Still breathing…

An abandoned narrative of almost 3 years ago is salvaged from the murky depths…

Straight off the bat, he is still alive and kicking although he is now deliberately tempting the gods by stating that very fact. Lightning may well now strike him down – may the lord have mercy on his soul.

This does feel like a sequel of sorts. I’d just like to scratch the surface, if I may.

I have thought on so, so many occasions that I’ve lost count. Lost count on when I should pick up from where I left off with my Absolute Recovery blog.

To inform and shed light on my current state of ‘play’. I feel now is the time – if indeed there is ever a right time.

But I know you’re all busy getting on with your own realities. First of all, I just want to shout out to you all, well done for having made it this far too – it’s not easy.

We all have a story to tell – many stories I’m sure. Many degrees or depths of thought you can’t even fathom yourself? Sink into them sometimes like a cosy bed and just let them wash over you. It may feel like you’re rolling over Niagara falls in a barrel or it could be a light autumnal shower just gently peppering your face, teasing you with words, and ideas that you need to scribble down.

I get lost in my thoughts but in all honesty I’ve probably been lost there for some time now – is there anybody there?

Yep, I should get back on track before I derail slowly but surely into a ditch – how embarrassing!

You’ve probably gathered quite quickly that I’m not pushing up the daisies just yet. Hell no, although I’d like my ashes (a sandier, grittier, slightly lighter version of my current self) to be set free, off a beautiful scenic rocky Cliffside, up from the serene and peaceful cove alongside my Paa, who passed away last year – God rest his soul.

For now, my feet are still planted on the ground.

I find myself in Thailand. Let me stop you right there….

I am not a ‘sex’ tourist trawling the streets of Bangkok.

I am not lying on a beach sipping cocktails or hanging loose at some full-moon party – although that actually sounds like fun.

I don’t have a back pack with war and peace hanging out the back.

I haven’t been ordained as a Buddhist monk – yet!

Nor am I, high on a mountain top, eloquently dropping into a yoga flow, downward dog, as the sun rises with a misty fog circling my meditative space as I contemplate my navel and the promise of a new dawn.

What I can tell you is that I am in a quiet road, which is off a busy little road, which is just off a very busy main road. Scooters and pick-up trucks hurtling back and forth. The faint distance drum of industrial clatter. The birds chirping away in Thai. It’s October and the weather is getting cooler.. more agreeable, at least for me. A gentle breeze is forcing its way through the mosquito net and the fan is spinning away on number 2, just keeping the humidity at bay.

I’m sitting at my desk surrounded by bumpf, intentions, ideas and far too much procrastination – same old story.  

I recently came back from the UK with a stash of Clipper organic tea, so I am sipping away conservatively as I have a limited number of tea bags – it’s not quite a ship wrecked feeling of having nothing to eat or drink, but there are a few creature comforts you just can’t get here or if you can it’s very expensive. Tea bags are quite expensive.

I look out on to some banana trees and an Airbus 380 heading right over head. It’s a pleasant view where I can cast my gaze for a while steering clear from the hustle and bustle of real Thailand life.

Did I tell you I am a recluse?

The last 2-3 years have been eventful, exhausting, full of sadness and happiness too, in no particular order. Just that big mixing bowl of life where we get tossed and turned, and we just have to hold on, gripping the edge of the bowl. The word bowl, I am sorry, just made me think of a toilet bowl for a just a split second. Well, life can get pretty shitty sometimes let’s face it! 

Suffice to say, I am ok in the grand scheme of things. My family lead their lives, close friends drop in and out. I drop below the radar and vanish for a few hours, a few days.

So, I remain, as far as I am aware, at this moment, cancer free. Every day, in the background, in the back of my mouth lies a visual reminder that things could change…we all know that right? My conscience throws these ugly reminders right, slap bang in my face! 

I noticed a yellow spot in my mouth last December that was hanging around. You know when something’s not right, right? This wasn’t right. Turns out I was right.

Some of my cells have gone ‘rogue’ probably due to the radiation treatment, ironically (Dysplasic ) Kill or cure, huh? There are various levels of severity before it gets ugly – my last check, earlier on this year, revealed a ‘mild’ dysplasia which was reassuring, at least.

It is hard to gauge sometimes – who knows what lurks beneath. There is only so much chopping and slicing of the mouth and throat mucosa before it starts to disrupt everyday life – it is a tricky one.

It does on occasions scare the living daylights out of me when I think about the what ifs?

It could go away, remain or get worse. I remain diligent with my trusty powerful LED torch to scour the recesses of my mouth and throat which is how I spotted the abnormality in the first place. Clearly, if the pendulum decides to swing out of my favour then I’ll have to deal with it…for now I remain blissful in a non-ignorant state of WTF!

Back to me Bananas – did I mention my bananas? I have access to a banana tree which in the next month or two will be ready to hand over its bounty ! I am not a local Banana plantation owner but I have been watching a crew of local fishermen in a reservoir right outside my window who harvest the Bananas that grow around its borders – picked up a few tips too.

If you ‘Google’ map Thailand certainly in Bangkok, and its greater suburbs, you’ll see little tributaries, veins and arteries seeping through the land providing life, irrigation and a living for many, I think.

