Today is day 4 of the 3rd round of the 2nd line of chemotherapy.
The numbers get confusing for a bit. But really the main point is 3 rounds are now done, and I am on the slow road to recovery and get maybe 10 days of health in before I hit round 4. So far this round has possibly been a bit worse symptoms-wise than round 2, but about the same as round 1. There is no doubt in my mind that so far this regime is WAY better than the regime I had last year. The oxaliplatin that I had last year just about killed me, and I still don’t quite have full sensation at the tips of my fingers from its neuropathic effects. At least I can take a pulse now, which is more than I could do 6 months ago.
There isn’t too much to update on this round really apart from just letting you all know where I’m at.
I have also finished my GP run out in Botany downs last week and start up at Whangaparoa Peninsula this week for 3 weeks. Its SOOOO nice to be spending my up-times doing some thing productive rather than getting bored. I have really missed medicine, and even though at times I feel completely stupid, it’s slowly coming back to me. I’m really glad (even though I’m also exhausted) that I have chosen to get back into it.
Until next time..
It’s technically not the best shot in the world, I blew out the highlights on the back of the car where my headlights where shining. The opportunities to get a better shot were limited by the phase changes of the traffic lights.
But that aside, I find it just to be an interesting photo to look at, particularly with the dog hanging out on one side.
Today is my wife Hannah’s birthday.
She is the unsung hero of the last two years of my life. We met in Sydney at a conference 3 1/2 years ago, and married 18 months later. Eleven months into our marriage came the event that changed both of our lives forever, mine perhaps more permanently.
I was diagnosed with cancer.
I sometimes wonder what is harder, being married to someone who has cancer, or being the person who has it. Often I think Hannah has the harder job. She gets to see me when I’m utterly miserable from nausea, when I’m unable to string coherent sentences together because of the effects of chemo on my brain. She gets to see me bounce from well to unwell with each round. She sees me lie around the house with no energy or motivation to be a constructive house husband.
Yet she still loves me…
I can only imagine what must go through her mind when she thinks of a future that might not have me in it. My future will always have her in it, but if I leave this earth before her, she is the one that has to live with my death, not me.
And that breaks my heart.
In fact that is the single hardest thing that I have had to come to terms with throughout this whole cancer process. The fact that I may be the cause of such anguish to Hannah, and not be able to be the solution to it. My husband instinct means I want to be there for her, not matter what. But sometimes, life’s cruel blows mean that at some point, she might have to go it alone….
… and that rips me apart….
And it is the hardest thing I have had to give up to God.
Hannah has been all the cliche’s you can think of, the wind beneath my wings, the person who makes me better, the person who completes me… the list goes on. Cliche’s only faintly touch on what words cannot even express what she means to me, and how supportive she has been to me over the last 14 months of life.
So today I want to honour Hannah. I want to acknowledge the fact that cancer is not a diagnosis that only affects the individual with the disease, it affects the family unit as well. People often comment to me about how I have dealt with this adversary, but the truth be told, Hannah’s strength is 80% of the source of my courage. She is the one to be honoured today. She is the one who needs to be remembered in your prayers as much me. I might be the one with cancer, but it is US together that battles it.
Hannah, you are the most awesome wife in the world…. all you other husbands should be jealous :-).
This week has seen me re-enter the “real world’ so to speak. After more than a year off, I have begun my TI year starting with a GP run out in Botany Downs. The short 2 1/2 days of work was then brought down to earth by round 2 of chemo starting on Friday, and as I type this, I’m slowly to trying to excrete the toxins in my body out, and regain my strength again. I had initially thought I would be back in action midday Tuesday, but I think at this stage beginning back on Wednesday is a more realistic endeavour. This means I will be having 3 days out of every fortnight, which is hopefully workable with the medschool.
The first few days back were interesting. They largely involved the mainstay of General Practice, tonsillitis, skin cancer, lumps, bumps, gout, high cholesterol and blood pressure. There were encounters with snotty nosed kids, and worried mothers, and a guy who had a heart attack and was saved by community CPR. There was the guy who had his aortic nicked during an angioplasty, leading to cardiothoracic surgery, a double bypass, only to have his grafts block up within days of his surgery. The lady with a recent total knee replacement, and the other lady with early onset alzheimers.
Encounters with a broken humanity.
At times, life seems so good, we go along living our lives as we might plan it, clinging to the illusion that we have got what we want, and that we have ourselves sorted. Yet this fragile illusion can collapse around us at a moments breath.
General Practice allows you to engage with the community on a different level than normal, you get to see the brokeness that is shrouded by the lights and glamour of wealth, materialism, and the illusion that we have got it all sorted. You get to see first hand just how fragile our lives are, how quickly they can come tumbling down around us, or even more, how quickly it can come to an abrupt end….
Tired because of chemotherapy….
Tired because I have worked the first 3 days of work in over a year….
Tired because I see that my brokenness is not limited to myself….
Tired because there will always be more questions than answers….
I have just heard the news this evening that a lecturer and excellent physician, Peter Black, from Auckland hospital died suddenly last night whilst mowing his lawns. He was top of his class, and always had us students in awe at his knowledge.
No one is immune, no matter who we think we are, we are not immune from the decay that surrounds us. We suffer ailments as simple as a cough and as lethal as a stroke, and the probability of either striking us seems arbitrary at best, cruel at worst.
Yet in the midst of this darkness, of the slow decline in health and in life, there seems to be hope. Hope for something better than what we have. Sometimes this hope drives us to more illusionary wealth and fortune. Sometimes it drives us to ponder the more introspective aspects to life.
My hope has driven me to serve.
I could wait out the dying days of my life, patient for my last breath. I could feel sorry for myself wondering what I ever did to deserve cancer. I could quietly pass away into the night.
But I can’t.
I have a hope for my life, and for those around me that drives me beyond my own ambition. I genuinely want to spend my life making the lives of others better. Whether its friends in first world, or strangers in the third; whether through being a listening ear, or literally saving a life with my own two hands.
My hope has driven me to serve.
And so, even though I am tired, I am incredibly energised, being back in the work I love to do. Medicine is my calling, and I will follow it. My brokeness tires me, but chosing to serve through it, and in spite of it, enables me to make a difference.
Albeit a small one.
Thanks for Listening.
I have successfuly managed to start round 2 of chemo this time. My white blood cells were a health 3.3, which is nicely above the 1.5 minimin I required for chemo to go ahead (particularly based on the trial I’m on).
The round so far has gone pretty smoothly. I’ve had the nausea under control a lot better this time, and havent had any problems with hiccups. I think just being a little bit more aggressive with the anti-emetics and controlling my diet a bit more has mad all the difference. This afternoon I will get the 46 hr infusion that I went home with on Friday take out, and then its all about the recovery before hitting it all over again in 2 weeks. Based on the first round of chemo, I anticipate being back to work on either Tuesday afternoon or on Wednesday, depending on how I go.
I also expect more hair to be falling out in about 2-3 weeks time… the question is, will I go bald, or will i just thin out!… we’ll have to wait and see :-).
So as of this stage, nothing too major to worry about.
About a week before Christmas, Hannah and I went to a Christmas dinner with some friends. Their outside table had these lanterns on it with candles burning inside each of them. I took a few photos of them during the night, but this one was taken a bit later on when it had gotten dark. I deliberately under exposed it to give emphasis on the colours and the lights, and better represent what it was actually like. The lanterns were just sitting the way they were, I didn’t even have to arrange them to compose the shot.
Lense EF50mm f/1.8 II: 1/60s f/1.8 ISO 640