Stern Stuff That’s what I am Made of

On February 2, 2020

“If I can help someone as I travel along life’s highways then my life will not have been in vain”

Cancer does not care who you are or who you love, it does not discriminate young, old, whatever. It is merciless and shows no sympathy, your dreams mean nothing to cancer...It couldn’t care less about your job or how hard you have worked. It doesn’t give a dam about your family if you're going through hard times or how many followers you have on social media. Cancer does not care about you. We don’t like cancer messing with our dreams, plans or life however whatever cancer throws your way (you had better be ready to deal with it).

You don’t know what you’re made of until you go through a tribulation such as a cancer diagnosis...I’ve been through what seemed like a baptism of fire and an earthquake all in one during the past eight years... I’ve gone and lived through so many changes during my treatment...At times the storms seem to subside only to come back unexpectedly. Oh, so often I wished for no more pain, no more guilt. Often I have thought about the courage it has taken me to get out of my bed each and every morning to face the same things over and over it has been mindboggling, to say the least. But I refuse to be seen as a victim for sharing my story. I am a survivor who is revealing the truth about a journey with a disease whose prime aim was to kill me. You never know who needs to be given inspiration or motivation whilst undergoing a cancer journey and I hope my few words will reach you and yours...I believe I am made from the same stuff that British Soldiers are made from - Sheer guts, determination fearlessness, courage and motivation.  For me, failure or quitting was not an option as I faced each and every day of my journey thus far.

I have been doing this cancer thing for 8 years now after being diagnosed in January 2012 with Advanced Metastatic Prostate Cancer, stage four, to which I was given less than a year to live. The swings and roundabouts of this journey have been amazing. It has been a calling for me to listen more deeply to nature and my soul. Personally, my strongest source of inspiration has been nature - being outdoors, this is where I have felt so free and unabated. I’ve travelled extensively around the globe which has been intense and meaningful as well as very educational. I am finding though that I still have to keep step with the prostate cancer survival dance. I owe my life to the stampede drug trials program funded by Cancer Research UK.

I was one of the first waves of patients to receive and undergo this turning point treatment medication; Abiraterone which was the new prostate cancer wonder drug at the time. Over a seven month period, I watched as my presenting PSA (Prostate-Specific Antigen) of over 500ng/ml reduce to zero and have not seen it rise since, an astounding and amazing medical feat. Attitude clearly matters when fighting cancer “A sanguine personality” is needed. I have found it challenging to balance and difficult to know how to weigh hard choices about listening to my soul calling and putting my life into material things including financial security for myself today and my family when I am gone. Different treatments come with a wide range of side effects that can either be short-term or long-term.

It is said when caught in an early stage, around 25% of patients have a life expectancy of at least 5 years. If undiagnosed until an advanced stage, the life expectancy drops to between 6-11 months if locally advanced, and 2-6 months if the cancer cells have spread. You will see that I have done exceedingly well to have survived way beyond the medical worlds prediction. I have had problems with the side effects caused by the long-term use of some of my medication. Over the past eight years since using Abiraterone, I have suffered from an array of issues such as many bouts of hot flashes, tiredness, fatigue, forgetfulness, muddy thinking, neuropathic pain, nerve damage to my upper legs, painful ankles at times causing a sense of weakness and wobbliness whilst walking coupled with pins and needles in my feet. I did not have these before so I can only but ask is this as a result of the Abiraterone drug...These are now the problems that are here to stay with me it seems, permanently. At times it can be overwhelming in determining the status of my life expectancy.

For me, this will continue to be the case the longer I live. As such I have little choice but to focus on work and income while I am still capable of doing so. I am alive but however living with side effects from my treatment every day which have proven to have long-lasting effects. Though it is wonderful to know that research provides a cure I firmly believe it needs to provide a less damaging cure because it affects you greatly afterwards.  As a means of keeping my sanity, I continue to write blogs in relation to cancer awareness and my journey. I continue to sacrifice my own time to help causes such as CRUK and Orchid two well-deserving charity bodies who do not receive funding from the UK government. It is completely funded by the generosity of the public along with people giving up their time and volunteering.

You don’t know what you’re made of until you go through tribulation such as cancer but unbeknown to me I had already been primed, primed to survive. Often we reflect on situations that have presented themselves to us in days past and wonder how the hell did we get through that not realising that you were subconsciously trained to get through it.

I talk much about myself, forgetting at times that I have a wife who is in this with me. This cancer has put us through hell but I have truly found the love of my life'. My battle is her battle also because how I feel affects her daily life. “I love this woman, I love her more than sharks love blood”, nothing has got us through these dark times than our love and faith in one another.

As a former member of the British Territorial Army, I recall what military instructors taught me, “Never ever give up” regardless of the circumstances prevailing – I have pushed beyond boundaries that I didn’t know existed within me or that have lain dormant. I reacted to a military psychological profile that says “push a man beyond and above his usual, then that man will show that he is capable of standing up to exceedingly large amounts of pain”. Now change the game face to that of a cancer journey and you have before you an individual primed and ready to undergo that journey. Yes at times it is so debilitating, as the dreadful discomfort puts weight on my feet as I try to exercise, but walking through pain becomes the regular norm and I just get on with it.

As I go about fixing that which is broken I know that this is the scariest adventure I have ever undertaken however it has proven to be the best adventure of my life. You’re never the same after a cancer experience, never. Like many, as I have gotten older I dislike allusions to wars and battles but like it or not I have had to do my fair share of fighting during this journey. Maybe just maybe it was the good old days coming back to not only remind me how to stay alive and fit for purpose but to trigger deep survival emotions and feelings.

We all have something within us that makes us mentally tougher and able to withstand pain tolerance. This tolerance is what propels you through the treatment moments and all aspects of that journey, in my mind this is how you get there.

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