Shallowness vs Self-image

1st November 2015: Snapper Rocks, Queensland

I received a text from a friend containing a photo of me from when I was 24 years old, and almost immediately, I noticed a body I have become so unfamiliar with. The striking difference is of course a long forgotten flat abdomen region spanning across the entirety of my lower torso whilst further examination reminds me of the normal chest I had prior to starting the chemotherapy that caused my chest to be more akin to the body of a 14 year old girl. If a greater analysis was undertaken, then I can also connect with a completely carefree attitude evident in my face, however, I wish to keep all emphasis on the noticeable changes in my body resulting from the lasting impact of consecutive surgeries and the course of treatment tackled thus far.

There are many paths for this entry to lead down, and the singular route to be explored relates to the question about the importance of body image. Firstly, is it a reflection of my shallowness to even think about some scarring and an enlarged chest when taking into consideration the fact I am here, alive and smiling? Secondly, please consider the situations for many others, particularly women who some may argue lose some of their femininity when having a breast removed or have the need for a colostomy bag. Just to note, I do not hold this view about women, however, I have both heard and read this to be true, so wanted to widen the scope for discussion about the connection between Cancer and body image.

Ultimately, my current predicament is obviously preferred over death, and believe most others will hold the same position, however, a seemingly blanket view held from others about being superficial for placing emphasis on this topic is simply mirroring a misunderstanding about the impact of certain factors associated with Cancer. As noted in previous entries, I believe it can often be the secondary factors that haunt people who have experienced Cancer, and the only means for decreasing the impact is for educating the masses about some of the areas that may simply be overlooked by discarding these concerns by a belief that everyone should just be grateful to be alive.

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?

Does Cannabis actually benefit people on chemotherapy

22nd September 2015: Sydney, Australia

I feel the need to express my attitudes towards people on chemotherapy taking Cannabis to control common side-effects, including nausea, fatigue, appetite and the general mindset of the individual. It seems a disclaimer is needed to ensure I am not misinterpreted. Firstly, I am basing the entry from a completely personal experience, and am not suggesting it will suit all, however, do advocate for it to be trailed in combination with chemotherapy to limit the common crippling side-effects. Secondly, I have been fortunate enough to secure Cannabis oil, meaning it is less harmful for my body compared with smoking the plant. Finally, the Cannabis I used was all grown outside completely unaided by any fertiliser or other item to promote rapid growth or potency.

As noted, I am in favour of the use of medicine Cannabis, especially in the oil format, however, I have felt a reluctance to advise certain people about using Cannabis for fear of their response. It seems there is still a section of the population who simply view medicinal Cannabis as means for people to get high or an avenue for regular smokers to lobby government in an attempt for legalisation. A point found extremely interesting is the trust people have for pharmaceutical products compared to a natural plant that has clearly proved so effective in relieving any side-effects associated with my treatment. Personally, the matter is straight forward, and the 20 months of diary entries can demonstrate how use of the oil directly correlated with a removal of all side-effects from my life. A discussion with my Professor provides an accurate synopsis of my experience. To simply summarise the content of the discussion, I noted a removal of rancid odours from my body, an increase in energy and a return to a normal palate. In addition, the constant endless nausea has now been replaced by feelings of relaxation throughout my body prior to sleeping whilst also a little a jovial. Lastly, and importantly, I have finally been able to feel a degree of normality in my life. A feature missing for 20 months, and a point not to be underestimated. Now, considering these experiences, I would be very interested to hear from others, and to note, I simply wish to open dialogue so am open to all opinions.

 

Frankincense = Cancer Killer?

6th September 2015: Sydney, Australia

The experience of having Cancer can leave you very vulnerable, particularly with the increasing amount of available items claiming to have Anti-Cancer properties. I am certain this will come as no surprise to many people, and if this news, then do a quick google search, pick up a health related magazine or pose the question after arranging an appointment with an alternate health professional. Just to be clear, l am not against alternate therapies. On the contrary, I currently use multiple methods to hopefully provide me with a life free of Cancer, and have recently included the use of Frankincense, an Essential Oil into my daily routine.

I mentioned a vulnerability for people with Cancer, namely due to my personal reactions combined with the observations of others when discovering they or a loved one is effected by the fearsome health invader. Honestly, when hearing of new methods to ward off any mutating cells, it seems like a modern day gold-rush is playing out in my life, and as noted, the newest addition is Frankincense. I wish to make it very clear that similar to other items with supposed benefits, I am yet to find any substantive research to show the effectiveness of treating Cancer with Frankincense. Of course, this did not deter me from purchasing it, and currently I am applying it to my feet before sleeping. I addition, I rub any remaining oil on my the area where my Cancer previously was. I have also heard it is beneficial to orally consume, however, am yet to proceed down this path. It would be interesting to hear the thoughts of what people think about the oil, if they have applied it, and any outcomes or stories to share with us all 🙂

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.

