For most of my school career, I have listened to the radio in the morning. I remember listening to George FM, while my brother drove us to high school, you see the bus wasn’t wheelchair friendly yet – so he had to drive me. On one of those mornings, Lorde’s Royals played on the radio for the first time ever, a pivotal moment for New Zealand music and at the time we didn’t even know it. I also remember being in the car with my parents and turning the volume down on The Edge because some lad was saying something much too inappropriate for 7.00 am in the morning, but despite the inappropriate one liners, the volume always ended up back up, because we were invested in them. The radio is something that’s a part of our lives, I think we can all agree that some mornings we wish that they’d perhaps be less talking and more music, but a part of what makes the radio great is that, it connects us.
We become invested in the lives of the presenters, Michael Kooge is no different – in fact, in all my years listening to the radio, I would say that Kooge has been the voice that I have been the most invested in, this is because of the fact that he has a story to tell and in hearing his story through the radio and online I found aspects of his narrative that related to my own, Kooge helped me through some pretty tough times – just by voicing his story and this is why Michael and I have worked together on this, we had planned to do an interview together this month, but due to recent events we’re taking a whole new spin on things: we want to help you through your own narrative because at times that narrative, “it’s a marathon run or a mountain you scale without thinking of size” but you can get through it, with a bit of Bravado [meaning: swagger and/or boldness] some courage and candor – hopefully you’ll find all of that here today, because they’re all certainly things you will find within Michael Kooge.
I remember listening to 94.2 one morning in 2012 and finding out that the news reader of the morning show was diagnosed with Cancer. I said, that one of the reasons I related to Michael was because within his story I saw aspects of my own and this is true, but I didn’t find myself being compelled by Kooge’s story because of his battle with Cancer, no. I found myself compelled by Kooge because of his fight in said battle, you see I haven’t ever battled anything life threatening and I wouldn’t even try and be empathetic with that, because unless you’ve been there it is impossible to truly know how that must feel. However, my whole life I have been the special kid. The kid who knew the inside of an OR better than the back of her hand, I was the kid that some people felt awkward around or asked stupid questions too – that was me. And God, a part of me didn’t want to be that kid, I just wanted to blend in and I suppose that’s why I felt so connected to Kooge when he first told his story in 2012, because instead of blending in, instead of trying to hide, he said to the whole nation, that he was fighting Cancer – he did not do this for anything except to tell people they’re not alone, to help them and to educate them – and as a kid who thought to blend in was better I learned my error in thinking because of Kooge’s actions here, because being silent, blending in, that is certainly easier to do – but it is in no way a better option.
It does take great courage to stand up and stand out as Kooge has done, but in the past 5 years – he has probably saved more than a few lives, through educating people about the signs of cancer, and he has made people like me realise that there is nothing to be gained in wanting a narrative different to what you have been handed, because it is within that narrative that you will conquer and create some form of good – and I know that sounds like a bunch of crap, because nobody should have to create good from something that is profoundly difficult, Kooge himself says “I work in radio and I try to always be funny and bubbly and fun and positive for everyone I know – and please know I want to still be that guy through all this, but I’ve been again faced with a very big and scary wall and I want it off my chest and out of my head. And even if you read this and you go hug your partner harder or your kids or you say sorry for something you said to someone and appreciate each other a little more, I don’t know – just try take something from this. Life is fkd but it is also amazing” if we could design the world, odds are it’d be without the Big C or without wheelchairs, climate change and the Bachelor season 2 (epic fail) but we can’t design the world, all we can do is design ourselves – from the blueprint we were given.
Since our housing market is such a hot topic, let’s use that as a metaphor, if you imagine your life like a house. You’re born and depending on your parent’s circumstances, you automatically have so much, perhaps you’re house comes furnished, or with a swimming pool – but then as you grow, you move on from your parents and your house becomes your own, perhaps at this point it’s more of an Otago flat, but either way – as a person, you always have a house, with things in it, things that come from hard work, or just from personal privilege. However as nice as that house is, as hard as you work to upkeep that home, their might be a flood tomorrow, or the roof might crumble – and the thing is, is that you can’t just go and get a new house, because this is your home.
