Plan to succeed

4th May 2015: Sydney, Australia

I have come to realise a saying taught many years ago within a professional context is easily transferable to other areas, including your personal development. The intentions of applying the rule ‘failing to plan is planning to fail’ was to highlight the responsibility l had in ensuring thorough groundwork was completed prior to meeting with a family or individual to complete a therapeutic session. As noted, I see benefits of applying the rule into our lives, and my writing, if used effectively can provide the platform to hopefully build success, opposed to failure.

Yesterday was a clear example of my writing acting as the very means to plan ahead in preparation to approach a situation to the best of my capacity. It was actually ironic in some ways to consider I had put together an entry about the very topic on the day before the question was asked. It was not something major, simply a conversation within a social environment relating to my lifestyle choices. On reflection, if I had not taken the time to sit down and write about my thoughts, then the execution of my answer would not have accurately captured my feelings towards the situation. In summary, my writing can be useful when I am able to avoid becoming stuck in a hole of despair, and at such times, many similarities exist with the preparation undertaken for a job interview whereby you have had the time and space to gain clarity in your thoughts before needing to share with others. To conclude, I must acknowledge my fluctuating feelings on the matter, however, overall, a journal would be encouraged for all people experiencing Cancer to ensure any difficult circumstances or encounters can be hopefully prepared for in advance.

Pure happiness…

26th January 2015: Sydney, Australia

It was the first time in as long as I can remember that for no apparent reason a feeling of complete elation swept throughout my body. What a joy to think all the those ever increasing wrinkles on my face creased in unison whilst I smiled. Of course, I have felt excellent on numerous occasions over the past months, however, today was most definitely different. The preceding moments featured no physical exercise, interaction with surrounding company or the experience of bearing witness to a particular phenomena or event. Instead, the occasion simply consisting of me sitting alone at the table to eat some food whilst listening to some music. One could say, as typical and mundane a daily event can be. When reflecting, I believe it seems this very fact is the reason that has caused such emotions to arise. There are not many words to further describe the feeling. It basically comes down to a moment previously mentioned whereby a stream of happiness is flowing inside my body, and importantly the circumstances didn’t involve the seeking of happiness or a direct trigger from an external source or being.

The short incident has made me consider some wise words by a friend when recently discussing the meaning between the terms isolation and solitude. The response from my friend was to consider application of the term isolation. His point, and I agree is that isolation has an associated negative connotation attached. Some may say it is only a matter of semantics, however, I believe in the power and influence of language. Therefore, I have now reconstructed my future view of briefly residing in a room or hut in a hopefully peaceful part of the world as a testing of my resolve in managing solitude rather than isolation. Circumstances viewed in terms of being in solitude opposed to isolation has also made me consider my overall experiences throughout the past year. Namely, Was I isolated from my normal life or did I opt for solitude as a necessary means of shifting direction to internal growth?

Exhausation…

19th December 2014: Sydney. Australia

I had a meeting with an Associate Professor from Sydney University today in the hope of making progress with the planning of my Sunflower Framework. Overall, the outcomes seemed positive with details of other researches provided, feedback on the proposal provided and an arrangement to meet again in January to further discuss the matter. I am hopeful a positive result awaits, and need my motivation to continue, especially with the road ahead still seeming a long way till confirmation is obtained stating research and or operation of framework can commence.

Just to note, there was a considerable amount of difficulty experienced in preparing for the meeting. Yesterday, fleeting thoughts passed through my mind surrounding doubts in attending the meeting plus my overall mental and physical state seemed to complicate all the tasks involved in appropriately equipping myself. It is hard to define my actual state, it’s not a feeling of nausea or exhaustion from the cold over the past two weeks. Rather, an overall subdued feeling, making daily tasks seem almost overwhelming. The effort needed to continue currently write an entry definitely meets this criteria. I feel some change is required, and consequently I am inclined to review the daily logs from the past year to compare the foods consumed around the period of April/June compared to now. The goal is to assess whether a degree of complacency has crept itself into my daily life, possibly having a correlation with this prolonged feeling. I guess May/June will provide a good bearing as it was at the time when I was extensively reading and listening to information about food and nutrition. Another area of my life missing will be the difference in undertaking yoga on a daily basis at a centre compared to completing my poses at home. I had information from my doctor today advising me I had climbed into the therapeutic window for my treatment, meaning the amount of chemotherapy circulating throughout my body has increased rather significantly prior to the period of April/June. Therefore, an explanation of these changes could simply derive from this increase, a very likely possibility, however, it will still be useful to see how else I combat the feelings I have to return to a better stage of health within my mind and body.

