• Austin Birks

First Blog of 2022

Well, my dear chums, here we are and today was my first day back at chemo, having missed my last one and a half chemo sessions, which is about 5 weeks of treatment. Why? Because firstly, during the pre-Christmas week, I had a nasty cold and therefore had to have full on Covid tests. And also, on December 14th,while my sister Cathy and I were with her, our lovely mother passed away. So, I then ended up with my next chemo being postponed because my white blood cells were super low, as the cold burned up my immune system. Just to explain, you need a score of 1.5 minimum for you to be allowed the chemo, as its so tough. Mine were on the Monday 1.2, then on the Tuesday they were down to 1.0, apparently that is actually dangerous, especially given the latest virus.

So, miraculously, after a blood test the following Monday they were perfect. Lord knows how all that works. All I can say is that from January 1st, I have been going to the gym, and on Sunday, the day before the blood test, I taught Karate for the first time of the year.

Today was an interesting day. I was a bit torn if honest because, on the one hand, I really did enjoy having that time off, and I slowly stated to show signs of normality, my hair slowly grew back and stopped feeling like a wire brush. The skin rash, which looks like dandruff which was quite awful really slowed down, which was great. Although the lacerations and skin cuts on my hands and feet did not improve at all, in fact they got worse, as did the mouth ulcers at its peak I had 11 on my tongue.

Christmas this year was a surreal experience for all sorts of reasons. I was ok, if honest, and my lovely partner and our new dog, as well as amazing daughter, family and friends rallied around the bereavement flag, and it was as good as it could be, although of course tempered with sadness and memories, but that is ok.

So, as for the cancer journey my new year resolutions are quite simple. Number one: keep alive. Not hard and guess what an aspiration we never consider as a resolution, until you are ill. And then it becomes a focus. Second resolution, get my book published this year - work now very much in progress. Third, become a volunteer for the Commonwealth Games. That is in the first half of the year, I have much more in the second half of the year, but more on that later.

So here I am at 02.10 in the morning and there is a full moon, I am feeling good but I recognise that the chemo is hard, and I’m now back in it full on, so much so, that my wonderful oncologist has now upped my stomach injections from 5 days in the cycle to 7 days a week. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, it sounds horrid stabbing yourself in the stomach with a needle. But as I have also said like many things with cancer, its tiny, small moments of pain or discomfort, that frankly are minor.

But and this is the thing, the expectation is often far worse than the reality, And this is the thing about living with cancer, because the historic perception of the big C is often negative, but the reality is actually mundanely different.

Getting on with life, Treating it as a challenge, and using it to better your self and your life is something that I never thought that I would do, but I have, nothing clever, nothing brave, nothing inspirational. Just a stubborn man who became a bit evangelical as I slowly realised cancer is not a guaranteed death sentence, yet, but God it does its best, and it is unrelenting, but from what I have seen, you can be more relentless, more aggressive, more potent, than the cancer itself. if we choose to my dear friends.

So, please embrace this new year, life is a fresh page every year, no matter how bad it may seem, there is not a single day when I don’t wake up and think, thank the lord, I’m here so do something good and positive with it, so please don’t waste the most precious gift that we have, and that is time, and oh yes love…it conquers everything, as the old song says, and guess what I do believe that it does.

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