Time-out, as I send you some good vibes to each and everyone. I may not have heard or seen you for many months, lost contact but that’s life pushing us in many different directions, all at the same time.

We just have to plough through the ups and downs. May the downs be brief and fade in time and may the pleasant and happy times wash over and through you – cleansing your often tired and weary bones.

Where I will likely be in 6-12 months time – I am not sure.

I’ll continue to drive up that little dirt track just as the sun’s setting – not knowing exactly where I’m going but as long as that track is in front of me and I haven’t run out of light, I’ll just keep on going. 

There have been times when I’ve battled up a few narrow roads which led to nowhere – I’ve had to backup which was damn tricky and frustrating as hell. But you get back on track, or take another fork at the junction, cross your fingers and close your eyes . No, hang on, if you’re driving that’s just plain crazy…. No, that’s just the journey sometimes – a leap of faith is required.

Don’t fight it, don’t struggle –just take a deep breath and let go.

For now, I bid you farewell. Thanks for listening to my rambling. It’s good to fire off a few neurons on paper. 

Be safe, be happy as we draw slowly to the last few weeks of 2017.

Finally, I may jot down my thoughts and experiences of being overseas, in completely different worlds. If that is something you’d like to see, read and experience along with me then let me know.

A quick tip:

If you crack an egg into a bowl and some of the shell falls in, as it often does…you know how difficult it can be to extract the shell with your fingers, or a spoon etc – only to find you crunch into that little bit of lost shell a little later on!?

Anyway, my revelation came when I heard that you should try using the actual egg shell to get hold of the slippery bit that that drives you nuts. For years I had struggled, but now life and cracking eggs in a bowl is less stressful – yes, it requires a little technique but it works for me, at least. Just had to share that with you.

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Life in the balance blog…

3 months have passed since I wrote my blog…(feeling the sting lyrics of message in a bottle) It’s the first time I’ve really read the words. I related to being castaway, and feeling a deep loneliness and needing to be rescued before falling into deep despair and that only hope could keep me together.

I was never sure about the true meaning of hope. I remember talking with a good friend of mine a couple of years ago and she was filled with hope about something very particular in her life and I remember thinking that hope, at that particular point in my life, had quite a passive sense to me. I just hadn’t realised what a strong word it is and its many connotations, but it is something very powerful that, in fact, I had always had and still do have – hope. The last 12 months have shown me the true meaning of the word hope.

So, 3 months, or 12 weeks…..yep, I know what you’re thinking 7, 257, 600 seconds. Please don’t check my maths, but if you do, try it the old-fashioned way with a pen and paper – good old multiplication – I’ve still got it right?!

It’s a bleak Saturday afternoon but all’s well – just taken the edge of my hunger with a left over Chinese and a little soy sauce to lift the flavours, finished off with sipping a hot cup of tea – simple pleasures!

I think my writing days have come to an abrupt halt – the hot cup of tea which I was enjoying a matter of minutes ago is suddenly a distant memory and all that remains is a cold empty mug – I’ll have to disappear and pop the kettle back on to help rekindle my writings – why don’t I make a pot of tea?!

Today I rest easy, real easy. Nothing can phase me today. I am feeling a tad drained emotionally and physically, but all is truly well.

Yesterday I had spent a rather unsettled hour sitting in the Ear Nose and Throat waiting room, waiting, of course, to see the Head Honcho about the results of a CT scan of my chest I had last week. This was a scan I had been waiting to have since October last year as the 3 month post MRI scan had shown a hilar node deep in my left lung. The docs did say that the likelihood of it being connected to my head and neck was unlikely but of course it’s a shadow that’s been hovering over me ever since.

I received a call from one of the surgeon’s secretary’s a matter of days ago with an appointment to find out the results – a wave of dread, I have to admit, washed over me for a little while as I came to terms with the reality, or possibility, of what could be – after a while I defaulted back to my “whatever happens, I’ll deal with it” mode.

Just to say that my lungs have been playing up these last few months, but they’ve never been great – possibly a weak spot of mine, but when your chest sounds like an old classic car that’s just been pulled out of a garage after 40 years in storage and then in the hope that it will turn over by yanking the crank handle to bring it back to life, that’s my chest – failing that I sound like I have genuinely smoked 60 a day for the last 40 years – I’ll send you a sound bite, you be the judge! I have met many people with a similar lingering chesty cough these last few weeks– a dry, deep hacking. By now you get the picture, so I’ll stop elaborating…

At last it was my turn to be seen, I sat down and the doctor starting asking me about my chest and how I was feeling… I felt immediately agitated. I thought he would tell me about the result straightaway. I waffled for a minute or two, which seemed like a lot longer, before he turned around to the screen and explained that all had come back clear on my lungs – no metastases or anything sinister lurking about. As I write these words, I take an involuntary deep breath and sigh. I remember constantly glancing at the screen with all the medical jargon basically saying all was good.

I think at that moment I was stunned and ecstatic which produces a strange state of hypnosis – it’s like the body and mind are making sense of what has just been said before I can bring them back on-line and start functioning again – i.e. stringing coherent sentences, at least for a little while.

A very close friend of my father’s texted me yesterday and said “ Ade, you’ve dodged another bullet” I like that expression, and it resonated with me alot as she had very severe bowl cancer over 16 years ago and is still alive and kicking! If life really is a lottery then she got all 6 numbers!

