After all of the tests were done, my parents and I were sent directly to the cancer specialist heading the department in Victoria at the time. The cancer clinic, at this point, was in the Royal Jubilee Hospital. It’s limitations consisted of the one doctors office, dark professional; no window. A small, panel-wall room, separated from the hall by three partitions, decorated with four deluxe aluminium chairs with plastic seat coverings for the waiting room; no window. The whole body of the Victoria Cancer clinic culminated within all of one measly hallway, or portion of hallway to do treatment in; with a window.
As uninspiring as the setting was, the specialist seemed confident and well informed; he gave us all the facts that we could think of to ask about. He consulted with us about what he knew of the type of cancer I had been diagnosed with, according to his statistics.
Sitting there in this cold little dark room, sitting on orange pseudo leather seats, across from a paltry little desk from an educated man who knew enough about cancer to be head of the whole department, telling us that he really knew very little, trying to inspire us to keep our hopes high with facts about the advancements that were being made every day.
He informed us that due to the advanced stage of my lymphosarcoma, I would be considered to have about a two- percent chance of living through this, that is, according to the previous case histories and fact and figures of what they had seen previously. He was adamant that we look past the statistics, that they were only numbers that would mean nothing if I was in the 2 percent portion that lived through this. The percentages meant nothing, yet it was just those percentages that kept pounding in my head.
He informed us that there were no standard recommendation of any form of chemotherapy at this point; still they did have the cobalt that might help buy time, something I was in short supply of. From there he went on to explain what we could expect from the cobalt treatments. I would lose my voice and teeth permanently, (permanently being a relative term), as well as my hair, possibly only temporarily. He may have told us more, something about sick to my stomach, I had zoned out by this time. My face pale, my skin clammy, I didn’t like what he was saying, which to any normal pubescence teenager transferred to; ‘I most certainly didn’t like him’.
So according to his facts, I had about a miniscule chance of making it to my next birthday, and really only about 1 to 3 months longer to live, of course this could be extended somewhat with the cobalt treatment. Treatment as I said earlier didn’t look too appealing to a sixteen-year-old. I could live with wigs; I might even be able to put up with false teeth but permanent loss of my vocal cords! This of course was the clincher, not being able to talk, not being able to tell anyone how things should be done! This was a personal attack on who I was! At least that is how I saw it at the time.
1977, this was back in the early stages of radiation, where the only form of radiation available was ‘cobalt’: dinosaur technology, radiating whole areas at a time. What they, have today and had, within a year of my diagnosis, was explained to me as radiation so defined, that they could pin point it to the exact spot where they wanted it. But for me, there was this wide ray of cobalt they wanted to zap me with, to make my life last a little bit longer. I looked at the options I was being given, and thought ‘what life?” And said ‘Thank-You but, no”.
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