MAREEBA resident Warren Burton has been putting smiles on the faces of passers-by with his scarecrows and witty signs out the front of his property for the better part of 15 years, and now he’s looking to make an even greater impact with an extremely personal story that is sure to hit home with many people.
Given his laid-back and care-free personality, not many people would know that Warren has been battling a life-threatening genetic heart condition his entire life.
A number of Warren’s family members have tragically passed away early in life as a result of the genetic disorder, of which include multiple uncles along with his brother just five years ago.
Warren has suffered four heart attacks since his first bypass at aged 29, yet he refuses to let his health issues determine his life.
While Warren has traditionally been tight-lipped about he and his family’s problematic medical history in the past, he decided he wanted to speak up if it meant he could help others in a similar situation.
“I normally don’t talk about this sort of stuff, but I wanted to make sure that if there’s something I could do to help someone else, I’d do it,” he said.
“My message to people who may be going through something similar to me is to not sit around and mope about it – we can’t change it and need to get on with our lives and enjoy all the wonderful things we have.”
Warren has more get-up-an-go than most people who aren’t suffering from a heart condition, as he spends his time operating a plant and mango stall on his property roughly ten kilometres outside of Mareeba.
“I love picking mangoes and running my plant stall as it keeps me active,” he said.
“I can’t keep still, and it helps me not think about the trouble I have with my heart, so I just love having the chance to be outside as much as possible.
“However that sometimes means I get in trouble with the cardiologist as I tend to work a little too hard at times,” he laughed.
That love for the land stems from a life growing up on a dairy farm in Malanda. “After living on a dairy farm all my life, I owned my own dairy farm when I was 26 and did that until I was 30,” he said. “I then went into beef and did that until I came here (Mareeba) 15 years ago. “I had to do that because of my heart condition – I really miss my cattle and horses.”
That’s not the only sacrifice Warren had to make, as his choice to not have kids was one made for very unselfish reasons. “Because it’s a genetic disorder, I wouldn’t be able to put a kid through this no matter how much I wanted children,” he said.
“I’m thankful though, I have 45 nieces and nephews who are beautiful kids and I’m so grateful to have them in my life – that’s enough to keep us going.”
Warren unfortunately hasn’t had much luck when it comes to his health, as in addition to the problems he has experienced with his heart, doctors found an aggressive tumour in his bowel six years ago.
After two operations in Townsville and multiple rounds of radiation, Warren was able to beat the deadly disease. “That was definitely a kick in the guts,” he said. “To already have all the problems I have with my heart and then to be diagnosed with cancer was pretty tough, but again I made sure to get out on the property to help take my mind off it.
“I was in extreme pain but I was able to push through it and I was able to do that because I made sure I got off my backside and stayed active.”
Warren is known within his family to be somewhat of a prankster, and that’s something he amusingly takes great pride in.
“I love getting people with a good prank; it doesn’t matter if I’ve known you for a day or all my life, everyone is a target,” he laughed.
“Some people take life too seriously, which is something I definitely don’t.
“I could be gone tomorrow so I want to make sure I enjoy myself and have a good time.”
While Warren hasn’t been too outspoken about his family’s medical history in the past, his involvement in the promotion of the region’s Cardiac Challenge event has been invaluable.
The Cairns to Cooktown bike ride raises much-needed funding for the improvement of health care services in Far North Queensland, and Warren encouraged community members to get involved. “It’s a great initiative and goes a long way in helping a lot of people,” he said.
For those interested in donating or catching a glimpse of the riders participating in the event, the 2019 Cardiac Challenge will take place from September 21-23. More information on the event can be found at www.cardiacchallenge.com.au.
Warren also noted that any donations to the Cancer Council or The Heart Foundation would be greatly appreciated. Their websites can be found at www.heartfoundation.org.au and www.cancer.org.au.
Warren said he would like to notify the public that because of a recent hiccup regarding his health, the plant stall will be closed on and off over the next month. You can follow all the goings on with local celebrity scarecrows Jake and Lucy on Facebook at Jake & Lucy Scarecrow Family.
The region is filled with so many inspirational individuals who have a story to tell, and Warren’s one of resolve and positivity in the face of adversity is one which will surely help many people both young and old.