In a way, I feel lucky I had cancer - by Scott Haines

Spring 2013, Living Well Magazine

Scott Haines and daughter Amella, North Warryndyte, Victoria

For me, it started with a sore throat. I thought it was the start of a cold.

Both the glands in my throat came up, but only one went down. I went to the doctor and was subsequently tested for glandular fever, but that came back negative. I was quickly booked in to see a specialist at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, who took a biopsy. A few days later he rang me at work and told me I had cancer.

I couldn’t believe it. I worked the rest of the day; not really knowing what else to do. I left work a bit earlier and had dinner with my family. Somehow, I managed to break the news to my wife, who was devastated. Further tests revealed I had throat cancer brought on by a strain of the human papillomaviruses (HPV16). A tumour had developed on my tonsil and spread to a lymph gland in my neck. The advised treatment was a course of radiation and chemotherapy.

I was already aware of The Gawler Cancer Foundation through my family’s experiences with cancer. My wife and I decided to attend the 12 week Living Well Cancer Program at the Hawthorn centre. Before cancer, I had quite an unhealthy lifestyle. I was a pretty big drinker and would use alcohol to manage stress. I ate too much and was significantly overweight. I also had high cholesterol, which I was managing through prescription drugs.

After The Gawler Cancer Foundation program, I changed my diet significantly, stopped drinking and quit coffee. It’s fairly ironic really, but just before my treatment for cancer, I felt better than I had in years – all thanks to meditation and diet. 

I was lucky that I was given a good prognosis and told that there was an 85 to 90 per cent chance that radiotherapy and chemotherapy would get rid of the cancer. It’s true; I have since been given the all clear. But, that wasn’t before I got really sick from the chemo and radiation treatment – I literally couldn’t get out of bed for three months.

One of the major things I learned through attending The Gawler Cancer Foundation program was that you have choices around your medical treatment. At the start, I thought I needed to do whatever the doctors told me, but I learned you can take an active role and be involved in the decision making. I also learned that while western medicine will treat your symptoms, the approach The Gawler Cancer Foundation takes will treat the cause of your cancer.

I believe that what I learned at The Gawler Cancer Foundation helped not only with the effectiveness of the chemo and radiation treatment but with my recovery and ongoing wellbeing. The tools I picked up at Gawler gave me a sense of empowerment, as well as ownership of my condition and my treatment – I learned about curing myself rather than just treating symptoms.

My cancer taught me a lot about priorities. I certainly don’t work as much as I used to and spend more time with my wife and two small children. It sounds strange, but in a way, I feel I’ve been lucky to get this. With the lifestyle I had, if I didn’t get cancer, it would have eventually been a stroke or a heart attack, or some other life threatening condition. While there is no denying my cancer was an unpleasant experience, it was also an extremely positive experience for me.