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since May 2004

"Iíve Got a What?"

"You have an Ademocarcinoma in the Rectum". These words were spoken to me, by Dr John Freiman, having performed a colonoscopy that afternoon. I had no idea as to the implications surrounding such a diagnosis and inspired the question, "Iíve got a what?" He replied with the dreaded word CANCER and I was struck with sheer terror. This was the last straw I felt. To understand why it was the last straw that broke the pack-horseís back, you will need to know a little of my past history.

On New Years Day 1994, I was admitted to St George Public Hospital suffering Osteo Myalitis at L3 and L4, a condition not recognised by my then GP. In fact I was being treated for Arthritis thus allowing the condition to become chronic. Septicemia and an epidural abscess had developed along with Septic Arthritis of the left knee (was treated as gout!), heart enlargement surrounded by fluid, and by then, a fever and pneumonia.

During the following three weeks in intensive care, drifting in and out of consciousness, bloated with skin cracking, peeling and unable to move because of the intense pain, two large bedsores developed and became Staph infected. Renal failure followed and resulted in dialysis. The left knee was Arthrascoped twice, finally removing the badly infected cartilage and tendons altogether in an attempt to save the leg from amputation, and three clean up surgery procedures of the spine at L3 and L4. Twice during this time my Wife was to bring my family in because I was not expected to live through it.

The Intensive care staff literally saved my life with their around the clock care and attention. I believe too, that I was anything but a co-operative patient. I still regret very much of making their work that much harder. Finally, though still "not with it", I have no memory of being in intensive care, I was transferred to the renal ward where I began my return to the real world. About this time a pulmonary embol appeared in my right upper lung to complicate matters. Then there was a series of transfers around the hospital to various wards, Orthopedic, Cardiac, Chest, Rheumatology and Rehabilitation, with the exception of maternity seemingly every ward the hospital had. Two days before Good Friday of that year, I was allowed home. I was using a wheel chair then because the spinal problems had left me with very little feeling in my legs and foot drop of both feet and walking any more than half a dozen wobbly steps without assistance was out of the question.

In December 1994 Dr Ron Sekel performed a Spinal decompression, a lumbar laminectomy and fusion of L3 and L4 enabling me to leave the wheel chair and progress to crutches which I still use. During the long operation an added complication of lung lobe collapse of the right lower lung made things more difficult. My first of two total knee replacements was performed by Dr Ron Sekel in February 1995; the second being performed the following November. Both of these were wonderfully successful. In between the two TKRís, I had a TIA (Mini stroke) in March 1995 just to balance the year.

July 1996 saw my first brush with cancer, a Carcinoma being removed from my right leg leaving a nasty hollow scar.

For some time I had been plagued with very high blood pressure and was the cause of the TIA. Readings like 210 systolic and 115 diastolic. Dr John Kelly arranged a Saline suppression test, angiogram for adrenal vein sampling. The diagnosis was primary Hyperaldosteronism and his subsequent treatment was successful and the blood pressure came under control.

In August 2003, in order to be relatively free of back pain for an overseas holiday trip, Dr Mark Davies arranged a Periradicular block injection at L2 and L3. This worked quite well for a limited time, but enabled me to enjoy a wonderful Alaskan holiday and cruise followed by a trip to Calgary Canada to visit our daughter and her family.

Since this was so successful, Neurosurgeon Dr Mark Davies in April 2003 performed a lumbar laminectomy at L2 and L3, Pedicle screw internal fixation and Interbody fusion using his recently developed minimal invasion keyhole surgery technique. Again the same right lung lobes collapsed and resulted in a couple of days in intensive care. To me, the results of this surgery were euphoric. I was pain free when I walked or sat for the first time in many years. However, while in intensive care, Dr Myburgh was unhappy about a distended abdomen and said then that a colonoscopy should be performed as soon as possible.

A colonoscopy had been ordered by my GP some weeks prior to the Spinal surgery, but I chose to hold off until after the surgery in case my long awaited operation had to be postponed. Symptoms had appeared in the form of mucus beginning some 12 months before, and when the urge to attend the toilet presented itself, I had to get there very quickly or suffer embarrassing consequences. Because of all the spinal problems speed is not one of my better actions. Finally I was seeing a pale watery blood showing and while I wondered about it, Cancer was the farthest thing from my mind. Hah! Hemorrhoids are playing up was my dismissive diagnosis....

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