a tale of two cancers

Hi again

Lotsa fun, cancer. If you’re a masochist, that is. I’m not, so don’t expect me to say it was a wonderful time in my life or anything stoopid. There were some moments that were funny, others that were positively transcendent, but it’s not an experience that I recommend although I suspect that more people, on a per capita basis , will be coming into contact with cancer on a first hand basis as we continue to see the impact we have had on our environment since the beginning of the industrial revolution. As my wise wife says of the treatment options, “it’s an industrial disease so it takes an industrial treatment to cure it”.

The first time I was diagnosed was in 1999, the second in 2004. Both times it was Hodgkins disease, named for the grandfather of painter Howard Hodgkin, who was the first to “discover ” it in 1886. My case is apparently something of a medical oddity as this form of cancer usually doesn’t come back once it has been treated successfully, and in the cases where it does recur it almost always does so where it was the first time. Not so in my case, however.

The first time I was diagnosed the tumours were found in the lymph nodes in my neck and chest. Apart from a brutish experience with a badly botched multiple attempt at a bone marrow test, the diagnosis and treatment were pretty much straightforward and manageable, once my wife and I got over the initial shock and fear that accompanied the news when we found out that I had cancer. And it was one helluva shock, because other than the lump that triggered the whole process, I had no idea that I was sick, which may sound odd but is entirely true. I had no night sweats, no loss of energy or strength, my weight stayed constant, in short nothing to tip me off .

The second time could hardly have been more different. After hitting my head on a low overhead beam at work one night I began to experience increasing lower back pain that refused to get better, no matter what I did to alleviate the pain. The pain itself was surprising since I was in very good physical shape at the time and should have been able to recover quickly from the initial accident, but as I say, it kept getting worse. And unfortunately for me, my former doctors had folded their practice in order to go into separate specialty practices and I was left with a new GP who completely missed the boat in terms of taking my condition seriously to begin with and for focusing on my distant stint in rehab instead of my recent history with Hodgkins disease, especially since prolonged lower back pain that doesn’t respond to treatment is one of the early warnings that Hodgkins could be returning.

And I tried everything from chiropractic to physiotherapy to Reiki therapy (a form of holistic healing that concentrates on enrgy pathways in the body) while waiting in vain for my new GP to either give me something for pain relief or to book me an appointment with an appropriate specialist. It got to the point where I had to quit his practice , which is something cancer patients simply don’t do because they’re your links to your oncology team, before any doctor would take me seriously. Never mind that I had to quit my job because I could only stand up for 15-20 minutes ata a time or that I lost between 10 and 14 kg in three months and hadn’t slept for more than 20 minutes at a time for 4 1/2 months.

In short, and before I get ahead of myself, the two walks through the world of cancer were very, very different. The one constant in these encounters was that the community support we received was amazing to the point of being overwhelming at times. In that respect I am a lucky man.

Next time I post more about the tale of two cancers, I’ll go into the first encounter in more depth, from the point of first contact on thru to meeting my oncology team and treatments and their fallout.

See you then.

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~ by Rocky Green on May 8, 2007.

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