My first trip to Japan/Singapore

NAGOYA 2nd January to 7th January 2014

So I went and got myself married in Japan to my much better half Rio.  I travelled with my parents and arrived in Nagoya (Rio’s hometown) on the 2nd January 2014, and we were married the very next day.

00. Wedding

The happy couple plus my parents

So thought I’d show you a few pics of my journey.

Day 1 I landed (with my parents) in Changi Airport.  A heaving beast full of rather odd structures, including this creation.

01. Changi Airport

After about five hours we flew to Tokyo, then took a domestic flight to Nagoya.  We got a pretty good view of Mt Fuji from the plane.

02. Mt Fuji from plane

After meeting the family on the first night, and getting married on Day 2, we then went about seeing some of the sights of Nagoya.

A view of the Oasis spaceship (as they call it) from the TV Tower

A view of the Oasis spaceship (as they call it) from the TV Tower

The original TV Tower in Japan (or so my wife tells me).  Quite an imposing structure

The Nagoya TV Tower. The original TV Tower in Japan (or so my wife tells me). Quite an imposing structure

Just a little attempt at English translation that I found amusing in a lift.

Just a little attempt at English translation that I found amusing in a lift.

a random building in Nagoya city which I found quite fetching.  I'm a sucker for curvature

A random building in Nagoya city which I found quite fetching. I’m a sucker for curvature

View of part of Nagoya City from the TV Tower

View of part of Nagoya City from the TV Tower

In central Nagoya, a nice little artificial ice skating rink under the "Spaceship Oasis"

In central Nagoya, a nice little artificial ice skating rink under the “Spaceship Oasis”

From the 15th floor observatory deck of a Nagoya hotel.  Not a bad view

From the 15th floor observatory deck of a Nagoya hotel. Not a bad view

We'd call this a moat.  The lovely water protecting the Nagoya Castle.  Most of this Castle was destroyed during WW2

We’d call this a moat. The lovely water protecting the Nagoya Castle. Most of this Castle was destroyed during WW2

From my Wedding Night Hotel, Nagoya Castle

From my Wedding Night Hotel, Nagoya Castle

A random backstreet in Nagoya. Just think it looks cool

A random backstreet in Nagoya. Just think it looks cool

KYOTO 7th January to 11th January 2014

On the 7th January we boarded a Shinkansen (bullet train) to head to Kyoto.

13. Front of Shinkansen AKA Bullet Train

From there we spent a few days touring around Kyoto. This is largely old-style Japan.  We visited numerous temples/shrines/castles, as well as a trip to Gion.

19. Panorama Japanese Gardens Kyoto 18. Japanese Gardens Kyoto 17. Panorama Japanese Gardens Kyoto

Part of a very cool little street festival in Gion.  There were stalls selling all kinds of things, very interesting

Part of a very cool little street festival in Gion. There were stalls selling all kinds of things, very interesting

21. Looking out over Kyoto from Temple

Looking out over Kyoto from a Temple

We took a tour around Kyoto. It was rather wet!

We took a tour around Kyoto. It was rather wet!

Some of "The Last Samurai" was apparently filmed here.  Rather impressive!

Some of “The Last Samurai” was apparently filmed here. Rather impressive!

Some rather beautiful gardens.  It was VERY cold here

Some rather beautiful gardens. It was VERY cold here

 

On the 10th January we took a day trip to Osaka (only 25 mins by train from Kyoto). Unfortunately my Mum wasn’t feeling well & we couldn’t stay long.  It was a shame, would have loved to have explored further.

22.

Sidestreet in Osaka

23. From Ebisubashi Bridge in Osaka

From Ebisubashi Bridge in Osaka

24.

From Ebisubashi Bridge Osaka

25. From Ebisubashi Bridge Osaka

From Ebisubashi Bridge Osaka

26. Parade in Osaka

Parade in Osaka

 

TOKYO 11th January to 12th January 2014

We then jumped on another Shinkansen for the two hour trip to Tokyo. Along the way we got a great view of Mt Fuji.

28. First sighting of Mt Fuji from Shinkansen

First sighting of Mt Fuji from Shinkansen

29. Mt Fuji from Shinkansen

Mt Fuji from Shinkansen

27. Snow on way to Tokyo

A little bit of snow from the Shinkansen, shortly after leaving Kyoto

 

We settled into our hotel in Shinagawa, then Rio, Dad and myself went exploring around Shinjuku & Shibuya. AMAZING!

30. Buildings in Shinagawa Tokyo

Buildings in Shinagawa Tokyo

31 Downtown Shinagawa Tokyo

Downtown Shinagawa Tokyo

 

39. Shibuya Tokyo

Shibuya Tokyo

Mind blown!

Mind blown! Panorama of Shibuya crossing

 

Always wanted to be here, an awesome sight. The neon signs, the people, the sounds.  I want to go back!

Always wanted to be here, an awesome sight (Hachiko square, Shibuya). The neon signs, the people, the sounds. I want to go back!

32. Typical alley in Shinjuku Tokyo

Among the neon lights were these little alleys with tiny restaurants/bars. I could spend weeks exploring these!

