I have been married for nearly 35 years and have two sons, 26 and 28, and until July 2007 I was a self-employed Business Consultant, specialising in the ladies clothing industry. I was travelling extensively, buying and selling fabric and clothing. I enjoyed working hard and the rewards that came with that.
I began to feel extremely tired and my wife pushed me to the doctors, where I had a blood test. The doctor phoned me the next day and told me that I would have to go to hospital, to see a specialist. My tonsils had swollen and I was not sleeping properly.
I had an operation to remove my tonsils and adenoids and felt a whole lot better, but they informed me that they had done a biopsy on my tonsils and discovered that I had Mantle Cell Lymphoma Stage IV. I was told there was no cure but they could give me chemotherapy, to shrink the tumours, and then a stem cell transplant which might give me some more time.
I had 6 regimes of R-Chop which successfully shrunk the tumours and put me into remission. I was lucky as I had no sibling donor but a stem cell donor was found, through The Anthony Nolan Trust. (thank you!!)
I had my transplant on the 19th of December 2007. After approximately six months of fantastic care by wife and doctors, I was back on my feet and living my new life. Unfortunately this didn’t include going back to work, as since my transplant, I have suffered various infections and viruses and been seriously ill with Graft V Host disease on numerous occasions.
In 2011, when I felt I might be over the worst, I started to think about a return to work, but then got shingles on the back of my head, followed by GVHD of my skin and muscles. I am currently being treated for this at St Thomas’s in London with a process called Photopherisis
I felt I was becoming a prisoner to the disease, as I was always at the hospital or resting at home, so I decided that I would try and make something positive from my situation. Initially I started my own charity at St Georges in London. I wanted to raise money for specialist equipment in the ward that looks after me. www.justgiving.com/chrislewis2
I then started volunteering to fit around my health availability. I now work with several of the national cancer charities getting involved in numerous projects that enable me to use my business and personal skills. I work to raise cancer awareness in the community.
Frequently, I am invited to talk at health conferences and am constantly looking at ways to improve the lives of people affected by cancer. I am very much aware that this is not only the patient themselves but family, friends etc. everyone’s life changes with a cancer diagnosis, and since it comes with no rule book a lot of people struggle to make sense of things.
After all my talks, there are always so many people who want to talk about their own situation and ask about how I got though things. That is what inspired me to start this blog. I found that most people just wanted to communicate their situation to someone who had time for them, and who had maybe encountered some of the situations they were facing.
If you are one of those, please feel free to let me know how you are feeling, as you are not alone. Here, you can share the good times as well as the tough ones, and we can try and make sense of things together. This is an open house !!