Extract from ‘Love Has No Limits’ by Tania Hayes
published Mira (Harlequin Enterprises Australia) in 2008

CHAPTER 21 – THROUGH WARREN’S EYES Pg 218-232:

If anyone had told me that my life was going to change in such a drastic way, I would never have believed them. Before I was diagnosed with an acoustic neuroma I had everything mapped out just how I wanted it to be.
I was (so I’m told!) a confident and happy-go-lucky smart arse. There were times in those golden years when life just seemed too good to be true. I worked hard, seven days a week, because I knew it would set me up in a position to provide for Tania and myself. We had so many plans for the future, and I couldn’t wait to share the rest of my life with the woman I loved.
Tania was everything I had dreamed of finding in a woman. She was beautiful, caring and thoughtful in every way. Once I found her, there was no way I was ever letting her go! When she accepted my proposal, I suddenly found myself the luckiest man in the world! I was so proud to soon be calling her my wife and was looking forward to our wedding day.
It was the strangest thing when I suddenly fell ill. One minute I was walking on sunshine, and then within an instant my life just fell apart. When I was told I had a brain tumour I went into total shock. I was sick with disbelief. The words kept echoing through my mind: brain tumour, brain tumour, brain tumour.
I was always a big guy, tall and confident to the point of cockiness. But I have never felt as helpless as when I heard that news. It was like a death sentence. My life was only just beginning, but I felt like I was slowly dying. Life seemed so short all of a sudden. Everything that I had worried about beforehand seemed so trivial. Questions kept surfacing in my mind. If only I had done this, would it be different? If only I done that, could I have stopped it? If only I hadn’t worked so hard. If only, if only, if only.
At that moment, I felt cheated in life. I didn’t want to die: there were so many dreams I hadn’t yet accomplished. It just didn’t seem fair for this to be happening to me. I wanted to wake up and find out it was just a dream. I had my future with Tania and I wanted it to continue the way we had planned. I didn’t want to let her down. As well as being scared, I felt so guilty. I had promised to love and protect her for the rest of her life. But now I didn’t know whether I could keep my promise.
The days leading up to my first operation were the most difficult I have ever faced. The uncertainty of not knowing what the future held and whether or not I was going to wake up following surgery just about killed me. I withdrew into my shell, struggling to cope with it all. While I had never been much of a crier, then it seemed I couldn’t stop. There were lots of tears and so much sadness inside.
I started searching for answers. My mind was running wild and so many silly things began to surface. Did I deserve this? What did I do wrong? Why was it happening to me? When you are told you might die, let me tell you life seems to go so slow. Minute by minute dragged by while I waited to find out whether I would live or die, my nerves stretched to breaking point. I was scared, and I didn’t want to face this ordeal. Not then, not ever.
I don’t know what I would have done if I didn’t have Tania by my side every step of the way. All the while I was struggling to comprehend what the doctors were telling me, Tania never left my side. She would ask question after question, trying to find the light in all the darkness. But most of the time, the prognosis was not very good. This darkness clouded our future. I would not have blamed Tania if she wanted to run and hide, as the uncertainty of what lay ahead was far more than I could bear. I’m so grateful that she decided to stick by me.
I vaguely remember waiting all day long to be called into surgery. My heart was racing at a hundred miles an hour. Then it seemed like before I knew it, my time was up. I remember holding Tania so tight, telling her how much I loved her and thanking her for all the joy and happiness she had given me over the past couple of years. I told her that I was going to fight every step of the way, but if I didn’t make it, I wanted her to know that she was the one love of my life. She meant the world to me. Then the theatre staff wheeled me through the doors into theatre. The anaesthetist placed the mask over my face and that’s the last thing I remember.

