Saturday, November 19, 2016

Double Whammy - beating an unbeatable cancer


 Renaissance Publishing -RRP: $27.99

BEST-KNOWN as one of New Zealand’s top food writers, Rowan Bishop speaks for the first time about the trauma and tailspin her family endured when her husband Russell was diagnosed with Double Hit Lymphoma (DHL).

DHL is a mutation of two rare and highly aggressive lymphomas, which can resist traditional chemotherapy treatment.
A Waikato University Professor, Russell was at a conference in Istanbul when DHL struck hard, dealing so much pain he needed walking sticks to get about. Had it not been for his early return from this trip and the quick-thinking of the family doctor, the tumours would have pierced his spinal cord and left him paralysed within 48 hours.

He was fit and healthy, exercised regularly, was a non-smoker and underwent regular medical check-ups. Completely out of the blue, he was confronted with what seemed to be a death sentence – even though four months previously he had been given an ‘all-clear’ from both his GP and a haematologist.

After radical spinal surgery to remove one of seven tumours threatening to pierce his spinal cord, he was diagnosed with Double-Hit lymphoma, a lymphoma with no evidence base for successful treatment.
However, when all hope was gone, he agreed to become Number Six or, in other words, the sixth person in the world to trial a new chemotherapy approach.
This new approach was so successful that it not only saved Russell’s life so that he became part of medical history, but it is now saving many more in New Zealand and contributing to global research into this newly identified lymphoma.

Now, more than two years later, both Russell and Rowan are convinced that his survival is entirely due to a collaboration of extremely dedicated medical professionals, a modicum of luck and unflagging positivity and support from all concerned.

Double Whammy: A Story About Beating an ‘Unbeatable’ Cancer chronicles a family with their backs against the wall and the remarkable display of human spirit and cutting-edge science that returned him from near death to good health.
Told with authenticity and spirit, from Rowan’s position as primary care-giver, there is no disguising the crushing impact this ordeal had, particularly on Rowan’s own health.
Not only is it a beautifully-written memoir, at turns dramatic and heart-felt and always compelling - it gives hope, not just in the power of love and support from those nearest, but also the outstanding level of care delivered by the New Zealand health system.
It is a story of complexity, of agency and positivity that validates human emotional response, and ultimately is a story of survival.

Russell is an internationally recognised academic, acclaimed for his work in improving the educational outcomes of indigenous students; he featured in the 2016 NY Honours when he was awarded an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to Maori and Education.
About the author: A secondary school teacher for 13 years, Rowan Bishop ran her own speciality catering company in Dunedin for a decade going on to publish six cookbooks, most recently, Rowan Bishop’s ‘Vital’.
Rowan, who lives in Hamilton and has four adult children with Russell, has written hundreds of columns about food, travel and everything in between.


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