Can I find the secret to healing myself from the flu???

4th December 2014: Sydney

I had a feeling of coming down with an overwhelming feeling of fatigue, and now it appears with the feelings continuing that a flu is approaching. It seems strange to be coming down with a flu at this time of year, especially with the recent weather ravishing the city. Due to such feelings, heightened by an absolute loathing of the flu, I tried to shape my day in a way, enabling my body to recover in the fastest amount of time. Regardless of whether it is just today, continues tomorrow or even spans over a period of time, it will be useful to track my day in the attempt to discover a formula to assist my body recover in the future. Undoubtedly, there will never be any certainty to discover if any of the points help my body to heal, however, if successful, then it may be used as a guide to hopefully limit future periods when not feeling well.

Is equal attention placed on stress compared to other areas in my life?

2nd December 2014: Sydney

The first point registered when sitting down to write was a reflection about a comment from the last week regarding the tone of entries seemingly overly negative. I have to question what was previously stated, adding the negativity is likely to derive from the extra motivation to write when not feeling the best, partly due to the process of writing relieving some of those feelings. In addition, it allows me to pour out the thoughts associated with my experiences. Therefore, thinking that I am always negative may be a misrepresentation of how as a whole I am actually feeling. Furthermore, my decision to write must be considered as I wish to avoid feeling like a constant burden on others or worse, the stem of their pain.

A point I find interesting, coming from a position without any medical knowledge is how completing similar tasks throughout a day can lead me to polar opposite places. For instance, my nutrition, level of rest or movement hasn’t changed today, and I know there are various other factors to be considered, including the sunshine, the happiness in my relationship and the satisfaction felt in completing my project. In addition, the reality of just periodically feeling unwell must not be overlooked. Finally, the elimination of stress is a point widely seen in literature relating to the necessary points in overcoming Cancer. I do need to measure whether sufficient or equal attention is placed on this area compared with what I deem to be my other core principles (or petals in my framework).

My moods can be tidal whereby I wake up with a feeling of uncertainty about when the tide will turn, sliding me back to normality

25th November 2014: Sydney, Australia

Two close friends have seen separate entires since starting to write approximately three months ago. One such friend has repeatedly expressed his curiosity about the reason for not revisiting the past entries written. I know the curiosity is coming from a good place, possibly attempting to challenge me in a way that will lead to growth, however, I remain reluctant to act upon this indirect and subtle challenge. The very reasoning behind my actions would be the stark reality of how often the entries are saturated in negativity, and from the opening passage, one can imagine the theme to follow. If this hypothesis is correct, I wonder what impact it will have by being reminded of how often I can actually be down about my circumstances? Undoubtedly, to be in some ways classified as ‘suffering’ would be expected right? Or is my vision and experiences completely different to others? Do people truly live the life I attempt to act in front of others, taking the experience as a positive, without having down days? I am not indicating I deliberately pretend to act a certain way in front of others, more I choose my moments when I will spend time others, i.e, when feeling good. At other times, I will isolate myself, in both a physical and digital sense, i.e. limited contact with friends on phone and social media sites.

