James Fennell had his whole life ahead of him – successful business, happy and healthy family of four kids, beautiful wife.
Six years ago, persistent abdominal pain, lethargy and rapid weight loss led to tests and a diagnosis of non-hodgkin lymphoma for the then 44-year-old. Diagnosed on the Friday, his specialists wanted to start chemotherapy the following Monday and he was staring down the barrel of being told he had 90 days left to live – “get your affairs in order”.
“I had six months of daily chemotherapy followed by a stem cell transplant – we were living in Brisbane and it was a massive ordeal for all of us, probably more so for Rachel,” Mr Fennell said. “I remember I didn’t get to see the kids while I was in isolation and the nurses would come into my room in full Hazmat outfits,” he said.
And as is sometimes the case, his compromised immune system led to other complications such as golden staph, septicaemia and he now lives with sarcoidosis. “We decided to change our lives, get out of the city, we were looking all around the world and decided to move to Cairns last year and we’re so thrilled that we did,” he said.
When diagnosed, their children were 8, 6, 4 and 2, and James was very fit. “April 2016 marks five years since James underwent the stem cell transplant,” Rachel said. “The Big Charity Auction is our way to mark and celebrate this significant moment in our lives. Having the prostate scanner in our community (which funds from the auction are earmarked for) benefits the patients, carers, family and friends in our community. As a carer, I have a great understanding of the cancer journey for everyone involved,” she said.
His family’s experience with cancer led him to the Far North Queensland Hospital Foundation and the decision to launch the no-reserve charity land auction. “Our family has had a direct involvement with cancer that resulted in aggressive treatment but a positive outcome, so we are passionate about health care in regional Queensland,” Mrs Fennell added. “Because the block will definitely sell on the day, we anticipate the Foundation will receive a significant five figure donation from the auction.”
“It will definitely sell – no-reserve auctions are unheard of here, so we’re confident of a great outcome for the Foundation and the buyer who will know they’ve done their bit to help out too.”
Far North Queensland Hospital Foundation chairman Dr Ken Chapman said he was thrilled that the companies had recognised the importance of making a difference to local health care.
• The auction will be held from 9.30am on Saturday, May 14 on site at Lot 55, Millhouse Estate. Pre-registrations to bid are encouraged at Millhouse Estate.
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