Wednesday, 6 February 2019

For World Cancer Day and every other day

In remembrance
I probably take no notice of the many days that are celebrated in commemoration of something throughout the year. However, the 4th of February 2019 was one day I could not ignore because I was called out as an inspiration with regards to what the day represents.
World Cancer Day is a day to remember for many reasons apart from awareness and taking action for I belong to the cohort of those who have cancer in remission having survived the ravages of the disease almost a decade ago. Yet, I recognise and aver that we who seemingly and apparently have survived cancer are hardly valiant, we took no sword like knights to battle and vanquish the enemy that invaded our bodies, we are just fortunate.
Not in vain did they die
Rather, I want to commend those who did not have the good fortune I had, who like others would say lost their battles to cancer as if to confer some sort of heroism on those who survived as winners. Those that died are not insignificant, in fact, they in what they suffered and in all that medicine and anything else attempted to do to prolong their lives have immeasurably contributed to the body of knowledge that gives medicine the courage to face up to new incidents of cancer.
When I was verifiably diagnosed with Kaposi’s Sarcoma on the 30th of September 2009, this is what my consultant had to say to me. “We can treat this, but it depends on how your body can take the treatment if you can, you’ll be fine, else, you probably have 5 weeks.”
On courses of chemotherapy
That knowledge and confidence came from experience and developments in treating others before me, some of whom did not survive the disease but, that had passed to the professor, to his students and the broader field of cancer medicine and oncology. On the fifth day of October 2009, I took my first course of Liposomal Doxorubicin (Caelyx) and I wrote a blog as a primer for cancer and chemotherapy, in trying to explain my condition to a friend.
“The course recommended for me is Liposomal Doxorubicin – liposomal meaning encapsulated in some fatty molecule and Doxorubicin is a very strong antibiotic. What happens is the liposomes allow for a slow release of the disease-fighting chemical into the body after intravenous introduction which just takes an hour, and this is not fully excreted from the body for up to six days.”
I took 7 courses of chemotherapy every 3 weeks until the last course on the 8th of February 2010, by which time the blackened cancers lesions had completely disappeared, the necrotised skin had been removed and I had fresh, tender skin in place of the foul and fungating tumours.
The battle for life
The battle I fought, in the end, was not with cancer, but with life in general. Cancer stripped me of everything except my humanity and my dignity. I literally lost my career, I lost my home of over 10 years, things I had acquired I basically gave away and had to start all over again. I gained a new perspective on life and the transience of things, the way the seemingly inviolable and easily become the complete vulnerable.
I learnt of the power of hope, the desire to live, the appreciation of life and an understanding of suffering. I stepped off the rat race and tempered my views with patience and consideration. Most pertinently, as I did not or do not know how much time I have left, I have lived a life of the living rather than of the dying. I am inspired to aspire and for as long as I have breath in me, I intend to thrive and be a story of being granted a second life of purpose.
None of this would have been possible without those who underwent more gruelling and horrifying intrusions of medicine so that my consultant could say with confidence, I could be treated. They are the specimens on which researchers concluded their research and came up for new ideas, solutions, treatments and discoveries. I commend those who died because of cancer and those who learnt from them to improve the treatments for cancer. It is by them that we get to write a different story.
World Cancer Day 2019


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