Motivation. It’s such an easy word to say but almost impossible to define, capture or gain. At least that’s how I’ve felt over the last couple of weeks, hence the lack of blogging – I’ve totally lacked the motivation to get up and write something. It feels like sailing on a stormy sea at the moment as a mixture of highs and lows have knocked me from pillar to post.
I looked forward to Christmas for weeks and Christmas day was tremendous – a proper family feast cooked up by my brother, preceded by presents and fizz and followed by board games and a determination to never again eat my own body weight in beef and roast potatoes. It was especially emotional as I sat back and realised that a year earlier I’d taken a deep breath and wondered if I’d see another Christmas. As it happened I felt fortunate and brilliant and healthy. What a difference a year makes.
What a difference 48 hours makes. The day after boxing day I found myself admitted to Jimmy’s with a bad infection. Waking up with a temperature of nearly 40 degrees and realising that the snow on the ground outside had us trapped, it was only down to the kindness of our neighbour and his 4x4 that I arrived at the hospital shivering with fever but grateful. I lay in bed in a real state for 3 days, regularly breaking out into horrendous rigors (the uncontrollable shivers caused by bacterial sepsis in the blood) until it was decided to remove my Hickman line. Like a miracle cure, the combination of no more line and powerful antibiotics saw me recover quickly and against all the odds I was discharged on New Year’s eve. I am always keen to spend the minimum time in hospital and was immensely grateful to the doctor who’d moved things along quickly. With the right people in charge, things get done.
Since then I’ve struggled to find the motivation to get up and do things. No doubt the infection knocked my physical capacity back a good way and combined with miserable weather, venturing outside has seemed less appealing so I’ve procrastinated my way out of several walks. I’m approaching the 100 day post-transplant landmark without any other complications which is supposed to be a huge cause for celebration but my mind has been dominated by “What ifs?”. What if the cancer is still there? What if it’s spread? What if the graft stops grafting? I have absolutely no reason to think that any of these things might happen but the infection made me realise the fragility of the situation and I’ve been worried about it ever since.
As usual, Alison picked me up with strong support and strong words – this negative energy can only cause damage. It’s just a fact that negativity is destructive, but how to overcome the lingering worry that anything I do now may all come to nought if things don’t work out? The turnaround started to come at Jimmy’s yesterday in a conversation with the same Doctor who’d removed my line. I asked him all of my “what if?” questions and he put a swift stop to that train of thought - there are things we can do but let’s focus on the positives; you’re getting better. Good point. Then followed a conversation with the Ward Sister from whom I’ve received a huge amount of support over the last year. I explained my worries. She listened. We discussed. She pointed out that I needed some purpose, that I needed to ask, what if it has worked? and that I needed to get off my arse and bloody well do things that make me feel good and give me a reason to look to the future. So I have done and today I feel ready for the fight again. I’ve found motivation through inspiration.
I’ve reread some of Lance Armstrong’s first autobiography because although what he did to so many people and to cycling as a sport was unforgivable, he remains one of my heroes; let’s not forget, the guy beat a cancer that had invaded every part of his body and brought him to the brink. That’s heroic enough for me. I especially connect with the chapter when he describes his first bike ride around his back yard totally, utterly exhausting him – we’re starting from the same base. Way before I got ill, I remember the anger I felt when I read that Lance had gone on to abuse a drug called EPO which causes your body to overproduce red blood cells and increases your endurance, thus allowing him to cheat his way to 7 Tour de France wins. You can imagine then that I am enjoying hugely the irony of taking weekly EPO injections to boost my red blood cell production. Think about the speculation when I win the Tour next year. It’s going to be controversial.
I watched again the BBC Sport piece on Stiliyan Petrov, the Aston Villa footballer who has returned to playing Sunday League football after surviving acute leukaemia – his body reshaped by steroids and a total change of lifestyle but his passion for life is undiminished. He described feeling like a little kid again and I’m determined to do the same when I get back on that bike. In a recent interview he said that the support of his family and friends was key in his recovery and in his wife, he’d found the perfect one for him. I know how he feels.
I’ve even started to fill the hole left by a lack of training, signing up to try a session at the Awesome Choir of Rock in Huddersfield – who doesn’t like the idea of singing choral versions of Iron Maiden and Whitesnake? Gives me an excuse to buy some leather trousers if nothing else.
I can’t lie, I’m still worried about the results which will come at the end of the month, but I’m thinking much more about life post-transplant and after cancer – what if it has worked? Well that really isn’t a cause for worry, it’s a reason to have a party.
Thanks to Dr Will-I-Am for setting me straight. Thanks to Claire for giving me a focus. Thanks to Alison for renewing my fight and motivation. This will not beat us.
Lance Armstrong - It’s not about the bike: My journey back to life is well worth a read if you’re looking for sheer bloody minded determination and ignore the bits about winning Le Tour
http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/30067565 will take you to the Stiliyan Petrov Story which will make you smile
If you’re interested in leather trousers, do your own research.
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