Rick Niven and his wife Christine during chemo at Mater Hospital Gladstone.
Rick Niven and his wife Christine during chemo at Mater Hospital Gladstone.

‘IN SHOCK’: Former councillor in fight for his life

WHEN a trick played by his friend on the golf course resulted in Rick Niven being tested for bowel cancer, he couldn’t have imagined the result.

Now, the former Capri Wholesalers owner and Gladstone Regional councillor is in the fight of his life, against the cancer that impacts one in 13 Australian’s in their lifetime.

Approaching 60, Mr Niven was extremely reluctant to get the unpleasant procedure of a colonoscopy done despite the advice of two friends, who are doctors, but now warns everyone over 45 to do it.

Rick Niven during chemo at the Mater Hospital Gladstone.
Rick Niven during chemo at the Mater Hospital Gladstone.

“They were just being pains and trying to inconvenience me because nobody wants to have a colonoscopy,” he said.

“If one of them can possibly inconvenience me with some sort of test he goes out of his way to do it, just as a bit of a joke.

But the procedure revealed the worst.

“Within a week I was in the Wesley hospital and had that operated on and they removed 40 cm of bowel...the doctors and the nursing staff there were absolutely amazing,” he said.

“In hindsight I should have had a colonoscopy at 50, 55 and 60.”

When she got the news, Mr Niven’s wife Christine said she and their children Ben, Lochlan and Alex, initially feared the worst.

“I was in shock, because Rick’s never sick, doesn’t take tablets and he’s always been healthy,” she said.

Mater Hospital Gladstone nurses Cindy Castaneros, Tracey McLucas, Rick Niven and his wife Christine during chemo treatment.
Mater Hospital Gladstone nurses Cindy Castaneros, Tracey McLucas, Rick Niven and his wife Christine during chemo treatment.

“We’ve had friends who lost family members to cancer and it’s very sad.”

“It was a surreal type feeling really, like, you’re having a go at me, is this real,” Mr Niven said.

Then began the long, hard road of chemotherapy, which was advised by his doctor as a precautionary measure.

“You have a treatment every two weeks and I’m on my fifth treatment and every one keeps getting marginally better, so I think my body is getting used to getting poisoned,” he said.

“The first time we had to get chemo done in Bundaberg, because of COVID-19, and I’m not a good passenger and I was reasonably crook through the whole thing.”

After chemo treatment is pumped into his blood for several hours every fortnight, Mr Niven goes home with a bottle attached for three days, then returns to hospital to get it removed.

“Most people can’t eat through chemo because everything has a metallic taste, but I’ve been lucky and only get a reaction when I eat or drink cold things,” he said.

During chemo treatment, Mr Niven is fitted with a port-a-cath, which feeds directly into his jugular vein.

“This can be uncomfortable when you’re sleeping, because you have a needle like a fish hook and if you pull it out you leak radioactive fluid everywhere,” he said.

“Everything that comes out of you is radioactive.”

This has necessitated a change in routine for the family for a week after chemo, with Mr Niven using his own toilet, following strict procedures and a diet, devised by a dietitian he employed.

Despite having yearly blood tests, Mr Niven warned everyone over 45 to get every test their doctor advised, because cancer can strike at any age.

“All the nurses and staff at the Mater hospital, Gladstone, have been fantastic and so supportive, so it’s always lovely to see their happy smiling faces,” he said.

Mater Private Hospital Gladstone provides a wide range of cancer services in a day treatment centre to the community of Gladstone and the surrounding region.

“The centre provides care and treatment for patients with breast cancer, prostate cancer, blood cancers, bone cancers and bowel cancers and operates from Monday to Friday,” a spokeswoman said.

“The service is available to anyone with private health cover or who chooses to self- fund.”



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