Brett was a close childhood friend of Be Inspired Foundation’s founder Shane Johnstone. Brett was a very passionate sportsman and upcoming Australian rules football field umpire. Brett had just been awarded a WA Football League (WAFL) scholarship taking him closer to his dream of field umpiring in the AFL. Brett would regularly go for long runs to keep fit and one day he noticed a pain in his calf which did not settle. Further investigation revealed at just the age of 17 that he had an Osteogenic Sarcoma (cancer).
Brett needed prompt surgery to have the tumour removed. The surgery went well however the nerve controlling his foot to lift up and drop down had been severed so he had lost this function and therefore the ability to run. Shane recalls watching a young upcoming talent not being able to achieve what he had worked so hard for as heart breaking. Shane also remembers his positivity that he would beat the cancer and that the nerve would grow back even at 1mm per day and that he would return to what he loved.
Later everyone was informed that the cancer had spread and it was now in his lungs. Brett remained determined. While Brett battled the cancer, friends and close family did everything they could for him. Shane recalls completing his first charity campaign, knocking on neighbour’s doors telling Brett’s story and committing to shaving his head to raise money for him.
Brett had the opportunity to meet some of his idols down at a Western Warriors cricket training session. Again the generosity was amazing especially from Justin Langer. JL who was playing for Australia at the time was so touched by Brett’s story and determination that he personally would catch up with Brett on a regular basis and gave him his contact details. JL even wrote about Brett in his book “The Power of Passion”.
Shane was convinced that Brett was going to beat the cancer. After two long years Shane was nothing short of devastated when Brett at 19 years of age called him into his bedroom as he laid on his bed and looked at Shane and said “I have given up, I can’t do this anymore”. At 15 years of age Shane was in shock and didn’t want to believe he was thinking like that. The next day which was ANZAC day we were advised that he had passed away.
Brett’s family wrote the following passage:
Anzac Day will never be the same again. We farewelled our own soldier and prayed that Brett went to a better place. Brett fought his battles with strength and courage that was admired by all who nursed him and knew him. Brett’s first chemotherapy session ‘knocked him for a six’. He came out of that cycle determined that future cycles would not affect him that way. He was rarely sick after that first time. His biggest problem was with the unavoidable infections that are a part of chemotherapy, due to neutrophils being blasted at the same time as the cancer cells are blasted. Brett hated having to go to hospital until his blood counts were normal again and never went in without a fight. Apart from the infections and time spent in hospital, Brett remained as active as possible and even continued his studies at university. He found other ways to continue sport and tried to fit in as much as was practically possible into his days at home. His good friends were always there for him and would change their own plans to go out with Brett when he was feeling good.
Unfortunately the doctors ran out of options to treat Brett and we all had to accept that Brett’s journey was going to come to an end that none of us had ever wanted to think about. Brett changed his focus and set about planning his funeral and saying goodbye to people. The depth of Brett’s well of courage was immeasurable. Brett passed away at home surrounded by his family knowing that he was loved and supported by many people.
Shane the founder of the Be Inspired Foundation, now attributes a lot of what he does to Brett’s legacy and lives with the philosophy of making the most of life’s opportunities, in recognition that some people aren’t so lucky.
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