My mind meanders like a dog on a leash walking in familiar territory

8th November 2014: Sydney Australia

A new addition to my daily routine was mentioned briefly in the last entry prior to the diversion stemming from the rudeness about the staff at the pharmacy. In some ways, maybe the shift from topic was necessary as this very morning, the routine was not integrated into my day.

So, I have been trying to face the day with a period, always aiming for more than a few seconds whereby some gratitude, breathing exercises or affirmations are made. The timing is of essence. Initially, I was able to dedicate more time and concentration to this task, and as the months passed I felt a wondering mind was more often taking centre stage. Some thinking had been directed to this area of my life over the previous weeks, and on some days I was able to enter both a peaceful and alert state rather than a mind meandering like a dog on a leash walking in familiar territory. How was I to combat this? Well, attempting to complete this task in the warmth of bed where I have just had 8 hours of blissful sleep was probably not the idea location. It was decided a change in location was needed plus the task should commence immediately upon waking opposed to allowing a myriad of thoughts to circulate throughout my thinking.

At this point, some background information should have portray the intended message, and it derives from the learning undertaking during a four day spiritual retreat in July. The main point taken form the retreat was a reinforcement of my personal belief in both my mind and body being the force of change and creation, rather than an external greater power. Therefore, bearing this in mind, I felt a level of movement was needed to be incorporated into the daily routine, and consequently the plan was to get out of bed, taking to the yoga mat to hold a certain pose (sleeping baby). Expectedly for the level of my flexibility, it was not possible for my forehead to rest on the floor upon waking up in the morning. Completion of this required a process whereby my thoughts were consciously directed internally to the areas of my body relaxing and stretching to fulfil the intention to reach a peaceful state to commence the day. I found the process of focusing on each part of body unlocking kept me in a conscious state where my mind didn’t wander. In addition, a recognisable difference was noticed from starting to the finishing the exercise. It it highly likely that reference to a measurement is not a factor that should be discussed in this context, however, it assisted in my goal of completing affirmations whilst also symbolising the nature of change, i.e. is gradual, and not an easy process. I am displeased in not continuing the routine, so have considered use of another timeframe to really give myself the opportunity to gauge my capacity at introducing the task into my daily routine.

How environments shape our behaviours

6th November 2915: Sydney Australia

I am writing this from the pharmacy reception, and feeling fortunate of only needing to spend a fraction of my time in this place when seeing my doctor due to the hostile, unfriendly and overall negative atmosphere that always seems present. I was feeling extremely positive about my entry today till being placed within this place. My intentions shifted from a positive mind-state, highlighting a new addition to my daily routine to a negative experience examining an idea on the correlation between an environment and the behaviours of existing occupants. Recollections of all visits to this department never elicit a positive experience. Instead, the points coming to mind is the encountered unnecessary difficulty and an extremely unhelpful team of rude staff. Factors not needed when already processing the information of the task ahead.

A number of examples can be draw upon when thinking about the correlations between an environment and the behaviours of the particular population. For instance, there is research detailing the significant crime drops noted in varying cities where police have taken a more proactive approach to working with the community rather than an approach deemed ‘over policing’ or other examples, such as decisions made by governments to improve social cohesion and safety within sections of a city where a diverse range of housing options are available, opposed to historic clustering of public housing with poor lighting, unsuitable street design and limited commercial development within the area. The introduction of classical music in malls to decrease the likelihood of anti-social behaviours by young people is another example of the power of the environment influencing the behaviours of those who occupy it. An experiment I would like to trial would be located within a men’s toilet of all places. My reasoning derives from a recent visit to a notable Sydney venue with impeccable water views. Since my last visit, attention had been placed on taking advantage of the spectacular position of the establishment, thus, a wide spreading beer garden overlooked the water, a DJ was playing summer tunes in a makeshift garden and overall a really fantastic environment had been created. The interesting observation was that any renovations that occurred failed to take into account the men’s toilet. Consequently, a quick walk lead me into this completely different world, and unsurprisingly the men’s toilet resembled what people would think a male’s toilets would look like. One could not imagine the same mental output was put towards creating a fun summer scene outside was leaving the toilet in such a state. The question I pose is whether people behaved in such a way (I don’t think details are required) because the poor environment they found themselves within. Would the behaviours of the people who use the bathroom be the same if they were using bright, well-designed and hygienic facilities rather than a dark, cold and unclean toilet?

