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Thursday, 24 April 2014

Waiting

Waiting          

We spend a large portion of our lives in wait, the driving force behind each is different but it seems that there is a culture of waiting that has infiltrated modern society. Sometimes one doesn’t have a choice, but rather the opportunity to effectively use the time in wait. I don’t mean wait as in the odd pause at a bus stop where we will invariably feel uncomfortable in our own skin and reach for our safety net… our mobile phone.  We are now so ingrained in a culture of “always on”, that we don’t know the importance or the lesson learned in waiting.

We wait until the last moment of the evening to tell someone we love them, we wait until a conversation is over to tell our parents or loved ones that we love or miss them. General conversations start with the most “important” thing being said first, and that often isn’t , “I love you”, I just hope its a matter of saving the best till last which is hopefully a meaningful goodbye or a heart felt message that we wait until the last word is said.

There are many reasons why we wait, but there are two that I identify with more than any other, the first is the waiting for something worthwhile, like a person you care about, or the return of a sentimental worldly possession. It has no material worth to anyone but yourself, it is rather something that is linked to your heart, and yours alone… whilst others can comprehend its value, only its true value is known to you. It is not something that can be sought by going out and actively finding or pursuing it… you cant go out and actively find love, sometimes you just have to let it or that person find you. You also find that in the process of waiting you find other things that help and heal you. They are bumps in an otherwise flawless road, and they seek to build your virtue of patience.

The second version of waiting runs in stark contrast to the first, whilst the first is driven by an emotion of love and positive anticipation, the second is perhaps fuelled by fear. Waiting for an answer to a question is normally considered an easy act, except if that answer carries the weight of your perfectly crafted world with it. The fear we all come to understand when waiting for a test result, the safe arrival of a loved one, the birth or departure of a soul into and out of this world all requires some form of waiting.

Over riding all of that is the waiting for an answer around our own mortality.

Today, I will slide back into the MRI tunnel at the LOC, I would have already participated in a battery of blood and neurological tests, I would’ve answered a few questions about my mental and physical state of mind. I would already have a puncture wound in my right arm from the contrast that will be streaming throughout my veins. My waiting will be over the second that magnetic resonance indicator switches on and it breaks into a number of intricately crafted sequences, that go through the different layers of my brain, pulling the contrast in different directions and patterns to project a detailed schematic of my brain to the panel of radiologists behind the safety glass.

Amidst layered mass of my brain, I know what they will be looking at. It is what I have been thinking and waiting on for a year, it holds the answer to all the questions I have asked since my last scan over a year ago… what has happened in the one year absence since they last took a look inside my head.

The scan will last for a better part of an hour, during which I will lie in wait, yet again, of what they will find. I will have a face mask on that limits the movement of my head inside the MRI tunnel, I will have earphones fastened to my ears to blur out the drumming and drone of the MRI. Most importantly I will be smiling, because I know that once again I have lived completely this past year. I have found happiness, friends, family, love, laughter, fun and life. Of course there have been moments of weakness where I retreat into myself to sure up the defences, but I cant fault myself for that… I can only make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Once the MRI scan is complete  my time will slow down, I will then have to wait four days until I visit my neuro-oncologist the following week. A very long weekend will be beginning where I will question exactly what they found during my scan. That is the wait that I am fearful of, it wraps itself around your every thought in an attempt to facilitate negative thought.

I have known the full weight of fear behind waiting, but I have also learnt that waiting for the right thing is the  far more rewarding. 

Monday, 24 March 2014

History, MyStery, MyStory



To know where you’re going, you have to know where you’ve been.  I have been to the precipice of death… or right to the very point of where you start living. I will never, ever forget what happened to me, it fundamentally changed me… perhaps for the better, but it changed me nevertheless. I see things differently, I feel things more intensely and I linger just a little longer than I normally would have when moments of life happen.

