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.

Does something greater exist?

28th October 2015: Byron Bay, New South Wales, Australia

Ill symptoms recently experienced have questioned my overall existence, and I descended into a place not frequently visited. Admittedly, the place is dark, and it is where I entertain destructive thoughts about my my life. It wasn’t till hearing a quote just moments ago that enabled me to block the destructive thoughts and instead focus completely on my long, loving life awaiting me. For those still reading, I encourage you to not see me attaching to anything to give me hope, but alternatively question whether something greater is supporting me throughout this process. It may sound weird at first, and again possibly another juncture for some to stop reading at, however, it seems the quote was heard at the very right moment to refuel my defence system.

Upon dissecting the events, an observer could simply say it was a case of listening to lyrics in a song whilst driving home. Again, I encourage those to not think of coincidences, and instead consider all the minute details forming at the exact moment to make me open to connecting with the lyrics of the song. Honestly, it has had a significant impact and will form the basis of a mental exercise to be completed to support my thinking.

The quote is “they say the darkest hour is before dawn”.

Any thoughts?

The change in feeings

4th September 2015: Sydney, Australia

I just reviewed my entry from yesterday, finding little to currently resonate with in my current state of mind. It makes me think how strange it is to witness my feelings fluctuate from one day to the next. Undoubtedly, the very condition of human nature is to be dynamic, responding in accordance to our surrounding environment, and the changing state of mind is not specific for the Cancer population (if I can label it as such). The feelings of all is bound to fluctuate depending on varying events and stressors in their lives, however, my personal experience makes me inclined to think people with Cancer or other mental and or chronic health concerns would feel the swings more frequently and intensely. The direct influence of fearing actual death is the key factor behind my reasoning. Admittedly, there are times like today whereby I am feeling positive and in a generally normal mind-state, however, as seen yesterday, an inherent fear is yet to be conquered.

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?

Houston, We’ve got a problem!

11th June 2015: Bali, Indonesia

I hate when people tell me everything will be ok.
I hate when people just don’t listen
I hate to think of the worry I have caused my family.
I hate having to decide who to tell my story with.
I hate even having to think about what my story is.
I hate to think I am writing this.

I hate that I hate.

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.

Cancer, chemo and a return date to work

19th May 2015: Sydney, Australia

It appears my body has fought off the infection calling a return to usual activity. I am confident of saying the early symptoms were detected on Thursday morning before heading to the park to complete the calisthenic training I have been doing recently. The question is two fold. Would a day of rest prevented the symptoms from eventuating? If so, was the period more tolerable knowing my training schedule for the week was not impacted, with the two planned sessions already completed?

I am unable to accurately answer the initial question, however, in response to the latter point, I can definitely state the period was much more tolerable knowing my exercise schedule for the week had been implemented according to the plan. In fact, measuring the level of stress placed on my mind and body should I have not chosen to train last Thursday morning weighed against training is not comparable. I can understand the response contradicts previous entires whereby the importance of rest is highlighted. I think context is required though, especially bearing in mind the learning undertaking over the past 18 months in discovering what works best for my mind and body. Furthermore, it is evident that rest is seen as a pivotal part of my planning. The scheduled period into each of my ten week plans and the fact of allowing my body to completely rest for the remainder of the week demonstrates the attention placed on the area.

I recognise many may not share my opinion, however, movement is at the core of my health. Regardless of whether I am on treatment or when the time arrives for it to conclude, movement/physical exercise will always play a crucial role in my life. I think it is reasonable to suggest some people may suggest if I am capable of moving in a park, surfing or completing yoga, then I would be fit for work. I disagree completely, and would strongly voice my opinion to those who wish to draw flaws in my argument. In the first instance, the fluctuating side-effects experienced would be mentioned, then I would support my point of view with reference to the increasing amount of literature highlighting the importance of moving for people who are receiving treatment. Furthermore, factoring in the pressure and stressors involved in work compound all the points to make me physically, emotionally and mentally incapable of performing to the best of my ability at work. To conclude, I only see a detrimental outcome of entering work too early, and a total separation between moving for the better of my health and having the energy to undertake all the tasks involved in a job.

Why time makes me want to morph into a bear to hibernate till everything is finished..

12th May 2015: Sydney Australia

My Professor and I discussed several points, including all the details surrounding my upcoming trip. The other matter discussed was the expected period of time on the Chemotherapy, and it seems I have become victim to my own beliefs. I have advocated from the very beginning of all this that no timeframes would be established for when my treatment would stop. Admittedly, since hearing I would be on the medication for a whole another year deflated my mood. Yes, it is only a few months more, and seems essential so will be adhering to the planning. It has just made me down, angry and somewhat frustrated. I recognise this chain of thought is unhealthy and needs to change, especially considering the current fantasies running through my mind. I would never follow through with such actions, however, in being honest, I am inclined to numb myself with prescription drugs to fall into a deep sleep like a bear to hibernate till it is all finished. I can see perspective is required, particularly in how fortunate I am in many ways, it just hard to take that on board at times.

Does writing about Cancer and the feelings attached actually help?


28th April 2015: Sydney, Australia

The avoidance of writing about my ever fluctuating mental states seems necessary. My reasoning derives back to an earlier entry relating to an acceptance of my circumstances, and true acceptance entails an absolute submission to experiencing both the highs and lows associated with Cancer. Inevitably, down days are going to occur, and the process of documenting these days only seems to imprint a negative impact on my overall well-being. At times, a feeling of becoming stuck within a hole of despair is the predominant thought embedded within my subconscious, and consequently, my consciousness then allows these thoughts to sift into my everyday feelings and future outlook. It is somewhat paradoxical to refrain from writing about these times, however, it is a decision made to encourage a true acceptance of my circumstances whilst making a more conscious attempt at furthering my growth.

Please, just stop!

23rd April 2015: Sydney

No no no no no! I have tried my meditation and breathing exercises to no avail. It is now past midnight, and I just wished for it all stop. My stomach is cramping, rumbling and making me feel inclined to take up residence adjacent to the toilet. Attempts at reassuring myself via use of my past strategies have been unsuccessful, I simply can’t get the thought out of my head that it has come back! The effort needed in writing this is simply too much. I am scared, and am needing sleep to wake up with a fresh mind to put everything in perspective. It seems the darkness of the night combined with being alone brings me back to my childhood days of being afraid in the middle of the night. A definite case of the night terrors! I know this goes against what I advocate for, however, I have taken a pain killer to settle myself into a relaxed state whereby I will hopefully be able to do some visualisation exercises before drifting off to sleep.