If the above hypothesis is correct and we were the experience above as an example, then what could be the reason for the pharmacy acting as the equivalent as the males toilet, and why does it differ to the usual department visited when seeing my doctor? The response I pose was highlighted in the comments made by another person waiting to collect their medication. The guy said, ‘they don’t care about us waiting as they have the drugs and they know we all want the drugs’. The comment explicitly shows a complete similarity between the actions of the employees of pharmacy department and actual drug dealers selling illicit substances. In each case, an imbalance of power exists with the person wanting or needing the drugs from a supplier, and the supplier regardless of whether selling cocaine or chemotherapy is aware of the persons want/need. Therefore, it appears the environment has created context for the employees to abuse their power, be casual with their timeframes and speak rudely to people seeking their support. A final thought, and maybe an exaggeration, however, the Stanford Prison Experiment comes to mind when writing the entry, so if you are unfamiliar with the experiment, then I highly suggest reading it if not known. It is a clear indication of the profound influence of the environment on those whom occupy it.

Cancer, balance and life

5th November 2014: Sydney Australia

The initial draft of the Sunflower Framework has been completed, and is now being reviewed by trusted peers. Ultimately, the feedback will assist me in forming a decision on whether to pursue the programme. If not, the whole process will still be seen as a positive as I was able to adhere to a relatively decent timescale, eliciting a feeling of accomplishment whilst also paving a way forward to keep myself accountable in all areas of my life. I do not want to get ahead of myself due to the very real possibility of the programme not succeeding, however, if it appears others agree there is some scope for the programme to come to fruition, then some scope for implementation may exist. Another positive note was the enjoyment and stimulation stemming from the process of putting together the programme. Also, the whole process has been a massive learning curve whereby I have gained a brief introduction into all the aspects needing to be factored into future projects. It is easy to think that a programme can be designed and run, and disregard all the practical steps needing to be considered. Mind you, I am only referring to points I can draw on so it is inevitable many other factors will come to light.

In regards to other areas of my life, I have found that balance in my relationship! If an entry was made yesterday, the best possible way to convey my thoughts would have been to pick up a blue pen to rapidly draw circles in an unsystematic fashion. Pure anger was felt. I have not experienced a level of frustration comparable in a long time. With regret, I admit an explosive conversation resulted in a calmer conversation with both of us explaining and listening to one another. I say regret, as I would like to think this could easily have been avoided if we approached it in a varied manner. Furthermore, I do not like to raise my voice, or if being completely honest with myself, then recognising that I was in fact yelling! An ugly trait I do not associate with myself, however, it surfaced yesterday, and is a key point in my life to definitely work on eliminating entirely. There may be reasons contributing to the frustration yet no explanation for such actions.

A third point intended to be discussed today, and one a little more targeted to the area of Cancer. I was advised that my Cortisol levels were too high, resulting in another change in medicine to commence from tomorrow plus there was a lengthy waiting period till a response was heard from my doctor. Both legitimate areas to discuss, however, personally they were of little importance to another point raised during the conversation with my doctor. Details won’t be delved into, however, in summary the matter of prognosis was central to the conversation. My doctor noted that speaking in terms of the statistics on the Cancer I have, he would be confident in saying that I do not have a life expectancy beyond two years. I do not believe this, and I am also confident he will expect to still be seeing me for years to come, witnessing me flourishing as time passes. Admittedly, a stain was left on my conscious. It was like I needed to tell others about it, however, what was this about? Is it a case of reminding others, “hey, I’m still that guy with Cancer, don’t forget about it’. It makes me consider whether it has really become my identity as I’ve read about, and maybe this process of writing is just another representation of that identity? The process of thinking it through lead me to think that I seek some enjoyment out of hearing the news as it is a challenge, instilling a sense of self-belief and reassurance of being the 3 out of 10 people who will survive! Upon reflecting on the previous statement, there are two very clear points. Firstly, I am extremely confident in my belief about survival or I am in complete and utter denial. I think a very apt sentence to conclude the entry will be to refer to the smirk on my face whilst writing this. Yes, an arrogance to some, for me, confirmation of my challenge and belief of survival!

