• Austin Birks

Cancer Is A Roller Coaster, Just Got To Ride It...

And so I quote the immortal words of the mighty Ronan Keating, in one of his finest pop ditties; except there is, of course, a subtle change. To my knowledge the Irish warbler did not mention the C word. No, that is my artistic license gatecrashing the lyrical party. So, let me, if I may, explain just why I have had such a strange journey since cancer decided to pay me a visit in January 2018.


I have to confess that looking back it has been a very turbulent experience. I have known the exhilaration and joy of being given the cancer all clear, against all the odds, in July 2019. Only to be told three short months later that not only was it back, but it had spread and my odds were, frankly, poor. That was a very tough change in fortune, but after two days I had processed and dealt with that, and fortified myself to battle on. And then, out of nowhere, 8 seriously very tough new chemotherapy treatments that absolutely did me in. Suddenly, new hope, the chance of life saving surgery, something that I had never even considered.


So, and I suppose this is the point, a key lesson that I have learned is this: never ever give up, no matter how hopeless things might seem, there is always hope, and there is always a chance that things may change. However, and this is vital, a positive mindset is crucial.

Let me give you an example, if I may, the surgery that I am about to embark upon is possible because I am reliably told my mindset and positivity have been crucial in the doctors giving me this chance. The combination of refusing to give up, and keeping mentally and equally important physically strong have been instrumental in the surgeons giving me this chance.


Do not get me wrong it has not been easy, the side effects of my new chemo were, if honest, brutal. 9 hours of chemo in one day, followed by 48 hours of carrying a bag which drip-fed even more strong chemicals into me. And then 3 days of steroids that had a combination of horrid after effects, including severe acne, ulcers in the mouth, and seriously badly cracked skin evident on the fingers and feet, resulting in lacerations and deep cuts right on the key points of your fingers and thumbs, making typing and simple everyday functions really painful. Annoying yes, painful a bit, but a deal breaker, no way. And after two days off, you then start a 7-day stomach injection programme. It all sounds pretty unpleasant, and it is, but these are frankly small distractions, and with the right mindset, easily manageable.


So, from my perspective all that I can say is that no matter how hard it seems to get, you simply cannot allow yourself to get negative or even worse, feel sorry for yourself. I remember meeting a woman shortly after I was diagnosed. We were having a chat and I told her I had cancer. The gist of her chat after I told her was along the lines of, well, it’s probably your own fault. I mean really? How does that work? What can you possibly do to yourself that you would give yourself such an illness? I did not argue with her, I simply took the view that she had a view that was not mine. To be honest, I have never allowed myself to get into all that malarkey. All I know is that I have an illness and I need to deal with it, so I do.


In truth, I honestly do believe that cancer, like any challenge, can be overcome if you believe that the power of the human will can be challenged to overcome the hardest challenge. But, you must have faith, allowing the worst case scenario to intervene is the worst thing that you can do.


Keep strong, keep positive and never give up believing in yourself and the indomitable power of the human spirit. It can and it does work miracles!
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