June 16, 2011

I'm an endangered species

From an early age I respected animals and felt a need to protect them. I took conservation subjects at university, I stopped eating animals, I stopped buying leather. I went to work for the government department charged with protecting Australia's wildlife. Then I went to help the Chinese look after some of their endangered species.

And then I became an endangered species

Now I get to apply all the conservation knowledge I learnt to myself. Radiation therapy is like using pesticides to control noxious plants in the immediate area. Chemotherapy is like sending in rangers to look for hidden poachers. Cutting the tumour away is like building a fence and removing predators. Herbs and supplements are like nourishment for damaged ecosystems.

Classifying threat levels

The Red List is the predominant classification system used to work out how threatened animals are. It was developed and is kept up-to-date by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature).

There are a bunch of classification levels, from Critically Endangered (think pig-tailed langur) to Least Concern (think red kangaroo). The system considers how many animals remain on Earth, current threats, and whether the population is decreasing or increasing.

Once an animal has been identified as being of conservation concern, people begin trying to save it. The one rule in conservation planning is that you need a number of different protection strategies, because ecosystems are complicated and no animal or plant lives in isolation.

My conservation plan

I was listed on the Red List on 7 January 2011. My plan is no different from those designed to save species, except mine is selfishly devoted to saving just one critter: me.

A major thing I learnt from my scientific training is that no two ecosystems are the same. Something that works in one area may not work in another. One cancer treatment that worked for your Uncle Tom, may not work for me.

Cancer is a systemic disease that is likely to have different causes in different people. My conservation strategies include addressing the anatomical, psychological, spiritual, nutritional, immunological and physiological aspects of my cancer.

All good plans should set a time frame for action. My goal is to be re-listed from Critically Endangered to Least Concern by January 7 2012 (exactly one year after my diagnosis).

This sign appeared on my bedroom door shortly after listing.


  1. You are a rare breed, that's true... but you're a fighter and survivor, like a tiger :D

  2. I have enjoyed my short trip to your blog...good luck for your surgery in July and stay warm!