Regret or reinforcement

2nd November 2014: Sydney Australia

I very rarely look at what has bee noted on previous days, however, ironically the two words from the last passage ‘an imbalance’ immediately captured my attention. The irony of those two words results from the circulating thoughts about the total lack of equilibrium in my life. Mind you, other factors are to be considered, contributing to the imbalance, namely, the events from last night.

I must note, no feelings of regret have occurred throughout the day nor was it a matter of not enjoying myself, there are just a few very visible points from last night that should have been amended, and, ultimately, it is highly probable of a normal day being enjoyed if I altered my approach. I also recognise the ongoing dispute with my girlfriend definitely contributed to the chain of events, especially after receiving a text message being advised that we are no longer together and she has called a cease to the relationship. At the time, there was no thought that this would direct the future events, however, undoubtedly a strong association with the anger manifested. Consequently, leading me into a mindset where I wished to let off steam, particularly as I had an engagement party to attend.

On reflection, a number of amendments if applied most likely would have lead to a varying state I am not within. Firstly, the decision to not drive sets myself up for a difficult task with the location so far from my house, especially when leaving at a time when public transport slows down dramatically and the financial restrictions making the use of a taxi impossible. Not eat dinner or taking medication on time are almost moronic, bearing in mind the reports I have provided on the importance of food and medication to my energy levels. Consumption of alcohol is another point, and I’m not referring to drinking alcohol in excess, it was four drinks maximum over the course of the night, however, it is definitely a case of one or two that were unnecessary. Finally, insufficient sleep for the night is the final point, almost appearing as if last night I subjected my body to a test in an attempt to see the degree of change I could enforce on my body in one night. The results are so straight forward, and are the underlying reasons for making the changes to my lifestyle.

All day I have felt lethargic, consumed food today out of my usual eating plan, missed good waves and the beautiful whether, and am writing still tired after a four hour sleep during the day. In addition, the standoff/dispute/breakup with my girlfriend is still on-going. In summary, a very enjoyable night was had, and I am extremely happy to celebrate the engagement party, however, an equally enjoyable time could have been had without diverting so much from my approach to life. Another final thought was the flaws in my previous mindset whereby a weekend life fuelled on booze, mixed food, limited sleep were what I deemed heathy, as long as I did some exercise. In reality, it may have been the weakening of my immune system to allow the Cancer to rid my body. To conclude, there is little point holding regrets, rather use the night as reminder for how I actually wish to live my life.

Cancer and relationships

30th October 2014: Sydney Australia

I have been lost for words over the past two days, with the mental blockage seeming to have occurred again today. I can pinpoint the reasoning for this lack of motivation, and solely derives from a thought about the current imbalance present in my life.

In most areas I feel fantastic, being able to adhere with my plans for movement for the week, not having periods of nausea, and able to construct future planning regarding what I wish to be doing over the coming year. At first sight, all appears to be going well, there is of course the fact of no current income, however, this isn’t a major priority at the moment resulting from the limited weekly outgoings. So really, it is another positive point right? What is the missing link? One word, relationships.

