Being diagnosed with cancer at a young(ish) age sends you to places you never thought you would go, or even knew you could go. Your mind goes into overdrive. It’s frustrating to not have an answer to a question, when normally questions can be answered pretty quickly. Make a call to a friend, google it, or, like my grandpa used to do, make it up if you didn’t know. This wasn’t made up though, the tumour inside me was real. One of the biggest questions you ask is why me? Why not that guy who stabbed a heap of people at Westfield Bondi? Or why not that person who stole things from our winery during vintage randomly for two weeks? They didn’t know how much it was messing with my head while I waited to hear results from my scans and maybe they wouldn’t even give a shit if they did know. I don’t want them to die but a little dose of cancer might sort them out a bit.  


I didn’t know why and it made me angry. While bottling our wines after being diagnosed I was crying a lot. Our wines are not salty because they are from an island. I would cry and then clench my jaw and yell ‘fuck cancer’ through my teeth. I didn’t have an answer and my response was fear and anger. Saying ‘fuck cancer’ felt empowering. It was a satisfying release which provided a brief moment of strength. It made me feel like I was in control of me when, at the time, I wasn’t.


I waited for eight days to find out if I had a chance at life or not. I was on my death bed and it was the hardest period of my whole life. We will all have this moment, hard to fathom but we will all lie on our death beds one day. I’ll be back there again, not looking forward to it. I remember how brave my grandpa was when we all stood around him in the hospital as he passed away. He was stoic and gracious and it was sad but beautiful in a way. Now I know that he was actually shit scared and was just putting on a brave face for all of us. He was gifting his strength to us as he said goodbye which in turn gave us strength to mourn and then carry on carrying on.


I got the results from my scans and at that very moment I knew I was going to live. A rough journey ahead but I was so fucken keen for it. I have never been so driven and dedicated in my life. Nothing like a bit of cancer to hammer a little discipline into you. I have always loved being the underdog and was so determined to beat cancer. I wanted to fight and win, I just wanted to smash it so hard. I was the Roger Federer of beating cancer. I wanted to FUCK CANCER.


The advice, not just from the medical professionals, was incredibly overwhelming and confusing. It’s all coming from a good place and I appreciated it all of course. I looked into everything and anything that was suggested to me. Grounding, earth mats, acidic diet, CDB oil, THC, types of exercise, cold water therapy, breath work, acupuncture, meditation, fasting and more.


One guy somewhat forcefully delivered some advice while I was up the street in my home town. He was with my neighbour and I told them both about the diagnosis. He claimed that turkey tail mushroom saved his life the second time he got cancer. He refused treatment and started taking high doses of this mushroom and he was now clear. He was very passionate about it and I was cornered with my legs against a street bench. I was getting a little anxious and rudely cut him off and left. I went straight home and researched turkey tail mushrooms. A mate of mine, bloody beautiful legend he is, started growing it as soon as I posted about the cancer. Turns out they prescribe it in Japan to a lot of cancer patients and it helps with chemo side effects. In some Nordic countries it is compulsory for the patients. I asked my oncologist and he looked into it for me. It had never been tested with the two types of chemo I was having and I wasn’t going to be the guineapig. I was doing conventional treatment and had full faith in our medical system though I wanted to assist as best I possibly could. ‘Alternative’ therapy was scary to me but I was going to do every ‘complimentary’ therapy I could possibly do.       


One of the things I did straight after being diagnosed was meditate. I have done it before so was familiar with the basics and my mind needed calming. A short while into chemo I got a coach. His name is Sam Healy and, long story short, he is a big reason this has gone so well. We had sessions where I learnt about the benefits of meditation, I learnt the techniques to take it to the next level, to control my mind and get my body to a state where I was allowing myself to heal, and it was just a great counselling session too. We cried together, laughed together and spoke about life and what it all means.  


I stopped being aggressive at the cancer. I am the cancer and I don’t hate myself, I love myself. I went from wanting to fight it and beat it and fuck it, to understanding it and wanting to help my body heal it. I caused it and I can make it go away. Meditation helped me to assume the body and mind of a new born baby. Just existing, being, and allowing my body to be in harmony with itself. Have you seen how quickly a baby’s scratched knee heals? A shitload faster than my crusty old skin. A child only realises it is not a part of its mother between the age of 6 to 9 months. I saw it with my kids, they got so clingy to their mum. That shift in consciousness brings about a whole new world and the brain consumes knowledge like crazy. But what is this fucken crazy world? From that age we are influenced by our surroundings and we start to develop a concept of ourselves. I am this or I am that, I have a name, I am Nick Dugmore, I am a winemaker, I am white, I am a surfer, I live here and do this because I am this person.


I am not religious. I believe god, which ever god that might be, symbolises the coming of imagination. How crazy is imagination! The past is your imagination and so is the future, neither of them exist. We are all just a concept of our ourselves and our only limitation is our imagination. You can be whoever you want. Go on, dare ya. I learnt at one point in my life that we descended from the apes. That made sense to me, we have similar features, arms and legs and other things, cool I’ll just go with that. But cancer got me asking, where the fuck did the apes come from? Turns out the earth has been around for 4.5 billion years. If we live for 80 years it means we will have been here for such a small percentage of time that my whole iPhone calculator screen reads zeros and I can’t see the true answer.


The first organism to ever exist is called Archaea. A single celled organism that can survive in extreme environments including ice and lava. Everything living thing to ever exist, including us, has developed from these first micro-organisms. Bit more complex than that but this means WE ARE NATURE. But if we are nature and nature is our mother then why does it feel like it is us versus her? We are her. Surely, she wants us to thrive, surely, she wants to feed us and nourish us with everything she can, and surely, it’s in her best interest to do this too. Evolution gave us hands for something, and an intellect far greater than any other creature to exist. We can actually acknowledge the fact that we are humans being. A goat can’t think, I am a goat. It doesn’t even know it is called a goat. It just goes around eating everything and being awesome. Maybe we developed these skills so we can look after our mother so she would in turn repay the favour.


