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  • Writer's pictureAustin Birks

Cancer: Am I Living In A Box?

Older persons reading this might recognise the lyrics of a well known pop ditty that was famous back in the eighties. It was one of those rarities where the song was actually also the name of the band. Now, I hear you ask, just what the Charles Dickens has that got to do with the whole cancer malarkey? Well, good question, and the answer is quite simple 50 days on from lockdown and for me 6 weeks plus since I had major surgery, I feel that having been locked down for 50 days, I have been living in a box, and as I am one of those vulnerable souls who got a personal letter from Boris Johnson advising me that due to my very low white blood cell count I was well and truly confined to barracks for 9 weeks and could only stay at home and float around the garden if I was lucky enough to own one. I have indeed been living in this small but happy box world.

Well, a lot has happened since lockdown. I turned 60 years old and could not have a party, which I had booked at a rather nice stately home for 150 people. However, even better I had a surprise birthday video that was made in secret by my wonderful partner, where 104 very kind souls sent me lovely messages, memories, songs and in some cases vaguely obscene banter abuse, that was actually very funny. One of which was from a famous actor from The Inbetweeners, who kindly commented on my love of buses (enough said). It was a wonderful gift that I will treasure forever. Almost like having an obituary that you are around to enjoy, but not in a morbid way. Indeed, I count my blessings truly as I am so lucky to be given such kindness and love.

Having so much time on your hands can be seen as either a blessing or a curse, for a natural optimist like me its a real bonus, but you have to set your mind to the right place.

Thing is, after my second major operation and the slow process of recovery that follows it, I take the view that every sunrise is quite simply a gift, and while you cannot go out, and do all that you took for granted, I can still live, enjoy life, speak to my loved ones and enjoy the gift that is life. So, if you are a cancer patient or the proud owner of a stoma bag, do not despair, always try and see the beauty that life gifts us, although that can be tough and challenging. But, never forget we still are here and we are alive and we are surviving.

And sadly, many others are not due to this cruel and unforgiving virus. And my dear chums, if there is one thing that I have learned since I became a cancer patient, it is this: always count your blessings, because there is always someone worse off than you. You may feel quite understandably that life is unfair and all that. But what good does it do you? Are you not better off celebrating life, and having a laugh?

Yes, it can be tough. My own journey has been a challenge with the joys of haemorrhoids, hernias, or hyenas as one person mistakenly called them. Along with a range of quite frankly nasty side effects that I will not repeat in this blog. But, like everything they come and then they go, and guess what? You are still there, as Sir Elton John famously said, ‘Still Standing”. I started with a ditty, and so I end with a ditty.

Keep strong, my dear chums, and never forget those inspiring words that I repeat often that were passed onto me, by best friend, my Sensei, and Shihan Cyril Cummings who died almost exactly 3 years ago from bowel cancer, “ Never give up. Never give in’,

Keep the faith and live your life.



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