NEW DELHI: The series of events this year has made ‘so far so good’ the leading cliche. Uncertainty prevails and most people perhaps thanked their stars more in the past six months. If that wasn’t enough, courtesy the coronavirus pandemic, in Sydney, former India hockey coach Michael Nobbs had another monster riding his back: a stage III lung cancer.
The 66-year-old Nobbs’ world came crashing down when the diagnosis was revealed to him back in March. Like most suffering from the high-risk disease, the question troubling the Australian was “why me?”
A father of two daughters, Kaitlin and Jaimee, Nobbs was looking forward to seeing Kaitlin play for the Australian hockey team at the Tokyo Olympics. But instead, the dad had a battle on his own hands that he wasn’t prepared for, but had no choice left to face it.
After getting over millions of questions in a state of soliloquy, the sportsman in Michael came to the fore and told him to put his boxing gloves on. To give up is not part of the Aussie DNA and the Olympian from the 1984 Games didn’t want to be an exception.
The account of Nobbs’s life over the last six months is a gut-wrenching journey, but he has come out as a winner. The malignant tumour has vanished and he has been declared cancer-free.
Nobbs coached the Indian men’s team from 2011 to 2013, and took Indian hockey back to the Olympics after the 2008 nadir. Sharing how his life fought through rapids to reach calm waters, Nobbs shared the following note with Timesofindia.com.
Michael Nobbs wrote:
“I was living a wonderful life. Coaching, two wonderful children, a small business owner and great friends. Well, on the 31st March (2020), I sat in Professor Michael Wilson’s office and had the wonderful news given to me that I had advanced stage IIIA lung cancer.
Diagnosis, 26/03/20: Summary, Stage 111A (T1N2) NSCLC, adenocarcinoma, LUL mass with mediastinal and subcarinal LNs EGFR mutated (deletion in exon 19) for concurrent – RT with weekly carboplatin and paclitaxel followed by surgery 29/06/20.
My world came tumbling down in that moment. All the questions: Why me? I don’t smoke, never have. What’s next? Am I going to die? How will I cope? How will I tell the girls (daughters), my friends. Professor Michael asked me if I have any questions. I don’t even remember what I said.
I left and sat in my car and cried and cried, I never do that. How the hell did this happen to me?
I started to make some calls and after the initial shock, I came to realise what a wonderful family and friends I had. My time as a sportsman started to say to me: ‘It’s just another battle, albeit the stakes were rather high.’
I was rather fortunate to be under three professors at one of the leading teaching hospitals in the country, the Macquarie University Hospital (Sydney).
When you get cancer, everyone is so kind and helpful and you start looking at what treatments are out there. Medical and alternative. I made the decision to place my life in the hands of medical professionals. I found that (by) taking an alternative approach with this type of disease, you only get to make that choice once, you generally don’t get a second chance.
My case was an unusual one and they had a group/team that had been discussing it and what treatment I would be getting. It was all a blur at that stage. So many thoughts going through my mind. I made a point of not looking up Dr. Google, as I saw a research paper that basically showed that diagnosis through Dr. Google was showing a 70 percent inaccuracy rate. I was already thinking some pretty dark thoughts and didn’t need a faulty medical google doctor having an impact on me.
Well, the diagnosis and treatment finally came through.
I asked how they came up with it and they said that as it’s unusual, there is not a lot of research on this and they would be following a couple of papers that were in progress, but would be changing a few things. I just said, ‘I don’t mind as long as I come out of this alive’.
They said as I was a very fit and healthy person, they would be basically throwing the kitchen sink at me. Chemo and radiation for six weeks and then surgery. It’s a tough regime but the other option isn’t a pleasant one.
I met many people who are going through similar fights as mine and some whose battle is far greater and just clinging to life. This is a hideous disease and shows no compassion and doesn’t mind if you are rich, poor, old, young. It is just a battle that you either go through or give up.
Every person I met had a story to tell.
Robert was in chemo a few times with me and we struck up a conversation, and I asked him how he is going. He told me he had stomach cancer and it has spread to the rest of his body and they have given him six months. I was devastated as he said he has two children and is only 46 years old. He said he had accepted the diagnosis and just wanted to spend time with his children.
Another was Julie, 45, and this was her third time back for a recurrence of breast cancer, and she was so optimistic that she would beat it again. Julie has three children.
Sitting in chemo and radiation every day, you build a bond with many of them and a kind of support group to help each other. You get to realise that some of the stupid things you used to complain about or get upset about really aren’t that important. Family, friends, children, enjoy your trip through life. It could be a lot shorter than you think.
Well, a few days ago I just got the best news.
I am free of cancer – NED (No Evidence of Disease). It’s like winning lotto and having Christmas all at the same time. I would have loved to run and jump and scream at the top of my voice; but I’m still sore from the operation and they unfortunately cut a vocal chord. They can fix it (but) they said my singing days are over.
I will be monitored every six months for a couple of years and hoping it doesn’t come back.
That’s my story and to all my family and friends, all I can say is thanks for your support.