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The phone call that changed everything

Tim Gibson with his children and wife Jo – who is now clear of cancer. Photo: Supplied
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There are a few steps most people take when they enter a meeting; one of the first is turning their phone off or onto silent.

Five years ago, Goulburn resident Tim Gibson did just that. After the meeting, he turned it back on to find 10 missed calls from his wife Jo. He knew immediately that something was drastically wrong.

He returned the call and received the news no husband or father wants: Jo had breast cancer.

“By the time I called her she was, understandably, very emotional. I left for home immediately,” he said. “It was like a bomb going off. Life stopped. My world was hazy. I was in panic. I wasn’t certain how to react. Our son was seven and our daughter was five.”

What followed was an 18-month rollercoaster of doctor’s visits and treatment.

The family have relatives in Melbourne, who recommended they seek treatment at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. Jo had three surgeries and they made three trips to Melbourne in the 18 months.

In between those visits, friends and neighbours helped and supported the Gibsons.

“It was like a bomb going off. Life stopped. My world was hazy. I was in panic.

“They did things like cook meals for us. At one time I counted 16 lasagnes in our freezer. They arranged for weekly cleaners as they knew Jo wouldn’t have the strength,” Tim said.

“Those acts of generosity made us realise the good things that can happen when a community wraps its arms around you. It certainly supported our family during that time.”

A cancer diagnosis and the subsequent treatment is a confronting and challenging time for a family. And while the patient goes through it, their support person is often forgotten.

For Tim, it was difficult to really understand what Jo was going through. He also found it confronting to not really know what the outcome of her treatment would be.

“What helped me process it was that I refused to think about the worst possible outcome, and helping Jo to analyse the current situation, and then planning for what we did next,” Tim said.

Mother's Day Classic
Entrants in Sydney’s 2015 Mother’s Day Classic set off. Photo: Getty

Tim’s workplace sponsors the Mother’s Day Classic, and his subsequent involvement in the event has a familiar ring.

Initially, he entered as a bit of a fitness challenge. Then he realised the event’s wider purpose.

“Participating brought it home to me. It made me want to give back to others. I realised how fortunate I was when I ran alongside people who were running for someone. In other words – for their spouse, their parent, their child, who had passed away from cancer,” Tim said.

“There has been so much progress in the past several years in diagnosis, treatment and understanding of the disease, and especially in understanding of the physical and psychological journey of cancer patients. Continuing funding of research is imperative.”

Tim has a simple message for anyone who is thinking about donating or fundraising: do it.

“I do encourage people to donate and fundraise for the MDC,” he said.

“During Jo’s journey, we were overwhelmed by the generosity of our local community, who donated and raised funds … I was grateful for the kindness and support from medical staff, friends and family, and the Goulburn community.”


The New Daily is a media partner of the Women in Super Mother’s Day Classic, which takes place in 100 locations across Australia on Sunday, May 13, raising money for the National Breast Cancer Foundation to help fund breast cancer research. Registrations are open here.

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