My name’s Chris. I’m married to a lovely lady and have an awesome daughter. I am a survivor of childhood cancer. In April ’09, I stopped working due to medical illness. Short version: I was diagnosed with cancer at age 7, and have since had radiation, chemotherapy and spinal surgeries. Although I am now cancer free, I am dealing with daily health complications and what feels like an older-than-should-be body. I began this blog initially to express the anger, sadness, and frustration I felt growing up as a “patient”, but never spoke about. For the dirty details, click below:
7-9 years old: After a series of unsuccessful diagnoses and treatments, I am diagnosed with cancer. Though technically brain cancer, the tumor is located on my spinal cord. Major surgery #1. Doctors remove 90% of the tumor from my spine. The remaining ten percent of the tumor is treated with general radiation of the torso area as well as weekly rounds of chemotherapy. I must relearn to walk. I begin supplementing my food intake by using a feeding tube.
10-13 years old: My back slowly, but surely, becomes more and more curved (kyphosis). The combination of radiation and chemo does enough nerve and muscle damage as to weaken the support of my spine. Gravity essentially pulls my spine down over time.
13 years old: Major surgery #2. Doctors perform a spinal fusion in an attempt to straighten my back. The surgery involves strapping titanium rods to my spine. On a positive note: the surgeons confirm that I am officially in remission. No signs of cancer.
14 years old: About a year after the spinal fusion , it is found that the titanium rods have become infected. Major surgery #3. The rods and all other metal hardware is removed from my body. Since the rods were not in long enough, some vertebrae do not fuse. This causes another gradual curvature. Kyphosis, all over again.
21 years old: After a few years without any major issues, I begin to notice a slight decrease in appetite followed by more and more instances of nausea and vomiting. I lose weight slowly.
22-26: Weight continues to decline. It becomes difficult to consume enough calories to maintain my weight and not throw up. I try a combination of medications meant to stimulate digestion to no effect. I try anti-nausea meds but they only end up making me sleep. After continued weight loss and increased nausea and vomiting, I am diagnosed with gastroparesis, which is a fancy way of saying “your stomach is kind of paralyzed”. I finally find some nausea relief in cannabis.
27 years old: I notice cannabis really has a positive effect on my stomach. It reduces or eliminates nausea and usually stimulates appetite. Unfortunately, however, it does nothing to speed up my digestion. With a consistent supply of the herb, I am able to maintain weight. Unfortunately, I am not able to gain weight and remain 40 pounds underweight.
29 years old: I decide to take a leave of absence from work to focus on health. I notice a very pronounced increase in my upper back pain. The main difference is that the pain is CONSTANT and more severe than it has been in the past. This pain is what brings me to this site. This constant pain is the final straw. This made me unable to deny and unable to be proud enough to ignore my situation. New diagnosis: Osteoporosis. And that’s where I am so far.
By the way, the leading theory for why I have all these silly diagnoses is that back when I got radiation and chemotherapy (1987-1988), those 2 therapies destroyed a lot of tissue. Sure, they knocked out the cancer, but also many, many other healthy cells that simply stood in the way.
I found your site through your sisters post on csn. I do am a cancer survivor and have a blog I started a couple years ago! I know what it is like to have a body that feels MUCH older then it should! If you get a chance check it out! http://www.ialwayswantedtoshavemyhead.blogspot.com/
Thank you for the comment – I’ll definitely be checking out your blog. Be well!
My sister was diagnosed with a grade III oligodendroglioma back in 1993. She was only four months old. For the next two years she had a VP shunt placement, three tumor resections, 10 surgeries, and 5200 centigrays of radition. Contrary to what many doctors thought, she ended up surviving her cancer and has been tumor-free for over 10 years.
I created a blog to help many other brain tumor patients get through it. Visit it here: http://getthroughittogether.weebly.com/
Tumor-free for 10 years, how awesome! Your blog is both incredibly loving and procactive – a great combo. Keep it up! Best wishes to you, your tough sis, and family. And thanks for visiting.
Cancer does suck and so does medical problems in general. But you are wonderful, I pray that you will have healing, comfort and in general peace and hope. You are aweseome
Thank you so much for the kind words, and for reading. Peace to you and yours. Take care.