It was on a Sunday morning, following a stay at Crown Towers for our 18th wedding anniversary, that I knew something didn’t feel right. Having suffered with indigestion / reflux for a number of years, I felt I knew what was going on and by tomorrow morning the pain would have passed and all would be forgotten.
This time it was at the persistence of Sherrie, my wife, to finally have someone take a look and get some medication to once and for all, sort it out. It was after various referrals and tests for what was originally thought to be a stomach ulcer, that I received the phone call.
Have you ever watched a Hollywood movie and the doctor turns to the patient and says, “I’m very sorry to tell you this news, but.” You feel the pain, even on screen.
Your heart literally sinks, you break out into a sweat and without notice, a grown man was brought to tears… I recall his words like it was yesterday, “I’m very sorry to say, but your results have come back and your CT shows you have a mass tumour on your chest and one on the left side of your neck.”
They had a fair idea from the start I was dealing with a case of Lymphoma (blood related cancer), saying this, I was referred to Hollywood Private Hospital under the care of Haematologist/Oncologist Dr Chan Cheah to carry out a biopsy and determine what they were dealing with. There are many sub types of Lymphoma but being one of the more common cancers in Australia, treatment plans are usually successful if detected early enough.
After the biopsy, the results took 9 days to return and was probably the longest 9 days you could ever imagine, however, the outcome was final. I am now faced with the battle of my life as we (I say we, because I am not on this journey alone) undergo a treatment plan for one of the rarest types of Lymphoma (stage 4, Lymphoblastic Lymphoma). An aggressive form that requires an aggressive treatment plan, consisting of 8 cycles of chemotherapy, 12 x lumbar punctures and 20 x rounds of radiation, followed by a low dose chemo maintenance programme for the next 2 years.
My Family and friends of the running community immediately came to my support, and aimed to keep me in a positive space. Suddenly team #4WALLSIE was created and a fundraising campaign for the Leukemia Foundation was started for the 2017 HBF Run for a Reason. I could not believe how this snowballed and support came from everywhere. Raising $15,000 for the Leukemia Foundation was just the start of how people rallied to support. My work friends also held a fundraising evening themed WALLSIE’S WONDERLAND. A very competitive industry coming together for a common cause to support someone when they are down… just 2 events that lifted my spirits to push on and beat this disease.
First and foremost, Sherrie was my rock and was by side every step of the way, no matter how painful the journey became, she did not waiver her commitment to be by my side. But, what would my kids think? How would they handle what was about to become a journey they didn’t see coming - Liam (22), Brayden (19), Aimee (17) and Imogen (14) all used to seeing their dad either suited up for work or in his running gear taking part in regular Perth events and Parkrun just being a Saturday ritual. I had only participated in a half marathon 2 weeks prior to being diagnosed so the surprise to everyone was evident.
With a Gruelling 10 months to follow, not only facing the challenge of my body being inundated with chemicals, the infections that followed felt worse than the cancer itself – multiple pic line infections, pneumonia, infection of the bowel and retinal bleeding (bleeding behind the eyes, limiting my vision to 50%). All the things I did to pass my time, such as read, phone, TV were all no longer available to me as I couldn’t see them. All sounds unpleasant, however, there were times in between cycles I was up and about and trying to exercise. Doctors encourage exercise, but I learned that you need to listen to your body and pull up when you feel it, you’re no longer in a position push through the pain barrier, be sensible and always remember “something is better than nothing”.
Going from a PB of 20:54 to jogging the first 200m before walking due to extreme breathlessness can play with your mind, but there comes a time to let go of the competitiveness, just do what you can and enjoy every second of it! After all, what are the options? staying in bed? laying on the lounge? NEVER!
I truly believe participating in events like Parkrun, local running groups and local events such as HBF Run for a Reason offer a genuinely positive outcome to your lifestyle, health, fitness and friendships. We have met so many amazing people through the running community and I know during my journey this has majorly contributed to my positive outcome of remission – People power! If you can run, Jog or walk, take advantage of this great event and start a team today – every little bit helps……… nothing feels better.
As a matter of interest, the indigestion that sent me to the doctors in the first place actually had NOTHING to do with the final diagnosis. I went to the doctors with one thing and came out with something totally unrelated. I am a big advocate for “early detection”. If something doesn’t feel right, or you can feel something that doesn’t belong, without delay, visit your GP. Early detection can save lives.
Now, treat life like driving a car, the rear vision mirror will show what you have past, you can learn from it, but it’s a memory so you can no longer control that. Look out front where you can control, directly in front, the NOW, not too far ahead. Life can take a turn unexpectantly, so, love life and enjoy every second…