Karate, me and cancer part 3

Now to be honest, I have not really been a fan of Big Brother, although if I am honest, I did back in 1066 when it began use to watch it. I lived in a different world then -my job, my home, my life, were, it’s fair to say very different. Good in many ways but like everything, things just change. That is how it is, I can think straight away of some life-changing instant changes. One being made redundant in an office in Paddington station by a rather nasty HR woman who hated English people. She quietly said you are no longer needed and have no more value to the business. That was 20 years of my life that she extinguished in the blink of an eye without any compassion. Taught me a lesson, I can tell you.

I suppose next was a phone call at 8:45 on a Friday night from my lovely mum, back in 2003 to say that my dad had had a massive heart attack and was in the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford, how soon could I get there? "Quite soon." was the answer although I have to admit that before I left I scoffed a quick portion of Captain Birdseye fish fingers and Tesco’s finest chips down my fat neck, working on the assumption that I was no good to man nor beast unless I was fully functioning.

So, just where on the larger scale of everything was the call from my friend Mike, the surgeon, to tell me that I had a tumor on my belly and I had to get my backside straight down to hospital. Well, and here is the funny thing, if I’m really honest it did not actually register as being that important at all. No idea why. If the truth be told it just had to be dealt with not unlike ingrowing toenails which I had as a kid and frankly hurt like hell. This was unknown territory and therefore quite rightly no point in getting bothered about it, just pop down and get it sorted, so I did.

Ignorance, it is said, is indeed bliss. Well, let me tell you that I have to agree, as for me, my journey with cancer has been overall pretty good. I don’t mean that glibly because any life without it is without doubt better. What I am trying to say, albeit badly, is that since being diagnosed, I have seen the best of people and kindness and the generosity of the human spirit. It is truly a strange and weird journey to be on, but I am on it and I intend whilst I can to share all of it with any poor soul who ends up reading this blog.

This week I did two really good things. I went to my first ever Tai Chi lesson on Monday and yesterday I went back to my own dojo in my Karate gi and I taught Shotokan Karate. And I blooming well loved it. The Tai Chi experience was brilliant. After all, it is a martial art that also taps into those rare things called life forces ( Ki in Japan, and Qi in China) and for me it was great. I loved the gentle movement and dare I say it, spiritual healing that Tai Chi offers if you reach for it, which I frankly grabbed with both hands.

Teaching Karate was for me brilliant. How can I describe it? Well easy, I suppose just being back in my spiritual dojo at Bartley Green was medicine enough, and as for being in a gi, standing at the front with my dear friends was medicine enough, but to be teaching was great. My enthusiasm was as ever somewhat overzealous so when I was told to chill out, I did what was asked, and was told to relax and stop doing Karate. Indeed, to make life easier, they kindly produced a chair that allowed me to traverse the dojo floor at speed, barking commands. It reminded me of when I was a child watching Doctor Who, where the chief Dalek whose name escapes me used to buzz around in his modified chair, sadly for him the Stannah chair lift had not then be invented, this prevented him was going upstairs, or indeed up trees. This was great news for the British Army, as I recall as an 8-year-old, as the Brigadier in charge simply used to order his men up trees where said hapless Darleks were dispatched to Darlek Valhallah.

Anyway, going back to this particular journey, I wanted to share with you my dear chums what it’s like having the old cancer for some 5 and a bit weeks since being diagnosed and operated on. Where to start. Well, I suppose the honeymoon period has been and gone, I’ve been through lots of experiences but if you asked me what is the worst thing about having cancer I will tell you.

Firstly, the worst thing has been insomnia. I have never had it before, and now I have had it for three weeks, there is nothing good about it. Just when you think that the goddess of sleep will visit, all of a sudden I get this extraordinary energy that just seems to emerge from my hands and feet. It’s awful, my brain wants sleep, but my body is off to perform Riverdance. Truly there is nothing good about this. As for me, I do my best at Riverdance but I inevitably fall back on truly crap 4am TV. Walker Texas Ranger is about as good as it gets but after that finishes, Hulk Hogan appears in some God forsaken nonsense with a speedboat. In fairness, I have to respect the creative genius who decided to combine a speedboat with WWE wrestling week after week. Seriously, if I think really hard I might think of one episode but dear Lord above, they have week after week of it.

People say that life has a honeymoon period, I think if I’m truly honest I have reached that point very recently. The cancer journey has recently got a bit more serious, not in a bad way, but I have now two seriously good guys who were my cancer consultants. When Yvi and I met them, we were really reassured. But, the simple truth is that cancer kills people, and I made that big mistake of watching a really good documentary on Channel 5, it was all about 3 really good and young people who kept video diaries of their fight with cancer. It was great TV, but sadly they all died.

And that’s the thing, this stuff kills people. All very random, but I genuinely believe that the more positive you keep, mentally, physically, and more important spiritually the better. Your chance of survival, as Gloria Gaynor once said I will survive, and I damn well intend to be that survivor.

Austin, cancer patient, Tai Chi novice and chair mobile Karate Sensei