• Austin Birks

Living with Cancer: Getting to Grips

So, it is three weeks to the day since I got the “golden ticket” phone call from my oncologist to tell me that the CT scan I had had three weeks before had revealed that, amazingly, I was for now cancer free. Without doubt, it was a euphoric moment given all that had gone before.


It is very strange just how the emotions run wild after you receive traumatic news. Without doubt, the senses are heightened to a point where you are either fully high, or indeed low. It just depends upon what your ears learn about your future, either good or bad. I have had both extremes, to be fair, on my journey with cancer. And as I reflect upon it all, I have learned that actually the best way to deal with the best of times and the worst of times, is to treat them the same way.


My dad used to say to me: success and failure are imposters to be endured the same way. In truth, as a youngster I did not really understand just what he meant, but now as an older teenager, I believe that I do get what he was actually saying.

On my cancer journey, I have had the great news twice. First, in July 2019, when I was told that against all the odds, I was actually cancer free. This was amazing given all that I had been told, and yes I admit euphoria, was the name of the game. However, I was soon to understand this joy was short lived.


The reason being that in October, after a colonoscopy and CT scan, I was told that the cancer was back. And not only was it back, but my life expectancy was grim. I was asked if I wanted to know my prognosis, and I said yes. So he told me that I had a 25% chance of living for two years. Looking back, the range of emotions was night and day, and when I think back, the strange thing is that when I was told I was cured, I did not fully believe that I really was. And ironically, when I was told that I was going to die, I did not believe it either.


So, it begs the question why did I have those doubts against both those early diagnosis? The truth is that I honestly do not know why, but I just think that it was that native emotion that we all have of instinct, I decided to check out just what the definition of the word instinct actually means. It advised me as follows: "Imbued or filled with a quality, especially a desirable one".


Interesting, is it not that it says the instinct relates to a desirable outcome. Call me a cynical old Hector, but I would say that staying alive is a desirable emotion, but for some reason my resolve was strong when I got the bad news, which really does not get any worse than that. But, I always felt that it was just not my time, so as a result I truly never accepted the implications of the return of my cancer, and as a result I honestly never once cried or felt that it was my time.


Ironically, last night I was watching one of my favourite films, Gladiator, with Russell Crowe. There is a recurring theme in the film, where a fellow gladiator keeps telling Maximus that it is not his time yet to die, and ironically I get that. I have constantly refused to accept the statistical odds, because that is what it was. And from my personal point of view, it simply came down to my belief, in my own consciousness and my inherent desire to follow the mantra of my Karate Sensei Shihan Cyril Cummins, 8th Dan, who constantly hammered the message home in the dojo, day in, day out, week in, week out, and the same, month in and out, and the very same year in, year out, he reinforced that message, and he was quite right.


Please believe me, I am truly delighted that for now I am cancer controlled not free. There is a difference, but I will always take that, all things being considered I’m the luckiest man in the world, and I’m forever grateful for all those who helped me get to this special place. The truth is that cancer is in my world a companion, not one I would ever have chosen, but one I am stuck with it, and that is OK, I can cope with that.

Question is, can it cope with me? Ha, not really sure that it can, but as ever I remain resilient, positive, and determined and whilst there is breath in these bones, I will never surrender, I will Never Give Up, I will Never Give In.


And neither my friend, whatever challenge you face, should you.


Keep safe and well.


Austin


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