Cancer free

3rd December 2015: Sydney, Australia

Results of my scans have been shared, and I am both fortunate and happy to say it was all clear. Ultimately, I can finally use the results to my benefit whereby I am able to normalise future scenarios, and hopefully not have such a fear associated with the results. Now, focus will shift to the frequency of scans, especially with one doctor being of the opinion that scans only add to the anxiety of the situation, possibly causing unnecessary stress. Personally, upon hearing news similar to this morning alleviate all stress. Therefore, I completely disagree with the advice of my doctor, and hope my other doctor sees my reasoning before deciding to schedule in the next scan.

I do acknowledge a major step to overcome is the comfort in not having regular scans, however, I am yet to be in such a position. A lot can happen in a year, so let’s see where I am this time next year 😄

The magnetic attraction of Cancer

7th October 2015: Sydney Australia

I am coming to understand a Cancer Diagnosis can have a similar function to a magnet. I do not wish to offend anyone, and am generally happy to talk with others about a Cancer experience, however, I do not always want to be surrounded by stories about Cancer. Seriously, it can be rather tiresome to constantly hear about that poor fellow or that lovely lady who suddenly found out they have Cancer. Yes, I feel for them and their loved ones, and at times would be more than happy to give the undivided attention needed to listen to the story people feel such a need to share with me, however, at other times, I simply do not have the energy or wish to know about the ever increasing tragic stories.

I hope not to have offended anyone. It is just a mood I am, partly due to the fact of the time not even being midday, and already I have heard two stories about Cancer. On reflection, maybe it is somewhat contradicting to be writing about my experiences whilst simultaneously developing a programme for people with Cancer, yet blocking myself from the stories of others.

I wonder how others manage if they encounter such situations?

Let’s switch a negative

21st September 2015: Sydney, Australia

I am very conscious my writing has shifted in focus from detailing the associations of my personal Cancer experience to expressing the emotions involved in the battle my mum currently faces. I believe the emphasis placed on my mum accurately portrays the priorities held in my life, and it is rather intriguing to consider how fast the change occurred. Ultimately, I centred directly upon the experiences and impact of my Cancer diagnosis for a period over 12 months till I was confronted with the unexpected news about my mum. One point to draw from the immediacy of the switch is the unfortunate circumstances of experiencing Cancer at a young age from both a direct and indirect position. I will stand by my comments about the circumstances being unfortunate, however, an alternate term to be used can also be unique. I recognise many people are facing hardship in their lives, and empathise with their situation. Furthermore, I am not at all trying to place my position above others. I simply feel my position is unique, and can utilise my situation to better support my mum throughout the upcoming period whilst also serving a purpose in broadening my comprehension about the ways my behaviours, actions and adversities effect those close to me. To conclude, without any selfishness, I have an awareness of the importance of maintaining my wellbeing throughout this period, and the new arising challenge will be to equally balance attention on my personal goals whilst working through the guilt, fear and pain felt in relation to the struggle my mum is enduring.

 

Anxiety or fear?

3rd September 2015: Sydney, Australia

I am a week away from having my first scan since the disappearance of the tumour on my left lung, and admittedly, throughout the past two days, a negative thought pattern have resurfaced. It seems I have no control of the intrusive thoughts till recognising I am in the midst of a fatal fantasy about my death. Just to note, this is not the predominant thought process circulating in my mind. Rather, a shift in my recent thinking, especially bearing in mind these thoughts were not at all present over the past seven weeks. I can normalise the thoughts to some degree, linking them to a fear about dying, however, I am not comfortable in just normalising the occurrences. These very intrusive thoughts were targeted as areas to direct attention, and it seems overcoming and controlling these thoughts are an essential point to achieving an outcome different to last time. To conclude, I found myself in a predicament whereby I am incapable of visualising or consciously dreaming about the joys in life, and instead I easily drift into a world of doom and gloom. Obviously, I ponder on the underlying reason for not being able to conjure a pleasant future life in mind. Maybe I need more substance in my life, a greater degree of purpose or the creation of future plans to give myself a concrete reference point to direct my attention?

Did I attend my own funeral?

31st August 2015: Sydney, Australia

Obviously, a degree of happiness was bound to occur when surrounded by close friends and family when drawn together to celebrate, however, a heighten level of elation is felt when thinking about the entirety of the Saturday night. On reflection, I can honestly say the experience makes me inclined to believe I recently attended my own funeral. There was a particular point, involving approximately 15 close friends who were all standing in a small circle. Typically, such a scenario would involve testosterone charged banter exchanged to one another. A difference was in the air though. All in attendance were completely engaged in the random impromptu speeches being made about me. It was a fairly moving personal encounter, and was further evidence of the amazing support I have in my life. It was actually rather surreal when I had to listen to the words said by a number of people close to me, a situation only really seen at a funeral or wake. I am unable to fully recall all the comments, however, definitely have certain memories imprinted in my mind, and plan on integrating the stories into my evolving self-narrative. I should also note my wishes of hoping the speeches actually symbolise a death has occurred, namely, a complete extinction of any Cancerous cells, allowing me to again live freely.

