Written by Kerrie Alexander
There are moments in life that define who you are and reveal undoubtedly where you belong.
For Hervey Bay’s Richard Ball, that moment came in November 2020 as a young RWBH neurosurgeon sat by his hospital bed with sad eyes.
He delivered the confronting news that while the surgeons believed they had successfully removed a 55mm Glioblastoma Multiforme brain tumour, the average post-surgery survival time for this kind of cancer was 15 months.
Richard’s little boy had just celebrated his 5th birthday, his wife – after three years of unsuccessful IVF – was pregnant and Richard was happy in his career as a schoolteacher.
The couple had just bought their dream home overlooking paradise in Point Vernon – the perfect spot to raise a family.
He was the fittest he had been in his life, after making the decision a year earlier that he wanted to be able to keep up with his son, who he describes as a “Prep Sprint Champion”.
This goal had gradually progressed into the dream of completing a marathon.
With all this to live for, Richard wasn’t about to become a statistic!
Now, 15 months later and cancer free, he has officially outlived his prognosis.
“It was my boy’s 5th birthday the second day I was in hospital,” Richard said.
“The young neurosurgeon brought in a card, got all the nurses to sign it and presented it to my five-year-old.
“Then after the surgery he had to look me in the eye and tell me I had 15 months to live.
“I told him I would come back and see him on my son’s 18th! That’s what I told him.”
“Of course, I’m aware of the reality- that the numbers don’t look good, but amazing things can happen. Maybe it’s only a 1% chance- but there’s no reason I’m not in that 1%.”
A family of faith, Richard and his wife have always had a strong belief that God has a plan for them, especially after the miracle birth of their second son, whose chance of survival in the womb was very low.
He’s now 11 months old.
The decision to lose 15kg and get back into shape was likely a big factor in Richard’s successful recovery and so was the way he decided to train.
“I had previously tried to start running a few times, but I’d always break down… I’d run too fast, hurt something and develop an injury and it was all over before it even began.”
“I found a Podcast about MAF (Maximum Aerobic Function) training, where you essentially run a lot of distance at an easy pace, keeping your heartrate really low… little old ladies are running past you when you first start,” he said with a laugh.
“A year later I was able to run much faster at the same heartrate, my fitness had steadily improved, I lost a heap of weight and my body felt stronger.
“In hindsight, the whole time I was doing this gentle running thing, there was a tumour in my brain growing larger and larger. If I had tried a more vigorous or high impact training approach, it would have all come crashing down.
“I am so thankful that I ended up being as fit as I’ve ever been, like I was 17 years old again, at the precise moment when I needed to survive brain surgery, endure cancer treatment and begin the recovery journey.”
The family was able to return home, with Richard’s treatment programme of radiotherapy, chemotherapy and three-monthly MRI’s all being available locally in Hervey Bay.
He said the outpouring of support from the community had been overwhelming, including some financial support from local charity Rally for a Cause.
“There were endless decisions to be made, stacks of paperwork to complete, bills to be paid and in the midst of this storm, my wife wasn’t getting any less pregnant.
“It was at that moment that Cass from Rally for a Cause gave us a call and it was quite amazing! We felt like we were in the right place.
“Our community is the best and it’s why we choose to live here; we wouldn’t be anywhere else.”
Richard’s inspirational journey continued with training even while he was having the chemotherapy.
The final treatment was given in December and with just over three months left to train, Richard is hitting the pavement with more determination than ever to complete the Noosa Marathon.
“I told my eldest boy (who is now six) that he is the reason I am running this marathon. I want him to know that in our family, we don’t shy away from a challenge; we work hard, we believe in ourselves, and we come out champions! He’s going to be at the finish line in Noosa and I’m going to love charging up the home straight to grab him in my arms!
“Running is my proof that I’m doing better than just surviving. My legs start pumping and I begin to glide. My breath quickens, my heart pounds and I let the dreams flow. But dreams aren’t meant to be easy.
“When I toe the start line of the 42km Noosa Marathon on May 28th, I will have completed more than the endless miles of training. I’ll have overcome brain surgery, thirty days of radiation and eleven months of chemo to be there and still, it’s gonna hurt!
“This is no ordinary run.”
Richard has had a second chance at life and he’s not about to waste it. For anyone who is having a bad day or worrying about something trivial, this is his advice to you.
“The sad fact is that nobody lives forever. And just because the doctors reckon my days might be numbered- that doesn’t stop me from living a meaningful life. The value of a life can’t be measured in years, or days, or minutes. If I get busy living and loving and wringing the joy out of every moment, my time on this planet will be wonderful.
“Of course, it’s not just me. Any one of us could be flattened by a bus tomorrow. So you have to make sure that you’re surrounded by your best people, today. You have to let them know how much you love them. You have to invite them to walk with you, as you put one foot in front of the other and step ever closer to your dreams.
“Why wouldn’t you? You’re alive!”
Anyone who would like to sponsor Richard’s run and help raise funds for Rally for a Cause can visit
leave the ‘Allocate donation’ field as ‘No team’ and type ‘RICHARD RUNS’ into the ‘Donation Message’.
“Thanks for helping to calm the storm for another family in need.”