“My survival alone was a miracle.” Diagnosed in 2002 with a life threatening head and neck cancer, Liam Ryan’s doctors told him he should have never survived.…
After 5 cancer diagnoses in 12 years, Brian Waddington is a firm believer that great doctors, a proper diet and regular exercise help him fight each battle that challenges him. A competitive squash player, Brian deals with each game and match like he does his cancer. Same smart strategy.
Initially interviewed in 2015, click here to read more about Brian and his inspiring 12 year cancer story.
Brian, can you tell us about your life with metastatic cancer and how you arrived at recent surgery for the left lung?
As a cancer survivor, most of us do not know that the cancer we have will become metastatic. It is not until it reoccurs in other places in our body which can take months or even years. I was first diagnosed in 2005 which I had a radical nephrectomy (removal of left kidney, left adrenal gland, spleen and a piece of my pancreas).
In 2009 it spread to my right adrenal gland and had what the doctors called a “nike nick” to remove the cancer. Renal Cell Carcinoma is notorious for spreading to other parts of the body, and when it does, then we are labelled with the term of metastatic kidney cancer.
In 2013 they found something in my right lung, they monitored it for a year and then it spread to my liver and pancreas.
In 2014 I had 14 round of SBRT, 4 rounds in the right lung, 5 rounds in the liver and 5 rounds in the pancreas.
In 2015 it came back in the right lung which I had an additional 5 rounds of SBRT.
In 2016 they found it has spread to my left lung which they monitored for most of 2016 and in March of 2017 the tumour had grown twice the size in 3 months and so it was determined that surgery on May 5th was the best option for treatment. As an avid squash player, the thoracic surgeon discussed with me that there are risks of having radiation in that area, such as weakening of the bones and scar tissue issues, and possible chronic pain in that area of the lung.
As a five time cancer survivor, how do you and your family cope?
Hmm… great question! When I was first diagnosed in 2005, Dr. Robert Nam, head of the Urology Department at the Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto, who did my first 2 surgeries, was very influential with my thought process on acceptance. He was so comforting and reassuring that having cancer was not “my fault” and once we remove the cancer, continue on with life just like you did before. So with that in mind my philosophy is that I get to choose how I want to live my life and not the cancer!
As for my family, my wife and I talk about dealing with cancer and she is incredibly supportive but also respectfully fearful as well. My children and other family members are very supportive and understand the whole process\ journey that I am on, As a 5 time survivor now, I think there is this false hope that my family and friends are thinking that I will be able to win every battle this disease throws at me. I do share that enthusiasm but I am also very concerned and aware that this is a very dangerous time for me. I also cope by doing lots of reading and research on cancer. I really want to know what the hell is going on inside of me.
What do you think about immunotherapy and personalized medicine?
Wow immunotherapy, incredible field of treatment for cancer. This gives me such hope that one day they will manage\treat cancer this way. If I was younger, this would be the field of choice for me. This puts a big smile on my face!
As for personalized medicine: one of the trusted websites I visit to do research is the American Cancer Society as well as many other sites. The ACS and other institutions or centres are getting a better understanding of genetic causes of cancer, which is very cool. Having or getting cancer is not good but I think it is a very exciting time for cancer research and treatments right now and I feel lucky to be part of it.
What does the future of cancer look like to you and others over the next decade?
The future I think shows nothing but promise. The early diagnosis and treatments are improving and our life expectancy has increased. We are making progress and we survivors are all grateful for these advancements. YES… some do not or will not survive but if we look back at the last 50 years, we have accomplished so much.
Cancer is a very complicated disease. In 2005 when I was first diagnosed there was no radiation or chemo to treat RCC and the average life expectancy was 5 years. In Sept. of this year it will be 12 years since I was first diagnosed so how can I not be excited about the future for treating or managing cancer over the next decade.
I plan on being around so ask me that question in 10 years!! And just one last thing i want to mention. I am a firm believer of a proper diet and regular exercise. This goes a long way when it comes to recovery time as well the health benefits.
Photo Credit: Brian Waddington
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