Michael Nowlan, born 16th March 1949 (70 years), married to Monica, three children Niamh, Sheila and Hugh along with three grandchildren. Apart from a year in Sweden, I worked in Trinity College in the IT service department and in Computer Science. I was the IT Director when I retired at the end of 2007 and then started doing a variety of consultancy work, including a feasibility study on university working in Eastern and Southern Africa.
In Autumn 2010, I did some volunteer consultancy in the universities in Malawi, at the end of this I started to feel unwell, but this was not unexpected due to lots of travel and strange foods. Following my return home, I continued to have diarrhoea but blamed it on the side effects of the anti-malaria treatment. Eventually sought medical help and the initial suggestions were all to do with Africa (malaria, bilharzia, giardia, AIDS) and I got treated with strong antibiotics (which helped for a while). Eventually my bloods went bad and I was admitted to St. James's where they still suspected Africa, mentioned Lymphoma treated me for diverticulitis. I was released at the end of March 2011.
In late April, I went back for a check-up was told that I had Follicular Lymphoma and that I would either be treated or would be part of a watch and wait process. Obviously this was a very traumatic moment, especially for the family. The information that was presented to me on diagnosis was very helpful and informative and provided some sort of consolation.
At this stage Monica and I visited the ARC in SCR, I rang up to make an appointment and was told to come now. We were met with a volunteer and introduced to the house and the services. Monica saw a counsellor for four weeks and I joined the weekly relaxation session. I continued the relaxation classes when I could during treatment. Being treated in St. James’s, ARC was a great place to call in to after treatment and to wait for my wife to collect me and take me home.
As part of the original investigation, I was scheduled for a colonoscopy in the middle of May in Tallaght. I was woken up after this procedure to be told that I had colon cancer and that I wasn't going home that day - I suspect my reaction was to fall back asleep again. So, here I was diagnosed with my second cancer in as many weeks - what next?
After six months illness, it was nearly a relief to be diagnosed - especially with two of the most treatable cancers.
Surgery a week later, chemotherapy from July-January 12 doses, every two weeks. Home from hospital with a pump. Then another 4 months chemo for the Lymphoma followed by two years maintenance treatment.
Following the end of the chemo treatments I looked forward to feeling better, but as the months passed, I really did not improve. My hair grew back and people said that I looked great – but I felt awful. In retrospect, it is obvious that the chemo treatment is cumulative and after almost a year of it, I should not have expected to feel better immediately – of the benefits of hindsight. At the depths of my bad feelings, I we back to the ARC and had three sessions of counselling and attended Mary Scarf’s course on Stress Management and then started to get myself back in order.
Feeling great! Active, hillwalking - but not as fit and able as my peers. Reduced feeling in feet is a problem, also hands/fingers. I fade mentally in the afternoon.
I am a peer supported for the ICS for both Colon cancer and Lymphoma and help in facilitating the "Cancer Thriving and Surviving" courses for people who are finished treatment. I got such great support from ARC, that I wanted to give something back. I learned loads of things that you never want to know, and I would like to pass this on to others if it could be of help. I wish I had managed to talk to people that were going through the same treatment as it would have helped. Especially regarding expectations.
I now volunteer one day a week with ARC South Circular Road. Meeting new clients is a key role and the services provided by ARC are outlined to them, very often these new clients are upset and fearful, so a few minutes listening to their story can provide them with comfort, of course, the whole environment in the centre exudes calmness, welcome and comfort.