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.

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.