Next morning we took a tour around Tokyo with a very funny Taxi Driver.  Apparently he’d played golf with Greg Norman!

Maybe my favourite photo of the whole trip. Credit to the Taxi Driver who stopped here and told us about the reflection on the Canal.

The “Tokyo Sky Tree” (or TV Tower). Maybe my favourite photo of the whole trip. Credit to the Taxi Driver who stopped here and told us about the reflection on the Canal.

This was chaos!

This was chaos! A crazy little street market in Tokyo

43. Temple Tokyo

Entrance to a Tokyo Temple

Genuine Geisha girls in Tokyo. And no, they are not prostitutes!

Genuine Geisha girls. And no, they are not prostitutes!

For all the geekboys, or "Otaku".  A popular spot for foreigners (Gaijin).

Akihabara, Tokyo. For all the geekboys, or “Otaku”. A popular spot for foreigners (Gaijin).

40. Ginza Tokyo

Ginza Tokyo

Finally it was time to leave Japan.

SINGAPORE 13th January

We arrived at our hotel at around 3am.  Next day we went down to Marina Bay Sands, and then toured on a couple of rooftop buses around various areas of the city.

Just around the corner from the Hotel I was staying at

Just around the corner from the Hotel I was staying at

47. Expensive Cars Singapore

Just outside the front entrance of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel

Fairly impressive panorama of the Harbour

Fairly impressive panorama of the Harbour

Saw this in the Ferrari shop in Marina Bay Sands.  Just sitting there, as you do if you're an F1 car

Saw this in the Ferrari shop in Marina Bay Sands. Just sitting there, as you do if you’re an F1 car

50. Marina Bay Sands Hotel Singapore

The amazing Marina Bay Sands Hotel up close

51. Little India Singapore

Little India, Singapore

52. Temple Singapore

A Temple in Singapore

 

Overall, a trip of a lifetime.  Singapore was very interesting, and extremely humid.  It was only a brief visit though.  Japan was mind-blowing, I can honestly not wait to go back.   Luckily for me my wife is Japanese, so I’ll be back many times.  Bring it on!

 

My Chemotherapy Romance (Part 4 of 4)

MEDIPORT

It was decided that I was going to have a mediport inserted for Cycle 3 (see Pic below). This is a device which sits under your skin around your chest, connecting to a tube which again is inserted in a vein leading through to an artery behind your heart. The idea is that a needle can be inserted into the port day 1 of the cycle, remain there for the duration and everything would flow nice & easy. The plan was to leave it in my chest for quite some time, as the mediport could be used as an insertion point for the iodine injection in my follow up CT scans once the treatment was done. That was the plan anyway.

On the 27th December, I went in for a blood test to make sure it was OK to perform the procedure. The next day I went back to hospital for the procedure to insert the mediport.

Broadly what happened is:

  • They give me a local anaesthetic around the area they will insert the port.
  • I was awake during the entire procedure (it lasted about an hour & a half). This was a little weird, I could hear them cutting & pulling my skin, & occasionally felt it. I was lying there with a lot of medical cloth over me, with my head tilted at right angles for the entire time. It’s a little off-putting when the surgeon is telling jokes & you are laughing as they are cutting you open.

Anyway, this all went smoothly (apparently). Once they were done I sat up on the operating & realised they had cut into an artery, as I was lying in a pool of blood (didn’t feel a thing!) By far the most painful part was a nurse tearing off the cloth which they had stuck to my chest. I really wish they’d told me to shave my chest hairs, it was excrutiating. I spent about 3-4 hours recovering in the oncology ward, as the anaesthetic was pretty harsh. Obviously the area started hurting once it wore off, & remained painful for the next 2-3 days. Not much sleep was had during this time.

CYCLE THREE (MEDIPORT)

Day 1 (4/1/12) – The Mediport worked perfectly, had a bit of trouble with urine sample again, but nothing major.

Day 2 – found out my LDH Marker from my last blood test was up. Told this was nothing to be concerned about, could be just the result of internal damage possibly caused by the Bleomycin. My tumour markers were all good. Everything else was reasonably normal, chatted to a lovely lady Wendy who was in to receive chemotherapy for Breast Cancer.

Day 3 – Another straightforward day, this mediport is good!

Day 4 – Again straightforward, but feeling completely worn out by this stage.

Day 5 – another straightforward day. Feeling rubbish but I was a devout MediPort enthusiast by this stage, given how little trouble I’d experienced with it.

On the 19th January 2012 I had another blood test & Lung Function test. The Lung Test showed my capacity was back to pre-chemo levels, another confirmation that the correct decision had been made to remove Bleomycin from my treatment.

On the 23rd January I had a follow up Oncologist appointment. Found out Sui Wei had left without saying a word. Thanks Sue Wei! I met another registrar who told me all my bloods were normal, including my LDH marker which had returned to normal. Obviously these were all good signs that the treatment was going well.

