30 Days of Fighting Cancer

Name: Adam Keam

Occupation: Chief Financial Officer

How we met: Adam and I went to school together. Well, kind of. He actually went to a different school but took a couple of subjects at my school so in our final year we ended up in the same English class.

Prior to that I had known him only vaguely as the guy who dated Lisa a girl I worked with at McDonald’s and who would come through drive-thru every other day with a car load of friends and order the exact same thing each time – large fries with a tub of Mac Sauce. 

But it wasn’t until well into our uni days that our friendships was cemented over a dozen or more 50cent champagne and raspberry’s at a mutual friend’s birthday party. We have been good friends ever since.

Meet Ads:

Christie has never been known as someone that does things by halves (I should know – she once married me in Vegas on a whim!), so it came as no surprise to me when she outlined her vision for 30 Days 30 Years.

Ironically, Christie’s first 30 days, were my last 30 of chemotherapy.

To anyone the word CANCER is a hateful, terrifying and horrible word.

On Friday the 8th of October 2010, THAT was the word my gastroenterolist muttered over the phone to my wife Amanda, asking her to convey his diagnosis to me.  Stage III Dukes’ C to be exact.

Following a total colectomy to ‘excise’ the tumor that was invading my colon, I commenced chemo. I opted for the Xelox regime: a 12 course program over six months which incorporated a combination of IV infusions supplemented by 10 Xeloda tablets, taken daily for ten days with four days of rest before repeating.

One of the main benefits of the Xelox regime is that some of the most outwardly visible side affects, ie the loss of hair, don’t commonly occur. This meant that upon initial contact I looked remarkably well.

I wasn’t prepared for the comments that would flow because I didn’t fit the stereotypical ‘bald’ cancer patient mould; “You don’t really have cancer!”, “You can’t be that sick – you still have hair!”.

I kept telling myself that I should be thankful not to be as frail as the other patients I would see each week at my oncologist appointments.

But after a short time the side affects did begin to flow; Total fatigue, a lack of energy, the constant feeling that I had the worst hang over in the world was horrendous; the nausea was worse than the actual act of vomiting.

Like a snake I shed the skin on my hands and remarkably in a single piece, my feet, due to hand-and-foot-syndrome.  I lost feeling in my extremities and bizarrely became hypersensitive to the cold, which meant avoiding the refrigerator isle of the supermarket!

The frustration that comes with “Chemo-brain” (which still plagues me) is inexplicable…I have a new found appreciation for the over 70’s.

I will not begin to describe the added complications that come with life without a colon.

Last lot of pills

My final 10 Xeloda tablets were washed down with a bottle of champagne (one of over 12 bottles consumed that night!) surrounded by friends and family. My oncologist would not have approved, nor, I am sure, would the scientists at Hoffmann-La Roche (the manufacture of Xeloda).

Fighting off cancer is nothing short of a miracle. But, for me, it was also a wake-up call. I was not taking my life seriously. At 30, I was working myself to death – 15-plus hour workdays was the acceptable norm, a 10-hour bender with mates to wash away the working week was a must.

Attempting to reexamine my self-worth, I now believe a life worth saving is certainly one worth taking good care of. Everyday, like many others, I walk that delicate fine line of living life for the moment and planning for a vast future and onto retirement. To me the future is a funny thing, the present is incredibly important. I would be lying if I said I’m not constantly worried if it is coming back.

I am often asked, or more so, confronted with the question of remission: Are you in remission? How long have you been in remission? I loathe the term. To me it’s either exclusionary or overly broad. So I don’t define it, I avoid it. Instead I embrace a term championed by Lance Armstrong’s LiveSTRONG Foundation: Survivor.

A lot of cancer patients I know maintain that you become a survivor the day you are handed a cancer diagnosis.  One friend put it bluntly, saying “a cancer survivor would be someone who a) has cancer and b) is not dead.” And still others define survivorship as crossing the finish line to remission or a cure.

Today – as my dear friend Christie publishes this post I celebrate being a two-year survivor…

Adam with his wife Amanda and son Noah

Comments are closed.