This Daffodil Day Friday, 24 August Cancer Council is calling on all Australians to fund vital cancer research by dedicating a virtual daffodil to someone they love.
Over the past 20 years, more than 61,000 Australian lives have been saved by improvements in cancer prevention, screening and treatment as a result of cancer research.
Cancer Council Australia's Cancer Screening and Immunisation Committee Chair, Adjunct Professor Karen Canfell said that through the new initiative, Dedicate a Daffodil, Australians can show their support for people impacted by cancer today and give hope for a cancer free future.
"Cancer Council works across every aspect of cancer, but we rely on the generosity of community donations to fund our work.
"By dedicating a daffodil, you can show your support to those who are currently facing a cancer diagnosis and also make a commitment to fund vital cancer research that could one day save the life of someone you love.
"With one in two Australians diagnosed with cancer by the time they are 85, everyone is touched by cancer in some way in their lifetime.
"Dedicating a daffodil is your chance to donate to cutting-edge, life-saving research to give all Australians hope for a cancer free future," Professor Canfell said.
Dedicating a virtual daffodil is easy;
• Go online at dedicateadaffodil.daffodilday.com.au/dedicate/ and make a donation to receive your virtual daffodil.
• Fill in your details and the details of the person receiving the virtual daffodil.
• Click send! Your loved one will receive their virtual daffodil via email with your personalised message.
• You will also receive a copy of your virtual daffodil dedication.
Cancer Council's iconic fundraising event, Daffodil Day, will take place this year on Friday 24 August to raise funds for life-saving cancer research.
In 2017, Cancer Council and its research partners directed over $60m to research grants for vital research projects across Australia, making the organisation one of the largest not-for-profit funders of cancer research in Australia.
For more information on Daffodil Day or to get involved, visit www.daffodilday.com.au or call 1300 65 65 85.
Question: What's new for Daffodil Day, this year?
Timothy James Bowen: For Daffodil Day this year Cancer Council has introduced a new way for you to honour the people you love with the new dedicate a daffodil feature on daffodilday.com.au. Every dedication made online will support Cancer Council's life-saving cancer research.
I encourage everyone to support someone they love this Daffodil Day because those that are standing by the bed side are the ones that make the most difference to those in need of their support. So much of a person's recovery is in their mental state.
As I know from personal experience, having friends and family surrounding you in a time of need is one of the most uplifting and comforting forms of support that one can receive. Whether it's a silent vigil, a cup of tea, a simple note or a hand to hold, it all goes much further than anyone can ever imagine.
Question: How can Australians support the Cancer Council, this year on Daffodil Day?
Timothy James Bowen: Australians can show their support for Daffodil Day this year by buying a pin or fresh daffodils from a local Daffodil Day stall on Friday 24 August. They can also volunteer their time on the day or dedicate a daffodil to someone they love by visiting daffodilday.com.au.
Question: How did the Cancer Council support you after your diagnosis?
Timothy James Bowen: After my diagnosis, I spent the next 6 months visiting the hospital on a regular basis. In that time I got to know Wollongong Hospital quite well. Cancer Council's support areas and help desks were highly visible throughout different parts of the hospital and the Cancer Care centre. Their representatives were always ready and willing to offer any support that was needed in aspects as wide ranging as providing accommodation to those in need to driving support for those in need of transport. I was offered immediate and continuing support from both Cancer Council and the Leukaemia Foundation from day 1 of my diagnosis. I was lucky enough however to be surrounded by an army of incredible family and friends who were my main support network. I always felt like there were so many others more in need of the assistance that these incredible charities provided than I was, but knowing that they were always there to help was such an amazing comfort and support.
Question: Can you talk us through your own cancer journey?
Timothy James Bowen: In December of 2015, I was working harder than I ever had before. My Girlfriend, Christina (now Fiancée), was working in Lismore hospital and living in Byron Bay - so, along with playing 4 or 5 shows a week, I was travelling up to the North Coast from Kiama (South Coast, NSW) every Sunday to see her, had made several writing trips to the US in the latter part of the year and was completing a national tour promoting a recent EP. All the while I was also recovering from a severe car accident that had occurred earlier in the year, so when I began feeling lethargic and noticing symptoms that I now know were quite ominous in retrospect (tiredness, back pain, night sweats, etc.), I didn't give any of it much thought because everything was so explainable by my manic schedule. Everything came to a head when, in mid-December, I was crossing a road in Byron Bay, simply sneezed and experienced pain in my back so severe that I collapsed in the middle of the road. After being helped back to the sidewalk by Christina and a few kind strangers, we made a trip to the doctor for some pain medication and booked an appointment with my usual GP down south. After some standard blood tests and a lot persistent investigation, they concluded in a very sudden doctor's appointment that I either had Myeloma, Testicular cancer or Lymphoma, that I needed to take more comprehensive tests immediately and that I would most likely end up in hospital before Christmas.
