Peter Cairns, organist, pianist, singer and entrepreneur, died four years ago from cancer of the colon, as they say, survived by his wife Suzanne and three infants, the youngest only two.
Pete was one of the toughest blokes I have ever met. His life story is one of overcoming adversity and of hard work. And in a way, it was his work ethic that killed him.
Always in a hurry, he could scoff a steak in less time than I could swallow a sprout. There was never enough time to fit everything in, but his professional preparation for gigs was always impeccable. He brought the whole box and dice and lumped it all in and set it up without help. Lighting and sound, incidental music tapes, bags of scores, one for each instrument covering every song in the repertoire and one special bag that looked like the others, but no matter which instrument you played, that bag was visited. In it was a selection of the best spirits money could buy, free with compliments from Pete, that saved us many dollars in visits to the bar!
But that was not all he did. He had a music store, repaired and hired pianos in the hundreds and in the last few years of his life started a corporate garbage disposal service, which he ran solo. He made money but he treated his body like the enemy. Pills were popped to keep going and he never complained about being sick or having too much to do. No time to be sick, he just kept on.
But the lump and what it was doing to his bowel could not be ignored. He finally deigned to take himself to a doctor who diagnosed bowel cancer and ordered him into hospital immediately. Typically, Pete said he was too busy now and could he ‘have it after Christmas’.
The doctor told him if he didn’t get it our right away he ‘wouldn’t see Christmas’ but it was all too late. They did what they could, took out the primary and many secondaries over two operations, extending his life by many months, but it spread to his lungs and eventually his brain.
Typically, he worked right up until his death, doubled over and in great pain, dulled enough by whatever Medicine could offer for his last performance to be as professional as any other.
But Pete was the mate who urged me to have my first colonoscopy. There in the hospital, with tubes going God knows where, clearly just hanging in, he was more concerned with my health than his own.
So, after visiting my GP yesterday for his verdict, I thought it important to pass on the results and urge you, despite having to drink ‘prep’ and sit on toilets every few minutes for a day or so, to get tested. If there are symptoms or even if you are merely worried, go do it.
Five polyps were removed, three pre-cancerous in this, my third colonoscopy. With ten polyps gone, I guess I am a veteran of ‘innuendo’. I have never had symptoms. So if it had not been for Pete, I would not be here either. Some people leave holes in our lives when they go but he left a crater.