Phil Vine: A dog called Lymph
It's the news that no one wants to hear – you have cancer.
When 3D reporter Phil Vine got the call from his doctor, like everyone else, he went into shock. But unlike most others, he decided to record his feelings and tell the story of what happened next.
In the middle of last year I was reporting on a story about a guy who was dying of lymphoma – Kirk Dakers, a 29-year-old pilot from Nelson. He had asked all his mates to Fiji for one last hurrah and invited us along.
It was beautiful, humbling and gruelling, especially the final farewell.
So it was something of a shock to discover 18 months later that I too had a different form of the same disease, lymphoma. It's not like it's contagious or anything; it's just lousy luck, or, as we journalists like to say, a twist of fate – bitter irony.
Cancer has to be one of the most dreaded words in the modern dictionary. But if you had to choose from the oncology menu, you'd pick lymphoma every time.
It sounds like a name you might give a loveable dog.
That's one of the weirdest things – I've got cancer, but physically I feel fine. I'm told it's slowly trying to kill me, but doing this story I may die from shame first.
So why am I doing this? I want people to understand this disease.
Lymphoma is a cancer of disease-fighting cells called lymphocytes. They tear around the lymphatic system, doing good. But sometimes they develop a bad attitude, organise a text party in one of your lymph nodes and multiply.
I located mine in the shower on September 15, remembering immediately Kirk's warning that if you find a painless lump in your neck or armpit or groin, get it checked out. He left it too late.
After that things got surreal. I started hearing the same word over and over. My doctor said: interesting. The ultrasound people said: interesting. The surgeon said: interesting.
Monday they sent a sample to the lab. Friday I got the call. The surgeon said it is likely to be follicular lymphoma.
I was trying desperately to unplug, disconnect. I couldn't be with my family and struggled to get away from the news, from myself failing.
I Googled like a madman, anything and everything about lymphoma. Apparently I had a lazy hound, a slow-growing low-grade lymphoma. That had to be good, right?
There was a 20 percent chance, I discovered, of a kind of "cure", but only if I'd caught it early enough and there were no other swollen lymph nodes.
I had blood tests, bone marrow samples and CT scans. Waiting for results was agonising.
Amazingly it was only stage one – localised to the groin. A blast of radiation and I could be in the clear, though I can't allow myself to relax just yet. Once you grab hold of your mortality it's hard to let go.
It looks like I'll be coming back to the doctor's for several years yet.
That good news is largely down to Kirk. His advice probably saved my life. I feel compelled to pass it on.
Watch the video for the full 3D report.
If you'd like to learn more about lymphoma, its symptoms and treatment, go to: https://www.leukaemia.org.nz/information/about-blood-cancers/lymphoma/.