Marcella Zemanek was married to radio legend, Stan Zemanek for 30 years. Stan died from brain cancer in 2007.
The last words Stan said to me were, “have a good time!” How do I do that?
Now nearly five years later I still sometimes struggle with the finality of it. Stan thought he would live forever and that only Kryptonite would get him, but in the end we found that this wasn’t the case.
When Stan was diagnosed with a brain tumour after an MRI scan we knew he’d need an operation if he had any chance of survival. This led us to Dr Charlie Teo, one of Australia’s leading neurosurgeons who operated three days after we met him, it took another four days to find out that the tumour was malignant and a grade four glioma. The prognosis was not good.
Even when being dealt what would become a terminal sentence, Stan still wanted to help. His only question to Charlie was “now, what can I do to help you?”
Charlie Teo had already founded the Cure For Life Foundation by this stage, a foundation set up to raise much needed funds for brain cancer research to find a cure. Why? Because brain cancer is the biggest killer of Australians under thirty-nine, it takes more women under thirty five’s lives than any other cancer and it is the biggest cancer killer of children. Most patients diagnosed with brain cancer don’t survive beyond two years. Stan survived fifteen months.
I spent half my life with Stan, we started off as friends, then as a couple and finally as husband and wife. When he left us at 2.45am on July 12, 2007, I felt a pain in my heart that was unbearable.
The impact on this terrible cancer had a huge affect on my family. My daughter Gaby had just had her second baby, all through her pregnancy the fact that her beloved father might not live long enough to see his second grandchild was extremely painful. The fact that he lived four months to the day after she was born was a testament to his strength to stay with us.
My grandson Hamish who was only 4 at the time came to me a with a question that I simply didn’t have an answer to: “Mimmi why did Zizzy have to get so sick?”
Now at 9 years of age, Hamish will ask me if his beloved Zizzy would be proud of him playing rugby, being a good big brother to his little sister Chloe and looking after me. I am always blown away by his sensitivity and caring at such a young age.
If Stan had lived he would have been knocking down doors for the Cure For Life Foundation, so I now do it for him, compelled to make a difference in raising the awareness of brain cancer.
When Dr. Charlie Teo invited me to be a board member of his Cure For Life Foundation, I was thrilled and a little daunted. Our objective is to find a cure for brain cancer. I was amazed to learn that this Foundation receives absolutely no Government funding, yet brain cancer is on the increase and is the deadliest of all cancers, ranked number one in ‘person-years-lost’ and I should know.
Australia has lost some legends through brain cancer. The media world was gutted by the death of Andrew Olle and then Peter Veness (he was 27), the medical world by Dr Chris O’Brien and of course my own beloved Stan. But everyone is a legend in their own circle, mothers, fathers, sisters, aunts, sons and daughters – brain cancer takes them all.
It’s time to put the spotlight on this stubborn cancer. Charlie Teo’s Cure For Life Foundation is getting active during Brain Cancer Action Week. First with the Cure For Life Cinderella Ball on May 5 in Sydney where they hope to raise $750 000 on the tenth anniversary of the foundation.
Then from May 7 to May 10, Cure For Life will be hosting the ROBUST lunchtime discussion series in Martin Place in Sydney with Australia’s leading legal, medical, sporting and social minds discussing the big issues with audience interaction. It’s free to attend and can also be followed on twitter @cureforlife and #CFLROBUST.
Cure For Life are also selling Cure For Life Hyper Tubes, funky buff style fabric that can be worn as a beanie, a neck gator, a wrist band or bandanna. They’re $20 plus postage and available online.
As we approach Brain Cancer Action Week, I hope for a miracle to come true – that our wonderful researchers and scientists will have the funding and resources it takes to find a cure. I hope that it will be found in my lifetime and I remain proud and inspired by the way Stan coped with this relentless illness with such dignity and consideration for others.
If only he were alive today.
Brain Cancer Action Week is a joint initiative between the Cancer Council of NSW, The Cancer Institute of Australia and Cure For Life Foundation.
Marcella Zemanek worked in radio for over 30 years alongside some of Australia’s leading radio personalities. In 1981, she married Australian radio personality, colleague and the love of her life, Stan Zemanek. Sadly, Stan was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2006. Since her husband passed away, Marcella has committed her time as an ambassador for brain cancer research and is passionate about finding a cure. Marcella joined the Cure For Life Foundation Board in 2008.