My treatment ended at the end of 2005 and I was able to start 2006 with a clean slate and restart my life once again right from the start of 2006.
2006 began with me celebrating the end of my year having treatment for Cancer with my friends in Queenstown.
Robert, Stephen, Antonio (an old friend from Polytech), a few others and myself all spent New Years in Queenstown.
On New Years Eve 2005 we watched the cricket in Queenstown, New Zealand vs Sri Lanka followed by drinks at our
camp site and then into town to watch the fireworks. I also ended up catching up with Matt and Aimee who
were in Queenstown with their other friends for New Years.
I can remember the joy of seeing 2005 end. At midnight a large illuminated sign, on the lake front,
lit up saying 2006. Finally the year of cancer treatment was over, good riddance to 2005. I can
remember in 2005 the band Green Day released a song called "Wake Me Up When September Ends",
every time I heard that song I was thinking "Wake me up when 2005 ends"
By the first week of January my hair had grown back to nearly a centimetre long most of the hair appeared to be coming back brown
but also white hair is growing through, my hair feels very soft and fluffy now. Hair over the body
appears to be growing back too.
In the middle of January I travelled to Auckland for a few days and stayed with Neroli. This was thanks to all the Air points I
accumulated from travelling to Christchurch throughout 2005 for treatment as well as some points I had previously collected.
My trip included a drive up One Tree Hill, a day at Rainbows End, a bit of shopping and drinking with Neroli and Paul.
One of my concerns with going to Rainbows End was that I may not be able to ride on certain rides due to my shoulder.
The rides that may be a problem are ones where restraints are placed over my shoulder, I tried every ride and had no
problems and this was including going on the Corkscrew Rollercoaster. I actually saw a documentary on The Discovery
Channel some weeks later stating that the restraints on rollercoasters are just there in case the rollercoaster
car stops upside-down on the loop, you never actually move from your seat when a rollercoaster spins around a loop.
The operation on my shoulder has been a concern as to whether I would ever be able to ride on theme parks rides
again, I have been to some of the bigger parks overseas such as DreamWorld in Surfers Paradise and Magic
Mountain in California and would certainly want to go on these rides again someday. Most of the rides at
Rainbows End required me to remove my hat while on the ride otherwise I would lose it somewhere during the
ride, this is no longer a problem for me as my hair has now grown to a point where you would never know I
had lost my hair, although the hair is still very soft and fluffy.
My return to work
After returning from Auckland the following day I was thinking how next week was February and I should ask about going back to work.
When I went into work at 4pm the day shift was still working and the day shift boss told me to come back when the night shift boss
arrived and maybe they could start me tonight. I was thinking tonight was a little too soon but got to thinking that there was no
reason I couldn't go back later this week sooner than originally planned I figured I was feeling healthy enough to return.
When I came back later and talked to the night shift boss she was more than happy to have me come back this week and would start
me on light duties, I explained I had major surgery and no longer had a collar bone and this may prevent me from doing certain
jobs I decided the best thing to do was see what jobs I could handle and go from there. While the recommendation from my doctor
to only return to work part time perhaps just a few hours a day I decided I would see exactly just how much I can handle and
decided I would go back full time but advised my boss I may need to cut back to part time if I find I can't handle working full time.
I finally returned to work on the 25th of January, this was a day I had been waiting a very long time for. While going back to
work may not seem like an exciting thing this was something that allowed me to get back a sense of normality in my life and
from here onwards I felt as if I had my life back. As I mentioned at the start of this diary I was told originally I
would need to take a day off work for the surgery but would most likely be fine to return to work the next day, I have
been off work for 13 months. Before work the district nurse came around and collected all of the supplies that had
been left over from my treatment and finally discharged me from my treatment, it had been over a year since my first
visit from the district nurse.
When I arrived at work I walked past a few of my old workmates and they didn't seem to recognise me. As I was heading
into our department one of the ladies I worked with spotted me and started talking to me, it seems as if everyone I
worked with during 2004 seemed to know I had been sick. As I walked into the room a few of the people in the room saw
me and I was given a big cheer from a group of people in our department. The supervisor gave me a rather simple job of
placing labels on packaging of the meat, this is a job that is normally given to new employees or those on light
duties or rehab such as myself. The job pays the same as any other job in our department. A few of the new staff
came up and introduced themselves assuming I was a 'new boy' but I had to set them straight and let them know I had
been away from work for 13 months and this is actually my third season even though I only worked one day of my second
My first month back at work went well. I managed to stay fulltime but I found I was quite tired by the end of the
week and weekends were spent recovering, of course this is due to the nature of my work. A week after returning
to work I was back on full duties. I actually found that I was getting about as worn out as I was 2 years earlier.
There have been quite a few people amazed at how I no longer have a collar bone and I am performing my duties
the same as I normally would, I was told I would never raise my arm above my shoulder yet I was doing that
every time I grab a carton out from the overhead chute to pack the meat into.
