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24 May 2017

Brad

Photograph by Jacob Pedersen

I think it’s fair to say I’ve never had much luck in my life. I might have won a chook raffle or something once, but that’s about it. What I’ve been unluckiest with has been my health. I was born with a heart complaint, and the doctor sent me home saying I wouldn’t live to see my first birthday, but I guess I proved him wrong.

I did see my first birthday, and many more, growing up in a tiny little town in country New South Wales.

About 14 years ago I found out I had cancer. It will actually be 14 years next week since I got my first diagnosis. At first I just had this mole on my arm that I was worried about. Not long after I found a lump under my arm when I was in the shower. That turned out to be a tumour, and they told me it had already spread to my lymph nodes. I’d just turned 40, and they say life begins at 40, but in my case it all turned to shit.

It was a long fight and I had to have a lot of treatment. I came to Brisbane in 2003 for a fresh start, and have been here ever since. I love Brisbane, even though I joke about it being the skin-cancer capital of the world.
I still have ups and downs with my health, but my cancer’s all in the clear now. My main worry after treatment though was money: the pension doesn’t stretch very far, and you can’t really live off it. So that’s when I started selling The Big Issue.

I was a bit worried on that first day selling the magazine, I didn’t even have enough money for a train fare into the city. If I didn’t sell any mags I probably would have had to sleep in a park. But that first day was easier than I thought – I hadn’t even put on my vest before I’d sold my first two! That was four years ago.

When I’m out there in my vest most people are pretty good. The days with good sales help a lot, but even the bad days help too. It gets me out of my head, you know? I see a lot of the same people and talk to them every day, and they get concerned if they don’t see me for a few days. In that sense the magazine helps keep me feeling connected.

My nieces and nephews are some of the only ones I have time for these days. My brother passed away a year ago; no-one in the family seemed to really handle it very well. You’re not meant to die at 34, you know? He’d just finished uni and was starting a career in nursing. It’s hard, but my main motivation in life is to be there for my brother’s kids. They probably think Uncle Brad’s a bit of a pain in the bum, but I try to look out for them.

I’d like to tell everyone out there to please get their skin checked. It might save your life. When I was diagnosed with melanoma they told me I wouldn’t live for another five years, but here I am 14 years later. Once again, I’ve proven them wrong!

This article first appeared in Ed#537 of The Big Issue.

Interview by Kurt Maroske
Brad sells The Big Issue at the Riverside Ferry Terminal and Queen’s Plaza, Brisbane.