It wasn’t the ending Jarrod Lyle hoped to sign off on.
According to wife Briony, people had been forever nagging her golfer hubby to chronicle his rollercoaster journey from the hospital bed to the PGA Tour. But, typically, the country boy from Shepparton was having none of it.
“When he was diagnosed (with a recurrence of acute myeloid leukemia) the second time he had a story but he always used to say, ‘Why would someone want to read about me?’” she recalls.
“Following his second return to golf there were even more people asking when he was going to write his book and at that point he wasn’t opposed to the idea. He was just waiting for something big to happen in his career. He was waiting for another win… a Major… something significant that would be seen as the pinnacle.”
So together the Lyles started the process. Briony reached out to a book publisher to get an idea of what was required if they were going to pen a potential bestseller on her larrikin husband.
“Then we decided to park the idea until his official retirement or for that something big to happen,” she says.
In yet another cruel plot twist, that big thing did come… in the form of a third cancer diagnosis. It was a crushing blow in so many ways.
“The whole process of writing the book was done with the intention of Jarrod being around to take it to the masses,” says Briony. “He saw the book as life after golf, something that would keep him busy when he could no longer play, something that could even provide guest-speaker opportunities and a platform where he could continue to give back to Challenge and others in need.”
Alas, Jarrod was forced to articulate the final chapters on his deathbed, but it wasn’t nearly as sombre as you might think. After all, this is Jarrod Lyle we’re talking about.
“He was really surprised at how much he enjoyed the process of talking to the authors, even as he was nearing the end,” Briony says. “It was as if it was a therapeutic process for him and I’m so glad about that.”
And those co-authors, Australian golf media veterans Mark Hayes and Martin Blake, have done a tremendous job in capturing the real Jarrod, according to Briony.
“I’ve already read it about 100 times and it was really interesting to read stories from Jarrod’s point of view. I’ve had several people come up to me and say they can hear Jarrod’s voice when they read it. They say the tone of phrase and language reads as if it’s coming straight out of Jarrod’s mouth.”
Just on that language, apparently Hayes and Blake, after much debate with Briony, spent a huge chunk of their time scrolling back through the pages and censoring Jarrod’s expletives.
“We had so many discussions about the language and whether we should leave Jarrod’s profanities in or take them out,” Briony says. “He would never swear at home or around his family. It’s so interesting to know the sheer amount of colourful language he used at ‘work’. There was obviously plenty of scope to leave a lot of it in the book, given the harsh nature of what he was going through. In the end, we chose to tone it down.”
One can only imagine Jarrod’s reaction to that…
The great irony in all of this, of course, is Jarrod never read a book in his life. “We used to joke he might not even read this one,” laughs Briony, who hopes the work is well received when it hits all good bookstores this month. “The support we continue to receive is inexplicable. We just shake our heads. We knew he was a good guy but the response to his passing has been next level. It does nothing but reflect on his character. So many people were genuinely upset when Jarrod left us, even though they had never met him.
“I just can’t wait for people to get a chance to read his story. I’m really proud of the finished product and I think Jarrod would be to. I’d like to think even he would be reading it.”
Don’t worry, Briony. We’re sure he f—ing is!
– Brad Clifton
What you are about to read is an exclusive first-look at the final words Jarrod Lyle penned with the authors for My Story. It’s a confronting insight into the heartbreaking final moments many others, just like Jarrod, have to face in their battle against cancer. It’s why you should purchase your copy and help continue Jarrod’s fight. All royalties and a percentage of proceeds will be donated to Challenge, supporting kids with cancer.
Starting at the End
31 July 2018
I never thought it would come to this.
I’m lying in my hospital bed and have started to think about things no young person should ever have to confront; saying goodbye to my wife, my daughters, my family and friends. Yesterday, after weeks of physical and mental torture, I finally told the doctors to cease active treatment. My tank is empty. As much as I desperately want to, I just can’t go on. If this thing is going to beat me, then I at least want to go in peace. And that sure as hell isn’t in this place.
I’ve spent way too many of my thirty-six years inside these bloody walls and I want out – one last time.
“I’ve spent way too many of my thirty-six years inside these bloody walls and I want out – one last time.” – Jarrod Lyle
I know that these are my final ‘public’ words. I know they will more than likely appear in the book we’ve been working on for so long. We never intended for the story to end this way. I wish I could think
of something really inspiring to say right now, but I’m not sure if I’m capable of making much sense. I know the writers will make me sound good.
For the record, I think I’ve actually beaten leukaemia for a third time, which I’m happy to say because nobody thought I could fight it again. But the cold, hard reality of that fight is that my body is knackered.
There are plenty of really tough things happening for me right now, but one of them is that nobody can tell me what’s wrong; what has actually caused this to happen.
It’s almost eight months since my third transplant, but it was only four short months ago that I honestly thought I had it beaten. There was no real sign of any trouble, and I thought I was on the right road. My bloodwork was good, and all the important numbers were heading in the right direction. Everything was looking up.
Then, just seven weeks ago, we saw my doctor here in Melbourne for a routine appointment. He took one look at me and said, ‘You’re staying with me.’ Looking back now, I realise that was the beginning of the end.
