham, thanks for your courageous words and insight. We were recently touched with what may have been quite a similar issue with our son, so the matter is very raw with me and my family. Fortunately his prognosis has been very positive and his brain issue was encephalitis, rather than cancer. He has received wonderful treatment in London and looks like making a full recovery, which is a real blessing, but as I say your story touched me very deeply.
All the best and I look forward to reading a future article from you on the markets, as your previous insights were so valuable.

Peter Herington
April 04, 2024

Nobody who has not endured what it is you are going through can do other than empathise. There is no way we can do other than wish you the strength to continue to prevail in what is a most horrible set of circumstances. You will stay in our thoughts.

In terms of distraction, irrespective of condition (I, for one, found that) retirement is a challenge. How to pass that time and feel that one has contributed; to humanity, to one's purpose in life or just to one's self - esteem? I settled on writing. For me, I found something satisfying in telling one's own life story, in my case for my granddaughters. Our generation has enjoyed a life that I suspect they can never quite repeat and leaving them a story they can relive has become important to me. I use a piece of dictation software (Google Dictate or Dragon Dictate are good) and while it may require some re - editing, it saves a great deal of hard work. You well may already be looking at this as an option but, if not, perhaps this is a way you can maintain doing what you love and achieve what you seek. Otherwise, continue to fight and know that people care and are thinking of you and Deborah. Peter and Hélène.

April 04, 2024

Best of luck. Just been reading 'Being Mortal' by Atul Gawande and 'When Breath Becomes Air' by Paul Kalanithi. Personally, I have been cured after a 'C' diagnosis in 2017, then lost my wife - so thought 'F it' and retired at 60 - as a previous workaholic, strangely satisfyingly enjoying it - there is often light at the end of the tunnel.

April 06, 2024

Pedro; Just like Graham, Atul Gawande is darned good value....especially the story of his famous 'The Checklist Manifesto' where he risibly revealed the number of hypocrites there were (are?) among his fellow sawbones when they quickly 'changed tack' in answering Gawande's follow-up, 'cutting question' which placed THEM 'under the knife' instead of their being but the biased an' bonneted bodies who wield it. Gawande also briefly features in 'Cognitive bias mitigation' on Wiki.

April 08, 2024

Allan, I’ll have to listen to The Checklist Manifesto. Tks

Warren Bird
April 04, 2024

Graham, we were reminiscing just a few days ago about your visit to the Book Club that my wife was in some time back, where you spoke with them about Beyond Lucas Heights. I told those who'd been there about your illness and they all send you best wishes for a good recovery.

All the best mate.

Mr Michael Klug
April 04, 2024

I’m very sorry to hear your news. I wish you well and hope things work out. I’ve always enjoyed your writing and have found the content a serious value add. All the very best to you

jeff O
April 04, 2024

Thanks for another valuable contribution and all the best Graham, Deborah & family

My view is "work" and indeed "contributions" should be thought of very broadly and dynamically.

Enjoying what you contribute....engaging in activities at work, with family, friends etc .....contributing to others as much as you consistent with your current and future potential and not expecting anything in return is most fulfilling and rewarding ... unrequited love.......great physically and spiritually for our well being

And resting and recovery leads to more "work"

John Matthews
April 04, 2024

Graham & Deborah. Thank you for sharing the journey, as difficult as that must be. My thoughts and hopes are with you.

April 04, 2024

Brain cancer is an awful thing. My father died from it and so I have a reasonable perspective of what you and your family are going through. It is sadly one of the most aggressive and persistent cancers and prognosis is seldom positive. My only advice is live as well and as fun as you can. In hindsight with my father, I wish we had been more realistic and focused on getting the best out of what was the remaining portion of his life and spent less time on treatment which was only a form of poisoning in a fruitless attempt to hold the horrible disease at bay but which had the impact of cruelling what remained of his life. Its a grim perspective I know, but one I now truly believe in for this disease. Go well.

Mike Mynett
April 04, 2024

Best wishes Graham and is an insidious disease and my prayers are with you can beat it Graham!


Derek Perkins
April 04, 2024

I am so very sorry to hear this. We realise at our age just how brittle life is. My heartfelt thoughts and wishes Graham. You have become a legend in the industry and have added so much value to the lives of all your readers. Knowledge like yours is hard to imagine being without. Life in pending retirement is pretty scary on a few levels but now is the time to reward yourself and your family for all your hard work mate. Try to enjoy every precious moment. I am sure you will. God Bless and thank you so much for everything you have done for this industry Graham.

Brett Sanders
April 04, 2024

Thanks for sharing Graham and Deborah. Very best wishes to you both. You sound like a great team. Will keep an eye out for future updates.

Pradeep Agrawal
April 04, 2024

Thank you, Graham and Deborah, for sharing your situation in such an honest way. I have always enjoyed reading your editorial pieces Graham and my best wishes for your recovery. Anything you write in future will have such a special meaning for retired people like me.

April 04, 2024

Thank you for such an honest update. Wishing you and your wife all the best and better health this year.

April 04, 2024

To Graham and Deborah - sharing such personal information with us, your loyal readers, makes us feel part of your family. All the very best for a full recovery.

