Curve ball...(Part 2)


It's been four years since I have written in my blog, my last post was a cancer diagnosis and the end of a dream to travel the world, a lot happened in those 4 years...

I flew home to Dublin in 2001 and began  cancer treatment in St James hospital under the care of an oncologist. The tumour was extensive, down one side of my neck, under my arm and continued below the diaphragm in my chest. The scary thing was, aside from a swelling in my neck, I looked totally fine. I started immediately on chemo followed by radiation. Sickness from chemo aside, the hardest thing was losing all my hair.

Thankfully, I went into remission for several months after treatment (and my hair grew back).

Unfortunately, about 4 months into remission the cancer came back in my breastbone, considered end stage cancer. 

I was told there was only one option left, it was described as a "rescue attempt", it involved MASSIVE doses of chemo, coupled with massive doses of morphine to help with the agony. I was kept in isolation in a hospital room on my own for just over a month. Visitors had to be decontaminated and wear masks. In the lead up to the high dosage chemo I was accidentally given a chemo overdose of 16 times the dosage I should have received. I don't dwell on this because human beings make mistakes, but it did almost kill me, I got very very sick. In true Irish-ness one of the nurses said to me "Hey, look at it this way, it should have killed you and it didn't, that means you're incredibly strong and able for anything. You're going to beat this, mark my words.". 

The high dosage chemo killed more than just cancer cells so stem cells were infused back into my body after the treatment with the hope that they would bring life back into me again.The stem cell transplant involved donating my own stem cells it's like a variation on a bone marrow transplant. In the words of a nurse "We work out how much chemo will kill you, then pull it back a notch". Of course, I lost my hair all over again, but I this time I didn't care, friends and family gave me beautiful scarves and when a tuft of hair grew back I styled it out, Sinead O'Connor was only trottin' after me!

I was told by a doctor to prepare myself to say goodbye to family and friends as the chances of survival were not great. In her words "This will either work or it won't", there was no Plan B. The doctor said I needed to be treated urgently, so certain precautions were not taken, time will tell what the long term damage to my body will be. But hopefully my hard times are behind me, thanks to resilient genes, I beat cancer twice! 

I thank Dom, my parents, my brothers, my relos and amazing friends for all their support which is the only reason I pulled through all this. Lian and Sharon, my travel buddies, took a month out of their round the world tour to come home and spend time with me during my early treatment, what truly amazing wonderful friends I have.

This year I will be in remission for 3 years. I am going out with Dom (whom I first met in Australia) for years now :o) I own an apartment in Dublin and I'm planning a backpacking trip to Canada (due to impending redundancy, but silver linings and all that).

Life is good. 

I tell people my story because I never in a million years thought I would get cancer, at least, not when I was barely out of my teens! I had no idea symptoms of cancer could be mild, they call it the silent killer.

My message - keep in tune with your body, get things checked out early, don't make assumptions either way, cancer doesn't discriminate. But, live your life and stay positive, one in 3 people get cancer, you are more likely to be one of the lucky two.

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