Since early June, I’ve done nothing but go backwards. My eyesight was the first to go. I’m not completely blind, but everything is really blurry. Then I lost strength and co-ordination in my limbs. My voice isn’t the same as it used to be, and I’m now profoundly deaf in one ear with limited hearing in the other. I can’t move myself around in bed anymore, and I need people to help me eat, shower me and take me to the toilet. I’ve lost probably 30 kilograms in the past three months, mainly due to ongoing and never-ending diarrhoea. Because I can’t get myself to the bathroom, I have to wear an adult nappy in case I don’t get help in time.
I feel like I’ve lost all my dignity.
There’s only one hole in my entire body that hasn’t been violated in the name of medicine, and it’s not going to get touched either, I can promise you! I’ve never had a catheter, and there’s no way they’re going to put one in me now for shits and giggles.
It’s my fight against leukaemia that has taken this toll on my body, even though it’s not what’s going to get me in the end, whenever that comes now. I’ve had every test done that’s known to mankind and they haven’t found a thing. The doctors just don’t know why these crazy things are happening to my body. There are still a lot of questions, but I just don’t want to keep having tests done.
The doctors have told us it’s likely the immunosuppression drugs I’ve had to take since my transplant have taken their toll. They’ve weakened other parts of my body, and things are just shutting down. I’m falling apart, like an old rag doll.
There’s just no fight left in me at all. I really hate saying that because, above all else, I’ve always considered myself a fighter.
About four days ago, with just Bri and me in my room, I said to her, ‘I’ve had enough. My body just can’t take any more.’
I can’t find the words to describe how much pain I felt to say that. Bri and I hugged. We cried. There are no words after those ones. As much as what I’ve been dealing with has been living hell, it was still really scary to say that out loud. For almost twenty years I’ve secretly dreaded those words. And there they were. My worst fear coming to life.
Without even having to ask, my beautiful wife understood why I was saying those words. She’d been with me through all of the crappiest times and had talked me back from this moment more than once. But she knew where I was coming from, and she chose that time to listen to what I really needed rather than focusing on what it meant for her and our little daughters. Had it not been for them, there’s no way I would have come even half as far as I have.
There are a million reasons why I love Bri, and this was one of them. She just knew that we couldn’t do any more.
I’ve dealt with this awful bloody thing called leukaemia three times now and when it happened this third time, I sat there with my doctor and my wife and I knew it was my last chance; it was a pretty hard pill to swallow. I don’t know why it’s had three cracks at me, but I’ve obviously annoyed somebody, somewhere.
I’m proud to have gotten as far as I have. It certainly hasn’t been easy.
Since making this final decision, I’ve been blessed to have a stream of really close friends and family come in to visit. They all know why they’re here, and I’m glad I don’t have to explain myself to anyone. They’ve sat here with me and we’ve spoken as openly as we could and said everything we needed to say to each other. I never expected to see grown men wrap their arms around me and spill their guts about how they feel, but it makes me realise just how amazing all my friends are. I’ll never be able to repay them for all they’ve meant to me.
And just as Bri managed to understand those horrible words, not one of my friends has asked me to reconsider my decision. In a weird way, that makes it a bit easier. I definitely don’t feel like I’m giving up, I’m just being realistic in saying that I can’t do it anymore. A lot of people have looked up to me over the past nineteen years of fighting and drawn some sort of strength from that. I know there are no judgements. I don’t feel like I’m letting anybody down, because I fought for so long.
I feel like I’m the luckiest golfer going around, because so many people took an interest in me, took an interest in my fight. I’ve had so many friends around the world, whether they’re spectators, whether they’re golfers, whether they’re marshals or whatever, support me to go to every tournament. It’s going to be hard to leave them behind, but they know that I love them, that all the fighting I did was to get back out and play golf again.
It was tremendous to have the support from all those people. It’s going to be hard, but at some point it’s going to happen and they’ll get on with their lives. I just feel very, very lucky.
I know I’ll see Bri until I take my final breath. I’m the luckiest man in the world to have her by my side. It’s going to be so hard to say goodbye. I just hope that everyone rallies around her and our beautiful girls.
“I know I’ll see Bri until I take my final breath. I’m the luckiest man in the world to have her by my side. It’s going to be so hard to say goodbye.” – Jarrod Lyle
This is awful, it’s so hard to think about. My two little girls. I can’t even think clearly about all the things I’m going to miss. I know they’re already very special young ladies. More than anything else, I hope they know that I would do anything for them. Anything. They are both little miracles and I’ve cherished every moment I’ve ever had with them.
Even though I’ve got so much to lose with my girls, I still feel at peace with my decision. If I could possibly fight on for the one-in-a-million chance I’d get to see them grow up, I would do it. Without hesitation.
But I can’t. I simply can’t.
I’ve been asked how I would like people to remember me. That’s a tough question to answer when it’s going to be way too real very soon. But here goes…
Everyone who knows me, everyone who has watched me play golf or who has seen me on TV, knows that I’m a fighter and I never gave up. I think that’s probably the thing I want them to remember about me. That for nineteen years, I didn’t give up.
But there comes a time when it just gets too much, and that time is now.
The time is right to say I want to stop all treatment and just go out on my own terms.
• Excerpted with permission from My Story, copyright © 2019 by Jarrod Lyle with Mark Hayes and Martin Blake, 240 pages, $34.99. Published August 2019, and available at major retailers.