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  • Writer's pictureAustin Birks

Dose Number 82 Of Chemo, And 3 Broken Ribs… And A Partridge In A Pear Tree

And so it came to pass, my dear chums, that yesterday I had my 82nd dose of chemotherapy and what a strange case it was. Basically, 4 weeks ago today I taught Karate at my Haybridge dojo in Worcestershire. It was fine as ever. I never had a finger laid upon me by your wonderful friends at Enso Shotokan. Basically, because they all know that my skin and bones are very vulnerable.


Honestly, back in the day, Shihan Cyril Cummins, my Karate Sensei for 31 years would beat 7 bells out of me. And seriously, he was hardcore traditional Shotokan from the uber tough Japan Karate Association. I took those tough lessons, and it made me resilient and tough. Indeed, you can check out the video on the Birmingham and Halesowen Shotokan Karate club website. In the video he broke my ribs, at a demonstration and I had to carry on, at the time the adrenaline got me through, and I just carried on. Because in Karate and martial arts that is what you do. It defines you, and it makes you the person who you are.


To be fair, I have had my ribs broken 3 times, all Karate-related twice when fighting in competitions and once as per Cyril’s video. Each time I only broke one, but this time when I was asleep, I broke three. For clarity, I need to point out that I was in bed by myself, no other parties were involved, and frankly if other parties were involved and 3 ribs were bust, I do believe that I would have had some some recollection. At least I hope to God I would do.


Anyway, there we are at dose number 82. As it happened, I really thought that I had shingles as there was a strange scar across my back. Exactly where the pain was in my back which I thought was maybe a cancer related issue. Basically, when you have cancer, back pain is a big red flag. I have had it before so they go through the red flag list, any numbness, and pins and needles and shortness of breath, etc, with the answers being no, and so it goes on.


But frankly nothing at all, except for truly bad pain like having a spike or knife plunged straight into you, move to your left or right, the pain is horrendous, at the same time not knowing there are not one rib, or two, but three of these babies in harmony uniting the pain threshold, and let me tell you my good friend the pain was huge.


So, what my dear chums in my infinite wisdom did I do about it? Well, of course I did the obvious thing, utter and extreme pain on Friday morning, excess pain on Saturday, I painfully put on my Karate gi and went and taught Karate on Sunday. On reflection, the definition of stupidity but as you may know, I am very stubborn old chap.


So, there we are. What have I learned? Well, first I have no idea how I broke 3 ribs but I did and that is just odd. But I am used to odd. Second, what I also learned is that actually with a bad back the worst thing that you can do is lie down and do not move. The doctor I spoke to said you need to exercise. Well, of course that was music to my ears. So off to the gym I went, and spent 30, 40 minutes and then one hour on the cross trainer. I loved it even though it really hurt for the first 10 minutes then it wore off and I was away.


That is the thing, is it not - you cannot and you must not just stop. Especially on this journey with cancer. Let’s be blunt, I have nearly died twice, but guess what I did not. And trust me, my friends, it just makes you embrace, the beauty, and the gift of people in all their wonderful joy and absurdity, in this amazing life we lead together.


And as for Alan Partridge, he has been amusing through his wonderful podcast, “Through The Oast House”. It's just genius from an amazing comedian. Either way, from our wonderful NC00 trip across northern Scotland it has sustained me, both then and more recently now.


So, I hope that this blog has brought you some light relief. That is partly been what this is all about, telling the cancer story with a light touch, but also equally important be honest. It is without doubt a tough, painful journey but as ever step by step, you take the medication and you just keep going.


Life is tough, but hope and joy is universal, and it sustains you. Love is at the heart of it and being positive. So, my friends no matter how bad life gets it, you can and you will if you wish, face up, combat, and beat, whatever challenge you face.


Big love to you all x

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