Popular truckie, 51, given 18 months to live: Industry rallies
CHRIS Harmer was sitting comfortably in his Wagga Wagga home on January 8 with wife Carol when his life was turned upside down in a heartbeat.
Not long back from his usual Melbourne run in his new T610 SAR - the pride of the fleet at long-time employer Burkinshaws Transport in Wagga - Chris was getting ready for bed when he felt a sudden numbing sensation in his left hand and on the left-hand side of his face.
Thinking her husband was having a stroke, Carol wasted no time in calling an ambulance which rushed Chris, 51, to Wagga Wagga Base Hospital.
Tests over the next days revealed just how serious the situation was - Chris needed to be flown urgently by the Royal Flying Doctor Service to St Vincent's Hospital in Sydney to have two brain tumours removed.
The surgeries were a success, but came too late to stop the disease spreading - Chris has grade four glioblastoma, an aggressive brain tumour which doctors said leaves him with just 12 to 18 months to live.
"It's just been a heartbreaking position to find out something like this can happen so quickly and so devastatingly for the family," the brave father-of-three told Big Rigs from St Vincent's this week.
"I'd felt fine; I had no signs or idea that anything would happen. There were no previous symptoms at all. It all just went bang."
His bosses at Burkinshaws were quick to rally industry support, launching a dedicated GoFundMe page that at the time of writing had raised almost $28,000 in one day.
"Chris is one of the strongest people we know and we would like to help with the costs of Chris's medical treatment and make this fight financially a bit easier for him and his family while they face this uncertain future," wrote organiser Melanie Burkinshaw.
"He is a loyal and passionate employee with a heart of gold."
Selflessly, Chris's first thoughts were for his beloved family when we spoke with him this week. Two of his three adult children have Phelan McDermid Syndrome, a rare genetic condition with a myriad of symptoms that require full-time care in a group home.
"This is not about me, it's about my family," he said. "They're the most important thing in my life and always will be.
"It's about looking after them and making sure they can be cared for and not forgotten."