CYCLE FOUR (A BIT OF A COMPLICATION)

Day 1 (25/1/12) I came in, business as usual. The Nurse tried to hook up my mediport, but couldn’t get any flushback (once the needle is inserted, they test to see if blood comes back through the line to ensure that the needle is still in the vein). I told them I had been experiencing a bit of discomfort around my shoulder area, & alarm bells were raised, with the days treatment halted immediately. I went down to the X-ray department, with the resultant X-rays showing the tube had coiled up inside me. I was told that if they attempted to give me chemo through the port it could prove very dangerous. So I headed back up to the oncology ward, where it was decided they had to again use cannulas! I felt like I was going around in circles at this stage. The treatment eventually got underway, but it with the Mediport complication it turned out to be nearly an 8 hour day. I was absolutely buggered by the end of all this! (Note: the Mediport was eventually removed on the 2nd April 2012, again by local. This time they didn’t give me enough anaesthetic & I occasionally felt the physical pain of cutting me open – more fun just when you thought you couldn’t get enough!)

Day 2 – Cannula was OK to use again, but again had trouble providing the 200ml of urine. Another patient appeared to me to be having a bit of a whinge. Unfortunately my initial judgement proved a bit harsh, as she eventually passed out, & all of a sudden curtains were closed, the room was divided & doctors came from everywhere. It reminded me of the scene from ET where the government had quarantined the house. Even worse, the husband was shoved off into my little area. So here I was, offering sympathies to this poor guy, asking if I could do anything whilst having chemicals continually pumped into me. Eventually she was taken away & we were back to normal (she was OK I found out later, just a bad reaction to one of the drugs). It was a nice little reminder that some very serious liquids were being injected into me, & that I had been relatively lucky so far with no adverse reactions. It was good to leave the ward that day!

Day 3 – Needed new cannula & of course they couldn’t find a vein. So they soaked both my arms in warm water for quite a while, & eventually found a vein they could use. Nothing else too unusual, of course by this stage of chemo I was feeling rubbish pretty much all the time.

Day 4 – pretty straightforward but again had a little trouble with urine sample.

Day 5 – As this was effectively my final day of chemotherapy, the nurses decided as would try & get a third day out of the cannula. The machine pumping chemicals into me kept stopping in the last hour, little did I know that the flow was being interrupted by my vein collapsing (I was told this in the last 5 minutes of treatment). But we got there in the end, & I walked out for the last time a very happy man! Of course feeling rubbish though. I did hand the nurses a card, which included a note thanking them for all their efforts, patience & humour right throughout the treatment. These people do an amazing job!

On the 21st February 2012 I was in for a blood test & CT Scan. Again they had massive problems with finding veins. One particularly sadistic nurse decided she’d try & scrape around on the back of my hand for around a minute, which proved to be incredibly painful. The cannula ended up not being connected correctly, leading to an iodine spill in the CT scan.

IT WAS ALL WORTHWHILE

The 27th February 2012 was results day. My oncologist, Dr Byard almost casually mentioned everything was looking good, the lymph nodes were no longer enlarged, all my tumour markers were clear & everything looked good. A HAPPY DAY!!!

POST-CHEMO

I am now committed to having blood tests every 2-3 months for the next two years, and a CT scan every second time to detect any relapse. It has now been eight months since my chemo, and everything is still all clear. If I get to the two year mark, apparently the chance of a relapse greatly diminishes. Fingers crossed! From there I will have tests every six months, and all going well, the tests will go back to once a year after I reach the five year mark.

WHAT I LEARNED

If you go through something like this & don’t learn, well I believe you’re missing the point. Here are some of the key things I’ve learnt:

  • Chemotherapy is very, very boring. Mind-numbingly so.
  • In general, oncology nurses are amazing people. The way they deal with cancer patients each day is awe-inspiring, they show humour, patience, empathy & are always happy to have a chat about other things to get your mind off the treatment. These people deserve more recognition in our society.
  • Don’t be afraid to go to the Doctor & get a check-up, the earlier anything is caught the better.
  • Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to talk about Testicular Cancer. They are god-awful ugly looking things, but they are in fact a part of the process of giving life.
  • The most common form of Cancer for men between 15-35 years of age is Testicular Cancer. In the early 80’s, it had a 10% survival rate. Now, if you catch it early it has an extremely high rate of survival (around 95% + ). So check them regularly for any irregularities (hard spots, lumps etc) & if you find anything, go see your doctor!
  • If you have to go through Chemotherapy, you will have to get over any fear you might have of needles. Your veins will be continually punctured until your arms look like that of a heroin junkie.
  • Everything still operates as normal with one testicle, you just value that one testicle more!
  • Most importantly I learned that two clichés in particular are in fact true, being:
    • life is short, you never know what’s around the corner. Enjoy it & appreciate your loved ones; and
    • Don’t sweat the small stuff, once you go through something like this, you quickly realise what is important and what is not worth worrying yourself over.

I hope someone at least find this useful and/or informative. Writing this was quite a cathartic experience from my point of view. If only one person gets a check-up, or does a self examination as a result of me sharing my story, then this was worthwhile. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me on Twitter (@PiesManDan) or via email (glebe_hobart@yahoo.com).

