In December 2007, after months of consultations with my GP and putting up with stomach pain and loss of weight, My husband decided it was time to seek help elsewhere. He drove me in the middle of the night to our city Emergency Department to face my demons. Following a colonoscopy and gastroscopy, I was told the dreaded words "You have Stomach Cancer". The first thought that ran through my head was: how long have I got? I remember feeling calm as I looked over to my husband Jeff. His face had become very pale.
Waiting for my bone marrow procedure
That night, I asked many questions, and over the next few weeks I went through all the different tests. Bone marrow biopsy, bloods, PET scan, CT scan, MRI. The biopsy from the stomach showed it was a rare MALT lymphoma and could be treated by drugs and chemo.
For the next month, the doctors took a “wait and see” approach. They placed me on antibiotics and I spent Christmas not knowing what the future would hold, In February, after another gastroscopy, they found that the cancer “loved” the antibiotics. It had spread significantly throughout my stomach, taking me from a low grade to a faster-growing high grade cancer. The next move was a CAT scan to map out my stomach. I was then given four minuscule tattoos as reference markers for the radiation treatment. I then commenced four weeks of daily radiation. I felt like I was burning from the inside out after each session. But thankfully, it worked. Three months later, in May I went into remission. The cancer had been successfully killed off.
Recovering from surgery
Then a hiccup occurred. In June, I found a lump on the left side of my neck. Back I went to my doctor. Another battery of tests. By mid-July, part of the lump was removed from my neck and the biopsy confirmed that I had developed a more aggressive type of cancer known as a “large diffuse B cell lymphoma”. In August, I began chemotherapy R-CHOP14. It was a scary time, I was frequently nauseous. I had loss of taste, blisters in my mouth and on my lips and I kept forgetting things. The drugs administered to me made constipated, dizzy and I lost my appetite for food and consequently more weight loss. The loss of body hair made me feel very self conscious of my body image. Thank goodness for the wig it made me feel normal to the public eye. I used all my willpower to be strong and positive to help my body rebuild itself. All along I had a lot of support from my friends and family. It was amazing and it helped a great deal. However, I was disappointed to discover that some friends were scared off by my condition but eventually they came round.
My first bout of chemo
After two months, the treatment was finally over. In the last week in October 2008, I was back in remission. I continued for another month on fortnightly Mabthera IV treatment, to kill off any stray cancer cells that might have been floating around my body.
March 2009, I had a window of opportunity to have my stem cells collected. The first three days, I had to inject into my abdomen twice a day to encourage the stem cells from my bone marrow into my blood stream. The stem cells were collected over a three day period. This was the best birthday present ever for me. Hopefully, I will never have to use them.
I am having my stem cells collected
However, the chemo did affect my immune system badly and I ended up with Hypogammaglobulinanemia.
2010/11, I received monthly IV Intragam therapy to treat this condition. This treatment rebuilds the immune system. It made me nauseous and I experienced stomach, abdomen and bone pain. along with tiredness. However, I remained very positive and I coped very well with this procedure.