Vietnam veteran Doug Heazlewood knows what it's like to do battle, so when he was diagnosed with liver cancer he knew he had to rely on his team. And if it wasn't for the arrival of the cancer centre in Warrnambool, Doug says he probably wouldn't be here today. While it's Doug's fight, he said his six-year cancer journey had been a "team effort" - from his oncologist to the nurses in the oncology ward, his exercise physiologist, his psychologist and especially his wife Helen. And if the radiographer didn't go above and beyond when she was doing an ultrasound of his kidney, his cancer may not have been picked up until it was too late, he said. "Without her, I wouldn't be around today," he said. "If she hadn't seen and reported on what was in my liver - despite the fact it wasn't on the protocol for the scan she was doing - I would be long gone by now." It was in 2017 that the irregularity was picked up. Scans quickly revealed likely liver cancer. But it took a while to diagnose because Doug didn't fit the bill for being at risk of liver cancer. People like him shouldn't get it, he was told. Surgery removed a large part of his liver, and the cancer along with it. The pathology report says doctors removed 459 grams of his liver - an amount instantly familiar to Doug who remembered from his school days it roughly converted to a pound. "So I'd given my pound of flesh," he said. He clearly recalls the surgeon saying if the cancer had been picked up months later there wouldn't have been much they could do. Scans in 2018 showed the cancer was gone, so he and Helen decided to live life to the full and head overseas for their 50th wedding anniversary. But in 2019 the cancer was back. "I had a fairly large number of tumours. About eight of them," he said. It meant travelling to Melbourne for targeted radiotherapy. "The trouble was the radiotherapy was knocking off cancer tumours one by one but I was growing tumours faster than it could knock them off," he said. When he arrived in Melbourne at the start of 2020 for another dose he was told he couldn't have any more. "I was pretty well stuck by then. I had a number of tumours growing in my liver and the only therapy available at the time was not very effective," he said. Doug was about to start on that therapy when he found out about an international study on a possible new treatment, and he secured a place on the program which was being run out of the US. It was a double blind trial which meant half the participants got the trial drug and the other a placebo. But then just as he was about to start he got a call from his oncologist Dr Terri Hayes who had found something that would give him a better chance. "She got me started at the very earliest possible stage on an immunotherapy treatment which I could have down here in Warrnambool," Doug said. "It was very new. I would be one of the first people in Australia to have had it. "The battle against the cancer has been dealt with effectively ever since. The tumours are smaller and they are less. "It turns out that I have tolerated it longer than anybody else that they're aware of here." Doug this week had his 65th dose. "I can say I'm on the way to a recovery. And recoveries from liver cancer are not that common," he said. Dr Hayes said Doug was "certainly a remarkable case". "With what is a fairly nasty disease with a limited prognosis, that not only has he done well but he's also managed to go though various systems of obtaining access to drugs which is sometimes out of people's capacity," she said. Because it was a new medication when he started, the drug company fully funded Doug's treatment at first, then the Department of Veterans Affairs also stepped up. Now it is finally listed on the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. Dr Hayes said he was the first to receive the drugs locally, and had been on it the longest. Others have had to stop because it made them sick or wasn't working. Warrnambool's cancer centre is now seven years old, and the impending arrival of the PET scan at Warrnambool hospital will also make a difference to people. "There'll be very little reason to travel," she said. Doug said he was so thankful that since he started his immunotherapy, he had been able to have all his treatment in Warrnambool. "It was a losing battle up until I got on the immunotherapy," he said. He said he was "very doubtful" he would have survived if the cancer centre wasn't in Warrnambool and he still had to go to Melbourne. "The logistics of it all would have beaten me." Doug recently celebrated his 80th birthday, bringing in a bottle of bubbly to share with the nurses at St John of God including Cathy Hammond who has worked with cancer patients for more than 10 years. "It's hard to even put it into words but it's just such an incredible privilege to walk alongside someone going through this," she said. "We really get to know them. You meet the most beautiful people and it's a real honour to be able to do what you can to make this process as pleasant as we can for them. "We're meeting people on some of their worst days of their life." Ms Hammond said staff dress up, or they have a cake whenever there is an excuse to have one or pop a bottle of champagne when something fun happens. Doug is not ashamed to say he sees a psychologist about four times a year. He said it was "a mug's game" if you didn't get counselling. His psychologist Jodie Fleming said working with oncology patients and their families was about acceptance because the more we struggle with that the less well we cope. "Our thoughts impacts how we feel. So we want people to feel well and hopeful and optimistic so they cope better with what they're going through," she said. Doug's exercise physiologist at St John of God health services Simon Gaylard facilitates exercising programs to bridge the gap where individuals want to be physically and mentally. "It's a very social, group orientated," he said. Mr Gaylard said exercise was extremely important during cancer treatment. It can combat the side-effects and make the treatment more effective but a lot of people don't take it up because of how flat or fatigued they feel. Doug has "really caught the bug about doing strong physical exercise". "That's the only thing I can do to help the treatment. The rest has got to be done by someone else," Doug said. "People will tell me I've worked pretty hard to keep myself fit and well and healthy and battle it out myself but it's a team effort. "I know how important it is that everyone relies on everyone else."