I live with my wife Faye in a lovely country town in West Gippsland called Longwarry. We are very lucky in the fact that we have a couple of acres and can grow our own veggies, grow our own fruit and have room for our fourteen chickens, oh yeah and the dog, Jack.
I first found out I had lary cancer in 2012. When the doctor first told me I felt like I had my legs cut off at the knees, it was a shock that we all go through. I started a seven-week course of chemo and radiation at the old Peter Mac in Melbourne in late April (if my memory serves me correctly) and did it very rough with severely bouts of pneumonia, along with losing 27kg of weight due to a bug I picked up.
It took me 11 months to get back on my feet but I never fully regained the strength I had prior to the treatment. I went back to work part time for 12 months but could not get back into the swing of it so I decided to start a small mowing business round and work the hours to suit me. My first job was at my mums house, a small back lawn in the south eastern suburbs when I noticed that I was running out of breath just pushing a small lawn mower, I was a bit concerned but I knew I had an appointment with my oncologist to receive my results of a CT scan (one of many).
The results weren’t what I wanted to hear. In 2014, the cancer had returned and this time it was a total laryngectomy. I had never heard of a laryngectomy or knew what it was, like most of us and when my surgeon sat me down and told me he was about to give me a Columbian neck tie, cut me ear to ear which absolutely thrilled me, NOT. The operation was booked in for the Friday the 13th of June, lucky I’m not superstitious, but I should have been. After 9 hours of surgery I was rolled out of the operating theatre to the recovery room. As I begun to come too, the nurse ask if I needed any painkillers and I said yes. After the painkillers were administered I felt something was not right and I started to swell around the face. It turned out I had an internal bleeder, and my whole head was swollen to a point where I thought it was about to explode.
I was rushed to Monash Clayton were I went for emergence surgery. Four hours later I was out and resting on the ward thanks to a great team of surgeons from Monash Moorabbin. Three weeks later after learning how to speak and clean my stoma, and all the other bits and pieces you have to know how to do, I went home to a very happy wife and dog.
All was going along well for about three weeks when one day I felt a bit strange around the neck area and ad-vised my wife to ring an ambulance. I was taken to the West Gippsland Hospital, who unfortunately knew very little if nothing about larys. Back in the ambulance and off to Monash Moorabbin where I found out I had an infection due to a fisher that had formed in my neck (a fisher is a small river, like a path way from my mouth to my neck). I ended up with a hole in my neck the size of a cricket ball and was being treated with antibiotics and a clean out twice a day of the gauze packing the hole up.
A new surgeon had arrived from the UK and stuck his head in the door for a look see and decided to whip me down to surgery for a good full on clean out, The story goes that whilst going under the anaesthetic, I coughed and my Jugular blew apart. What started as a twenty minute clean out turned into another four hours on the operating table. My wife Faye was waiting outside the theatre and was worried sick due to being told it would only take twenty minutes and it was four hours later when she was told by my doctor what had happened, it was also explained to her that I may have no speech or worse no idea who she was or that I may have had a stroke.
I woke up the next day in Dandenong ICU never the wiser and looked up at my wife, she asked me if I knew her, I asked her what drugs she was on and can I get some.
Once things had settled down, I was, you guessed it, back in surgery with two plastic surgeons and two head and neck surgeons (they were there just in case I went and stuffed up again). The plastic surgeons took a part of my left peck muscle and stuck in the hole in my neck to support the Jugular and a large piece of skin from my thigh for a skin graft. Seven weeks have gone by and finally going home again to several weeks of home care from the district nurses for bandage changes and removal of the countless stiches and staples and sitting on my bum bored stupid.
After my recovery I got back into my daily life around the property, in the veggie garden and back to building my model trains, doing the three week then six weeks so on and so on check ups. On one of my check ups my surgeon found a small legion on my trachea. He called in my oncologist for a look-see and both were sure it had to be re-moved. A quick stop at Casey hospital and a little surgery and all gone, or was it. Two weeks later it was back, yes cancer in the trachea.
Seven more weeks of radiation, five days a week and chemo one day a week for the whole seven weeks. I have made a full recovery from all my cancers but it has taken eight and a half years but with Head and Neck Cancer like ours you never finish fighting.
In between the three bouts of cancer I have also had both of my hips replaced, and both of my elbows rebuilt. My wife and I were on the team that got funding for larys in Victoria and are active members of the Larykins.
We have just recently started to produce facemasks which cover your nose, mouth and your stoma all in one and seatbelt sleeves with a warning that the person in this car seat is a Neck Breather.