Mick Miller had an incredible career as a high performance coach for some of Australia’s top athletes, including Olympians, Rugby League teams and America’s Cup campaigns. He was used to living a life on four-year Olympic cycles, with constant demands on his time and resources, high pressure to reach KPIs, high stress and even higher expectations. He was constantly pushing, pushing, pushing! ‘I was looking after everybody else, but not really looking after myself,’ said Mick.
He swam every morning at Newport Beach. One day he swam over a clump of seaweed at the northern end of the beach and observe how it just drifted with the current of the ocean – it just went with the flow. Mick thought about how amazing it would be to live life like that, to just go with the flow. When he got out of the water he felt a lump on his neck, a swollen gland that he hadn’t noticed before. Three weeks and two operations later he was given the diagnosis of neck and throat cancer. One of the doctors told Mick, ‘Mate, we are going to have to nearly kill you to make you better. I had put to everything on hold, including the mortgage, closed my business and embarked on the first day of the rest of my life.’
Mick was convinced that he would be able to cruise through the treatment, pretend everything was normal and not tell anyone he had cancer, for reasons he is still not quite sure why. He quickly learned that it wasn’t going to be quite that simple. Treatment started well, but the wheels began to fall off about halfway through. Paula Macleod, the Head and Neck Cancer Care Coordinator at Royal North Shore Hospital, asked him one day: ‘Mick, why do you keep trying to crash through the brick wall when there is a door there that you can easily open?’ Mick knew then that he just had to surrender, ‘go with the flow’ like that seaweed at the beach and ask for some help.
Mick soon realised that, just like in the sporting arena, a team approach is vital and that in the hospital he had an amazing team around him for support consisting of nurses, dieticians, medical and radiation oncologists, and surgeons. ‘My recovery really was a team effort and every single person contributed in some way or another. From the dedicated team at the hospital, my sister Laura, special friend Robbie, my friends who organised rosters, drove me to treatment, cooked meals and had me to stay in their homes. Friends who would call or text, hold my hand, laugh at my jokes, inspire me and encourage my dreams or simply those who had me in their thoughts. It was important to surround myself with the right people, with the right energy – an incredible bunch of people who helped guide me through the whole experience.”
After leaving hospital, Mick decided to make a few changes in his life, treat each day as a gift and go with the flow. Post-treatment and some 25kg lighter, he took a holistic approach to healing with regular appointments with a psychologist, nutritionist, acupuncturist, naturopath, massage therapist and physiotherapist, truly investing in himself and his recovery.
He also decided to embark on a journey of recovery and discovery, circumnavigating Australia in his 1968 sky blue VW Beetle fondly named The Rocket, raising funds and awareness for post-cancer recovery. His travels led to world acclaim through his blog, ‘Travelling Australia Mick’s Way’ and then the publication of his inspirational book with the same title. A portion from the sale of each copy of Travelling Australia Mick’s Way is donated to help cancer patients and their families post cancer treatment via The Tomorrow Trust, which helps to bring some normality back into the lives of cancer patients and their families.
Today Mick is a much sought after public speaker, performance coach and freelance radio commentator. Mick is passionate about giving back and helping other cancer patients and their families, often touching base with new cancer patients referred to him for a chat by Paula Macleod.
‘Life is different now, I consciously choose not to brand anything good or bad, it is just different and everything that I have experienced is exactly that: an experience. All these experiences have helped shape me to become who I am today and have given me a much clearer perspective on life: no fears, no expectations, no rush – just going with the flow.’