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News Tommy Raudonikis in fight for his life after fresh cancer diagnosis

Discussion in 'Rugby League General' started by chisdog, Dec 23, 2017.

  1. chisdog

    chisdog Kennel Enthusiast

    Jun 25, 2010
    Likes Received:
    "Pray for Tommy this Christmas" was the front page headline in the now defunct Sydney afternoon newspaper, The Sun, more than 30 years ago.

    I wrote the story of the battle Tom Raudonikis, the international halfback then coaching in Brisbane, was having with testicular cancer.

    On the bench: Tommy Raudonikis will be in recovery mode after undergoing surgery to remove cancer of the neck. Photo: Louise Kennerley
    It was the first of Tom's five serious medical problems but memorable for his very detailed instructions to the surgeon on which parts of his anatomy must not be removed.

    Following the successful operation, a very relieved Tommy declared, "you only need one ball to play football". Now, on the eve of another Christmas, he needs a cathedral full of fervent prayers.

    Tom has cancer of the neck and was operated on at Sydney's Prince of Wales hospital last week, with the surgeon telling him his chances of surviving are only one in three, while also using a football analogy to point out, positively, that these odds are better than the one in 11 success rate of the NSW team in recent State of Origin history.

    The surgeon was not able to remove all the cancerous tissue, tentacles dangerously close to the carotid artery, an evil vine seeking to strangle a life source desperately struggling to reach the sunlight and rid itself of all these medical miseries.

    Between the testicular cancer and the neck surgery, Tom has endured a quadruple bypass 11 years ago; treatment for cancer of the throat and was on the eve of serious back surgery when tests exposed his latest challenge.

    His 15-year-old grandson, Jake Kedzlie, died in April 2013, during a rugby league match.
    Tommy Raudonikis with his partner Trish Brown in his hospital room. Photo: Louise Kennerley
    It seems cruelly consistent that this 67-year-old, who has endured so much, would lose the boy he loved to the game he loved.

    Tom returned to his Gold Coast home on Wednesday with his devoted partner Trish ("My stomach feels as if it has been in a washing machine") and they will travel daily to Brisbane for chemotherapy and radiation.

    Not the first time: A newspaper clipping from The Sun in March 1987 revealed Tommy Raudonikis' first cancer battle. Photo: Fairfax Media
    Trish texted Tom's former Newtown president and long-time friend John Singleton with the grim prognosis, saying, "Tom said to tell you he has a one in three chance!! He'll take that."

    Singo, the gambler, took the same optimistic tack as the surgeon, replying immediately: "How much [money] we having on it?"

    Then he quickly followed with a text highlighting Tom's legendary fighting spirit: "I wouldn't like to be the other 2 tommy has to beat. Or that poor f------ cancer!!!!"

    Singo got it right with his reaction to Tom's latest medical challenge, unlike the ruse he played ahead of the quadruple bypass surgery.

    Tom has an endearing habit of being gullible with those he loves while retaining a radar like accuracy for detecting duplicity in those he distrusts.

    For weeks, Singo had co-conspirators phoning Tommy pretending to be Eddie McGuire who was then boss of Channel Nine. The ruse revolved around giving Tommy a gig on the Footy Show, conditional on his heart operation being televised live.

    Singo's son, Jack, almost gave the game away when he suggested the winner of a $1000 prize also be given the honour of holding Tom's heart up during the operation in Heart Awareness Week.

    The winner was to say, "Look at his heart. It's bigger than Phar Lap's". But when Singo's fake Channel Nine crew invaded Sydney's St Vincent's hospital, Tommy blew up.

    Angry that the dignity of his fellow five patients in the public ward had been diminished, he ordered the cameramen out, threatening to belt them.

    Fighting chance: Tommy Raudonikis (centre) has been given a one in three shot at recovering from cancer of the neck. Photo: Jacqueline Haynes-Smart/Fairfax Media

    Similarly, this week, the only thoughts he had for this story was a mention of his two doctors, Ian Jacobsen the ENT surgeon and Bob Smee, the radiologist, together with the ever-helpful staff of Prince of Wales.

    When Tommy was treated for the throat cancer at the same hospital a few years ago, he gave his name to a race meeting at Randwick to raise funds for cancer research.

    He concedes the cancer is "very aggressive" and admits to rare moments when he reflects on the cruelty of life.

    But he quickly dismisses them, balling his first as he strikes at the invisible foe, saying, "I can't think like that. I've got to keep going."

    It should be no mystery why Tommy is universally loved. His twin defining characteristics are a searing honesty and a commitment to hard work. He is incapable of telling a lie, his admission of the truth ending a relationship.

    Unlike some champion footballers of his era, he has always worked hard, earning the nickname, "Tommy Tomato" while labouring at Brisbane market; a timely Tom when delivering bathroom supplies in south-east Queensland, and tale-telling Tom while traversing the state on fund-raising nights with the late Arthur Beetson, his opposing captain in that inaugural State of Origin match in 1980.

    He was also born without pretence, or "side" as our parents called it. When mobile phones came on the market, he kept an old circular dial handset on the front passenger seat of his car.

    When he pulled up at traffic lights and observed a yuppie speaking into a mobile phone, he would mock him by lifting up the ancient handset and hold an imaginary conversation. He is comfortable in a wheelchair at airports, or using a frame, because he knows its need is genuine.

    His arguments with friends rarely last long, although Singo was sent to Coventry over the Channel Nine thing. When Tom called Singo on another matter, Singo said, "Does this mean we are mates?" Tom replied, "Not yet."

    Fierce competitor: Newtown captain Tommy Raudonikis (left) seemingly looking daggers as Ken Wilson (right) comes on as his replacement during a semi-final against Parramatta. Photo: Pearce; Stevens

    But he did concede Singo saved him ahead of the bypass surgery when he insisted all those signed up for the Kokoda trek take a cardiology test.

    Tommy had not been making any progress on a giant hill near Brisbane and resolved to make one determined attack on it the afternoon following his scheduled treadmill test.

    But shortly into the morning test, warning lights flashed, he was dragged off the machine and quadruple bypass surgery followed. Yet he climbed a mountain in Borneo with Singo a year later and walked the Kokoda track with us in 2012.

    When he flew to Sydney a couple of weeks ago for biopsies ahead of his neck surgery, we met in a Surry Hills hotel.

    I had earlier that day been given a "Growler" by Gary Johnston, the owner of electronics retailer Jaycar, the sponsor of the Bulldogs. A Growler is a thermos that holds five schooners of beer.

    When Gary heard of Tom's latest medical setback, he insisted I give it to Tom.

    We were joined by former St George captain Craig Young and Tom's Newtown teammate Col Murphy.

    Nanny state restrictions meant we couldn't fill the container from the pub's beer tap but we christened it anyway. Someone suggested an alternative use of the Growler would be to store Tom's Y chromosomes for later use to produce an assembly line of NSW halfbacks.

    It was the only way, it was conjectured, the Blues could beat Queensland. It would also be the only way the world will ever see another Tommy Raudonikis.

  2. chisdog

    chisdog Kennel Enthusiast

    Jun 25, 2010
    Likes Received:
    Best wishes to you Tommy in the fight of your life.
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