My name is Dale and this is my cancer journey...
I was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia on the 23 December 2008. I was first told that I had either meningococcal meningitis or cancer, it was confirmed later that day I had Leukaemia.
"When I was first diagnosed, I had no idea what leukaemia was. My only thought was "I’m gunna die."
Once out of the emergency department everything was explained to me, the basic details of what Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL) was and how it affected the body. The basic ins and outs of chemo, how it was given including some of the side effects. I was told I had an 80% chance of surviving and being cured after treatment. Through the entire time even at my lowest without doubt I believed I was part of that 80% survival rate.
"Looking back, that positive attitude is what kept me going even at the worst of times."
The next two days I spent in the ICU getting pumped full of fluids and I have no idea what else. Once I was in the Brookman ward at the Women's and Children's Hospital, I had my first lot of chemo on Christmas eve. The next few days including Christmas I saw a whole bunch of people, lots of new faces doctors nurses and different specialists.
"These guys would become almost like family especially the nurses."
The hardest part about chemo for me, wasn’t feeling sick or having to go to hospital three times a week, it was not being able to do any of the things I loved. Before I was diagnosed riding my BMX was something I did everyday without fail, I’d even skip school just to ride sometimes. As well as this I water skied very often, in fact the year I was diagnosed, I was considering going back to tournament water skiing which I had stopped a few years earlier. Then I was told I couldn’t do all of this because of the risk to my health and the high chance if injury. Not being able to ride or ski was ridiculously hard. For over two and a half years I wasn’t even allowed to ski or be in the river.
"This was the first time since I was born, that I wasn’t allowed ski or be in the river, except for the few times over the years when I'd broken bones."
Once treatment was fully underway, there was a lot of things that could go wrong, and a lot of them did go wrong in my case. A very common part of my treatment was getting Lumbar punctures (LPs), unfortunately one of the LPs I had didn’t heal properly this meant that I had spinal fluid leaking and this caused my brain not have enough fluid to float in, causing me to have headaches whenever I was upright. This lasted for about 8 months, which caused me a ridiculous amount of pain and forced me to be almost bedridden.
I dropped to 36kgs from the lack of activity and the fact the chemo on top of this made me not able to keep the majority of my food down. Once the problem was found the procedure to fix it took under an hour, I was completely conscious for the whole thing. The same problem arose once again after this and was fixed the day I realised it happened. It took so long the first time to realise what had happened because it was the first case my doctors had heard of apart from another guy my age in the United States.
Throughout all of those eight months a lot of time was spent in hospital. Apart from the doctors and nurses or my parents there wasn’t too many people to talk to. Late 2009 I was just well enough to go back to school, even though this was only the last 4 weeks of year 12 for me,
"I leapt at the chance to get out of the house , even though I had become best buds with Ellen, Oprah and Dr Phil after daytime TV became a religion."
Being able to get out of the house and have other people to talk to after so long, felt amazing, even though I was still barely skin and bone. It didn’t bother me that I had to stop and have a break whilst walking to class.
"I just wanted to be there, as much as I thought school was crap before I got diagnosed I loved being there."
I finished treatment on the 15 April 2012 and yeah life has gone back to normal but after an experience like what I have been through I don’t think normal is really the right word. Its more of a new normal the normal that I’m making and trying to get used to.