Thanks,

Dan

My Chemotherapy Romance (Part 3 of 4)

PART THREE

CYCLE ONE (CANNULAS)

On the 23rd of November 2011 my first cycle of chemotherapy began.  On day 1 prior to treatment commencing, Sui Wei advised me the 2nd CT Scan had shown that the lymph node was larger again, thereby confirming I would definitely need the third cycle of chemotherapy.  This was just what I wanted to hear before I had even started.  I was an in-patient for my first cycle, meaning I had my own room & could stay the night if needed (turned out it wasn’t needed, my own bed is much preferable to a hospital bed anyway).  The first day took a while to get going, as the entire oncology in-patient department was moving to a different floor on my second day of chemo, meaning lots of equipment was packed up & the oncology nurses had twice as much as usual to do.

Throughout my first cycle I received the treatment through Cannulas (see the picture in Part 2).  This involves inserting the Cannula into a vein, and connecting it to the machine to pump the chemicals in.  On Day 1 my veins were good and easy to find.  The chemo treatment I had is particularly harsh on veins, & they often retreat quickly, which was the case for me.  From Day 2 of chemo onwards, finding veins became as big an issue as the actual treatment itself

The first day was relatively easy, I was a bit surprised really.  Besides a few tingles in my hand & a tiny bit of nausea, it was relatively straight forward.  The nurses were patient with me, as I had LOTS of questions.

The second day I needed a new Cannula, as I must have knocked the first one in my sleep (they keep it in overnight in the hope they can use it again, makes sleeping a little uncomfortable). I also started to feel constipated for the first time in my life, and was also extremely tired following the day’s treatment.

Day 3 – a minor car accident on the way to hospital, thanks Rio! Difficult to merge into a lane when there’s already a car there.  Again very tired & constipated.

Day 4 – a new Cannula was put in by an intern. It was such a bad job a Doctor had to put in another one. For the first time I started to feel like a pin-cushion (see pic below). Thankfully the constipation eased but I was still very tired.

Day  5 – another Cannula needed.  Noticed I was starting to get a blood clot around where they inserted the first two Cannulas.

Day 6 – day off hospital, first self injection in the stomach, bloody painful.

Day 8 – back to hospital for the Bleomycine injection through another cannula.  That night was probably the worst night of my entire treatment.  At around 8 pm that night, around six hours after the treatment, my temperature went right up to dangerous levels, & I shivered uncontrollably for about an hour & a half.  Rio was on the phone to the hospital who told her to give me panadol (as ridiculously simple as that sounds).  I eventually calmed down & had a snooze.

Day 15 – Bleomycin again, this time with an anti-histamine before the treatment in attempt to control the shivering & high temperatures.  It worked to a minor extent as I only had minor shivers this time, but my temperature still went right up again.

The 12th December 2011 was a bad day.  I went in for another lung test and blood test, but worst of all one of my beautiful dogs, Zoe had to be put down (the larger black one in the pic below with her lifelong friend Jack).  Only about a month prior she had started to lose the use of her back legs due to a congenital hip problem. This was extremely difficult to deal with, even more so given what I was going through. RIP Zoe.

13/12/11 – Due to my blood clots, I had to have a pick line inserted.  This involves feeding a tube through one of the veins in your arm, right up to an artery through the heart.   It took about six attempts for the gentleman to find a vein, which he seemed to find humorous (sadistic bastard!).  Unfortunately for me this proved particularly painful as a needle scraping around in your arm searching for a vein is not particularly the most pleasant of experiences, even more so when the process is repeated six times.

This pick line was to be how my second cycle was to be administered.  The first time they put one in, I had an X-ray which showed somehow the tube looped in my chest. As a result they had to take the first pick line out & insert a second one. Thankfully this was not so bad as they could use the same vein.

Other side effects from the treatment that I endured throughout each cycle & afterwards included:

  • My taste buds completely changed, things I previously liked now tasted horrible.  Many things tasted “Metallic”, a taste which would linger for hours.
  • Everything smelled differently, stupid things like air-fresheners made me feel sick.
  • I was now toxic, including bodily waste.  My urine had a particular nasty odour to it.
  • I started to lose my hair in the third week of cycle 1. Initially this was just a few hairs on the pillow, so I cut my hair short to see if I could prolong it.  The next day I ran my fingers through my hair, when I looked down at my hand I discovered a massive clump of hair.  Time to shave, which took a little bit of getting used to!
  • In addition to loss of the hair on my head, I lost hair in the following locations – half my eyebrows, chest hair, facial hair (didn’t have to shave for the entire treatment which was a bonus), pubic region, and the sides of my lower legs.  I felt like one of those hairless cats!
  • I was feeling nauseous quite regularly, making it difficult to eat. Despite this I did not throw up once throughout my entire treatment, something of a surprise!  Apparently the nausea medication is far more effective than it used to be.
  • I suffered constant problems with my digestive system, including painful indigestion, constipation etc.  After 3-5 days constipation,  diarrhoea would then hit with a vengeance (Bruce Willis had nothing on this)!
  • “Chemotherapy Brain” – I lost ability to focus, was often absent-minded & struggled to put a sentence together – something that is not usually a problem for me.  At very least this provided my partner with some enjoyment, as I admit I am occasionally a smart arse.
  • Post chemo I had a horrible rash all over my arms & legs, which was incredibly itchy.  This lasted about two weeks.  The rash looked like hundreds of flea-bites – so the pooch initially took the blame until I could not find a flea in the house, despite turning everything upside down three or four times.  After a few days I went onto a TC forum & found this was an occasional side effect of the chemo.
  • Anemia – low red blood count.  This leads to a weakened immune system for months after treatment, & a general feeling of low energy which was difficult to shake off.  Due to my low immune system, a chest cold/flu I had a couple of months after treatment lasted six weeks!
  • To avoid mouth sores, I had to rinse my mouth with a specific mouth wash each time I ate.
  • I had really dry skin, including my scalp.  Whole layers of skin would occasionally peel off the top of my head.
  • One really good side effect of chemo was that for the first time in my life I had many nights of solid sleep.  For a lifelong sufferer of insomnia, this was brilliant!

