What This Stuff Can Do

Posted on October 27th, 2008 by Cam.
Categories: Let's talk.

There is a lot of reflection that goes on with all that has happened over the year or so. For me, life before this all happened was difficult enough. In the midst of facing mortality comes a vast array of responses as to how to deal with the next day.

I guess I know of people who’s approach to coping with life’s traumas is to shelter themselves from the full brunt of the devastating reality, then once they are through the harshest point, they find it best to minimize their ordeal emotionally and move on. I can empathise here, because I have tried to cope with some traumatic situations in this way, and it has been to my own detriment and to the detriment of those around me. It may be a coping strategy, but maybe more for the short term.

In coming to terms with what has gone on recently, there have been many things that have risen to the surface that have been unresolved over the years. Now they cannot be just put out of sight as a way of ‘dealing’ with them. I know this is not what everyone experiences, but for me, it is the biggest task on the menu at the moment.

It is often when we humans stop, or slow down at least, that our unresolved issues have a chance to catch up with us. I suppose there are a few ways to avoid this having an affect on us – we can just keep busy, shut down emotionally, keep ourselves distracted with menial interests, or drugs and alcohol can work well – just to name a few.

I find it difficult to have to sort through this stuff – Is it going to be beneficial? Can I actually get through it without losing my mind? Why would I choose to deal with stuff that makes my throat swell and chest tighten just thinking about it? I think these are all very real and valid questions, but I have experienced severe changes in my persona and behaviour because they are shaped around avoiding dealing with the unresolved – and this hasn’t been healthy.

I have had a few discussions with friends about confronting conflict recently, and I believe it has some similarities with how we deal with the trauma in our lives. In the instances where I have avoided conflict with someone, the relationship has never grown, or been restored. In some cases, I have left the conflict unresolved because it was just too personally damaging to be in the situation – it seemed right just to leave it be and as a result, I said farewell to the development of the relationship.

I believe the same when we are dealing with life’s traumas and hurts. I guess if we are not prepared to deal with the realities of issues that grieve us in this life, the alternative coping strategies will not result in personal growth, insight or resolution.

So I am not really surprised that there is a lot coming to the surface in my life. It is causing a lot of grief in the present, but there is a quiet excitement that comes from the hope of getting it sorted. I certainly am not experiencing any hint of the relief that I hope will come down the track, but for now, I just believe that it is possible and remain encouraged by others who have come out of similar situations triumphantly.

So this stuff can stir up a desperate need to rid oneself of anything that is not sitting right. I guess that is why so many people make life-altering decisions when they come through a tough time. I don’t believe it is good enough to walk away from difficult situations, hoping that we will forget about them as we continue in our busy, distracted lives. For me, I won’t feel truly well, until I am truly free.

To illustrate what can happen when we avoid facing reality, we should remember what happened to The Black Knight.

3 comments.

AHCB

Posted on October 23rd, 2008 by Cam.
Categories: Let's talk.

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I have a very cute nephew and niece. You can see photos of Angus by clicking here, and I will organise some photos of Stella somewhere, she is nothing short of adorable.

4 comments.

To be considered

Posted on October 22nd, 2008 by Cam.
Categories: Let's talk.

I have been up since about 3 this morning with a lot going through my mind. Down the list someway is the concern about future treatment.

I watched a DVD last night about healing cancer. When I bought it, I was under the impression that it focused on fighting cancer through diet. Well, I have watched an hour of it and all it did was talk about the cancer industry, and how much money was being made from ‘cancer research’ and treatment. They really came down hard on radiotherapy, chemotherapy, mammograms and a few other forms of treatment that they believe aren’t really effective against cancer, and maybe responsible for causing cancer.

So difficult. I came away feeling very confused. It is not the first time I have heard this perspective of course, but when you are in treatment under such radical regimes, your faith needs to be placed in the treatment you are under to keep peace of mind. I can’t imagine being in the middle of a stem-cell transplant and processing the perspective that the treatment is useless. But it all does make me wonder how I am going to approach treatment in the future.

For me, and many others I believe, chemo and radio therapies at least bought me some time. I would’ve loved to do without them, but I still believe it was the right move in order to keep me here this long. At least it has given me time to consider all these options.

Just before my high-dose chemo and stem-cell transplant, I heard some encouraging statistics about the survival rate. The stats are usually given in 5-year survival rates and for Multiple Myeloma it was around 40% when I was reading stuff just after my diagnosis. Then that figure became 50-55% just before my stem-cell transplant. I am more aware now that these figures seem to be affected more by early detection (as the 5 years begins at diagnosis) and a whole swag of number games that can influence the way the absolute figures appear. I am not convinced either way at this stage, just a little more confused than before in how this will affect the future.

As I have mentioned before, I have found statistics useful when coming to grips with how severe a situation can be. It has the effect of grabbing my attention appropriately and motivating me to do all I can to fight against the situation. I have never felt as though the statistics are a sentence or that they bind me. My outlook is still for a long remission, healing or cure. I don’t live in fear, but I still have a concern.