Desicions about chemotherapy

24th August 2015: Sydney, Australia
Today, I made contact with a young person who is also overseen by my Professor. The young person had a reoccurrence of Adrenal Cancer (ACC) that spread to his lungs, however, now, approximately five years since finishing a course of Mitotane (chemotherapy for ACC), he is completing his first year at University. It is excellent to hear he is pursuing his studies, especially after being forced to face the journey at such a young age.

Interestingly, the conversation left me more confused about what actions to pursue in the future, namely, whether the course of Mitotane should continue. The young person had strong negative views about the drug, labelling it as a pesticide. Honestly, there is no surprise about his views after hearing the difficulty he endured over the period of 18 months. In terms of my own body, it is a decision I need to make, and whilst seemingly appearing to continue living without major disturbances from any side-effects, there appears to be a safety net associated with taking the drug. There is some irony in seeing the drug as a safety net, especially when bearing in mind my levels were so high, they were actually within a range deemed toxic before the Cancer resurfaced. The question surely becomes why is it viewed a safety net, especially when little success was achieved? I believe the matter could be debated long and hard, particularly being aware a lot of people would proclaim the drugs may be detrimental to my immune system and overall capacity to heal. In response, the only point coming to mind is the thought of not giving myself every opportunity to life should the drugs discontinue.

An entry from the death docks!

9th July 2015: Sydney, Australia

I am currently sitting in the hospital, awaiting my name to be called for surgery. The scenery around me is dire. It is almost like all the people are at a waiting bay of death. In defence of the hospital, I can understand why the environment has such a mood, with a great deal of worry, concern and grief experienced by all in the room. The question I am thinking is how shifts could be made to the mood within the room? Immediately, solutions come to mind. How about:
– Brighter colours to elicit feelings that differ to the depressing wall facing me.
– A change from the sterile display of the room.
– Some cheerfulness or at least some degree of interest shown on the faces of the employees.
– Information about what to expect. Now, I am not asking for a compete layout, however, surely more information would assist then just signing a piece of paper then taking a seat in the deaths docks!

Lastly, I must acknowledge my feelings contribute greatly to being here, and it simply stems from a belief that I should not be here. I deeply feel that I do not belong is such an environment. Instead, I should be continuing my progression and strength towards a life of happiness and love that awaits.

Complete intoxication is not the right coping mechanism

29th June 2015: Sydney, Australia

I once made reference to a quote stating, “some people in the world need a tap on their shoulder to make changes in their lives”. Initially I played with the phrase, adjusting it to my own circumstances by adding, “some people in the world need a tap on their shoulder to make changes in their lives whilst others needing a gigantic push”. Now, I pose the question of what happens if nether the tap or push is sufficient to lead to sustainable change? Does it then just signal no other chances at living will be provided? I ask these questions following a night of behaviours and lifestyle choices I thought had been in my past. Just to note, I am not referring to anything malicious. Rather, complete and utter intoxication over a period of two days. Interestingly, it happened in the midst of all this waiting. I ponder whether some significance is associated with the decision? If so, will the direction be an inevitable death at a much earlier age than I ever hoped? Alternatively, will it be a moment, recognised as a coping mechanism, implemented unconsciously to block out all the uncertainty awaiting me? Finally, could it just be evidence of me changing on a permanent basis, and the night was a singular necessary step backwards to ensure the long lasting life does in fact become a reality.

What happens when your Cancer returns

26th May 2015: Sydney Australia

It is official. Unfortunately, the rematch, i.e. My fight against Cancer is set to recommence. A meeting was attended with my brother, dad and mum today whereby all the available information was shared, and a plan of action was set. The MRI scan shows a tumour has regrown in the same spot as last year, and failure to do anything would result in my death. Therefore, the plan is to have surgery followed by a course of radiotherapy. It seems harder this time, however, a drive to succeed seems stronger. In addition, an overwhelming feeling of anger being experienced is hard to place. I still feel the situation is somewhat surreal as only yesterday morning I was training in the park, and now I am faced with reality of having Cancer again.

The anger felt seems to connect with an ever feeling of loss correlating with my future options. For example, questions posed to myself relating to whether I will have kids or if employment again features in my future story. It just seems my whole plans have been turned upside down, and the only way I can conceptualise the situation is by seeing it as another test of my character, strength and will. Undoubtedly, I am upset and afraid, and the continuous stream of tears is a clear example of the impact it is having on me.

I would say one of the many lessons learned is the realisation of how crying greatly assists my capacity at managing my feelings. Similar to past occasions, certain pieces of information bring the tears flowing, and today they poured when hearing it is very unlikely of me living to a ripe old age of anything else but the disease I have. Some may think the comments are too severe, however, I disagree, and am thankful for the way the information is provided. It has always cemented the reality of the circumstances whilst also acting in some strange way as a source of belief. Honestly, with everything to be faced, I know there are going to be very some extremely difficult times ahead, however, ultimately, I do believe in my survival and capacity in finally claiming victory.