Hello everyone. I wanted to share with you a great story from one of our Patrons and friends, SpudMurf. It’s fantastic that we’re all on this journey to love whisky and share our love and passion, but it’s always good to have a reality check or reminder to take care of ourselves so we can enjoy them for many years. His story has encouraged me to take a step back and appreciate life and to take care of myself so I wanted to share it with you all in hopes that you do the same.
Hi fellow Whisky Enthusiasts’,
During a social chat with Drew while on Discord, I raised my recent battle with Stage 4 Bowel and metastatic Liver Cancer, the purpose of sharing this was to show the importance of having a colonoscopy and not to rely on simple tests alone.
Drew suggested I put something together for a Blog, as we all know raising people’s awareness in respect to their own health is extremely important, particularly with men. As we all think “it will be right Mate.”
USA Car racing fans will know these two; Scotty Lagasse Jr & John Andretti. Both these seemingly invincible guys have had colon cancer, so take time to watch their story.
This is my story.
I am a male, aged 53 at the time and in generally good health, so I thought.
I have always taken my good health for granted, as I rarely fell ill and was reasonably active.
It all started with an upset stomach while I was travelling overseas (Sept 2016), so I dismissed it as a tummy bug. A few weeks later it occurred again, I just thought it was indigestion as a little pain and discomfort was associated after I ate.
Having already made an appointment to see my GP for my annual check up, I advised him what was happening. As part of my annual consultation, he requested full blood tests, a physical prostate examination and a stool sample to be provide.
A couple days later my results came back all clear.
The doctor prescribed some Nexium to see if that would assist with the indigestion.
At this stage nothing sinister was suspected and a routine follow up was scheduled for a couple of weeks later. As pain persisted and my tests had come back clear he referred me to a specialist for a routine colonoscopy.
This appointment took 6 weeks to arrange as it was not considered urgent.
The big day came and the procedure was attempted, they found 3 tumours, one the size of a squash ball which was obstructing my colon. After the procedure and recovered from the anaesthetic, I was immediately advised of the result “I have Cancer” and sent for a CT scan for further investigation; where they found another 3 small tumours in my Liver and several suspect lymph nodes as well.
The next step was a PET Scan for further confirmation, this was scheduled for the next morning. Results all being confirmed, now I had to wait for surgery scheduled for the following Thursday.
Diagnosis was not good, although either through my naivety or just being my positive self, I did not think this was life threatening.
Murphy’s Law. Over the weekend I was in severe abdominal pain, so I convinced my wife to take me to our Hospital’s emergency in the middle of the night, here they treated me for the pain and had to wait to contact my specialists later that morning. What had occurred, the colonoscopy irritated one of the tumours that lined my colon wall and it had now ruptured into the perineal cavity. (not good)
Obviously now it was a priority to have surgery. However, due to this complication they dosed me up with a load of drugs, antibiotics etc. IV machine loaded to the max to minimise infection prior to any surgery.
72 hours later Surgery is scheduled.
During this time reality sets in and all the expected mortality questions are asked however, it’s funny how your mind works; the preparation for a colostomy bag was my greatest concern.
Surgery was a success they removed just over a foot of my descending colon, a portion of my traverse colon, a section of my small intestine, along with several lymph nodes which were positive as well.
I now have a zipper from my sternum to my pubic bone as a reminder.
During my recovery further education of what my options are given and I found it interesting not all people wish to fight this fight.
The next stage … Chemotherapy preparation commenced after 6 weeks recovering from major surgery. I had another small procedure to have an IV Port implanted in my upper chest for easy access.
I was on Chemo for 12 months which was a huge journey, fortunately my side effects are acceptable to me as the alternative was not.
First 6 months comprised of Fortnightly visits of 3 day sessions, sitting in a chair for 6-7 hours while they pumped through the chemo, actually I was continually connected for 60 hours at a time. When I went home each day I wore a pack containing a small bottle of Folfox 5 it would continue to administer the chemo overnight.
The following 6 months were with fortnightly one day treatments.
Now I have 6 weekly visits to flush out my IV Port which will remain in for a further 12 months along with the quarterly CT or Pet Scan, blood tests and visits to my Oncologist and Liver Specialist.
During the treatment my Platelet levels fell significantly and a bone morrow procedure was done. On a good note, since chemo treatment has finished my platelet levels have started to improve however still well below the norm.
In reality, it was a struggle at times with severe Peripheral Neuropathy in my hands and legs, balance and mobility issue, loss of mental sharpness, memory and speech issues at times. But it could be a whole lot worse.
The good news is I’ve been in REMISSION since April this year.
My strength has been my family & friends support; of which I couldn’t have done without.
This brings me next to Mental Health a whole other topic.
To cope and escape the reality; I relied on my love of life, focusing on Photography, Bush Walking, Fly Fishing, Camping, Clay Shooting and Golf; albeit at a slower pace when able.
Now you probably are thinking what does the Scotch 4 Dummies have to do with any of this?
In my opinion, here we have 4 guys enjoying life and sharing their experiences with the broader Whisky Fraternity. Providing us with some light hearted therapy, a sense of belonging and some great information.
What a great medium it could be to remind people; particularly us men, the importance of taking care of ourselves be it medical tests or just talking and sharing our thoughts.
It’s all a form of medicine, not to mention the elixir of life.
My Grandfather insisted, that a wee dram every night was the secret to a long life. Being a Scotsman and living to his mid 90’s who could argue.
Seriously; In regard to mental health I would encourage everyone to find someone who you can talk to, in a discrete non-judgemental way and discuss whatever that may be on your mind.
I hope by sharing my story, it will encourage you all to have a colonoscopy, particularly if age or symptom appropriate.
To find out more; go to your country’s bowel cancer association web page.