A bit about me
Hi, my name is Cole Narup. Two years ago, I was diagnosed with nasopharyngeal carcinoma that spread to my lymph nodes and skeleton. So it’s a stage four type of cancer.
My first reaction
When the doctor first told me, I couldn’t hear anything the doctor was saying. And then I started pacing the room. I didn’t know what to do next. It was such foreign news because I was 20 at the time. It was such out-of-place news that I couldn’t take it in. I never thought it would happen to me. At the time, I was training almost every day, eating well and was very healthy. So it was quite a shock.
Symptoms and diagnosis
Six months before my diagnosis, I started to notice some symptoms. The first symptom I noticed was that I had a painful little bump on the left side of my neck. I went to the doctors, and they thought it was just an aftereffect of strep throat. Two months passed, and I started to get very peculiar headaches every day in August. And my vision went out of focus a bit. I started eating ibuprofen tablets every day for my headaches.
Over this time, the lump on the side of my throat had also begun to grow. So I went back to the doctors again. They took some cells with a syringe to test. They didn’t find anything in my neck. In October, I noticed a lump on the right side of my neck, and my headaches did not subside. So I went to the emergency room, and they immediately scheduled me for a doctor’s appointment with an ear, nose and throat specialist. They did an ultrasound on me and scheduled a biopsy in the same meeting.
After the biopsy, we found out that it was some form of cancer. And upon further inspections on my MRI and CT scans, they could see a tumour behind my nose. He took a sample of the tumour. A few weeks later, the PET scan found another tumour in my spine.
All the negative thoughts
Everything was happening so fast, so I didn’t have time to dwell on negative thoughts. I shut down mentally and just did what I had to do. But I didn’t think I had cancer at the time or how severe it was. I didn’t have any time to process any of my thoughts.
Type of NPC
It was in the back of my nose at the top of your throat. It’s very uncommon here. The doctors thought that it was because I used to live in China. It’s pretty much a more common type of cancer. People are exposed to the circumstances needed for that type of cancer to grow. I think it has something to do with the Epstein Barr virus. My doctors told me there is a strong correlation between my cancer and this virus. It’s infrequent that the virus leads to cancer.
Treatments underwent and side effects
First, I had one round of chemo. Doctors had attached a chemo pump to my stomach with a bag. I got constant chemotherapy for six days. After this, I went home to rest. They detached it. Two weeks later, I had to do my second round of the same process.
The most troubling side effect was nausea. It was hard to eat. I didn’t lose my hair. The side effects are mainly like the change in taste, even the water or anything you eat. After my two rounds of chemo, I had chemo and radiation for six weeks in February.
My support system
My family lives in the US. But my mom came back to Sweden to help me with everything. My dad also came and stayed over Christmas but had to return to work. He was able to stay afterwards and helped my mom and me, which was very nice. So I had a perfect support system.
What kept me motivated
I stayed in bed most of the time because my radiation therapy was taxing my body. I just thought every day, once I have the energy and strength to go outside again, then I will start playing golf, running and lifting weights. Nothing can hold me back. What kept me going was looking forward to something after my treatment.
At one point, I wasn’t thinking about my situation positively. But I can say that having gone through and knowing that I still have cancer in my body helps me put a different perspective on life. It helps me kind of filter out the unnecessary focus on what I think is critical instead of what other people might think is important for me. And I’ve gained more self-confidence by going through something challenging in my life. So that was kind of like a mental checkpoint of some sort.
Message to other cancer patients
I would suggest that they should try to maintain normality. I found that having normalcy in my life kept me going, like surrounding myself with friends and family. If you have a hobby or something you love to do in your spare time, then keep that up. So having something to think about all the time is very helpful in getting through hard times.
I have stage four cancer, so it’s still hiding in my body, the lymphatic system and my skeleton. But my body seems to be able to work. I’m still gaining weight, and I feel strong and energised. I have started to go back into track and field. So I’m using my sport and my diagnosis to kind of fuel other people as well who might be in the same position that I was.
3 Life lessons that I’ve learnt
Number one, maybe everything is not as necessary as you think. Once you’re faced with hard times, you find out what is important to you. The second one is that you are a lot stronger than you think. My treatments took a toll on me. But my body was able to bounce back from that. And number three, spend more time with the people that you love. Those are the ones that care about you.