The countdown is on…

6th July 2015: Sydney, Australia

The time till my hospital admission is rapidly approaching, and I must state that a very surreal feeling in relation to the connection with myself is being experienced. The positive attitude, bursts of energy, and an overwhelming sense of freedom seems ever present, yet, I can feel a creeping sensation that is extremely difficult to define. If an attempt was made to explain the sensation, I would say a slight degree of anxiety only felt at night in the sanctuary of my bed is slowly building in momentum. I understand this is obviously normal, and am confident of managing the impact of the anxiety, namely, a fear associated with what could eventuate over the coming days.

The reasoning behind my confidence is rooted in the belief held about my future. A future made possible by:
1. Family members who continue to amaze me with a level of understanding consistently on display. I actually find it ridiculous how much ease has been added to this whole process from the support provided by my family.
2. Wide group of friends spanning the world that seems to be best described as a combination between a vacuum and trampoline. I feel the support in my life sucks away any concerns through an array of means whilst conversely having the capacity to bounce me back to normality with constant laughter and joy.
3. Yoga and surfing, two activities enjoyed on a daily basis whereby my body is moving to alleviate stressors and allow blood to circulate around my body.
4. Rocky Balboa for providing a strong, vivid and emotive catchphrase that ensures an anchor exists within my life. When my thinking can switch into a destructive mode, all I need to remember is the opening phrase whereby he states, “life isn’t all about sunshine and rainbows”. Those few select words have a powerful effect in helping me realise the reality of the hardships to be encountered in life, and it is these moments that will define my strength.
5. Confidence in the medical team working towards the best possible outcome.
6. Miscellaneous factors also need a mention, they would be grouped as music I have been exposed to, memories of past times and the dreams of a happy and successful future awaiting me.
7. Total belief in my existence!

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.

A walk down memory lane..

17th January 2015: Sydney, Australia

I had thought attention on my Cancer has been decreasing over time, and had hoped for this to continue throughout the many more prosperous years to follow. I still don’t think an example today needs to shift my future course, however, an event to possibly reconsider the situation in terms of the impact rather than the attention. A conversation with my mum yesterday brought me to this position. For the first time, my mum provided details of her feelings during the three days after receiving the phone call when I informed them that I had a tumour. On a personal level, I was happy in revisiting some of the decisions made, including the avoidance of going to full details with my parents over the phone, namely in relation to the size of the tumour. One specific moment was the initial contact made when holding a conversation with my dad, and to note, I knew the tumour was approximately 15cm, and was thought to be Cancerous. Parts of the conversation entailed:
Dad: Well how big is it?
Me: Pretty big
Dad: A grape?
Me: bigger
Dad: Orange?
Me: bigger
Dad: Grapefruit
Me: Yeah about that, it’s pretty big

Now, some may argue honesty was needed, however, I completely disagree. The main points were conveyed, namely, I had a Cancer, and secondly, it was fairly large. In addition, plans were exchanged about my care and when results would be available. The interesting and upsetting information for me was what followed. Mum said that Dad went to the city the next day and cried the whole day, then the following day, both mum and dad followed the same route as the day previous, yet this time they were both crying. For me, that right there is evidence of the impact of Cancer!

I also feel a chain of events directly caused by that conversation unfolded throughout the weeks and months to follow. Similar to any grieving process, evident negative events seemed to surface, and in this instance, an increase in stress and worry compounded by the drinking of alcohol seemed to have featured within the family home. I am not at all meaning to highlight the negative points. Simply, describe some of secondary factors associated with Cancer. On a positive note, the support that continues to be accessible seems unmatched, and the very factors in life that are invaluable and forever remembered. It must be noted that the focus are all internal descriptions, and I wonder what factors will be remembered and live on for my parents. I imagine, our memories will greatly vary!

Day of perfection

14th November 2014: Sydney, Australia

The weather soared to 34 degrees today! I find it incredible how ordinary and familiar moments are able to bring such happiness into my life. For instance, an afternoon surf elicited an overwhelming joy when recapping the days events. There was nothing spectacular about the day, however, I just felt an appreciation of life, accompanied by a feeling of not seeking or searching for anything, simply living and basking in a state of happiness. The waves were not great, I think it was just the realisation of finishing an excellent day with my favourite pastime featured most days of my adolescence and early twenties.

There was a moment whereby I was so caught up in the days events that I switched into a mode of projecting into the future. Ultimately, I was blocking myself off from what was actually happening around me, and come to to think about it, reminiscing on the days events would have also limited my capacity to fully appreciate the very moments that made my evening surf during my adolescence such a memorable experience. I was able to recognise the thought process of switching between thinking about accounts of my day and how I would be share this with others. Consequently, attention was then directed back to my natural surroundings and the very reasoning for the feeling of elation. A quick summary of my day in a sequence shows:
– Wake up, water garden, breakfast in the sun, surf, exercise in the park, lunch, swim, read, sleep, yoga, water garden, surf, cook then settled into to watch a movie!

A very simple day, and could definitely have been heightened by the company of my girlfriend, however, was feeling content with what I had. Ironically, I am now going to bed with a slight feeling of nausea! A reminder of contradictions and imperfections in my 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.

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.