My name is Doug Hodson and I count myself very fortunate. I had a large sarcoma in my left buttock which the Hollywood-Charles-Gairdner Sarcoma Team lead by Professor David Wood, treated and removed four years ago. They have monitored and helped with the recovery ever since. My sciatic nerve on my left side was terminated in my buttock with what could have been considerable consequences but one way and another the outcome has been happily OK. It’s actually been better than anyone can explain and I am really thankful for that.
I was quite happy to provide this story because it gives me a chance to give all of you an insight into how well I was looked after here in Perth. I would characterize the group who do the work with a few words: Teamwork, Professionalism and Care mixed in with just a few Lighter Moments from time to time.
Sarcomas are scary things because you don’t know they are growing inside you. Mine was the size of one of those kilo steaks from Hippo Grill before we noticed it. As soon as you know you have a sarcoma, you become aware of how serious it is by the speed at which a large group of doctors and medical people start working on your behalf. It’s a great way to get yourself a quick cat scan. The first was immediate and a number of others have happened within days since then.
The team has a wide range of skills: surgeons, oncologists, imaging experts, exercise physiologists, orthotists with all the supporting roles that go with. They seem to enjoy particularly high respect in the medical world. The number of times I have had someone in a hospital or a surgery say “You’re being treated by him, wow that’s the best you can get”. They extend further out when they need to too, they had the plastic surgeon in with them in the middle of this year, talking about how to make improvements to my buttock. That hasn’t gone anywhere yet. I think its in the hard basket!!
The first time I became aware they were a team rather than a group of doctors was early on when David Wood told me they would be discussing me at their multi-disciplined meeting at 7.00am on Wednesday with my tumour up on the big screen. The next time was when the young surgeon from UK told me the issue would be worked by the sarcoma team. It was important to him to have me know there was a team working on the issue not just one person.
Professionalism is a key descriptor, I have been looked after amazingly well and feel as though I am amongst the best that’s on offer in the medical industry.
I can tell you they care as well: The speed at which they moved when I first appeared, the look on Prof Wood’s face when he saw I could still move my leg, the concern Alex Powell showed when I was struggling with the chemo, the interest David Joseph took in following up, the fact that I have been able to phone them in their own time, the flexibility they have shown in seeing me at short notice. All those experiences tell me they care.
My awareness of the potential consequences of sarcoma is not just through my personal experience. When I arrived at chemo, there was a lady with a sarcoma starting at the same time. She was delighted to meet me because she hadn’t met anyone with a sarcoma up until then. Hers had recurred after six years in remission. We went through chemo together. I missed a week with an infection so she visited me in hospital after each of her five chemos that week. She then had some complications and I visited her. She always seemed, outwardly, to cope with it better than me. After we had finished our treatment, I was in Melbourne on business having lunch with workmates in an Italian and I received a text from her to say she had just had a scan and her tumours had shrunk, she was absolutely wrapped. Months later she suffered a relapse. I visited her in hospital a number of times during various treatments and saw her make some recoveries. She went a bit quiet in mid 2011. I tried to track her down and found her Facebook page so inserted a comment to ask her how she was. Her husband replied that she was doing it tough and the next day the Facebook message said she had flown with the angels. That’s the nature of what we are talking about with sarcoma.
There have also been lighter moments from time to time: Prof Wood’s caution when we were talking about Mrs Wood taking the stitches out: “Make sure she has her glasses on” and Richard Carey Smith’s words when he discovered during the Ashes tour that I wasn’t a pom “Suck it up Princess”, delivered with a massive smile on his face!
I guess when you work with a disease that is very damaging and often brings life to an end, you value life. It seems to be that way with the sarcoma team, they are all mad outdoor enthusiasts and cant get enough of biking, paddling, running, diving etc. Their exploits on their bikes in the “Ride to Conquer Cancer” attest to this. For me personally I have similar interests and my greatest concern when the sarcoma was diagnosed was whether those activities would be curtailed. It’s indulgent, I know, but that’s how I felt.
So now, with the help of the radiation oncologist who killed the tumour, the surgeons who were able to remove it and still retain lots of functionality in my leg, the medical oncologist who did all the work to minimize the likelihood of return, the exercise physyiologist who taught me how to build strength back up, the orthotist who builds bionic leg components for me, the other skills & people that have helped, I can pedal my bike, ride my snowboard, paddle my kayak and walk quite smoothly. I often find myself when I am out doing active stuff, thinking I couldn’t have done it without the sarcoma team, I need to send them an email and thank them and some times I do.
An experience like a sarcoma doesn’t hit just you. It becomes an issue for your whole family and your friends. This note is an opportunity to thank some of our friends also and my wife Karen and our two boys and our two dogs all of whom loved me and supported me for every minute of the experience and continue to do so.
So I’ve been incredibly fortunate in that I have good functionality and have not seen a return of the cancer. This note is all about more of that and catching tumours early so they don’t land up looking at home on the grill at Hippo Creek and they don’t bring terrible suffering to people and their families.
Hopefully you have some insights into what a great integrated, professional, caring, human team we have working on sarcomas here in Perth and hopefully you have a bit more of an understanding on how and why to sell the message as we continue to raise support for this research initiative and we honour the memory of Abbie Basson with our efforts and our successes, thank you for reading this!!!!