One day Willem started experiencing severe abdominal pain and had blisters all over his chest.He decided to consult his GP for advice where he was examined and treated for shingles.The blisters eventually disappeared but the pain remained. It was at this stage that a scan was done, where it became evident that Willem had Lymphatic Cancer. Diagnosed just after his 70th birthday, it was revealed that he was living with this cancer for the past 5 years. Lymphoma has no noticeable symptoms, unless there is swelling of the glands in the groin, neck or under the armpits. He had none of these symptoms but had tumours between his intestines where 95% of his lymph glands was already taken over by the cancer. The pain in his abdomen was caused by the enlargement of his lymph, which kept growing to an extent that it started pushing his organs out of their natural position. His spleen was later removed and he received the necessary chemotherapy. After 1 year of remission it came back again.
Willem shares that he had very little knowledge of hospice at the time. He would see them hosting fundraisers and knew that it was for cancer patients. Other than that he felt at the time that there was no need to get to know what they really about as none of his family members or even himself needed their services. This soon changed as their intervention would help him the most. After he was referred to hospice by his GP, the social worker and nurse started contacting him regularly and day by day he soon started to get to know hospice a little better.
“What really amazed me about the hospice intervention was the fact that they made me realise that living with a life- threatening illness does not only affect the patient but the family members as well. My wife was not prepared for my illness nor could she understand how this would affect her emotionally. Hospice prepared her for this, highlighting the changes with regards to my health and gave her the confidence to accept my illness” he added.
Effects of radiation
Although radiation helps improve my condition, it does have some unusual side effects. ‘I simply love biltong and droewors but can’t taste anything.My sense of taste has deteriorated and everything that is supposed to taste salty is bitter-in fact everything tastes like white paper unless it is really strongly scented. Being able to smell different types of food does help to taste by using your “imagination senses” he added.
Importance of Support Groups
Willem jokingly shares that although he is the oldest member in the group that meets once a week, he is always looking forward to it. It gives everyone an opportunity to share their experiences but mainly showing accountability to each other ensuring that everyone is taking their medication regularly as well as ensuring that everyone is living and eating a balanced lifestyle.
To learn more about Overstrand Hospice, Click here.