The questioning of everything in life

18th May 2015: Sydney, Australia

The timing of the upcoming MRI will greatly appease some of the minor concerns experienced over the past few days in relation to the ongoing symptoms of a cold. Admittedly, I am always trying able to normalise these times, however, the certainty obtained from the MRI results will certainly relieve some of the chatter occasionally floating into my consciousness about how well I actually am.

The overall effect of the last few days has left me in a position whereby a sense of equilibrium is missing from my life. Consequently, everything is questioned, leading me to both drift into a dreamlike state creating future scenarios whilst also feeling a sense of loss that has resulted from the Cancer experience. The end result is an inclination to feel a little low. I am aware there are going to be times like this, however, I would like to see myself more capable at deploying learned strategies to stay present.

Bliss!

17th October 2014: Sydney Australia

A couple of pacts have been made over the past two days. Firstly, the goal to complete a fast by next Friday and secondly, the need to only be positive for the next seven entries. In regards to the first point, I have found a preferred programme set to complete next Tuesday and Wednesday. Secondly, positivity. Well, I did feel the best I have in a number of weeks, the main question is whether a relationship really exists between thinking positively and how my body responds? To discover if there is a scope for further attention on the matter, examination over a significant period of time is necessary to avoid a degree of stupidity in assuming a period of one or two days is significant information to prove the accuracy of the hypothesis.

In regards to my day, I feel a chain of events should be shared. Noticeable changes were seen in my energy levels as the afternoon approached. Most notably, a lack of mental capacity and an overall feeling of my body slowing down. I had plans to complete for the day, however, opted against pushing through the lethargy to utilise the joy of having no-one around to complete some meditation. I used an app called mindfulness to complete a 20 minute scanning exercise of my body before setting into my own state whereby an hour ended up passing, leaving me feeling refreshed and pleased in not falling asleep (as I have been doing of late). A reasonably well paced and challenging yoga session then followed before I started cooking dinner. Maybe over descriptive I know, I’m just trying to provide a snapshot of how I went from a state of tiredness to one whereby I realised for the first time in a number of weeks I was singing with a smile on my face, accompanied by a feeling of happiness circulating throughout my body. One of those magical moments you wish could be bottled and stored. A completely natural occurring physiological process of pure bliss, costing absolutely nothing and not in the form of an artificial drug with possible side-effects or a period when coming down from the drug. As noted, pure natural bliss. Surely, the very point of existence right there! I am now tapping away before I sleep, feeling a lot less nauseous, pleased with the response my doctor yesterday and excited to continue this feeling into the weekend.

Patterns changing

24th September 2014: Changi Airport, Singapore

How fast patterns can shift. It was only 12 weeks ago when I endured the 30 hours of transit time from Sydney to London. Over the course of the flight, I got up to stretch at least five times, was insistent on my dietary choices and regularly integrated mindfulness techniques into the journey. Now, I’m sitting at the airport only halfway through the flight with tired eyes and a stiff body compounded by an overactive mind stuck on thoughts about the excessive luggage charges that easily could have been avoided should I have adequately prepared. Furthermore, disillusioned feelings are being experienced about my bodies health due to the dietary choices made leading up the flight, and the compliance in eating the standard food when I previously placed an order for the vegan option. Why the vegan option when clearly my food journals contradict the vegan approach to diet and nutrition? My reasoning is that airline food isn’t usually the best, and an accidental introduction to a vegan airline box lead me realise the nutritional benefits of a vegan option compared with other available choices.

The apparent shift in focus is believed to exist as a direct consequence of the limited recent movement in my life. I believe a correlation is evident between a lack of movement and the limited journaling, increased stress, inability to meditate, poor dietary choices and lowered immune system. Furthermore, it has reinforced the need of an inseparable approach to health and well-being rather than an isolated and fragmented approach only targeting one specific area of your life. Just to note, when saying poor dietary choices, it’s not a case of eating junk, rather decisions not consistent with a belief in making health promoting choices at all times. In summary, yes I have noticed a shift, however, this has only normalised the process for me, demonstrating how easy it is for patterns to shift and importantly furthered my learning and understanding about how to be better equipped for when a future change occurs in my weekly schedule.

Destructive thoughts

15th September 2014: London, United Kingdom

I am mindful of a negative theme seemingly to have emerged within past writings, and I believe it resulted from allowing myself to entertain destructive and negative thoughts. Today, it appears another gloomy entry will follow, and I was aware of this upon leaving work at approximately 11:30am, exhausted, feeling low with an overwhelming longing to be at home. It’s interesting to reflect on my thinking as a 30 year old male, and wanting to be at home, as if my home is safe haven where everything will be ok. The picture contradicts an example of the positive mind-set I have been writing about. Instead, it clearly demonstrates the fragility and vulnerability that can be endured when experiencing hardship or any kind. A snowball effect accumulating over the past few days seems to have placed me in a position whereby I needed to detach from everything and solely focus on completing some meditation to stop the negative thoughts that were circulating throughout my mind. After a period of meditating for forty minutes, there was still some cunning and determined thoughts fighting to stay present within my thought process. When entertained or allowed to continue, the thoughts have mastered a skill to influence me into a state of negativity. To expand on the negativity experienced, I am referring to the very thought process that I fiercely oppose in previous entries. I rarely allow these thoughts to remain within my mental sphere as they are a direct contradiction to my strategy about my future life and well-being, and it seems they could easily have the potential to be a poisonous weed that claims victory over a hopeful promising flourishing garden.

