I have lived a great life. No matter what has happened or will happen, I look back and have no regrets. Since as young as I can remember, all I wanted to be is a pilot, and the only thing that kept changing was what type. By the end of school, my dream was set on becoming an Army pilot to become highly qualified and competent with helicopters. I would be serving Australia and the troops that were defending everything my nation and I stood for. The end goal was flying Search and Rescue (SAR) helicopters for CHC or a similar multinational helicopter company. Why was my mind set on this path? Well, it satisfied some core beliefs I have. Firstly, serving others – to the extreme – as both path options include moving injured and struggling people from their current situation to a hospital or safe location which potentially would save their life. Secondly, doing a job that excites me. I love flying: the most vivid and enjoyable memory I have was my first solo flight – the takeoff and landing, I cannot describe how much enjoyment that brought me. A combination of both was the absolute dream, or so I thought. At this point in my life, I did not know God. I was baptised, going to an Anglican School and I thought I knew him but my life, actions and thoughts… looking back it is evident I didn’t. While I was in year 10, my cousin, Tim, was diagnosed with Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP). It was found in his bowel, causing the doctor to remove his entire bowel.
I got accepted into the army as a pilot. I was so excited, and I was going to ADFA (Australian Defence Force Academy) to study aeronautical engineering (well, at least the 3-year version which gives you a BTech). It was in YOFT (Year One Familiarisation Training) that I went to my first church service on my own volition, rather than a mandatory one, as I wanted to make the decision to follow God on my own. Even though I had many presuppositions, especially about how science and Christianity could not possibly mix (which they can), I squashed them and assessed it on its own merits. I really enjoyed it at first, and that kept me going, but it wasn’t until FOCUS (Fellowship of Christian Uni Students) that I realised I couldn’t continue without properly deciding whether to trust in Jesus or not.
The biggest stumbling block for me was science and faith. Once that was cleared up, nothing was preventing me from trusting in Jesus, so I did. There is sufficient historical evidence for Christianity, science can’t disprove it but actually shows us how the world works. Just to top it off, for the first 6 or so weeks of going to FOCUS, I was struggling with specific problems, and that specific topic was taught about at FOCUS each week. ADFA was tough but being there with great mates made it worthwhile and grew me in many ways. Whilst here, the cancer Tim had caused secondary tumours that presented in his brain and lung. I was worried about him, it caused me to start questioning life and how Jesus played into it, predominately why a great person, someone who had been a great role model, someone who I looked up to and loved so much, would suffer through this terrible condition. Life still went on.
I graduated and was about to start Basic Flight Training School when I began struggling with depression and anxiety. My girlfriend at the time really noticed, and so did I, but if I came forward for help, I would be pulled off course. My whole life had been leading up to this point and if I asked for help, that would stop my progression (wouldn’t it?). She convinced me to see the base psychologist and I can never be more grateful that she did. From the base psychologist I got referred to a civilian psychologist. She couldn’t pinpoint the cause, so she on-referred my case to a psychiatrist. It was about this time that Tim died. I was completely devastated. The funeral was so beautiful and the Knox School Church was packed out. Tim was so loved that there were easily 100 people outside that couldn’t fit into the church.
When I saw the psychiatrist, she noticed symptoms that were different to depression and thought that there might be something more sinister, so she sent me for an MRI. About a day after the MRI, a receptionist from the health centre on base called me asking me to come in the following day. I walked into the MO’s (medical officer, equivalent to a GP) office and he sat down (that was the first and last time I have ever seen him sit down), told me to grab a seat, and said that there is a mass in my brain and I had an appointment with a neurosurgeon that afternoon (thank you ADF medical). This was one month after Tim had died, ONE MONTH.