Scaling Mount Difficulty

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.

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Some 16 weeks ago, on the 9th of June, the date of my cancer diagnosis, my wife Anousheh and I drank a bottle of Mount Difficulty Pinot Noir from my native New Zealand. Later we signed and dated the label. Both the wine’s name and its origin seemed particularly apt for the struggle that we knew lay ahead. 

For indeed, on that date, and seemingly in the blink of an eyelid, one’s life changed beyond recognition and a new and uncharted journey began.

Now there’s a stop along the way – for it’s almost time to take a reluctant break from The Moodie Report and to focus on the operation that will both save and extend (hopefully for a long time) my life. A frantic week of clearing the work backlog lies ahead but at least now there is the strangely reassuring certainty of a very different type of deadline.

What perverse timing that this should coincide with the busiest week in The Moodie Report’s calendar – the last frenetic week before our annual Cannes TFWA issue deadline. However, my work – which, in truth, has always been one of my great pleasures – is a welcome distraction right now from the unavoidable trepidation that anyone facing a major operation feels.

Every day – and I mean every day – however, that trepidation is eased by the extraordinary personal warmth of so many people in this industry. Today I received a personal call (one of many in recent months) from Gebr Heinemann’s Harry Diehl, a legend in this business, a great personal mentor and, importantly, a cancer survivor. Harry would never bow to what he calls “the beast” and nor, easily, will I.

Similarly inspirational words come from Maurice ‘Mossie’ Burke, long-time General Manager of Bahrain Duty Free, who took on an acutely difficult form of cancer, looked it fair in the eye and beat it.  Maurice has never been far from my shoulder over the past difficult months. Nor has Gary Chau of Tasa Meng Duty Free in Taiwan, who recovered from the very same stomach cancer that I have and who constantly seeks to allay my fears.

And what of my lovely, lovely friend Lois Pasternak? A fellow journalist but then so much more. Her husband Paul fought long and bravely against a far worse cancer than I have before taking his final rest in June 2009. Lois, whose own grief still burns deeps, constantly finds the time and words to reassure me and to cajole me into positive thought.

On Sunday I lunched with Sharon Weiner, who has done such a marvellous communications, lobbying and public affairs job over many years for DFS out of her Honolulu base. We share a love of good Sauvignon Blanc but also of good literature and Sharon insisted on taking me shopping post-lunch for books to read while in hospital. Needless to say I now won’t fall short of literary inspiration during my recovery, no matter how long it may be. Let’s hope I’m allowed the Sauvignon Blanc to accompany it.

As so often in my discourses with industry friends since my diagnosis, our conversation focused on life rather than work, beliefs rather than business. In recent months I have been drip-fed a diet of personal enrichment that is more than a match for the ravages of cancer and the toxic challenge of chemotherapy. I have been blessed by the support of many people in this industry, all of whom I have got to know so much better through these unexpected, unwelcome yet curiously life-enhancing circumstances.

To a man and a woman they encourage me to write about my experience, knowing no doubt that it helps me but also believing it enhances the lives of others. I don’t know about that, but as writing is all I have as a talent, it is the best that I can offer.

By the time I put my life literally in the hands of my surgeon next Tuesday it will be four months since I was diagnosed. Those months have been the most important of my life and each and every one of the scores of people that have reached out to me in that time have made the most profound difference to my ability to take on this challenge. The time to thank them personally will come. Of that much I am sure. Mount Difficulty is there to be scaled.

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  • Hi Martin, You have been in my thoughts constantly since I heard the news of your frightening illness. Go for it, you bugger, this will not defeat you—-who have suffered such endless agonies following the AB’s in their routine demise every 4 years!! I have plenty of tickets for next years event which I will share with you with unrestrained pleasure as long as you promise to be there.I have spent much of the last few weeks with Christine Martin who has suffered from her own share of grief in the past 6 months and who has now found a different happiness. We missed you at ISPY and do not want to miss you in future years. Love you to bits Nick & Sue Hillyard