• Austin Birks

Major Cancer Surgery And Lockdown: One Month On

I do not know why, but for some strange reason, Lewis Carols “Alice In Wonderland” has been playing on my mind rather a lot recently. Not sure why if I am honest. Maybe it has something to do with the surreal nature of the book, and the various film adaptations that have followed it. It was rumoured back in the day, that certain hallucinating substances may have been consumed by the author, and that may well have influenced some of the frankly weird and magical characters and circumstances that follow young Alice on her adventures.


So, just what has all that got to do with the fact that I find myself, literally one month to the day since I underwent major cancer surgery at the Priory hospital in Edgbaston in Birmingham, I hear you ask? Well, maybe more than we thought. It has been a strange month for everyone. The world of pandemic, and the implications of lockdown have been quite extraordinary for all of us. Not just here in the UK, and Europe, but around the world. I have got used to a life that finds me contained within my own four walls for 24, hours, 7 days a week.

My low immune system found me being selected as one of the one million plus people in the UK who were deemed vulnerable and I even found myself with letters from non other than Boris Johnson himself, God bless him.



So, how has it been recovering from the surgery, where I was to quote one of the two excellent surgeons “gutted like a fish”? To be fair, my initial progress was spectacular and the medical team were delighted at the speed of my recovery. Indeed, I was allowed home 6 days earlier than planned due to my swift recovery. Looking back, maybe it was a mixed blessing, as this got me thinking that recovery would be quick, and easy. Well, to be honest, that was a mistake. The reality is that mostly I have been sleeping for long periods of time, like 13 hours. This is good as it is the body's way of repairing itself, and frankly, after my weeks of insomnia before the operation it was just good to sleep. I had missed the joy of being in that happy place where you simply shut your eyes, and wake up on a different day. What I did not factor in, was the utter lack of any energy that I would wake up to, day after day. My usual energetic self could barely make it from bed to sofa, and then back again after a few hours. I anticipated that just like after my first life-saving emergency operation in September 2018, I would be back training in the gym, and the dojo within three weeks after the surgery.


Well, of course today there is no gym, nor is there a dojo, indeed for me, there is nothing other than my home and my garden. As for my grand plans of training, walking, running, Karate, absolutely no chance.


I have come to terms with being able to do virtually nothing, and what I have struggled with is my own realisation about just what my body has been through, which is actually a huge and traumatic change. Realising that I am human and fallible, and not able to recover my strength as I thought that I would has required a serious change in my sense of proportion, come to think of it, not unlike Alice.

I have had to get used to going down the rabbit holes psychologically speaking. What I and everybody else took for granted has basically all gone, replaced by the new reality of staying in, being sensible and seeking to beat this cruel virus.


So, one month on in these unique times, like everyone else I obey the rules willingly, after all they are keeping me alive and others safe, so why would not we all conform. As it stands, I have another 8 weeks left along with all those others at risk, and that is fine in the bigger picture it is not a long time, although for now it might seem like an eternity, the reality is that it is not.


Each day allows me the time and space to allow my ageing bones to slowly repair themselves and hasten my recovery. Hopefully to face a future free from cancer, but as I have discovered time and again, cancer follows its own agenda. In the meantime, I will simply live by my own mantra, as taught to me by my Sensei, Cyril Cummins 8th Dan, and keep strong and positive, and no matter what: Never Give Up, Never Give In.


Keep safe and well my dear friends!


Austin

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