***

My family and I had so many great memories from the time when I was just a little kid right up until before the operation. Most of my family remember me as the little boy who showed lots of determination. As Tania says, that trait saved my life. Growing up I was determined to always attain the goals that I set for myself. This started at an early age on an outing to the local chemist, where I threw myself onto the floor screaming for a packet of jellybeans. I screamed the place down, not caring how embarrassed I made Mum feel: I was determined to make sure that, no matter what, I got that packet of jellybeans.
Nothing changed as I got older and headed off to school. I remember one time my parents were called to see the headmaster in his office. Mum was shattered that her so-called angel had choked on his halo and found himself in strife. The whole incident was over a silly HB pencil that I honestly thought was mine, while another boy determined that it was his. One thing led to another and I found myself having fisticuffs over the pencil. I just wouldn’t give up.
I soon realised that being a kid is the greatest time of your life. I was so lucky to share wonderful times with my family as we headed off each school holidays to Queensland. I loved these trips, roughing it in the caravan and going out fishing every day in our little putt putt boats. If only I could live those carefree moments with my family again, I would cherish them even more.
I always loved sport, but I have to say that I wasn’t the most coordinated athlete. I took up soccer at age six, determined to be the next Pelé. As an extra incentive Dad said for every goal I scored he would give me five dollars. For a moment I thought I might be an entrepreneur. But as the games wore on, I found myself with not a dollar to my name, and unlikely to get rich in a hurry. Eventually, after a few years of slugging it out, I came to realise that ball skills were not my forte.
One time in high school I was determined not to have to run the cross-country carnival. As soon as I was out of sight after the starting gun went off, I hid in the bushes and skipped a couple of laps without anyone noticing. Unfortunately, I accidentally came in third place and qualified for the district cross-country carnival. When the teachers came up and patted me on my back, they said, ‘Well done Waz, we didn’t know you could run!’ I just stuck out my chest and lapped up the glory. Then, washed in guilt and horrified at the thought of embarrassing myself at the district cross-country carnival, I confessed.
My love of the land took me to places I never thought I’d go. Growing up in an extended family that owned the best Friesian stud farm in Australia gave me the chance to exhibit cattle at the local shows as a kid, winning a stack of blue ribbons. I even qualified for the final at the Sydney Royal Easter Show one year. On leaving school my best mate Peter, his brother Steve and I had dreams of becoming rich. We decided to set up a market garden, telling each other in no time we’d be sitting back, counting the money rolling in. Little did we realise how hard life on the land could be. We planted three acres of produce, and experienced droughts, floods and then abundant supply. Excitedly we picked the crops until the skin came off our fingers, but sadly the produce fetched a very low price at the market. Farming proved to be a hard way to make a living, and after several attempts we realised that we would be better off working for someone else and reaping the rewards of a weekly pay packet!
I got a job as a hardware salesman, before becoming a licensed real estate agent six years later. Finally, I’d found my calling in life. My confidence and wit helped me to build a career as an auctioneer—something I was proud to be. I met so many wonderful people during this time and started to build a portfolio that saw me branch out into property development. I was finally on my way to becoming that entrepreneur I always dreamed I could be.
Being a larrikin, I loved to stir and would be up to no good at every chance I got. I remember one year, after one of my real estate bosses, Geoff, had set off for his annual holiday, I headed up to his place and put for sale signs in the windows and outside his newly built home. This started the neighbours talking and the rumours began to fly. The well-known real estate agent of Wollongong had somehow found himself in financial trouble and had left the area in a hurry! When he arrived home, his wife was furious, but thankfully Geoff saw the funny side. It’s a wonder I kept my job!
Then, when I least expected it, via my work I met the love of my life. Tania was not only beautiful, but she also fulfilled all my dreams of finding that someone special and I couldn’t wait to spend the rest of my life with her.
I recall a priceless moment Tania and I shared on a holiday near the Victoria/New South Wales border. As we slowly travelled across the countryside, stopping at the wineries on the way, we found ourselves at Bright, a cosy country town nestled in a valley. It was autumn and the golden leaves were beginning to fall. The beautiful surroundings tempted us to stay a few days, and we found a chalet-style motel. On our second day we decided to go horse riding. Unbeknown to me, Tania had never ridden before. When I asked if she could ride, she replied, ‘Of course I can!’ As she hopped up onto her horse, she held the reins one in each hand instead of both together. In that one action, her secret was revealed. I gave a chuckle and said, ‘I thought you said you could ride!’ We enjoyed a two-hour trek through the bushland and as we headed up the last hill, Tania’s slow donkey started galloping towards home at a hundred miles an hour. It’s funny how a horse knows the direction home. Tania held on for grim death, ducking and weaving through the trees. From her screams she needed rescuing in a hurry and the guide joined her and took control. Back at the ranch with her heart thumping she dismounted, as pale as could be. ‘Never again!’ she said. ‘This might have been my first horse riding experience, but now it will be my last.’ We headed back to the motel in a tired and weary state. The following morning, we lay in bed with aches and pains all over. Neither of us could move a muscle. Thanks to that horse ride, our romantic cosy holiday turned into a sore and sorry one!