Im coming up on my first scan in over a year, and whilst its an incredible feeling to have been put on this treatment plan of so called “monitoring” and my leave of absence from the MRI tunnel, its only passive monitoring for the doctors and never for the patient. I still wake up in the morning and go to bed every night with this very real thing happening to me. I cannot say I do not worry about that scan, it is my first scan in over a year and one never knows what the cells can do in a year, all I know is that I have given my best shot at living. Perhaps I could have worked a little harder, paid more attention to maintaining certain relationships and not worried about what people think of me… but isn’t that the purpose of life, to learn continuously and right until the end and if youre lucky enough people acknowledge that if even for a second, you showed them what it meant to be alive. I do admit that sometimes after a long day, my head hurts… that very same nausea comes back and I feel pangs of pain from another time in my life. That is my body reminding me of the very real road I walked, and the reminder of a promise I made to myself in the seconds before my 10 hour operation, “Brad, if you wake up from this… you’re are going to live” (and then I like to think I told myself to have a nice dream).

So I woke up, and I say that literally and figuratively… I woke up from a sleep that changed my life and that was after 2 similar operations and before another one… so someone was really trying to get me to see the bigger picture. The best part about it now is that I walk around the streets of London anonymously, no one here apart from my friends and family know my story, I am treated like everybody else and I would have it no other way. As I stroll down the street my thoughts are still very different to most, and it was along such a walk the other day that I thought “what would my obituary read?”

I know that sounds incredibly macabre, but it actually gave me a great deal of perspective because I had to look at myself and weigh up what I would like people to say versus what they would probably say. Would I be remembered for the right things in relation to what I spend most of my life doing? Its just a way to keep yourself in check and to not lose the importance of being.

At times during the day I forget about my plight and my story, but the future has an incredible ability to make you remember the past. I don’t know whether its because of my story that I am now aware of cancer or whether this was always going to happen. In the past year I have seen 4 of my friends be taken away by this disease, as well as see people who followed this blog end communication with me due to their untimely passing. Paul Radville, Wesley Ingle, Caleb Keegan and Jess Nicholson have all been taken way too soon because of cancer. It took the strongest types of cancer to take those 4 individuals from this earth, and only their incredibly strong minds and bodies could have ridden out the storm like they did. They are the strongest and bravest people I know. You never really understand the impact that cancer has on someone until that someone is you, it is scary. It is unfair. It is not the end. Their stories will change the lives of the people around them for the rest of their lives.

I had an incredible compliment the other day when a family friend commented that I “always seem to be on holiday”… she had been following me on social media and through this deduced that I had to be on holiday to constantly be having such fun, for her to only find out that I had taken no such leave and that that behavior was actually what I get up to on a standard weekend with my girlfriend. I know some people probably don’t approve of some of the things I do in my quest to have fun, but I don’t subscribe to criticism or negativity so odds are I wont end up listening anyway.

Some things in my story are still to be written, some highs and lows will inevitably comes to pass, but so long as I keep my heart in the right place, my head relatively far away from danger and my friends close I will never lose sight of whats important.

So, I go into these stressful few weeks with a clear focus and determination. That armor that I wore constantly in 2012 is there, but unused and loose. I will only recall on it should the moment require it, but I hope that it doesn’t. I just focus on keeping my head in the right place, my heart in a happy state and a constant smile on my face. When they call my name to enter that tunnel or for whatever blood tests they require, I will shakily rise as I have every other time… but I will be positive, I will wear a cheeky smile on my face and hopefully all will go according to plan.

So my story is far from conclusion, but I will make sure that whether Im writing the story or someone is reading it, I will make it memorable.

Keep living.

BW

Saturday, 12 October 2013

365 chances to answer the Man in the Mirror



You look, you stare, you see an answer that was always there, from the one person whose opinion you will need more than any other.  There will always be that face when the lights come on, or it will be the last face we see when the lights go out. It is the face which is devoid of all bias and influence, for it is our own face, its my face. When I look into the mirror I see someone that I didn’t see 2 years ago, I am not that person anymore. I ask myself reams and reams of questions that, if posed by any other, would be a gross overstepping of boundary and personal space.

It has now been a full year since my last operation, and I like to think that during that time, I have been hard but fair with myself. I have challenged myself, perhaps not to my full potential or ability, nevertheless I have done some things that required me to dig a little deeper. Its an odd feeling, knowing that 365 days have passed since a complete stranger, or a room full of strangers, burrowed into my skull in an attempt to rectify a very real problem (hydrocephalus, removal of a VP shunt which had blocked, and to perform a ventriculostomy (cutting teeny tiny slits into my ventricle wall to allow drainage)). The clarity I received before all of my operations will be something I will never forget. It invariably changed me, and the fact that I accepted death will scare me for the rest of my life. I said my goodbyes, but not with the intention of dying.