Maybe I am being too critical of myself, and the very nature of the journal is to write about all the range of factors causing me to be in such a negative mind-state? Actually a more accurate account would be to not make reference to a hypothetical array of factors, it simply comes down to a feeling of sickness that overtakes me, sending me spiralling into a gloomy mood. A mood with a tidal motion, gently sneaking upon me as the day passes, and on some days, I wake up with the feelings of uncertainty about when the tide will turn, sliding me back to normality. Surprisingly, the very process of writing, even though it may seem there isn’t a great deal of information contained within these passages, still seems to be able alleviate some of the feelings experienced only 40 minutes before writing? It feels so strange, it is like I need to pour out all this internal garbage into a space where no response is received before I am even able to smile. Over the course of writing the music will shift, the headache seems to fade away and my thoughts redirect from a blurred existence of time watching to constructively thinking about what awaits in the day ahead. It is actually ridiculous how significant the shift is!

Accountability

15th 2014: Sydney Australia

Accountability had been an area addressed in previous entries, and is seen as key to remaining focused on executing whatever tasks are planned. Obviously the fact of having no manager or coach to oversee my progress, results in a dependency on my own motivation and drive. The very existence of these daily entries are a source of keeping me accountable, leading me to follow through with points covered. One example was the the idea of having a two day fast/cleanse, and currently the idea is yet to progress from a pre-planning stage. Therefore, I am setting myself a deadline of having the fast/cleanse completed by next Friday.

It will be interesting to track the two day period whilst also highlighting the usefulness in completing the journal as a source of keeping me accountable over the coming week. In regards to accountability, I am still going to seek the support of a friend or past colleague to keep track of my progress in some areas of my life, namely the group programme I wish to run, however, in terms of personal goals, the process of journalling can prove to be a very effective method of ensuring I follow through with ideas worthy of pursuing. In addition, it is such an individualised tool for expressing myself without a filter of others influencing my headspace.

I mentioned the idea was in what I consider a pre-planning stage. Therefore, the task ahead is to take the steps necessary in making preparations to follow through with the idea. Firstly, I need to decide on the method for conducting the two day fast/cleanse. Next step will be to ensure my family are notified of my plans to obtain their support, especially when the evident changes are noted, i.e. not eating breakfast or joining dinner at the table of an evening. Finally, a creation of a weekly routine is necessary to arrange exercise for days outside of the period plus the avoidance of any other events/tasks requiring more effort than required.

I have no idea whether I will complete the fast, and consideration needs to be directed to the purpose and benefits of such a task, especially bearing in mind the recent bouts of nausea experienced. Regardless of whether I complete the fast, I will be able to comment on the matter from an informed position. An area of importance, particularly should my plans to support the journey of others with their Cancer experience come to fruition.

The beginning of tracking my food, exercise and symptoms

image

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.

An introduction to my story

1st September 2014: London, United Kingdom

The first entry probably should have outlined a lot more than setting out a bit of an agenda that came to mind on the back of the impulsive thought to start writing a journal, however, when speaking about depth, may it not be best to allow the narrative to unfold organically? London! A place to remember. I moved over here with the expectation of staying a year with an ex-girlfriend then as individuals change, a shift occurred leading me to meet my current girlfriend. Now, she has been in my life for the past two years, and was the reason for extending my first visa for another two years then placing me on a plane about 10 weeks ago returning with a slight nerve, thinking about the prospect of coming back to the city where I lived and enjoyed so much. The city whereby the Peter Pan life is a reality. The city whereby my early years consisted of travel throughout Europe at every possible moment. The city where a thirst for alcohol was the norm. The city of great memories. The city that also brought me to tears when I was told after a three day stint in hospital that a tumour had been detected. Told? Well, it wasn’t the words, rather than expression on the face of the doctor and the uncertain faces of the two registrars following behind. Newham hospital, a real life bedlam experience. The sharing of a ward with five other men. Two of these men had dementia, one was a recovering alcoholic whom I really hope has been able to overcome the booze as he was a top bloke and two other revolving beds. The feelings of knowing, “I have a tumour’ are hard to portray. A show of tears was not a typical characteristic for me. Oh how that changed on 16th January 2014. I cried and cried like I hadn’t before, and still can’t really convey the feelings and thoughts upon hearing the findings. The same feelings would be experienced when returning to Sydney three weeks later to hear that I have a life expectancy of six months should I not have surgery, and again when brushing my teeth only about two months ago when I spat blood out of my gums. These feelings of vulnerability are comparable to nothing I have experienced, however, along with the theme and beliefs I hold about my circumstances, they may be the very testing of character and sprit that is needed to truly shape me into becoming a great man, son, friend, brother, husband and father. The theme of enduring, is something that has stayed with me from the point of diagnosis till now, however, is it really what life is about? The enduring of hardship? Is this possibly the very factor that caused it all to happen? Do I need to shift this thinking so there is no more enduring and instead just pure enjoyment?

