Red: ‘The most awful moment of my life’
WHEN Red Symons was told his son Samuel had a massive brain haemorrhage and that he would probably be a paraplegic, it was "the first, most awful" moment of his life.
There were several more to come, and sadly last week was one of those.
The TV and radio star finally said goodbye to Samuel who died, age 27, from the recurring brain tumour he was diagnosed with when he was just four.
In a touching and emotional tribute to Samuel, ABC's Australian Story on Monday night charted his life as a brave little boy who became a remarkable man, with a previously seen interview with Samuel who said he was "busy trying to stay alive and keep living".
In footage shot before Samuel's death, Symons said he and former wife Elly had two "little bouncing healthy boys" and "not in a million years" imagined what their life would become.
He remembered the moment their world came crashing down.
Samuel had gone off to kindergarten as usual when the phone rang one afternoon.
Their little boy wasn't well and couldn't even open his eyes properly.
They suspected if he were to die, it would have happened then.
But Samuel defied the odds. Even after he had surgery and chemotherapy it was still improbable that he would live.
"It was the first, most awful moment of my life," Symons said.
"I can remember calling my father in tears and saying, 'He has to have brain surgery. He's four years old'."
"Just that. It's...it's still too awful to contemplate, so I don't."
The previous Australian Story about Samuel showed Symons recalling the tough moments when Samuel had to have further treatment because the tumour was not going away and only getting bigger.
"I contemplated the notion that perhaps we should 'let him go', was the expression," he said.
"I guess I sort of meant we should let go, as much as let him go.
"Maybe he will survive this, maybe he will die. Maybe that is a better option than performing this treatment. We wouldn't have acted on it, didn't act on it, but I wondered."
Nobody ever took Samuel's birthday for granted.
The family celebrated each one as a miracle for him being alive.
Samuel was diagnosed with another brain tumour when he was seven and the couple had just had a nine-month-old baby.
A thyroid cancer diagnosis was missed and at the end of Year 10, another tumour was also found.
Reaching Year 12 then became a major achievement.
"For me, Year 12 wasn't as daunting as it loomed for lots of other people," Samuel told Australian Story.
"I was much more relaxed about it. I still have thyroid cancer and I still have a brain tumour in my head, which...you know, is a little bit off-putting.
"It's like one of those circular novels where you think you're getting to the end of a chapter or the end of the book, and it's still as inconclusive and as circular as it was at the start of the book."
Samuel said he got through life by choosing to be happy.
"I really like just living, because I really find it's just much more fun in life as you go through it - just be happy, 'cause if you're just not happy, you're just not going to live," he said on his 18th birthday.
"I think after being so close to death that I could give it a little peck on the cheek, even then I don't tend to think about it or never have really thought about it so much, 'cause I was too busy trying to stay alive and keep living.
"I really just didn't care about death, and never have and never will."
Elly said Samuel said to her that he always lived his life in a way to make other people happy.
"And I think that is really something that we should all be striving for and that's what we will be doing as his family," she said.
Samuel's death continues a horror time for Symons who spent time recovering from a brain injury after a life-threatening fall in July last year.
He was walking home from the supermarket when he experienced a sudden lack of consciousness and hit his head on the pavement.
Later that year, he lost his job as host of ABC Melbourne's breakfast radio show after more than 15 years at the helm.