This is a strange story for me to write. It will at times be a sad story, in many ways it will be happy and perhaps even funny. It will be an adventure that entails anxiety, flirting with danger, fortitude in the face of adversity and many attempts to look on the bright side. There will also no doubt be moments of anguish and despair, and a lot of uncertainty. It's a story that will hopefully be cathartic for me, but also interesting and perhaps informative or even entertaining for others.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Miracle of Modern Medicine

Lately I’ve been thinking about the brilliance of modern medicine and how lucky I am to live in a time where doctors know so much about cancers and how to treat them.

I read somewhere that in terms of progression in radiation treatments for lymphoma, a long time ago is 2 years. If they can make such advancement in two years, there is a lot of hope for what the future brings. In terms of my chemotherapy treatment, the recent addition of Rituximab to the regime, significantly increases the chance of full remission in patients of all ages. I feel so lucky that this discovery was made.

With the knowledge and skills that doctors have how can people choose not have any treatment? I have read of so many people choosing alternative treatments for lymphoma or choosing not to have any treatment at all. Even worse, there are parents that don’t let their children have treatment.

I know I have no right to question people’s beliefs or their right to refuse medical treatment, but I think we need to put our trust in the people that have science behind them, rather than miracle cures.

I think maybe for a lot of people the fear of chemotherapy comes from the image we have in our minds of what a cancer patient looks like. The cancer itself has a huge physical effect on the patient, and the severity of the chemo only makes this worse. To the average person, it seems as though it is the chemo that is making the patient sicker than the cancer. Furthermore, sadly many people die and the association between chemotherapy and death is imprinted in our minds.

This association is something the alternative cancer cure advocates play on when they offer natural medicines that apparently cure cancer without any suffering. I’m sure we’ve all seen the promotion of medicines as absurd as Cancer no More pills or the plethora of internet ‘testimonials’ about a friend of a friend that knows someone who cured their cancer through a diet of asparagus and regular indigenous dancing. As ridiculous as they sound, to many people these things are more appealing than chemotherapy or radiation.

A fear of chemotherapy and radiation are totally understandable. Chemo is poison that destroys cells (normal cells in addition to cancer cells) and radiation burns these cells. However this is why they work, they both destroy cancer cells more than they destroy regular cells. Believe me, I know how awful these treatments are. From the chemo I was sick, tired, I lost feeling in my fingers, my hair fell out and my nails were constantly breaking. From the radiation my skin was burnt, bright red and eventually peeled off.

But without these treatments I wouldn’t be here. No question about it. Because these treatments destroy cells I’m still alive.

Nine months ago I had a tumour in my chest that took up the space where my lungs were supposed to be and was squashing my heart. It measured 10 x 7cm. There was another near my collarbone that measured 5 x 2cm and several more smaller ones in my chest and abdomen.

The lump in my chest had been causing a lot of pain and I was having great difficulty breathing. I couldn’t sleep because lying down was excruciating because of the tumour.

Within a week of my first chemotherapy treatment I could breathe again and I could lie down without the stabbing pains. The side effects of the chemo were already worth it. Now after the entire course of chemo and then the radiation as well all of those tumours are gone. The only miracle for me was that I was lucky enough to have these amazing treatments available to me.

I’m so grateful to science, medicine and knowledgeable doctors. Without them I wouldn’t be here to write this.

Monday, September 20, 2010

A Recommendation for My Blog!

The Lymphoma Information Network have written a recommendation for my blog!

Thank you to the Network for their lovely review and for the fantastic information available on their site.

Light the Night

On Wednesday night I participated in Light the Night with a group of my wonderful friends and family. To attend this night and carry a white balloon was amazing. To have so many people come with me to show their support was even more incredible.

Blood cancer is the second largest cause of cancer death in Australia, and Lymphoma is the most common blood cancer, yet prevention is not possible, as the cause is unknown.

This event is an inspiring way to raise awareness of blood cancers, but also to raise funds for care and hopefully for cure.

It was amazing to walk amongst the sea of balloons and I’m so glad I went. I’ll definitely be there again next year.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Slow Dance

I found a beautiful poem about appreciating life. I think we all need to remember to stop and smell the roses, but I think someone that has been faced with death really understands this.

SLOW DANCE By David L Weatherford

Have you ever watched kids on a merry-go-round,
or listened to rain slapping the ground?

Ever followed a butterfly's erratic flight,
or gazed at the sun fading into the night?

You better slow down, don't dance so fast,
time is short, the music won't last.

Do you run through each day on the fly,
when you ask "How are you?", do you hear the reply?

When the day is done, do you lie in your bed,
with the next hundred chores running through your head?

You better slow down, don't dance so fast,
time is short, the music won't last.

Ever told your child, we'll do it tomorrow,
and in your haste, not see his sorrow?

Ever lost touch, let a friendship die,
'cause you never had time to call and say hi?

You better slow down, don't dance so fast,
time is short, the music won't last.

When you run so fast to get somewhere,
you miss half the fun of getting there.

When you worry and hurry through your day,
it's like an unopened gift thrown away.

Life isn't a race, so take it slower,
hear the music before your song is over.