We have all looked into the mirror and either seen a person who we believe can achieve something great, or we fail, falling short of the expectation. Sometimes I feel I don’t eve know the person I see anymore.  I remember when I was posed the question last year about moving to London, and it took me a second to make up my mind, but a great deal longer to formulate why I did so. 

Perhaps it was because of the road I have endured, perhaps it was my desire to realize the importance of a challenge, or perhaps it was because I looked at myself in the mirror after my operation in October, with a shaved head, 4 scars etched into my skull, a bump from the ventriculostomy, a scar running down my abdomen, a tan from travelling Europe for 5 months, a smile across my face, and a deep burning desire in my eyes to achieve something, to define my own rules rather than let the cancer define me.

People always ask me a few basic questions, I say “basic” in the most endearing manner possible because they are genuinely interested or concerned, but don’t want to probe, therefore the questions are always the same. They seek to know how I am, or my next step in this unforeseen road. Every now and again, people come along who challenge you, they seek to ignite that fire that was always there but under the calmness of normality, the fire subsides. But sometimes that person gets the response they were looking for.

So there I stand, looking at myself in the least vain way possible, I find myself looking for faults that I will always know are there, still truths that lie undisturbed, and thoughts that will always be secret to me. Things that no other person will ever know, the answers that I uncovered mere seconds before my surgeries, they are the answers you get in that moment of clarity before a life threatening moment.

So, its been a year, every day I wake up knowing this thing is still in my head, and it puts that extra spring in my step, and it becomes the reason to smile. Sometimes the challenge mounts, and the paranoia of having cancer begins to creep in. I haven’t had an MRI (very happy to have a prolonged stay from that tunnel) for 6 months, but at the same time, as time continues to pass, I begin to feel aches and pains, weird feelings that I don’t think were there 6 months ago.

Sleeplessness is my latest foe, and it kindly reminds me that it is winning the battle from 3am-5am every morning. Perhaps it is due to it being a year since my last operation, and my conscious thought is battling with my subconscious trying to make sense of everything that has happened over the last two years, or maybe its because my brain is still trying to blur and blacken out what happened.  In those 2 hours of sleeplessness, I tend to ask myself questions, and I build scenarios of everything that has happened and could happen, and then I build a scenario of what I want to happen.I like to think I prevail and that I define my own dreams.

The hardest thing to accept, personally, is that cancer changes things. It changes people, it changes perspective, it changes values, norms, outset, personalities and it changes lives. There are two sides to whose life it changes, it changes the “victim” and it changes those in the "blast zone". It took me a great deal of time to full accept that I have cancer, it is in me, doing something (albeit at a very, very slow rate), but it is still there and for me, that changes things. It makes me question a great deal of things, and it is not some conceited stance on life or me thinking that I have something different to offer, its just that I always ask myself whether I am doing what makes me happy at that moment, and whether that could be the happiest I can be.

In the end, you have to find solace and comfort in who you are,  you have to address that person in the mirror, and know that everyday you have the opportunity to do what makes you happy, it isn’t a question of circumstance, because we can all find happiness in the most primitive of acts.

Don’t waste the time we have left, don’t ever stop questioning yourself, and don’t lose the desire to find the things in life that make you happy, and who you are.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Losing Yourself



In life, in all of our lives, there comes moments when we lose small parts of ourselves or we lose entire pieces, we toss aside the things we deem to be surplus in preparation for an event that eclipses all that have gone before it, or the pieces simply remove themselves. A moment happens in life when we either become the person we were meant to be, or we fall at the wayside not able to truly find whom we are. Profound moments of importance that not only define our futures, but that define us.

I have had my moments, where I accepted that something bigger was going on, where I accepted death, and experienced the utter joy at realizing the endless capabilities of life after waking up from 4 brain surgeries. When I was diagnosed with cancer, I made a few promises to myself, one of which was that I would not lead an ordinary life. I would not succumb to mediocrity after being granted a second chance. Having said that, it is hard to accept what has happened, and to continue a normal life unhindered by the endless nags of having cancer is extremely difficult. Every pain I feel at 3:44am, every random headache and every lapse in memory, I begin to remember the promises I made to myself. Whilst I never want pity or sympathy for what I have been through, I have come to realize that to come to terms with cancer is much more a mental battle than it is physical, and some people will never realize the toll it takes. It is not a short game, you play the long game in this instance.

