My name is Thomas and this is my cancer journey...
It all started on a typical day in March 2012 and I was on a Year 9 school camp and my leg was hurting a lot but I just thought I had just pulled a muscle as we were doing heaps of activities.
Once I got home, I continued to get sicker and so I put it down to gastro. Even though I was feeling terrible I went on a family trip to Greenhills Adventure Park. I wasn’t getting better, and one of the staff had noticed and made sure I hadn't had any of the food.
So we went to Noarlunga Hospital, and things certainly changed from there. They sent my blood in a taxi to Flinders Medical Centre before being diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) and I was transferred at 10.00 pm to Women's and Children's Hospital by ambulance.
"It was like ‘you’ve got Leukaemia, get in the ambulance and off you go."
This was weird because this all happened on April Fool's day, it wasn’t a joke but I was hoping it would be. When diagnosed, it took me a while to realise what was going on. I felt like I had a big journey in front of me and I didn’t really know how to respond. I was in hospital for two weeks, and during this time I got sick and tired of just laying there, but you sort of get used to it.
The doctors said that I had Leukaemia for about a month and that I was lucky that I got some more severe symptoms so that I was diagnosed. I had four different stages of hard chemo, each going for around 6 to 8 weeks. These got delayed quite often because I got temporary type 1 diabetes and I only have one kidney (not related to cancer).
I was the very first person in South Australia to have the treatment known as 'Study 9' and I was the first person to be in the new Michael Rice Clinic.
I had to stay over in the ward a lot so that chemo could be flushed out over longer periods of time. The first bit of treatment was the toughest as I wasn’t long out of hospital and lost 13kg in a week. I had to have a nasal tube so that I could put on some weight, which did not help whatsoever.
"It got blocked and they had to take it out and I didn’t want it back in because I could always feel it in the back of my throat."
To prevent it being put back in, I had to eat a lot to keep my weight up, which happened to be Mother's Day so I ate everything that was edible, barely. Actually throughout treatment I had about four different diets, it constantly changed so that I could put on weight and monitor things like high cholesterol and diabetes (caused by chemotherapy).
"The diets were the typical low fat diet, then the full fat diet, high fat diet and the toughest diet was the no fat diet."
Losing my hair was as annoying as there was hair continuously magically appearing on my pillow , it was hard at the end as I was literally clinging to a couple of strands. my face being swollen was a bit harder as people could see an obvious physical change.
When I was staying in hospital, walking from point A to point B, seems simple but when I went to walk I realised that I couldn’t really as my muscles had completely wasted away so then I had to ride in a wheelchair for long distances. I went to see Morgan (an exercise physiologist) which has helped me a lot with the muscle wastage. I am 15 and he said that my body was like a 70 year old without the wrinkles. It's so much better now but I still need to work on it as I have a way to go.
I didn’t get to see friends much and school work was a bit out of the picture, it was about getting well and getting through this. Before being diagnosed I did one term of year 9. By term 3 I started going back to school two days a week, I didn't do much school work but it was good to see everyone and catch up with what was going on. I managed to wobble up on stage for my year 9 graduation which was good. I had a very supportive school, luckily I did well in the first term of school.
"I have been able to go to the Senior school and continue to be at school with my mates. Also, family and friends do definitely help with coping difficult times."
I am on maintenance treatment now (that will finish in 2014) which is better as I am only on tablets now, I still have to have lumber punctures every 6 to 8 weeks. I have something to look forward to as I am going to Hamilton Island for my ‘wish'. I have learned to expect the unexpected as it never seemed to go to plan.
I am mentally stronger now and feel like I can handle anything for example, immortality. I believe that the worst is behind me and I can get back to what I was doing before. I have had to be patient, it was a long tough time but rewarding when you get through it all.