TIM Chisholm's two great loves are his family and cricket.
They helped save his life - twice.
The 48-year-old from Maiden Gully cheated death twice in the past four years.
In his darkest days when Chisholm spent months at a time in hospital, his inspiration to get healthy was his wife Ange and three children Erin, Eliza and Angus.
His other goal - to return to the cricket field.
Last Saturday at Albert Roy Reserve in Eaglehawk, Chisholm made an emotional return to action for his beloved Maiden Gully Cricket Club in an Emu Valley Cricket Association division three game.
This time 12 months ago, Chisholm playing cricket again was a longshot.
Four years ago Chisholm was diagnosed with an aggressive throat cancer.
A non-drinker and non-smoker, Chisholm's illness came out of the blue.
"I had chemotherapy and radiotherapy in Melbourne for the best part of a year," Chisholm recalled this week.
"I was away from family, apart from my wife who was with me some of the time. It was very tough.
"I was lucky. The treatment worked and I beat the throat cancer."
The throat cancer came on the back of Chisholm being diagnosed with incurable liver disease in 2006.
Twelve months after beating cancer, Chisholm was back in Melbourne at the Austin Hospital.
"My liver had taken a turn for the worse and the doctors told me that within two years I would need a liver transplant," Chisholm said.
Chisholm's liver and general health was deteriorating fast and in September last year he was put on the liver transplant waiting list.
"My body was wasting away and I started to regularly get infections," he said.
"There were days when I'd be at work at 9am and be in hospital by 3pm.
"I'd start to feel unwell and I was in hospital for three days to three weeks depending on how bad the infection was.
"The infections just came out of the blue."
Being on the waiting list doesn't guarantee you a new liver - something Chisholm was to find out three times.
"You just never know when the hospital is going to call and you basically have to drop everything and get to Melbourne," Chisholm said.
"Three times I received phone calls telling me to get to Melbourne because a liver was available. All three times, for whatever reason, we went to Melbourne only to be told it wouldn't work."
One of those three trips was on Christmas Day last year.
"That was the hardest one to take," Chisholm said.
"We were in St Arnaud visiting family when we got the call at 4.45am.
"We had to leave the kids and race down to Melbourne. We waited around all day, but it didn't work out. That was very tough to be away from the kids for Christmas Day."
After two more "dummy runs" in January and March, Chisholm's luck turned on April 4 this year.
"We had just walked in the door from my son's basketball grand final when we received a call from the hospital," he said.
"This time I was lucky enough to receive a donor and I had the operation."
Thankfully for Chisholm and his family, the operation was a success.
"The doctors believed my liver may have lasted another 12 months, but the issue was the infections and the complications that went with it,’’ Chisholm said.
"The longer it went the more severe the infections became and that was the thing that could have finished it for me.
"My liver looked like a Sherrin… it weighed over 3kg. I was very lucky that I got the operation when I did."
Chisholm also knows how lucky he was to have supportive family and friends.
He said he wouldn’t have got through his ordeal without his wife, Ange.
“Ange held everything together, she is an amazing woman,’’ Chisholm said.
“I couldn’t work for eight months. She worked, looked after the kids and me.
“The kids were fantastic. They stayed at seven different houses over the journey.”
Ange said she was “blown away” by the support of family, friends and the wider community.
“It's incredible how Bendigo people come together when you need help,’’ Ange said.
“We had people we didn't even know cooking us food and dropping it off at the house.
“My work, Tim's work, the kids schools - we just had that much support.
“You become someone that you never thought you'd be capable of being.
“Everything gets put into perspective. The little things that you used to worry about mean nothing now.”
Cricket has always played a major role in Chisholm’s life.
His passion for the game has helped him in his recovery from the liver transplant operation.
"You have to have something to aim for and something to look forward to,’’ Chisholm said of his goal of playing cricket again.
“I couldn't crawl under a rock. I had to have something to strive for. I had to show something to my kids.
“I wanted to get fit and work hard and I've managed put on 11kg since the operation.”
Chisholm batted at number three last Saturday, hitting seven fours in a brisk innings of 34.
“To walk out on the ground with my mates at Maiden Gully was amazing,’’ he said.
“I was lucky enough to make a few and the boys had a win, you can't ask for more than that.
“I pulled up a bit sore, but just to be back playing and having family and friends watching was pretty special.”
Ange said it was an emotional day for the family.
“This time last year we would have given anything to see him out on the cricket field again, but to be honest we just didn't know if it would ever happen again,’’ she said.
“It was pretty special to see him out there again.
"You just don't realise how important things like watching Tim play cricket are until they are nearly taken away from you.”
Prior to his operation, Chisholm linked with Transplant Cricket Australia's Lucky Stars team - a group that uses cricket to promote awareness and education around organ and tissue donation.
"That group has been amazing for me,'' Chisholm said.
"Meeting and playing cricket with other people who have been through transplants helped me prepare for my operation and then helped with my recovery."
Chisholm is also giving something back by returning to the Austin Hospital to talk to patients who are on the waiting list for liver transplants.
Next week he'll join the Lucky Stars for two cricket games - one in Wollongong on October 30 and on Melbourne Cup eve he'll play under lights on the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Now that he is back in action, Chisholm has his heart set on fulfilling another cricketing dream – playing in the same side as his son, Angus.
“Angus is 11 and he is a bigger cricket tragic than me, he loves the game,’’ Chisholm said.
“The plan is that when he gets a bit bigger and stronger we can play together for Maiden Gully. That would be special.”