During yesterday, and the evening before, I was in a strange state. I felt like everything was once again hanging in the balance and that my sense of normal, that I had been getting used to these last few months, could possibly and irreversibly change i.e. be brutally swiped from my grasp, that unsettled me greatly but I knew there was nothing I could do other than drop a little deeper into my silent space in my psyche and give myself a pep talk.

I know life is in many respects always hanging in the balance – the swingometer of fate in the background swooping back and forth. Denial and positive thought spring to the surface. As precarious as things can be sometimes I would rest assured that somehow things will work out in the end – but to what end is that? (Discuss) I felt like the university lecturer in this moment…

Life can turn on a sixpence, just like a helicopter ride I had recently. The pilot faked a stall and we dropped down seemingly out of real control but just at the last minute the joy stick was pulled back and we softly regained power and with a quick wring of the throttle up we went. Hanging by a thread, or on this occasion a rotor blade, but I had faith – I wasn’t in control but I enjoyed the ride. I even thought about dropping out of the skies at a 1000ft, cruising at 90mph thinking to myself that wouldn’t be a good scenario but I still envisaged landing somewhere soft that would break our fall and by a miracle of fate we would survive with just a few cuts and bruises.

I was working yesterday morning & afternoon up until a few hours before I got my results but I was strangely calm. I was at a local office doing chair massage. I felt surprisingly engaged and in the moment with my clients, which is a great place to be and is why I do what I do – I was truly in the moment.

I felt a little like a dead man walking, but at the same time I was very accepting of my fate and that what will be, will be – an almost calming sense of my own mortality knowing that the spark of life which remains so powerful in us all will no longer, at some point, fire up before we shoot into the ether as sparks of energy – that’s a given. So when things hang in the balance these are the thoughts that roll through my mind, trying to make peace with the reality of life in all its raw beauty and ugliness too – trying to find a balance.

That’s what life is perhaps all about in many respects coming to terms with the balance and imbalance of life with its ups and downs. I take solace in this fact and it makes me more aware of being in the moment but at the same time of not being too attached as each moment in life is transient and passing – it comes and goes the ebb and flow of life.

I’ve just popped on my headphones, listening to Ed Sheeran… my daughter mentioned this guy a while back but I didn’t pay too much attention. However, on a recent trip to the USA, I was listening to BA’s music collection and I came across his album X – some great tracks.

I don’t normally listen to music when I’m tapping at the keys so it’s a bit of an experiment…

I found myself in a rather precarious place last night, outside my buddy’s flat, midnight, cold biting wind, I was pretty tired and ringing at the door, long story short, things apparently at the time didn’t swing in my favour and I found myself turning on a sixpence and hightailing it back to whence I came. All I really remember is thinking, I am alive and kicking and nothing will phase me at that moment.

Things didn’t swing in my favour at that particular point but life was seemingly hanging in the balance a matter of hours before and from then on everything else was trivial, insignificant and didn’t matter. As I stood there on the spot, I took a deep breath of the cold wind only to see a young Taiwanese guy come up to me asking where the nearest bus stop was, he was lost, and his phone had died and he couldn’t hook up with the friend he was meeting as he couldn’t remember their number. I remember thinking that this guy is really in a vulnerable position. It was funny because I couldn’t really do a lot with my predicament, a tad lost, but I could certainly help this guy out and so I found him a safe space to get himself sorted. Good deed done for the day. A late night but refreshing!

So 3 months later my hunger, appetite and tastes buds are back and I am slowly putting on weight. My mouth often feels like someone has just stuffed a towel in it for half an hour – if you fancy experimenting please give it a try and let me know – it seems to be the only way to describe it. I have other symptoms that come and go regarding hearing, muscle tightness in my neck and jaw, swallowing etc but that’s the just the way it is. I met a guy in the hospital yesterday who had only just recently had his feeding tube removed after 4 and a half years! On the upside, he was still alive and kicking too.

As I slip back to into my old ways (normality) I am aware that I have acquired a new hotwired, neuroplasticised part of my brain that helps bypass the older networks that help me reflect and move forward in responding, rather than reacting to whatever life throws at me.

Having just written the word ‘throw’ I had this great image of food fights, i.e. Tiswas and custard pies to la Tomatina in Spain, the great tomato food fight where a small village grows from 9000 to around 50,000. I am not big on crowds these days but that looks like a heap of madness that I am wholeheartedly up for!

That is the way my brain has always worked and is wired – I go off at a tangent, a vivid imagination perhaps. I was working with a gal the other day, and I was admittedly skylarking around. She looked up at me and said “Ade, you’re mad”. It stopped me dead in my tracks and put a big smile on my face. At that moment, I threw my hands in the air and agreed with what she said.

I spent the latter part of last year recuperating and Christmas 2014, I think, was one of the best. I feel very privileged to have spent precious time with family and friends to round off what was a rough year from the get-go.

I am officially penniless having not worked for at least 5 months but I am picking myself up and dusting myself off but that’s fine and an obvious knock on effect.

“That by which we fall is that by which we rise” (tantric saying) I am sure Confucius said something pretty similar too, but you get the gist.

