When Mick discovered a lump on the side of his neck when he was drying off after a swim at his favourite beach in the northern suburbs of Sydney, little did he know that his life was about to take a dramatic twist.
Mick Miller has seen it all. As a mental-skills conditioning coach, performance coach and strength and conditioning coach, he has worked with elite athletes chasing Olympic glory, world champions, professional Rugby League teams, America’s Cup campaigns, and up-and-coming youth champions. He has seen athletes through good times and bad, through victory and meltdown, through triumphant euphoria and heart-breaking despair. He’s brought athletes back from career-threatening injury, rebuilt teams that were crumbling under pressure, and mentored his junior athletes through the challenges of growing up. He has seen and experienced some very high highs and some very low lows, both professionally and personally. He kept a busy schedule, pushing himself physically and mentally, thinking he was invincible, never thinking that one day he would have to rebuild himself.
After numerous scans, blood tests and two operations to remove the lump in his neck he was diagnosed with throat and neck cancer, Mick was facing one of the biggest challenges in his entire life. One doctor said to him “ Mate, we are going to have to nearly kill you to make you better”. The subsequent treatment – including a 70 day stay in hospital was emotionally and physically debilitating. Mick lost a total of 24kg, he was unable to eat apart from a feeding tube which was inserted directly into his stomach and unable to speak.
This is an excerpt from an email Mick sent his friends with the photos of him in the mask just prior to his treatment starting:
Thank you for your energy and support. !!
“The week has been busy at hospital school. I have been studying all aspects so I am prepared for the next stages of this challenge.
The week has included meetings with the whole 25 strong medical team who will be involved with me including doctors, Psychs, dieticians, x -ray departments, reviews of x rays , blood tests, Kevlar composites, physical training programs, recovery programs and lots, lots more. I really feel I am going into a full campaign. This time a campaign not of an Olympic team, Americas cup or NRL team, but a campaign for me ! All great learnings.
The photos are of my new friend who I will be spending some time with – my custom Kevlar mask- fitted to the closest millimetre, to reduce any chance of movement in the areas that need the most attention. With this procedure they are able to pin point the correct areas that need the treatment. The medical team are able to customise the volume, intensity and angles of the treatment then correlate with daily blood tests and other data to ensure that I will be getting the exact dosage required. This mask is so custom made I cannot open my eyes, mouth or turn in any direction, as I am bolted to the table during the treatment time.
With the team last week we discussed how this could serve me better and they have allowed a small area around my neck so that I can swallow during the treatment . Just a little thing I now appreciate a lot more – swallowing !”
In hospital gazing out a small window at the world Mick realised that he had been given a wake-up call to make a few changes in his life, for which he is still incredibly grateful. Instead of sitting around playing the victim, he focused on all the amazing things and people he did have in his life – the amazing medical team, his sister Laura and all his friends. He decided he wanted to simplify his life, take some time out to recover, follow his intuition and let the universe look after him. Having travelled extensively around the globe with various athletes and sporting teams Mick decided it was time to see more of his own beautiful country. Wanting to keep his journey as simple as possible he decided to travel around Australia in his 1968 sky blue Volkswagen Beetle named “The Rocket”.
When he had gained some strength back, his journey of discovery and recovery began. He packed the Rocket with a 2 man tent, an esky, a sleeping bag, a blender and a few clothes; took a quick look at the map (turned it up the right way), found highway one and he was off with his i Phone in hand to take some photos.
There were still monthly check ups at the hospital in Sydney to return for, but that didn’t hinder him. He absorbed as much as he could from everyone he met and the beautiful places he visited. Mick shared his experiences on his blog – www.travellingaustraliamicksway.com.au which will be soon be published as a book.
Travelling Australia Mick’s Way is his story. The words and photographs are heartfelt, real and inspiring.
Join the journey……………………………..