Friday March 9th 2012 started out like any other day for Paul. Paul who was living in Singapore after being given a job opportunity in that country, woke up at 7am, had breakfast and took a short train ride to work. Unfortunately once Paul reached work that is when he realised something was not right, suddenly he was shaking and shivering uncontrollably.
Paul took himself to the doctor who promptly diagnosed him with the flu and gave him some medication to take over the next few days. After a few days on flu medication things hadn’t improved, infact things got a lot worse. Paul spent the next few days curled on his bathroom floor with vomiting and diarrhoea before finally being raced to a hospital.
Initially it was unknown what was causing Paul’s illness but finally after a week of hospital tests it was revealed. Paul unfortunately was diagnosed with cancer, a rare form of leukaemia called Hairy Cell Leukaemia. Following the diagnosis Paul spent a few more weeks in hospital before deciding to return back to Australia for treatment.
Once back in Australia, Paul started his cancer treatment which included chemotherapy. It was on the last day of his chemotherapy that Paul had a turn for the worse. After getting off the hospital bed to go to the bathroom, Paul suddenly started bleeding profusely from the bowel. The decision was made very quickly that Paul needed to have emergency surgery. This surgery led to Paul having half his large bowel removed and him waking up with a temporary Ileostomy.
Paul spent the next 3 months recovering in hospital and was finally discharged in July 2012. It was then Paul really had to deal with life with a pouch, he had to not only regain his strength after months in hospital but also had to learn how to manage his stoma. Paul remembers the fears he initially had, would people notice my pouch? would it fall off? will I be able to exercise and live a normal life?
“Would people notice the pouch? would it fall off? will I be able to exercise and live a normal life?”
The first two months out of hospital were very hard on Paul, adjusting to the stoma and life with a pouch was extremely challenging, both physically and emotionally. Paul recalls that slowly day by day things started to get easier. After a few months, tasks which were daunting at the beginning, such as going out in public suddenly became trivial.
It was at that point Paul decided he needed to start exercising again. We all know the physical benefits of exercising but Paul also knew that mentally exercise had incredible benefits. So after regaining some strength Paul decided to go for a hike, his destination was the the Kokoda memorial walk in the Dandenong Ranges National Park, better known to a lot of people as ‘The 1,000 Steps’. Prior to moving overseas Paul would do the thousand steps once a week but this was the first big bit of exercise he had done since being discharged.
Paul recalls that about 500 meters into the walk, even before he reached the first step, his heart rate had sky rocketed. At that time he decided to quit and turn around. Paul went home absolutely devastated that he couldn’t achieve something, something that came so easy prior to having cancer and an Ostomy.
StepsTwo weeks later Paul tried the hike again, this time determined to reach the top whether it took him all day. After over an hour and a lot of stops on the way Paul finally made it to the top. Paul describes this as a turning point in his journey, it was the point that he realised that even though he has cancer and an ileostomy that wasn’t going to continue to ruin his life.
From that day Paul set out to challenge himself to ensure he kept living a fulfilling life. His achievements include 5km fun runs, the MCG stadium stomp which is a 7,343 stair climb at the Melbourne Cricket Ground and a personal best 10km fun run in 48 minutes. Paul was happy with his achievements in the individual sports but after watching his mates play cricket late in 2013 he decided he wanted to play as well.
The thought of cricket was more daunting since there was the chance that a cricket ball could hit his stoma or whilst fielding his pouch could fall off or leak after diving on it. After a bit of research and contemplating, Paul determined that those risks were very low and the enjoyment he would experience would outweigh the risks. So in October 2013 Paul played his first cricket game, that ended up being the first of 7 games he played during the season. Paul took diving catches, bowled and batted, all with an Ostomy pouch and all with no embarrassing Ostomy incidents.
Today Paul continues to keep active and continues to not let his Ostomy hold him back. When asked why he was proud to be a part of the Great Comebacks program Paul responded that
“I remember when I first got told I was an Ostomate, my initial reaction was one of fear, in hindsight it was the fear of the unknown. After surgery I looked for information on living with an Ostomy and for inspirational stories from other Australians. I remember not finding a lot of stories and being disappointed in that. I’m proud to be a part of the Great Comebacks program to hopefully inspire other people living with an Ostomy that you can still live a fulfilling life. I am also excited to be a part of the program because I can’t wait to see what other people living with an Ostomy have achieved, I know there are some truly inspirational people in Australia and I can’t wait to see their story!”