What I really want to acknowledge is the resounding love and support I have felt from my family, friends, work colleagues, clients & acquaintances alike from financial support to profound words of encouragement, handmade cards of support as well as a couple of beautifully handmade notebooks with which I wrote in daily and still do.

I know the challenges I have faced have had a huge impact on my family who have faced their own challenges in trying to deal with the immediate effects of my illness whilst trying to carry, on as normal, with their own lives.

The fear, the unknown, the helplessness but ultimately hope that I have felt has resonated far beyond whatever I could have possibly envisaged.

The goodwill, generosity, empathy and kindness of others has played a huge part this last year and genuinely touched my heart very deeply.

I want to thank you all for the tender love that I have experienced in so many different ways.

I feel refreshed, blessed and remain evermore humbled by the breath of life.

Love.

Ade.

FYI:  I changed my cheesy smile photo to a pic of me on the Shropshire hills, several years ago. I was on the Long Mynd, it was an early Sunday evening with the sun setting – a biting, fresh breeze. Just me, nobody else around apart from the wandering sheep. The silence was deafening and I stood there for a long while soaking up the atmosphere and realise now that back then I took a selfie! I lived in Church Stretton, as a boy and was dropping into to see my mother after a long drive from Cheltenham before heading back home to the Surrey hills.

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The count your blog and blessings blogger…

Almost 2 months have sifted through my fingers. I needed a break and have just returned from sunnier climes back to the autumnal glaze of the beautiful British isles.

So in this moment, it’s the end of the week and the beginning of the weekend – happy times!

I’m popping on my cardi and slowly rotating the thermostat to hear that satisfying ‘click’ that the heating will kick in very shortly.

Beginning to run my winter checklist through my head – gloves, scarf, heavy jacket, umbrella and the nearest open fire I can find – cold but cosy times ahead which we have to embrace.

I went to see my oncologist over a month ago now for the results of my 3 month post MRI scan.

Great news – I am in remission! The scans are very thorough and it also showed up a lymph node in my chest. The Doc said that the likelihood of being a connection with my head and neck is remote which was good to hear. I guess, if there was a real cause for concern there’d be an immediate follow up.

My chest is somewhat prone to bronchial troubles now and then which may be the reason for the flagging up of the chest node. We forget just how amazing our body is, continually fighting infection and working away 95% of the time to keep us moving. The lymph glands are no doubt firing up all the time keeping us free from any nasty things potentially lurking within.

I will now return to the Ear Nose and Throat consultant at my local hospital for a monthly check.

A CT scan will be arranged for January just to see what’s what. Yes, it’s a slight cause for concern but you have to trust the doctor. Of course, that’s not to say I won’t mention it to the ENT doctor and keep a close check on how I’m feeling.

On the whole, I am feeling thankful, fortunate, and most of all I count my blessings, daily.

I look back and count the weeks that have passed. How poorly I was, how weak I was, how withdrawn I was, but how hopeful I was too.

It’s still early days but those ‘early’ days of treatment feel like a chapter of time I’d like to erase in many ways. I handed back a huge big bag of medications to my local pharmacy to dispose of (anti-sickness & constipation pills through to pain killers ranging from paracetamol to morphine) I had them lying around just in case I needed them. They haunted the corner of my room where they sat and I wanted to be rid of them – that’s how I felt in a moment and I did exactly that.

I thought somehow that all the events of this year would clarify and underline things in my life – that I would feel enlightened, or charged or infused with another energy or drive to make my step into the here and now and beyond somehow clearer.

I have had a few mad weekends of immense energy with the desire to sort, sift and clear things up around me, but also in my head. As I sit and reflect, it feels like writer’s block. I don’t know what to think, say, or do in many respects.

Am I trying to come to terms still with what’s happened? Trying to make sense of the big black cloud that enveloped me and is now thankfully disappearing into the background – but where do I go from here? What do I do now?

I’ve always been a restless soul and now I feel more of a restless soul in many ways. It’s hard to establish a sense of what now. Have I ever really done that before in terms of my life and the bigger picture of one’s own mortality? About making the most of each day and perhaps planning some big adventures I’ve longed to do, or actions that will somehow help make a difference to other people’s lives.

Maybe it’s about me making some sort of a mark in my life – having a real sense of stepping out my comfort zone and acting upon strong wishes, or desires that I have held at bay, restrained from my own daily reality of routine and responsibility.

Putting my cancer under the microscope and understanding the ‘reality’ of HPV – Human Papilloma Virus. A virus that is rife and runs through all our lives without even a thought most of the time.

I’d like to, if I may, just bring to your attention the current battle to get boys vaccinated against HPV.

There is a website called http://www.hpvaction.org where there is a parliamentary petition that can be signed called “ IT’S TIME TO VACCINTE BOYS AGAINST HPV INFECTIONA AND CANCER – SEPTEMBER 2014.

There are a mere 2000 signatures so far and a further 92,000, I understand, are required.

It’s well worth a read to understand the key facts: (Taken from the website with the necessary link)

HPV (human papilloma virus) is very common and most men and women get HPV at some time in their lives. HPV usually never causes any health problems but, for some people, infection with HPV can lead to the development of certain cancers (cervical, vulval, vaginal, penile, anal, head and neck) as well as genital warts. About 5% of all cancers are caused by HPV infection.

