Tim Gibson: A phone call changed everything

16 Mar 2018

There are a few steps most people take when they enter a meeting, one of the first is turning your phone off or onto silent.

Five years ago Tim Gibson did just that, after the meeting he turned it back on and there were 10 missed calls from his wife Jo. Instantly he sensed in the pit of his stomach that something drastic was wrong.

He returned the call and received the news no husband or father wants to hear about his wife, 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 7 and our daughter was 5.”

What followed was an 18 month roller coaster of doctor’s visits and treatment.

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

In between those visits, friends and neighbours helped and supported the Gibson’s.

“They did things like cook meals for us. At one time I counted 16 lasagnes in our freezer,” Tim said. “They arranged for weekly cleaners as they knew Jo wouldn’t have the strength.  Those acts of generosity made us realise the good things that can happen when a community wraps it’s arms around you.  It certainly supported our family during that time.”

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

Tim found it difficult to really understand what Jo was going through, and not really knowing what the outcome would be was the most confronting.

“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 plan for what we did next.” Tim says.

Tim’s workplace is a sponsor of the Mother’s Day Classic, and his involvement in the event has a familiar ring to it.

Initially he entered as a bit of a fitness challenge, but once he saw the event realised what was going on was much more significant.

“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 over the last 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.”

For those thinking of donating or fundraising Tim has a simple message; do it.

“I do encourage people to donate and fundraise for the MDC.  During Jo’s journey, we were overwhelmed by the generosity of our local community who donated and raised funds.  It made me realise I wanted to give back to others.  I was grateful for the kindness and support from medical staff; friends and family; and the Goulburn community.”