When Darian Convery heard the words "stage four lung cancer" it felt like a death sentence, but the Wagga police officer has found the strength in himself and in his community to keep on fighting.
But in April, he began to experience headaches that would not leave him alone.
"I decided to go see a GP after work and was telling him that I have had pretty bad eczema throughout my life and hayfever as well, which was playing up because of the change in seasons," Mr Convery said.
"He told me to try some home remedies to help it and gave me some medicine too.
"I did that for a bit and I thought it was still somewhat working, but I think it was probably more of a psychological thing."
Just a week later, the headache came back with a vengeance and the doctor sent him to get a scan.
Mr Convery said he could never have imagined that he would hear the word "cancer" in a million years.
"The official diagnosis is stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer," he said.
"When I went through school I was educated that lung cancer was for people who were chain smokers, but I have never touched a cigarette in my life.
To have all this support from friends, family and strangers gives me the strength to keep on going.Darian Convery
"I didn't believe what they were saying. I thought, 'how is this possible?'."
What followed was three or four days in a "horrible limbo" as Mr Convery went through multiple tests, which revealed at least 15 tumours in his brain with a primary mass on his lung.
"There was a lot of medication and injections with some volatile side effects," he said.
"That was hard. It might have been the most challenging part.
"They were like 'this is what you have got, but we don't know exactly how we can go about treating it'. It was only three or four days, but those days felt like forever."
His mother Janelle Wilson said she never could have thought her 24-year-old son would be diagnosed with cancer.
"We had no history of it in the family so it came as a shock," she said.
"When he told me they had asked him to go to the emergency department and wouldn't say what was on the scan, I knew I had to be there.
"I was on the coast and I picked up my sister in Sydney and we drove straight through the night to be here."
Ms Wilson said she would never forget the moment they found out it was cancer.
"It was devastating," she said.
"But I am so proud of him for how he has handled himself."
"He's a non-smoker, non-drinker, he's looked after himself, he runs, he swims, it all looks like nothing's wrong with him, so it has been confronting but we will do whatever we can.
Being in hospital for two weeks and knowing he had a long road ahead of him, Mr Convery had to take time off work.
That was another challenge in itself, as losing the hours at work meant losing a bit of normality.
"I always wanted to get into emergency services but growing up, I always wanted to be a paramedic," Mr Convery said.
"I was not ready to move yet, though, so I did a Law and Business degree at Newcastle for three years, but I did the prerequisites to join the police while I was studying full time.
"Then one of my best mates told me he had signed up, and he said 'I have applied and I got accepted and they are still looking for people, you should sign up with me."
After completing his course, Mr Convery was stationed at Griffith for seven months before moving to West Wyalong for two years.
He moved to Wagga in November 2020, and while now considers it his home, Mr Convery was "overwhelmed" by the support from the community.
"To have all this support from friends, family and strangers give me the strength to keep on going," he said.
"Thank you to everyone for all the support. It means a lot and helps me to keep going."
At the moment, Mr Convery is on a course of immunotherapy which is responding well now but will not last forever.
He said there are a few other options, including targeted radiotherapy and treatments that are being tested overseas.
"I still have hope for a cure," Mr Convery said. "Just a few years ago, people who were diagnosed with what I have got had less than 12 months left to live.
"But that's been pushed forward for seven, eight, ten years. So I don't see why there couldn't be a cure. So I am determined to keep fighting."
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