This post first appeared in my Licenced To Retire blog in August 2020
The other day Sarah and I visited the Hematologist for the results of a PET Scan. Which for those who don’t know is similar to an MRI or CT scan. Except that it uses radioactive isotopes to find cancer in your body. This was an essential step in proceeding to a stem cell transplant. I had, had a CT after four rounds of chemo, and the results then showed a partial positive response. So we were expecting positive news at this appointment. Maybe not completely gone but hopefully a reduction of 60 or 70 percent.
So you can only imagine our devastation when the Hematologist showed us the results. Not only had the nodes not reduced since the previous scan, but they had regrown to larger than their original size plus a couple of new ones. This meant that any plans for a stem cell transplant got consigned to the round filing cabinet (rubbish bin). It also, sadly said, that six months worth of chemo had been for nothing. In fact, building a tolerance to chemo is a bad thing. We had stayed home or only travelled short distances in the motorhome, hoping that the sacrifices made during this time would be rewarded in the summer. When with treatment finished, we would be free to explore NZ again.
A new plan needed to be made. This would start with a biopsy (which they did last Wednesday.) to show if the original Lymphoma was still present or if it had transformed into something else. Follicular Lymphoma is one of the few cancers that can change. It goes from what’s called an indolent lymphoma or slow-growing cancer to one that’s much more aggressive. At the time of writing, I don’t have the results for this yet. Regardless of the outcome of the biopsy, I now need to have further rounds of chemo to try and get the cancer under control. One of the many lumps, located above the aortic arch, close to the heart is the size of a tennis ball.
After a few rounds of a much more aggressive form of chemotherapy, I will have another PET Scan. If the results of this are positive, they will look to undertake a different type of stem cell transplant. The original transplant was going to harvest my own stem cell but, this is no longer possible. The new transplant will hopefully find a match with one of my two brothers. Otherwise, there is an international register of donors. The only real problem with this is that after a month in the hospital. There is a 1 in 5 chance of not coming back out the hospital’s front door. Even if you do make it, the recovery process takes around a year.
All of this got me thinking about life, and it’s choices. We all go through life with both good and bad things happening to us. It’s a bit like a long corridor with death at the end. On the right-hand side are doors that open to a new path and a different outcome. Of course, this new corridor still has the grim reaper at the end, just that life takes a different course. A bit like when I was a kid at school in England and started to hang out with the wrong crowd. Then the right-hand door opened, dad got a new job in New Zealand, and my life changed for the better. Of course, it was a very special door that opened the day, I met Sarah. Just as special was the day, each door opened with the birth of our three sons. Or when I made the decision to open a car and truck rental business that provided well for our family.
Then there are the doors on the left that lead to outcomes that aren’t so desirable. Like, again, back in England when I fell through winter ice on the pond and almost drowned. Thankfully someone reached through that door and pulled me back onto the correct corridor. Or in my early twenties after a heavy night drinking at a singles night, I tried to drive home. The car finished upside down on someones front lawn at 2 am. Again someone reached through that door and pulled me out of the vehicle. Or later in life when a 3 phase machine exploded, blowing me backwards after I turned it on. Or when things went wrong with my first business causing, very tough times in the family.
All through life things happen as we test doors on both sides of the corridor. Sometimes you might open a door on the right hand side to step into a new life. Only to discover that there are far more left hand doors in this life than the last. Maybe you took on a very dangerous job or made lifestyle choices that weren’t properly thought out. Of course there are also the doors that open to new opportunities that seem to lead to nothing but right hand doors.
The point is that most of us go through life, expecting that the final door at the end of the corridor is still quite distant. So when Sarah and I had the meeting on Tuesday, it seemed like that door was now getting awfully close. After a couple of days to reflect on the news, I have decided that I need to borrow a few tools to make a few doors of my own. Sure the potential outcome might be looking grim. But I figure if I cut five doors into the right-hand side of the corridor where I am standing now. I will have a good chance of opening one that leads to recovery. Only one of those new doors will have a blank wall behind it. After all, I have all the other doors that I have opened at various times in my life that drive the memories that will help make the correct decision.
Sometimes there is both a left and right hand door that are intermingled. So it was in 2016 when I was first diagnosed with Follicular Lymphoma (on Sarah’s birthday). Eventually this led to us selling the business, buying a new motorhome and travelling New Zealand. Making new friendships and opening all sorts of new doors.
I haven’t really written this for anyone except myself. But if you do read my blog and you wonder about the progress that I am making with my Lymphoma then you might have found that interesting.