Mammino Ice Cream creator joyful to the end
THERE are few occasions when the Bruce Hwy is brought to a halt.
But a special one one will take place this week when Childers has "the biggest party it has ever seen" to farewell Anthony Mammino.
The family of the Mammino Ice Cream creator opened up to the NewsMail to describe his long fight with a brutal illness and remember a man who was joyful to the end.
His wife Teena fought back tears.
"We were childhood sweethearts, we had three kids, we created a business together," she said.
"I haven't just lost my husband but my business partner, my best friend, a father, a grandfather."
He leaves behind his children Axel, 28, Ayrial, 26, and Amba, 22.
They all recalled a dad and grandfather who would do anything for his family, "always encouraging us to get up to mischief", from moving the trampoline next to the pool and putting it back "before your mum gets home", to hopping out of the car to chase rabbits.
"His two grandchildren thought he was the funniest person in the world," Axel said.
"When we were kids we just thought he could do anything.
"No matter what kind of day he'd had, he'd get home and take us straight out to play until it was dark."
Amba said: "You couldn't not love his cheeky smile."
It was a smile he managed to maintain throughout 20 hellish months including 39 rounds of chemotherapy.
Anthony's ordeal with the diffused large B cell lymphoma began in July 2015.
He was in Nambour selling ice creams from his van when he had severe abdominal pain.
Doctors first suspected diverticulitis or a kidney infection but things "didn't add up" and he was flown to Royal Brisbane Hospital.
He and Teena would spend 14 of the next 20 months in Brisbane, where he was treated at the Wesley Hospital.
He was diagnosed with hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis, or HLH, an autoimmune condition more common in children under two, but in adults it can present as a secondary disease in cancer sufferers.
It would be six months before doctors located the lymphoma when they removed his spleen, and then found it had spread to his kidneys, lymph nodes and lungs.
It was extremely aggressive and appeared to resist the chemo, mutating with every treatment.
In December, Anthony underwent a stem cell transplant to prepare his body to withstand another powerful round.
"A lot of doctors advised him to have palliative care instead because it's so tough on the body," Ayrial said.
"But he was adamant to try everything. That's why he had the transplant. He didn't want to give up."
Even when he was sick he continued to make the people around him smile.
"He'd look awful, so sick, but as soon as someone walked in he'd have a massive grin on his face and ask 'How are you doing' - and he'd listen," Ayrial said.
"He would get so much joy when he wasn't nutropenic (when the white blood cell count is too low, making the body vulnerable to infection) walking outside and sitting in the sun. It was the best feeling for him.
"It's strange going through his phone now and seeing lots of photos of plants - he appreciated little things like flowers in a way he never used to."
"There's been good and bad," Teena said of the last 20 months.
"The bad is he's not with us; the good part is I was with him every day.
"We had conversations others might not get to have if their partner dies suddenly.
"He showed the true person he really is. He never complained. He was always laughing."
Anthony died surrounded by family at the Wesley Hospital on January 18.
In his final week, there was a "revolving door" of hospital staff coming in to say goodbye, even on their days off.
"The nurses said he was the nicest patient they ever had," Teena said.
She said they were lucky to have accommodation and weekly counselling thanks to the Leukaemia Foundation.
"Without it I don't think we would have coped," she said, adding that the support from friends, family and the community had been huge.
A funeral for Anthony Mammino will be held at the Sacred Heart church on Churchill St, Childers, on Wednesday at 11am.
Traffic will be halted to allow the hearse to drive down the street, stopping at the Mamminos' store.
Afterwards will be "the biggest party Childers has ever seen", just as Anthony wanted.
"We didn't get to have a party for his fiftieth this year because he was too sick, so this will be huge," Teena said.
"He wanted to go out with a bang.
"My only words to describe him are, he was a true champion."
The Mamminos encourage anyone who wants to honour Anthony's memory to do so by donating to the Leukaemia Foundation.
Visit leukaemia.org.au or phone 1800 620 420.