Your Stories

Graham’s Story

Back in Oct 2016 I had started to present with some really strange tummy noises, I sat gurgling away that loud that I could hear it over the TV. This started to get louder and shortly after food it was starting to become mildly painful.

Off I went to the Royal Naval Sickbay to see the doctor and after a chat and no examination, I was told I was to fat and had Diverticulitis. Thinking about this and a little research I changed my diet and drank more water as briefed. A week later the mild pain started to become a little more moderate, to the point that it would stop me in my tracks. So back I went to the Sickbay and again with no tests was put on some antibiotics and told in overweight middle aged men this was a common problem. It was now approaching the end of November and the cramps, noises and pain had got to the point I took myself to A and E. As the navy had already diagnosed Diverticulitis it can up on the hospital record, and found myself again being told I was overweight and given some stronger antibiotics.

Prior to this I had been training for an Ironman triathlon and was the fittest and lightest I had been in years, not forgetting I had play high level Rugby for 30 years.

Early in December, I had now started to vomit after eating and slowed down going to the toilet. I was feeling really unwell and sort of had no place to go. I struggled through Christmas and into the New Year before I was back at the Sickbay insisting on a referral to a specialist; at this point I sat in the Sickbay and refused to leave until I have one. I thought I was going to be charged with Mutiny. But my plan worked and I was sent directly to the hospital and straight into an assessment unit. I was seen by a doctor there who then sent me to a gastro ward for observation. During the observation period I was put on a water diet and had no food passing around my bowels. So I felt a little better as I wasn’t eating and in turn not being sick. After 3 days they had told me I looked better and sent me home. Much to my surprise and several choice words to the Doctor.

The only good part to my short stay in hospital was that an appointment had been made for me to have a scan on my tummy to see if there were any signs of the diverticulitis. However this was cancelled as the doctor had thought I looked so much better. I arrived home after 3 days on just water to slowly try my first meal and was straight back to throwing up.

I insisted again and it was agree they would give me a scan, so on the last Friday of Jan 2017 I eventually had a scan for them to tell me I would get the results through my GP in six to eight weeks’ time.

So scan Friday then the following Tuesday morning I received a phone call from the same gastro doctor that had kicked me out of the ward, after the water diet saying there was nothing wrong with me. The tone of his voice was a little more worrying. He asked me to come into the hospital at 1330 this afternoon. Me being me couldn’t accept that as it was only 0830 in the morning. At this time he told me I had a blockage in the bowel and they think I have Cancer.

I arrived at the Hospital nice and early to see Mr Murphy the lead Gastro consultant. He went through the scan and the plan was that I needed an emergency surgery and I had that on the Friday in the same week. I had a Subtotal Colostomy losing most of my large Bowel. The surgery was tough but the tumour had been removed along with 62 lymph nodes from the cancer area. 12 of the nodes had makers with cancer so we know it had started to spread and was also in the blood. Late diagnoses had put me in the game at Stage 3 Bowel cancer. Recovery went well and I was discharged after 6 days to finish my recovery at home. 8 weeks later I had to go and meet my oncologist for the first time as I had to have 8 rounds of Mop up Chemotherapy to attack anything that was left. Ann O’Callaghan my oncologist was the first person I had sat down with and explained my whole case. She made time for me and my normal 20 questions and after the first meeting we had a recovery plan worked out and a process to follow.

I attended my first chemo appointment and although worried about it I was meet by the staff at QA oncology unit with so much passion they made the first time so easy. The chemo went well, I lost the feeling in my toes and fingers, I developed a DVT in my Leg and was sick alot, other than that the eight rounds flew by over a period of around 5 months. During this period Alison and I had decided to get married as we were not sure on my outcome.  I was then scanned in the September and all was well and we were happy that I was clear from Cancer by Christmas. We booked a late honeymoon to Hong Kong for the Chinese New Year in the middle of Feb 2018. Prior to flying out I had a one year after surgery scan at the end of Jan 18 . Four days into our honeymoon the hospital called to say we have found a mark on your liver an can you come in tomorrow. “No” was my answer as we were away enjoying our honeymoon.

On our return at the end of Feb 18 I was soon in with Ann O’Callaghan who had already made an arrangement for me to be seen by Mr Rees at Basingstoke hospital. He is a liver specialist and a very good one too.

He agreed to remove section 7 of my liver and hopefully rid me of this horrible illness. I underwent major liver surgery in April 18 for Mr Rees to just open and close  me up without any removal of the liver. Mr Rees was sat on my bed holding my hand when I woke from the op, he told me that this was the saddest part of his job. The Cancer had spread from my Bowel and into the peritoneum wall, starting on my left side and growing behind my lower lung through the middle and in and around the liver, moving all the way down to my right hip. I was riddled with it. This is the point that I was told there was nothing that could be done for me and I had now become Stage 4 terminal.

The Liver op took me a long time to recover from as I had muscles cut and been pulled apart on the inside. So where do we go from here….

Back to see Ann O’Callaghan who talked me into trying more chemo and a new Immune treatment to try and slow down the spread and give me a little longer. This time around the side effects from the chemo really got to me. Fatigue, sickness, mood change, was the harsh parts but I was also unable to think clearly or make decisions. Things were not the best with me; I stuck at it for I think 9 rounds of Chemo and then asked to come of it at my own request. I was feeling to unwell to keep pushing on although I had decided to stay on the Immune treatment as the side effects were not mentally as draining but had more physical activity. My view was for quality of life over quantity. My nails on my hands and feet were infected and I grow spots on spots with weeping heads , but in my view I could live with spots and sore nails. Having spoken to Ann about stopping Chemo she was so supportive but she had one last thing to try. She asked if I would go back to Basingstoke to see Mr Davel, he is a peritoneum cancer specialist and had been part of a team conducting a new treatment call Cytreduction and hipec surgery, and we should knock on the door to see what might happen. I went up to see him prior to Christmas 2018. I also had a large hernia that needed fixing from my first bowel surgery. Mr Davel was an abrupt type of fella, told me the normal you are too fat line but agreed that he would have a look inside to see how far I had spread and to see how long I would go on for. He called a few days after the appointment and told me he would like to fix the hernia and while I was open he may decide to do a larger op to clear some of the cancer if that was possible. So in I went in the middle of Jan 2019 and underwent the biggest op to-date, 12 hours in theatre. Opened right up, all my organs were moved mainly to the outside of my body, leaving the peritoneal nearly empty. This is when the miracle happened, all of the cancer that I had been riddled with had gone, like all gone, no signs of it apart from some burnt areas where the chemo and immune treatment had worked. I was then washed out with hot chemo and my organs replaced back into the inside of the body and stapled up. So I am now awaiting to see Ann O’Callaghan to see what happens next, but it looks like I am in full remission. There are far too many people to thank for my journey however nobody ever gave up on me, and the treatment I received once in the system has been nothing less than fantastic.

So being laid up for a long period of time, out of the blue I received a phone call from Aaron Beesley. He is the founder of Rugby against Cancer (RAC) and after a good chat and listening to Aarons vision I was completely taken in and more than happy to be on board. To kick us for with a fundraiser I agreed to play a RAC side with my own Invitation 15. The rugby family came together and on the 4 Aug 18 we had over 50 Player taking to the field to play our first game and raise money for charities fighting against Cancer. On the first game we raised over 8K and had around 500 people around the side of the pitch.

So RAC has helped me to focus on a project when I was down and not feeling well. It also embraces the rugby family at every rugby club throughout the UK. Everyone is talking about it and everyone one wants to play a part in it, either on the pitch or off it.

The mail box is filling up most days and Aaron and the team are working hard to continue to help raise money.