I had my first post treatment x-ray at the Southland Hospital this month. I was able to go down to the hospital
at any time it suited me and have the x-ray and it only took a few minutes to wait and once the x-ray was done
I was on my way. The x-ray was to the chest area to make sure no cancer had returned.
That's me on the 19th of February just over 3 months since I finished receiving any chemotherapy as you can
see I have hair once again and eyebrows too.
And here I am minutes later having my first post treatment haircut.
The Cancer Society ran the Relay For Life in Southland on February 25 and 26. I had the opportunity to participate in
the Survivors Walk. I would have liked to have gone in the relay with a team like I did in 2002
back when I always saw Cancer as something other people end up getting, in 2002 I took part with my
workmates from BP that I worked with at the time.
This is me at the 2006 Relay for Life held at Rugby Park in Invercargill.
My First Checkup
On the 2nd of March I had my first post treatment appointment with Dr Kate Bayston at Southland Hospital. I was
examined and my weight has now risen as high as 83kg this is a huge increase since my weight fell below 70kg
while on treatment, this is also the highest my weight has been since 2002. We had a concern about some small
lumps that have appeared on my right leg below the knee. I have been aware of these since the middle of 2005
and believe to be a result of me tripping over the coffee table one day. The lumps do not feel cancerous and
whenever you touch the lumps it is like what is underneath is hollow. I mentioned this because mum noticed
these lumps one day during the summer while I was wearing shorts and insisted I mention this at my next checkup.
Kate examined these lumps and doesn't believe it to be anything serious but a scan will be done to confirm this,
I was told if the cancer comes back in my legs I would feel the pain and I certainly didn't. Following the
appointment I had to have a blood test I am to have a blood test following each checkup, the big difference
now is that the blood test has to be taken through my veins as I no longer have the Hickman Line. After my
appointment I spent another evening at work, I still have not taken any days off yet or reduced my hours of
work as I seem to be coping fine working full time.
Following my check-up I had an Ultra Sound on my legs to make sure that the lump on my leg was not cancer.
After the specialist examined my leg through the Ultra Sound for a few minutes she was confident that there
was nothing wrong and told me then and there.
I had my very first post treatment CT scan of the chest area, I have been told if the cancer returns
the lungs are the first place it is likely to return this is why a CT scan will be done every 3 months to
check my lungs. The other place the cancer is likely to return is on either on the bones mainly on my arms or
legs and I would know by feeling pain in this area. I was concerned the cancer may have returned at the
site of the original tumour mainly because often there was pain there but this was more likely due to
the fact the area had been operated on. The scan came back clear and this put any worries at ease.
I was expecting to finish my season at the Meat Works in May but our main season ended in June and I was able to
stay on to do 8 weeks of frozen cuts.
The tenants I rented my house out to have moved out this month allowing me to finally move into my house.
I rented the house out to a family who were having a house moved onto a section and they would then fix it
up and move in once this was completed. I was originally anticipating they would leave in March but I let
them stay as long as they needed. I am pleased to finally be in my house something I had been waiting for
such a long time for. I now finally felt like I truly had my independence back.
Matt and Aimee became my very first flatmates to move into my house. Originally it was just to be Aimee and another girl who worked
with us at BP but this flatmate never moved in and since Matt was staying every night it made sense for him to just start
paying rent and living here officially. Matt didn't actually move his bed into our place until September though and then we moved
Aimee's bed into the other room creating a spare room for guests and Aimee's brother Beni when he stays.
My Second Checkup
I had my next appointment to see Kate Bayston on August 2, I was surprised I wasn't asked to have any
scans or x-rays first just the check-up. Mum came down to my house as soon as I had finished eating
my lunch to take me to the appointment. At the appointment I was able to give Kate a positive report
on how I have been doing in general with my life, returning to a job that is physically demanding
on the body and now into my own place and doing fine looking after myself and eating a hot meal
every day. Kate then examined me, I am now 80kg this is 3kg less than my last check up and I
assume that working would have contributed to this. Kate then felt around my shoulder to check
everything was fine and I noticed her hand on a spot for some time that I had been worried about.
Kate then told me she was not happy with this area, it seems there is a small lump where the
cancer once was. Dr Bayston did say it could be muscle tissue, I asked if there was a possibility
the cancer could return to this location and the answer was certainly a strong possibility. It
was decided that a CT scan would be done urgently to determine what this lump is. I did ask
whether the previous CT scan included a scan of the area where the cancer previously was,
the reason I asked this query was that fact I was feeling pain in this area prior to my
last scan so hopefully the pain is just a result of the surgery and I have nothing to worry about.
Kate did advise the previous scan included the shoulder area where the tumour previously was.
When I returned home, worried the cancer may still be present or have returned, I just sat in the
lounge of my house on the new couch I purchased when I moved in and looked around and thought how
there is no way I would want to go through the treatment again, having my life taken away from
me again and having to leave my house. I was thinking about whether I would be capable of
looking after myself and staying in my house if I was told I needed more treatment, it would
all depend on the intensity of the treatment and whether I would have to leave Invercargill
for a long period of time. I came close to ringing work and saying I am not up to coming in
tonight, the only reason I didn't was the fact tonight was our last night for the season and
I wanted to see everyone for the final time. Prior to leaving for work I was given the call
that my CT scan will take place tomorrow afternoon at 1:30pm.