It is now three days of enduring an old style country standoff with my girlfriend, and through the process of writing have been able to identify some of the moods had over the past few days as stemming from this. A standoff doesn’t sound like the best approach to regaining a balance in my life, actually talking would seem like an easy way to rectify this, however, something relatively small has now entered a phase where a stubbornness is stopping me from putting myself out there, or is the matter rather larger than I can face, and cowardly the larger issue has been unravelling throughout the past few days in disguise? There’s no link direct link to cancer. Rather a secondary connection to the Cancer experience, an area I imagine is difficult for many in a relationship, particularly for our case as we are living on opposite sides of the world. All I know is that is has left me angry, deflated, at a complete loss from not seeing her smile, and all the feelings have been intensified by a loneliness resulting from my parents taking a holiday. Yes, a 30 year old man who is feeling somewhat alone resulting from his parents going away for the weekend. Compare this to travelling alone around the world during my twenties. What a catch I’ve turned out to be!

How the events we encounter shape our perceptions of life

27th October 2014: Sydney Australia

How often do certain phrases attempt to corrupt your mindset into believing the world we live in is static rather than dynamic. “What’s been happening, oh not much” is a modern aged typical use of language exchanged to deny the existence of an ever changing process of life. Are both examples a true reflection of the beliefs held by people or does it result from an inherent laziness that is seemingly developing stronger over time within the population of the modern world?

Ultimately change is subjective, and the meaning we as a population place on change is also subjective. Take for instance the blooming of flowers on a plant discussed yesterday. It would be absurd to assume that everyone walking past the flower on a daily basis would notice the slow growth throughout the weeks. In contrast, others would have observed the change, and some even would have made the slightest observations in more detail. Such observations could include the increase in visibility of varying insects or the morning calling of certain birds being heard earlier than previous weeks. Another variant to consider would be whether the concept of time needs to be factored into the discussion. Instead of walking past a plant on a daily basis, take for example the likelihood of someone noticing the change who walked past the empty flower prior to his/her departure from the airport during a month in winter and returning in summer to see the flower showing all it’s grandeur and beauty.

The point of the entry relates to how we both notice and measure change? An experience this morning resulted in thoughts about whether I have changed over the course of the year, or should I say whether I have changed because of having had Cancer. It may appear to be fairly straight forward, and I’m curious as to the perception of those around me if they were to read this. Admittedly, adjustments have been made in my lifestyle and the ways I spend my time, the most striking difference is the inclusion of yoga within my daily routine, and the fact I am currently incapable of working. In regards to the external perception of me, I imagine a look at my medical records alone would be sufficient for many to think change is inevitable. In addition, lifestyle changes may be a noticeable indicator for labelling a change has occurred. For me, a difference in lifestyle choices in no way equates to what I deem real change. Instead, as noted previously, I feel my thinking and outlook on life has grown, possibly at an accelerated pace due to the circumstances encountered. Therefore, I agree some changes may have resulted from the experience of Cancer, however, I wish to highlight the fact of changes were made in a linear fashion, stemming from a pre-existing plan for how to approach life, consistent with the stage I am within my lifecycle.

The topic came to the forefront of my thinking whilst sitting alone in the ocean on a very small day with little to no opportunity for waves to be caught. Regardless of what the ocean was offering, I felt like time in the water was needed, even if it was briefly, and it would be a bonus should the occasion present itself for a wave to be caught. The events unfolded with me taking to the water directly in front of two girls sunbaking on the beach and a fisherman casting his line in the water. Twenty minutes had passed when I realised the pulse of waves on offer at the beginning of the session were no longer available. When looking to the shore, I noticed the girls and the fisherman had both seemed to move about 50 meters down the beach. Now, anyone with a knowledge of the water would know that they didn’t move, and the change in my position was due to the inconspicuous movement of the water drifting me down the beach.

The circumstances made me reflect on the nature of change, and how it is observed, especially when one is experiencing Cancer. Now, externally a perception of the experience of Cancer may consist wholly of a correlation with sorrow, tragedy and a completely unjust predicament, however, personally, the words associated with Cancer would be life, opportunity and happiness. The purpose of the entry is to outline the importance of recognising how circumstances are viewed, and how greatly they can vary between people. I must note, I am extremely aware that my views would not be shared be all people who have experienced Cancer, again, this is an example of a situation of varying people viewing a situation through a different lens. In conclusion, I agreed a sudden event caused a great deal of stress and worry, however, it set me upon this direction in life, and internally it almost feels like an excuse to actually implement the intended changes planned for many years.

