By Dorothy Thompson
In a frank interview, published in the Sunday Telegraph this weekend, one of Australia’s television royalty explains why he will not seek treatment for his latest cancer diagnosis.
Seen on the Nine Network TV screens for 47 years, signing off his nightly news bulletins with “that’s the way it is”. Brian Henderson says, “he’s not afraid of dying”.
Henderson has been diagnosed with kidney cancer and at 88 has elected not to have surgery, choosing instead to spend his last days “counting his blessings and savouring every splendid moment”, left to him.
In consultation with wife Mardi, told his doctor he won’t be having keyhole surgery to remove a tumorous right kidney or any accompanying radiation or chemotherapy treatment.
“I’ve had plenty of cancer over the years – I think I’ve had one of every kind,” Henderson, who is in good spirits, told The Sunday Telegraph.
“I’ve had my prostate removed, a piece of bowel taken out and then – the worst of them – throat cancer, a few years back. That was a toughie.
“I’ve had melanomas, I’ve had it all. This is a new twist but I’m grateful for it.
“Twice in the same place might be bad news but I haven’t had that and am told the cancers are all unrelated.”
Henderson said he has no idea how the cancer is progressing following diagnosis in September” after he first detected blood in his urine stream.
“My doctor said the tumour in my kidney is likely to be slow growing, so I’ve decided, at my age, to leave it there. The doctor said I’m likely to die of something else before this kills me,” he said.
Mardi, Henderson’s wife of 48 years spoke candidly about the many cancers her husband has had over the years. She said “In 1999, he was diagnosed with bowel cancer forcing the removal of a section of bowel. In 2004, his doctors removed his prostate after cancer was found in it.
In 2014, after a decade cancer free, the much-loved newsreader was diagnosed with throat cancer.
Henderson has ruled more radiation treatment.
“I’m a big coward really,” he said, adding he’s currently in no pain beyond that associated with leg pain due to his advanced years.
With a diagnosis of hydrocephalus (Hydrocephalus is a condition in which an accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) occurs within the brain. This typically causes increased pressure inside the skull), in 2013 demanded the insertion of a shunt to drain fluid from his brain to his abdomen.
The shunt and associated scar tissue now pose an obstacle to any proposed surgery to remove his right kidney as the shunt increases the risk of future infection travelling from the surgical site directly to Henderson’s brain.
“We weighed up the risk associated with Brian having the kidney tumour removed and thought, as per the doctor’s advice, it was too great,” Mardi said: “His mind is good, he’s still sharp, he still makes me laugh and we are happy so we’re counting our blessings.”
Henderson’s counts among his blessings is “a wonderful” Mardi, two daughters, Nicole and Jody, and five grandchildren – all of whom celebrated a cherished Christmas together on the Gold Coast.
“I’ve had a great life and I’m still enjoying it. My only concern is for Mardi, who may be a bit lonely when I’m gone,” Hendo said.
“I won’t go tomorrow but what’s the point of living if you have to spend it in a hospital having treatment after treatment.
“I’m not afraid of death – in fact I welcome it. I’ve had a wonderful life. How blessed can you be?”