A Tribute to Daniel Hutton
Not long after the November edition of The Beast went to print we received the news that Dan’s treatment wasn’t working. He passed away peacefully on the morning of Sunday, October 27.
It’s been over a year since Dan wrote his three-part essay titled ‘A Long Holiday in Hotel Chernobyl’ in the July, August and September 2018 editions of The Beast. We’ve republished them here. We’ve also published the eulogy I read at Dan’s funeral on Friday, November 1, to give an insight into his life and to shed a bit more light on what he has been through. Dan also wrote an article last month titled ‘Relapse’ which can be found on our website.
So many people have asked how they can help. We would love everyone to get behind a charity called Dreams2Live4. These guys were instrumental in making Dan and Georgie’s wedding happen and the work they do is incredible. For more information and to donate, visit www.dreams2live4.com.au.
Giving blood and getting on the Australian Bone Marrow Donor Registry is also crucial. We lost count of the number of blood products Dan required during his time in hospital. You can find more information at www.donateblood.com.au.
If anyone happens to receive a bad diagnosis down the track and wants to chat, I’m always available. I’m no expert but we’ve experienced a lot, so don’t hesitate to get in touch. I’ll leave you with a poem that Dan wrote for Georgie during one of his many nights in hospital. I think it sums up the attitude of this beautiful man.
Lucky – a poem for Georgie.
I think I’m lucky.
Lucky to have a loving family.
Lucky to have wonderful friends.
Lucky to have been presented with some amazing opportunities through my 30-odd years.
Lucky to live in a safe, beautiful, generally caring (it could certainly be kinder and more caring at times, of course) country.
Lucky to have access to largely free healthcare.
Lucky to live within walking distance of my child’s school and the hospital in which I regularly receive treatment.
Lucky to still be alive, two years after a diagnosis that in another place or another time could have killed me in weeks.
Lucky to have a specialist who wants me to survive, wants to see me cured, wants to give me my life back and is doing everything in his power to make that happen.
Lucky to have wonderful nurses and junior doctors who take care of me and keep my spirits up when times are tough.
Lucky to have a wife and kids who love me unconditionally.
Lucky to have lived at this time and in this place.
I think I’m lucky.
Farewell, my Beautiful Brother
Thanks everyone for being here today, and for all your love and support over the last two and a half years. All the Gavaghans, Mum and Dad and their partners, my girlfriend Melissa. To Dave from St Luke’s for helping to make this happen at such short notice, Jez for the slideshow and Georgie and her reliable team of resourceful friends for organising the whole day. And of course the wonderful doctors and nurses of Nine South and everyone who cared for Dan, especially his haematologist, Prof. John Moore, who treated Dan like a son. It’s been a hard time. We’ve had a while to prepare for this but it still doesn’t make it any easier.
Dan was my little brother and my best friend. He was born in Newmarket, Ontario, in Canada on May 15, 1981, when I was three. We grew up together in Leeton, a quiet little country town that hasn’t really changed much. It was a simple childhood, a happy time. There were always heaps of friends around at our place, so much sport, our street cricket matches were epic, yabbying and fishing in the irrigation channels, swimming in the local pool and floating down the Murrumbidgee River, picking asparagus in summer, riding our bikes everywhere and going for bushwalks and catching frogs and lizards with Mum and Dad – our house was full of them. We ate all our meals together with no TV and we never really worried about anything, because there was nothing to worry about.
Dan was good at everything. He swam like a little fish and he was an amazing soccer player, he was nice to everyone, he was just so perfect in every way. He wasn’t very big but he had a huge heart. He was always inclusive and made everyone feel welcome.
I went away to boarding school in year ten and I think that gave Dan some space to be himself and grow a bit more. I probably wasn’t a good brother at that point, I was a bit jealous of him I think. I can’t remember much about our friendship during those years but I do remember really missing Dan during my gap year and also when he went away for his. After that we got to spend some time living on campus together at Johns College in Canberra, playing sport together and being around each other again was really good. It was fun having my little brother back and that special bond we’d had as kids grew stronger.
When we eventually started working on The Beast together it was just awesome right from the start. We lived together in Coogee and Clovelly and became really close during those years. It was hard work getting the magazine going, we shared just about everything and we lived like crap but we never argued about work or money or anything like that. Neither of us bought an item of clothing for two years and our little luxury was a coffee and banana bread from the Crystal Carwash down the road. Dan slept on a mattress he found on the footpath and each month we used to make a couch and coffee table out of boxes of Beasts, which would slowly disappear as we delivered them. We had no car and I still remember us pushing a shopping trolley full of magazines down Dolphin Street.
But they were good times. We built a successful business together and we met so many awesome people. It was hard work but it was fun and exciting. Then Dan met Georgie, the love of his life, and he just got better and better.
I need to talk a bit about our time in hospital, because I want people to know how brave Dan was through all of this. A lot of people have asked me why he got sick, how he knew, what it was… these kinds of things. Dan ran the half marathon on May 21, 2017. He was a bit short of breath and his back was sore so, following his father-in-law’s advice, he had a chest x-ray and it showed a significant mass in his mediastinum, which is the area between your lungs and heart. On August 17 Dan had surgery to remove an 18cm tumor. It took them a further three weeks to even work out what it was.
