The past 2 years and 3 months have been very interesting, hard and trying to say the least. My tales of testicular cancer began in July 1996. I was 34 at the time I was first diagnosed with cancer. For a period of 3 months, I had been going to my regular GP, complaining about a dull ache in my groin. After a physical examination he suggested that I should have a ultrasound. I had a ultrasound and the results came back all clear. In the followings weeks my pain spread to my back in different areas and I spent most of my time going from Chiropractor to Physiotherapist to GP. Eventually my GP decided that I should have a CT scan.
The CT scan was performed at Epworth Hospital in Melbourne. During this procedure, the technician came in and said he would have to get a doctor to have a look at my scans and not to move until he gets back. 10 minutes later, 2 Doctors and several nurses were performing a needle aspirate, which is similar to a nail gun being shot in your back. I should mention here that prior to the CT, I was in so much pain that I required a shot of Pethidine every hour. The hospital decided that I should remain in there care for the short term. Later that day a Doctor came and visited me and told me the bad news. I had cancer, and I had better get my affairs in order. My scans and X rays were sent to the Peter Macallum cancer institute were my new Doctor informed me that I had a Stage III nonseminomatous germ cell tumour.
I said "What's that mean?" He said that I had testicular cancer which had started in my right testicle and spread to my lymph nodes, lungs, and abdomen. I had over 20 tumours in my lungs alone and I would have to start chemotherapy ASAP. I had a brain scan on the Friday of that week which was delayed and that was clear but that appointment made me miss the sperm bank appointment that afternoon, hence no sperm was banked. I was sent home for the weekend with morphine tablets and told to be back on the Monday to commence 4 cycles of BEP chemotherapy.
Prior to the commencement of BEP chemo my Beta HCG was at 140,000. I did the first cycle as an inpatient and the remaining 3 cycles as an out patient. Prior to the commencement of my 2nd cycle my doctor recommend that I should have a bone marrow stem cell harvest just in case the treatment was not successful and I needed the super strength chemo. By the end of my 4th cycle of BEP my Beta HCG was 5. A RPLND was scheduled including the removal of the right testicle. I met my surgeon and some of his team, and when they told me that this was all experimental and they were looking forward to performing it, I was not confident. He could not guarantee that he could perform any nerve sparing or even my life for that matter, so I elected not to go ahead with the hospitals treatment any longer. [Editor's note: Unfortunately, Patrick should have gone through with this surgery in spite of the attitude. It was the right treatment at the right time.]
In the meantime, I turned to vitamin supplements and meditation which I am sure helped me during this period. By March 1997 my Beta HCG was on the way up again so I elected to have my right testicle removed, of all things by the Urologist who wanted to do the RPLND, but he was a expert in that field. I was home the same day and everything healed really well. In the coming weeks my Beta HCG doubled each week and the Doctors at the Peter Macallum cancer institute decided to do another CT. This revealed new tumours in my lungs and abdomen. My doctor gave me 3 to 6 months to live, and wanted me to commence VIP chemo immediately and follow that with a bone marrow stem cell transplant. I lasted one day in that hospitals care as I had finally had enough of my treating doctors short and offensive attitude, I got the nurse on duty to remove my drip and I walked out of that hospital, never to return. I decided to get a second opinion on all of these matters.
I made a appointment to see Dr Joseph McKendrick who is the Director of medical oncology at the Box Hill Hospital in Melbourne. What a breath of fresh air he was. I had a instant rapport with this man, and my Fianc?, Maree could relate to him very easily as well. I commenced VIP chemotherapy Immediately for 2 cycles, which I did as a outpatient then had the stem cell transplant. All went well during this period. My Beta HCG prior to VIP treatment was at 244000 and after the transplant it had come down to 8. It was now time to have a CT and see what surgery was required. The CT revealed a lot of scar tissue in my abdomen and lungs and 2 small masses in my lungs. My Dr arranged for a Thoracic surgeon to perform a Thoracotomy, and he removed the tumours with no problems. I spent 2 days in ICU unit then 5 days on the ward. I had lost a 1/3 of my right lung and had to wait for it to return to a full capacity before having the drain tubes removed. Boy that hurt when they took them out, but I got home the next day. My last blood test done in hospital prior to going home revealed my Beta HCG was 1. That was November 1997. My Doctor wanted to see me every month for a blood test and he would do a chest x ray every 3 months
All was going along fine until late February 1998. My Beta HCG went to 23 and my Doctor wanted to do a CT . This revealed a new tumour next to my right kidney and another tumour on an old scar tissue site between my aorta and spine. My Doctor wanted to do a RPLND immediately, so by March 1998 I was back in hospital. Professor Michael Grigg performed the surgery during which time I lost my right kidney and a tumour next to it, several lymph nodes and had the tumour between my aorta and spine removed. In all 7 hours of surgery and 3 weeks in an intensive care unit with daily kidney dialysis, followed by a hospital transfer to another hospital with a specialist kidney unit until my kidney function became satisfactory, all up 4 weeks in hospital. Prior to surgery my BHCG was at 338 it came down as far as 75 while in hospital then it started going back up again. My Doctor ordered another CT to see what the hell was going on. The CT revealed that while I was in ICU after my RPLND, I had new tumours growing in my lungs. My Doctor was not in hurry to send me straight back to surgery, we opted for chemotherapy instead.