HPV vaccination at the age of 12/13 can significantly reduce the risk of developing disease and vaccinating both sexes provides the highest level of protection. In the UK currently, only girls are vaccinated through a national programme generally delivered in schools.

Australia has recently started to vaccinate both boys and girls.

Boys should now be included in the UK vaccination programme:

• To protect as many women as possible from cervical cancer.
• To protect both men and women from other HPV-related cancers.
• To protect both sexes from genital warts.

It is unethical to exclude males from a straightforward, risk-free and relatively low-cost health programme that would prevent cancers and improve sexual health.

This petition has been organised by HPV Action, a partnership of 22 patient and professional organisations that all believe both boys and girls should be vaccinated. For more information about HPV Action: http://www.hpvaction.org. Twitter: @HPVAction
Donations to support HPV Action’s work are very welcome and can be made via JustGiving: http://www.justgiving.com/HPVAction

I wish to bring my story and concern to the attention of the local press in the weeks ahead to bring this to light and help educate a public who may have absolutely no idea about HPV. You then read about it and realise that this is something big and growing insidiously.

I feel like I’ve just administered a party political broadcast and hope you don’t mind me sharing my concern with you. If you feel the need to drop me a line at any time regarding this please do. My knowledge is limited but what I have gone through and read about means that I will try to do whatever I can to bring it to people’s attention, in any way I can.

For now, I will count my blessings each day and just try to regain strength, weight and energy to battle on like we all do- oh yeh!!

Finally, Christmas is coming – oh yeh to that too I hear you cry!…no, please don’t cry, it’s not that bad is it…???

I popped into our new local Waitrose yesterday evening when it was quiet and stumbled across a packet of 9 mini short crust mince pies ( I’m quite particular about me mince pies you know) – these hit the spot – ding dong!!

I’ll be selling you car insurance next…

I hope that my ramblings find you all in good spirits.

Take care, big hugs and speak soon.

Ade.

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The damp day blogger…

Blimey, is it me or is it getting a tad nippy now as well as being a particularly wet day, today – bank holiday Monday that is.

It’s been about a month since I popped a few thoughts down.

I can’t even remember what I wrote? I thought it would be a good exercise to re-read my past blogs just to see where I’ve been and what I was feeling – I didn’t fancy that.

I’ve tried to get my head around the passage of time in its length, breadth and depth but I know it continues to elude me and, let’s face it, always will – a few weeks have drifted by let’s say.

I had an appointment with the cancer doc yesterday regarding the results of an MRI Scan I had 2 weeks ago – he is happy with the results – So, really good news. He is also very thorough so he wants me to have a 3 month post treatment, more detailed, PET scan which will be mid September to underline the MRI results.

In the here and now I couldn’t wish for a better scenario. It doesn’t mean I’m out of the woods yet by a long shot, but in this moment I’m writing to you now, all is good – I still rest a little uneasy and it doesn’t stop my mind from thinking of all possible scenarios, but I will have to re-adjust my way of thinking as best I can.

Of course, I am dealing with side effects that can be a real daily drag which in turn can get me down, but the flipside is that I am more aware of the when I feel quite ‘normal’ which is all I want to feel really – slowly, slowly.

I had a few questions to fire at the doc some of which just underline my own fears and insecurity – I felt like a hypochondriac! For the doc it’s more clear-cut and routine – the results are positive and that’s that!

One stark, but obvious, reminder over the last few months is that whatever has and is happening to me, I realise that life goes on regardless!

It feels quite raw and cold to surmise life in that way, but it’s refreshingly simple and thank goodness we try to keep moving – sometimes we drop off the radar either expectedly or unexpectedly, and at some point in our life we will disappear from the radar altogether – mother nature and father time’s radar! The earthly plane a mere stepping stone for perhaps another mysterious journey….

So back on earth with my feet firmly on the ground, my movements may well be backward, sideward or moreover I don’t feel as though I’m moving at all but I am, I am.

Old father time and mother nature are there for us although they may not at times appear to be playing very fair…

Life is about putting things in perspective as well as how we perceive each moment along with the emotions and feelings that are attached to that moment. To have a real sense of the ebb and flow of our psyche.

All of a sudden we can find ourselves in a place or space where we never thought we would be, ever, whether good or bad and in a brief moment we are looking at life from a different angle whether we want to or not. We all want life to fall in front of us in a certain way. We work hard at doing the best we can as we live out our lives.

There can be an awful lot of tension lying just underneath the surface that we battle with consciously and unconsciously. Sometimes, we just have to let go, unclench and feel the tension fade, even if it’s for a few vivid and vital moments to put life in a ‘real’ perspective.

So we find ourselves in a place we don’t really want to be, in the shadows let’s say or perhaps afloat at sea and floundering in the doldrums. Where there’s shadow there’s the warmth of sunlight and soon the ocean winds pick you up and up-lift your spirits.

For the last few months the weather has been truly amazing! I have been in the shadows (or let’s say shade) but that’s ok – I’ve been no action man these last few months – 4 months off work to date, an unsettling thought in many ways.

Yep, I have felt pretty sorry for myself at times, frustrated and fed up too! I still do! And that will continue…..I shouldn’t struggle with the inevitable, but be more compassionate with myself.