I say I don’t use drugs… Is that because the Sun is my dealer?

26th October 2014: Sydney Australia

Summer is coming! The difference on my mind and body between a hot balmy summers day opposed to one miserable, cold and wet is not comparable. The sun has become a drug like substance causing a euphoria to flow through my body during it’s peak and then drops me into a flat state of longing and despair when the feeling has faded. I have pondered the reasoning behind the mite of that narcissistic sun being able to draw my utter attention, and am yet to form a solid conclusion. Could my addiction stem from the four years of suffering a Vitamin D deficiency over the course of my stay in London, the loss of body weight I am still lacking, the influence from readings highlighting the healing properties of the sun or just my senses detecting the imminent Australian summer ready to soar into action? For arguments sake, lets take the latter theory, a position whereby one sees the environment as a flowing interconnected system with me intrinsically connected to the open circular process slowly transforming on a daily basis. A system transforming at a pace where the unobservant eye would fail to detect the flowers beginning to bloom after an annual hiatus or the changing of the winds that start blowing on a daily basis from the north rather than the dominating southerly winds common within the Winter months of Sydney.

On a more human level, there does seem to be a degree of accuracy in theories posed about our bodies undergoing changes in preparation for Summer. Mind you, the ever self-promoting sun confuses our bodies by pushing a hot period of weather followed by an onslaught of rain and misery! If we were to get back to the point of whether it is true that our bodies are connected to our changing environment, then does it not seem plausible to think that the capacity of my body to combat the Cancer at the beginning of the year was weakened? Particularly considering the lengthy stay I had in London! The seeds of this chain of thought were first planted in my mind in London when the tumour was first detected. The team of treating doctors asked me to really consider returning to Sydney for the operation, partly due to the level support to be required, however, also to quote, ‘as my body was accustomed to a certain climate for 26 of my almost 30 years, and therefore, was more likely to heal in such circumstances’. I am extremely happy that the idea was suggested, otherwise I would have stayed in London, enduring everything without my family and friends from Australia whilst also suffering in the cold winter. A little off track I know, so, if I am to heal better in the climate my body is accustomed to does that not also indicate that as a preventative measure I should remain in a similar climate to pro-long my chance of survival? The question entails some possible factors or could just derive from that addiction first mentioned in the opening sentence justifying my future thinking to not only stay in Australia, but to chase the sun throughout the winter months to ensure I continuously get my fix!

What is healthy eating?

24th October 2014: Sydney Australia

I’m back basking in the land of normality, and feeling particularly positive as I’m not not weighed down with thoughts about the food eaten yesterday. All junk was avoided, replaced with the Spelt sandwich option. When looking at portion size, it would be definitely deemed as indulging, probably not the wisest decision to make post fast/cleanse. Mind you, I am thinking about the overall consumption from the day, opposite to just one meal, and I didn’t really start eating till lunch time.

The cravings discussed yesterday was unfamiliar ground, only a handful of times at the very most when the attraction to fattening foods has been so strong. It certainly made me think of fad diets often widely publicised within the media and the actual long-term benefits associated with such an approach to your eating. The two days reinforced the need to continue with a sustainable approach to eating and nutrition built upon very basic principles about eating wholesome foods without unless are added ingredients or sweeteners. I’m fairly confident of the criticism subjected to me, should certain people view my food journals, and this is solely because of the inclusion of some foods into my weekly intake. Thai food is the perfect example, initially the thought of lots of vegetables with basil and chilli can be viewed as a healthy option, and pending the place you purchase the food or your method of cooking it can be. On the other hand, the thought of plain white rice with the amount of sugar added to sweetened some of the flavours makes you question the actual benefits within the meal. Of course the type of Thai or the method to prepare each dish differs, and it is probably true that some Thai dishes are very healthy. It is just a clear example of how on first impression the guise of eating healthy can be a myth when looking at the ingredients of the dish. In summary, eating at home or opting to frequent places with healthier options is definitely the approach to be adopted.