This battle has cost me more than I let on, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and a little bit of OCD are the direct ramifications and mental battle wounds that I wear proudly, the physical wounds have now been covered up by hair but they will always be there… aching in the dark. I have lost a few other very important parts of my life that helped me through the fight, one particular piece that held me together when all else failed, and they were instrumental in seeing me through to the end.  It is easy for people to forget what cancer survivors have been through when there are no direct wounds to associate with, and I would have it no other way.

It is hard to not lose yourself, your character and your ability to fight when you are diagnosed. It takes unique individuals like Jeff Guyer, Jess Nicholson and Wesley Ingle, to stand up against the insurmountable odds, and stare this thing right in the eye. I know their fight, I know their worry at 3:00am in the morning, and the realization of things that every other lucky person will never have to accept. It is hard not to change, to perceive life differently, and to realize that some things are given but other things are taken.

Cancer unfortunately takes things away from people and families. I include myself as one of the lucky ones, someone that could’ve gone down a very different path and come out with a very different and obscure outcome. I will never fully understand the emotional impact I caused my family and loved ones, and whilst it was me on the table, it was them who had to go through long flights to London and Palo Alto, it was them who endured hours of scans and even more hours of waiting whilst I was in surgery. We all lost something back in January 2012, but we also gained something. We gained foresight, the ability to not want to live with boundaries and limited horizons.

I now find myself only 2 weeks from another check-up, and it always makes me reflect and take stock of the positive things I have gained, as well as the negative things I have left behind along the way. I find my sleeping patterns have altered yet again, and a good friend of mine, Nicholas Knuppe, picked that up during a recent trip to Cape Town. He recognized the stress beginning to form up under the armor I have so meticulously pieced together. I always try to remain positive, but sometimes the mental anguish caused by something like this is so severe and traumatizing that I am forced to relive the fight over and over in my dreams.

I have to keep reminding myself that I made these promises, that I would not lose myself in this fight, I would come out the other side and stay true to the promises I made. The promises are my own, but you can imagine that they are not shallow, or short-sighted. I confess, these last few months I have been partying a little harder than I should have, and it was an attempt to find myself, and the attempt still goes on. I am still trying to find the pieces I lost along the way. Cancer hurts you, it hurts your ego, your pride and damages your existence. It is the stark reminder that we, as humans, are not invincible. That at 24 years old, we can be diagnosed with brain cancer, that there are bigger things going on, and that death is a very real and an ever present reality. Those realizations are the things that strip the armor away, and expose a person who is scared, not afraid of death but rather of what I would leave behind after death. There are things unsaid, gratitude not given, appreciation for life not fully recognized. I still feel I have this great debt that needs to be repaid.

I have always enjoyed learning about people, and their unique stories. I often find myself sitting opposite someone on the train or plane, wondering what their story is, and the truth is that we all have incredible stories to tell, it just takes a big moment or sequence of events for us to communicate to each of our incredible stories. We all lose things along the way, we fight to hold on to every piece we have before going into untested waters, but we quickly cast aside or lose the parts we no longer need or can hold onto in order to carry on. My family, loved ones and friends were the things that I couldn’t have done without. Everything has it’s time, everything has an expectancy, and we can spend our whole lives looking for something or someone to come along and create a change in ourselves and the way we live our lives.

It is strange how things happen, this morning I was at work, quietly minding my business and still trying to get into the swing of things. I lean forward to read something on my computer screen before I feel a small trickle of liquid escape my nose, and as I watched that small, red blob fall from my nose and begin to rotate and flip in the air an instinct arose and kicked in. I knew it was a nosebleed, and historically speaking, nosebleeds and brain tumors/cancer do not go well together. The fear is quickly overridden by experience; I plug the bleed, and send off a message to my dad. After consulting with both my parents and my neuro-surgeon, we head off to Umhlanga Hospital to meet with Dr Stephan Joubert. He begins his meticulous checks, asks a few standard questions followed by a few more in-depth and nerve racking ones. After which he poses 3 scenarios, all of which he feels the tumor is inactive in. For safety sake, he suggests that I head off for another MRI. If you have been following this blog, you will understand my utter fear for this machine. It has changed my life a few times already, and what they see once I’m in that tunnel has the power to change it all once again. We all agree that I will go for the MRI, but not before stopping at the emergency rooms for some blood tests, hemoglobin checks, and to register my bleed time (not sure about that). I comply and go through all the tests, and shortly after the resident doctor prescribes some relaxants/anti-anxiety medication in order to calm me down. You can understand my apprehension, and the requirement to load up on some of these pills.

