I was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer in December 2011 at the age of 49. This came as a total shock because I’d never been a smoker and I didn’t think I had any serious health problems. In fact, our family had a whole future planned. We were in the process of moving from Canberra to Darwin. We had new jobs to go to, we’d purchased a house, the kids were enrolled in new schools, and our belongings had gone ahead of us. We were in final days of saying goodbyes, when chest pains and numbness in my limbs led to me being taken to hospital. Within 24 hours our plans were shot—we weren’t going anywhere.
Oncologists told me that my cancer was incurable and that I’d probably only live for a year. This felt like a death sentence and my hope slipped away. After an initial operation to drain fluid from my chest cavity I suffered serious complications and my health declined rapidly. After a couple of weeks I was worried that I wouldn’t come out of hospital alive. I became so frail that we had to wait a couple of months before I was fit to start chemotherapy.
We opted for non-standard chemotherapy based on evidence of improved results. This came at a huge financial cost and our medical expenses are well into six figures. The choice of treatment was rewarded, with scan results showing no evidence of disease after about 25 cycles of chemo. As I write this I’ve now have had over 60 cycles of chemo and the cancer has shown no progression. People ask me how long I will be on chemo and I have to say “As long as I can cope with it.” There is no end in sight.
The impact of chemo is harsh. I spend a few days every cycle bedridden with flu-like symptoms, nausea, rashes, gastrointestinal upsets, rashes, mouth ulcers and more. I have permanent peripheral neuropathy, joint pains, and memory loss. Life has become a long-term chronic battle. And not just for me, but for my wife, children, and friends.
One of the difficult things about living with cancer has been meeting others who have been diagnosed after me and who’ve now died before me. There is so much loss and so much grief. But it hasn’t all been bad. I’ve met some wonderful people on the same difficult journey—in person and online. I have had my love for family deepened, my joy in living expanded, and my hope in God enriched. I’ve had the privilege of being able to document my experiences and testify to the hope that I have living with a terminal disease, though publishing a book called Hope Beyond Cure. I’ve learned firsthand not to take life for granted, but to number my days and to make the most of the opportunities I have to bring hope into the lives of others.
If I had a choice, would I choose to have cancer? Absolutely not! But in so many ways I treasure what I’ve learned and gained on this painful road.