No amount of mental trickery is going to help me get all I have to share out. Not in the way I imagine the blog to be in my mind, so from now on I’m just going to write and trust that the bigger picture and the chronology starts to become apparent the further I go with this.
Firstly, 2018 can do one…
The most challenging year of my life, in which up until September I seemed to be taking everything in my stride. I’d gone from being just days away from death in January (blood clots in my lungs) to having months where the blood clots were dealt with but indicated that the probable cause was some form of cancer, most likely Lymphoma which at the time didn’t seem too bad as it’s common and has quite a high survival rate.
It then became apparent that it was cancer, but not lymphoma and we had to wait for weeks for the blood thinners to do their thing before a biopsy could be taken from a small area at the junction between my oesophagus and the stomach. The hardest thing at this stage was not knowing and having to wait for six weeks for a diagnosis.
When I saw my Oncologist, I decided that I didn’t want to know the odds of survival or how bad the secondary spread had affected my spine or abdomen. It was only when she said that any treatment would be palliative that I realised that my condition was terminal.
The realisation was like a shockwave through my whole being.
My sisters’ cancer was considered terminal and her treatment palliative when she was diagnosed with bowel cancer. She had a tumour the size of a small melon removed along with all but a metre of her intestine; she’s now cancer free and living a pretty normal life. Not only that, but she seemed to go through the whole process with such grace and strength of character that for me there was still hope of surviving this. Doctors will always give you the worst case scenario so as not to give the patient false hope, right?
With my sister as inspiration, I decided that I was going to do the same. I joined a gym so I could at least swim every day, started fasting on the weeks I was having chemo to minimise the side effect of the treatment, all of the strategies I’ve already written about. I put a positive spin on everything and embraced the freedom of being able to spend my days how I always wanted to, writing music, seeing friends etc.
This was all just part of the continuing cycle of death and rebirth that seems to be a reoccurring theme in my life. Having learnt a bit about alchemy and the process of transformation, this was just the fermentation stage of a journey that began a couple of years ago. All I had to do was surrender to the process and all would eventually be well.
“Just focus on the positive and be in the moment as much as possible” was my attitude. After all, most of the older people who I’d spoken to at the gym had had cancer at some point in their lives. I was going to be a shining example of how to cope with cancer. I was so right on about the whole thing with my positive attitude and “hey man, this is going to be a transformative process whatever the outcome” mantra.
I was so determined that if I did all the right things and though in the right way that by the end of the year this would all seem like some kind of bad dream. I had a routine, the right attitude, a recording studio and loads of time to make music. Basically during the first 18 weeks of chemotherapy I was smashing it. Best cancer patient ever. My oncologist was amazed at how healthy and upbeat I was about the whole thing, even making jokes about my condition. It seemed like I could take a ridiculous amount of toxic shit and still be productive.
They were hitting me hard and I was taking everything in my stride including the really shit days when the side effects were really bad. I was wearing my condition and my coping strategies as some kind of badge of honour. I had to be aware of and hold multiple outcomes from having only a short time to live through to remission and possibly cure.
Even though this was the attitude I projected, I didn’t really explore or pay much attention to the seriousness of my condition. I was arrogant enough to think I knew more than the experts, that if I did the right things and thought the right thoughts I wouldn’t have to think about the possibility of the cancer killing me.
I’ll write more about the nightmare of the side effects elsewhere, but despite everything I endured, there was still a cognitive dissonance between my suffering and the reality of my situation. It’s at this point that I have to mention my step son Edward who had to take his mock GCSE exams and also his actual GCSEs this year with this shit show playing out at home. To his credit and with the help of some counselling I’m delighted to say that he did very well in his exams and has probably been the most mature and level headed family member this year.
It was during a heated family disagreement that Ed had the strength of character to put both Justine and myself in our places. Hearing your beloved stepson tell you that you have to come terms with the fact that you’re dying, was the truth bomb I needed to realise that there had been a massive elephant in the room for quite some time. The elephant to which I refer is the fact that everyone other than myself was prepared to acknowledge that the cancer is more likely than not to kill me.
I was so focussed on doing all the right things and putting a positive spin on the situation that it had become impossible to grieve or talk about the possibility that I might not be around for very long.
It’s all well and good saying that you can hold multiple possible outcomes in your mind; accept and prepared for each of them, but it’s another to actually take on board the possibility that your days could be numbered. Coupled with the amount of pain I was trying to cope with at the time, when your boy hits you with a truth bomb like this, you know it’s time to take the time to listen to those around you and face the very thing that most of us have difficulty with.