• Austin Birks

The Long And Winding Road: A Journey With Cancer


So, here I am, my dear friends. It is 02.45 on Thursday July 22. The daily temperatures have been record-breaking for 5 days solid and it's been tough with heat we are frankly neither used to, nor, if honest, in any way enjoyable. In my case, my skin disorder as a result of the chemo meant that I had no choice but to stay out of the sun, so I did.


Today was something of a landmark day, as I have endured 9 hours of testing chemo at Stratford hospital, where the wonderful nurses of the NHS looked after me in their usual caring, friendly, and magnificent way.


Mentally, I had prepared myself for this 12th treatment as the last of this 4th cycle and something like my 46th treatment in total. If perfectly honest, I was looking forward to a break from this 6 months of solid and frankly brutal treatment. But I also knew that it had to be if it was going to beat the two new tumours. One large one buried deep in the scar tissue resulting from my "gutted like a fish" surgery at The Priory in March 2020, and the second tumour lurking in my inner stomach lining.


When my super oncologist Dr Peter Correa called me at 18.14 on Friday 4th of February to tell me that the cancer was back and I needed to get straight back into chemo, it was a blow but one that I processed in 24 hours, accepted and thought well, beaten it twice, I can beat it a third time. And with that I was straight back in, except this time the chemotherapy journey was longer and far tougher than the three that I had endured before.


But, in truth, I felt as ever positive, ready, and content. I was in the best hands of a great caring team. At first, it was not too bad but as the cumulative effects took place, fortnight by fortnight, the side effects got worse. Hair loss - no big deal Yvi cut it off. Next came the broken and splitting skin, especially on my hands, feet, and face. What happens is that the skin gets dried out and splits with cuts and fissures appearing especially on my feet, which as a Karate instructor is very bad news.


So, the answer was simple buy special martial arts shoes to protect my feet and apply the medical super glue to glue back my hands and feet. My face was different. All that happened there was the skin just kept flaking off. Bit embarrassing, if honest, but again manageable with the strong cream that the nurses gave me.


All that was ok, but after session 6 and 7, I started to get very nauseous and threw up quite violently. This then resulted in extreme fatigue which left me well exhausted. Cycle by cycle it got worse, going from one or two days to three and four. The bonus ball for me was that this took place Monday to early Thursday, meaning I was able to teach Karate on Thursday and Sunday, so business as usual.


Truthfully, 6 months of constant chemo takes it's toll and if honest, I was looking forward to a holiday of no chemotherapy, but yesterday, after a positive chat with Dr Peter, he told me that there was evidence that the tumours were shrinking. Great news obviously, however, he then told me that he wanted to keep the chemo going, as he said there is no golden number, you keep going if it works after all why would not you?


So, I carry on regardless and that’s how this battle continues. I am and remain as positive and determined as I ever have been. Nothing changes whatever the challenge or obstacle, I live by my Sensei’s mantra "never give up, never give in" and all that I can say my friends is no matter what adversity you face, never give up the fight. Life is too good to not enjoy it to the full. Irrespective of any temporary setbacks, there is always hope and as someone said tomorrow will be a good day.


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