So instead of running, you have to fight back, you have to fix the roof, dry out the rooms from the flood – because you protect your home right? This is like your life. Nobody can just run away, from the unexplainable crappiness – you, eventually have to learn to fix it – and then, then you can learn to make the best out of it. Interior decorate the crap out of the house and learn to embrace the broken windows or the slight remnant of the hole in the roof – because this is your life and what looks kind of broken is just an example of how strong you are, this life is what you’ve been given and you can’t stop what happens to you, but you can fight back. This is what Kooge has done. And this is what we all must learn from.
This doesn’t mean it was easy for Kooge or for anyone “I remember losing all strength in my knees, and crumpling. Right there in the fucking car park. For the whole world to see. A grown 28 year old man, crying. I couldn’t stop it. I had cancer. Who gets told they have cancer at 28? My parents, holding me up, both of them holding back tears “it’s okay” they repeated. “It’ll be okay”. What do you do? A million thoughts go through your head… I got a text from someone at work – I wanted to throw my phone at a concrete wall, my precious iPhone. Nothing mattered anymore. Nothing. It was all blank. A blur. It was surreal. You had to be there.”
“Everyone has been affected by cancer in some way or another, it’s crept its way, uninvited, into everyone’s homes and lives. They say one in three people will get it at some point in their life. And we all know someone who has had it. And through all this, I’ve even found some close to home who have survived it – which was amazing encouragement.” If you’ve not directly experienced from the Big C, then get your checks and do your damnedest to stay that way. Here are links to get information, about going to get your regular tests for skin cancer as well as smear tests and other exams, because you’ve got to protect your life from intruders the same way you’d protect that house of yours.
The truth of the matter though, is that you can’t always protect yourself, but in the times when the flood creeps back in or when the roof caves, the great thing about living in your home, leading this life, is that you’ve got neighbours, friends and family that’ll help you out. This is very much the case for Kooge, his courage and candor along with the support from all of us, gives him more fight than Liston. At the beginning of this I told you, that I had planned this interview a few months back, and I had. I had planned to ask Kooge about his health and ask him about what it was like to battle cancer, however, it seems that battle is not over for Kooge. In recent weeks Kooge has been diagnosed with a brain tumour, he will soon be undergoing surgery.
From what I have come to know about Michael, he does not want to cause a fuss or be known as the ‘sick’ guy – but equally so I have come to know, that nobody sees him this way. The outpouring of public support, the over 20,000 dollars raised to support him financially and the story that Kooge continues to tell through Social Media, are all indicators that Kooge is not known as sick, nor is he causing a fuss. All these instances show the high regard that Kooge is held too, and the people who he has in his corner, when the chips are down – people help, people love and perhaps the greatest thing we can think about or take away from this piece – is to not just help or love when the chips fall, but to love all the time, to help always.
This has gone on much too long, but I want to finish with this: Mark Danner is an investigative journalist, he was told by a Haitian president that “Violence strips bare the social body, the better to place the stethoscope and track the life beneath the skin.”
This quote was first said and meant, to be meaningful in the context of war, but I think if we take away the word violence it says a lot about us and can apply to our world in many different contexts. In life it is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day or within our own difficulties. But, we must learn to strip things back, to track the life which is beneath the day to day or beneath our own self, it is in doing that, it is in stripping back what makes us different from one another and tracking what’s beneath, that we will learn – that we’re all connected, through our humanity and one thing that connects us?
Is the radio. Each of us lets that into our homes and our cars, in some way – and the radio has been the foundation that has connected us all to Michael Kooge, his story will continue and we will all be invested, because “it’s a marathon run or a mountain you scale without thinking of size” with a bit of Bravado [meaning: swagger and/or boldness] some courage and candor.
It was an honour to write this with Kooge in the past few days, if you’d like, you can donate below to help support him financially at this time.
You can follow his story at https://www.facebook.com/mkooge/ I am halfway toward convincing him to start a blog – to go with the rad photos he snaps.
Donate via Givealittle