Imagine holding the same position for almost fifty years? And then imagine that position is one of the toughest and most mentally taxing professional disciplines on offer?
Oncology Nurse Practitioner, Keith Cox OAM, or ‘Saint Keith’ as Coop used to refer to him as, is a truly unique and wonderful individual by anybody’s standards, and for 48 years, he has provided untold hope, professionalism and guidance, throughout a cancer journey, for those who are afraid, alone, uncertain, and everything in between.
Dr Richard Boyle (L) Cooper Rice-Brading (Centre) Keith Cox OAM (R)
Photograph courtesy – Chris O’Brien Lifehouse
Oncology is a mentally challenging, tough, and often thankless specialty, and it serves to make Keith’s 48 years of dedication to making the lives of cancer patients bearable, truly extraordinary.
For those of you wondering what an oncology nursing practitioner is, Keith’s position was a highly specialised midway point between a doctor and a nurse, and as such, for those cancer patients who have been blessed to be under his care, his role was a critical one. It bridged the gap, and often for the patient, it was often the difference between a very good day and a very bad one. The stories about Keith’s willingness to smooth the rough waters for those patients blessed to have been assigned to his care, are so numerous, they would require a sizeable book to record them.
Cooper, a child anxious about what lay ahead, masked in a grown man’s 6 foot 2 physique, met Keith on day one at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, and developed an immediate connection with him, as all patients did. This warm, calm, unassuming, gentle individual, remained with Coop throughout his treatment, and provided untold comfort during the particularly tough times, of which there were many. He and Coop joked about many things, debated treatment options, together with ‘best practice’ (Coop was often caught turning his drip rate up to suit his sporting schedule), and everything in between. Coop looked forward to the day when his treatment was over, and he could return as a volunteer for Keith, as he felt he had Keith’s role ‘covered’, and his contribution would be significant. Life as we know it, rarely goes as we plan.
I can only now, imagine how with the passing of each patient Keith has opened his heart to, has resulted in the great personal sense of loss he must feel for each, yet we often overlook this impact when we are immersed in grief ourselves. How difficult it must have been for him to face the families of the patients who do not make it out the other side? His attachment to each was obvious – it was never a case of just another patient. He has done this and so much more, for almost five decades, and has continuously found a way to make a difference in so many lives, and in so many different ways.
Asking Keith to join the CRBF Board, was a very easy decision. He embodies every quality we envisage our Board members will have, together with an intimate knowledge of what is required to truly make a difference in the lives of sarcoma patients everywhere. He was though, first and foremost, Coop’s great mate.
Keith, we wish you all the wonderful things life can bring now you are in retirement, and hopefully, you can finally find time to reflect on your outstanding contribution to the world of cancer, and it may even see you contmeplating the notion of finally putting yourself first – every now and again…
Watch Keith’s story as told by Carrie Bickmore, on The Project.