As I had such a bad reaction to the bleomycine, my Oncologists decided to pull it from my treatment.  As a result I now had to have an additionally cycle of chemo, four in total, which was twice the usual amount of chemo for Stage 2 Testicular Cancer.  I admit I didn’t take this news very well, Sue Wei probably copped the brunt of my frustration.

CYCLE TWO (PICK LINE)

For cycles 2-4, I was an outpatient, which is a completely different department (See pic of part of the room below).  There are six chairs in a circle in each of three areas (or rooms), where various cancer patients are receiving treatment (not just chemo, blood infusions etc).  Throughout these three cycles, I met all kinds of people, many who were suffering much more than me.  Some wanted to talk, some wanted to stare at you (hello older gentlemen), & some looked quite frankly miserable & wanted to keep to themselves.  I couldn’t blame them at all.

The Pick Line was meant to be easy, as they no longer had to find a vein, all they needed to do was to connect the line up to the machine & get the chemicals pumping.  That was the theory anyway.  The results from the lung capacity test on the 13/12/11 showed an approximate 25% reduction in my lung capacity, most likely due to the effects of Bleomycine.  This confirmed the decision to remove this from my treatment as the correct one.

In addition to the troubles I was having, my lovely parents came down from Melbourne to stay with me for three weeks.  It was great to see them, & have their support.  Sometimes I was a little short-tempered with them as all I really wanted to do was lay on the couch & be left alone.  Oh well, I’m still glad they came.

Day 1 (14/12/11) -  Pretty straightforward, no major issues

Day 2 – nurses buggered up treatment, gave me saline for an hour instead of Etopocide.  Always good to have to spend an extra hour & a half in the very boring room.  Was starting to feel extremely ordinary, much worse than in cycle 1.  In hindsight this was no surprise, as the chemo is effectively poisoning your system.  In the end each cycle proved more difficult than the previous one.

Day 3 – standard, feeling rubbish again.

Day 4 – had a bit of trouble with the urine sample, but I gave them the 200 mls eventually. Another nurse stuff up with the etopocide not actually being administered to my system for an hour due to a line being blocked.

Day 5 – My right arm (where the Pick Line was) was hard & purple.  An oncologist came to look and said my arm was infected.  The Pick Line was pulled out of my vein (a very strange feeling, but not painful) & I was back to a Cannula for a day 5.

I had a very quiet Christmas with Rio & my parents, as I was feeling absolutely rubbish by this stage. I was allowed to have two beers, which unfortunately tasted horrible (I love beer!).  By this stage I was really starting to hate chemotherapy!

My Chemotherapy Romance (Part 2 of 4)

THE OPERATION (ORCHIDECTOMY TO BE ACCURATE)

It was a strange experience.  Besides all the normal pre-operation measures (fasting etc), the main thing I remember was lying on the operating table just before they were going to knock me out.  I begged one of the nurses to please cut out the right one, pointing to my right testicle.  That seemed to amuse everybody leading to a few jokes, & one of the nurses marking my right thigh to re-assure me they wouldn’t remove my healthy testicle.    Someone asked me if I was nervous, I admitted I was, & they said let me give you something that would help.  They injected something into the tube connected to my arm, the next minute I was out.

Two or so hours later I woke with a jolt, and after realisation hit me where I was, all I could say to the nurses surrounding my bed was “Is it done?” in surprise.  I felt good, of course I would, I had been given enough anaesthetic to kill a horse.  I quickly realised my “Ball Sack” was still in place, & that they had cut into my pelvis & removed the testicle from inside.  For some strange reason I thought they just chopped it off.  Thankfully they didn’t, I was much happier with the results.

The next day the pain hit, the scar was about 20 cm & in such a spot that it made it very difficult to walk.  The pain would end up lasting a couple of weeks.   On the 21st October I had my first CT Scan, which was to determine if the cancer had spread from the testicle into the lymph nodes.  Another needle.  Nothing much else happened over the next few weeks other than various dressing changes done by my lovely girl Rio.

