Chris Geiger was diagnosed in his twenties with non-Hodgkin lymphoma and given just three months to live. Treatment included a number of operations, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant but thankfully Chris is in remission.
He now hopes to help, encourage and inspire anyone touched by cancer by sharing his own cancer experience. Most recently Chris has compiled 'The Cancer Survivors Club', a book of 23 stories written by cancer survivors, one of whom is Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research supporter, Kate Beynon.
Here, Chris guest blogs to share his experience as a non-Hodgkin lymphoma patient and explain why he started his own personal campaign many years ago to raise awareness and funds to support people with cancer.
WHEN I WAS FIRST diagnosed with cancer, I spent hours scouring bookshops, desperately hunting for books written by people who had fought and survived cancer. Most of the books I found had been ghost written for film stars. The majority dedicated considerable time to mentioning their celebrity friends or the location of their next film, yet spent little or no time describing their treatment and more importantly how they survived.
Ironically, coincidently or probably luckily for me; the night before I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, I watched a film about Bob Champion a jump jockey who fought and won his battle with cancer and then amazingly went on to win the Grand National. The film was based on his book called Champions Story. Little did Bob obviously know that his story would create an idea to inspire me. Watching his film kept me fighting despite my diagnosis and ultimately led me to write a book.
I had to endure two years of cancer treatment. This included a number of operations, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant before I was finally in remission. A mantra I chanted daily during my treatment was “If Bob Champion can do it, so can I”, along with many other unrepeatable things.
I’m convinced having a target, being positive and having the distraction of writing every day got me through my treatment. Daily I wrote a diary, creating a light-hearted memoir, recording my thoughts, feelings and treatment.
Within weeks of completing my treatment I was back at work again, trying to act as if the previous two years hadn’t happened. Any ideas of writing a cancer survival book were purposely forgotten. Not because I didn’t care, but every time I re-lived events, I instantly smelt those disinfected hospital wards, tasted the chemotherapy or pictured the faces of those poor patients who weren’t as lucky as me. Each time I recalled these events I was physically sick, ruining a good shirt and triggering those awful recurring nightmares again! – So it’s true what they say, time really does heal.
The nightmare of having cancer never left my mind, I constantly worried the disease might return. Friends joked how I must have worn grooves in the roads with my endless trips to the doctor. Just the smallest ache or pain and I’d be convinced I'd relapsed. Each time my doctor listened patiently, no matter how busy he was or how distressed I sounded. Thankfully over time my paranoia improved, yet the whole cancer subject remained at the forefront of my mind.
I now only have one lung which functions properly, plenty of scars and a struggling immune system; but that’s a very small price to pay. I’m sure the chemotherapy also killed my ‘lazy’ gene or ‘sleep’ gene, as well as destroying the tumour. I now can’t do things by halves, can’t sit around doing nothing, can’t waste a moment of this life I managed to save.
During the increasing years I've been in remission, I’ve met and spoken with many newly diagnosed cancer sufferers. Back in 2009 I was talking with a patient who said it was “inspirational” to speak to a “normal” person. A survivor who’d been given just three months to live and over twenty years later is still enjoying life to the full. It was then I remembered back to the time I wanted to read stories of other 'normal' cancer survivors, for encouragement and guidance for both myself and my family. So began my personal campaign to create awareness and help patients and their families.
I began writing regular columns for several local and national newspapers to help raise cancer awareness and on World Cancer Day in 2011 I received a Guinness World Record for ‘Most Published Newspaper Article’. I appealed for readers to send me their survival stores. So now at long last I’m excited to announce, the release of ‘The Cancer Survivors Club’ book, which has an excellent mix of stories, from the most common cancer, to the rarest. Some of the cancer types mentioned are; Brain, Bowel, Breast, Pancreatic, Testicular, Leukaemia, Nasal, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Also included in the book are a number of my cheerful columns, which include a humorous account of a prostate examination and the dangers of getting sunburnt on a crowded beach.
My hope and dream is cancer sufferers, their families and friends will gain strength and encouragement from the stories within this book. The Cancer Survivors Club book provides current sufferers with a distraction from the worries of daily treatment, by encouraging them think about life once they’ve become a survivor and kicked the disease. One of the ways is for patients to start writing their story while still receiving treatment, detailing their experiences. Ultimately I hope I’ll soon be receiving new inspirational stories from readers that I can include in future editions and increase the number of members in my cancer survivors club. For everyone else reading this, I hope you’ll find it a damn good read and are left feeling positive.
Excuse the shameless plug, but… ‘The Cancer Survivors Club’ is now available for purchase from all major online and independent bookstores.
For more information visit www.TheCancerSurvivorsClub.com