Before I know it, I have completely passed out in the waiting room, and I am woken up by my dad and the nurse picking me up and leading me to the MRI room. The thick metal door of that room wakens me from my comatose state, and I am back in reality, ready to go into the machine albeit 2 weeks earlier than expected.

I hop on the bed, thrust out my arm in anticipation for the contrast/dye, give the all clear and slide in. If you are claustrophobic or have any fear of confined spaces, you will not appreciate an MRI machine. The head cage slides tightly over your skull; you can feel its casing press closely against your skin, only to be further reinforced by padding to prevent you from moving even an inch once the machine starts up. I hear the familiar drone of the machine as it begins to start up, I feel the plastic panic ball in my hand in case of an emergency, and I then close my mind, devoid from all external stimuli. I close my mind so that not even I can force a thought while I am in the machine. I fall back to sleep. I wake up 25 minutes later by the nurses pulling me out of the tunnel. I realized I had fallen asleep in perhaps the hardest place to fall asleep in, in the world. The sound that the machine emits vibrates in your skull, in your bones, and reminds you that it is looking at things far beyond the capability of the human eye. I rise up off the bed, and walk into the diagnostics room where I am greeted by my father and Stefaan, they confirm that all is in order, and fortunately I still have a brain. Great time for comedy, guys, thank you very much. I have a quick glimpse at my scan, recognize the tumor sitting in my 3rd ventricle, and without giving the tumor a second look I head out the door. I didn’t need to see anymore.

I walked out the doors knowing, once again, I had overcome a personal milestone. Without anticipating it I had endured another day from hell, faced fears and answered questions that no one should have to, and once again I am here, writing to you. I am telling you my story, so you can feel my pain, experience my joy and perhaps learn the lessons about life that I have, without having to go through the painstaking and heart wrenching moments required.

To all the people I spoke to and was in communication with today, whether it be on Facebook or mobile, Thank you. To one special person who I spoke to over the phone, thank you. Your words and calmness always have a way of calming the storm.

We find resolve and human spirit in the weirdest places, you cannot find them unless you are looking for them. I continue to learn more about this thing called life, everyday!



Saturday, 30 March 2013

Time and the Tunnel


How often do we find ourselves going down a road that only weeks, months or years before we could never have imagined going down? Time is a great thickener of things, but I find that only true for things to do with the heart, when it comes to your mind and physical body… time plays the biggest part, it is the difference between here today and gone tomorrow. It is for that reason that you could understand my apprehension towards time and peoples lackluster view on how truly important it is. After or during cancer you learn to count not only time but moments and memories, moments that you would otherwise forget. Sometimes the moments are fond memories, other times they are less favorable but still etched into your memory. You all probably know of what I speak.

I am 24 days away from yet another 6 month check up, and my mind is slowly starting to focus, the steely resolve is creeping back to protect my mind from external issues, my body is slowly starting to tense up and take notice of all the little pains and aches, blurred vision or lapse in memory. It makes my mind jump back to a harder time. I will once again be sliding into the MRI tunnel at The LOC, where yet again they will be analyzing, scrutinizing and breaking down every neural activity, every neuron response, and more importantly looking at the 30% leftover of a tumor I had de-bulked in January 2012, followed by a ventriculostomy in October 2012. Those are in the past, and they made me stronger in all facets of my life. They made me repeatedly realize that every time I go into that tunnel, I need to subconsciously piece together my life, take stock of the important people in it, and what I want to achieve with my life irrespective if I’m around for a long or short time, because whatever they may or may not find in there will have an impact on the rest of my life, my family and my friend’s lives 

You are faced with two scenarios that you have to fully recognize before you inject yourself with contrast (dye), give the all clear and slide into that dark chamber. Once in there, you truly understand what it means to fight in the dark, you have to fight off the pounding noise of the MRI but also all the voices in your mind, to not give an inch in mental determination. To visualize that whatever was in there, no longer exists. Scenario 1, they find that the tumor is inactive, the metastatic rate is low and that you are free to continue your life as is. That is the ideal outcome and one that I am hoping for. Scenario 2, even when I write about it, it sends chills down my spine because it is the one thing that keeps me up at night, scenario 2 is that it has grown, the tumor has secondary’s and that I now have a shelf life. Whilst that is the last thing I want, it is something I have to recognize.

