Hero Michal with experience of treatment in Norway
Cancer does not hurt, many times it is not even visible, in short, it does not even have to be seen. Definitely nobody should be ashamed of it or hide at home and treat it under the covers - it will always be there and unfortunately it will get stronger. Girls lose their hair, wear wigs - they're ashamed, guys put on hats. Unpleasantly cruel and sometimes rude, but it's true. Mostly all of us patients are bald and then also stitched up, that's a hallmark that nobody and nothing will change.
Yeah, well, that's just a minority of us, thankfully. But the more important thing is that the other, larger part, just as many people as possible, know. We're doing the outreach. Explain first to everyone what it is, then to the patients - what's in store for them and what they're entitled to.
All it takes is one sentence and my life so far is VETA. You have CANCER!
That's it, maybe not even a sentence, more like two words - they often give you a headache and make people cringe, it's a big shock and #fuckcancer ensues. They have to repeat it. Yes, that's right, you have cancer - the doctors are telling the truth. Those words change everything, they close one door called plans and open up a whole new world - a hospital world, uncharted for most. It catches most people by surprise, few will admit that cancer could be actuallyaffecting them. I speak for myself, based on my own experience, where it was quite difficult to convince those around me and those closest to me that I wasn't imagining things. Cancer doesn't just affect old people - unfortunately it can come to the very young. It's the bogeyman of all, often taking our breath away. That's why it's important to create awareness and provide support for all who need it, in whatever form it takes. AFP units should, in my opinion, be measured at every blood draw and not just when suspected - when it may be too late. It's cruel and it's ugly, but it MUST be said. But most of all it must be HEARD AND SEEN. CANCER KILLS AND MANY PATIENTS DON'T EVEN KNOW THEY ARE SUFFERING IT.
Why am I writing all this down? I was 26 years old, with my whole life ahead of me, a busy career abroad, and instead of traveling and exploring, I heard the phrase, "you have cancer." Does anyone in your family suffer from it or has anyone in your family suffered from it? It started innocently and ended well, thankfully, but I celebrate two birthdays every year. One normal and the other in the summer when I was officially cured, I just light 7 candles - one for each tumor.
The story of Michal
It was the winter of 2021, a year after I moved to Tromso. I had yet to sort out my health insurance etc.. I had barely received my registration certificate from the local doctor when I tried to make an appointment for a preventive check-up. At that time I had a bad stomach sleep, but nothing else. The doctor, in my case it was little Dr. Marit, took on a suspected hydrocele, I thought, "Oh my god a hydrocele, that sounds weird." With this news, I was sent to the main hospital for an ultrasound...
The consulting room started to fill up with lots of people in white coats, they came in to have a look (after my approval and the young doctors in training) and started asking me all sorts of questions... a bit strange questions it has to be said.
First the classics, where I'm from, what I do etc., then they introduced the topic of family, wondering if I had children/wanted children and also if we had a similar problem in the family...
(They still haven't told me what they found).
I answer the questions and ask mine - so what did they find?
I get the answer - "you have a tumor on your left testicle" - I sit down on the chair and suddenly everything is different. I need time to breathe and say #fuckcancer :). The doctors are nice and helpful, they explain everything to me semi-opathically and ask me twice if I need a translator into English.
I go home with a work pass and go on sick leave, indefinitely. Wooof, I'm out of getting up at 6 every day and I can sleep as much as I want. During the week, I'm going to do laps around the hospital to test if my hearing is good, if my vision is good, etc. I'll submit a semen sample to the freezer and await the verdict.
This comes very soon and the decision is made to have the first operation. It is scheduled for just a day after the call from the hospital - they say the sooner the better, which is fine.
Well, the surgery on the chassis is not a pleasant affair, it takes me almost 14 days before I can go to the toilet in peace or get dressed without pain. (PRO tip from me - equip yourself with loose XXL size shorts for this period). In between there are other blood tests, CT scans and x-rays, and a sonogram. Then chemotherapy is ordered.
I move to the hospital - of course, the hospital in Tromsø has a special hotel for patients who don't need to be admitted to bed, so I actually start a kind of holiday, buffet for breakfast, lunch and dinner. On top of that, excellent care and service in the onco ward and I don't really notice the chemo. I'm getting a cannula in my arm that will accompany me for the next 6 months, and I'm getting a super sleeve to go with it so that it won't be visible eventually. I really use it in the beginning, but later I get used to it and don't worry about it. The first chemos are fine until I feel like nothing is happening. I was expecting my hair to fall out right away and so far nothing. (Because hair only starts to fall out gradually...). Day 15 is followed by a mini round of chemo - it totally takes me down, I am unable to move. The next morning I wake up and my head is cold - ha, so this treatment is causing my hair to fall out. I'm "finally" bald and it's cool :).
I'm gradually going through 4 months of chemo sessions and then I'm going for an MRI - well I got rid of one tumor and I only have 6 left on my lymph nodes. Even Separ PaT suffered from this I think... interesting. So I turn on Spotify and go back to my room.
All this time I am forbidden to handle a sharp knife, because the thin blood could cause the slightest trauma supposedly causing bleeding before the ambulance arrives (there is still more than a meter of snow in Tromsø, even though it is almost May). That's why my mom is taking care of me (she had to get a medical exemption, because at that time everyone was crashing Covid and it was impossible to travel anywhere...). After 4 months of treatment, the doctors determined that another surgery would have to follow and they would just take the tumors out. Apparently it's a quicker way to shorten the treatment, which is fine.
However, it's the summer holiday season and I have to go to the hospital in Trondheim, no problem in Norway - they put the patient on a plane and fly them wherever they need to go at the state's expense.
In Trondheim everything is going according to plan and the operation will be successful, so I will survive :). My stomach is cut up like crazy and I have a million tubes in my body, but I am breathing and laughing. Great. I can't stand up on my own, lift myself up, sit down, nothing. I get three assistants and a wheelchair. Eventually a walker instead of a wheelchair, then crutches, then I can go home. Flying on a plane loaded with painkillers is fine. Great service, but the wheelchair is terrible, makes you feel old. The next check shows no more cancer and I'm healthy!!!
It's been 9 months since my first office visit, where I went just to say hello to the new doctor. In the end, it is the doctor's mindfulness that is responsible for me currently writing these lines and maybe even for someone reading them.
I have learned humility and also how to truly appreciate life, to not see problems as problems, but as little things not worth stressing about. Stress is necessary for life...
The only thing that still shocks me is that at 27 I know I can't have children naturally.
So think of prevention and try to avoid everything as much as possible.
Soldiers & Heroes
"It's good to ask the patient straight out what they're going through, what's going on, rather than having an awkward silence."
"It's easy enough these days to just surround yourself with carefree fun. Living in a bubble of positivity and good feelings."
"I will be undergoing treatment for the rest of my life, but that doesn't mean I have to sit at home on my ass. I want to enjoy life, not just survive."
"These people need tremendous support, and not just from me, not just from you, but from everyone."
"Fuck Cancer for me is a clear answer to this disease, which is definitely not easy."