Former Bank Owner Advocates that HEALTH is the Real Wealth

Author: Laurie Clarke
Issue 82

Former Bank Owner Advocates that HEALTH is the Real Wealth

One year ago, Laurie Clarke, former multi-award-winning owner/franchisee of the Bank of Queensland in Maroochydore, received an almost certain death sentence - metastatic Stage four colon cancer, with less than seven per cent chance of survival past one year, but this story is absolutely not a woe is me, it is a story about hope and a story about defying the odds.

Laurie is an absolute legend and this story is about his positive attitude and how this is helping him to defy the odds.

Successful business owner, devoted husband and business partner of Debbie Battaglini, father to Stephanie, 25, Danielle, 23, Adison 9, and twins James and Sofia, Laurie unexpectedly found himself in the hospital receiving fortnightly palliative chemotherapy treatments. Doctors left no doubt in his mind that cure was not the end game to chemo, simply more time.

But with his banker background, and the need to have a thorough comprehension of the facts and figures, Laurie struggled to obtain information from his doctors about what exactly was required of him to get into that elite seven per cent. He was determined to find some answers.

“As a banker, I love numbers. But the doctors couldn’t actually tell us what people do in order to survive and this shocked us at first, but forced us to go out and research what other options were around that we could tap into,” he said.

Prior to his diagnosis, his business was his world. Despite warnings from his wife years ago, he ignored them and admits he is the worst one in the world to pay attention to lifestyle advice. His dedicated work ethic had him working long hours, neglecting his exercise regime, allowing his diet to deteriorate, and existing with chronic sleep deprivation.

It rarely permitted his active, problem-solving mind to be still. Over and over again, he told himself he had a plan to fix it but now, faced with his own mortality, the procrastination was over; the time was here.

Conventional chemotherapy had begun and so, too, did his research into a variety of other, more alternative treatment options, including a suggestion to drink his own urine! However, books like ‘The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle, ‘You Can Conquer Cancer’ by Ian Gawler and ‘Radical Remissions’ by Kelly Turner, as well as a visit to the Gawler Institute Wellness Centre in the Yarra Valley, helped set Laurie and Deb on a new course - one of hope.

After getting over the initial shock of the diagnosis, they decided to focus on improving their overall quality of life and drawing on the power of the mind.

“Deb and I have always been determined people with a strong work ethic. We’ve now focused these characteristics on my recovery, instead of our business. My eyes and ears are open now. If you had said a year ago that I would be meditating for an hour a day, I would have said you were crazy! But mind power is the key. I never really understood this consciously while I was buried in the business,” Laurie admits.

Together, they have taken massive action to change their lives for the better. And while what they have done wouldn’t take anyone by surprise, they say it’s the decision to commit and the belief in what you are doing that makes the difference.

Laurie now calls himself a ‘faux-vegan’, eating primarily plant-based foods, with some chicken, fish, and eggs. The elimination of refined sugar and carbohydrates, dairy and red meat has become a sustainable lifestyle choice.

When he exercised, running and cardio were his preferences. Now, with the assistance of personal trainer Ian Rook, a former Mr Australia and cancer survivor, he has learned the benefits of a primarily weight training workout regimen. He has even reached the point of having training sessions while on chemotherapy. Their support network has been critical.

With the support of their former business, BOQ; counselling through Bloomhill Cancer Centre in Buderim; encouragement from his private Facebook group - Clarkie’s Crew - which boasts more than 150 members, and dear friends willing to drop everything at a moment’s notice to help, they are not alone on this journey.

More than anything, he has realised the mind is an amazing instrument that most people under utilise. While his days remain busy with family, medical appointments, planning and consistently doing his healthy eating and exercise routine, writing occasional articles for the Sunshine Coast Daily, and receiving and giving support within his social network, time for mindful meditation is always part of his day.

“Prevention is definitely better than cure, I can assure you of that. It’s up to each individual to make a decision to change and improve their life. No one else can do it for you. But in the end, your body will catch up. Simple things, like a 20-minute time-out every day, where you just sit quietly and breathe, can make all the difference.”

His advice to fellow business owners is to not fall into the trap of allowing your business to become your world. It is a potentially fatal habit, and he believes it’s critical to free up some space for yourself and family. Let go of any guilt associated with the natural ups and downs of your business.

Caring for your personal health and wellbeing as a business owner, not only helps provide a better work-life balance for the owner, but the company and its employees as a whole.

Debbie has supported and encouraged Laurie every step of the way. Carers can often be undervalued, have their needs overlooked, and assume a lot of pressure due to the patient being the centre of attention. Her strength and resilience while managing the exit from the business, and simultaneously raising twins, have been a key factor in maintaining their hopeful, optimistic outlook for the future. With a confident state of mind, they have booked their next family holiday for April 2017.

“I don’t fear death but I don’t want it. Together, we are working our butt off to ensure that doesn’t happen, and enjoy the new pathway that life has sent us as much as possible,” said Laurie.

We agree Laurie and we love your attitude; Laurie recently ran almost ten kilometers with our editor Vickie Magic in the Sunshine Coast Marathon he encouraged her and gave her some great tips on the day and even helped when an official attempted to tell Vickie her time was up and she should turn back. Laurie wouldn’t hear of it and ensured that the race continued.

We believe that that every day is a gift and sometimes we just don’t realise what a wonderful gift it is until there is a possibility of losing the gift. Laurie’s story is a story that has can inspire us all to truly appreciate how the power of the mind can help us to defy the odds.