19 October 2022
The following PCFA Champions Tribute is in loving memory of Michael Dixon McKellar, husband of Jenny, son of Rod and Carol, brother to Andrew and Vanessa, and Uncle to Danielle, Cameron, Ebony, Josie, and Ben. PCFA has named a Research Grant in Michael's honour - The Michael McKellar Grant.
In Memory of Michael Dixon McKellar
A Life Well Lived But Cut Much Too Short
(20/02/1972 - 19/10/2021)
By Rod & Carol McKellar
From his very young life, Michael was always curious how things worked; often pulling things apart and putting them back together, amazing the adults of the family. He and his older brother Andrew were very close both in age and brotherhood, loving and defending each other when necessary, although he was easily led astray by Andrew, the more mischievous of the two.
Whilst not a great academic, Michael was gifted with his analytic brain, completing his schooling with ease. Both boys joined the local Emu Plains Soccer Club as soon as they were old enough, with Michael continuing to play soccer well into adulthood. His Paternal English Grandfather, whom Michael was named after, also a keen Soccer supporter, especially Sunderland in the U.K., watched many of his games, commenting regularly on Michael’s ability to read ahead of the game, almost always being in the right place at the right time. He was taking to the field with his mates (even for a short time) at Gladesville Ravens Soccer Club until physically unable to walk unaided.
Having a love for cars as his father Rod and Brother Andrew, in the last two years of High School, Michael worked in a part time job saving to pay for his first car, a 1963 Morris Mini 850. Not long after buying the Mini he joined the Mini Car Club competing in many events all over NSW. The Mini still remains in the family, being looked after by big brother Andrew.
From a very young age, Michael wanted to join the RAAF to train and study to become a fighter pilot but was devastated when after passing all of the relevant application criteria, he was knocked back in his health medical examination due to chronic but well managed hay fever.
As his parents, we suggested to him he attend University still studying Aeronautical Engineering and training as a commercial airline pilot, but his response was “If I can’t drive the sports cars, I won’t drive the buses”.
During his time at University of NSW, he met his future wife Jenny.
He attended the University of NSW completing his degree as a qualified Aeronautical and Space Engineer in 1995. He was selected from a number of applicants with the same credentials in Aerospace Engineering to go to Tasmania where he worked for about 2 years gaining much knowledge in his now chosen profession, learning the physical side of his craft, working alongside experienced tradesmen resulting in valuable practical experience from the ground up.
On his return to the Mainland, Michael successfully applied for a position with Thales Naval Division, a French defence company based at Garden Island in Sydney, working on a number of projects for the Australian Navy. One of the projects he headed as Chief Engineer involved refitting of the FFG Class Frigates, HMAS Newcastle & HMAS Melbourne.
In 2017, unbeknown to his wife, parents and family he received a rare Naval Commendation for his leadership of the project.
Such was Michael’s sense of equality between all of his team, no matter what their role in the project, he believed the Commendation should be shared by all.
In 2007 an engineering role with Thales in the Netherlands arose with Michael being the successful applicant. He and Jenny spent several years living and working in the Dutch town of Almelo not far from the German border.
Thales provided a 20ft container to ship their furniture to the Netherlands but Michael requested his red Mini go with them. So the container increased to 40ft to fit the Mini in with the furniture. On their arrival in Amsterdam, the Port workers were amazed to see a red car roll out of the container first. The Mini became a novelty when he attended car meetings in Europe as it was the only right hand drive Mini competing.
Unfortunately, it was during this time in Europe Michael slipped under the radar. Not having a regular GP and PSA testing as his father Rod and brother Andrew had both been diagnosed with prostate cancer and received successful treatment for the disease.
Sadly, after their return to Australia some years later in 2017 Michael was diagnosed with inoperable advanced prostate cancer. Despite all of the treatment including several drug trials he participated in with the wonderful specialists and staff at St Vincent’s Hospital, the disease progressed relentlessly and rapidly with multiple metastases throughout his body. Regardless of this, he continued to mentor his younger engineers by holding their regular lunch time work meetings via Zoom.
He also became a guest speaker at various functions to convince men of all ages to be aware of prostate cancer whilst also raising funds for prostate cancer research.
One example of the fundraising was in 2018 a Dinner/Movie night showing the original “Italian Job” movie starring Michael Caine and others which raised over $12,000 in Wollongong at Michael’s parents’ residence with well-known Racing Driver, John Bowe flying up from Melbourne to participate as guest speaker.
About this time, Michael learnt from his Oncologist that he would be unable to participate in the final planned drug trial due to the metastases on his lungs, restricting his ability to breathe freely. This meant no further treatments would be available. He was encouraged by his care team to transfer to palliative care at Concord Hospital which he refused. His wish was to be cared for at home if possible with his wife Jenny along with his family fully supporting his decision.
With family and close friends’ support, he was able to return to the comfort and security of his home, whilst receiving the care of a visiting Palliative Care team. Unfortunately Covid 19 was rife during that time, making care and visiting by family & friends extremely difficult due to the health restrictions in force with one visiting person only being allowed into the house at a time. The family then worked on a roster of visitations by family members and palliative care staff to support Jenny and fit in with the regulations of the time.
Michael became very distressed during this time, fearing he would contract Covid and requesting being immunised. He commented, “I know I am dying of prostate cancer, but I don’t want to die from Covid”.
Michael’s mobility was such that he was now unable to leave the house which meant we had to find someone who could visit him at home to give him his shots. Despite his family contacting many local doctors and pharmacies advertising home visits, it appeared vaccine was in short supply causing more distress.
We, Michael’s family appreciate so much the support of Prostate Cancer Nurse Specialist Bernie Riley for his empathy and care during this difficult time for us all.
Contact was also made to the Federal Member for the seat of Grayndler (Michael and Jenny’s electorate), Anthony Albanese through his Electorate Secretary who very kindly made contact with him in Canberra to assist our cause for Michael for which we are very grateful.
A couple of days later, two nurses arrived, from the new Hub in Olympic Park at Homebush, administered the immunisation injection, relieving his anxiety and allowing him to spend the remaining weeks of his life having contact via zoom meetings with his outstandingly supportive Gladesville Ravens Soccer Club and other friends.
One of his team mates, David Tunnicliffe, knew Michael was an avid supporter of the Northern England Soccer Club Sunderland as had been his grandfather. So David organised the England Club to put together a tape of all the Premier League Sunderland players, past and present, thanking Michael for his loyalty to the Club and wishing him well. It included a discourse from Simon Hill the well-known A League commentator as well. Michael was truly chuffed.
As the prostate cancer progressed Michael lost control of more and more of his bodily functions. He became paralysed from the waist down and was unable to mobilise. He had difficulty drawing breath. He required assistance for everything from repositioning in his hospital bed, to sitting out of the bed on a chair, to showering. As the end approached Jenny found it very difficult to continue coping, but cope she did with the assistance of homecare nursing staff.
The rest of the family did whatever we could to assist and Michael remained stoic and philosophic to the very end.
We cannot explain how painful and confronting it is to see your beloved son physically deteriorate in front of your eyes in this way, knowing that ultimately there is nothing that can be done to stop the process apart from trying to make them feel as comfortable as possible.
That is why we are totally committed to helping to raise awareness of the disease, and raise money for Research so that we can help other families avoid the loss and the pain.
Michael would wish it to be so.
One of Michael McKellar’s last statements “Life, I’ve loved every minute of it.”
Vale Michael Dixon McKellar
20 February 1972 - 19 October 2021