A WORTHY CAUSE
By MEL MARTIN
IT started as a tiny lump, and before the Gorman family had a chance to understand its enormity, it became a colossal mountain to overcome.
When an apparent insect bite at the side of Josh (also known as Mark) Gorman's neck last January turned out to be massive aggressive metastatic melanoma, the Gormans' world was turned upside down.
Nothing can ever prepare anyone for an announcement of that magnitude.
"The thought of having to go home and tell Michelle and the boys (Rhyan, 15, and Evan, 13), and finding ways of telling the rest of my family, knowing it would break their heart, was just terrible," Josh said.
Josh, who was 38 at the time, was sent to Sydney where he was told he would need an operation, fast.
With too long to wait in the public health system, he was left with no choice but to go private.
In no time, the Gorman family found themselves with more than $20,000 worth of debts and loss of income, and it was only thanks to the generosity of family and friends that they were able to pay some of the mounting expenses.
"The theatre costs doubled because I ended up needing two operations, and with the radiotherapy and accommodation costs in Sydney, it quickly added up," Josh said.
The second operation involved breaking Josh's collarbone to get to the last of his lymph nodes.
By the end, surgeons had removed 94 lymph nodes from Josh's jaw, neck, shoulder, chest and under his arm, with only six nodes found not to be cancerous. Many nerves were damaged and unable to be saved.
The operations were followed with radiotherapy, which kept Josh and Michelle in Sydney for another six weeks, adding to the emotional strain.
"In the first half of the year, we saw the boys for only five weeks," Michelle said.
"But our families and friends have been fantastic, they've supported us through it all, emotionally and financially."
Regular physiotherapy is now helping his arm recover, but Josh, who owns his business, Pressed Earth Bricks, won't be able to go back to work for many months yet.
And with Michelle staying home to care for Josh, the Gorman family struggles to pay everyday expenses, let alone settle debts.
And that was not something friend Layne Bruce was going to sit back and watch, so she is rallying the community and organising fundraising activities to help the Gormans get back on their feet financially.
"That's what a small community is all about, when someone is in strife, we all pitch in and help out," Layne said.
"I think there are a lot of people out there who would want to help if they knew what was going on."
And regardless of their financial situation, the Gormans are looking to the future with optimism.
"We're feeling really good, because we feel the worst is behind us," Michelle said.
For Josh, the next few months will be spent focusing on ways of getting better.
"They've thrown everything they had at me to treat me and now it's a matter of going through the physio, eating well, and being positive," he said.
"I feel as good as I have for a long time and that's something to be positive about."