Am I known as just that Cancer guy?

27th May 2015: Sydney Australia

I still leave for my trip tomorrow, however, it is now a shorted version, and I have hope that my ex-girlfriend will meet me for a week. Till yesterday, it had been a number of months since talking on the phone. Oddly, with everything happening, it felt so normal, elicited such happy emotions, and has intensified a want and need for her to be with me. I am unsure whether it will actually happen, and one of my major concerns is how fair the situation is for her, so will need to wait to see how it unfolds.

The reestablishment of communication had only added to the surreal feelings had in regards to everything happening around me. It was only last week, I was talking about a confidence in knowing the scan was to be ok whilst looking at the prospect of two months away surfing, completing my yoga and continuing my progression. Now, my mind is constantly drifting, knowing I will soon be cut open followed by a round of Radiotherapy. To put it simply, I just want to live a normal life, and not return to this story of me being the Cancer guy.

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Is that a light at the end of the tunnel I can see?

12th April 2015: Sydney, Australia

A continuation of feeling well seems to be building momentum. It has now been many days since a bout of nausea has been experienced with my energy stocks also seemingly not depleted. Consequently, I have been much more social, a feature eliciting a sense of normality into my life. In addition, I am going to sleep, basking in the comfort of my bed. An experience lost as long as memory allows. Admittedly, in the social arena my complete confidence is still lacking, particularly resulting from the unshifting Cancer narrative I seem bound within. My self-awareness reinforces the origins of the unshifting narrative directly stemming from my internal thought process, however, as previously mentioned, momentum feels to be building.

I would like to say the battle is coming to a close, and the last appointment with my Professor has only reinforced these feelings. Admittedly, I have long advocated for not setting timescales in regards to the length of my treatment, however, periods of happiness flow throughout my thoughts in relation to the approaching prospect of once again resuming what would be deemed a normal life. The corresponding challenge is to ensure the avenue adopted in achieving the state of wellness within my mind and body throughout the entirety of this process continues after the treatment ceases. It is undeniable that to the outside world the previous sentence would not necessarily be shared, however, personally regardless of the circumstances faced, I feel to have found a security within my self. A defining factor I wish continues and flourishes when the next stage of my life begins.

Holiday time…

2nd March 2015: Sydney, Australia

I have had great doubt in regards to spending time away over the winter months. It is such a new phenomenon, and with much regret I admit the concerns derive from a fear resulting of being alone for a significant period of time whilst thinking about how I would cope when a bout of nausea arises.

Thoughts about being unwell can either be seen as a realistic outlook based on experiences from the last year or a future script determining how my body will react. Admittedly, I think the latter explanation holds greater weight, and is reflective of the fear governing my life. A commonality of fear also exists in relation to being alone, and is completely new terrain for me. Previous travel has seen me leave my country of residence without any hesitation. An assurance of having a passport and cash would be sufficient preparation to book a train or flight overseas. An example coming immediately to mind is when I walked from my house to St Pancras station in London, and ended up travelling through Germany, Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovenia for a two week period.

The change in my mindset and overall approach to living is interesting, particularly when considering how a degree of fear has managed to creep into my life. Fortunately, I have been able to recognise these changes, and an incident today reinforced the need to face this challenge. As touched upon, it appeared the decision was made to not undertake the planned holiday, however, a moment whereby I was walking up the beach on an overcast day made me really question the narrative created for myself about being lonely whilst reaffirming my complete apprehension towards cold weather. Consequently, airing these points has made the decision a lot easier. Firstly, I know the same amount of pleasure will not be found in winter here compared to the life lived in South East Asia, and secondly, this whole created narrative about being unwell and how I will cope needs to be shattered. Therefore, I have arrived at a place, confident in knowing the best solution to overcome both points is to just book the flights with the rest of the planning simply falling into place. Lastly, I need to both recall and implement a saying used over the past year. In varying circumstances, I have described my circumstances as being time rich, yet money poor. Surely, I have to truly live out this belief rather than regretting a lost opportunity at a later stage, especially when bearing in mind my intentions of returning to work next year.

Why the hair?