T cell acute lymphoblastic lymphoma. A super rare non-Hodgkin lymphoma that affects the immature T cells, or lymphoblasts. It’s almost unheard of in adults and no one really knows what causes it. It’s also very difficult to cure.
The treatment protocol was brutal. No one should ever have to go through what Hutto did. I remember the day we received the schedule, we thought they’d made a mistake. Over the next eight months Dan would have to spend around 100 nights in hospital, followed by two years of maintenance chemotherapy. We had no idea what to expect.
At one stage during that first month he shed 20 kilos in just a few weeks. But he didn’t complain. I don’t remember ever hearing him complain to be honest, he just did what needed to be done and he never considered stopping the treatment.
He blew us all away with his positive attitude and the way he handled things. As long as there was a chance he’d get better he’d just focus on that outcome and we’d worry about the little things we had some control over, like keeping his room clean so he wouldn’t get infections when he had no immune system, getting enough calories and keeping up his fluids, that sort of thing. We’d do laps of the ward to keep him moving (he used to push me around in a wheelchair sometimes), we’d have weigh-ins to check Dan’s progress, we did the SMH quick crossword every day to keep his mind sharp (which soon became the entire puzzles page including the cryptic), we’d draw silly pictures on the whiteboard in his room (occasionally a mystery dick would appear and we’d blame one of the nurses), we’d build ornate sculptures with apples and bananas and all the Nutri-Grain packets and protein drinks he couldn’t stomach when he was nauseous from the drugs.
There were always plenty of visitors, that really made the days go faster. I think the nurses and doctors, and all the other wonderful people who worked at St Vincent’s, liked being in our room and we made it as enjoyable as it could possibly be. We had a guitar in there and we’d sing a lot. One of Dan’s nurses, a lovely Nepalese guy called Bikram, sat down with the guitar one night and sang a traditional Nepalese song for us, that was a special moment. There were people from about fifty countries working in that place, it was like the whole world was trying to save him.
We talked a lot of politics too, how we are so lucky to live in a country where you’re looked after when you’re sick. I think we shifted a little further to the left with every infusion. We became close with many of the other patients and their families, we met some amazing people who we’ll never forget, and you can get to know people pretty fast in that place. We also lost close friends, they were hard days. Sometimes when Dan was neutropenic and the kids were crook it meant they couldn’t come in with Georgie to see him. That was probably the hardest, he missed Monty and Delilah like crazy.
But throughout it all we made sure we celebrated little victories and stayed focussed on getting cured. Dan fought on and we kept avoiding the meeting we’d heard of other people having, the one where they tell you that there’s nothing else they can do.
We eventually had that meeting. We’d managed to avoid it for so long that maybe we’d convinced ourselves it just wouldn’t happen, but the odds had been against us for a long time. That was a hard day too. It was only two weeks ago. The very next morning Dan said, “F*ck it, let’s just have as much fun as we can.”
We didn’t really talk about death at all, but one night towards the end I asked him what he thought would happen to his soul. “It will live on, through all of you guys,” he said, quite casually. I don’t think Dan was ever afraid to die. He definitely didn’t want to though.
Dan passed away peacefully last Sunday morning, he wasn’t in pain and he wasn’t stressed or anxious. He’d had a great day, plenty of time with family and friends, we did the Good Weekend quiz and the crossword, his mind was still sharp, but he was tired. That afternoon, a few hundred of his friends had gathered in Bronte Park in a show of solidarity. A lot of things happened that night. At about 4am I was woken by this incredible silence, I looked over at him, so peaceful and still. He looked like an angel, lying there with a satisfied smile, his hands on his chest. It was over.
I’m going to miss so many things about Dan. Someone to talk to about anything, no matter what time it is, he was such a good listener; his wisdom, his perfect judgment saved me from doing so many stupid things; his ideas, he was so imaginative and creative and always thinking of cool, fun things to do; singing together, surfing together, wasting time in cafes drinking coffees and doing crosswords together, all these things; having someone who cared about me and who I could always rely on for anything; having someone who knew me better than anyone in this world, even better than I know myself.
Dan married Georgie, the love of his life, on Sunday, October 13. It was absolutely beautiful. We held an intimate ceremony in the Botanic Gardens and all had lunch together. The kids were there, it was amazing. We planned to have a big celebration with all of their friends when he was better. Dan was a family man, nothing was more important to him. He didn’t really care about material things or status or any of that nonsense, he just wanted to be with his family and to see them happy. He didn’t look for ways to get out of the house, he was at his happiest with Georgie and Monty and Delilah. “Georgie” was the last word that passed his lips. It was the final chapter of his evolution and it was so satisfying to see my little brother become this incredible loving family man.
So what happens now? What would Dan want us to do now? We need to remember all the awesome things that Dan brought into our lives and we need to be there for Georgie and the kids. It’s going to be hard but he wouldn’t want us to be sad forever. I can’t imagine what life would have been like without him, we were so different but we were such a formidable team. I still can’t imagine what it’s going to be like without him, but I’m thankful for the time we had.
I’m going to finish with a quote from Dan. “Enjoy your good health while you have it, spend time with your kids, put your f*cking phone down, get outside, do something that scares the shit out of you every now and then, tell your friends and family you love them, travel (even if it’s just to Lakemba for some manoush), learn new things, and be nice/kind to people (even the dickheads).”
I love you brother, wherever you are. I’m going to miss you so much.