Cancer: My Journey to Recovery

I have been asked to write and share the experience of my personal journey through cancer in the hope that someone, somewhere, may be helped. It may even save someone’s life. Maybe your own!

Cancer. Why me? That is what I asked myself. Why not me? There is statistically a one person in three chance and I was the one in three. I have to be a bit blunt and personal.

My first diagnosis, after I noticed blood from my backside, was Piles. Prescription: cream for the orifice. That was in May 2009. Still bleeding in August, my wife sent me back and I saw a different doctor who sent me for a Colonoscopy. Polyps in my Colon were detected. A biopsy tested and found it to be cancerous. I was scanned shortly afterwards following which I saw the Colorectal Surgeon at Dorchester Hospital about the results. Good news, he could operate. He added though: ‘but there is also a small spot in your liver.’ I met the Specialist Colorectal Nurses who were a great help in helping me to accept my situation. At all times I kept calm and positive. I knew I was in good hands and believed I would be fine.

Five days in hospital, bowel resection completed and some lymph glands removed by keyhole surgery. That was late October. Two days before Christmas I started Chemotherapy. I ate Christmas dinner wearing my late mother’s evening gloves because I could not touch metal. My family were around me and gave me so much love and support. My jaw needed to be coaxed into chewing by starting slow nibbling until I got loosened up. Cold air was hard to breathe so I wore a scarf over my mouth and nose outdoors. I did not lose my hair and I never gave up hope.

After my 3rd Chemo session in late January 2010 and a new drug I had a pulmonary embolism (PE) in my lung. Six more days in hospital. The PE was not necessarily linked to the chemo but followed soon after possibly brought on by inactivity due to my situation. The last clot, in 2008, went to my heart and I had a cardiac arrest on a plane above Germany. I survived thanks to three doctors on the flight who started my heart again. I was told then that there is about a 4 % survival rate.

In late March 2010 I go to Basingstoke Hospital and a top liver surgeon and his team operated. They have previously fitted a filter in my femoral vein prior to the op. They don’t want to lose me to a blood clot after operating. An MRI Scan shows that the chemo has shrunk my tumor, they can operate. A one in five chance of an op. I am in one of the top hospitals for liver operations in Britain. It does help the confidence to have great surgeons. I will myself to survive. Another five days in hospital.

 After my operation I had my first tears. Joy at being alive and sadness at what my wife and family had been through on my behalf. Relief that now I just had to recover and be myself again. I am told I am “amazing” by my surgeon. They took away half my liver. I didn’t know that fact until ten weeks later at a follow up with my Oncologist at Dorchester. I was asked “did I miss it?” No I didn’t. The liver regenerates in a few weeks.

Waiting for a follow up scan I was anxious. Every scan is an anxious wait. I have spent a lot of time in my garden among flowers and wildlife. It has been a healing place. And I walk down by the sea and I write. My latest CT scan was in late March 2012, two years on, and I was told I am still clear of any spread. Reading that news I cried, simply for joy. Tears relieve so much pressure from the body system and cleanse the mind. Life is so precious! I love my life.

It has been a journey of a lifetime but never the less a journey that has given me a new perspective on life. I remained calm and positive throughout my treatment and our NHS was wonderful. I met some brilliant people…. Thank you everyone who has shared my journey!

We can beat cancer in many cases with early diagnosis. Be aware of symptoms many of which are not obvious but don’t be afraid to seek advice. If in doubt ask for a second opinion. I did and I have survived. I recently walked all the way around the Isle of Portland with friends. About ten miles! That was a great feeling and I am going from strength to strength.

A lot of helpful information is available on line through:

www.canceractive.com and I dedicate this article to the work they are doing in the fight against an insidious disease.

Geoffrey Phillips