CHEMOTHERAPY

ON the 14th November 2012, I went back to the hospital to meet my Oncologists, Dr Byard & his offsider Sui Wei (pronounced Sue Way), an Oncology registrar who was to look after me.  We discussed the fact that my CT scans showed that lymph nodes in my pelvis had enlarged, which meant that I had Type 2 Testicular Cancer.  The tumour was something called a “Non-Seminoma Germ Cell Tumour” which is apparently a pretty aggressive type of tumour.  Or so they tell me.  They recommended that I undertake 2 cycles of chemotherapy.  Again, the choice was left to me, we could wait a month or two, do another CT scan & see what happens.  Even though I was again in shock, I decided to go ahead with the chemo just to be sure.

Four days later we had another chat, where Sui Wei advised me he had booked in the chemo.  He thought there might be a need for a third chemo cycle due to the type of cancer & the enlarged lymph nodes.  After it was suggested that the lymph node enlargement may have simply been a result of the operation,   I suggested another CT scan to see what had happened to the lymph nodes since my first scan on the 21st October.   Sue Wei called Dr Byard into the room & he agreed it was a good idea – good Doctor work by me!  Sue Wei also explained what a cycle of chemotherapy consisted of, which I’ll attempt to summarise below:

Each cycle of BEP chemotherapy lasts 21 days, consisting of three types of chemotherapy treatments

B – Bleomycine (days 1, 8, 15)

E – Etopocide (days 1-5)

P – Cisplatin (days 1-5)

Additionally I was required to self inject a rather large looking needle into my abdomen on Day 6 to assist in regenerating the blood cells.  This was all a bit of a blur to me at this stage, and honestly didn’t mean much.  Thankfully he wrote it all down & gave me a fact sheet.

On the 21st of November I had my second CT Scan.  I also completed a kidney test (peeing in to a bottle for 24 hours- fun), a hearing test as it could be damaged by the chemotherapy, another blood test, and had to leave a sperm sample at a local clinic due to the risk of infertility (a horrible experience).   On the 22nd I had a lung function test, as Bleomycine in particular could damage the lungs, & another sperm sample just for safety.

Before I start describing the events of each cycle, it’s worthwhile listing what a typical day of BEP chemotherapy consisted of (NOTE: Each type of cancer has its own treatment, this is specific to Testicular Cancer):

  1. 1 hour of pre-chemo liquids (saline), in which I had to produce 200 mls of urine so they could be assured my  kidneys were working
  2. 5/10 minute flush
  3. 15 mins of Bleomycine (on day 1)
  4. Flush
  5. 1 hour of Etopocide
  6. Flush
  7. 15 minutes of Cisplatin
  8. Flush
  9. 1 hour of Plasmalite – a “restoration” liquid

The chemotherapy is administered via of those machines you would have seen patients dragging around a hospital (see pic below).

By the end of my treatment I knew how to work these like an expert.  The chemicals are injected into your blood system through any of the following methods:

  • A Cannula, directly injected into the vein (see pic below);
  • A pick line, inserted into a vein in your arm, fed up through the vein into an artery behind your heart; or a
  • Mediport – a port inserted below the skin in your chest

Each day (days 1 to 5) went anywhere from 4.5 hours to 7.5 hours, depending upon whether there were issues with the Cannula/Pick Line or Mediport.  Generally a lot of time is spent clock-watching, listening to music, reading, talking to others, or waiting for nurses.  As well as the treatment above, numerous medication was required such as:

  • Steroids (Day 1-3)
  • Anti nausea medication (every day)
  • Anti constipation medication (as needed)
  • Anti-indigestion medication (as needed)
  • Various others which I can no longer remember.  I took so many drugs I’ve forgotten half of them

My first cycle of chemotherapy was to start on the 23rd November 2011.

My Chemotherapy Romance (Part 1 of 4)

WHY?

I thought a bit about writing this.  I realise there is a risk that it could come off as self-indulgent, as there are definitely a lot of people suffering much worse than I did.  But I thought long & hard, & realised there were some very good reasons to share my story.  In no particular order, my goals that I hope to achieve by sharing are:

a)      To hopefully raise awareness of Testicular Cancer, get people talking i.e. with your brother, boyfriend, husband, mate or son

b)      To get people to check themselves, or not be afraid to go to the doctors; and

c)       To hopefully provide a guide to someone about to begin their journey about what to expect.

I’ll attempt to keep this as short as possible.  Honestly if I covered everything, I’m sure it would be enough for a book.

SELF DIAGNOSIS

In late August or early September 2011, one night lying in bed on another sleepless night (I suffer from Insomnia) for some strange reason I thought I hadn’t checked my testicles in a while.  I had a scare when I was around 20 with a lump, & occasionally checked when I thought of it.  I noticed my right testicle was slightly larger, & had some rough patches on the surface.  Obviously it concerned me a little.

I had long been a self-diagnoser, so I got on the web & convinced myself it was some kind of harmless infection.  Of course, in the middle of several more sleepless nights I suspected it may have been something else, but on I went.