I am just over 13 stone – at the beginning of the year I was 15 ½ stone. I have wasted a way, I feel. What little bulk I had has been shed. Imagine, you are finding it hard to lose weight and you come across somebody who can’t put on weight – that’s me. The doc said it’s the chemoradiation and it will take time….although I still have times when I don’t have an appetite and I have to go through the motions of eating. And yes, I still don’t find eating particularly pleasurable.

I wake up in the mornings feeling pretty rough sometimes – my throat feels like a hose pipe that’s been left in the desert sun all day making swallowing and the usual things we take for granted, a tad more uncomfortable. I still feel as though I need a spittoon with me and half a gallon of water to keep my mouth from drying up. These are all known side effects of treatment and there are a lot more and sometimes I make sure I am fully aware of what’s what – I don’t want to keep my head buried in the sand for too long. Most of the time, like everyone else you just have to get on with things and manage best you can – that’s all you can do, it’s not ‘perfect’ but that’s just an illusion anyway.

There are moments where I see myself as the six million dollar man, Steve Austin. When I was a kid, I was Steve Austin, I really was. I had the theme tune playing in my head as I ran in slow motion and looked into the distance with my bionic eye and bent metal with my bionic arm – epic memories!

Not sure if Steve had a stomach peg but mine was removed just over a week and half ago which I was so really happy about. I was a little concerned that the surgeons would have to go back down my throat and into my stomach but thankfully, after the nurse suggested I have a light breakfast before coming in to have it taken out because the contents of one’s stomach can literally spray everywhere, it was a simple case of a quick snip and pushing the grommet with some remaining tube back into my stomach where I’m glad to say It left my body a couple of days later – sorted!

The stomach is such an amazing piece of kit – it starts to heal from the inside out straight away. I could drink and eat as normal. Within a few hours the hole begins to seal up and there’d be no way to re-insert the tube within 4-5 hours after the procedure.

I want to be ‘faster’ and ‘stronger’ than I was before, to rebuild myself without the help of bionics sadly, I really do but I’m still a bit of a startled bunny rabbit with some hellish bright lights shining in my face.

I feel like I’ve been slapped in the face and I honestly don’t know why? I’m left with mixed emotions and thoughts all jumbled up. Trying to make sense of what has and is happening is tricky for me sometimes.

My maxim at the beginning of the year was that I don’t expect life to be easy but I’d like it to be simple – make of that what you will for now and I’ll get back to you some time soon.

During the last few months, however, my maxim has been that whatever happens, I’ll deal with it! Sounds quite a tough, matter of fact approach and perhaps in a way it is but it’s just a way of helping set the scene for me. It doesn’t allay my fears and insecurities, but life goes on and we do have to deal with things the best ‘we’ can.

I think it’s about understanding the resources you have around you to tap into and nourish yourself with – I have always struggled with this concept but I need to do this. You have to look after yourself and that is no easy undertaking as we slip and slide amidst the daily trials and tribulations of life.

Take stock, restock and replenish and if necessary have a bloody good clear out.

That’s where I stand at the moment, a little bemused and both over and underwhelmed, simultaneously.

In the weeks ahead I want and need to return to life – as in the words of the great mars bar advert a few years ago – work, rest and play!

Big embrace to all of you who have come this far with me. I hope you’ll continue to listen in, but as I continue to resurface I’ll of course make contact with you all soon, in some shape or form.

Adex

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The Bix blogger…

I’m late…you’ve probably been wondering where I’ve been – a little presumptuous of me I know.

A few days out of synch that’s all. I did spend a mindful meditative afternoon yesterday washing my car – I haven’t done that in a very long time and it was pleasurable, and quite a nice workout too.

Tomorrow will be a month since I finished my chemoradiation treatment – 69 days ago treatment began, 27 days ago treatment finished.

And just to let you know, I woke up this morning and went to the loo and became a very proud and happy owner of a very normal poo! Oh the good life…(too much information? ) For me it’s a landmark occasion, it really is – so if I am to share a few ups and downs this is surely one of the ups without a doubt.

Quick scan:

Skinny – yes, blood count low- yes, blood pressure very low – yes, a little weak – yes, throat and mouth troublesome – yes ( to be expected) eating pleasure seriously affected – yes, sadly.

Physical state – much better in these last 2 weeks.

I am sure people think I am going to look a bit of a state when they see me (which I was a matter of a few weeks ago without a doubt) but the few people I’ve met have commented on how well I actually look considering…and I am beginning to feel a sense of ‘normal’ which comes and goes – perhaps the usual ebb & flow of the human psyche and the acute sense of my physical body can slow the process down though.

My plan is building strength and eating more – the sooner I do that the sooner I can have my stomach PEG removed which will also be another landmark occasion.

My mind is a little preoccupied, frustrated to a degree but more upbeat – thinking about the weeks ahead, opportunities for a few days away, thinking about work and a point in time in the next few weeks having seen the doctors etc that I can, having regained some strength and weight to enter a new phase in my recovery, to get back to normal.

I do feel a sense of urgency now albeit I am not quite ready to rock and roll! But to get cracking with a few things I need, and have wanted, to sort out in a while. Medically, I think I will have a scan in the next couple of months to see what’s what. Meanwhile, I’d like to use the time ahead effectively so when I reach the point of knowing the results of my scan, I’ll be in a position of strength, once more.

