Gavin Butt is a long way from home. The 24-year-old arrived in Melbourne just over a month ago from Halls Creek WA, a regional town in the Kimberley, to undergo a complex surgery at the Royal Melbourne Hospital (RMH).
Gavin was diagnosed with testicular cancer earlier this year. Testicular cancer most commonly occurs in 20-35 year old men and usually requires standard surgery to remove the tumour. However Gavin was part of a very small group of patients where the cancer spread to his lymph nodes then into his spine and great blood vessels.
In order to help Gavin he required complex surgery only available at a small number of hospitals in Australia.
Associate Professor Nathan Lawrentschuk, Director of Urology at the Royal Melbourne Hospital led the surgery which essentially opened up his torso from his sternum to his groin, moving the guts and bowel, in order to remove the lymph nodes and lump.
“If there was 1000 operations you could do, this would probably be in the 10 most difficult in terms of complexity,” A/Prof Lawrentschuk said.
Prior to arriving in Melbourne, Gavin had undertaken four cycles of toxic chemotherapy which shrank the tumour but left behind a chemotherapy resistant lump. This was the size of a small football, and the team were able to remove during his 10-hour surgery.
Being so far from home, Gavin’s medical team reached out to the AFL Players Association and organised for former West Coast player to visit him in hospital to give him a much needed morale boost.
Former Melbourne and West Coast player Jamie Bennell came to the hospital bearing gifts and videos. A number of current Eagles players recorded messages for Gavin, the team he passionately supports.
Gavin, a proud Martu man, is set to head home in the coming weeks with the team confident when he leaves the RMH he will be cancer free.
“He is basically cured, it can always come back, but we have high hopes that it won’t,” A/Prof Lawrentschuk said.