So 2015 is over. To begin with it was a year that promised so much for me. I had a great job, I'd just bought a new car and I was enjoying training with the goal of gaining a bit of mass and not having to worry about qualification points or unexpected injuries. In summary, everything was going according to plan and I could look toward the future and enjoy having expendable income for the first time, after years of living as a student athlete.
Unfortunately this optimism was shattered just six short days into the year, exactly one year ago today, on a day the doctor accurately dubbed 'the worst day of my life'.
Since then a lot has happened and a lot has changed. First of all steroids made me swell up to an all time high of 75kg. Then, to make matters worse, photos were taken of me in a state of chubbiness that would continually resurface and haunt me over the following months. This brings me nicely on to a factor that has had a large impact over the year, the interest of the media. Due to the initial success of this blog and my recent past as a judo player a number of media outlets from the UK and further afield got in touch to tell my story and, by extension, help raise awareness for the condition and funds for my travels and for research into Brain Tumours. On the subject of research I was lucky enough to be invited to see first hand the cancer research that is being done at Cardiff University and to talk to the researchers about it all and what they hope to achieve.
Following on from my steroid induced weight gain I went into treatment and experienced 30 sessions of chemoradiation followed by six months of chemotherapy. This led to me losing not only all of the steroid weight (and then some) but also a fair amount of my hair, and began the months of baldness and the cold head that comes with it.
As the saying goes "every cloud has a silver lining', even a cloud as large and grey as this one. Throughout the year, despite the repeated incidences of bad news and evenings being sick into a bowl, there have been positives to take the edge off. I have been able to get away on holidays to Barcelona, Portugal and Ibiza during gaps in treatment in an attempt to keep a bit of colour. A number of charities have also been able to offer me benefits ranging from financial help to a free iPad. On a more personal note the down side of having to move home has had the benefit of allowing me to spend more time with my family because, and this may surprise you, living back with your parents means you see a lot more of them than when you live 3 hours away.
On a similar note this last year has proved to me that I have excellent taste in friends. Whether I know them from school, from judo, from University in Plymouth/Cardiff or from work they have been uniformly supportive. Be it through messages of support, fundraising for my travels/a charity of my choice, lifts around the place or simply getting me drunk to take my minds off things they have helped enormously and I can't thank them enough. The cancer diagnosis has also led to me meeting a whole new group of friends that are having the same experience at a young age.
One very important moment of the last year was of course when I became a father. An adopted father to my little Piri Pug that is. The decision by my parents to surprise me with her in an effort to cheer me up has proved an excellent one, as it is genuinely impossible to be sad when you have a pug sat on your lap, snoring away as she is doing at this very moment.
A final note goes out to everyone that has read, commented on and shared this blog. It started as a way to keep my treatment and diagnosis news away from Facebook to avoid forcing it upon those that weren't particularly interested. Since then it has grown into a vehicle for positivity and information that has been viewed just under 1/4 of a million times. For me it has been a way to organise my thoughts after tough appointments with the doctors, as well as a tool to keep everyone in the loop as I go through this journey. For others I am told it has been a way to help explain what is happening to my younger family members, a source of information and guidance to others who are about to go through everything I have been through and, perhaps most importantly, an interesting - and hopefully, entertaining - read.
So thank you to all those that have helped me this year. My approach to dealing with this cancer has been, and will continue to be, positivity. Nobody ever achieved anything with negative thoughts and pessimism. Don't get me wrong, there have been some very dark moments in the last 12 months, but you just have to indulge them for as short a period as possible and get back to thinking positively. Here's hoping for a breakthrough soon so that I no longer have to regard the 6th of January as mine and Timmy's anniversary and can instead get to thinking of it as a day where I finally get round to assessing the financial damage that has been caused by a cancer free Christmas.