A year later we headed into warmer territory, to the Whitsunday Islands in tropical North Queensland. We hired a catamaran with six close friends and sailed the great blue sea. With seven days on board, thirteen cartons of beer and little food, we were ready for the party of a lifetime! It was on our first day while sailing that the boys and I decided to go diving. As we headed off, the girls enjoyed a restful afternoon lazing around on board. After a bit too much sun, the other girls fell asleep and Tania decided to grab a hand line and try her luck at fishing. Within seconds she had hooked a whopping big coral trout. Jumping around and screaming her lungs off, she woke the other girls who, after seeing her catch, couldn’t wait to grab a line and throw it in. It was too good to be true. One fish after another was reeled in.
Nearby, a luxurious cruiser was moored and the occupants could hear and see what was happening. Next minute, a small boat disembarked from the cruiser and over the neighbours came, laughing their heads off, telling the girls that they were in a National Marine Park and fishing was prohibited. The penalty was steep and suddenly the girls’ elation turned to horror.
‘Oh shit’, Tania said, ‘what are we going to do with all these fish!’
I suppose what I’m trying to say is that when I went in for that first operation, I had many wonderful memories of a happy and fulfilled life and I was so grateful for the good times I’d shared. I just hoped that life would bless me with many more wonderful times to come. And I did survive. I awoke the next day in my hospital bed, where the nightmare really began.
Everything after that first operation is a complete blur. My body went into protection mode, to the point where it erased all the memories of the dreadful, horrible events that took place. It’s a very strange feeling to lose a year and a quarter of your life like that, but after hearing about all the suffering that followed, I’m very grateful that I cannot remember.
Hospital life became clearer for me at the beginning of June 1998, about six weeks before I went home. It was so weird. I didn’t know what day it was or how much time had passed. When I was told, I struggled to believe that I had been in hospital for so long. It was like waking up after a nightmare. The one thing I hoped for was that Tania would be right by my side. And she was! Thankfully she had walked every step of the way with me. Knowing that she was there gave me the strength to carry on, and the determination to keep fighting.
After being told what had happened to me, I struggled to come to terms with my new body. It saddened and depressed me. I had always been so independent, but now I was unable to complete the most basic functions that we all take for granted. I felt degraded and humiliated. I wondered how I was ever going to live a normal life at home. I would need round-the-clock care. My body had wasted away and I was bedridden—unable to walk, eat, talk or even go to the toilet on my own. But my mind was the same. I still knew how to do everything; it’s just that my body would not comply. It was as though I was a totally different person. I went into hospital fighting fit and came home like a vegetable. When I looked in the mirror I hardly recognised myself. My face was drooped and I struggled to talk.
I was going to be a huge responsibility and burden for someone to take on, and I wouldn’t have blamed Tania one bit if she told me she couldn’t care for my needs. She was twenty-four at the time and I felt extremely guilty about placing this responsibility on her, because I knew it would mean the end of life as she knew it. But she quickly convinced me that she didn’t want to be any place other than with me. How good this felt and how lucky I was! Our relationship had passed the test and I knew the love we shared was something amazing, more than most people find in a lifetime.
In one way I was the unluckiest man in the world to have suffered as I did. But nothing can change that. And on the other hand I was also the luckiest man to have survived, and to have the love and support of the most beautiful, caring woman right by my side. Without Tania, those dark days would have been far too painful to bear and I probably would have thrown in the towel and given in to defeat.
One of the things I admired in Tania was that after everything I had been through, she still loved me for who I was. Physically I was no longer the man she had fallen in love with. My body was curled and broken beyond repair, but she looked past this and saw deep within me. She told me many times that our love had not diminished in any way: it just had grown stronger. Without Tania by my side, I don’t think I would have survived to tell this story. So much has been taken from me, and I have learned a valuable lesson from my experience. That lesson is not to judge what is on the outside, because it doesn’t matter how you look or what you can or can’t do, the beauty within is the most important thing of all. Tania sees this beauty, and encourages me to keeping fighting and striving for more. She became my eyes, my voice and my protection: she is my angel sent from above.
Life has certainly thrown many challenges and obstacles at us. It has not been an easy road. For two young people, Tania and I have certainly been through a lot. Some may say we have been unlucky. But out of these dark days we have developed strength, courage and perseverance to cope with whatever life puts before us. We are better people for having experienced this journey together. It has taken years for me to develop my confidence again and finally accept that this is the way my life is meant to be. Since I have accepted these changes, the struggle and suffering have disappeared. I am happy and content in every way. I cannot venture out into society as much as I used to, and when I do, people sometimes stare at me as if I am a freak. But that’s okay, I’m me and I’m proud of what I have achieved.
Although each day is not easy, I constantly work at my rehabilitation to try to maintain the body movement that I have. I hope that one day I will walk independently. This is my dream and something I will keep striving for. Sometimes we don’t realise how lucky we are to be able to walk on our own: we just take it for granted.
After everything that has happened to me, the things I miss the most are the simple things. It might sound silly, but I would give anything to be able to mow the lawn, wash the car or weed the garden. Sometimes our lives get so complicated that we forget the simple things, we forget to slow down and get back to basics. But let me tell you, once you can’t do these things, you certainly wish you could get back out there and do them all again.
Being disabled has its advantages and disadvantages. There are many times I am left sitting in the car while Tania goes to the shops. Some may say how unfortunate, unlucky and boring this must be. But I get the best spots right at the front door, allowing me to sit back and do all the bird watching I like. To this day I have never seen any woman better looking than Tania (well, this is what I tell her anyway!).

