It can take a life-threatening moment to change your life – and that was true for successful Di Jones agent, Piers Van Hamburg.
Today, Piers says he values time more than material items, and he loves nothing more than to spend his early mornings on a surf ski, watching the sun rise, dolphins frolic and sharks cruise by.
His story begins most unusually, with his mother telling him: “Piers, you look like shit”.
He told the 1000-plus delegates of the Rise conference in Melbourne: “It got to the point that I didn’t want to invite her over anymore”.
But he began to concede she might have had a point.
“I noticed things were changing with me,” recalled Piers. “I noticed my face was getting puffy, but I wasn’t putting on weight. Then, my feet didn’t fit into my shoes, and I started snoring.”
For Piers, these physical changes were hard to understand. He never got sick, and he enjoyed a wonderful life.
“I’d been working for 20 years, grinding it out,” he said. “I had a beautiful house, three kids in private school. I was driven by material things, and I used them as goals.”
Then one day, he came home and found his mother and father sitting on his couch in tears.
“Mum was with her iPad,” Piers said, “and she told me she’d been researching all my symptoms. She thought I had acromegaly and should “go to the doctor and get a check-up”.
He followed his mother’s instructions, and his doctor confirmed the symptoms sounded like acromegaly, a rare disease. Piers would need blood tests and an MRI scan (magnetic response imaging) to pinpoint any tumour in his pituitary gland and gauge its size.
Piers admitted to finally thinking, “holy shit, this is serious”.
His doctor gave him the bad news a few days later.
“I had a tumour the size of a golf ball. When you get news like that, you can’t believe it can happen to you. All I could think about was my children and wife.”
Any operation for acromegaly is risky, as surgeons have to access the tumour through the nose and hook it out.
Piers was on the table for seven hours.
His friend and real estate colleague John McGrath visited him before the operation and offered a thought that Piers said he’d never forget.
“John said to me, ‘sometimes in life, a gift will come to you badly packaged’. He was so spot on. They took out the tumour, it wasn’t cancerous, and my health has been great since then.”
In his Five Minutes of Wisdom presentation, Piers confessed he’d only ever told his story to his closest friends, and it was “scary to share this with more than 1000 people”.
His close encounter revealed the folly of only chasing the material things in life.
“Now, I value time more than material things,” he said. “I value my time with friends. I surf ski every morning. I see dolphins and sharks and ferries and things.
“It used to be all about me, but it’s not about me anymore. I value my team, and my role is to make them successful. And I’m having more success than ever.
“You don’t have to have a major health scare to make a change.”