Scott Roediger, who ran his own carpentry business for twelve years, lost his younger brother Gavin in 2013 – six months after he was diagnosed with melanoma. Gavin was just 30 at the time of his death.
Gavin spent most of his life working outdoors, initially with the Australian Army where he served in many overseas operations including Iraq, and later working with Scott’s carpentry business. Both jobs required him to spend most of the day outdoors in the sun.
The first signs that something was wrong with Gavin’s health began with complaints of aches and pains, tiredness, and massive headaches.
“Eventually he was rushed to hospital and over the coming days and weeks, we learned that Gav had been diagnosed with a melanoma,” Scott says. “The melanoma was too advanced for surgery because it had already entered his brain and spread throughout his body. These were very hard days for our family and close friends as we came to grips with the reality of Gav’s disease. Despite the fact we were told there was no cure we never gave up hope”.
“Gav entered a government-funded drug trial which bought him some time, but he was never able to return to work and was in and out of hospital from then on. Gav battled on courageously. He never complained or blamed the world; he just took it on the chin and got up each day to try and live to the best of his ability,”
Scott says it was brutal to see the impact the disease had on his brother.
I feel comfortable knowing Gavin lived a great life; he served our country on tours throughout the Middle East, he travelled the world and had many great adventures along the way. He was a good brother and a great uncle to our niece and nephew. He would have made a great dad and husband one day, but dying at 30 years of age was way too young.
At the time of Gavin’s death, Scott also had a friend, Graeme, who was also being treated for melanoma. He was in the hospital just two doors down from Gavin’s room on the day Gavin died. Graeme passed away early in 2014 aged 35, leaving behind a wife and two young children.
These events took their toll on Scott. He decided to sell his business, take some time out and think about a new direction in life, while also pursuing a new passion to promote awareness about skin cancer.
“Young blokes are difficult. They don’t want to put a hat on if it’s not the right hat, but it’s not rocket science to put sunscreen on or to wear a broad brimmed hat”.
Scott says he knows the attitudes that prevail on worksites because there was a time when he was the same, thinking it was cool to work with your shirt off.
“For my part, it sucks that I needed a life or death situation to make me realise what’s important. I’d like to help young blokes realise it’s cool to have sunscreen slapped over your face and it doesn’t matter what you look like, but it’s not cool to have to go to hospital and have cancer,” “Far too many people just don’t realise the risks associated with not being smart in the sun because they either don’t care – or they think it’s not going to happen to them.”
Scott says, “Wearing a broad brimmed hat, using sunscreen and wearing a rashie at the beach all need to become the cool thing to do. The bottom line is these simple measures may just prevent you having to go through the year I have,”
If you work for a big firm, the OSH team makes sure you are safe in the sun – – but if you work on your own, it’s up to you to protect yourself. Many tradies don’t seem to understand the risk and get far too much sun to stay healthy. Cancer Council doesn’t think that’s fair and wants to help turn this around.