I felt like Ben Stiller from Dodgeball…

23rd October 2014: Sydney Australia

I spent the entirety of yesterday afternoon till the very early hours of this morning wondering why I opted to eliminate solid food from my diet for two days. As noted in the previous entry, fairly positive changes were noticed when commencing, however, it appeared I was extremely naive in what was to follow, especially considering the events last night from whereby I remained crouched in a position, holding my stomach resulting from the hours of nausea endured.

It is now almost midday, and I’m still feeling the effects. The degree of discomfort has most definitely decreased, however, my stomach is still not completely settled nor am I feeling like I have a normal level of functioning. When summarising the feelings experienced yesterday, I can only describe a constant hunger, a feeling of a slight anger at myself for putting myself through this, limited concentration, and an overall unease throughout my body and mind. In addition, there were no noticeable toxins discharged from my body. Furthermore, I am now craving for a burger and chips, some deep fried chicken wings, a can of coke, anything of the type! Very reminiscent of Ben Stiller from Dodgeball feasting on pizza and all sorts of junk lying in a bed of filth. I obviously won’t be opting for any of the above options, however, will be buying a quality cut of leg ham and making myself some sandwiches on spelt bread. Unusual for my typical approach to eating as bread will feature, however, it seems like a more favourable option than feasting on deep fried chicken wings, burgers and chips. All decisions would ultimately undermine the very reason for trailing for fast.

The account is completely personal, and I am still of the opinion a fast/cleanse may be suitable for some people. I would now recommend others seek advice and possibly attend a supervised retreat throughout the period. In regards to my personal, circumstances, consideration of the effects of the chemotherapy, bearing in mind the action it has on blocking the capacity of my body to now create Cortisol needs to mentioned. Furthermore, I had previously known a lack of food caused havoc on my system. I just did not anticipate the removal of solids would have such a profound impact. In conclusion, I may decide to attempt another fast/cleanse in the future, but will most definitely wait till my treatment is over before exploring available options.

Elimination of food commences

21st October 2014: Sydney Australia

My two day elimination of solid food has commenced. In honesty, I am feeling refreshed and overall fantastic. I have been mindful of my output, focusing on a day of rest, including the practising of a gentle/floor based form of yoga, have meditated, had a book prepared to read, and scheduled a bath into my day. All these points had been planned in advance to maximise the restorative benefits from the day.
In regards to my diet, I started the day with a banana smoothie mixed with almonds, chia seeds, flax seeds, strawberries, oats and almond milk; at lunch a bowl of home made pea soup was eaten; another banana smoothie with spinach, almonds, honey, LSA mix, dates and almond milk was consumed in the afternoon and plan to have another home made pea soup for dinner. In addition, two cups of herbal tea was had during the morning period when I usually snack on nuts or fruit. Just to note, my intake of water was consistent throughout the day.

I have noticed some recognisable changes though, including a definite disparity in my energy levels this far, and the mental capacity. Plus, behaviour wise, I still routining wonder into the kitchen to snack, however, recognise it has helped me to show it is just to snack rather than an essential meal. I still have a few hours left in the day so am planning to continue with rest. It must be noted that I acknowledge it’s not comparable to the fasts undertaken by the colleagues I had in London during the period of Ramadan or other recommended fasts, and I am still having sufficient food for a day.

Personally, it is still a substantial change in my daily eating regiment, and as noted I feel there has been a positive effect on my body. One such noticeable change is my stomach feeling settled without a churning, a gentle reminder of how my body once functioned prior to the growth of tumour. I am interested to review my progress and state of mind when writing tomorrow. Till then, a movie will be switched on and I’ll be relaxing for the night.