What is Mitotane

25th August 2015: Sydney, Australia

Research was completed into the claims heard by the young person yesterday who stated, ‘the chemotherapy I am taking is a pesticide’. For anyone wanting to cross reference the above information should note, the drug is called Mitotane, and it does seemingly appear to derive from a pesticide called DDT. For anyone not familiar with the pesticide DDT, should also be made aware of the fact it was banned for human consumption by the USA in 1972.

I am consciously aware of the limitations I have in interpreting the information surrounding how the drug was derived from the pesticide, and what possible implications could be associated with the continual use of the drug. Therefore, an email was sent to my Professor expressing an interest in discussing the matter at the next appointment. Basically, my intentions are to make an informed decision, weighing up the risks versus the advantages, especially considering the original form of the drug is now banned in most parts of the world. Furthermore, the limited research on the drug compounded by the fact of the reoccurrence makes me feel inclined to see no separation between the effectiveness of the drug in comparison to other options. Most notably, use of the Cannabis Oil on planned intervals throughout a year combined with an overhaul of my dietary and lifestyle choices. Obviously, I will not be making any rash decisions, however, my current thinking seems to be fairly evident within the writing thus far.

How to achieve stillness and find peace in face of adversity

4th June 2015: Bali, Indonesia

I am wanting to write a brief entry to remind me at later times of the complete stillness held within my current thought process. I contribute the obtainment of the present state of mind to the idea of compartmentalising certain thoughts in my life to particular periods in the day. Obviously, the main chain of thoughts causing potential damaging chatter to intrude my consciousness derives from the fear gripping me. The process of compartmentalising thoughts allows me to feel the fear whilst blocking it from taking over my life. Consequently, I then can remain focused on the hope and belief in being-well, and it appears the strategy of directing attention to health and life is more effective than directing all my thinking towards Cancer. My situation may fluctuate, and I need to accept this, however, hopefully this short entry can trigger some of the memories and emotions associated with this period whilst acting as a reminder of how peaceful life can be.

The masks we wear to disguise ourselves..

17th November 2014: Sydney Australia

My eyes lock to a figure walking about fifty meters ahead. Instantly, the figure is identified, and I am able to work out from the leisurely pace that in approximately 20 seconds we would be crossing paths. Immediately, my first reaction is to stall, dropping back the pace to an almost creeping speed or looking at my surroundings to see if there is anything of interest to spend a few minutes focusing upon. Unfortunately, not many options are available on the daily walk from the beach with just my surfboard, so bending down to tie up my shoes is out of the question. Also, the unnecessary phone call to someone is unable to be made. I estimate the change of pace only lasted at most ten steps before my escape had to be aborted. So, off I went, again taking the walk at normal pace and making contact right on about 50 metres.

Why the thoughts of avoidance? Well, it’s simple, I knew from the very moment of working out the basic calculations of meeting the person at that time would eventuate in a line of questioning, consisting of: so how are you, you still taking chemo, good you still got your hair, etc. I can understand the questions are coming from both a caring and friendly place, and is probably the reason for deciding to opt with the neighbourly decision of remaining at such a pace to receive the bundle of expected questions. I also felt the conversation pushed me to act in a way aligned with my outlook on life, opposed to advocating the advantages of living in a friendly community yet actively behaving in such an opposing manner.

I am not sure if it was just the expected questions or whether thoughts of avoidance derived from the need to falsely put on a mask disguising my actual feelings, however, I think it is fairly accurate in hypothesising that the comments are coming from a good place, and the observation of me walking home from a surf would also provide an indication of me feeling well. I ponder the social laws governing these situations and how it would be scaled should a true portrayal of my feelings and thought process be provided? Maybe it is just me, and I should have just honestly explained that generally I am feeling very positive, however, I am actually not doing so well today. I also reflect on whether my resistance to honesty results from the desire of not wanting to burden others with my bouts of misery or just a plain discomfort in expressing my feelings? Alternatively, it could be the attempt to uphold a strong, positive and energetic outward showing of my ability at moving on from the Cancer. A strategy combatting the common perceived narrative about being a person who had or has Cancer, i.e. that poor guy, how sad it is to hear the news about him/her.

On all accounts, I think the right decision was made. My reasoning includes the fact and privilege of living in a community where people bump into each other to talk are some of the foundations of a cohesive and caring society. Finally, the choice of not delving into detail about how I was actually feeling was the correct decision. I believe there are certain people in our lives to share these certain feelings with, and a little less detailed story is more appropriate for others. Therefore, in summing up the points, it seems I may need to shop for some more masks for future days 🙂

Don’t search, just accept..

15th November 2014: Sydney Australia

Recently I scribed the words, ‘searching for explanations but simply feel unwell’. The phrase derived from unsuccessful attempts made at reviewing my food and movement journals to discover the reasons for feeing unwell. The phrase is fairly explicit, indicating my learning that there are no underlying hidden reasons for the bouts of nausea. Instead, side-effects associated with Mitotane are going to be endured. Undoubtedly, some behaviours or actions will increase the likelihood of side-effects, and the tracking of food and movement is still seen as important to maintaining a degree of wellness felt, however, acceptance of the side-effects need to be the focal point of my thinking.

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.