I remember my running was going great, my long runs were getting longer and longer each weekend, and at the beginning of December I was up to 14kms for my long run, I was feeling quite fit again so I decided I was ready to take part in a 5k, FINALLY! I had my eye on the Aware 5k run in Dublin the following weekend and I was planning on registering during that week.
One evening during that week I was feeling short of breath, my chest felt tight, I didn’t think a whole lot of it and just thought I’d see how I was in the morning but the next morning it was much worse. I was very out of breath, so I drove to the GP, when I arrived I struggled to even get up the stairs, and after chatting with him he decided to send me straight to the emergency department in St James’s Hospital.
Off I drove to the hospital, I checked in and then took a seat, it was awful, I couldn’t breathe at all, gasping for air and my chest was causing me a lot of pain. My parents arrived soon after and were in shock to see how bad I was. I can’t remember much about that night because I was in so much pain, I do remember it took absolutely hours and hours to be seen, I actually had to lye down on the dirty floor of the emergency waiting room to stretch out because I was in so much pain and just couldn’t breathe sitting up. I was eventually taken inside to be seen after a very very long wait, and then a few hours later I finally got a bed. I remember seeing how bad the bed situation was, we were on beds in the corridor, young people, old people, people crying in pain, it was actually an awful sight. I remember the sounds of patients wailing in pain throughout the night. There wasn’t enough staff to look after the people that looked like they really needed help.
I ended up being admitted and was transferred to a room. Over the coming days I was seen by many different doctors and questioned a lot, especially about the trip to Thailand. It was suspected that I had picked up a nasty tropical virus, but after various blood tests it was determined that that wasn’t the case. They told me that doctors from the Haematology team would be coming to see me, I hadn’t for a second considered that my cancer was back, it never even entered my head, but after hearing that the Haematology team were on their way I started to worry.
After the Haematology team came to see me I was sent for various tests, it was subsequently confirmed that I had relapsed. Nine months, nine months is all I lasted before relapsing. It wasn’t a good sign. After the heavy treatment plan I undertook, to relapse after just nine months was really very serious. I can’t remember which doctor told me the bad news, I can’t really remember what specifically happened then, it’s a bit of a blur. I do however remember my girlfriend arriving in to see me and having to tell her from my hospital bed that I relapsed, and that was truly heartbreaking having to do that.
I remember one of the doctors asking what chemotherapy treatment I received in St Vincent’s, and my girlfriend explained which type, the first question they asked me is why I had that type of chemotherapy treatment, that they didn’t even use that treatment in St James’s, that it was odd that I received that type of chemotherapy treatment. Now that’s a bit of a thinker, I didn’t exactly get diagnosed with cancer and go in specifying what treatment plan I felt like taking, I met a cancer specialist who told me what in his opinion was the absolute best treatment plan to get me in to remission and that was it. So to be asked that question just absolutely baffled me, and also made me wonder if my previous specialist had made the right choice. I would like to think that he did, I do believe that he did, however I also believe I was let down in a big way with the after treatment care.
After meeting with my new specialist, she explained that I would need a bone marrow transplant, and that they would test my siblings to see if either were a match. In order to receive a bone marrow transplant, you must be rid of cancer and get the all clear first. I was transferred to a ward and began treatment to try and get rid of the cancer so that I could hopefully get the transplant.
After being diagnosed the first time it was pretty scary, but my specialist was so adamant that I would beat it that it helped me to focus on getting the job done, however this time was different. I relapsed after just nine months, it wasn’t good, I couldn’t get any optimistic answers from my specialist either and was told that I was in a very serious situation, it was horrific hearing that, very traumatic. I learned that when doctors give a diagnosis these days there is absolutely no beating around the bush with the details, they have to tell you exactly what the story is, chances of survival, the degree of severity of the situation etc etc, it’s more scary but that’s just how it is.
My original specialist from St Vincent’s actually came to visit me before I started treatment, I think it’s safe to say he was fairly flattened by what had happened to me, there was also an apology in relation to an admittance over the fact that I wasn’t looked after with post treatment scans or after treatment care as well as I should have been. It was quite a “bit too late now” scenario. I should have been scanned and I wasn’t, and it came back to bite us all, worst of all me. It’s really hard to stay on top of hospital related things when you are fighting or recovering from cancer. Apart from the sickness, the stress, you have so many tests, appointments, scans, it’s fairly non-stop, so having someone to help with it all is really helpful.
I really don’t remember a whole lot over the next few months, but basically after being admitted on the 7th of December, I didn’t get out for quite a while. I was in hospital for Christmas and can’t explain to you how incredibly depressing it was. Christmas is a time to be at home with friends and family, not in hospital being hooked up to a machine receiving chemotherapy.
I was talking to my girlfriend the other day about the fact that I can’t even remember when I was allowed out of hospital for a day or two, she was telling me how I was allowed home to her family home which wasn’t too far from the hospital on New Year’s Eve for a couple of days. I have no recollection of it, she told me how I just sat on the couch and barely moved, that I looked terrified to even be at home, out of the bubble of care in hospital.
For the next couple of months I was getting treatment in hospital, I was very rarely allowed out of the hospital. I remember the exact treatment plan from my first diagnosis, I remember nothing of the second time, I haven’t a clue what chemotherapy I was on, how many hours, how many days, how many weeks, I can’t remember any of it, and that was only the beginning of this year. It seems to be the case that I was so traumatised by the situation I just blocked it all out.
In the middle of February I was scanned and the treatment I received worked, I was back in the all clear, they told me I was ready to be admitted for my bone marrow transplant which needed to happen immediately after getting the all clear. They explained that even though I got the all clear, without the transplant the cancer would nearly definitely return, and fast, so it was time to prepare for the transplant.
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NEXT BLOG: Preparing for the Bone Marrow Transplant