We started with a course of Taxotere and VP16 oral tablets. This worked for about 3 weeks before having no effect on my BHCG. We then started a course of Gemcitabine and Carboplatin on a 3 week cycle with the Carboplatin given every third week which went well enough to get my BHCG down to 5. My BHCG then started to rise again so now we are trying a reduced dose of Carboplatin every second week with Gemcitabine on the alternative week. Once we get this stabilised we will attempt further lung surgery to remove the offending tumours and hopefully return to a some what normal life.
I will never give in or give up. I would like to add that I would not have made it this far without my love of my life Maree.
In July of 1999, Patrick Mulquiney lost his battle. He fought long and hard and was a great source of inspiration to all of us. We miss him! Maree had this to add to his story:
The story ends but the life goes on.
To start, this is hard when you know the end of the story, however to know the man is a bigger and better story...
I think there are about 9 months to add to the journey. There was a 4 week session of daily radiotherapy over Christmas and New Year which seemed to be making a difference to the Beta HCG, and then it wasn?t so they cancelled the last few days. We then started on traditional and modern Chinese herbs and some more chemotherapy. This too started to do its thing and then changed its mind. We went to the coast for a week and lived it up in February, then in March came the big fishing trip - 5 days at sea and the mission to be the first to land a marlin as far south as they could go with the eastern sea currents. Of course they did, Pat hooked it and handed the rod to his mate, as he had no strength to land it. That marlin is now immortalized on the wall of Bondy?s Bar, surrounded by the press photos with a plaque dedicated to Patrick and the crew of the day.
During this and the coming months Pat?s strength is fading, he is still having chemo concoctions that only see-saw the HCG readings, but not his determination. I have to take him out in the wheelchair as his legs have no muscle tone and his lungs are heavy, but we still go out.
Pat threw up more than I believed was possible. If we went out it was a dash to get home; it may have been the morphine or paracetomol or chemo who knows. He is often having blood and platelet transfusions and always reading and speaking to people to find out what else he could try. He had great success with aloe vera for the ulcers in his throat and mouth.
He had an appointment at the hospital on July 1, and we knew that he needed a transfusion and that they may not give him his chemo as he was dehydrated? but little did we believe that he would never come home. His doctor was in America and he couldn?t wait for him to come home in case he had something else he could try. He was being transfused every second day, which was doing him the world of good, Dr. Joe McKendrick came back on Wednesday morning July 7.
I woke very early this morning, fed the animals rang the hospital, rang my dad for his birthday and knew I had to leave in a hurry for something was not right. I got to the hospital and was told Joe wanted to see me, however I needed to see Pat. He had been moved to a private room. I gave him a love and he died. Right there and then in my arms, with his doctor and favorite nurse in the room with the best view on a magnificent Melbourne day it was over, 3 years to the day of being diagnosed.
If anyone ever tells you that they never believed he/she was going to die believe them, as I never believed Patrick would. For someone to go through so much for so long and want for so little kept us dreaming of a life together way beyond cancer and hospitals. I could keep going for pages and pages about what he tried and what we went through but do me a favor and just listen to Van Morrison singing " Days Like This." We would sing it together and change the ?mamma? with each others names. I played it at his funeral with only a select few knowing why; many thought it was because he was such a fan of uncle Van!
I have so much to thank Pat for -- so many memories but some days I miss his strength so much. It is so bloody hard to find someone you love and who you know loves you, and then to be left with just the memories. All I have to do is sit and feel his presence with me and know I would do it all again, for love is much bigger than cancer will ever be.
Should anyone reading this ever need a friend or contact regarding cancer in your life I hope I could help you by sharing all I learnt and am still learning.