National Cancer Survivor Month | 24 June 2020
Brian Orr: “Take responsibility for your own health, know your own body and how it works!”
In collaboration with Cancer Concern Association (CCA), today we have a chat with cancer survivor Brian Orr, who is the managing director of an electrical contracting company called MEJ Electrical. It is not easy for cancer survivors to talk about their experiences and we are grateful to those who have the courage to share their stories with our readers.
Seychelles NATION: Please tell our readers who is Brian Orr?
Brian Orr: I was born in Scotland and came to Seychelles as a volunteer in 1974, to teach the electricians at the Seychelles Technical School. I have always been active and keep fit by jogging three times a week. I am on various committees such as Rotary, Eco Friendly Road races/ marathon and Cancer Concern Association.
Seychelles NATION: How and when did you discover you had cancer?
Brian Orr: I found out or was diagnosed with colon cancer in April 2018. I had spots of blood in my stools and my GP, Dr Jivan, at first suspected hemorrhoids.
When the treatment did not work he sent me to the specialist at the Victoria Hospital. He also thought that it was hemorrhoids and gave me the same treatment.
When once again it did not work, he scheduled me for a colonoscopy at Victoria Hospital. When he carried out the colonoscopy he immediately told me that I required urgent surgery and would be admitting me to hospital the same day.
This was later changed and I was not admitted to the hospital on that day but was asked to return the following day for a blood test and CT scan. The following day I went back for the blood test and CT scan. The following day I went back to see the doctor but could not find him. The following day I went back again and no luck in getting into contact with the doctor.
Seychelles NATION: What were your first reactions and how did you deal with it?
Brian Orr: My first reaction to the news that I had a growth which was probably cancer was shock and fear. My knowledge of cancer and its treatment was very limited but I was sure that I needed to get rid of it as soon as possible.
Seychelles NATION: What were your next steps?
Brian Orr: My way of dealing with it was to book a flight to Sri Lanka and HEMAS Hospital in Colombo. The following Monday I was in the hospital in Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan doctor allowed me to be awake to see for myself what I had to deal with when he carried out another colonoscopy so I was able to see the cancer growth inside my own colon.
The surgery to remove it was done two days later. My recovery from the major surgery was approximately 10 days. I then stayed an extra week in Colombo to meet with the oncologist, a cancer specialist.
Seychelles NATION: What has helped to overcome cancer?
Brian Orr: I was told that I would not need chemotherapy which was a great relief for me. What helped me the most to go through the experience was the support of my family and friends especially my wife. I also believe that my faith and spirituality helped me a lot.
Seychelles NATION: How long did you take medication and for how long have you been cancer free?
Brian Orr: I have been going back to Sri Lanka for regular checkups every 6 months and do a blood test with my GP every 3 months. Now after 2 years of being cancer free I will now cut back to every 6 months blood test and 1 year for checkup
Seychelles NATION: Is there cancer in the family?
Brian Orr: I am not aware of any other member of my family who has been diagnosed with cancer. However, my younger sister and my niece have both had problem with their colon.
Seychelles NATION: What advice would you give to our readers as well as cancer patients?
Brian Orr: My best advice to cancer patients and the public is to have regular checkups. Take responsibility for your own health, know your own body and how it works. When you do not feel right check out why. Most countries in the world now recommend that men over 50 have a regular colonoscopy. Early detection is the best way to survive cancer, get it early and your chances of survival goes up a lot. Don’t let any doctor decide your fate; you know what your body is like, get a second opinion if you’re not happy with what you are told. Don’t put off till tomorrow what you can do today.
My lifestyle has changed in that I cut back on the work that I do and I try to enjoy my life day to day. I have been told that I don’t have as much patience with people as before!
Compiled by Vidya Gappy