The choice to refuse mainstream treatment can be seen as a resignation to the situation or a ferocious determination to keep one’s breath in one’s body. There are other reasons, I am sure, but at this stage I really have no idea what I would do next. It would be great to take the mindset that I am just going to forget about my cancer so that I can live happily without a shadow over me. But at the moment I am doing the thinking that I don’t want to have to do under pressure if symptoms come back. I want to be able to confidently direct the treatment pathway based on knowledge and experiences of others.

For now, my goal is to remain stress-free (some say it is possible), have some spiritual healing take place, exercise a lot, enjoy life, eat well 96% of the time (the other 4% is reserved for the ‘enjoying life’ part). At the moment, my back aches, my arms ache and my legs ache. I am happy that they ache because I built a block wall on the weekend (Big thanks to Dad for doing the heavy lifting!), put some shade-cloth up, and have been exercising more. It is so good to be feeling sore for the right reasons.

5 comments.

The Silver Lining

Posted on October 17th, 2008 by Cam.
Categories: Let's talk.

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This is a taste of things to come for me. I have been concentrating on re-launching the silver business after it has been out of the family for ten years or so. This photo was taken quite a while back, as you can probably tell. It was one of Great Grandpa and Grandpa’s shops – I think this one was a country store.

I was at a business seminar the other night, and the speaker was inquiring about my business. He was loving the fact that it was established in 1921 and that it dealt with silver. It was really encouraging to hear this guy speak so highly of the opportunity.

One thing that I was not looking forward to was initially working alone so much. I like being around people, and it has been a long time since I have been at work full time in a social setting. The other point that this guy made the other night was how it was an incredibly social industry. It made me realise that I would actually be meeting a lot of people through this business. This makes me pretty darn happy, I can tell you.

It won’t be long before the website will be up and other promotional gear will be ready. It is a bit daunting sometimes, but the cautious excitement is very motivating. I love working on stuff in the workshop, and it is going to be good for my mind. I feel like it has all been provided for me for this time.

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6 comments.

Keeping Up With The Walk Beside.

Posted on October 13th, 2008 by Cam.
Categories: Let's talk.

You never know what is going to happen with the internet these days.

Firstly, some of you may have realised if you have done a google search for ‘The Walk Beside’ to get to this site, then you may have been greeted by The Walk Beside heading, but with details underneath of how to buy various pharmaceutical products for a firm body, or parts thereof.

A friend called me months ago and said that The Walk Beside had been blocked due to inappropriate material, and he listed a few words (I blocked my other ear) that were coming up that I remember getting punished for saying when I was a child. I went through the site and confirmed those words weren’t on the site at all, and besides, I didn’t even know how to spell the words he listed.

Anyway, Guennadi (who knows everything about computers) sorted it out this morning. It seems I was hacked into and words were hidden in the header of some posts, but not displayed, so they were there, but not visible. Whenever a search was done, the words would appear. Sorry to families with young children who have may have spent some time having to explain, or deny any knowledge, of some words and phrases.

On a positive, I was contacted last week by a lady in California who has co-authored a book on the effects of chemo brain with a Doctor at UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles). A cancer survivor herself, she asked if she could use the post I wrote on Chemo Brain the other day in the book. The manuscript gets sent to the publishers at the end of the month and I will score a free copy.

Keep your ears to the ground for my book signing tour.

2 comments.

Looking back, looking forward

Posted on October 10th, 2008 by Cam.
Categories: Let's talk.

There has been an amazing change that has come over me in the last two weeks I think. This latest scare with the finding of the mass in my chest started with breathing difficulties, pain in my hip and all over weakness only about six weeks ago. Now I can honestly say that I have almost forgotten what it is like to feel sick. It is an amazing difference.

Looking back, it has been eighteen months, maybe two years since I felt this good. I literally feel like I would feel the same if I was a perfectly well 34 year old who had been a bit sedentary for the winter months. My muscles are still trying to find their memory and my bones may creak from time to time, but no more than they did before all the hoo-har began.

While I was in Albany the other weekend, I was challenged to run. I thought, “I actually feel I can do this” so run I did. The first 30 meters or so would be very loosely defined as ‘running’. The first 3 meters were spent realising that my body had forgotten how to move forward at a rapid pace, and the remaining 27 meters were really just throwing my feet out in front of my body while it laterally fell. I ran about 300 meters without stopping, so I was quite surprised how quickly I have returned to my usual peak fitness level.

Now I am riding each day to work. It is one kilometer away – an intense one kilometer. I imagine it won’t be long before I can remove the training wheels and get enough speed to overtake pedestrians. It is good to have goals.

My excitement is building with getting into some full-time work again. I went to a workshop on business management, have worked on promotional material all week, and have worked on some design development for the silver work. I think the biggest problem I am going to face now is how to divide my time between the workshop, the education website and the filming of documentaries. I will explain all these projects a little later down the line when the websites are up. But for now, looking forward, I am pretty amped.

7 comments.

Chemo Brain

Posted on October 8th, 2008 by Cam.
Categories: Let's talk.

