Fighting cancer when you have kids.

Phil and his two daughters

Imagine, one minute you’re cradling your special little child in your arms. The next, you’re picking yourself up off the floor as you recover from a seizure.

No one should ever have to face the ordeal of telling their little ones that their mummy or daddy has cancer. But that’s the daunting reality that faced Phil and his wife Sarah.

Phil was admitted to hospital the day after the seizure and sent for extensive MRI scans. The diagnosis was conclusive and wife Sarah broke the news to Phil.

“When my wife Sarah first told me the results of the MRI the only thing I could think about was how do we tell the girls.” – Phil Russell, diagnosed with brain cancer

Phil’s children, Stella aged 7 and Clancie aged 16 months, had no idea what a grade 3 brain tumour was but they knew their daddy was very sick.

Phil was advised that the tumour had to be removed as soon as possible and surgery was scheduled for 10 days time. Waiting for this life-saving surgery was the longest 10 days of Phil’s life and though the surgery was a success, Phil’s battle with cancer was far from over.

In addition to 12 months of chemotherapy Phil, like many patients who are diagnosed with cancer, faced symptoms which were both physically and emotionally challenging.

“After they removed the tumour, my speech was so affected that the girls couldn’t understand me when I tried to say ‘I love you’ to them. As an adult with a family to look after, learning to speak again was especially hard for me to deal with.”- Phil Russell

Despite everything Phil was going through, he made the brave and selfless decision to take part in a
clinical trial – compelled to do his bit for cancer research, his daughters, and future generations who may have to face cancer later in their own lives.

As part of the 12 month clinical trial, Phil underwent 12 intensive cycles of chemotherapy in conjunction with radiotherapy, which consisted of 5 days on, 23 days off.

“Taking part in the chemotherapy trial was the greatest gift I could give my girls. I wanted to do my bit so they may never have to grow up with cancer in their lives.” – Phil Russell


Like Phil, there are thousands of Australians living day-to-day in the hope for a cure for cancer.
Brain cancer remains one of the most understudied of all cancers. And surprisingly to many, it is the leading cancer killer of adults under 39. Regardless of this, brain cancer receives very little research funding.

Sarah, Phil and the kids.

Though little is known about brain cancer, here’s what we do know:

• 1 person is diagnosed with brain cancer every 6 hours in Australia.

• Around 1600 people a year will be diagnosed with brain cancer in Australia.

• Approximately 1200 of these people will not survive.

• The risk of diagnosis by age 85 is 1 in 101 for men and 1 in 172 for women.

This year, a ground-breaking study, funded by Cancer Council NSW is recruiting 800 brain cancer and 800 healthy family members across Australia, to take part in one of the largest epidemiological studies in the world.

Co-led by Associate Professor Gianluca Severi and Associate Professor Claire Vajdic, the study will collect information on the lifestyle of participants, including where they have lived and worked, as well as family history.

The findings of this study will help identify what increases the risk of brain cancer and whether a
particular lifestyle pattern or genetic mutation is the cause. It will also help identify people at high risk of the disease and provide greater opportunities for prevention, earlier diagnosis and better treatments.

Cancer Council NSW relies on 96% of its total funding through supporters.

“Without the money to fund research, we’re never going to defeat cancer. It’s that simple. Cancer Council NSW needs all the support it can get so other loved ones out there never have to experience the painful journey of living with cancer.” – Phil Russell

Although the most difficult part of Phil’s treatment is over, his journey with cancer is ongoing. As with any cancer, there is always a strong chance that his tumour will relapse. The battle is never 100% over.

Help give hope to families like Phil’s this Christmas. To read more about Phil’s story or see how you can get involved and help keep us on the path to finding new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer visit: