You could say Andrew Rosenberg has been dealt a tough hand in the game of life. But that’s not the way he sees it.
In his eyes, he’s one of the lucky ones.
At just 47 years old, Andrew was diagnosed with lung cancer. As part of Lung Cancer Awareness Month (November), he is sharing his story to raise awareness of the disease and remind us of what’s important in life.
It was May 2014 when Andrew first felt a pain in his back. A trip to his local GP ended in a referral to the physio but unfortunately the pain only got worse.
After a few months of trying to manage, he and his partner of 20 years, Stephanie, decided to take a holiday to Thailand.
“I got a heap of massages while we were there, but it just didn’t help,” Andrew said.
“While I was there (in Thailand) I organised for a colonoscopy and gastroscopy to be done as soon as I got home. Everything was fine, so I went back to the GP and he referred me for a CT scan.”
Following his CT scan, Andrew was told to make an appointment with his doctor the next day.
“He said it was a tumour on the kidney - that was all they knew at that stage,” he said.
“It just didn’t register – I’ve got cancer.”
After a meeting with his urologist, Professor Mark Frydenberg, and having a biopsy and PET scan, Andrew was told the shocking news that the tumour on his kidney was a secondary cancer and that he had non-small cell lung cancer.
“There were so many thoughts racing through my head, am I going to live? Am I going to die?” he said.
“I didn’t want to ask what stage I was, I didn’t want to know - but it was Stage 4.”
Andrew started chemotherapy in October 2014. But two months into his treatment, his partner Stephanie was diagnosed with renal failure.
The pair spent the next few months in and out of hospital and Stephanie was put on dialysis.
In February, Andrew was given the good news that the tumour on his kidney had shrunk and doctors were able to remove his kidney, spleen, adrenal gland and part of his pancreas.
But the tumour on his lung proved more difficult. Andrew was put on another round of chemotherapy but the cancer wasn’t responding.
“You’re clutching at straws and you’re thinking it’s all over. It wasn’t good at all,” Andrew said.
His oncologist, Associate Professor Lara Lipton, had one more option for him to consider – a drug called Nivolumab.
“Lara wrote to the pharmaceutical company on compassionate grounds due to the cost of the medicine, and they said I could use it.”
Andrew now attends Cabrini fortnightly for treatment.
“It makes me a bit tired but it doesn’t knock me around. It’s shrunk the tumour so dramatically,” he said.
“I feel good, I don’t let it dominate my life at all.”
Sadly, Andrew’s partner Stephanie died from renal failure in February 2018.
“She was a massive part of who I am,” Andrew said.
“If you want to buy yourself a nice car, do it if you can. If you want to go on holiday, fly first class if you can. You don’t know when it will be over. Don’t take life for granted. Stop and smell the roses a little bit, enjoy yourself.
“But ultimately, life is the sum of your relationships, it’s about how you treat people, it doesn’t matter what assets you have.”
Andrew, a former smoker, said before being diagnosed with lung cancer he knew it was a disease dealt to people who smoked or had worked around asbestos.
“It’s not the sort of thing you think you’ll get, or that if you did you’d be older. But you can just be unlucky.”
As for life now, Andrew is self-employed and running his business, Rosenberg Media, fulltime.
“It’s definitely been an interesting journey. And so far I am one of the very lucky ones.
“I would like to give a special thanks to my two surgeons, Prof Frydenberg and Mr Roger Berry, who performed a miracle on me, and my oncologist A/Prof Lipton who without her, I wouldn’t be here today.”
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