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Cancer: A Battle, Not A Sprint

So, it has been an extraordinarily interesting couple of weeks in the life and times of yours truly. I have had the unique joy of performing live at the Glee club in Birmingham in front of 500 people, along with another 29 brave souls, who like me, overcame the nerves and natural apprehension of performing our own stand up comedy routine in front of a live audience, and delivered our five minute routines, in the hope that people would find it funny.

The truth is, that you honestly do not know if you are going to be funny or not until you deliver on stage with nowhere to hide. It is a great character building exercise, and in truth, it does test your mettle. So, in hindsight, it was an amazing experience and I was truly humbled by the support of family and friends and the comedic community that underwent 8 weeks of training with the legend that is James Cook, the professional comedian who trained us to perform.

In fairness, the 8 weeks of training proved to be a great distraction against the ongoing chemotherapy and general cancer treatment. However, after the show was over, I had a CT scan after a total of 15 chemotherapy treatments starting in November last year. The scan would show if the cancer had spread or not, of course my hope was that the result would be positive, but, and this is the point with cancer, you just never know. You might feel great and all that goes with it, but you just don't know what those pesky cancerous cells are going to do.

It is in truth a lottery that you just hope that you win, so when I finally walked into the doctors office to await my fate today, I just did not know what the outcome was going to be. However, luckily for me the result was positive, the cancer had not spread and frankly, against all the odds, I was for now remarkably lucky as the CT scan indicated that the cancer cells had not spread into other areas like lungs or liver; that would have been a game changer.

Usually, in cases like mine of a late diagnosed tumour that has grown so large that it actually bursts through the bowel wall, nine times out of ten it then spreads through the lymph nodes into other parts of the body. As the doctor said to me, a large tumour is bad enough but if its contained then survival chances are stronger; however, when it starts to spread that’s when you're in big trouble and truly it is down to the Gods to decide your fate.

So, I am a very lucky man although this is still very early days, with bowel cancer the chances of re-occurrence are high for 3 years, so I have to have a regular series of blood tests, CT scans and other not so pleasant tests to identify if the cancer returns so it can be identified early and hopefully treated by surgery or whatever other recovery process is needed to ensure longevity.

I have nothing but profound respect for all the NHS staff that have cared and to date cured me thus far. My journey has been incredible. I have genuinely seen the best of people, from the angels at the NHS, to my family and friends from all over. However, without my Yvi I would never have made it, and I fear I would not be alive now without her and all the other great people who have guided me on this journey. It is not by any means at an end but I’m delighted that I’m still here and I live every day to the full as the gift of life is too precious to waste.

Trust me, when you have almost lost your life, you genuinely get to appreciate how valuable every day is and why you need to live it to the full. And why love, compassion and kindness are so important.


Sensei Austin Birks

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