Social media, life and love….

16th November 2015: Sydney, Australia

I will say it straight out. We all know the importance of connection with others, particularly as we are deemed to be social beings, however, does anyone else wonder about the difference on our wellbeing compared between being single and having a healthy, supportive and loving intimate other in our lives? I have breached this topic in the past, and have since taken on board the comments from others, but wish to reach the topic again, particularly observing the life lived by many in this modern day world. A life driven by deadlines, social media notifications and distractions.

I do not wish to be misinterpreted on the matter, and in no way advocate for people settling or remaining unhappy in harmful relationships. In addition, am not naive in thinking some people can simply be happier when single, however, is the focus on always seeking something better restricting our heart from experience true love? If so, are we then not able to reach optimal health and wellbeing? Alternatively, is this entry just me taking a moment to spill my feelings all over my screen whilst I type away????

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How to define me as an Australian?

26th September 2015: Sydney, Australia
A quote I have recently been able to connect with stated, “Australians are modern day Aztecs who worship the sun”. Admittedly, it is a fairly superficial and individualistic means of expressing my connection with my current of origin, however, it perfectly summarises the attraction to the powers of the sun. Furthermore, the specific focus shows some disconnection with mainstream attitudes and beliefs seemingly predominant within Australia. If refocusing on the sun, there is honestly a significant disparity in my overall outlook and energy when the sun is shining compared to consecutive days where it is cold, wet and dire. The pull towards direct sunlight makes me revise my thinking about this insatiable appetite, and I believe this desire stems from past readings about the proposed healing benefits of receiving natural Vitamin D.

The topic also leads to a questioning of whether living in London for almost four years influenced this longing for the sun. I definitely recall times when I missed the sun, however, the novelty of the experience, combined with the many cultural and social activities kept me occupied. The emerging point from a rather trivial topic is how my priorities have changed over the course of the past 20 months. Furthermore, the chain of thoughts leave me in a place doubtful about my capacity of adapting to such an environment again, even if that means loosing the opportunity of living in one of the most interesting and vibrant cities in the world. In conclusion, it is known that life does not exist without the sun, obviously I am stretching the application of this belief, however, my life seems to depend on the sun, ocean, family and friends. I life definitely wished to live for many years to come.

Goodbye London!

24th January 2015: Sydney

This time last year I would be sleeping in my bed for the last time before packing up my life in London. I vividly recall the moments of the entirety of events fairly vivid. I was advised on a Thursday in a meeting after approximately two weeks later testing that it was very probable the large tumour inside of me was cancerous. As noted in past entires, this message in no way hit me as hard as initially discovering a tumour was growing inside me. The moment was actually rather jovial, with complete focus on recovery, and I sense of knowing I would be ok. Possibly my approach to everything over the past year can be linked back to this meeting. After the meeting I remember thinking, “why am I not crying, I have just been told I have Cancer”. Also to note, I had already made a decision to return to Australia, with flights booked for two days later. Therefore, I had one day to pack up all my belongings, come back to the hospital to obtain all the necessary certificates and say my goodbyes.

A number of goodbyes were had with varying people. On one occasion, I went out for dinner with a few people, and called my parents noticing a stark difference in their approach. No longer were they seeming to be asking questions, rather a very practical conversation unfolded about getting me home. It was definitely a type of conversation needed. The next day I hurriedly attempted to finish off some outstanding work to ensure my cases were left with some direction to follow and then pack all my belongings. The day was coming to a close, and I was now package all my clothes with a giant appetite growing. It was at this very moment whereby the longing for home was ever so strong. My recollections consist of walking to the local Tesco in a snow jacket, with my hood pulled over my head to avoid the trickling of rain. The point, nagging at me was the thought of walking in this weather on my last night to firstly shop at a Tesco before cooking food. I would have left straight away if given the opportunity, and walked into a warm plate ready at home. Instead, a cooked some meal and went to sleep. In the morning, goodbyes were said to my housemates who were excellent throughout the period, and a goodbye kiss was had with my girlfriend on the doorstep. I had to drop my belongings at a friends house, who had prepared a fresh juice and a Cumberland Sausage sandwich in advance. I then walked down to Highbury Station to catch the tube to Heathrow Airport, and also met a friend along the way whereby further goodbyes were said. Next, I was loaded with my scans and medication whilst wearing ridiculous stockings to avoid clotting on the plane and held back the tears when watching a documentary on a snowboarder called Keven Pearce. I must have drifted off to sleep for a while because my memory is hearing the ever comforting announcement of almost touching down in Sydney. Finally I am home.

