Luke’s Story

Kayak challenge funds lymphoma research

Cancer had a life-changing impact on Luke at the tender age of 11 when his father tragically died from bowel cancer.

I was young and didn’t understand much,” Luke said, “but it was a shock because my dad was extremely healthy and fit.

I’m very fortunate to come from a big loving family and if anything, it made us bond closer together and he has always been an inspiration for me.”

Then while Luke was travelling around America after deferring his university studies, he got the shocking news that his mum had been diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

He returned to Melbourne immediately to support and care for her through treatment.

“I didn’t need to come back home but hearing the word ‘cancer’ is like an alarm,” he said. “She’s okay now and going through treatment now but there are worse cases of cancer diagnoses.”

After a year away from home travelling, Luke decided he wanted to do something meaningful with his time before starting work.

“Ever since I was a kid I’ve wanted to kayak around the bay,” Luke said. “It started with kayaking and I’ve always loved doing fundraising so I put the two together.”

Luke decided to kayak from Half Moon Bay in Black Rock to Rosebud – a 65km journey to where he spent many childhood summers fishing and swimming at the beach.

Luke signed up to Cancer Council Victoria’s ‘I Will for Cancer’ campaign in November 2017, calling his unique challenge ‘Cancer Can Get Kayaked’ and set about planning to undertake the massive  journey in January.

“I purposely didn’t give myself much time to prepare. I trained for hours on a rowing machine and tried to go out for a paddle once a week.

“Weather and training were the most important things, but I got seasick a lot and there would be times where I threw up on the beach with beautiful sun bathers staring at me!” he said.

Luke put the word out on Facebook, with lots of generous friends and family donating to his challenge.

Then the day of the challenge came on a clear Thursday morning in January 2018.

“I think on that day, my dad was looking down on me because the weather was perfect,” he remembered. “The challenge was mostly mental, especially getting seasick and repeating the same movements.”

The gruelling kayak challenge took Luke just under 12 hours to complete but the generosity and support spurred him on, and Luke “was surprised at how quickly the day flew.”

His younger brother was in charge of taking photos of him on the day and updating social media, and Luke was met at checkpoints along the way and given water and electrolytes.

He got to the finish line at Rosebud and was greeted by close friends and family, along with the news that he had gone over his initial fundraising target.

“Prior to the event, fundraising was just under $5,000,” he said. “And by the end it was over $8,000, so I won a Cancer Council research award and chose the money to go towards lymphoma research.”

Upon reflecting on his personal cancer experience and the motivations that spurred him to take the challenge, Luke said the reward was like no other.

“This kayak challenge felt very honest,” he said. “I was doing something real for a real personal cause and I was really motivated and passionate about it.

“The thing is, the minute you hear the word cancer, your whole life changes. If the money I’ve raised means that someone who has just been diagnosed feels less distress and more hope because of new research and treatments, then that would be an amazing thing.”

He encourages anyone thinking of taking their own personal I Will for Cancer challenge to overcome inhibitions.

“Choose something that excites you, and other people will be excited by it,” Luke said. “I haven’t met anyone fundraising that doesn’t find real joy in what they’re doing.”

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