My Cancer Story
From Parents’ Magazine, November 1977
I am Andy Carstairs. Okay, I’m not. But that was the name given to me for an article that was written in 1977 about childhood leukemia. I knew this article existed–I saw it growing up, but only recently did I try to find a copy. Thanks to the good people at Parents Magazine, I now have a scanned copy. (And no, that’s not me in the picture below.)
It’s interesting to read about my story so many years after my diagnosis with acute lymphocytic Leukemia (now more commonly referred to as acute lymphoblastic leukemia or ALL). From my diagnosis in 1972 at age three to when I stopped taking my chemo pills at age seven, I never knew the pharmaceuticals I was taking. I only knew I had two white pills to take on Monday, one long one on Tuesday, six little yellow ones on Wednesday, etc. I now know what I received, and I can compare that to what the standard therapy is today. We’ve come a long way, baby! The article mentions, and I certainly remember (WAY too many) bone marrow aspirations and a lumbar puncture (spinal tap) or two (or three or a dozen). The article even said I had intrathecal injections! I don’t remember those, but hey, while they were drawing fluid out, they probably put some drugs back in without even telling me.
The article states some statistics, which are pretty scary looking back. I was lucky to have been enrolled in the clinical study for which much attention was paid to the treatment and outcomes. In fact, the article says that due to successful results in one arm of the study (not my arm), the patients in the other arm were retrospectively given additional treatment. It’s for this reason that I was given radiation treatment at age six. I didn’t question the additional treatment. I knew I had Leukemia, so I took the medicine (treatment) my doctor and mother told me to. Now I know why I needed radiation therapy. I accepted it unconditionally. Although, the permanent marker lines on my face that were used to line up the x-ray machine for each session, to avoid nuking certain critical parts of my head, were a drag. I was called “Indian” on more than one occasion that year. That hurt.
The relationship between me and my doctor was also explored in this article. From my perspective, the role Dr. Dvorak played was very much understated in print. Dr. D. was the most valuable member of my support team, second only to my mother. I will forever be grateful to Dr. D. (and to Mom, Sara, and Pasty & Dick). The role of a support group for a cancer patient, of any age, cannot be minimized. The patient’s team is critical.
Forty-four years after my diagnosis, I’m very thankful to have this personalized summary of my treatment.
If you are interested in reading the article in full, please send me a message through the Contact Me page and I’ll share a PDF copy with you.