I am quite amazed actually how my body has returned to such a healthy state so quickly. I literally feel like I have a normal mid-thirty year-old body. Absolutely amazed. I am riding every day into work, having no problem at the gym and feel like I could do anything at the moment. In the midst of my body being okay, it highlights the effects of the chemotherapy on the brain. This is often called chemo-brain.

I was chatting with a lady at the gym yesterday who is a vet but has headed back to work in a support admin position as her thinking capacity had been altered after chemo. She specified that her ability to grasp concepts had been severely affected, and she found herself making errors in simple calculations.

For me, it has been just as much of an issue. My ability to find the right words, remember conversations, follow directions etc. has been really hindered. I’ve realized I forget specific details, repeat myself, or forget specific details. I am hoping it gets better over time, but it has been a more significant factor than what I would have thought before.

Peripheral awareness has also been affected and I notice this mainly when I am driving. I drove on some days when my body felt energetic and capable, but I genuinely lost interest in checking my blind-spots, looking in my mirrors, indicating and taking off or stopping gently. It was as if I had actually refined my driving skills, rather than lost them. And it is not as if I became completely useless behind the wheel – not everyone can say they’ve driven themselves to biopsies through oncoming traffic.

It has been six months now since my last lot of chemo, which was the high-dose proceeded by the stem cell transplant. I feel like my chemo brain is improving over time, but the improvement seems erratic rather than consistent. These days, I can’t play chess, do complex mental calculations or remember words to songs. But these are a few of the things that I couldn’t do before the chemo anyway. I consider this consistency is a positive thing.

Any comments indicating nothing at all in me has changed will be spammed.

4 comments.

When news ain’t welcome

Posted on October 3rd, 2008 by Cam.
Categories: Let's talk.

Very mindful tonight of a friend I met through the chemo gym who has Hodgkins Lymphoma. Her name is Anne and she has been in Melbourne for the last couple of months on a trial drug regime. Her autologous stem-cell transplant was not very effective, and she has decided to go on a trial program before the next stage of transplant.

Thankfully, she was accepted into the trial program that is only being done in Melbourne at the moment. It makes her quite lethargic and nauseous in the recommended dose, so it has been reduced to a manageable amount. Today she got the results back from her CT scan and it shows that a nodule in her lungs has increased in size.

Anne has dealt with her situation in an amazing way ever since I have known her (and I am sure before that!) and she seems to be able to remain level-headed through what she has been through. When results come through that are not expected like this, I begin to realize what it is like when friends look on and feel a sense of helplessness in the situation. As Anne put it today, “it is not the worst news ever…”

So here’s to you Anne, Graham and Fam, I am hoping your good news comes swiftly.

3 comments.

The Best Year Of My Life!

Posted on October 2nd, 2008 by Cam.
Categories: Let's talk.

I was in my hometown last weekend and I ran into someone who used to teach me in high school. We were chatting for a while, catching each other up on what has been happening in our lives. This lady knew of my predicament, and had been following my progress over the year or so. She was recounting how she had been told that this had been the best year of my life. I was quite shocked by this, and still am.

I am sorry to disappoint. But on all accounts it sounds like I should have had the most wonderful of years. To be honest though, I have had better.

I had to apologize to the lady and tell her the truth. I said I have actually had a terrible year. “Thank goodness, you are real!” she laughed with a sense of relief.

There is a train of thought that I don’t relate to at the moment. It involves thinking that something like cancer is the best thing that happens to someone. Now I am not saying that I may not get to that point, but I am honestly not there yet, I don’t expect to be, and I don’t want to be. I liked not having cancer – true, I really liked it.

There are a few reasons why I think people try to perceive nasty situations as being great. Sometimes, it may be due to the pressure placed on people in some circles to smile in the face of tragedy, fearing that a quivering lip may show a lack of faith, strength, certainty, hope. Of course, it may also be a way to protect oneself from the harsh realities of life – if it is talked up as being positive, there is no need to deal with the traumas that we come across in this life. When I think of this response in relationship to how God would see it, I am convinced he doesn’t need us to talk up tragedies so that he doesn’t look as bad.

I am very wary when people immediately reflect on a terrible situation and declare how much good came out of it. This is not to say that good things can’t happen in the midst of trauma, but it doesn’t help me personally to see them as cause and effect. I am sure most people completely understand that the year has been difficult, and I am not interested in reiterating the struggles – I think we’ve all had enough, but I feel it is important to make things clear all the same.

I remember hearing of someone’s funeral where the friends and family were ushered prematurely into a time of celebrating the life of the departed. In an attempt to lessen the sad reality of the situation, the gathered were led in triumphant songs and the mood of the service was kept light. Days after the service had taken place, they repeated the service for those who needed to engage in a time of grieving. They had endured a devastating loss, and they were ballsy enough to let the loss wreak havoc with their spirit for that time. It was time to respond honestly.

For me, there have been so many things happen over the year and a half that make me very happy, and I wouldn’t want to give them up. It has been a chaotic mix of highs and lows. There are still many things to be thankful for and there have been fantastic times throughout.

My perception on this may change in the future, I am not sure, but for now I am happy I am alive and experiencing an extension of time thanks to a terrible year of treatment. I never want to do that again.

5 comments.

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