As those who know me know, I made a sudden life style change a while back and lost a lot of weight. But what most don’t know, is why I made the change.
It’s quite a long story, so I’ll try and make it as brief as possible. A year and a bit ago I was pretty happy with my 88kg body and carefree life. I ate what I wanted and spent all my free time with my family. I knew I was a little overweight, but not obese and I wasn’t enormously unfit. It was a pretty normal view on life I guess. What made it a real stupid way of living was the fact I had cancer. I had been living with cancer for a largest part of my life.
I was diagnosed with cancer when I was 14 years old (1999), but I had it from 10 years old. The cancer is called Mycosis Fungoides, a form of Cutaneous T Cell Lymphoma, which is a rare cancer of the immune system, which in turn attacks the skin.
I only found this out after I had just broken my arm in Grade 9 and was rushed into hospital. The Doctor noticed a lesion that had a crater like resemblance on my lower back, which freaked him out a bit. Although I had struggled with my skin from the age of 10, (which was mistaken for eczema), the tumor was a pretty recent thing and had been diagnosed as infection – so I wasn’t freaked out by it. But the Doctor was adamant that it needed to be checked out.
After they put my arm back together I was sent to a dermatologist. She took some blood, a biopsy and the cancer alarms went off, so I was sent off to another Doctor that specialises in cancer. I underwent further tests to see how bad it was. I had it all – blood tests, heart checks, organ x-rays and the worst by far, a bone marrow sample. I went into shock during this 40min excavation into by lower spine. But, thankfully all my organs and bone marrow where clear.
However, the Doctor still wanted me to undergo chemo.
In my completely ignorant 14 year old brain I was a little excited. By this time I’d grown fond of hospitals, and enjoyed having the nurses at my beck and call. My parents, as you can imagine, were distraught. They prayed and prayed and got all of the church to pray. I even went for an anointing of oil… Yet, the Sunday before my 1st week of chemo was due, the Doctor called to say he didn’t think it was necessary to put me through it, and I could go ahead with another form of treatment. Call it what you will, but we called it a divine intervention.
So I began light treatment instead. It entailed lying in a bath of a special chemicals for 20 mins and then lying under UV lights for a few more minutes. Once again, I was pretty excited about this “spa” treatment.
Years went by and my cancer worsened at first. The lesions were not fun. They started as a little bump under the skin which grew and eventually broke through creating a huge thick, crater like scab. The scab would get ripped off, either by sticking to the bandage or sticking to my clothes. The pain was excruciating and some days I stayed off from school because it was just too painful. The open crater in my skin would eventually heal, but left a nasty scar.
By matric I had had 11 of these lesions before they stopped. In addition to these lesions l would get rashes (that resemble a bad case of eczema) which would seep fluid and flake terribly. All my hair in that area would fall out. One of these were on the back of my neck, into my hairline, which to this day is still a bald spot. After 7 years of light treatment everything was under control and I had a really great tan.
We decided to stop the treatment, because I only had minor eczema. I went on with my life thinking I was cured. The “eczema” began to spread again about 2 years later, just before Cindy and I got married. We went to a new Doctor to get a second opinion and he told me that the “eczema” was actually not eczema, but part of my cancer. He sent me to the same treatment, but on a higher dose. The change was immediate. The rashes didn’t just subside, they disappeared all together. After 1 year, I had nearly no sign of the disease. All I had to do was treat the few spots with cream.
Through all of this I remained in high spirits. I was young, ignorant and didn’t really value life. Then after I got married and we had Kyla, Riya and way more responsibilities, my view on life changed. During this time I tried to increase my life cover. I tried with 2 big companies and they both refused. Apparently I was too high a risk because I had cancer. A little confused, and a bit worried, I went for a check up to find out why they thought my cancer was so serious. With my now matured mind and reason for living, the news came across a little differently.
My cancer is not cured and not OK, it in fact would never be OK, the only difference is that it was not attacking my skin anymore. Most people who get this cancer are older than 50 and can still live “normal” full lives. I on the other hand have had it since I was 10 and had much longer to live with it. Therefore I had to look after myself otherwise it could spread to my organs and I could be in serious trouble. I had heard this a few times before, but for some reason it never sunk in.
It sunk in this time. Sunk deep. deep down. What I thought was a “mild form of cancer” was actually still able to kill me.
I couldn’t carry on like I was. I needed to be around for my kids and Cindy. I needed to look after myself. If something happened I didn’t want to feel like it was my fault. This gave me the kick up the ass I needed to eat properly and start exercising. After 3 months I had lost 12kg and was in the best shape of my life. a year and a half later, I am 15kg lighter and I rarely have to put my creams on.
I know my cancer will never go away, but I’m not going to give it a chance to kill me.