I had always been pretty healthy and when I turned 45, I thought I’d better go and get a warrant of fitness. I had all the normal tests, blood, prostate, weight, height all that. No dramas. I had had one instance of passing a small amount of blood and my GP said, “it’s probably nothing but let’s send you for a colonoscopy”.
The doctor literally saved my life. 10 days later I had my colonoscopy and they found a 5cm tumour low down in my bowel. I was stunned – no family history and I felt normal and fine. The next 2 days were the worst of my life, knowing in the back of my mind I probably had cancer, but hoping against hope it wasn’t. When the biopsy results confirmed cancer, in a strange way I was relieved. I knew what I had and now it was time to get a plan to deal with it.
Fortunately I had very good medical insurance and within a week I was sitting down with my surgeon, Dr Lincoln Israel. He was perfect – straight to the point, no dancing about “here’s what you have Andrew, and here are the good points and the challenges, and these are your options”. Having no experience in this sort of thing, I asked him “if it was you Lincoln, what would you do”? He told me and I said “well, let’s do that then”. A month to the day after my diagnosis I was in Mercy Hospital having my tumour removed. The staff in the hospital were amazing – there for you through the ups and downs.
While I was in hospital, Dr Israel came back and said “they have tested 49 of your lymph nodes and 48 are clear – one has an anomaly so I recommend chemo”. So here I am, 7 cycles into a 6-month chemotherapy regime. I’ve managed to put on a couple of kg’s – to make up for losing 12kgs after the operation!
How do I feel about all this? I firmly believe I am the luckiest person with bowel cancer. My GP sent me for a colonoscopy (when he could have just put it off) – I got a fantastic surgeon and oncology team. But most of all I have amazing friends and family. To all those doing this journey on their own, you have my total amazement. I have been able to lean on friends and family – they have been there through the ups and downs, given me a hug when I need it and space when I need to be alone.
It has also refocused some priorities for my family. We went out and bought our dream car – a Dodge Challenger – to be delivered the week after I finish chemotherapy! And in 2019 we are taking our son out of school for two terms and taking a career break to sail around the South Pacific. All these things we said ”Oh I’ll do that when I retire” well without seeming morbid, this has brought home that nothing is guaranteed especially not time with family, so we are doing these things now and filling our family memory bank with awesome experiences.
When I was diagnosed, I was told, for goodness sake don’t Google. I did one search and found Bowel Cancer New Zealand. And what an awesome organisation it is. Punching way above its weight in what it provides and the support and encouragement it gives. I am thrilled that my business, Superior Personnel is able to support BCNZ this year with our Christmas Donation.
All the best to everyone out there going through this – I have tried to stay positive, focused on the future and exciting things in 2019 – for me at least this has been the difference between being sad and worried vs. hopeful and grateful.