Self-care versus selfishness

13th September 2014: London, United Kingdom How do you look after yourself? What about a treat for yourself when times aren’t the best? What sort of comforts do you seek pleasure from? I am inclined to solely focus on the times when self-care is forced from the gruelling effects of the medication, however, it also be helpful for others to think of the times when feeling well and what can assist to prolong these periods? I suggest completing the activity below. It is aimed at exploring both aspects in your life and how and where you seek comfort. In regards to personal comforts, the list varies. Yoga brings a load of comfort into my life. In addition, the ocean for swim/surf, the sun, a bath, quiet peaceful time alone, rest, time with my girlfriend, watching sport/documentaries/movies/tv shows, reading, meditation, the company of my family and close friends and food (if have my appetite). Also, an important and hopefully not overlooked point is laughter, the good old ‘Patch Adams’ approach to life. When looking closely at laughter, how can one argue with a preceding event to release natural chemicals in your body? All means to achieve laughter should never be underestimated, including the joys children can bring into your life. The laughter and happiness experienced from witnessing my nephews/nieces or other children close to me explore their little worlds amazes me. As stated, it will be different for all, and the thought of children, yoga or water activities may not be favoured. Instead, pets, prayers, pizza or a favourite movie may lead to a level of comfort, the point is to know what makes you feel good/better and be able to deploy the strategy when required. On the matter, I will share my approach because I have found the approach has greatly helped me. It is extremely varied, starting with the above activities and a cap on the hours of tv/movie in a day. The question of whether I ever exceed this limit is easy to answer. Of course I do, especially when days with loads of sport on or I find it difficult to get vertical due to levels of nausea felt, however, overall, a capped limit on tv time has helped me to continue stimulating my brain and filling time with aspects of my life deemed health-promoting, i.e. anything that is beneficial for my body and mind. Lastly, rest! Often, the digital world seems to be spinning at such a rapid rate, and there is pressure to suck you into this ever spinning cycle. I have learned to simply listen to my body and rest. Crucial to achieving this is turning off or putting my phone on silence. The decision may not be received well be others around you, however, at times you need to be selfish, and prioritise your health over and above everything. Activity: What makes you feel good? What allocation of time in the day do you really give to yourself? Is there anything that results in you feeling worse, yet, you continue with it? If so, think about the reasons why and start making a plan to reduce this from your life. How can you incorporate some movement, time for the mind, healthy eating and a disconnection from the internet into your life? Who in your life can bring you some joy, relief, pleasure or understanding (doesn’t need to be human).

The beginning of tracking my food, exercise and symptoms

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10th September 2014: London, United Kingdom

My seven month shot was taken today. An explanation and reasoning for taking a monthly shot, particularly a picture in my underwear is obviously required. The idea came to the forefront my thinking at the time of my mind unconsciously switching into a mode of self-belief after discovering the tumour (see image above). In somewhat of a paradox, all available resources of tears simultaneously drained from my eyes upon hearing the news. Therefore, upon receiving confirmation a week later that it was Cancer was no great shock. Actually, it only reinforced the state of instinctively knowing I was going to be ok. When reflecting on how I handled the news, I know the thought of death and pro-longed illness was immediately blocked, and the seriousness of the whole matter was downplayed by living in a state of denial. This seemed to allow me to firmly focus my sights on recovering and becoming better than ever before, i.e. mentally, emotionally & physically. I didn’t know what to expect, but I was determined that all would be ok. Furthermore, the prospect of the awaiting challenge was seen as a true test of who I am, and that I was more than happy to be the person facing the future adversities, opposed to it be my parents, brothers, family, girlfriend or any of my close friends.

I’m not suggesting that there wasn’t and isn’t times when I’m scared for my life, however, as noted, I saw an approaching defying test of my strength and character. A moment in my life whereby I would recover into a better man, brother, son, partner and friend. A comment from one of my close friends comes to mind. Similar a lot of conversations at the time, the topic was about my health, and he noted that not only will I have the chance to recover but also to enjoy the process of recovering. I think the comment highlights the support around me. Really, can the words enjoyment and Cancer be linked in the same sentence? My response is yes! Surely, there are times whereby I am scared for my life, however, it can also be reframed to be seen in a context whereby you undertake and implement a process of planning to re-strengthening your body and mind. I stand by my comments that Cancer didn’t shape who I now am, however, it forced to make a lot of changes that I had been dwelling on for years.

One of the questions I pondered on was the avenues to keeping myself accountable whilst also tracking the physical changes. In the past, brief notes had been collated about the food eaten over a day, amount of alcohol consumed on a night or the exercises completed for the week. Always, empty dates in my calendar would appear blank for months. Changes in my proficiency to consistently use this system increasingly played greater significance in my life during the months leading up to the diagnosis. For example, in my calendar I was tracking all the symptoms I was experiencing to share with doctors, i.e. sore throat again today, feeling tired, dizzy spells, etc. Inevitably, even greater emphasis was placed on tracking all the symptoms associated with my experiences upon finding out a tumour was inside me. The question then dawned on me of my capacity to stay accountable and motivated to track the symptoms, especially bearing in mind success had in the past. The fact of having Cancer may be sufficient reasoning, however, I wasn’t convinced, and planned to take a monthly picture of myself for at least a year after surgery. The plan was to see a progression from the hunched, skinny pale man starring at the camera to hopefully a stronger and happier person smiling back into the camera. The photos would also act as a visual reminder of how I had been throughout the duration of recovery, and the rewards seen from undertaking the hard-work needed to rebuild myself. In addition, I commenced tracking all the exercises completed and any significant events, i.e. date of surgery, release from hospital and who came to visit me. Just to note, I now also track my diet on a daily basis. I am not at all being obsessive about it, more using it as a guide to see any correlations between how I am feeling and what has taken place during the day or in the preceding days. Also, I thought it may prove helpful in the future as a tool for continual development.