July 29, 2013

Two years

There is only one thing I like more than sipping champagne, and that’s sipping champagne while wearing a bow tie.

But a couple of weeks ago I found something I like better than that: sipping champagne while wearing a bow tie, on a stage in front of 500 people (half of whom also had bow ties on) and talking, about myself.

The occasion was the All Ribbons Ball – a charity gala organised by the Young Garvan Foundation to raise funds for medical research at the Garvan Institute.

That’s enough about things that aren't me, back to me.

I was the guest speaker, and my job was simple: communicate the need for medical research. Of course I jumped at the opportunity. First, because I like science; second, because I survived stage 3 colorectal cancer; third, medical research saved my life; and forth, I don’t mind talking about one, two and three.

And while I don’t believe in fate, I do enjoy basking in the awe that accompanies coincidence. And what a coincidence!? Exactly two years before my speech at the All Ribbons Ball, to the night, I was lying in hospital and getting ready for my first surgery.

The surgery would be massive, as indicated by the felt pen marks covering my abdomen telling the surgeon where to put my new bladder and bum.

I was nervous then, and I was nervous two years later, under different spotlights and advocating for more medical research.

But the nerves faded quickly. You could have heard a pin drop. I had the crowd in the palm of my hand (as speakers know, this is a rare and elegant thing) and I had a ball (pun intended).

I finished. The room stood. Neurotransmitters flooded the reward centre in my brain. And I left the stage, embraced my family and friends, and had another sip of champagne.

Everyone was smiling. My Mum cried. And the whole time I thought of people my age, with my cancer, that I’d met but would never see again.

Damn, survival is bittersweet.

(C) Naomi Hamilton


  1. Good on you Ben! I'm glad to see you enjoying yourself after everything you've been through.

    Please tell me someone recorded your speech and posted it on youtube for me to watch!

    Scott Neville

    1. Hi Scott, thanks for your note.

      The speech was not recorded unfortunately, but you can get an idea of the event from this photo album:



  2. I was honoured to be in the audience that night. And was blown away by Ben’s moving speech!
    It was personal, informative, emotional and funny. I was so moved by your speech and am grateful to have had the opportunity to have listened about your story.
    Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

    1. Hey Kylie,

      I should be the the one thanking you because you were there supporting medical research! Keep up the good work.


  3. You had us in your palm indeed!
    I was very impressed by the way you connected your personal experience with explaining the need for medical research in your speech!
    Thanks for making people understand the worth of research!

  4. Interesting.. Read this post about colorectal cancer.. Got a lot of useful information here