• Austin Birks

I am dreaming of a white (blood cells) Christmas

Before I was unwittingly enrolled into the cancer club, it is fair to say that I really did not have a clue about, well frankly, anything to do with it. If honest, it might just have been that basic self-defence mechanism that we all own, called denial. You know, that basic human emotion; not unlike hiding behind the sofa when you were a young kid watching Doctor Who, or whatever it was that used to scare the living daylights out of you. And I suppose that you probably don’t want to know about bad stuff, unless you have to. And then without warning, there you are straight in at the deep end, without arm bands or a float.


Funny thing is that once you are in that vortex, your learning curve goes into overdrive. Seriously it takes on a new dimension. You suddenly get a crash course in Latin and medical speak, often a combination of both. For example, in my case, yes, I knew what cancer was, a nasty disease that kills many people, but did I really understand that actually cancer is the bodies way of falling out with itself, so it kills the owner, if not careful or lucky?


In my case, to be fair, my dramatic lack of knowledge was nearly impressive, except it was not. Having said that, the worst thing that you can do is turn to Doctor Google. There is nothing worse than reading horror stories about a new found condition, and assuming that is it. Truly an absolute disaster of the highest kind. Why on earth would you find yourself suddenly very ill, and then worrying yourself to death, (not literally), although for some people... maybe.


And that is my point, there is enough to process, control, and tough stuff to deal with without worrying just how close the grim reaper is getting. Because, trust me, when you are in this situation you need all your strength and resolve to deal with the next day.

Let me give you an example, after my surgery I had to wake up, with some very new challenges. Firstly major surgery. 26 stitches. I could barely move. Next, I met my new best friend my stoma bag, a law frankly unto itself. Then the wee wee machine that I was strapped up to, that I had to drag around with me until I was strong enough to have it removed. Then there was the other stuff that you can’t see, sepsis for example. I spent 3 days after my operation in the Critical Care Unit, where I was introduced to morphine. It was absolutely brilliant, I was mostly high as a kite. I can still recall shutting my eyes and drifting off on my magic morphine carpet. Seriously, it was superb, but it belied the critical nature of my circumstances, which were very life threatening, but at the time, I was busy floating out of my head pressing my morphine button every twenty minutes.


So, let me fast forward, if I may, to what is now 01:23, on the morning of Monday, 23rd of December. The day before Christmas Eve, of course, and here I am engrossed in the old blog, and tomorrow I have a blood test to ascertain if my white blood cells will be strong enough to let me have chemotherapy. Somewhat unfortunately, for the last two weeks, they have been too low for chemo, and if anything, are getting worse.


Now, on the positive after my bloods were too low, my super oncologist Dr Peter decided that decisive action was required, which meant for 5 consecutive days I have had to inject myself in the stomach. This experience is interesting to say the least. The deal is that you get your pack of syringes and you put them in the fridge, then day by day at about the same time, you extract your needle, remove it, pull off the protective nozzle, and the you pinch the skin on your stomach, hold the needle at a 90 degree angle and push the needle into your stomach. Once it has penetrated and trust me, you can tell when it does, then you push the contents in and that’s it. When finished the needle pops back into the syringe, and you put the needle into the sharps box.


The thing about all of this, is actually a simple and positive message: never let the dark side or negative world beat you. You would be truly amazed at just what you can achieve and overcome if you set your mind and body to it. If I were to record all the tough and unpleasant things that my cancer journey has given to me, it could be a dark place, but I refused steadfastly to ever go down that path, so guess what I never will.

For me, irrespective of what the survival odds may be, I refuse to let the negative into my fight to survive. Life is without doubt, too strong and precious to be lost without giving all you have with every fibre of your being.


So keep being strong, never underestimate your own power and positivity. Fight the good fight. Every day on this earth is a blessing, and never ever give up or give in.


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