The days following were a blur of specialist appointments, blood tests and biopsies which ultimately did culminate with me being admitted to hospital. Within 5 days, my diagnosis was still not entirely clear, however the more results that trickled in from specialists, the clearer the picture became. They had narrowed it down to Lymphoma after a few days in hospital. I remember one of my main specialists walking into my hospital room to deliver the news that his initial thoughts were incorrect and the cancer was far more advanced than they had anticipated. His exact words were, "It's a lot worse than we thought, mate. But it's going to be OK". They continued to perform tests and given that Christmas was approaching, we were likely to be waiting until beyond the holiday period for results to come in. Because of this, the doctor in charge of my case agreed that I could go home over the Christmas holidays, however if anything changed in my situation, I needed to come back to the emergency department immediately.
My sister, Clare, and her husband, Brandon, flew out from their home in the US as soon as they heard the news and we spent an impromptu Christmas together as a family, which was wonderful, though we could all feel that these few brief days of respite were amounting to the calm before the storm.
After just 3 days of being out of hospital, Christina noticed a swelling in my left arm that continued to get worse by the hour. We ended up heading back into hospital, where I was admitted immediately to the Oncology ward and placed under the watchful eye of the doctors and nurses while they continued their investigations. After days of dismissal by multiple doctors, Christina ultimately had to demand that they perform an ultrasound on my arm, which was still majorly swollen. Upon inspection, they found that the cause of the swelling was a clot in my arm that extended down the length of my arm from my neck to my wrist. It had been caused by the now fist sized tumour beneath my sternum that was placing an incredible amount of pressure on the large vessels in my chest. Had it gone unexamined much longer, it was very likely that I could have suffered a heart attack and died within days. It was soon after this that the specialists agreed on a final diagnosis - Stage 4B Primary Mediastinal Large B cell Lymphoma.
I ended up staying in hospital for a month while they prepared me for and administered my first round of chemotherapy. My treatment plan meant that every three weeks I would be administered with approximately 96 hours of chemotherapy infusions via a take home pump, at the end of which I would be given a lumbar puncture containing a separate drug called Methotrexate. This process repeated 6 times over a 6 month period and would then be followed by 3 smaller, more spaced out infusions of methotrexate to finish off my chemotherapy treatment. Along with this I had my blood taken 3 times a week for monitoring purposes and had to inject myself with a blood thinner twice a day for 8 months to compensate for the clot that had formed in my arm.
Miraculously, after just 3 months of treatment, a PET scan (a standard test to essentially determine the spread of potential tumours inside the body) showed that there was little to no activity inside my body that showed any indication of tumours being present. On my specialists' recommendation, I completed the final 3 rounds and extra treatment required. During my last round of chemotherapy, I managed to garner the strength to support my sister on her inaugural national tour of Australia. I still believe that preparing for that tour, both physically and mentally, after such a huge event like this acted as such a driving factor for my own recovery.
After completing the tour and the final parts of my initial treatment, I went in for another routine PET scan. This time however, my results weren't as encouraging. The specialist had essentially found 3 new areas of inconclusive activity - One area on my sternum, one on my adenoid gland (essentially the rear of my nasal passage) and one in the lining of my heart. This required further investigation. I then went in for more biopsies of all affected areas and eventually heart surgery to confirm the make up of these spots of activity on the scan.
All three spots came back clear and cancer free. Nearly 3 years have passed now and I remain in remission, heading in for regular check-ups with my specialist to make sure everything is still as normal as it can be. The doctors' visits are still stressful, but I'm feeling healthy, regaining my fitness and am more thankful for each day ever than before.
Question: What advice do you have for Australians recently diagnosed with cancer?
Timothy James Bowen: One of the biggest things that helped me along the way, and especially in the beginning, was trying my best not to have any expectations of outcomes from tests, scans and specialist appointments. I found that if I prepared myself for the worst, I would stress myself out in the days and weeks leading up to it and if I told myself everything was going to be fine, when I received negative results, it made the blow have that much more impact. As cliché as it sounds, it came down to just taking each day as it happened. Worrying about the inevitable, whatever that may be, won't change the outcome - So I tried my best not to put myself there. I found that mind set to be incredibly supportive to my overall health during treatment. The impact that your mental state can play in getting through treatment is such an integral part of recovery that seems too often get overlooked. I believe that my mental state and general frame of mind was a huge part of getting me through treatment and my main advice to anyone going through something similar is to stay positive, stay grounded and celebrate every win, no matter how small. Just take it one day at a time.