Current obsession: Food. The only food that I can readily eat without any reservation or hesitation, 24/7, is weetabix. There’s something about the texture as you add the milk before it gets too soggy. It’s cooling and quite satisfying – who would have thought it, although I did grow up on cereals of all varieties. I remember going to France as a young lad where cereal, at that time, was non-existent so being presented with bread and jam was shocking? Du pain et de la confiture sounds more appetising right…

The hunger pangs are very slowly resurfacing which is difficult if you want to put on weight and keep the dieticians happy in order to have my PEG removed. If I am not careful, a day can pass and I haven’t necessarily felt hungry at all. What is crucial too is my fluid intake to keep hydrated.

I am trying to find or wait for my appetite to re-kindle itself. I have tried many of my favourite foods only to find that the taste and/ or sensation, texture etc just doesn’t work – it’s a real nuisance (I have stronger words to emphasise my disappointment but I’ll keep it simple)

Not even a Steak is enjoyable, or a sherry trifle, and to add insult to injury my favourite victoria sponge with fresh cream – what is going on? (well, I know the answer to that but I just wanted to underline my frustration)

I drenched a crumpet in butter and maple syrup and couldn’t taste that either although I did eat half and soon after one of the vultures ( a member of my family) swooped down and demolished the rest.

Going to try some Porky White sausages for diner, the best sausage around in my humble opinion – fingers crossed.

I will persevere, I will.

I have decided in the last few days to write a blog on a monthly basis from now on. I know there is always something to write about and clearly I am entering a new phase of my recovery. I know it is early days and I am not out of the woods yet but I will keep you posted and I may even change my mind and decide to pop a few thoughts down in the weeks ahead.

Before I step back from foreground to background just to let you know my old mobile number is back up and running: 07976 605607.

I am not that far away and you can drop me a line, call me, text me, or hook up and shoot the breeze for a while.

Take care.

Ade.

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The frustratingly slow movements of the resurfacing blogger…

Who’s counting the post-treatment days? Moi? Yep, that’s what I do in my diary, a little note to self.

It always has been day by day, and nothing has changed – in fact, it seems even more acute now with the passing of each day.

The wanting to walk before I can run, that battle of mind and body, as already stated whereby I think of doing things and then realise I need to slow down – I am certainly very far from rushing around, that’s never been my way.

There have been tangible shifts these past 7 days and I have to acknowledge that. I am not stuck like a broken record, going over the same old stuff that my mind has been plaguing me with about my situation and perhaps dwelling on the downside, the low mood, the frustrations and expectations – yet these are all very real.

I am slowly thinking a little more ahead now, slowly bringing my body in line with my mind – a driver to get the physical side of me moving – I haven’t done a lot and that has to change!

Lack of sleep is my problem – I’m restless along with an agitated mouth & throat. I have taken morphine, but I don’t want to rely on that for my sleep, clearly.

I really am out of sorts & out of sync – a bit like a dancer with no rhythm desperately trying to keep in time with the music and his fellow dancers, but it just aint happening.

My out of sync may not be as noticeable on the outside – I have walked a little this week and been in communication with one or two people – I haven’t held conversations like that for best part of 3 months.

I monitor and try to observe myself – that’s tricky, am I fully present? I am trying to be. What do I say to people who I haven’t seen for a while? Lost for words or how to sum up these last few months to somebody – yep, tricky too.

I don’t want to make a big deal of it, but I certainly don’t want to underplay how tough it’s been either.

Ok. This week kicked off with a haircut which made me look and feel so much better, in my opinion – the scarecrow look had to go. I knew the radiation would zap my beard and I can now report that I no longer have a beard – just the possibility of a moustache and an inch of sideburn. I haven’t shaved in 3 weeks and I don’t need too. I liked the possibility to grow a beard when I felt like it, but that’s history now, but I do feel more clean-cut at least, on the upside.

The hairline at the nape of my neck has receded by about 2 ½ inches which feels odd too – I have been pulling out my hair over these last couple of months.

Am I slowly resurfacing – yes, I think I am. Communicating a little more and a little better.

Several months ago I built myself a one man submarine and began to slowly plunge the ocean depths – the abyss. I wasn’t sure of my destination or what would happen along the way or even when they’d be the inevitable thud of hitting the ocean floor.

It has been a claustrophobic journey for me so far but of my own choosing. The one man vessel meant there wasn’t room for anybody else. If I could imagine the dimensions they’d be barely enough room to stand up and perhaps a few feet to pace up and down. No gauges, no controls that I can visibly see and operate. It operates by responding to my body-mind emotions.

It envelopes me. There’s a small porthole, but its dark out there and I never really know just how far down I am or whether indeed I am actually moving – maybe I am in some sort of suspension and not actually going anywhere?.

Perhaps I needed to get deep enough to avoid the barrage of depth charges way up on the surface. The deeper I sank the safer, somehow, I would feel.

I remember watching the epic adventure of Das Boot, a crew of German sailors in a U-boat hunting ships to sink. The endless waiting, the tension was unbelievable. They were hunters but they too were also being hunted. That feeling of resurfacing, – up periscopes and then opening the hatches having had to fathom the depths for days, weeks having been pummelled, crushed and bashed about by the endless depth charges they’d encountered along with the immense pressures of the ocean depths – not much life down there, it seems.

