Racing for BTAA

Port Stephens-based offshore sailor Kevin Le Poidevin and his Adelaide-based co-skipper Darrell ‘Daz’ Greig, are two long-serving Air Force aviators preparing their 1983 Sigma 36 yacht Rogue Wave, for the iconic 2021 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. They will race in the inaugural, and extremely challenging, double-handed division. The pair plan to better their 2019 race time and arrive before New Year's Eve. They are racing to support charity, and their Canberra-based Air Force mate, Nathan “Bullet” Draper.


Catherine Hindson, Committee Chair (ACT) for Brain Tumour Alliance Australia is delighted that Kevin is supporting the organisation. “When Kevin first contacted us, we were amazed by his incredible and inspirational adventure. The opportunity for national and international exposure will assist in raising community awareness of brain cancers and the work BTAA do assisting patients and families impacted by brain cancer.”


The two serving Air Force aviators are digging deep for their Air Force aviator mate Nathan ‘Bullet’ Draper, who in 2019 was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the most aggressive type of cancer that begins within the brain. Kevin clearly recalls the day he heard the heartbreaking news. “I just couldn’t comprehend why it had happened to Nathan. He is young, fit and healthy, and an absolute ball of energy. In 2015 we were both posted to the United States on the F-35 Lightning fast-jet program. Nathan’s outstanding contribution was pivotal to the successful introduction of Australia’s F-35 aircraft. Every time you see or hear an F-35 aircraft, remember as you watch in awe to thank your mate Bullet”  


Kevin had just returned from his USA posting where his wife Narrelle had been volunteering with the local ladies at Yarn Crafters crocheting hundreds of soft wool beanies for cancer patients and children in need. Little did they know their mate Bullet would soon require beanie support. “During his amazing journey through post-op recovery, I asked Bullet if he would like me to raise awareness and funds for his preferred charity through my sailing. Nathan told me of the great work carried out by Brain Tumour Alliance Australia in not only supporting the patients, but also the family, caregivers, and loved ones. After looking through the BTAA website and the members' personal stories, I knew this was an organisation that cares”, said Kevin.


Nathan  “Bullet”  Draper  story (unaltered and from the heart):

“A cancer diagnosis for any type of cancer, provokes so many question for friends, and especially family and caregivers. I recall sitting in that hospital room on the 8th Oct 2019 recovering from Brain surgery, and my Neurosurgeon giving my wife and I the outcome of pathology results. ‘I am really sorry but you have a brain cancer that is called a Glioblastoma Multiforme, grade 4’. The first thing I wanted to know was what does that mean and how long (grade 4 and cancer is never a good thing), her answer was short ‘on average you have 12-16 months."


I asked her to help me get to three years so that I could see my eldest out of  University,  and my youngest son through Yr 12.  In an instant, I had given up on the loving embrace of a grandchild. She looked me in the eye and with empathy said that she will get the brain cancer specialist nurse to come and talk to us, we were introduced to BTAA in the next hours.

Cancer provokes many questions especially an insidious type, as I have. While it was not immediate, and I had no special ‘moment’ happen, I did come to terms with the situation. I just thought that I owed it to my family first, but also the many people who came forward in support of my situation to get up every day and face whatever challenge happened on any given day. Being able to walk again was the first of many. Getting to Radiation therapy a month after surgery, 12 months of chemotherapy, and then back to work again. All the while I had the support of two amazing organisations in helping me, and they were BTAA and Soldier On, both in Canberra. And I cannot forget also my employer, the Air Force.

Being able to get with people who are dealing with the stuff that you are dealing with is comforting in a strange way. I never saw myself as a group-type person. I also never saw myself being sick either. When sitting in hospital, oncology, or palliative care waiting rooms, I recall looking around thinking these are not my people. I am a motorcyclist, an avid cyclist, I like the outdoors, they are my people. But it was different with the local group at BTAA, in them I also found a group of normal people affected in different ways by Brain Cancer or Tumours. And this I have learnt as well, those people in the waiting rooms are just like you and I, we have just been dealt with a different hand to play.

I also cannot speak highly enough of my local Soldier On team. I attended and still do attend activities with them. While undergoing chemotherapy it was nice to go for a fortnightly walk when I could get out of the house and just be with nice people. They are very supportive no matter what your Defence background and do so much unnoticed work for serving military families and the Veterans community at large. 

I am beyond happy and am very lucky to be given a couple of more years to embrace what each day brings. I don’t consider that I have a lot to complain about, even though I am in the situation that I am. I am
really proud to have mates who even think about doing this type of stuff and involve me and the wider brain cancer community. A big thanks to Kev and Daz who was on my apprentice intake when we joined, for helping out! “

Nathan confronts his brain cancer by expressing his thoughts, trials and feelings through his ‘warts and all’ public journal called The Tumour Trip. Follow the link to read Nathan’s confronting, but also educational
story.

You can support the Brain Tumour Alliance Australia here.