I have had the privilege of being asked to share my story this year and what connects me to this amazing organisation that is the Mark Hughes Foundation.
Brain cancer has taken someone very special to me and I hope me sharing my story helps raise awareness and inspires readers to take action and join the fight in finding a cure.
Bernard Patrick Neeson, or more commonly known as, ‘Doc Neeson’, was diagnosed with stage 4 brain cancer in early 2013. Most people knew him as the lead singer of iconic Australian rock band ‘The Angels’ who, along with his legendary performing antics helped shape Australian rock culture in the 1980’s. But to me he was so much more than that, he was my dad.
I had an incredibly special and close relationship with my father. Him being who he was meant my upbringing was anything but normal, but also meant there was always music around which I loved. We’d listen to music, play guitar and sing together and just shoot the breeze over a beer or glass (ok, maybe a bottle) of wine. His knowledge of music and music history was amazing. He’d tell stories over dinner about how various instruments were invented and their origin which bored me to death sometimes, but I’d do anything to hear one of them again…
Watching his health deteriorate the way it did was hard. Really hard. It wasn’t all that long before being diagnosed he was on tour with Mötley Crüe, on stage in full flight in front of tens of thousands of screaming fans. But that’s how this disease can work. It’s relentless and unforgiving and can take a hold of you very, very quickly.
Dad, or Doc was first admitted to hospital on Christmas Eve 2012. We were having family dinner at my mother’s place (as we did every Christmas Eve) when dad started to lose his speech and wasn’t making much sense (typical symptoms of a stroke). I drove him to Royal North Shore Hospital and waited there until about 4:30am on Christmas morning before going home for a few hours while the medical team began running tests.
I returned at about 7am and the doctors still had nothing concrete for us regarding his condition. Fast forward a week or so and dozens of tests later, we went to the hospital to visit dad on his birthday, January 4th, 2013. He was in reasonably good spirits as always, but we (my mother, brother Daniel and I) could all tell something was seriously wrong.
We asked him what the latest was and if the test results identified what was going on. I’ll never forget the look he gave us. Fighting back tears, he passed us an A4 sheet of paper that he’d written on. The letter said they had found a large tumour on the frontal lobe of his brain and that he had been diagnosed with aggressive (stage 4) brain cancer. The letter also went on to say that typically someone with his condition won’t make it beyond 12 – 18 months. The fight was on!
They operated on him immediately to remove the tumour, which was successful, and launched a full scaled attack on the cancer with both radio and chemotherapy. This was extremely taxing on him and drained so much energy, but he was determined to keep going. I want to take this opportunity to thank all the lovely doctors and nurses that helped care for him and made him feel as comfortable as possible while he was in hospital. These people truly are angels of the earth.
The Australian music industry had so much love and support for dad which was evident at the ‘Rock for Doc’ concert that was held at the Enmore Theatre on April 15th, 2013. A host of Australian rock royalty including Jimmy Barnes, Peter Garret, Diesel, Jon Stevens, The Baby Animals, Rose Tattoo and many more banded together to put on one hell of a show to raise money for dad’s treatment and help him fight his battle with brain cancer. He took to the stage barely able to walk and went against strong medical advice telling him not to perform, but he was determined to see it through and in the words of the great man “the show must go on!”
Sadly, that was the last time my father ever performed live. Although he fought long and hard, in the end the cancer was just too aggressive and kept coming back. He lost his battle on June 4th, 2014, exactly 18 months from when he was diagnosed.
For us as a family, having support like we had from the music industry was such a big help and had a huge impact on dad’s ability to get the support and medical treatment he needed. But many families dealing with the same sort of thing typically aren’t as lucky. I understand how mentally, physically, and financially draining dealing with something like this can be which is why I’m such a big supporter of what the Mark Hughes Foundation and their amazing team are doing and have done for the past few years.
Mark and the team truly are an inspiration and have such dedication to achieving their goal – getting rid of brain cancer once and for all.
Finding a cure is one thing but supporting those affected and their families is just as important. And to do this, we need your help!
By buying a beanie you are contributing to such a worthy cause and are helping those unfortunate enough to be battling this horrid disease more than you know.
Show your support and together, we can beat this!
Written by Kieran Neeson (son)