I am slowly filling my lungs with air and very cannily taking a look around – I just had this sweet image of a meerkat poking his head out of his burrow very carefully, but with razor-sharp movements, checking his surroundings – is it safe to come out?

There will always be some kind of inevitable dangers in the world, but you have to resurface and get out, in your own time to feel that ‘rush’ once more. We know in our daily lives there are all sorts of possibilities and encounters that could be detrimental to our mind and body but we filter most of that out and perceive the world in our ‘present’ mind, take a deep breath, in a way, and go out and do what we normally do.

When I went back to see the nurses this week for a check up I walked into the hospital and realised how claustrophobic it felt – I don’t want( and never wanted) to be there. Not underplaying the marvellous job all the staff do but I felt like a prisoner who’d been temporarily released or on parole and I now had to come back in. When I left an hour or so later I walked outside – I had resurfaced and it felt good to be out of there heading back to some sense of normality. I have spent 2 months, day in, day out in the hospital, but at this stage I’ve been demobbed and debriefed awaiting a few more details before I can hopefully get back into civvy street. I can’t help but use these military analogies that’s my father’s influence, as an ex- naval man.

I haven’t totally resurfaced yet I am still using my periscope to look around before I make any sudden moves.

I am moving forward but being very self-critical means I don’t accept or take on board these degrees of improvement. It’s not that I am negative but unless I am heading at full speed everything’s just a nuisance and slows me down. I finitely scan and observe my body, looking, watching and waiting for the shifts – I am over the worst bit, which is what the nurses told me and that’s nice to hear, finally. I am in a better place now physically than I was just 10 days ago – it’s the mental adjustments that are also proving a challenge and I think that’s why my mind is restless and I need to slow it down in-line with my body and not the other way round.

Finally, I know if I resurface too quickly I’ll get the bends! I have had a little of the bends already…I need to find my bearings and re-orientate myself!

So, whether you’re diving deep or slowly resurfacing, try to remain calm and collected.

Ade

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Tunnel vision blogger

10 days since my treatment stopped – that’s one of the ways I look at it now. It gives me a sense of leaving that part behind, and the further I am away from that the better. Before then I was racing towards what was the finishing line, my last day of treatment.

Now I’m in the middle of the “worse before it gets better” period which has been really tough too.

I find myself in a tunnel, looking back and seeing a glimpse of light from where I came from only just recently; as I look in front of me I see a bigger light which really draws me forward – yep, I’ve got some way to go but that sense of reaching another particular point, not necessarily in time but in my health and wellbeing.

Time can become a nuisance now, just as it was in the middle of treatment.

My treatment has stopped – it’s all up to me and my body to do the rest I guess, as it has been doing. There is that restless sense and energy within me that wants to get back to ‘normal’ again – but with that comes its own set of questions and understanding for the future and more importantly the here and now. Will things be the same again – on certain levels, yes I reckon, but on others no.

At the moment, it’s battle of mind and body, each with their own agenda.

I have been drenched in toxins and baked in radiation in the true light of day – my body needs a break but it needs encouragement and a boost too! I have been very weak these past few months – I have lost weight and muscle mass too, although I didn’t have that much to begin with!

I have to build myself back up again – I want to be the six million dollar man – stronger, faster better! No pressure there then.

I have to push myself now to get out and about and walk a little – get the physiology moving. I have been a little nervous to stray too far – sounds crazy but that’s how it has been.

There’s a pressure almost for me to get back up and running asap – it’s what is expected of me. I have a life to lead and my world of massaging and my clients to get back too. I had plans to venture off this summer and other plans in 2 years time – they were suddenly shelved but I want to pick up and run with those again – all in good time.

What I really want to do is to simply sit around a table whether family or friends and just eat and drink – just to enjoy and savour each mouthful! Precious moments… (without a plastic tube sticking out of my belly)

Over the last few months I haven’t given Cancer too much thought – yes, it’s evidently there but I haven’t dwelt upon it too much – there doesn’t seem to be any other option than a clean bill of health. However, I know my mind and it does think about all eventualities because that’s how I deal with things – contingency plans. Certain thoughts do make a dramatic entrance at the doors of my mind – bang, bang rather than a polite knock, but I’ll cross that bridge, as and when necessary.

My body will do its best, and it yes it still needs a lot of encouragement to get back to a health I’m more familiar with.

I’ve been institutionalised in one way or another these last few months – I need to slowly reintroduce my mind body and spirit back into the world I left behind recently – it really feels like that and I know it will be no easy undertaking either.

I was quite “down” this week, really tired but I have kept occupied one way or another and had some still, quiet and peaceful moments too.

Little by little, day by day there are subtle shifts – too damn subtle for me, but nevertheless there is a healing underway.

It’s the subtle things that actually make the difference that’s for sure – we all want the tangible, gross things that make an impact, a change, something ‘obvious’ to the eye, to the mind, but energy works on such subtle levels and vibrations that by and large will somehow pass us by, yet there they are working away, ever-present, pervading and powerful.

It’s when I sit in silence and bring myself back to my breath, settle into my body and take a few moments do I truly realise the power of stillness.

I hope you have had or will have a few still moments too in the days ahead – just to be, rather than do.

Ade

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