THE DAY EVERYTHING CHANGED

4.15 pm on Monday the 10th October 2011. Just a standard Monday, I was on my way to the staff kitchen to make myself a cup of tea to get me through the rest of the day.  All of a sudden, a searing pain hit me, from my pelvis right through to my back.  Having my testicular issue on my mind, instant panic hit me.  The pain was so bad I struggled to walk.  My immediate thought was that it would only be temporary, I duck-walked my way to the toilets & spent 15 agonising minutes, contorting in various positions hoping the pain would go away.

When I realised the pain wasn’t going anywhere, I crab-walked my way over to a colleague’s desk who had a car downstairs. I asked him if he could take me to hospital.  He was up straight away, we were downstairs in his car before you knew it (well not really, I was still crab-walking – thank goodness for elevators!).   He thought I had kidney stones from the pain I was describing, & we laughed about it as I writhed around in pain in the back seat of his car.  He dropped me off at the Emergency Department of the Royal Hobart Hospital (RHH) at around quarter to five. I went into the waiting room, & thankfully they realised I was in significant pain.  A wheelchair was rolled in for me whilst I answered some questions.  I rang my lovely partner, Rio, who was upstairs about to finish work in the Pathology department. Unfortunately I could only leave a message as she was still working.

By 5.00pm I was lying on a table, pants off, having my testicles examined by a stranger.  This was a quick turn of events!  The young intern thought it may have something to do with the back-pain I had long suffered.  I didn’t correct him, I was hoping he’d come to the realisation by himself that it was something else.  At this stage, the pain started going away, & he was genuinely thinking of discharging me.  At the last minute (before I was about to say something) he said he was going to ask his supervisor if it was worth getting an ultrasound on my testicles.   Thankfully his supervisor advised him that this was a wise course of action.  They wheeled me into what was to be my little room for a few hours.  Rio was let in about this stage, we had a quick chat & she asked me if I was worried.  Out of self-bravado I said I wasn’t , even though I was internally panicking.  Hiding feelings was something I was good at.

At around 6pm I was lying on a table in a room having jelly rubbed onto my testicles by a doctor.  A strange description perhaps, but appropriate as it was a strange experience.  In the room were two young trainees, one who seemed particularly keen on having a discussion with me about my dogs.  Sorry dogs, I love you but you weren’t on the top of mind at that point.    Then, let me tell you, having an ultrasound on your Testicles is not a pleasant experience, but a very necessary one.  At 6.15, whilst still lying on the table, another doctor walked in the room, said “Sorry mate, we’ve found something” & walked back out, leaving me lying there in shock.  One of the girls said “I guess that’s not the news you were hoping for?”  All I could offer in reply was a barely whispered “No.”

They wheeled me back to my little area in the emergency section.  Rio was waiting for me. They left me alone for a while & I asked her if anyone had told her anything.  She said they hadn’t, so I told her what had happened, ending it with a couple of tears & the words “now I’m scared…..”.   It had been an eventful two hours!

They then ran numerous tests on me, including the first of many blood tests I was to have over the next year or so.  They left me staring at the ugly tiled roof for a long time not really knowing what to say, & eventually let me go home at around 10.30.   I remember sitting on my couch just before 11 o’clock & it all hit me.  I’m pretty tough emotionally & as I said before very good at shielding any emotions, but not this time.  The tears came, & I uttered the words to my partner “I don’t want to die”.  I managed to get on the computer & compose an email to my boss.  I wouldn’t be at work tomorrow.  The sentence “I’ve got Testicular Cancer” kept replaying itself in my head.

THE DAY AFTER & THE DIAGNOSIS

Strangely enough, after all the emotion I slept pretty well.  When I woke up, I laid in bed for about half an hour. It was time to get myself together.  I thought about my mum, who a year ago had successfully fought breast cancer & remained positive throughout.  I decided this point that the self-pity was limited to last night, and from today I was going to beat this thing.  Even better, Rio (a lab technician) had done some research & told me the survival rates were around 98% for Stage 1 Testicular Cancer (cancer limited to just the testicles).   There was a lot of reflecting that day, but my resolve to beat this thing was strong.  From my point of view I was over the worst.

On Wednesday morning, I had an appointment with what turned out to be my surgeon.  I thought they were going to do a biopsy to determine the status of the tumour.   After he also examined my testicles (I was starting to get used to strangers feeling my balls at this stage) he told me he was 98% sure it was cancer, & that a biopsy may only serve to aggravate it. He recommended that we have the operation as soon as possible.  He told me I could wait 8 weeks & see what happened, but almost immediately I told him that I wanted to go ahead with the operation based upon his recommendation.  I then went into work, & addressed my colleagues.  This was a very difficult task, talking to some people who were friends, some who were colleagues & one or two whom in all honestly I didn’t really care for.  But I decided to do it anyway.  This was the first time I admitted out loud that I had Testicular Cancer.  It was strange hearing those words coming out my lips.

I was booked in for the operation to remove my right testicle on Monday the 17th October.