***

Since coming home from hospital the pinnacle has been the realisation of my dream to have a family. I have always wanted children and for a long time thought that it would never be possible. However, after trying for only a few months Tania became pregnant. We were ecstatic. When the news broke, people were so shocked. They never thought that it was possible for us after everything that I had been through. I may have had my brain opened up and operated on, but I still have the goods to produce a beautiful baby boy!
When Josh was born, I was the proudest father in the world. All our pain and struggle seemed a distant memory. I was ready to look to a brighter future, focusing all my efforts towards creating the best life for my son. Josh has filled me with joy and happiness, and even though I am in a wheelchair, my life is complete.
I’ve put a lot of effort into learning to walk again. To me it seems so hard and complicated, but to others like Josh it’s just a natural progression. Watching Josh progress from crawling to standing and then to walking showed me just how easy it can be. But when I try to do the things he does, the tasks seem virtually impossible.
I never would have thought that a small boy would be one of my greatest supports and motivations to keep me striving for more. Each day Josh plays an active role in my rehabilitation. He starts off by helping with me with my exercises in bed then, once I am up, he gets the harness to harness me up, presses the remote buttons to lift me into my standing position and walks alongside me, pretending to hold me up. He watches over me constantly, getting me drinks and jumping up onto my lap to feed me. When I yell out to Tania for the bottle to go to the toilet, Josh is off, running as fast as he can to get it and bring it to me. Nothing is too much trouble for him: he wants to help out in every way possible. Often, throughout the day I hear: ‘Daddy, are you okay?’ I know I’m in good hands. Josh is just like his mother, someone truly special!
I only wish I could return the favour to Josh and go outside and kick a soccer ball with him, but then I just tell myself, hey, you could have been six foot under pushing up daisies, so be grateful for the opportunity you have to watch him grow. Tania makes sure Josh doesn’t miss out, and takes on this role for me. I am sure as Josh grows up he will come to understand the reason why I am as I am.
With this thought, I look to the future. I couldn’t ask for anything more. To wake up each morning with the opportunity to live another day and spend it with my family is like winning the lottery. I have a future and a direction that I so look forward to. With Josh by my side, each day just gets better and better.
After everything I have been through, I have come to realise that no matter what happens to you, life is certainly worth living. We all have the ability to triumph over adversity and to be the very best we can. With lots of hard work, dedication and perseverance we can achieve whatever we want. Sometimes life does not work out how we expect it to. But if we are willing to change direction, we can learn things about ourselves that we never knew. These unexpected challenges develop some amazing qualities in us and end up making us who we are today.
Life is short, life is precious and life should never be taken for granted. One day it could all change. I am living proof that this can happen to anyone. Live each day as if it were your last and don’t forget to tell that special person just how much you love them, because you never know when life’s journey can take you down a totally different path. I am so glad to be alive and living my life to the full.