We all repeatedly live life having the “what if” function enabled. When we go out, do something silly, and wake up thinking, “what if” but you also realize you cant take it back… now imagine you are diagnosed with cancer, given days, weeks, months or years to live… your “what if” changes drastically. You no longer think I shouldn’t do that, you think, “Will it be the last time I am allowed to do that?”. I can’t change people’s thinking pattern, or how they lead their lives, I can only try to make people realize that we are only forced to affect a change when something is threatening to destroy everything we know and love, take away everything we have ever known. 

In January 2012, my “what if” function was different to what it is today, but my outlook on life is the same. I realized I wanted to live life, not the same one I had been living. I wanted to challenge myself, throw myself into a space I had never been in before, I wanted to travel and experience first hand all the incredible things on offer around the world. I did travel but the need was still gnawing at me, my desire to see more overcame my thinking to stay in SA, and I wanted to threaten myself into action. The people that helped me through the last year and 4 months have been irreplaceable, I have formed new friendships, realized the importance of old relationships and friendships and family, and I will never forget what you have all done for me in helping me get through the hardest part in my life. As a token of my appreciation, I will offer you some sound advice, life is terribly uncertain, we can only be certain that things will change, there will be ups and downs, and sometimes things happen that will change your perspective of what is important. Do not live life thinking “what if”, because if you are, that moment will pass you by and you will lose the opportunity of an experience.

I am in the process of relocating to London, where life is completely different to the one I had in Cape Town and Durban. The friendship circle is a lot smaller, the weather is much much worse, but the experience was the decider for me. I never want to look back on my life and say I didn’t do something because I was too comfortable, because in my situation my life can change in an instant. It only takes these big moments, unfortunately, for people to realize the importance of challenging themselves and living life without regrets. Living life to the fullest doesn’t entail changing your life, it requires pulling your life together to enjoy the moments you have, with the people you have around you.

Enjoy your Easter, everybody.




                                               

Friday, 15 March 2013

The Road Less Travelled

Let me start off by saying, "Cancer is the best thing to ever happen to me".

Not something you hear everyday, but for me, its the truth. Cancer changed my life, it changed my families life, and in some little way it has changed the life of the people who followed this blog. I went on the most harrowing, crazy, scary adventure with my closest family and friends. I tested my ability, I stared down the barrel into death, I acknowledged it was there but did not heed its call. My family, girlfriend at the time, and friends endured the hardest few months of mine, and perhaps their lives. You learn what true human resolve is. You meet people you never thought you would meet, and lie in operating theatre's with machinery that will completely intimidate and confuse you. You get put to sleep with the sole intention of waking up after the surgeons work is done. You go to bed fighting, and you wake up fighting, pause and then catch your breath... and once the pain and aches of surgery have subsided, you get ready for the next bout, the next obstacle that will inevitably be placed in front of you.

You learn to accept things, you learn to listen, to appreciate, to comprehend what life really means. I am 25 years old, I do not confess to knowing everything, but I sure know alot more about life now than I knew 2 years ago. I never in my wildest dreams would have thought I would be here, 4 brain operations and 5 rather sizable scars later. Cancer is random, it has no means of traceability or predictability. The only thing you can do when faced with this, is to fight, and for some people the fight is too much, not for their lack of trying, purely because the cancer that they had was too much and too aggressive. There are cancers out there that, if you go through mortality rates and statistics, will literally numb your senses and affect you to your very core because you will realize that these cancers happen to normal people, me, a friend, anyone. Whether youre that person who lies in bed at night with the feeling that your body isnt quite acting or performing in the way it should, or being the care giver for someone who is battling this disease, or, more importantly, you are fighting this disease, you realize that at some stage you need to action a response.

People always throw me a questionably strange glance when I mention to them that cancer changed my life for the better, and you can only start to understand what I mean when I tell you how it did so. Before cancer I took things for granted, I was headed down a very different road to the one I am on now. I didnt appreciate things, I always looked for the next best thing... and sadly you only realise what you had, once you no longer possess it or it is being threatened from you. I did that a lot, but then I was diagnosed and like a wave of realization, I realized what I was here for. There are foundations out there that are striving to cure cancer. There is so much international interest in research into cancer, and after speaking to Dr Rick Guyer, Dr Stephan Joubert and a few other doctors, you come to realise that although the amount is substantial, it isnt big enough. The impetus isnt enough.

