61-year-old Stephen Aboud has lived all his life in the NSW snowy mountains. His Dad bought the family farm in 1948 and says Stephen “we’ve been poking away there ever since”.
But after a routine check up at the GP in 2011, Stephen was diagnosed with prostate cancer, changing his life in a moment.
“I couldn’t believe it,” he says. “I said to my doctor, ‘Me? Prostate cancer? You’re joking!’ I had no symptoms.”
If that wasn’t enough, soon after his cancer diagnosis, Stephen started to lose function in his legs. “I noticed they were getting weaker and weaker. I just thought my legs were being a bit lazy, and we’d get them going. But they just kept getting worse.”
Stephen was diagnosed with Cauda Equina Syndrome, a condition where the nerve bundle at the base of the spine is damaged, interrupting signals from the brain to the legs. It’s thought the neurological problem is somehow linked to the cancer. Stephen says it’s been difficult coming to terms with being paralysed from the waist down.
“My legs are what drive me insane. I’ve never been incapacitated in my life. It’s just unbelievable. To do anything off the farm we have to go 80kms or 100kms, so to not be able to drive is really hard.”
On top of this, they recently found the prostate cancer has spread to two vertebrae in his back and his lymph nodes.
To tackle the cancer in his spine, Stephen was told he’d need to have daily radiation therapy for a month. It was recommended he come to Sydney for treatment., but the problem was: where would he stay? He didn’t have any family to drive him to and from radiotherapy every day.
That’s when his doctor suggested the Jacaranda Ward at Greenwich Hospital.
There, Stephen could receive intensive rehabilitation to work on his mobility, leg and bladder function, be seen by a dietician and other allied health staff, as well as receive help getting to his radiation appointments.
Stephen was the first patient admitted to the ward on the day it opened – September 1.
Every day Stephen is wheeled up to the rehabilitation gym on site where a physiotherapist gets him using a tilt-table to help bring muscle strength back to his legs. And every day he is taken up the road to the Mater hospital for radiation therapy.
Stephen’s got a big goal, one which the doctors at Jacaranda are helping him work towards.
“Just to be able to get around the ranch. If I can just get a little bit of strength to get back on the bike, to be able to stand and work with the other fellows, and just to get into the tractor, to get back and be functional and do those sort of things would be amazing. I know I’ll probably go home in this wheelchair, but even to get to the point where I can walk using a frame.”
At the moment Stephen is taking each day at a time, but he’s doing it surrounded by the best possible team of experts.
Not only has Stephen been seen by a team of physios, a rehabilitation doctor and an OT, but also available on the ward are a dietician and pastoral care worker.
Stephen says when faced with the challenges he’s been dealt, there’s nowhere else he’d rather be than at Jacaranda.
“It’s a winner. We were stumped about what we were going to do and then we found this place. I’m very lucky. How could you get better? You couldn’t get better. Everything’s here that you need.”
To find out more about the Jacaranda Cancer Rehabilitation Ward at Greenwich Hospital speak to one of our service co-ordinators by calling (02) 9903 8333 during business hours. Admittance into the Jacaranda ward occurs through referral from the patient’s hospital or treating doctor.