Robert Alford

Robert Alford

My name is Robert and this year I turned 84. I was first diagnosed with GIST (Gastro Intestinal Stromal Tumor) in October 2012. From the initial diagnosis I had two operations within 12 months. One was for the GIST which was a lump they had discovered underneath my lungs.

In May 2013, things became a bit more serious and I was referred to a doctor for an operation on my [at the time] recently developed pancreatic cancer. It was a lengthy Whipple operation, but I decided to get it done.

My overall treatment has involved both internal and external tests, followed by the administration of a drug called Glivec for GIST. I was started on a chemotherapy scheme over a six month period, then again was treated with Glivec. When it came to the operation in May, I contracted a cross infection during the operation. This blood infection was the hardest part about my journey as I became delirious, feverish, and could not move my legs. Eventually I had to be tranquilised and taken into intensive care. I lost up to 15 kilograms in the process. But the worst part had to be the fact that I had to stay in hospital when I had been planning to go home.

Apart from the infection, I have not had any major negative symptoms of treatment. Just recovery and having to take enzymes whenever I eat now. But that is only annoying when I’ve already gone out to dinner and I’ve forgotten them and I’ve had to come home and get them but thankfully I haven’t eaten too far away from home!

I cannot speak highly enough of the level of care I have received starting with my GPs in Paddington.  I could not believe how kind they were to me in the hospital. I have great confidence in my oncologist, Dr. Goldstein, and the surgeon Dr Haghighi in particular was also very nice to me.

I would have to say, in terms of support, my wife has been number one. It’s been very traumatic for her, but she’s been very positive and sympathetic about what I am going through. I felt that I had all the support I needed between my family, the hospital staff, and my cycling group. The cycling group have been great as well because they’ve visited me in hospital; two of them are doctors and they have given me a lot of advice and comfort as well. But most of all, the cycling group gives me something to look forward to when I finish a round of treatment. The doctors all get annoyed with me when I sneak out for a ride months before they have told me that I can. I ride around 80 kilometres a week and I think that is the biggest contributor to my fast recovery.

I am not too sure what my treatment would have been like had the clinical trials not been successful. I am very grateful that the trials did work so that I had a better chance. Because of my treatment’s success as a clinical trial, I am now nearly finished my treatment and as far as I know, cancer free.

My advice for anyone diagnosed with a gastro-intestinal cancer is to be positive. Doctors know what they’re doing, so trust them. Also have faith in the amazing operations that are now available. I cannot stress enough to stay fit in case anything like this happens — it makes for an easier recovery time.