My pact

4th October 2014: Sydney, Australia

The last few days have seen snippets of information detailing the discovery of the tumour. It is a rather powerful and emotive process, forcing me relive some of the memories associated to this stage of the journey. Therefore, it seems relevant to also mention a decision made prior to the whole hospital experience. Again, with most topics, I guess how each reader interprets the information will differ, however, it is personally seen as a critics moment of my life. The topic in mention regards a pact made with myself on the night of New Year’s Eve 2013.

On the night of December 2013, I was staying in an incredible place with my girlfriend and family that overlooked the snow fields of France. Typically in such places, there wouldn’t be a care in the world, on this night though, a pact with myself was made consisting of a promise not to drink any alcohol or eat any red meat for as long as it took for normal health to return. The pact may not have come to fruition if I hadn’t been starring disappointedly over the snow fields from my sweaty bed following weeks of ill health. The significance of that New Years Eve night alone in my bed almost delirious from a high temperature is reason for presenting at the hospital back in London, early on the 12th January 2014 with no alcohol consumed the day before. Why the significance? Well, I believe that pact ensured the stomach pains and flu symptoms were treated as genuine concerns and not just a poisoned post-festive season liver screaming for attention from the assault received over the past weeks.

In reality, regardless of the Cancer or not, I feel modifications to my lifestyle would have been made. An evaluation of my lifestyle and health at the time of diagnosis would show a generally health conscious person whom regularly exercised, however, the alarming feature would be the amount of alcohol passed through my body on the weekends. I am now able to identify myself in terms of the relationship I had with alcohol as a binge drinker. Would I have considered myself different to others surrounding me or others in general around London? No, not at all! In my mind, I didn’t drink midweek, exercised and ate relatively healthy, so would have actually probably had a blurred perception of what healthy living entailed. I do remember wanting to cut out either a session at the pub on either a Friday or Saturday as countless beers would usually would have been consumed, and I think having the Cancer just accelerated some health related decisions into my life. Now, as noted previously, I don’t have the sessions in the pub, more being comfortable with no more than one or two drinks. Consequently, I have found to have a renewed love for other aspects of life, including a sharpness that appears to have returned in my thinking, greater focus, more time and an overall more positive approach without days spent hungover. Yes, I have had some ill health of late and haven’t been as energetic as preferred, however, I feel a return to a full-time schedule will occur next week. In summary, the pact made with myself clearly targeted an area of my life needing attention, was a key step to accurately being diagnosed, and has placed me in this fortunate position whereby I have been able to make the changes needed to actually work towards living a healthy and full life.

Bedlam continued…

image

3rd October 2014: Sydney, Australia

The initial days of waiting in hospital left me wondering why I was still there, especially with frequent reports within the media about the lack of hospital beds. Surely, I was taking up valuable space needed for people who really required attention and were actually unwell! The collection of other men in the ward consisted of two beds remaining occupied whilst a revolving process of inpatients for the others. There was one guy, a recovering alcoholic from South Africa, in the bed opposite me who remained in the hospital throughout my duration. A very good guy, and together hours of backgammon were played to pass time. After four days of staying in the hospital, I was finally collected and taken for the first of many scans. I have to come to consider it the hierarchy of scans as it was just an ultrasound. Easy! I lay there, had a warm gel placed on my stomach and was able to see the insides of my anatomy. Neither intrusive nor uncomfortable but fairly interesting, especially as I could see the screen. Sure enough, I curiously watched the images, wondering if I would be able to see the wormlike creature causing havoc within my body. Between the games of backgammon, samples of blood taken and the food trolley alleviating a hunger possible fuelled through routine and boredom, I had occasionally been flicking through a book detailing the anatomy of the body. In some ways, I could be referred to as outcome focused, thinking I had to take something from the days in hospital.Therefore, the scan was a place to test some of my learned knowledge.

