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Though he is free of it, throat cancer continues to define Graeme Ruse's life.
Having had a full laryngectomy, meaning his voice box was removed, just over three years ago, the Nhill resident can not talk loudly.
Every three months, he heads to Melbourne's Alfred Hospital for checks to see if the cancer has returned. He also has chronic arthritis, haemophilia, speech pathology and physio appointments, meaning he needs to go down more often.
It is in this regard that the Overland train, due to be discontinued after Tuesday, has been critical, as his partner Melanie explained.
"For us, it's a major source of transport to get to and from (Melbourne)," she said. "Sometimes I can't go with him and find the Overland is the only way to make it easy for Graeme to get there and back,"
"When the midweek service was cut a few years ago, it meant you had to wait a few days before you could get back and so there were added expenses for accommodation. When we go down we try and combine appointments, but even if he clear of cancer after five years there will be an ongoing need to travel to Melbourne."
Melanie works at a medical practice in the town, and the couple have children James, aged nine, Charlotte, five, and Graeme's father Michael, 84, living at their property.
"We moved from Melbourne to Nhill just over 12 years ago, and prior to the cancer he was using the Overland too," she said. "We moved for a better lifestyle and transport we didn't feel was going to be an issue, but it's been our number one thing.
Mrs Ruse said her partner's arthritis meant he could not bend one of his legs. This meant bus travel was not a suitable alternative to the train.
"Getting up and down stairs is a major issue and obviously getting in and out of seats becomes a problem, and on buses air conditioning and that creates issues trying to keep his stoma clean," she said. "With the Overland, you can move around and can move the seats for more leg room, and obviously getting on and off is easier too."
Mrs Ruse said if the Overland did not return after June 30, she and her children would feel the effects along with Graeme.
"Graeme gets very fatigued driving long distances, because he had chemoradiation prior to the cancer operation," she said. "It will mean I will have to take time off work so we can share the driving down to Melbourne. We will also have to travel down as a family and pull our kids out of school for basically three days.
This article first appeared on www.greatlakesadvocate.com.au
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