In April 2015 Graham Wilson’s life took a dramatic change of course. He was walking down Crown Street Mall one Saturday when people noticed him leaning to one side. Not long after he was riding an escalator and suddenly fell backwards. He went straight to hospital for tests and within 24 hours was told he had brain cancer and would require immediate surgery.
Within days Wilson was in Prince of Wales Hospital having brain surgery with Dr Charlie Teo who played a Four Kinsmen CD while he operated. That was the start of an 18 month stint in hospital and many rounds of chemotherapy. But through it all Wilson maintained a positive attitude.
After a two year battle with brain cancer Wilson performed publicly for the first time last Sunday at Inferno Restaurant. He said it was the people of his hometown, family and friends around Australia who kept him going. And now he has reached this point in his recovery he wants to continue to engage the Wollongong community in song.
”There was a good crowd at Inferno. In knew a lot of the people and they are all hoping I do it again,” he said.
But Wilson admits it is not easy coming back. He practiced for a month before playing in front of people again. The opportunity to make his comeback playing to a lunchtime audience in Wollongong followed an appearance the night before at a private function at Briars Country Lodge & Inn at Bowral attended by Anne Sanders. Backing up on Sunday made it a tiring weekend. But with longtime friend Lyn Ainsworth keeping a watchful eye on him Wilson said it felt good to be back doing what he loves. It went so well he is now keen to do more dining events and corporate functions.
Wilson wants to take the time to thank the thousands of Illawarra people who have wished him well or visited him during the last two years. He said it was hard to explain how much that and other messages of support from around Australia and the world have helped his recovery. He is not completely out of the woods and is still regularly having blood tests. But he said all the support helped him stay so determined to be one of the 22 per cent of people who survive more than five years after being diagnosed with brain cancer.
Wilson said the support he has received has been absolutely incredible. He cited one example as the fundraiser at the Lagoon Restaurant compered by his mates Scott Radburn and the late Rikki Organ, who lost his battle with multiple myeloma blood cancer last August. “There is no doubt about that. It has been a big positive. I don’t think I realised how bad I was at first. It was really nice of so many people to be there for me”.
WIlson said there were so many people to thank he did not know where to start. But Lyn Ainsworth and Alex Jeffries are among those who have gone above and beyond anything he could have ever expected.
Word of Wilson’s illness spread so far and wide he soon found himself being reunited with people in other locations he had not seen for many years. “I’ve heard from guys in bands I first played with when I started off,” he said.
This city without Graham would be a lot poorer.
A who’s who of the Australian music community from the 70’s and 80’s were also quickly on the phone. Names such as Doug Parkinson, Frank Ifield and Col Joye who all know how significant his achievements have been.
He did not feature in a recent book to mark the centenary of the Wollongong High School of the Performing Arts as it was not a performing arts high school when he attended.
But in the pages of Wollongong history he and Scott Radburn can claim, as part of The Four Kinsmen, to be the first local entertainers to headline in Las Vegas where they did two shows a night six days a week for four months.
Wilson’s first song back as a performer at Inferno last weekend was Try A Little Kindness. It said much about his appreciation for how kind everyone has been to him.
He said it was the fundraiser at the Lagoon in 2015 that made him really appreciate that because so many people told him how loved he was and what “a nice guy” he is. Wilson said he just did what his parents always taught him which was “if you are nice to people they will be nice to you”.
It is similar to his philosophy on being an entertainer. “You never know who is listening or what they are going through so always do your best”.
The appreciation for Wilson was clearly evident again on Tuesday when Illawarra Connection president Roger Summerill invited him to a black-tie dinner at the Novotel. Wilson was given a round of applause when Mr Summerill introduced him and explained how happy everyone was to see him.
“Graham is one of our local legends known to most of us as a great entertainer in his own right and of course is a member of the celebrated and renowned Four Kinsmen who entertained people around the world,” he said.
“Many of our members have supported Graham through what I know has been a very difficult time with this health.There were times when I think we all wondered if we would ever see Graham again. Graham we are so pleased you are with us tonight. It is great to see you back doing what you do best mate..and that’s entertaining. May your health continue to improve. Thank you for not only coming tonight but all the happy memories you have given us over many years. We love you dearly.”
Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery sat with Wilson on Tuesday after being a regular visitor during his journey with cancer. He said they had known each other a long time and he wanted to be there for him when he was enduring so much. “We are so grateful that he has come through this experience. He is a good mate. This city without Graham would be a lot poorer.”
- Dr Charlie Teo operates on Wollongong entertainer
- Before being hospitalised for 18 months Graham Wilson did a performance performs after brain surgery but has barely played publicly since
- Family rallies to support Wollongong musician Graham Wilson
- Four Kinsmen member Graham Wilson deeply grateful
- Graham Wilson, of the Four Kinsmen, is back performing this Sunday after a long battle with brain cancer