Beating cancer eight times: Phil Kerslake creates new path

Phil Kerslake, eight time cancer surviver, has a new goal: motivational speaking.
David White

Phil Kerslake, eight time cancer surviver, has a new goal: motivational speaking.

Phil Kerslake has won his cancer battle - for the eighth time.

The Upper Hutt man is ready to tackle life again, but with a new life path, aimed at inspiring others.

At the beginning of 2016, Kerslake's kidneys were close to failure. He had Hodgkin's lymphoma throughout his body including his chest, pelvis, abdomen, liver and along his aorta.

Kerslake in treatment. He says it is important to maintain a positive attitude and be an active patient.
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Kerslake in treatment. He says it is important to maintain a positive attitude and be an active patient.

He had disease in the bones of his chest and spine. And later, he was found to have skin cancer as well - which was his eighth cancer diagnosis.

READ MORE:
*Cancer for the eighth time: Friends issue a call to arms in support of long-time survivor Phil Kerslake
*National Portrait: Phil Kerslake - battling cancer for the eighth time
*Renowned NZ cancer survivor Phil Kerslake faces toughest challenge
*Free book for cancer patients

But now he feels "normal".

Kerslake with sons Rhys, 10, left and Matthew, 8, and wife Gill.
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Kerslake with sons Rhys, 10, left and Matthew, 8, and wife Gill.

A recent CT scan shows his kidneys are fully operable and the only disease left in his body are small para aortic lymph nodes.

"Right now, I feel fantastic and I feel very positive to not be sick and to be driving forward."

Kerslake says his cancer was one of the most difficult in the world to treat.

"I know what [medical staff] said about me in the past because I've read my files. This time I thought it's right down my spine in my bones, it's right across my chest in my bones, it's in all these other areas. Hell, this is not going to be easy.

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"So to come through with the results that I did, looking at my CT scan results, I was skipping."

In 2006 Kerslake published Life, happiness … & cancer, which has become a best seller and the country's leading support book for people affected by cancer.

It offers an insight into his mindset: coping with the battle, building determination, tenacity and resilience and being an active patient.

More than 18,000 copies of the book have been purchased - many by cancer support NGOs who gift copies to patients.

His 'Canbook' programme has a goal of providing 7500 more copies to NGOs and hospitals nationwide with the help of donations from companies and individuals.

Earlier this year friend Tony Southall organised a fundraiser for Kerslake and his family - wife Gill, and sons Rhys, 10 and Matthew, 8 - while he was unable to work, which saw support from All Black and Rugby World Cup winning captain David Kirk, among others.

Kerslake, who formerly worked in the property sector, says the support was humbling and now he is ready to give it back - starting with a career change.

"I want to transition as quick as possible from a hand out to a hand up. There was a period where I physically couldn't do anything, on medical orders I wasn't allowed to work, now I can but I want to do something different.

"I've had an uncommon life and it's created a lot of grief for us for most of my life. It's got to pay back now. I can't just go back to an office and do what I did - I can't do that.."

Kerslake already has experience in motivational speaking and has developed a new talk 'Dead Man Talking'.

One of the greatest lessons he has learned is to do what you love.

"For god's sake, find out what you like doing and do that. Find out what is important to you and try and do that."

* To find out more about Kerslake, his motivational speaking and Canbook programme, visit lifepaths.co.nz.

 - Stuff

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