Imagine receiving the shocking news you have just three months to live. The alternative? Major surgery with just a 60 per cent chance of survival.
This is the news that confronted me, a 65-year-old veteran musician and band front man, in March. It was news beyond comprehension, especially for my wife and two teenage children. The expressions on their faces were enough to have me opting immediately for the dangerous surgery.
I went under the knife in April as my family waited patiently for the outcome of the nine-hour operation. The specialist heading my surgical team contacted them to say that things had gone well. The surgery was about as big as it can get and my family had to wait four days as I battled with post-operation symptoms.
After 11 days, I was discharged and six weeks later I began the long and painful process of chemotherapy.
On my darkest days I had to consider if I was happy with what I had done in life and one thing stood out. I made a vow that I would fix that before I found myself in the same position again.
I had terrible nightmares, the powerful pain killers gave me scary hallucinations, I saw what is referred to by many as ‘the black door’. When you ring the bell at the chemo infusion unit and wave goodbye to those you have spent the last few months fighting for your life with, and walk out into the street you appreciate every single second you have been given.
On July 30, I received the all clear. I feel it is my duty to do all I can to help other through the life-confronting process. Support services are just so important, especially if someone is in midlife with the added problems of family and financial loss, as crippling as the disease itself. In many cases our society is geared to punish people whom are suffering the worst times of their lives, they lose their homes, family and accumulated wealth, politics interferes with every pain in our lives.
All affected I meet are focused, intrepid and they refuse to give up, but they need lots of help, no one can fight this alone. Thanks to my family, friends, and medical professionals I was far from alone. I thank the human spirit of preservation we all possess for the very support I needed and received.
If I were asked to describe this whole experience in one word I would say ‘horrific’. I now know what it’s like to go through what so many are burdened with. I have seen and heard of this disease for a long time, sometimes being touched by its very presence in friends and persons you know of. Not many people are without some kind of direct contact with cancer, be it personally or indirectly.
With such shock I was drawn to chase any assistance I could. In a short space of time I found an alkaline diet laid me up with no energy at all in just four days, a single cup of coffee with one sugar and I was up and around in 10 minutes. Hemp oil’s only effect was that it left a residue in my mouth akin to licking the grass catcher out after mowing the lawn. The only reason I am still alive is down to the fantastic crew of medical staff and specialists at the Flinders Medical Centre in my home of South Australia.
Without their efforts, guidance and skill I would not be alive today and I am forever in their debt. Fighting this disease is nothing short of horror after horror, but without a fight I would not be here. I have spoken to so many now that have been down the same path as me, I could not find one person of hundreds that did not praise the efforts of these medical professionals.
The combined knowledge of the specialist teams equate to hundreds of years of experience between them, and all departments, be it cardio, urology, oncology, diet, to name a few, are involved in gathered meetings to discuss the best path to treat you. No matter how pleasant your surroundings the horror of major surgery and chemo therapy remains one of the most difficult things you could possibly experience. I would never down play the fact that the word ‘horror’ is a good way to tag it. Many don’t like to talk about it, quiet and reserved when questioned on the same level I have found them to open up on a personal level. I honestly wish I could say it was fun and of no consequence in your life but things like this are a reality and without direct substance on reality one would attempt to live in a world of dreams and cotton wool. Life is not like that, it is sometimes hard to hang on to our meagre existence, but the experience has made life so much more valuable. To see my family’s faces when given positive news was priceless and we move on to far more enjoyable days.
Now I have conquered this thing I plan on spending as much time with my family as I can and raise awareness of how it really is. I want to assure those who may be affected, if there is hope for me there is hope for them. I want to raise as much money as I can for institutions and operations that assist people who are affected by this disease, be they directly or indirectly involved.