***

When tragedy strikes, you learn who your true friends are. Some come and some go. How thankful I am to have had so many caring people who have stuck by me every step of the way. I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for their support. There are far too many individuals to mention them all here, so to all those who have helped and supported me along the way, I am truly grateful.
There are, however, some very special people to whom I would like to offer my most heartfelt thanks.
To Elizabeth Martin, who came into my life and inspired me to keep trying to be the very best I can. When others had given up on me you devoted your time and effort to rehabilitating my tired and weary body. Elizabeth, thank you for being my slave driver and for believing in my ability to get better and live a great life.
To six of the best mates a bloke could have: Alan, Geoff, Daniel, Phil, Rob and Michael. You have stuck by me and supported me every step of the way. I can’t thank you enough. When I needed you most, you rallied around me in support. When I was at my lowest you lent me your hands each afternoon and we began the slow process of teaching my body to walk again. We have had some wonderful fun times together as we have watched my tired and weary body come back to life. I have cursed and sworn at you many times, chucked far more dummy spits than we all can remember, but each day you come back to help a mate in need. The struggles have been long and hard, but the one thing I knew I could always count on, rain, hail or shine, was the power of mateship.
If only the world was filled with caring compassionate friends like you guys, it would be a far better place. Your valuable support has given me a better quality of life and kept me sane. You have accepted my new life, wheelchair and all, without the stigma that society so often sees. You treat me with respect and dignity, and as the Warren you all once knew. Your love and support have allowed me to realise that I am still me, the fun-loving Warren. Thanks for helping to keep my sense of humour alive and for drinking all my beer—you must owe me a pallet or two by now! I will never find six better mates. I will be indebted to you forever.
To Phil, my boss and closest friend! You have been with me every step of the way, from the moment you employed me as that brash cocky farm boy. You saw my potential and took me under your wings to give me the start in real estate I so desperately wanted. You opened doors to this incredible adventure called life, introducing me to many wonderful friends whom I now call my family.
You stood by and helped me to overcome those painful days in hospital and you have helped me to rebuild my life. You are not only the best mate a man could have, but also the greatest support and confidant. The love you have given Tania, Josh and me in our time of need is more than we could ever ask for. As Josh’s godfather, you are the best role model he could have. You have such a loving, caring nature and all who know you speak so highly of you and comment what a wonderful person you are. If Josh ends up with half of the qualities I see in you, he will turn out to be one lucky and beautiful young man. The bond you have with him is evidence of the love that you share and the love you have given our whole family. You are truly one of a kind.
To Dr Peter Moloney—the man to whom I owe my life—words cannot express my thanks. The feeling I have inside when I wake up each morning and know that I am alive is like the sun rising over the ocean on a bright sunny day. A new life! A great day to be alive. Not only did you save my life, but you also gave me the chance to have many more precious moments to cherish. To be given the opportunity to watch Josh come into the world and grow from the love Tania and I share has been the biggest reward at the end of a long, hard journey. Without your skills as a dedicated neurosurgeon, this dream would have not come to fruition. You are one of the best surgeons in Australia, and I will always be grateful to you for helping me to stay alive. I may have given you many sleepless nights—even a few nightmares at times!—but thank you for believing in me. I know there were many times you could have thrown in the towel and let me go, but you continued to battle for the love Tania and I had. I will salute you forever.
To all the support staff who have looked after me during my sickness and stays in hospital, thank you very much! Please know there will always be a place in my heart for each and every one of you for keeping me alive. It is great to have been given a second chance at life.
To my sister Lorraine, brother-in-law Peter, niece Rachel and nephew Todd. Thank you for accepting me for who I am and playing such an important part in my life. Your love and support have been greatly appreciated.
To my parents, Roy and Jan. How this journey has affected us all. To have your love and support during the difficult times gave me the strength, comfort and encouragement I needed to fight for my survival. To know that you are always there watching over me and lending a helping hand has given me peace of mind. Your financial contribution to my rehabilitation quest has given me the best possible opportunities to restore my body and live a happy and fulfilling life with Tania and Josh. Your love and assistance have allowed me to concentrate on my survival and getting better. You have given up so much to support my new life and disability, and I will always be grateful. I know this journey has been difficult for you both to cope with, and I am sorry for the stress, pain and suffering I have caused. Having a son with disabilities is lots of worry and isn’t easy to adjust to, but together we have made it through and become closer than ever before. Thank you for sticking by me. I couldn’t have done it without you and love you very much.
To the most beautiful woman in the world, my darling wife Tania. Thank you for believing in me and for helping me to be the very best I can. I would not be here today without your faith and determination to defy the odds. You mean the world to me and I love you dearly!
And finally to Josh. You have made all my dreams come true! Thank you for making me the proudest father in the world. I love you heaps!

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