Stephen Bury
April 04, 2024

Thanks for sharing Graham & Deborah and best wishes for treatment and recovery.
Graham, I love my golf and am recently retired but have no desire to play more than twice a week on average (noting it consumes about 6 hours allowing for commute and drinks afterwards.) My “post work” activities include sport coaching (of teenagers), mentoring (uni students), AFL umpiring and I’ve returned to playing squash after 20 years. Wife still working so also meant to be doing more cooking and housework ??. As a retired Financial Planner, I can confirm from experience that many people retire soon after first or second grandchildren arrive……

April 04, 2024

What an honest account of the impact this is having on you. Thank god for our Australians of the year, Drs Georgina Long AO and Richard Scolyer AO and the work they are doing on Richard's brain cancer which will benefit all who have a similar diagnosis and may lead to bigger things for all cancer treatment. I truly hope that you can benefit from their amazing work in the not too distant future. Stay strong and best wishes.

Tony Clasquin
April 04, 2024

Thanks to both of you for wonderfully authentic update!

David Williams
April 04, 2024

Thanks both of you. My longevity research constantly reminds me that having an ongoing sense of purpose and framing our expectations brings satisfaction and greater wellbeing - whatever your circumstances. You seem to be ticking both boxes. Best wishes.

Anthony David Landa Gross
April 04, 2024

Graham & Deborah thanks for your comments...
As a survivor of prostate cancer and a long-only equities fund manager whose next birthday is 73; there are a number of mental models available, which I have used and suggest you both consider.

For example, the 4 phases of retirement by Dr. Riley Moynes.

Or Passages Predictable Crisis of Adult Life by Gail Sheehy.

Thanks for listening

Jan Wallace
April 04, 2024

Graham, a piece which gives such insight into an awful health dilemma. We always remember meeting you and Deborah at an AIA conference dinner . So interesting to hear about Deborah’s famous Mum. I still have her cookbook. Your insights into the world of retirement finance has been so productive for us. May life improve and mental clarity improve.

Andrew Maple-Brown
April 04, 2024

Thank you for sharing with us Graham and Deborah, your insights are so valuable on what we can so easily otherwise take for granted. All the best for your recovery.

Matt Froggatt
April 04, 2024

Thanks for sharing this Graham and Deborah. Incredibly tough predicament, but you are clearly doing everything you can to make the most of it and overcome challenges. Keep kicking Goals, albeit not on the football field at the moment. Sending love and best wishes

April 04, 2024

Wow! Thank you very much for sharing this intimacy Graham and Deborah - God Bless you and yours. Hoping for your recovery to be the best possible for you all.

Patrick Gallagher
April 04, 2024

Graham you're a hero. You too Deborah. Thank you so much for making the huge effort to write this and be assured that you have fervent good wishes from all of us.

April 04, 2024

Oh bloody hell you 2 ... there goes my day ! I'm all over the place reading this. It sounds trite to say but thanks to both of you for describing 'reality' since I (and I assume many others) don't - thankfully - really have a view of the day to day in these sorts of situations. To say it's sobering doesn't come close. I (again, like many others here I'm guessing) only know Graham via his wonderful Firstlinks contributions but - again without wishing to sound trite - his situation seems highly personal to me. Keep fighting please, little victories are bloody good, and Jane and I send all our love to you both. Oh, and us Firstlinks readers will take whatever we get from you Graham and whenever we get it !

Apnavi Saddington
April 04, 2024

Thank you for the update. It sounds like there's good days and not so good days. I hope the good days are more than the not so good. If you are able to provide sporadic updates that would be wonderful. Take care Graham and Deborah and your family.

Joseph Cannavo
April 04, 2024

My best wishes to you Graham.

Guy McK
April 04, 2024

Best wishes Graham. Hope a new development comes along soon.

Sharon Sherry
April 04, 2024

Thank you, Graham and Deborah, for sharing your journey with us.

I can only imagine the writer in Graham is in a constant state of wanting to get things on the page. Dictation maybe?

Re the vision piece preventing reading as much as writing, I have found Audible books to be wonderful for the few times I've been a bit low on energy and wanting to "read".

Nothing like what you're going through, G, but with the right narrator they might be something you can enjoy.

Take care and know so many people's thoughts, prayers and wishes are with you and the family.

April 04, 2024

Thank you Sharon, good suggestions. Using the dictation part of messaging and emails is one that Graham is now learning to use.

April 05, 2024

Deborah, If you wanted to take the dictation idea further, there is speech recognition software like Dragon.

Sending best wishes to you and Graham. I appreciated the update and I know how much effort must have gone into writing it. It's a hard slog and you're right, it is the full time job at the moment. I hope all the wishes here bring you some comfort.

April 05, 2024

Deborah and Graham: "[..] To not write leaves a gaping hole in his world. [..]" But then, why have a dog and bark y'self etc.. ;>) Well done, Deborah.

"A writer should not allow himself to be turned into an institution". (Jean-Paul Sartre on his declining a Nobel Prize)

"We read to know we're not alone." (being a touching line from the great movie 'Shadowlands' in which cancer features and turns things on its head for C. S. Lewis (played by Anthony Hopkins) who, in the movie, when 'the chips were down' for him and he momentarily lost his composure, heard his sage friend and man of the cloth, aptly interject with: "We see so very little here, Jack!"

Regards to you both.

Clayton Coplestone
April 04, 2024

Wow - a very powerful reminder about what is really important. Thanks for sharing this very intimate journey & best wishes for your recovery.

Phil Cocks
April 04, 2024

Thanks for your update Graham and Deborah. I always enjoyed your editorials Graham.
I faced similar challenges facing retirement and realised that I didn't share many activities with my wife. Bridge has been a positive addition to our week and we value the social side and the flexibility. has also opened new experiences and can be good for keeping in touch with grandchildren. Best wishes.


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