Relapsing to Amputation

Hi my name is Elijah and I was diagnosed with bone cancer on the 22/01/2016.

Like most cancer patients I never thought I would be in such a position. But here I was, 25 and facing one of the biggest challenges in my life.

I started chemo on the 01/02/2016, which also happened to be the day I came into this world 26 years ago.

I was admitted into The Princess Alexandria Hospital in Brisbane, had my port-a-cath inserted and 19 hours later of fasting I eventually started my first chemo round. What a way to start another year being older.

Chemo was pretty good to start off with. No major complications at first, but I was ready for whatever came along.

I had 6 rounds of chemo in total including the surgery to have the tumour removed from my right leg. Countless scans, enduring long periods of time in the waiting rooms and checkups with doctors lead to a year of exhaustion by the time I was actually finished with the chemo.

My chemo regime consisted of 3 different types of drugs. Cisplatin, Doxorubicin and Methotrexate. The first two were tolerable but as for the Methotrexate, I found myself hospitalised for 2 week given the severe reaction I had. Lips black and red from dry blood, the lining in my mouth ripping apart and just a pain all over, left me drained.
I only had the Methotrexate once, but it was enough for the doctors to remove it from my chemo regime.

During the whole time of chemotherapy I tried hard to remain positive. I like to think that I was a pretty happy kid growing up so staying positive wasn’t too hard. I set early on in my mind that given my condition with the cancer/chemo/surgery then amputation I faired pretty much better then some. As a result I felt this obligation to never become angry or bitter towards my condition as there were some who were in a worser situation then me.

My surgery came up on the 21/07/2016 where I had the tumour removed. It was a successful operation but it left me with one major side defect. The surgeons had to cut through my peroneal nerve that inadvertently left me with a drop foot. I lost movement in my foot which meant that I would require the use of an AFO (Assisted Foot Orthosis) to complete everyday task such as driving, walking and even returning back to work. The AFO was a life saviour for me. But I did have some animosity towards it. For a short while because the AFO was bigger then my actual foot size, finding shoes that fit my foot along with the AFO proved difficult at times. But if it meant that the AFO was helping me to walk I couldn’t stay frustrated at such a petty problem for too long.

Everything was fine soon after I finished up with the chemo in early October of 2016. I returned home and tried to adjust to a life post-cancer to the best of my ability. It was a struggle at times though. I was constantly haunted by the memories of being sick from the chemo. I let those memories dictate my living for a short while. I tried to pretend that I was ok. That I wasn’t hurting inside. But it would get to me some days. Affecting me at work and home, there were moments I would just zone out. As much as I tried to hide the hurt, my actions or face would show and friends and family would ask me if I was ok.

The biggest regret that I’ve realised about that part of my post-cancer life that I never talked to anyone or got help. Like most males, I was hesitant to talk about my feelings.
2017 came along and I was flying down to Brisbane for my check ups every 3 months. Everything was good, with each check up coming back all clear. That was until July of 2017 where I had a check up one late afternoon at the PA hospital. Due to the scan being so late in the afternoon, I was told by the doctors that they would call me once they got the results back from the scan. It wasn’t until the following week, on a Friday afternoon that I received the call most patients in remission hate to hear.

I had relapsed with not one but two tumours occurring back in my leg. It felt as if a sink hole happened right under me and I went with the ground. All I kept thinking was how much I didn’t wanna go through the chemo again and how much I got sick from the side effects. The memories that haunted me earlier on in the year came back and I was hurting again.

Just when I thought I got through everything that could happen bad in my life, I was faced with the cancer again. Sometimes I think I hurt myself this time. I wasn’t open to the idea that the cancer could come back, and because I deprived myself of that reality it hurt mr more when I found out I had relapsed.

In August of 2017 I was informed by my doctor that I was going to have my leg amputated. That news didn’t effect me as much compared to being told I had relapsed. I had spent majority of 2016 thinking about the possible idea of my leg being amputated, and if it did, would I be OK. I accepted it early on in my chemo days that if it turned out to be the case, I was OK with it. Once my doctor told me why, that the tumours had come back and found a home amongst the nerves in my leg, amputation seemed the most logical way to go. The statement “better to loose a limb then a life” soon became the driving force behind my courage to go forward with the operation and move on with living life.

On the 19/10/2017 I had the operation. Once again it was another huge success. 4 hours later I woke up, in and out of a daze from the anaesthesia and heavy pain relief. Surrounded by family, I was so happy inside that I made it through the surgery.

For 2 weeks I was in the PA hospital recovering. I underwent physiotherapy and progressed a fast rate. On the 02/11/2017 I came back home to Mackay and spent a further 2 weeks in hospital. I opted to do rehab back at home as I missed my family and friends so much when I was in Brisbane for the most part of 2016, that if I was able to go home and do rehab I would do it.

Now its 2018 and I’m in a good place. I’ve gotten the approval for funding of my interim prosthetic leg and I couldn’t be more happier.

It sounds almost cliche but going through chemo and the ups and downs of cancer has helped me be a stronger human. I got through the hard stages in the game of cancer/chemo that I know I can get through anything now. Amputation almost seems like a walk in the park. Granted it does have its down days, like I wish sometimes I could just get up and do things on my own, to get into the car and simply drive somewhere to even just walk again. But its not all over, with the prosthetic leg coming, those things I miss right now are going to happen again sooner then I anticipated.

All of this wouldn’t have been possible without the love and support of family and friends which I had a lot of. All the love and support left me with no room to be upset about going through cancer and now living life as an amputee.

The one thing I’ve learnt from going through cancer/chemo/amputation is to have an open mind about what life throws at us, that finding the silver lining in the trials we face will help us get through the obstacles. It’s one of those “easier said then done” scenarios, but if we take what we have in life and find the positivity in it, we can get through the hardships. Taking each day as they come all the while making small goals to get to the bigger goal of living life again a normal as possible is a sure way to help heal mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually.

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