Graham's Story

Graham is a dad, an accountant, with a new love and recognition of the benefits of yoga (after years of trying hard to enjoy it!).

Graham found a lump in his groin. It was initially investigated, and found to be nothing of concern. However, when the lump didn’t go away further, more invasive investigations confirmed the diagnosis of lymphoma. Graham had follicular lymphoma, a cancer that begins in infection-fighting cells of the immune system, called lymphocytes. Follicular lymphoma is a type of slow growing (low-grade) non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

“At the time of diagnosis, my doctor told me this was a readily treatable form of cancer. It took me a few months to realise that treatable doesn’t mean curable”. Then When Graham asked when the treatment including surgery was to start, he was shocked to be told “tomorrow”. At this point, Graham reflects; “you lose control, you don’t know what’s happening, your brain is going a million miles an hour and all this time it’s like you’ve jumped on a roller coaster and you’re completely out of control”. Suddenly Graham was undergoing chemotherapy, taking immunosuppressant drugs, drugs for nausea, antibiotics and antiviral medications. “There are so many things that are completely out of control, but things like choosing to participate in cancer rehabilitation, you can control. The exercise was something I had control over, it was something I could do for myself”.

Graham likes to share with others experiencing cancer the advice that was offered to him by a personal friend and oncologist; “You are your primary caregiver. You take responsibility for your health. The surgeons, they are experts, but they don’t know everything – you ask them, you challenge them, you find out”. This advice paid off more than once.

Graham was referred to a Pinc & Steel physiotherapist. He says, “she was wonderful. It was someone who wasn’t family, wasn’t a friend, I could just go and talk through my experience. Megan was someone I could ask questions of; she would research things or contribute to my recovery through her experience of other people with cancer”.

With a sporting background, motivation to stay active wasn’t an issue for Graham but fatigue and chemo brain were a reality and were the main challenges that cancer rehabilitation supported him to improve. He felt that cancer rehab kept him accountable for achieving his goals, aligning with the advise he had been given about taking responsibility for his health.

Since completing his cancer rehabilitation program, Graham now runs for an hour 3 times per week, he has completed the 30km Moonlight Marathon at Ben Lomond station near Queenstown and has written a book. He continues to be accountable for his wellbeing and is looking forward to the next chapter of his active life post cancer.

Dry July NZ Trust