Sadly, Kelvin Twist passed away in 2014. Below is his story.
"In January 2008 I was 40 and fit. I was the New Zealand IT Director for a large global financial merchant bank running major projects, and frequently travelling between New Zealand and Australia. Motor racing was a passion and in March that year when I raced at Bathurst, I did not do as well as expected. Soon after, my wife and I were away with friends walking up and down hills and I was getting tired and short of breath. I was frustrated because I was going to the gym four to five times a week and knew I was fit. I went to the doctor for my shortness of breath and she sent me for chest x-rays and to a cardiologist. A couple of days later a scan showed narrowing of arteries. The cardiologist’s advice was to take it easy, not exercise very much, and no flying. Further tests were inconclusive so a biopsy was done. Two days later it was confirmed I had cancer. It felt like a death sentence but I knew I had to help find a way to fix it.
I was diagnosed with intimal sarcoma of the pulmonary artery which is a very rare tumour (25 cases worldwide diagnosed since 1928) that was blocking the blood pumping to my heart. If I did not have surgery I had approximately six to eight weeks to live, so the choice was an easy one. I know survival rates are increasing but when you are diagnosed you can’t help but focus on the people you know who have not made it.
The tricky operation to remove my left lung went well and I spent 10 days in an induced coma and then six weeks in hospital recovering. I went from being in a high-powered position, fit and healthy to being very vulnerable – managing intense pain, immobility, and learning to function again – how to communicate, talk, walk and swallow. I was still very sick when I went home and it took four weeks before I could walk from my house to the corner of the street.
I started chemotherapy in October and managed to have Christmas with the family. Unfortunately on my fourth cycle of Chemo I developed an exceptionally toxic blood infection and was not expected to survive, after being admitted to the Department of Clinical Care I was then moved to the cancer ward at Auckland District Health Board for another two months (and nine operations). I obviously survived and now have a huge passion to help others travelling the cancer and general health system journey, to try and improve the services as much as I can.
I am a Kiwi but I did live in the land of Oz for 17 odd years and married a lovely Australian lady. I have worked in the corporate financial and IT area for more than 25 years, and in recent years have been consulting part-time both to financial institutions and health sector providers around consumer improvement, as well as with fund raisers in the health sector."