First things first, where did it all start? Or is that the right question. How about “When did you first notice that something was wrong?
February 10th 2014. I was at a meeting in Dublin. One of the guys called Donie who was at the meeting pointed out that the right side of my neck was swollen. I was only a few weeks over the removal of Kidney stones and generally I would swell a little because of this. I explained to Donie that it was properly the result of a recent operation.
Dublin is about 160 miles from where I live in Cork, however my Mum resides in Dublin and I normally stay in the family home in Dublin after meetings. This been February and the weather was particularly bad I stayed at my Mums house that night. The swelling had gone down a lot so I assumed it was something to do with the kidney, the next morning there was no sign of any swelling and I went off to another meeting I had organised for the Tuesday 11th. All meetings ended early and I left Dublin and drove back to Cork. I arrived home at about 7pm
February 12th 2014. Wednesday morning I arrived into my office nice and early. Anita who works for my company 3 days a week was the first in the office to notice a swelling to the right side of my neck again. So I called my doctor and made an appointment for 5pm that day. As I am involved in the transport industry the weather was causing havoc, we had been hit by server gale force winds and from 2pm that day we were recalling trucks to get them secured from the weather. I left the office at about 4pm and headed for the doctors surgery, I live about 15 miles from my warehouse and the doctor is about another 5 mile past my house. On my way to the doctors a vehicle overturned on the motorway, after been hit by the gales. This caused a serious traffic jam, which in turn meant that I missed the appointment with the doctor. I called the doctor and they said call over in the morning
February 13th 2014. Thursday morning and I went straight to the doctors, unfortunately I had to wait nearly an hour as the doctor was very busy, my own doctor was off sick and there was a replacement doctor working. When I got to see her she asked what was wrong and I said three things, 1. I have an annoying cough that will not go away, 2. I have black floaters in my right eye that seem to have got worse in the past 24 hours and 3. The right side of my neck is swollen. Number three seemed too had got her attention, she examined my neck and without a word left the room. The doctor returned a few minutes later and asked if I felt okay to drive, I said yes and asked why. The doctor advised me that she had just phoned the hospital and had organised for an ultra sound to be done to the neck. I have private health insurance called VHI. The doctor said that they would look at the other issues but classed the swollen neck as urgent. I called in home and asked Anita to drive me to the hospital. Arriving into the hospital I was expecting to be delayed but to my surprise I was taken immediately, this was the first time that I actually felt concerned it was too quick. The nurse doing the ultrasound also looked concerned and went to get the radiologist, he spent about 20 minutes performing more ultrasounds on me, he then asked me to wait in the waiting room. I had just taken a seat beside Anita when we both notice the radiologist running down the corridor, I recall saying to Anita “Hope that’s not about me” and we both laughed. But the laughter didn’t last long. The Radiologist returned a few minutes later and came straight over to us, he explained that he had dashed out to try and get a surgeon but missed him. He told me to head home and wait for a call from the surgeon. We headed home thinking this may not be really that big a deal after all. I got a call an hour later that changed that. The hospital wanted me in at 9am the next day for a “small surgical procedure”.
February 14th 2014 Friday of February as we all know is Valentine’s day but it is also Anita’s birthday and a day neither of us will ever forget. I was admitted to a surgical ward, which turned out to be a private room. The first doctor to come to see me was the surgeon who advised me that he would be doing a biopsy on my neck later that day but he wanted another doctor to look at my neck prior to surgery. The other doctor came into the room about 20 minutes later, he introduced himself and I asked what his area of speciality was, he informed me that he was an Oncologist . I have to say that I felt a wave of fear cross over me. He examined me and explained that it was one of two possible things. Either Hodgkin’s Lymphoma or Sarcoidosis but a 90% Chance that it is Lymphoma. My neck was quiet swollen but the issue with my right eye and black floaters started to go ballistic. This is not something that is associated with Hodgkin’s. The Oncologist then ordered a substantial number of blood test, CAT scans and MRI scans, including a brain scan. He also requested two other consultants to see me. His concern about my eyes became even more urgent when I advised him that my left eye was just starting to create black floaters. Everything after that seemed to accelerate, I was taken to the prep surgery area and about 15 minutes later I was on the operating table. I remember it was about 11am. By 12 I was back awake or should I say foggy. I was back in the room and sitting up, a nurse came in and told me that I was going for an MRI. My eyes were a lot worse, I had about 20% visibility out of my right eye and about 50% out of the left. I went from the MRI back to the room only to be taken back for CAT scans. I was then taken to an Ophthalmologist who had serious issues trying to examine my eyes. When he finally managed to get a closer look he was shocked, he asked me to return to my room and would contact the head consultant. I returned to the room to even more blood test. I was allowed to eat and at about 6pm I had my lunch. The Oncologist came in and basically surmised everything from that day. His feeling was basically that I was in serious trouble and he had asked another one of his colleague to see me on Saturday morning, I’m sitting on my own in hospital it’s 14th Feb 2014 (nearly 20 years later) I have just been told “You have a form of blood cancer called Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, we estimate that it is at least Stage 3 but most likely Stage 4” Cut out what you wish but it means “You have cancer” . But Dr Google was available to me so I Googled Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and I found really good sites like the Macmillan Cancer Support site, A university in US, and the NHS site. As a business man I can speed read so I kind of eat up everything negative and positive. I basically decided there and then, you wanna fight me bitch then let’s do it. My Oncologist returned later and he seems a little taken back by the fact that I was smiling at him. So he asked straight out what I was thinking, my answer was “Doctor you have said that you need to stage this cancer, but you suspect it to be late stage judging by initial findings. So I’m going to take Mr Hodgkins back to the hell it came from and as I close the gates of hell behind me I will face Death and Death will feel fear, Death will see the scars on my body and what I intend to tell Death is never ever fuck with me again ” My oncologist smiled and said “I do believe you will do that.”
February 15th 2014 Saturday: The Oncologist colleague came to see me at about 10:30am she specialised in Sarcoidosis and I have to say I have never met a lady like her. She explained that the chances of my illness been Sarcoidosis was unlikely. She felt that there could be two different issues attacking at the same time, rare but possible. She went on to explain that the likelihood of this been Hodgkin’s was extremely high and to expect the possibility of chemotherapy. She asked how many cigarettes I smoked a day and I said about 50 plus. This wonderful lady took about 30 minutes of her time to explain the need for me to stop smoking as soon as possible, she placed me on Champix to help stop smoking, I was placed on 30mg of steroids and a tablet to protect my stomach. I was released from hospital at midday.
And this was just the beginning: