Hey look it's my turn. Yikes.

January 23 2014

Hey everybody!

I don't really have any advice for you (I can almost hear a thousand sighs of relief) so I'll share a story instead.

When I was 26, I was diagnosed with Stage 4 Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and it was bad. Tumours everywhere – seriously everywhere. I was admitted to University College Hospital in London for which I am forever grateful. The medical staff were all amazing and knowledgeable and kind and thoughtful. If you ever get a blood disease, I would totally recommend UCH. I'd rate it on Tripadvisor but there's no section for near death experiences.

But long story short(ish) – chemo started immediately which started to shrink my tumours including the one in my heart. Which was now hanging on by a thread. To minimise the risk of it detaching, my cardiologist (who had the most beautiful eyes I have ever seen) decided that heart surgery was the answer. Not exactly the news I was hoping for but if you have to hear that your chest is going to be sliced open, you might as well hear it from a man with inch long eyelashes.

But I digress. So, in the surgery, something went wrong and they couldn't put me on bypass. My surgeon was a bit of a maverick who wasn’t going to be stopped by something as silly as the circulation of oxygen (?!?!) so he decided it would be a great idea to stop my heart, pack my head with ice to preserve my brain cells and take the tumour out as quickly as possible.

Which meant that I WAS DEAD. For around 45 minutes. Now, I know you're all wondering if I saw a light ... but to be honest, I don't remember. It was dark. I was heavily sedated. But I don't think that River Phoenix was there to greet me with a tequila slammer and a basket of kittens. What? You have your version of heaven and I have mine.

Kind of anti-climatic ending to that story isn't it? (you only get 600 words on here, kids) But the upshot is, the surgery & 6 months of chemo & a stem cell transplant worked! I've recovered (11 years clear this year) and I've learned...

1) I‘m so lucky to live in a country where I didn’t have to pay for excellent & comprehensive health care. If I had had to pay for even a fraction of what my treatment cost, I would be destitute. So thanks NHS - and leave it alone you stupid Tory government.
2) Always get a second opinion. I must have had cancer for over a year before I was finally diagnosed at stage 4. I went to my GP who convinced me that the lumps in my neck & my back were nothing serious & I should take antibiotics. I trusted her. I shouldn't have. If you think something is wrong & your doctor thinks you're making too big a deal out of it, get a new doctor.
3) My friends saved me. Without them & their non-stop love and devotion, I’m almost positive I wouldn’t have made it. They are the greatest.
4) Be nice to your nurses. Try not to barf on them. They hate that.
5) Even in the bleakest times, try to find something to laugh about because it helps get through the day and your immune system really likes the endorphins from a good old belly laugh.

Oops – looks like I’ve managed to slip in a bit of advice in anyway. Sorry. Thanks for reading and don’t forget that if you find a lump somewhere, GO GET IT CHECKED OUT IMMEDIATELY YOU NERDS!

Laurie Schmidt
[email protected]
London, UK

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