Thursday, 12 February 2015

The Four Year Wake Up Call Anniversary

Yesterday was the four year anniversary of my husband's diagnosis of testicular cancer.

That day four years ago changed everything for us.  I don't think we really realised it at the time, but looking back, I can definitely say that going through the process of cancer treatment, and coming out the other side, opened our eyes to what is important in life.

The Story ...

Gareth noticed a small lump during self examination. He went to see his doctor, and after a couple of tests and doctors' visits, he was told that lump was actually testicular cancer.  I was trying to remember that time in detail, but to me it was just a blur of uncertainty and anxiousness.  But I also now appreciate how good the doctors were that Gareth went to.

He was referred to the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre here in Melbourne.  In one appointment, we were told the diagnosis of testicular cancer, were outlined a treatment plan, fully briefed on options, and a decision was made.  Surgery was the first step.  Within a couple of weeks Gareth went under the knife, and after spending a night in hospital, was recovering at home.  After his wound had healed, he went back for one intense round of chemotherapy.  That took much longer to recover from than the surgery.  But he's been cancer free ever since, and every day we are thankful.

Testicular Cancer

Testicular cancer is the second most common cancer in young men (aged 18-39).  The five year survival rate has increased significantly in Australia, and is now at 97.6%.  The rate of diagnosis of testicular cancer has increased by more than 50% in the last 30 years, with the reason being unknown.  I'd like to think that it is partly due to a greater awareness and willingness to talk about this type of cancer in society - more men are willing to come forward when they have symptoms or notice something unusual.  This also means that most of those men will survive this cancer if they do so earlier rather than later.  I found this resource particularly helpful.

Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre

The Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre is Australia’s only public hospital solely dedicated to cancer treatment, research and education.  The Centre treats more cancer patients each year than any other hospital in Australia and their highly skilled medical, nursing and allied health team is backed by the largest cancer research group in the country.  At the heart of everything we do are our patients, their families and carers. We found there is a real investment and focus on providing cancer information to assist people with cancer, their families and carers living with and beyond a diagnosis in coping with the physical, emotional and social impacts a cancer diagnosis can bring.

I'm Grateful For ...

Gareth!  He is here.  He took control of a situation that others can be embarrassed about, or be in denial about, and went and got checked.  Testicular cancer is a treatable cancer if caught early enough.  If you or a man in your life notices something that isn't normal, please get him to see a doctor.  An early diagnosis can truly be a lifesaver.  And best case scenario - it is not as serious as this!

The doctors and nurses who treated Gareth.  Everyone we came in contact with, who gave us information, who treated Gareth, made the process easier to deal with.  They were understanding and compassionate, and also able to give sound advice.  At times like this, it is hard to decide what pair of shoes in the morning to wear, because your brain is in overload.  It meant a lot to us that we felt like we had great advice and support during this time.

Peter MacCallum Cancer Institute.  We didn't have to pay a cent for Gareth's appointments and treatment.  That was SUCH a huge weight off our shoulders during this time.  And see above comments about the wonderful medical staff who assistance Gareth during his treatment.  I can't thank them enough.

The Wake Up Call.  It is easy to get caught up in the continuous hamster wheel that is life.  This made us step back, and ask ourselves what is important to us.  What do we want our lives to be.  Although it took a while to put into action, we both realised and started to value our health much more than before.  We only get one body to get us through this life!  We try to be mindful of eating healthy food, exercising, and reducing stress.  Our families are and will continue to be incredibly important to us.  And when life starts getting out of control, remembering this time reminds me of these priorities in my life.

What reminds you what is important in life?  Have you had a wake up call?

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