Question: What inspired you to take the leap into the music industry?
Timothy James Bowen: I can't remember a time when music wasn't a part of my life. I essentially started to sing as soon as I could talk, so it's always been ingrained in who I am as an individual. There are a few things that have been integral in encouraging me to pursue music as a career though. First and foremost, my older sister Clare always set the bar for what I believed I should be doing in life. Looking up to her like I did meant that I wanted to do everything that she did and in that, she is the main reason why I started singing in the first instance. Then as a 10 year old, I got the opportunity to audition for a place in St. Mary's Cathedral Choir in Sydney. I was accepted into the choir and stayed there for 4 years, singing as a chorister every Sunday to crowds of 2,000 people or more. This really solidified my understanding of aural harmony, as well as discovering how to navigate different languages, deal with stage fright, pick out melodies easily from clusters of voices and engrained a respect for music in me that I don't think I would have gained otherwise. During high school I taught myself to play the guitar and, in particular, was heavily influenced by John Mayer. I remember watching the DVD of his live concert at the Nokia Theatre in LA late one night and was just completely gobsmacked by what I saw him achieve and the joy that he brought to people through his music. I remember saying to myself that night, "This. THIS what I want to do with my life". Finally, after I finished high school, I went on to study Jazz at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. There I gained a wealth of knowledge through the help of my teachers and my wonderful friends that I met along the way. I was blessed with their patience in teaching me everything that they taught me there. The talent that exists within those rehearsal rooms and lecture halls inspired me to be better at what I do every day and to be eternally grateful for the privilege of having one of the best jobs in the whole world.
Question: What motivates you most when writing music?
Timothy James Bowen: Conveying a story that connects you to a complete stranger immediately in a way that nothing but music can is one of the most amazing feelings I've ever experienced. My motivation when writing is attempting to achieve that feeling for every song that I write.
Question: Which is your favourite song to perform live and why?
Timothy James Bowen: I actually have two favourite songs when performing live. The first is a song called 'Anchor'. I wrote it for my Fiancée Christina when I asked her to marry me. I firmly believe that she is the main reason that I'm still here and being able to sing thanks to her every time I step on stage is such an incredible feeling. Second is a song called 'Angels in Blue.' I wrote it about the nurses who took care of me in hospital who were there with their incredibly kind nature and strong, comforting presence throughout my entire treatment. I owe my life to them and they don't get thanked enough for the incredible work they do. Playing it for an audience and being able to thank them wherever I go is such a privilege and such an incredible feeling.
Question: Do you prefer performing live or recording?
Timothy James Bowen: Both! Each has their own draw cards. I love the spontaneity of live shows, whereas I love the precise nature and moments of absolute magic when you get the perfect take when recording. I don't think I could ever choose just one.
Question: Which music/artists are you currently listening to?
Timothy James Bowen: Gavin James, Amos Lee, Donovan Woods, Allen Stone, Chris Stapleton, John Mayer, David Ryan Harris, Coldplay, Jarryd James, Bon Iver & Josh Garrels to name a few…
Question: If you could collaborate with another artist, who would it be?
Timothy James Bowen: Earlier this year, I collaborated with an artist and good friend of mine, Sam Buckingham for an EP that we co-wrote and recorded in just a week. It was one of the best experiences I've had with another artist and I would absolutely do it again in a heartbeat. Creating music with another artist opens the door to so many different possibilities. And coming from a background of co-writing over the last few years, there's so much that come from artist collaborations when it's done right. There are so many fantastic artists out there that there are almost too many to name. A bucket list collaboration of mine would be someone like John Mayer or Chris Stapleton. To be able to stand on a stage or in a recording studio on level ground with artists of that calibre and notoriety would be a dream.
Question: What's next, for you?
Timothy James Bowen: I'm spending the next few weeks assisting Cancer Council in my role as an ambassador leading up to Daffodil Day which is really exciting. Then I'll be spending the rest of the year playing a few shows across the country, as well as focussing on writing and recording my debut album. I'll also most likely be making another US trip before the year is out for some co-writing over there with old friends and new. I'm also really looking forward to being able to spend some quality time with my family, especially when my sister, Clare, and her husband, Brandon, come out to Australia to tour Australia again in October. It will be a busy few months, but I can't wait to see what it has in store.
Interview by Brooke Hunter