The Invincible Damian Griffin
Damian ‘Griffo’ Griffin is inspirational. There is no other way to describe the Brisbane local who was first diagnosed with brain cancer in 2000. Since that time his journey has seen many highs and lows on the health spectrum, but two things have remained constant in his life; the level of support from family and friends, and his mantra: “Stay Invincible”.
From the early days of Damian’s diagnosis, friends here and abroad wanted to show support. Mates in London shaved their heads in an act of solidarity and called it Griffo’s Barber Shop. In recent years hundreds have participated in Griffo’s Challenge around Brisbane as an awareness and fundraising exercise. The three challenges have raised in excess of $600,000 with monies going to Cure Brain Cancer (Foundation) and the ICON Cancer Foundation.
Damian and his wife Lou acknowledge that most of the people who have participated in fundraising activities have some connection to them personally, but this year’s record number of 420 registered in Griffo’s Challenge saw general supporters of the cause out in force too. Why? Because Damian has a way of engaging everyone with his positive spirit, and his passion for educating about the cancer that has disrupted his life.
“The statistics for brain cancer far outweigh the more commonly known cancers, i.e. prostate, breast and lung cancer,” he says. “When you talk to people about cancer, you realise most don’t know about brain cancer, but it’s one of the biggest killers.”
Lou explains that many don’t realise the ‘extra challenges’ that brain cancer imposes on a patient as opposed to other cancers. “There is the potential for breast reconstruction after a mastectomy for example, but brain cancer can cause epilepsy and impact on speech as well, as it has on Damian.”
On what keeps him motivated and positive he says, “My friends make me feel supported.” Damian also acknowledges the American sports drama film Invincible based on the true story of Vince Papale who played for the Philadelphia Eagles. Damian watched the film, wrote to Vince who in turn not only responded but also sent an autographed book and flag. The word ‘invincible’ had even more meaning for Damian from then on.
When the Plankton’s played their first public gig at the Hotel LA in Brisbane in support of ‘Griffo’, hundreds of locals went along as well. Damian spoke to the crowd, raised his arm in the air and said ‘Stay invincible’. To his surprise, the entire venue repeated the catch cry. Such is the power of his positive message and the influence Damian continues to have.