The screen was showing the insides of my body, a narration of the images by Sir David Attenborough would not have seemed unusual. It wasn’t till the scan passed across one area of my body that quickly my brain switched to thinking about what organ occupied that specific area. Nothing came to mind, so I asked, ‘what is that’. The response, ‘I’m actually not sure… It’s not unusual for us to have differing anatomies’ would usually cause concern and maybe subconsciously it did, however, I was able to overlook the seriousness of this obscurity. I departed the room back to the my bed, j aware the whole game had now changed. Almost immediately, the doctors came into my room, closed the curtains and told me the findings. two points were known. Within thirty minutes I would be transported by ambulance from Bedlam to a specialist endocrinology ward within St Bartholomew’s hospital. My new own room was in the centre of London, with a view overlooking St Paul’s Cathedral! Again, I blocked out the reasoning for me having my own room, and thought that I would be closer to some of my mates who worked in the city, could pop out to grab some decent food and would be able to get a good night of rest. Stupidly, the thought didn’t occur why these arrangements were in place.

Injured..

16th September 2015: London, United Kingdom

Rest! At certain points, my body orders a day of complete rest, and today would be placed into this category. I awoke to my alarm sending gentle sounds of chirping birds into my consciousness. Just to note, never again will I return to intense alarm, startling me out of a deep sleep. I can’t think of a worse way to start my day. Preferably, I would be rising with the sun, however, this has been a point of dispute with my girlfriend so I will wait till my return to Australia for the sun to be the source of my daily awakening. The alarm was set as it was a work day, meaning I now had to put aside the voice inside my mind telling me to sleep for a little bit longer, and not bother with exercise planned for the morning. I got out of bed in a typical manner to switch off the alarm when I noticed my left arm did not feel right. Immediately, I attempted to diagonally move my arm in front of my body, grimacing at the movement and realising that I would not be able to do chin-ups, push-up or even yoga for the day. My thought process switched, ‘No not an injury, I need to do exercise, my exercise is essential to keeping me healthy’. The day had not started well.

Since returning to London my routine in regards to physical exercise has consisted of yoga everyday accompanied by two callisthenics workout sessions in the park. The yoga will differ pending on energy levels, however, the outdoor sessions remain fairy consistent with a planned changed when returning to Australia. The reason for a change is in accordance with plans to modify my training every three months, thus, not allowing my body to become accustomed with the same exercises whilst also continually keeping interest and motivation. Also, movement is one of my key principles to survival. My mentally is based on the belief that I will improve in all areas of my life, including overall mental, intellectual, spiritual and physical gains. As you can guess, a sore shoulder in no way fits into my planning.

I briefly toyed with the idea of going for a cycle or just doing some stretches that don’t involve my shoulders. I say briefly as common sense prevailed, and I was also able to consider two of my other key principles to survival, rest and the need to listen to your body. Obviously, I was not impressed with the state of my shoulder, however, could this not be a way of my body telling me to rest for the day? Also, if I was to reject the signals sent by my body then I would be possibly risking longer term damage and further time whereby I would not be able to follow my exercise plans. It’s interesting how once I resigned to the fact of my body needing rest, other parts of my body also felt tired and needing a rest, i.e. a reduced motivation to work and a recognition of a tiredness within my entire body.

Thoughts about my shoulder soon starting sliding into a longing for being home, and I think the dark, imposing grey clouds looming outside my window didn’t help the situation. I stayed fixed in this mindset for almost three hours, not entirely stuck in a cloud of negativity, just fleeting thoughts about my disappointment and frustration. Similar to previous occasions, I was able to reshape my thinking, ultimately leading to a change in mood and outlook. I recognised my focus on the feelings associated with my shoulder and had an understanding that this was not going to be helpful. Therefore, once again, a reframe was applied to see the day as a well deserved rest day. A far better prospect opposed to a frustrated day thinking about my shoulder. I realise this is a minor complaint compared to what others experience, regardless of whether they have Cancer, however, it reinforces the continual deployment of a mental strategy needed in all aspects of life, and can also be seen as a testing ground in building my capacity at dealing with other more severe issues when they arise.

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.