After having what was probably the best year of my life (2014) followed immediately by what was indubitably the worst year of my life (2015), the year directly afterwards was always going to be a fairly middling period of time. It would obviously struggle to match the highs of graduating with First Class Honours the same summer as competing at the Commonwealth Games, but at least it was equally unlikely to get near the lows of being told I had inoperable cancer before the age of 25.
So, bearing this in mind, it was a shock to find myself rushed into hospital at the start of the year, resulting in a shunt being installed to drain any trapped fluid from my brain, in an effort to hopefully prevent any more emergency trips into neurosurgery. As a reaction to this incident I was quickly started on a course of chemotherapy, planned to last for nine months of the year, blood levels permitting. So far the year was starting nearly as negatively as 2015 had.
To add metaphorical insult to literal injury this also meant that I had to cancel my booked trip to go travelling and lose half of the booking fee in the process. A consequence made much easier to handle when I considered that a financial hit of just over a grand was nothing when compared to what could have happened if not for the competency of the medical staff and surgeons that has so recently saved my life.
Knowing I had to put any plans of travelling firmly on the back burner I instead focussed on creating goals that would be more realistic in the short term. Looking back now I can categorise a number of these simply under one heading: "Keeping my body fit and my mind keen". The first part of this was to rearrange my gym programme to make it more manageable throughout the times I would be dealing with chemotherapy fatigue. And so my thrice-weekly gym timetable was born. I decided to continue focussing on higher reps and hoping that the reduced load approach would minimise the fatigue while allowing me to still put enough strain through my body to minimise the loss of muscle and thereby keep me in shape that vaguely resembled that of an athlete. The second thing I did was to enrol on a beginners yoga course, hoping that the combination of gentle exercise and mindfulness would contribute to both of my targets.
While I was making these adjustments to my lifestyle and timetable Timmy was busy with some changes of his own, his diet of PCV Chemotherapy Cocktails was having an effect and in May I was informed that he had lost weight, resulting in a 3mm shrinkage. While this might not seem a lot, in percentage this represented 10% of his diameter so it was no insignificant amount. The year had swung closer to 2014 levels on the quality meter for the first time.
Unfortunately I was unable to keep this momentum going due to a series of low blood levels that forced chemo to take a number of breaks while we waited for the levels to recover. During this time I was contacted by representatives of Cancer Research UK who had read this blog and wanted to get me involved in the upcoming filming for Stand Up To Cancer. Over the coming months I was filmed on a number of occasions to get footage of many aspects of my life with cancer to show how it had changed when compared to my life before diagnosis. All of this culminated in an excellent filming night in London and I'm so proud to have been part of this event that raised millions for cancer research.
It was around this time that I had a few incidents that led to me reassessing my relationship with alcohol and coming to the conclusion that I was no longer enjoying getting drunk due to the increased effect it was having on me, as well as the impact this could potentially have on my parents. Since then I have experimented with different approaches such as reducing the units I drink on a night and restricting the types of things I drink. However after many such combinations I have decided that the only way to really manage is to stay away from alcohol completely in any situation other than when I was in someones house or surrounded by medical professionals such as at FYSOT.
As one final point to end I point out that I won't be making a New Year's resolution this year, but instead will focus on achieving the following at some point in 2017:
- Stay healthy enough to go travelling
- Find a way to get back training on the judo mat
- Write more
- Get back to a total of 8 visible abs
- Get into a mindfulness routine
So there it is, 2016 in a page, not all great but definitely better than 2015. I want to say thank you to everyone that has been involved in making this year so much better than the last and hope for 2017 to be even better again. Happy New Year!