11th February 2014: Sydney Australia

A year of my recovery has been visually tracked. Honestly, I would have envisioned a more pronounced transformation, particularly in regards to further muscle definition, however, in saying that, I recognise some degree of strength was regained when looking at my body as a whole. Other notable differences include the healing of the scar, differing in colour as my recovery progressed and the continued difficulty with my alignment. In addition, the ridiculous facial hair is hard not to observe. There are some aspects to dissect when reflecting on all points mentioned above, even including the hair!

Firstly, I am happy with the scarring, with apparent improvements shown in the last half of the year, especially bearing in mind no oils were used. My colouring is seen to resemble the progression of my continual health, particularly when making a comparison from the first picture to the one taken today. My alignment is another area to discuss. A fracture of my right collarbone when I was 20, followed by a lack of rehabilitation resulted in my body already skewed, with my feet evidence of the continued work still required, however, it seems yoga and strengthening exercises are all working to rectify this. Lastly, the hair. Both the beard and general length of my locks can be discussed.

The significance of my hair predates any sign of illness by approximately six months, starting at a period prior to a job interview. The job was internal, thus, a familiarity existed with the panel members. My thought process was that a haircut was needed to show a commitment to a senior role whilst hopefully indirectly influencing the decision of the panel members. I didn’t have the haircut or obtain the position, so thought to continue growing my hair. The next job opportunity arose approximately five months later, and again I didn’t get a haircut. A difference existed this time, and didn’t relate entirely to a correlation between a job and haircut. Instead, I held a belief of a haircut providing a temporary sense of bliss, and the bout of illness I was suffering didn’t feel like a short lived solution was required. Therefore, I would only arrange a haircut once I regained full-health. The story unfolds with me being successful in the position, however, my health deteriorates to the point of discovering the illness I had was Cancer. Now, on chemotherapy, I am still yet to see myself as completely healthy, so am committed to upholding my pact of not cutting my hair till I am no longer receiving treatment. I acknowledge it may seem absurd, yet a level of strength is gained from this story, especially in regards to how my hair is so untypical of the stereotypical image of an individual receiving chemotherapy, and this very elementary piece of my story elicits a sense of uniqueness, a factor, if looking at the statistics for survival is essential in my life.

What is your personal narrative?

18th September 2014: London, United Kingdom

The last day of work tomorrow singals the closure of almost four years of my adult life. Interestingly, a reflection on the time is telling about the person who walked into the position and who I am now. Similar to all, changes were bound to happen when exposed to other cultures, home comforts were stripped away leaving me to test myself in a new city, and a transfer into my thirties was undertaken with a different partner to the one featuring throughout most of my twenties. The relevance of Cancer to this? Well for arguments sake, completely nothing! The very process of ageing and living in a different country thousands of miles away from family and friends will usually lead to some degree of change. In contrast, the experience of having Cancer changes almost everything, and the closure of this part of my life seems to be of greater magnitude, especially in regards to my work whereby the Cancer appeared to have touched many of my friends and colleagues.

Although a generalisation, work usually occupies five out off seven days. Personally, it was another area where the internal changes occurring within my life were clearly evident. From the sudden departure to returning with varied workings hours and drastic reductions in after work activity all cemented the world of change that now existed in my life. In regards to the context of change, I am referring to both internal and external factors. My adopted lifestyle choices and overall outlook are based on my created principles to achieve a healthy life, however, externally, the shock and weight of a Cancer diagnosis can lead to a changed perception of you by others. To many, a diagnosis of Cancer typically correlates with a spoken or whispered statement, such as, ‘oh the poor thing’ or ‘how terrible’. It is acknowledged that this isn’t always the case, and it is not at all a criticism. I simply view it as a common response from others about Cancer. My position is to see how this narrative can be used to reshape my the experience, and the attempts being made are to follow my plan to achieve a greater level of success in all areas of my life.

Regardless of the content, a narrative or story exists for all of us. Within the working enviornment, I may have once been the Australian with the curly hair or something completely unknown to me. I am curious as to whether that picture remains, or if my story has now been amended to include the obvious. I placed significant emphasis on my future personal narrative from the very moment of being wheeled out of the hospital ward to give my family a thumbs up to signal ‘I’m ok’. I feel the creation of a positive narrative builds the foundation for others to share in the story, and consequently lead to a reinforced belief in a strength and capacity in achieving longterm health and well-being. I’m unsure of the pictures held in the minds of many, however, I am certain that story would have changed over the past year.