Dr Rick Guyer, Co-founder of the Texas Back Institute and Director of their Spine Fellowship Program, got in touch with me through my blog. Dr Guyer has been down a very similar road, albeit he was a spectator to it. His son Jeff Guyer, 30, battled a very rare cancer known as a sarcoma. Jeff had a year long battle with the sarcoma, and on the 6 June 2011, Jeff answered to another call, but not before leaving behind a legacy. He left behind something that will hopefully be here long after we are all gone, or perhaps through it will no longer need to exist. Jeff started a foundation whilst battling his cancer, that shows his outright determination and strength, that while all of us are fit and healthy, Jeff who was undergoing chemotherapy and radiation still had the time and commitment to start a foundation that in its first year raised $200,000 USD.

I do not wish cancer upon anyone, no one deserves the devastating effects it can have on you and those around you, but it does teach some lessons that I would otherwise not have learnt. Hopefully through funds and charities like Jeff's, where the funds go purely to cancer research, sarcoma's and cytoma's and the like will become diseases of the past. Current medical research is close to unlocking genome cures, and there are new and improved methods of chemotherapy, but those will only be unlocked through research. Jeff's fund and funds the world over give their contributions to a bigger research fund that is close to finding the cure. It will only be achieved through collaboration and commitment.

My purpose for this blog is the same as it has always been, just the scope of it has changed. It has become something bigger, it has become a portal to do good and achieve things that I never thought I would get involved in. On Monday I am having a conversation with Dr Guyer as to how I can help in any way, shape or form. I'm going down the road less traveled, the road will have its up's and down's, it will be scary because once again I will have to reflect on my journey through cancer in order to help others. The point of this post is to get ideas, I would really appreciate ideas as to how I can start something that would generate awareness and funds, that could either go viral or be achievable on a very big scale. Dr Guyer, and the rest of his family have started initiatives like Spinspiration, where through cycling events and partaking in cycling events such as The Cape Argus where 60 people rode under the "Cycling against Sarcoma" banner, they managed to generate funds that will go towards cancer research.

I'm stepping into a new world with this, people. I want to help where I can, but I am only one man, but I truly believe that a change in thinking comes from one person who can affect many. I'm just looking for ideas... so if you have some crazy or conservative idea, I want to hear them all. You can send on to my email brad_woodhouse@mac.com, or leave a comment under this post.

I will let you all know the feedback from my conversation on Monday.
Here is Jeff's blog, read it if you want to read about someone far braver and courageous than we all are. http://www.jeffsfightwithcancer.blogspot.co.uk/ 

The link below is the link to Jeff's fund. Please give it a look. 

https://give.massgeneral.org/sslpage.aspx?pid=1484

All the best for the weekend ahead, change isnt instantaneous or started by many at once... it starts when there is a shift in mindset by each and every one of us.


Thursday, 21 February 2013

You can't read the future, but you can damn well affect it.

The future is a funny thing, sometimes we know what's coming our way, but despite our minds natural inclination to call us to attention and realize what's going on, we still dont do everything in our power to prevent it from happening. Maybe its to test ourselves, maybe its to let nature take its natural course, but what we all have to realize is that what we do now will ultimately effect the future and the rest of our lives. Sometimes our vision into the future is short-sighted, with a short term goal in-sight, with cancer - it is always long term, you are forced to draw up short term goals and milestones that will help you in achieving your long term goal.

It has been a while since I have written in this blog, not for want of getting back to my writing, but because I wanted to get on with my life. I wanted to acknowledge that cancer happened, but along with my getting the all clear, I wanted to put this blog behind me.

Sometimes, things get bigger than you anticipated and people lean on the things you did in the past in such a way that you can no longer ignore the power that something holds. I learned that about this blog. In the past 6 months, I have come across countless stories of people's fights with cancer, and how some managed to come out the other side, and unfortunately how some didn't.