The three days prior to 16th January 2014, I had been telling both mates from work and outside of work that the other group was with me, i.e. to a work friend, ‘no seriously, I’m fine, my housemates and other friends have been past to drop things off and spend time with me’. In reality, I had a backpack and had not spoken to anyone, however, once I had shed some tears, that all changed and I needed someone to be with me. The support from my close friends and boss were all excellent, and people I’ll always remember. Interestingly, a minor argument occurred a few days earlier with my girlfriend. The outcome was a case of a, “we’re not going to be together’. Therefore, it didn’t feel right in telling her that I was in hospital. A decision I must add, that was not agreed when seeing each other after discharge seven days later. On reflection, this highlights my thinking and feelings towards not wanting to worry other people. Interstingly, I also did not disclose anything to my family, who are such a supportive base. You would think the support should be utilsied at times like this, however, that thought of not wanting to casue worry for others is still a barrier to acceptance the support from family and friends. In additon, it can also be seen to link to the belief held about enduring the entirety of the unfolding ordeal, and importantly this was and is something I need to do alone.

A Mantra…

29th August 2014: Dorset, United Kingdom

Life. Along with live and love has been the almost Mantra like phrase I have been repeating to myself throughout the pst six months. The three words have become a personal ritual accommpanied by a visual scanning my body and an inward hope and demand for survival. It was today though that I gave this some thought. Should it be a focus of life, live (as is to live) and love and a combination of them all, i.e. I have life, and will live my life with love or I love to live my life? Or does that not indicate a pleading or seeking of life and love rather than actually focusing on living? To place all atention on life, in a sense overlooks the very nature of what you are doing at the present time. Am I not breathing, is my mind not chattering, is my stomach not simulating a moving tide on a sandy beach, and are my ears not picking up on the noises surrounding me? Whilst writing this, a juxtoposition is evident. Yes, a focus on life enables me to create a future, however, if a future can be created in my mind then is it possible for a real future to exist? A varied approach would simply ential being in the present moment, and for me, the moment is exactly what I am certain about. The present moment is a time when I can stop myself from overcomplicating every aspect of my life with thoughts, worries and feelings. Of course, there is no right or wrong answer. Rather, it seems a combination of the both is needed, especially when linking it back to the idea of formulating a strategy for life and survivial based on creation of life within in my thinking and belief system.

In regards to the present moment, a lot of my reading has been focused on the power of the mind, and the need to slow down in every aspect of life. When practising this, I have come treasure moments, and they may be mundane times whereby an overwhelming sense of happiness flows through my body, resulting in a recognition of my hands tapping away, my face smiling and a feeling of just being happy. When in then midst of experiencing happiness, I have come to think that surely this is what living is about? Life isn’t about wishing your life away, creating catastrophies in my mind or trying to examine every details of life. It is about living it. If anyone can increase the times when you are feeling like this, whether that may be through whatever task you choose then simply enjoy it and recognise it. I certainly know there have been times when I have spent my energy and thoughts racing around causing un-necessary stress to me body. Actually this very day, my mind was ticking over with the worst case scenario, and it was in part due to writing the journal that helped me stop these thoughts from spiralling downwards. As noted, before ‘it all happened’ my mind raced much more often then it currently does, however, now I breathe, realise how little I will achieve from overthinking an ‘issue’ that I’ve actually created or interpetered and also think about the effects of keeping my body in a state of stress compared to one that is relaxed and able to help every part of my body continuousy heal, recover and flourish.