I was first diagnosed with glioblastoma in 1990 and was told there was no cure, and I had to get my affairs in order. At that point, I was desperate to find someone willing to operate on the tumour in my brain. I was going around contacting neurosurgeons, and the seventh neurosurgeon operated on the tumour and found out that I did on have glioblastoma but anaplastic oligodendroglioma.
Although this type of cancer spreads slower than glioblastoma, it is still malignant, and statistics showed that the survival rate of this type of brain cancer was a maximum of five years. I have been cancer-free for thirty-two years now, and it has changed me a lot. I have learnt not to stress or get anxious about anything and have realised that the diagnosis was a blessing that helped me have a new outlook on life.
Symptoms that I had before diagnosis
Seven to eight months before the diagnosis, I used to have different minor symptoms that I later came to know were called petit mal seizures. I used to lose the ability to speak in the middle of the conversation; I used to hear sounds that were not there, and all these made me believe that I was going insane. Following these petit seizures, I had a grand mal seizure when I was at a football game which made me realise that something was wrong with my brain and led me to get the diagnosis.
Treatments that I underwent to treat the cancer
When I was diagnosed with anaplastic oligodendroglioma, the doctor suggested surgery, and I went through with it. There was a tumour that was the size of an orange removed from my brain, and I had to go through eight cycles of chemotherapy as a part of the protocol.
The chemotherapy was a combination of three drugs, and I had to take it intravenously and orally. Although each cycle had three weeks between them, they made me really nauseous and sick. That was my first experience with chemotherapy, and it was during the early 90s.
The second encounter with brain cancer
I experienced a relapse in 2012, and for the whole of 2013, I had to go through chemotherapy again. As a part of the treatment, I also had to have thirty rounds of radiation therapy. During that time, the hospital I was currently taking medicine from refused to provide radiation because they believed my body couldn’t handle it. I had to transfer to another cancer speciality hospital who were ready to give the radiation therapy, and I think that they saved me from death.
The radiation oncologist told me that this treatment would only give me two or three more years, but I am still here eight years later. My faith has been a massive part of me getting through brain cancer, and the whole journey has strengthened my faith and made me believe in this life more.
Homoeopathic treatment in improving my general health
I had suffered from bronchitis since childhood, and in 2007 I visited a Homoeopathic doctor since I did not want my respiratory issues to be the reason for my cancer relapsing. Until then, I had bronchitis at least once yearly, which reduced drastically after taking homoeopathic treatment. I haven’t had any other supplementary treatment other than this, but I could tell that not being constantly affected by respiratory issues greatly improved my general health.
Lifestyle changes that I made with cancer treatment
The first practice I started when I was diagnosed with cancer was avoiding red meat and alcohol. It has been eighteen years since I stopped eating red meat, and I hadn’t consumed alcohol for twenty-six years. I had also been a smoker before the diagnosis and ultimately stopped it. I have only just started drinking beer again.
My mental and emotional well-being during the process of treatment
Faith has played a huge role in my treatment and journey. After surviving brain cancer the first time, I became a reverend in a church. When the cancer relapsed, and I went through the process for the second time, I realised that it was a calling, and I started a ministry in the church where I counsel and guide people who have been through the same journey.
I am a Christian, and this journey with cancer made me realise how much I had moved away from God and spirituality in my life and cancer; I believe cancer has been a blessing that showed me the way.
The power of building each other up
Even today, I work with many people, and I come across many angry atheists who wonder why this has happened to them. It has been a blessing for me to introduce faith back into their lives and watch them break the barriers in their lives. I believe that in America, Hollywood and the portrayal of characters have convinced men that asking for help makes you weak.
That couldn’t be further from the truth. Humans are made to live in a community, and we flourish and build each other up when we share the knowledge and gifts we have with one another. It has been a great experience for me to build this community and help lift people who are going through similar experiences.
Lessons that this journey has taught me
The main things that this cancer journey has taught me would be the power of faith, the critical role that the community plays in your well-being and most importantly, the importance of taking care of yourself. When it comes to taking care of yourself, people do not focus on all the aspects of their well-being. The physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being all go hand in hand, and we generally tend to leave out one or the other, and it is vital that you pay attention to all these aspects.
The one thing that I tell everyone I come across is not to lose their sense of humor. All the people I have worked with are always anxious and stressed about how their life will turn out, and it is essential for you and your family to have faith and stay optimistic.