Mental & Physical approach to regimes Feb 2014
It is important to note that I have only commenced writing about the regime of 2014 and how I adjusted to it now in 2017. As against the regimes in 2017 this may not be as clear as it commenced 3 years ago. Some items maybe overlooked but I want to capture my frame of mind as I see it from 2014. I believe that I have greater obstacles facing me in 2017. 2014 I had my business working away, the same people had offered to buy my business and “take financial care for me” luckily back then I decided not to accept their offer, so throughout 2014 , 2015 and 2016 I successfully managed to run the business and turn it around. My Mum was in good health in 2014, as good as any 82 year old could be, she helped encourage me. In 2017 she is 85 but now diagnosed with advance dementia and in a special home to care for her. The failure of all procedures since 2014 meant a serious reduction in the chances of success, initially in 2014 my chances of successfully living for 5 years or more was classed at between 40 to 45%. Now it is below 10%
The views taken here are my personal views, each Cancer victim will have completely different ideas. The attempt I am making is to show that thinking positive is a vital part of the battle.
Those who know me will support certain things I say like, strong willed, a fighter, never fails, arrogant, aggressive (business attitude) basically a hard guy to beat.
I need to go back a little here to 1994 – my father officially retired at 65 which was July 1994. He was taken into hospital due to feeling unwell in late July 1994. In August he was operated on in an attempt to get a biopsy from his right colon, the surgeon removed a large cancerous tumor and in follow-up scans the cancer had shown to have spread to his lower bowel and liver. This man was fit, he never smoked and rarely drank (social about 4 times a year) he was roughly 80kgs and about 167cm. He never had an operation in his life. But on the 25th Nov 1994 he died, he was 30kgs in weight. In less than 4 months he went from 80kgs to 30kgs. He left hospital once in those four months for about five hours trying to get his affairs in order. He was mentally beaten before he even started. As a person he was physically strong he appeared mentally strong but his life was filled with regrets which seemed to have occupied his mind throughout his four months in hospital. I have seen family, friends and customers loose their battles with Cancer over the 25 years and rarely if ever I head someone beating it.
So considering the above. 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” Cut out what you wish but it means “You have cancer” – Yes 20 years ago came racing back actually every victim I ever knew came back. But Dr Google was available to me so I Googled Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and finds really good sites like the Macmillan Cancer Support site, A university in US, the NHS and finally the Irish Cancer Society. As a business man I can speed read so I kind of eat up everything negative and positive. I basically decided there and then, 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. That was the beginning of my positive approach to the regimes.
I went home and basically Googled Hodgkins Lymphoma to death again, medical sites, support sites, blogs, interactive blogs and so on. I studied the research on the drugs used the alternatives and the side effects. My training includes strategic planning, Logistics planning and senior management implementation. So I needed to create plans to tackle what was coming. I had been told by the medical team to expect to commence ABVD Chemotherapy within six weeks. I took the weekend to get my plans in place, to be fair I had a best possible scenario and a worst case scenario. I was also self employed at the time, a 95% shareholder in Speed Express Logistics and I was advising four other businesses. My working week averaged 80 hours. My company was just approaching it’s forth anniversary, Ireland was in a full recession and I had 27 people working for me. So as well as the cancer management I had the business side to manage. I couldn’t close the business as 27 people would have lost their livelihood so I drafted a plan to reduce the overall size of the business, still retain as many employees as possible and delegate work to others. A plan that worked.
Anyway over the following four weeks I created a very positive attitude towards my upcoming battle. I planned for the worst and hoped for the best. We looked at as much material on the internet as we could particularly side effects. There was absolutely no negativity, if I got sick then fine, if I couldn’t manage driving the fine, we felt we had covered everything.
We got a commencement date as the 13th March. So diagnosed on the 14th Feb, admitted to hospital again 27th of Feb for more test and scans, PET scan 6th March 2014 so really the time between been initially diagnosed and commencing ABVD on the 13th March was less than 4 weeks.
Was I mentally ready for this? I believe I was 150% ready for it, good or bad. I was set to rage war against my own body. I was mentally prepared for everything we could imagine. You will see that I missed a few things as you commence reading ABVD Chemotherapy Cycle 1 to Cycle 6. But throughout the entire following year I never once became negative, not for a second.
For those who are reading this and preparing for your battle, its not a journey as some like to call it, it is a battle to kill cancer cells. It is vital that you think positive no matter what happens. If you get hit by every single side effect then be prepared for them mentally. Your medical team will have answers for you, they can contain most of the effects. The most important thing mentally you must prepare for is clear communication with the team. If your feeling sick, tell them, if your finding it difficult to breath, or your fingers are tingling, or you can’t sleep etc tell the team, not just the doctor. They will ask. Little spoiler here in the 6 cycles of ABVD which is 6 months I was never physically sick once. They was no negativity only the odd temperament issue. There was no fatigue (up to radiotherapy) there was exhaustion which I deemed to be a mixture of drugs and work.
Keeping all aspect open here and this next one is a mixture of Physical and Mental issue, hair loss. 90% will experience this, in 3 years I have only met one person who did not suffer from this. I did prepare by cutting my hair down to a tight cut. Normally I would be clean cut anyway so very few really noticed. However by the second chemo day it was falling out so I shaved my head. I think I only had to shave once again after that for 6 months. I started wearing baseball caps and I did feel people looking at me. Somehow our human minds can distinguish between an intentional shave and a chemo victim. The knowledge eye can spot the shine on the head that is created by Chemo, also the los of eyebrows and that skin colour. Yes so you know the majority will suffer full hair loss, everything nose, ears, underarms and privates. But mentally this is a challenge because you can end up will people looking at you and avoiding you, you’ll get used to the avoidance pretty quick as Chemo has a way of showing who your true friends really are. It took me most of the 6 months to get used to been bald and at the end I actually enjoyed wearing my baseball caps, I will explain more about this in the actual Chemo blog.
From diagnoses to commencement of treatment I had 27 days, for the first twelve day I was awaiting results, then 3 days in hospital. A number of meetings with various members of the medical team took up time. And I was downgrading my business. So the physical prep was poor. On the 14th Feb my weight was a little over 90kgs, I decided to put on weight and I did. My commencement weight was a little over 94.5kgs. I had a view that the cancer cells could eat away at fat as against muscle. I would not have classed myself as ever been completely out of shape. But I did not have time to initiate any kind of workout. Work itself kept me fit and work never stopped.
Was I properly prepared physically – no and unless you have months of notice your not going to achieve a miracle – In Feb 2014 I was 51, a smoker from 15, I was in reasonable shape but just recovering from a kidney procedure. It was mid winter, a time when the weather in Ireland is at its worst. So physically for me I was just below okay. But this was taken into consideration by the mental part.
As you can see I have dedicated the vast amount of this blog page to mental ability because that is where your ability to fight cancer lives. Every single thing we looked at throughout the regime pointed towards the odds been very much against me. But as you will read (hopefully) I succeeded in beating the odds every time and to this day I am still beating the odds 39 months into it.
For the victims and victim families. I know that in meeting with fellow victims and talking to the families that positive mental stability is vital in fighting cancer. I too have heard people saying “They were strong mentally but lost the battle” people making these kind of comments are negative. A person can battle cancer up to the last second of life, its called surviving. Yes they will struggle, they will have good days and bad. But they need support from positive people, people who believe in the power of a persons mind. The victims family must become mentally strong not only to support the victim but to be mentally prepared for the worst. I said at the start of this that in preparing to battle this cancer I planned for the worst and hoped for the best. I did plan everything down to my own funeral, but once those plans were made they were set aside.