I have been in and out of the Royal Adelaide Hospital a lot in the last year. It has been so interesting to get a look at how the medical system works, and to talk to the cancer professionals. I have asked everyone who has helped me out why they think cancer is increasing so much and nearly everyone said it was because we are living longer. My surgeon, who I love by the way, said that we all have to die of something and 1 in 3 Australians will die of cancer because we are living longer.


Cancer is scary, reality is scary at the moment. The world feels like it is caving in on itself. There is an overwhelming amount of information about absolutely everything. The easiest option is to pick the information that suits your own life and your own concept of yourself and carry on with your day. That’s the best option for your mental health anyway. It helps you to stay secure in your own little bubble. It helps you to relax within your algorithm. But what if that concept isn’t right from the start, what if that concept is the exact thing that is causing all this chaos in the world, what if that concept is causing the increase in chronic disease, what if that algorithm isn’t even yours.   


Cancer has taught me that we are doing it all wrong. Our concept of the way life should be is wrong. The concept we have of ourselves is wrong. The true answer is 0.0000000001777777778% by the way. That’s the percentage of time that we will be on this planet if we are lucky enough to live for 80 years. FUCK ALL in other words. So why do we think we are so important?


When we realise we are our own entity separate from our human mother, insecurities start to develop, our concept of self becomes threatened as we grow so the ego grows in parallel to protect us. Ego is the devil. Our modern cultural ways fuel and encourage this competitiveness and the drive to ‘become’ something more than we are. Maybe these modern ways created that killer and that person who stole from our winery. With ego we start to distance ourselves further and further away from the mother to whom we physically can never actually be separated from. The almighty Mother Nature. No matter how big your ego gets, you will never be bigger than Mother Nature, she will shut you down if it becomes necessary. And it is slowly becoming necessary.   


What would you think about if you knew you were going to die? You might not get time to think. Maybe that’s better. I would only wish time on your death bed upon you if I knew you were going to survive but I would feel too bad not telling you that you were going to live (pretty cruel joke,…..got cha!….classic…..beer?). But if you knew you weren’t going to die then it wouldn’t be the same. More of a ‘near death’ experience. I’ve had those and it’s not the same. Nothing I say will enable you to know the feeling but I kind of wish everyone in the world could feel it. It would change the world so quickly if we could all collectively sit there for a few days. I reckon even Bin Laden would be like, ‘oh shit sorry guys, I don’t know what I was thinking, can we just forget everything I said and did for the last 50 years and go and grow some veggies and drink some fermented milk or something?’.  But unfortunately, it seems it is only through suffering that we realise the error of our ways.


Cancer has taught me just how much a part of the system we are. I came from the earth and the nutrients and minerals and energy in my body will one day be a gift back to it. I am not a visitor to this place and I have stopped viewing myself as one. Cancer has taught me that I am not important at all but, at the same time, I have never been so important in all my life.


I feel so privileged to have had the chance to sit on my death bed prematurely. It has liberated me in the best possible way. I have really become the good kind of selfish. I am as far away from ego as I have ever been. That said though, the further away from suffering I get, the more the urge to compete does creep in. I will have to stay conscious of that and work on it. Competitiveness is in my blood and it’s not a fast-dividing cell apparently.


I don’t know if it’s because it has become my algorithm since being diagnosed but it seems there is a shift in people’s consciousness and there is a revolution happening. We are slowly starting to pay our respects to Mother Nature, to ourselves. I don’t think it will happen in our lifetime but she will thank us eventually. I’m staying hopeful and I’m going to attempt to do my bit.


I’m not going to rant like this and not bring a solution to the table. We can’t change the world. We can change our little part of it though, and we can keep creating those ripples so they reach as far as possible from our own little epicentre. We need to rebuild soil, we need to use our hands to put plants in the ground, we need to learn how to get good at it and then pass that knowledge on to our kids. Teach them to know that incredible feeling of eating something that they grew themselves. Teach them that nourishment is a feeling, not just something you need to do. We need them to respect the growers who feed them with nutritious produce. Get out in nature and get your kids out there. Feel her power and let your ego align with hers, which is to say get rid of it. She has no intention, no ambition and no destination. Make the time to make time. Boycott the scheme that is convenience. Support the people who you know their heart is in the right place. Make time to do your research and vote with your dollar. These things seem small but they will all add up but, like any thriving organism in this world, it will take power in numbers.


Negativity, for some reason, is a bit contagious. Even religion tells me I’m a sinner so to break me down in order to bring me in. Twisted sickos and their marketing tactics. Perhaps, like the anger towards my cancer, negativity makes you feel a bit better about yourself for a brief moment. It’s a band-aid fix though and once you’ve applied enough band-aids you’ll run out of that thin skin you put them on and will block your eyes from seeing the most important thing that I took away from this cancery lesson…..I AM FUCKING PERFECT!


YOU are perfect.        Absolutely perfect.          You were born perfect.        You are enough. From day one you are everything that you need to be, and your positive energy is 100 times more contagious than 100 people’s negative energy. That positivity can change the world, even though it only needs to change yours.


I feel privileged to have had cancer. Maybe selfish to say because my loved ones suffered without the benefits but I couldn’t imagine life without it. It was my own little bush fire and I got to see the best of humanity. Death taught me a lot about life. We are so incredibly lucky. I love everyone.