TV's one-time "Mr Nasty" suffered a fall that resulted in a brain injury, and suddenly lost the ABC breakfast radio job he'd held for 14 years.
He also split from his wife Elly and they sold the Melbourne home they'd lived in since 1998.
"My darling son had a life-threatening situation, too," the former Hey Hey It's Saturday Red Faces judge says. "I had some dark days."
But now it looks like Red's life is back on track, thanks especially to the news his beloved son Samuel, 27, who's battled cancer since childhood, is recovering well after a recurrence.
"The result has been very good," says Red. "However, the simple truth is – and anyone who has cancer knows this – it never really goes away."
Samuel, his oldest son, was tragically diagnosed with a brain tumour when he was just four years old, and at 11 was operated on for thyroid cancer. Then, at 16, he developed another brain tumour.
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In 2010, Samuel shared his cancer history on an episode of Australian Story revealing that, after becoming unresponsive at preschool, a biopsy showed he'd suffered a brain haemorrhage.
At the time, the Symons family lived next door to a power substation and don't know whether the electromagnetic waves caused then-baby Samuel, whose cot was against a shared wall with the power hub, to fall ill.
Earlier this year, Samuel underwent yet more treatment on the aggressive tumour and Red says he's now doing well.
"He is cheerful and that's the most important thing," he adds.
Since his son's latest brush with cancer – and his own fall a year ago – Red is more aware than ever of his own mortality.
"I considered myself immortal past what is technically retirement age," says the 69-year-old, who momentarily blacked out and fell backwards, hitting his head on the footpath while walking home from the supermarket on July 5 last year. "My accident made me introspective about that."
The injury forced Red off air for almost two months and made him prioritise his own health.
He now swims every morning.
"You reach an age where you might as well start doing it," he says. "I've led a fairly sedentary life and been an indoorsy type."
A new relationship following the end of his marriage to Elly, with whom he also has sons Raphael and Joel, has helped Red recover from his traumatic year, too. The former Skyhooks guitarist has been spending time with doctor and author Karen Hitchcock.
"We are very dear friends," he says of their fledgeling romance. "We enjoy our company together at the moment."
Landing a new radio gig is also helping Red recover from the shock of losing his ABC Radio Melbourne breakfast slot last November. At the time, Red announced on air it would be his last year in the role, adding, "They [the ABC] haven't said why I'm going and I haven't asked."
Now he's signed to rival Melbourne station 3AW, where he'll join talk show host Neil Mitchell for a fortnightly chat.
"I'm in the habit of driving the radio thing all by myself, so I'll have to remember I am Neil's guest," says Red, laughing.
With his new romance, new job and new fitness kick, it looks like life is on the up for the star. "I've started again," he says. "That's how I'm choosing to look at it."
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