Colorectal Cancer Patient testimonial – 11th March 2021

I have no history of cancer in my family, hence the diagnosis did come as a surprise to me.  In early march 2020 I had two episodes of intense stomach pain. In the ensuing USG of the abdomen two important diagnoses were made. Firstly a fairly rare Spigelian hernia was seen and secondly the need to also do a colonoscopy. It was clearly that owing to the hernia a colonoscopy could not be done until a surgery was performed on the hernia. So after the hernia surgery was completed after a period of time a colonoscopy was performed. The colonoscopy clearly indicated a lesion and a biopsy indicated that part of the lesion was malignant. The immediate decision was to perform a surgery and remove the lesion and have a thorough biopsy done of that. It was then decided that I would have to undergo chemotherapy for colorectal cancer.

My initial feeling was one of acceptance of the reality and that I must tackle the big C head on. 10 years ago my wife had gone through a mastectomy and I recall the challenge at that time in helping my wife through a difficult time but she had come through and is currently a cancer survivor.  My children, both daughters who are overseas with their families, came to be with me during the initial process of chemotherapy and that was an enormous help. This familial support helped enormously. Coupled with this I shared the diagnosis with my closest friends and again that was a huge help because they were a cheerful lot and helped me through the initial challenges.

It was the first discussion with my oncologist that set the tone for what was to come. There was total clarity and transparency on what kind of medication would be given and the possible repercussions of this chemotherapy. I do believe there was one particular piece of advice I got from the oncologist when I asked her if I could continue working, because for me working notwithstanding the fact that I am now 72 years old is very important. There is a passionate commitment to work. The oncologist said I should continue doing everything I was doing before as if I were normal. The chemo days in other words were only a blip every couple of weeks, otherwise one should continue working as if normal. This is perhaps the best advice I received.

I have not allowed the treatment to impact my normal way of functioning. Fortunately I have not suffered the strong reactions that sometimes follow chemo though there are some days where energy levels are low. But I never allowed that to define my disposition. I had decided that my response to the illness would be to control and handle it with a positive approach and remain as cheerful as possible. I listened to great music, saw good movies, read a lot of interesting literature and most importantly,  I kept working for 7 to 8 hours every day, had several zoom calls, and always ended every day with a family zoom connecting with my two daughters, one in the UK and the other in the USA. 8pm to 9 was family zoom time and fun time with the grandsons as well. We never spoke about my illness except in passing.

In this entire process of chemotherapy, I have to say that the hospital team, in particular Gladys and her nurses, provided the most outstanding nursing care. They were really caring and concerned and did everything possible to keep my spirits up. I owe them a huge debt of gratitude.

I have completed my 12 cycles of chemo, have taken the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine and await the CT scan (end march) and PET scan results. I am hopeful that I can put this event behind me. I am feeling very good.

I hope that I am able to reach out to others who are going through a difficult time and help them to tackle the big C head on. I would like them to use the many hours that we go through chemo in a constructive and reflective way. I would like them to re-evaluate what after all are the most important things in life. I have done this for myself and feel a much better person.