Testicular Cancer. The more you know

One year ago today at this exact time (6.15pm on the 10/10/2011) I was lying in a hospital bed being told I had a tumour in my right testicle.  From there my life changed a little bit!  After one operation to remove the tumour, two procedures to insert then remove a MediPort in my chest, four cycles of chemotherapy & numerous Blood Tests, CT scans, X-rays & various other tests, I am now thankfully clear of Cancer. It has been a tough 12 months personally, but it’s also been an experience I’ve learned a lot from. The purpose of this message is not to attempt to garner your pity, I’ve been very lucky in comparison to many, many others.  After my experience I really just want to try & do my little bit in an attempt to raise more awareness of Testicular Cancer (TC).  Hence the important part of my message comes next.

 

While it’s not well publicised, TC is the most common form of cancer for males of 15-35 years of age. It can happen to anyone (with testicles obviously!). The causes and factors that lead to TC are still largely unknown. It is also highly survivable, as long as you catch it early.  If you do not catch it early, it can break free from the testicle/s into the surrounding lymph nodes, & could eventually make its way into your lungs.  Clearly early detection is vital.  Broadly, there are three stages of TC – Stage 1 (just in testicles, usually just requires operation), Stage 2 (spread to surrounding lymph nodes, requires chemo) & Stage 3 (spread further through your abdomen, & possibly through your lungs – chemo, operations etc).  I had Stage 2 TC.

 

Thankfully, TC is one type of cancer that you can detect the symptoms of early. By regularly self examining your testes for any lumps, hard spots or anything unusual (including swelling or general pain) you can at least get a head start, and give yourself the best chance of beating TC should you be unlucky enough to get it.  

 

Therefore, to any guys reading this, I strongly encourage you to perform regular self-examinations, & follow up with your Doc if you notice anything unusual.  To any ladies reading this, please think about having a chat to the men/boys in your life about self examination, as embarrassing as it might be.  Believe me, any embarrassment you feel talking about testicles pales into comparison to the emotions of dealing with TC.

 

I’d be happy to answer any questions you might have, but I should point out that there are many great resources out there to assist, including:

 

The Blue Ball Foundation http://blueballfoundation.org.au/

Testicular Cancer Foundation http://testicularcancerawarenessfoundation.org/

Cancer Council Australia http://www.cancer.org.au/

 

I also found this forum very useful whilst going through treatment: http://www.tc-cancer.com/

 

Remember, it’s all fun & games till someone loses a testicle :-)

 

Cheers
Dan

My thoughts on Mick Malthouse (Written & Posted on Twitter 11/09/12)

My final (long) rant on Mick Malthouse (I promise).  Mick, I write this shortly after you officially announced that you will be coaching the enemy in 2013.  You may think that’s why many Pies are a little bitter towards you, & in all likelihood you don’t care.  Regardless, I am going to explain why I am a little indignant towards your goodself.

In 2007, we nearly shocked the AFL world by running Geelong to 5 points in the preliminary final.  The following two seasons should have been seasons that we were genuinely contending.  For a variety of reasons, we had disappointing finals campaigns in 2008 & 2009.  A few were calling for your head in 2009, & we faced the prospect of losing club legend Nathan Buckley to North Melbourne or Richmond, a prospect that made me feel ill.  So the famous (or infamous) deal was done in July 2009. 

After 9 years of coaching without the ultimate success, lesser clubs may have terminated your services, but you were offered two more years to ply your trade with “your boys”.

In 2010 we had a dream run with injury, along with an admittedly exceptional gameplan that finally resulted in our 15th premiership.  A great time for all associated with the club, & one which won’t be forgotten.

In your final year, you had two choices. One – enjoy your final season with dignity & grace, or Two – become bitter and self-obsessed.  It is no secret which option you chose.  This was painfully highlighted by your ill-informed appearance on the Footy Show, where it became clear it was all about Mick.  Additionally, your constant public jibes about Nathan Buckley, who of course maintained a dignified silence, also pointed towards your self-obsession as opposed to the love of the club.  This man who gave you everything he had on-field, and had offered nothing but support for you (& still does) became headline bait due to no-one else but yourself.  Of course I do not solely blame you for losing the GF, we had an ordinary run with injuries, others had worked out how to beat the zone, & in all honesty we limped to the line last year. 

But this year, in your position as media expert & amongst a public spat between the President & yourself, you had the temerity to publicly blame Dane Swan & Chris Tarrant (were they not your boys?) amongst other factors for contributing towards the Grand Final loss. You also stated that you coached well.  To start with, in the Grand Final we employed a game-plan we had not used all year.  Strange one!  Then the big one – in mine, & many other minds, your stubborn refusal to move a clearly injured Ben Reid from Tom Hawkins had a far bigger impact on the overall result than any of the factors you listed.  Particularly when we had a fully fit Chris Tarrant playing on a medium sized Cats forward.

Mick, if you had of gone with dignity, thanked everyone for the opportunity of coaching our great club, you would have a lot more respect today from the Magpie army.  Instead you appear a bitter, narcissistic man filled with revenge & ego.  To top it off, after stating you could never coach against your boys, you sign on to coach our biggest rival!  Good luck to you Mick, you are no longer one of us.

PS. Leave Travis alone!