I write this letter to you hoping that it will assist you in sharing my experiences with cancer and the allied illnesses I have suffered and subsequent depression caused by happenings and things beyond my control. I have never written a letter to you.
I rejoice in the fact that I may be able to assist others in how to manage stress and anxiety and feeling like a failure than my letter to you is from the heart. I am nervous about publishing my feelings.
My story starts at 10.15 am on the 13th January 2006 I am laying in the recovery ward at St Andrews Hospital Spring Hill after a colonoscopy, the doctor arrives and tells me that I have a tumor in my rectal passage he asks me to find faith and assures me that he can give me a complete cure.
I felt helpless with my little cancer. Laying there my mind took me back to things, places to see, opportunities lost forever. I needed help, I have a close caring family and a caring group of friends and friends appeared I did not know I had.
About December 2005 I was working with a team of 4 in our Real estate business a younger man had joined us and we were happy in the knowledge that the year ahead would be full of challenges and this was to prove correct. New Years’ day 2006 we visited a friend I felt bad as I was having trouble passing solids and I saw blood in the bowl. That night was the first day of the rest of my life. Blood was flowing into the bowl from my anus. After consulting with our GP I was referred to a specialist for a colonoscopy and there is where my story opened.
My family siblings are 4 girls and me a boy and the youngest. Pam and I have two beautiful girls 37 & 32 years old. The conversation has never been about bums and tits so to have a tumor up my passage was abhorrent to me. But there you go I got one. Rectal cancer is invasive it lives deep in your system it is very dangerous it can spread rapidly from the tumor to adjacent tissues with devastating effects. My treatment was to shrink the tumors with radiation treatment. Then remove it with open surgery. Follow that up with 5 months of Chemotherapy. They say ignorance is bliss and so it is, I had no idea of the seriousness of my illness or the complications that I was to suffer.
Our oldest daughter decided to marry on the 18th of March 2006. The date was decided in December 2005. The treatment started in February the operation date was set for the 9th March 2006. I personally did not want them to change the date of the wedding. It was surreal for us as a family with me sick in bed with more bags hanging off me “than a Brisbane bag man” and the family all-planning together for the wedding at Sunrise Beach. The feeling lingers that I let them all down with my silly cancer. I thought I should have been able to avoid it.
The operation was successful. I attended the wedding with the help of a close friend and the nurses of St Andrews I got a leave pass and It was enlightening when we left the hospital all the nurses came out to cheer. I had a colostomy bag my bowels had just started to work. My stomach was bloated with the wind I had been on nil by mouth for the last 10 days. But Pam and I were together giving our daughter away there was lots of gaiety, champagne food and love by the bucket full. I went back to the hospital after the ceremony.
In the hospital, I suffered pulmonary embolisms, a spell in ICU and a secondary staph infection, the last one I bought upon myself (a Hernia after working out in the gym too early and with the wrong exercises).
The bad news continued with Cyclone Larry wrecking our Mission Beach holiday units then the last of our sales staff quit. The bad news did not stop. We took a quick holiday to Laos in February 2007 I made a fundamental error with my trading business, leaving positions open. I did not take my broker codes with me. There was a violent correction in the markets. We got wiped out.
The after-effects of the Chemotherapy were I could not concentrate, my energy levels were very low, my tolerances for others were woeful and I believed I had a legitimate cause and no one understood how I felt. I was tired, irritable and had no patience. Anything that looked like a task was hard the simplest things took a toll. I had tiredness and nothing I did excite me at all. I could not make decisions. I had depression and did not know it.
- I did not give my body and soul time to heal after the trauma
- I did not take the time to readjust to my new life.
- The caring has given to me by others I took for granted
- The pleasure of being alive I had forgotten to thank for it
- I had forgotten my loved ones hurt to see me in pain
- My loved ones wanted me to be happy and well. They wanted me back.
- I did not allow time to grieve for the things that were to be no more.
I thought I was invincible I was being irresponsible. I continued to work as if nothing had happened. That made me sick. Now I had depression and had to work out of it.
How does one do it without drugs?
My luck in the mid-80s I was diagnosed with depression Reason; I was running a catering business and there was no time for me or the family having insufficient time to rest. The GP referred me to a Psychiatrist who was sympathetic and understood my no drug policy.
His prescription read like this
- tryptophan tablets for sleeping,
- meditation twice daily for the soul
- lots of good exercise for the sugar
- stop stress-related activities
- avoid people who do not give worth
- find a job congruent with my personae and do it well
The outcome of that. I learned to touch-type, bushwalk, took a ski holiday, spent time with my girls and became a Mr. Mum finished off renovating a house. I took up glass etching, as the life I was leading was not congruent with my soul. I changed careers from caterer to real estate agent
That was then 1985 so now.
I have second cancer and to me, that is a real boner. I was feeling good. This one hurts I realize the danger I am in.
Reason for depression right? Wrong!
The prescription is given to me in the 80s worked.
We have sold our big house on the hill, sold all our land investments, closed our brokerage business, stopped derivative trading.
To lift depression I have concentrated on interest’s photography sharing photo books, calendars, movies and framing for pleasure. I am learning to draw and read again. We plan to journey. Take time for me to meditate. My guitar has come out of the wardrobe.
The last rule: Do not watch 6.00 news or current affairs programs. Oh yeah and those kick out real-time shows. Depression: It is not good to think of negativity and death. Accept it yes but not be the victim
I’m Ok, putting this down for you helped me a lot. If you have colorectal cancer and the cancer council gives you a video with a group of people talking about their experiences, yeah the guy talking at the end of the video is me.
I want you to
- ease yourself off the Prozac or whatever else you are taking
- take a walk every day somewhere interesting even if you have to travel
- go to the beach earth your body in the sea
- go to the RSPCA and get a dog, cat or bird, you will be giving a life hope
- get involved in community
- Stop talking to others about you and talk about them
- Learn to relax
- Keep it simple. Throw away the crutches you can walk real good.
- Get away from negative people that make you feel bad
Do you want to know how I am?
- I have aggressive prostate cancer
- My sex life is gone I am impotent
- My energy is not good
- I have a bad back
- I lost most of my business
- Our big house on the hill is gone.
- Our cat died
I decided that it was not going to stop me because.
“I live in Australia and I can do what I like.”
I have a loving healthy wife and vibrant family, friends welcome me to their homes, I can take photos, I can hear music, I can walk the talk and think. My drawing is coming on and our business is virtual and growing again. Best of all we have been on a great train journey from Singapore to London 2009. In March we leave on the ultimate road journey. “Route 66”. We are about to become grandparents in May. We are moving to the Gold Coast to live in a Penthouse.
Yes, it will be OK just you have complete faith in yourself and please get well we need you.