People keep asking me why I havent written, and truth be told, I hadnt found a reason to write until now.  I'm fortunate that for now, my battle with cancer is on hold, but there are people out there who are battling with this terrible disease. Wesley Ingle, Jessica Nicholson and Caleb Keegan are three people that I have had the distinct privilege of meeting due to cancer, and it makes you realize cancer can effect anyone, at any stage, at any time... and good people do get cancer.

Wes Ingle, a friend from Durban was diagnosed in 2012 with Stage 3, non-semical metastatic germ cell cancer. He has undergone a biopsy, surgery and lengthy periods of chemotherapy. I mentioned Wes in one of my last blogs, and he has fought an unbelievable fight. The guts, determination and outright stubbornness that this guy has shown has inspired everyone. We met for a coffee a few months back, and despite him having chemo sweats, he was still in unbelievably high spirits and determined to fight on. Wes, as I've told you countless times, keep fighting my man. Team W(h)ess and his F&@$ cancer team can all be proud of what they have achieved. I told Wes a few months ago that once all of this has passed and he is given the all clear, we are going for a beer and will look back on a battle well fought.

That brings me from a friend who has nearly finished his fight, to a friend who is just starting hers. Jessica Nicholson, a friend of a an unbelievable couple I know in Durban, has recently been diagnosed with a Grade 4 Glioblastoma in her left frontal lobe. She suffered a seizure last Saturday, 9th February, which inadvertently saved her life. After CT scans, MRI's and a biopsy, she was officially diagnosed with cancer. She had a resection of the tumor, and due to the doctor suspecting it was an aggressive cancer, he himself was aggressive in removing as much of the tumor as possible. After the biopsy was analyzed they determined it to be a Grade 4 Glioblastoma. Since then, Jess and her husband, Simon, and 2 kids have had the two most emotionally harrowing weeks of their life. They have experienced first hand the most crushing news you can ever experience. I am a firm believer in every negative there is a positive, and the positive side of this has been the incredible amount of support everyone has shown them. Simon has started a fund that will serve as a transparent means of funding Jess and her treatments. Simon has also written a blog so please find it on http://www.gofundme.com/jessgetwellsoon . I have been in touch with my doctors in Stanford (USA), the LOC (London) and my personal team of Dr Stuart Kidgell and Dr Stephan Joubert (Stephan is riding in The Cape Argus to raise funds for a global cancer research initiative called "Cycling Against Sarcoma", and that also needs all the help it can get in finding a way to rid the human race of this terrible disease. I ask that you all have a look at Jess's page, and see the incredible spirit that this girl is exhibiting. In cancer, all bets are off, all future decisions are put on hold. It holds you to a moment, where ultimately, you are fighting for your life. Jess and Simon are keenly aware of this, and they have an unbelievable life to hold onto, filled with loving family and friends, I believe that they can get through this. Simon and Jess, I have told you before... I will walk this whole road with you, even though I am half a world away... I will do everything in my power to make sure that you two make it out of this. You have my word.

And lastly, the power of word lead me to the last person I have met. His name is Caleb Keegan, a Durban boy, who I have never actually met in person. Only through the power of social media and friends, have we come across one another. Caleb has spent the last 7 years of his life battling Hodgkins Lymphoma. He has undergone too many bouts of chemotherapy, radiation and autologous bone marrow transplants. It is safe to say, that it is more than any of us have ever gone through, and hopefully never will. He too has started a fund called www.facebook.com/calebscancertrust, and it is a means to afford the ridiculously expensive treatment that this poor guy has had to endure.

This blog isnt about cancer anymore, it is about helping people and fortunately having the platform to reach out to people who dont know where to start. It is scary, it is life-threatening, and you will never know how scary and life-consuming this disease is, until it happens to someone you know or love. Since I have become aware of cancer, I am realizing that it is everywhere... and unless we take a concerted effort to cure this disease, it will unfortunately be around for a very long time to come.

I can't read the future, nor do I claim to have all the answers. All I know is that there are a lot of people out there battling this disease, and unless they are given hope, whether it be through treatment, a helping hand, a hug or some cancer blog... these people feel very alone and scared. I remain positive in my mind even though I am still fully aware that there is this little cancerous tumor in my brain, because I know that as long as there are people out there like the people who have shown me as well as those affected by this disease, the love that they have, then there is still hope. You are the people I wake up for in the morning.

We all look into the future, and while it is uncertain, some of our futures are alot more uncertain than others.


Cancer isn't about me anymore, its about helping those in need.