By Jasmine Kazlauskas
A miracle cancer survivor thought he had indigestion before doctors discovered a tumour the size of a RUGBY BALL.
Chad Walkaden, 33, was given two years to live in January 2014 after medics discovered the huge 20cm by 15cm mass inside him after months of stomach pain and flu-like symptoms.
The 33-year-old Australian first visited a medical centre in November 2013 while living in London but claims doctors sent him home with medication for stomach acid build-up.
But two months later Chad was forced to call an ambulance at 4am after being woken up by unbearable neck and abdominal pain – before receiving the devastating news he had an extremely rare form of adrenal cancer which affects only one in a million people.
In February 2014 surgeons spent 14 hours removing a huge tumour the size and shape of a rugby ball, revealed in shocking images, from his right adrenal gland and also removed his right kidney.
But despite being given just two years to live, Chad, from Sydney, is amazingly now completely cancer free thanks to a new miracle drug trial.
The former social worker turned life coach said: “When I first went to the doctors they told me I had a build up acidity in my stomach and just gave me something to treat that and sent me home.
“I believed them and started an alkaline diet but of course it didn’t help.
“When I woke up in pain two months later, it was that deep and intense pain that just took over and I knew something was terribly wrong.
“I was rushed into hospital and they kept me in for three days trying to work out what it was. They thought it might be a parasite from my past travels to South America.
“But when I had an ultrasound that was when I first got a glimpse of this huge dark mass growing inside me.
“As soon as I saw the look in my doctor’s eyes, I just knew. When she told me I had a tumour growing inside me. I just went numb and could feel my throat tightening up.
“I fought back tears, but then just went to the bathroom and broke down crying.
“When I told my dad about the tumour over the phone, he wanted to know the size and I didn’t know how to tell him it was massive.
“He asked ‘is it the size of a raisin?’ And I said no. Then he said ‘What about a grape?’
“We went through all the fruits until he got to mango and then he decided to stop asking.
“I didn’t actually see the tumour until a few months after they took it out and my doctor sent me some photos.
“At the time, my mates and I were watching the footie so I showed them.
“At first everyone was like ‘wow its huge, oh my god’, and then they started saying it looks like a huge piece of meat and that it looks the roast lamb you have at Christmas.
“My mum had difficultly looking at it. It was the size of a rugby ball.”
After receiving his earth-shattering initial diagnosis, Chad decided to leave his life as a social worker in London behind and return to Australia to begin treatment and be with his family.
But at an assessment in January 2014 doctors diagnosed him with stage four adrenal cancer – officially known as Adrenal Cortical Carcinoma – and gave him just two years maximum to live aged just 30.
The following month, surgeons spent 14 hours working to remove the huge mass and Chad suffered through a year of grueling chemotherapy.
But his condition worsened and he was told in May 2015 the cancer had spread to his lungs.
In another brutal turn of events, in September 2015 Chad’s mum Jennifer, 63, was diagnosed with bowel cancer.
And ironically, the same day in April 2016 Jennifer was told she was cancer free was the day Chad discovered his cancer had spread further into his stomach, lungs and lymph nodes.
Doctors said there was nothing more they could do so the following month Chad decided to go on a clinical trial for a new cancer drug, Keytruda, because he had ‘nothing to lose’.
And amazingly, his tumours began to diminish – before he was declared completely cancer free in November last year.
Inspirational Chad said he was determined to fight his fate from the very beginning and had ‘absolutely no intention of leaving this earth’.
He has now become a counsellor and life coach after founding ‘The Cancer Blueprint’, a coaching programme which helps families deal with cancer.
Chad said: “I never wanted it to be ‘poor Chad’. I’ve always been a fighter and I knew I only had one choice, and that was to fight this disease and live.
“It was a life or death situation, and there was no way I was going to die.
“In April 2016 my surgeon just told me it was inoperable and basically, that it was the end of the line and there was nothing he could do.
“People say I should be really happy to be cancer free which I am. But I know it’s not the end. The reality is that I’ve had it three times.
“I just want to be the best I can be and live an amazing life while helping others around me do the same.
“This experience had made me appreciate life so much more and I feel so blessed to be where I am today.”
Keytruda, otherwise known as pembrolizumab, is a new drug that focuses on the immune system to interfere with the growth and spread of cancer cells. Clinical trials are currently being conducted around the world.