I realise the actual account of my thoughts is yet to be shared. I feel it’s due to a possible reluctance at essentially writing about the depths of the negative thoughts, compounded by the awareness of for the very first time exposing the thoughts from my mind into another domain. Is this a result of my concern at someone close to me gaining access to these thoughts then worrying whether I will harm my-self or is it just simply a masculine way of tussling with internal thoughts and feelings? I think it’s more just the reality of me having ownership of these thoughts as I have become fairly adept at blocking these thoughts. Such a preamble has been provided on this topic, and in summary, the thoughts I am describing relate to my death and the look on my mother’s face if she was there at my funeral. Not at all healthy thoughts!

Whilst writing, I am not deterred from my created future vision. It just reinforces the need to continue writing this journal as a means of tracking my thoughts in an attempt to detect a pattern whereby I can intervene at an earlier stage to prevent a downward spiral.

Movement and Cancer

5th September 2014: London, United Kingdom

Today can only be described as one of those days. From the very moment of opening my eyes, I knew the struggle ahead. To make matters worse, the thought of insufficient almond milk in the fridge appeared to be a disaster. Consequnetly, a sedated, blurry eyed version of myself, certain to be mistaken for an individual suffering from a big night walked to the local shop. The day unfolded in a way I’m hoping to become less frequent as time progresses. After breakfast, an observer would have noticed a dishevelled skinny frame wearing his shirt inside outside whilst displaying a sour look scorned across his face laying horizontally on the couch, ready to deal with the tortuous day ahead. I didn’t shift till a proven successful sequence at 4pm deployed on numerous occasions broke this dull feeling. The extremely recommended routine consists of forcing myself to inject some movement into my day. Although it may be the least favourable proposition, particularly with a full hard-drive and a gloomy day (gee it sounds depressing just writing it) sending no sunlight through the closed windows. The sequence is some form of movement followed by breathing/mediation exercises allowing my body and mind to make the necessary shift. The thought of movement when having no energy, not being able to eat and thinking you may tumble when walking may appears ridiculous, however, movement in some form is essential, and on every occasion it has proved successful. The activity doesn’t need to be strenuous, differing for each person, pending their age, capacity, support and surrounding environment, however, I believe it should form a plan that each person with cancer should already have or be in the process of putting together. My choice of movement is yoga. Yes a bit of a cliche these days, and I will admit I was unable to connect with the process prior to falling unwell. The physical, emotional, social and spiritual (for some) benefits obtained from practicing on a daily basis need to be stressed. The choice is for others to make, and I’m not going to follow up with the option of providing yoga classes for a fee, yet, I would encourage all to undertake or try yoga as it’s an activity whereby some classes (yin/hatha) are slow and restorative. Moreover, on other days when more energy is available, a serious workout will leave you feeling refreshed and reinvigorated. Also, in essence you are concentrating on breathing plus becoming flexible in the body and mind.

Movement has always been important to me, growing up playing all sorts of sports then later during my twenties focusing on fitness. In regards to my treatment, from those very fist days whilst hitting the button to send morphine into my body, I was completely focused on recovering. The recovery I envisioned wasn’t just getting back to normal. Rather, surpassing how I had ever been before. Obviously, I have a long way forward, and I am continuously tracking my progress in the form of a daily diary. The diary encompasses all my movement, side effects experienced and recently my daily food intake. In addition, a monthly picture is taken to be used in the future to see the transitions taking place within my body. Initially, I had blinded myself from thinking about the reality chemotherapy, and once it dawned on me, I started to think about how my life would be lived for the next few years. I did not allow my thoughts to spiral into a place of depression. Instead, I started implementing some of my positive thinking. I outlined a programme/routine that I would adhere to, and today is a prime example of that approach in action. The programme entails the necessary period my body needs to rest, however, being completely aware of the importance of movement in my life. The effects are immediate once I complete some movement, usually yoga, then direct concentration to some meditation exercises. Yes, it is not always enjoyable but is siting on a couch all day, thinking about how sick my body feels? Also, to mention, I will allow myself one day a week/fortnight if feeling really tried over a continual period, however, as noted, I force myself knowing full well how I will feel after finishing the routine.

The importance of movement was instilled into my new life on the very first day of taking the chemotherapy. It is a day to always remember, wet, windy and cold conditions pierced my skin when waking to the pool. Not as cold comparable to European winters, yet, cold, windy and wet enough to force many people indoors. The decision was made at approximately 3pm, consisting of walking to an outside un-heated pool. It is probably not viewed as the best idea, and being the only person in the pool demonstrates this, however, it was one of the first mental steps taken towards both implementing my plan and not allowing the chemotherapy to completely overtake my life. My recommendation to others if feeling tired or a little low is to try some movement, and for me walking and swimming in the water to complete some gentle laps was perfect. If you really think about it, are there many more times when all your senses are switched on, making you feel alive. Whether it be the cold breeze almost stinging my weakened body, a hissing of the wind in the ears or seeing trees blowing from side to side. Then the dive in the water to undertake some laps, nothing to overly exert myself. At present, I considered it another victory, and view myself like a hoarder whom from the time of waking up out of surgery is collecting all the victories possible. To conclude, the decision can be simple, get onto the floor, start your breathing, say some affirmations before beginning, i.e. I am flexible, I am strong.