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  • Writer's pictureAustin Birks

Would You Rather Have Cancer Or Apply For An Electronic Signature?

Now I do not know about you, my dear reader chum, but I am finding that as I get older, it is the small things in life that cause the most stress. Let me give you an example, if I may. In the middle of May, I was asked by one of my very dear Polish chums to apply for an electronic signature. Not, at first thought, an outrageous request, and indeed it would make perfect sense, would save a lot of time, effort, and money, and make life simpler all around.

So, I decided that I would bite the bullet and make the application. Bearing in mind the company that I was applying for the signature from was based in Poland, but they had an English language version, or so I thought. To cut a long story short, the application would take me so far and then crash, not allowing me to proceed. So, I did what every other old English fool would do and repeated the futile exercise several times with exactly the same result. As Einstein famously said, the definition of stupidity is to simply keep repeating the wrong things in the hope and expectation that it would miraculously fix itself.

Having wound myself up into an angry frenzy which resulted in a great deal of what people call Anglo-Saxon language, I decided that the best course of action would be to hide the whole exercise and ignore it in the hope that it might go away. Which, of course, it never does. So, as the days and then weeks dragged on, it started to become a major source of stress. Polish friends were too polite to mention it directly to me, but I knew that they knew my only job had not been done. So, day by day, the elephant in the corner got that bit bigger, and the more I tried to avoid it, the greater the burden became. To be perfectly honest, I can cope without batting an eyelid with whatever having cancer brings me. Yes, my next chemotherapy treatment will be number 110. I mean, when you step back and think about how many gallons of toxic waste have been rammed into my old battered veins over the nearly six years since I was diagnosed in September 2018. Truth be told, I have no idea how much toxic waste I have been carrying.

Add in two major life-saving surgeries. The first left me with 25 stitches, and the second racked up an impressive 65 stitches (and cost me £51,817 as I had to pay for the operation myself since it was cancelled the night before because all the hospital beds were taken up by COVID patients). Clearly, they both worked as I am still here. Also, worth bearing in mind that both my hips need replacing, as the chemo and over 50 years of karate training have left me with no soft tissue, so the bones just grind away, which is really painful, to be honest. But I don’t mind any of that. I still force myself to train every day, either at the gym, on the Peloton bike at home, or twice a week in the karate dojo. Yes, the daily stomach injections and the nine daily pills that I need to take are all part of a daily routine that you simply accept and absorb if you want to stay alive. The recent addition of two major heart conditions, namely AF or atrial fibrillation, coupled with a condition known as a heart flutter. At first, I thought it had something to do with falling in love, but no, the cold medical facts indicate that the chambers of the heart no longer beat in sync, resulting in an irregular heartbeat that can cause strokes and even worse. Not helped, let me tell you, by being an England football fan. Not even the pain of having surgery on ingrowing toenails on both big toes without any anaesthetic can begin to displace the fear and loathing of not being able to apply and gain an electronic signature.

Yes, my dear friends, the raw truth is simple, and that is this: My inability to achieve this one simple task had become an all-consuming mission, and that meant there was only one thing left. I would have to ask for some grown-up help, so step up Maciek and Zuza from our VeritaHR Warsaw office. Maciek is our IT guru and Zuza is our go-to fix-it lady, and the simple truth is that I needed both of them. So one week ago today, we had our first fix-it chat. The reality is that it took Zuza and myself exactly one week to get the process to finally work, and today I became the proud owner of my own electronic signature.

On reflection, I should have flown myself to Warsaw Zoo and trained a monkey to forge my signature. The simple process was harder than doing a Rubik's cube in under 10 seconds. Zuza showed the patience of a saint as I sputtered my way through frustration after frustration; not once did she show anything other than calm and kindness. I describe it like this: you very occasionally hear stories from around the world where a pilot flying a plane collapses, so a civilian has to step up and air traffic control have to talk the new untrained pilot down to perform a safe landing against all the odds.

Well, Zuza did just that, much to her great credit, and the sheer sense of human relief that I experienced cannot be described. It was right up there with being told twice that I no longer had cancer. So, to answer my own question, would I rather have cancer or apply for an electronic signature? Well, the answer is obvious and unhesitating: I will just go and get my pyjamas; I’m off to hospital.

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