One man’s battle with three cancersJ. Barrie Farrington feels confident that the disease has been neutralized and he’s able to live a normal life
The story that I am about to recount is about my fight against cancer and of my survival in the face of uncertainty.
I have had to look through the lens of life to determine the best path to travel that would be productive and meaningful.
I had little choice but to disregard the tugs of negative thoughts and to live each day to the fullest. Over the last five years, I have had to confront and battle with three different kinds of cancer.
When a conversation involving cancer arises, a horrible question emerges as to whether or not there are fatal consequences to being afflicted with cancer.
Fortunately for me, modern medicine has enabled me to live an almost normal life.
While employed at Atlantis, as a member of the executive team, I was covered for medical insurance. Under this arrangement, I had annual medical check-ups at the Cleveland Clinic in Weston, Fla.
It was while under the care of Dr. Jose M. Muniz and as a result of a blood test/analysis a substantial increase in my white cell count was detected.
I was referred to a hematologist at the clinic who upon viewing my test, wanted me to undergo what I concluded were several very invasive tests.
At this stage, I discussed the situation with my daughter, Robyn, who was the head nurse in the Trauma Department at Jackson Memorial Hospital.
We decided that I needed to change direction. It was arranged for my account to be transferred to the Sylvester Cancer Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital.
The change in direction was very fortuitous. But allow me to start from the beginning.
It would have been in the fourth quarter of 2012 while exercising that I discovered a substantial swelling in the upper section of my abdomen as I was doing sit ups.
There was no pain but I was very frightened. I frantically called to my wife, Susan, who following her own examination was most distressed about what she discovered.
I called Dr. Cecil Bethel who agreed to see me at once. He determined that my spleen was very enlarged.
He ordered a scan of my abdomen to be done by Dr. Elizabeth Darville at her medical facility in Grosvenor Close. The scan revealed that my spleen was abnormally enlarged.
A blood test was taken and the result showed a very high white cell count.
The decision was taken to refer me to the Sylvester Cancer Center which is a part of the University of Miami Health System.
I was placed under the care of Dr. Denise Pereira to whom I had already been introduced.
The first step in the process to determine precisely the extent of my illness was to conduct a bone marrow biopsy, a painful procedure, the result of which was to be analyzed by a clinic in California.
The result was sent to Dr. Pereira who informed me that I had a disease called Hairy Cell Leukemia. Of course, both Susan and I were very alarmed with the result. However, Dr. Pereira explained that it was a cancer at the lower end of the cancer spectrum and was treatable.
Simultaneously, along with the enlarged spleen, Dr. Pereira told me that my kidney function values were also rising, an indication of tissue starting to expand which put pressure on my kidneys.
If allowed to continue progressing this could have led to kidney failure. Alarmed by the results and faced with impending renal failure and an enlarged spleen, in consultation with Dr. Pereira, a decision was made to begin treatment immediately.
The prescribed treatment was for me to be infused with a drug called Retuxin.
In the first instance it was necessary for me to be infused once per week for about four weeks and thereafter on a three (monthly) basis.
Each treatment required four to five hours. Before the start of each treatment it was necessary to draw some blood from me which would be sent to lab within the critical care centre to be analyzed. This was necessary so as to be sure that there were no changes in my condition which could adversely affect the treatment.
The treatment produced the right result. White cell count got lower but before I could complete the series my company paid insurance expired.
To pay on my own was going to be immensely expensive so I sought an alternative.
Fortunately, my daughter Robyn had transferred from Jackson Memorial Hospital to Broward General Hospital which had only recently created an Outpatient Infusion Center, dedicated to administering chemotherapeutic agents in an outpatient sitting. To me this meant that the treating of my Hairy Cell Leukemia could continue at more reasonable costs.
I was able to negotiate a lower price with Broward and thus was able to complete my treatment during 2013.
At Broward, I was under the care Dr. Archana Maini who replaced Dr. Denise Pereira.
When Dr. Cecil Bethel decided to retire he, by mutual agreement, transferred my file to Dr. John Lunn.
Fortunately, my Leukemia was in remission but required continuing surveillance.
And then quite unbelievably another health issue was discovered and related to my prostate.
Dr. Robin Roberts attended me and after a number of consultations and discussions with Dr. Lunn and my daughter, arrangements were made for me to have an appointment with Dr. Louis Yogel, chief of urology at Broward General.
An examination of my prostate revealed a presence of cancer.
Because I was in very good condition, Dr. Yogel, despite my age, decided that he would make arrangements for me to have radiation treatment of my prostate in order to shrink the cancer.
Because the treatment covered a 13 week period at five days per week, we decided to rent a small house in Fort Lauderdale for the duration.
And so treatment proceeded.
Then one day while showering and in the midst of my course of radiation treatment for the prostate cancer I felt a lump in my right breast which was fairly tender.
We decided that we should speak with Dr. Landau, who was in charge of the radiation center.
After examining me he ordered a biopsy. The procedure was carried out in a department which is basically reserved for female patients. It all felt odd to me but I had to proceed.
The result was not good – cancer was discovered.
What should be the course of action?
The decision after consultation was that my right breast should be surgically removed.
The operation was done by Dr. Tranakas, a specialist, available at Broward General.
The surgery was comprehensive and included injections of a nuclear medication into the area adjoining the cancerous section.
While recovering from the surgery, I was still having to undergo prostate radiation treatments.
Dr. Maini, during one of her examinations of my condition, commented that she had never had a male patient who had breast and prostate cancer at the same time as such cancers generally never occurred simultaneously as they were at the opposite end of the hormonal spectrum.
With respect to the various cancers for which I received treatments, they are currently in remission. I have labs done every four to six months to make sure that there have not been any changes to my condition.
I continue to remain very active with respect to maintaining a strong body.
To hold the breast cancer at bay, I am obliged to take daily a drug called Tamoxifen for five years and a blood pressure medication called Riac.
While the prospect of fighting is daunting it is recognized that with early detection of cancer it is possible to obtain medical treatment which can keep the disease at bay.
I maintain my faith in a future in which I can continue to have a positive influence upon those who are near to me and in some small measure provide assistance to those who are in need.
I feel confident that while the cancers have been neutralized I am able to live a normal life.