The following day I was up at 10:30am which is early for me as working nightshift means I usually have to get up after
midday in order to have a decent sleep. I was told I am not allowed to eat for 4 hours before the scan and to have an
early morning tea, but since I don't even see breakfast or morning tea time I couldn't have my first bite to eat until
after the scan at 1:30pm. I was so hungry waiting for appointment. I arrived at the hospital just in time for the scan,
while undressing I looked at my shoulder and it was like I was telling it to show a good result. There was so much going
through my head like a lot more than when I had the very first CT scan before being diagnosed. I looked at my arm while
changing into the gown and noticed redness where the blood sample was taken this is the very first time this sort of
thing has happened to me when having needles so I was really starting to think I was sick. The whole time on the scanner
I was lying there hoping the result would come through clear and trying to convince myself it would. After the scan I was
told I am free to go now, to me I felt as if I may not be free once the result of this scan comes through. While changing
back into my clothes I looked at myself in the mirror wearing the hospital gown and it made me actually look like a sick
person I guess hospital clothes have a thing for doing that. I was glad to get out of there and I went home for a while
and then to see mum to pick up a computer desk and let her know how the scan went. While sitting and having a coffee
with mum it was like the only thing I could think about was what if I had cancer once again. Prior to being diagnosed
and even while doing treatment I was able to put the cancer to the back of my mind and think about other more normal
things but now this is all I could think about. Mum was saying that it just be muscle tissue considering I have been
working extremely hard these past few months and this has allowed me to build up a lot more muscle in my body. Part
of me was saying that the cancer could be back and the other part was saying that in a few days time this will just
seem like a bit of a scare.
When I arrived home I sat down with Matt and Aimee and told them the news since this was my first chance to see them
both, last night Aimee was upset about something and I didn't want to add to the situation. Aimee was just shocked
her face nearly bought me to tears when I saw it but I managed to hold it back.
Finally the following day the worrying came to an end when the results of the scan had come through.
The change in this area just appears to be scar tissue not cancer, this is a huge relief for me. I have
worked hard the past 6 months and now with this worry behind me I can now enjoy my off season and get on with my life.
Over the month I had try at getting alternative employment, I was either looking for a job for the off season or a good job
that I could do instead of the Freezing Works. I have a Diploma in Business Computing but it has been almost 5 years since
I completed this so in some ways not worth much now. I tried with Workbridge to see if they would help me find a better job,
Workbridge are an agency which help people who are disabled. I feel that cancer and surgery to have a collar bone removed
warrants assistance from Workbridge. I figured they would be able to give me a great deal of help as when my parents had
their business they actually came to my parents encouraging them to take on one of their clients and I was hoping they
would do the same, I was hoping Workbridge would go into bat for me and encourage an employer to take me on. The
assistance I received was mostly just tips on finding work and help with writing letters not really what I expected.
I guess they saw me as someone still who seems healthy enough to find employment on my own. Most employers looked the
other way at me because I am a freezing worker, the concern was I would take on employment and then quit when the
work season returns. One place even straight out said to me they don't hire freezing workers.
After not having much luck finding work for the off season or a better job to replace the freezing works I went back to
BP where I worked before I was sick. With my off season being only 3 months long this year there weren’t many employers
interested in hiring anyone for just 3 months. BP were prepared to allow me to return on a casual contract.
In mid-September I was given an unexpected appointment to see Kate Bayston and right away I was assuming this was to
discuss the results of the CT scan I had six weeks earlier and I assumed I would be told what I already knew.
I was first given the results of the blood test I had to find out why my hair was not growing that fast, the
blood test came back fine and it is just expected this is a result of all the chemo I had last year. Next
Kate told me that after the CT scan came back fine she said that she was still concerned that something
could be there and instructed that another CT scan be done in six weeks and an x-ray of the chest area to
be done in the following week. I was also told there had been a slight change on the right hand side under
my arm, I was a bit concerned about this area as from time to time I have had pain there but I believe this
could be as a result of falling over in the bath a few months earlier. After my appointment I had a blood test
and later that week an x-ray.
At the end of the month I had that next CT scan to make sure there was no change since the previous scan. Good news
is that days later the scan came back clear. There was a bit of a worry as Kate arranged us an appointment to tell us
this news and insisted we attend this appointment. I was worried Kate arranged the appointment to tell us bad news.
I started my first relationship since being diagnosed with cancer. The girl I went out with was Sheree who was 23 years old at the time
and working as a caregiver in a rest home. We had some great times together such as spending a weekend in Central Otago and also several
dates together around town, however after just two months I made a decision not to carry on the relationship.
I returned to work at the Freezing Works on the 2nd of November working for the first time on the day shift as our night shift
did not start until December, I later made decision to permanently work day shift.
Christmas was spent in Clyde at my Aunties place with my parents and Grandma.