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The Sheer Joy Of Getting Back To Training In Karate When Living With Cancer

So, it is exactly 8 weeks and two days since I had my operation at the Priory hospital. It is 2:45am and try as I might, I cannot sleep. To be fair, this has been an ongoing issue since cancer and I got together. Which is now amazingly 2 and half years ago. It was very early in 2018 that I noticed a change in what are called “bowel habits”. In that time, I have been on a rollercoaster to be quite honest, and still am. Although not at any theme parks, because like everything else in life, they are all closed to the public.


From emergency surgery on September 12th 2018, where a very large tumour was removed, followed by 2 weeks in a cancer ward, slowly recovering, and learning to live with a stoma bag, and being a cancer patient. I moved on and 12 doses of chemo later, in July 2019, against all the odds, a CT scan shows the cancer has gone. Frankly miraculous to be honest. Then in October, another CT scan shows the cancer is back and I am given a very nasty prognosis. My time is suddenly very limited. A tough pill to swallow.


Ten frankly very tough and brutal bouts of chemo later, new hope arrives, and I am scheduled to have a potentially game-changing operation. Sadly, the day before the operation was due, the 22nd of March at 17.30, I get a phone call telling me that all the ICU beds are taken with coronavirus patients. My only chance now is to pay for the operation which was hideously expensive. But what price do you put on your life? So a week later, I have a five and a half hour operation at the Priory hospital in Birmingham.

Three cancers are removed, then a chemotherapy treatment called HIPEC is applied. My recovery in hospital is rapid. I was due to be in hospital for 12 days; after 6 I am deemed fit to return home, with 46 stitches and as one of the 2 amazing surgeons who performed the operation told me: I had been fitted like a fish, so recovery is slow.


I could not do anything physical for some weeks, but bit by bit I get stronger, and as soon as I can I start training, initially on a stepper brought when the lockdown started. After 6 weeks, I am training every day doing an hour on the stepper, and gently practise stretching. So, six days ago, I decided to practise kata in my garden. As I am on lockdown and highly vulnerable to contracting coronavirus, obviously I cannot go anywhere else. I decided on day 1 to do The Heian kata, day 2, the Shodan kata, day 3 Nidan, day 4 Yondan, and yesterday, day 5, Godan.


Each day I extended my stretching routine, and continued after my Karate training to do an hour on the stepper, so yesterday, Sunday, I completed the last 5 senior kata. What was interesting was how each day, I noticed small improvements, deeper stances, better hip rotation, slight increase in speed and power. Frankly, very small steps but keeping the discipline of training every day, and each day forcing myself to improve, if I could.


So, what next, well my next challenge is to try what I am going to call the 26 kata day challenge, where, I will aim to complete all 26 of the Shotokan kata every day for 7 continuous days. A tough ask but a worthy one. This week, I start chemo for 3 months, with a blood test tomorrow and chemo on Wednesday. That is fine, I have always continued to train during chemo, and refuse point blank to let cancer stop me.


I do not know if my operation worked and if I am cancer free. Of course, I hope and pray that it did, but I will not find out until I have a CT scan, post chemo, in September. But, and this is the key point, surviving this awful illness and indeed living this lockdown life that we all do at the moment, requires having goals and challenges. Mine is to attempt my 6th Dan, at a point in the future, so giving myself tough tests is all part of that, as it is a hard exam to pass, and so it should be, or else what does it mean?


I enclose a video taken yesterday doing the kata Chinte. If it looks like I appear to have put on weight on the left hand side only of my stomach, it is in fact my stoma bag, making a guest appearance.


A key part of my motivation were the immortal words of my Sensei, Shihan Cyril Cummins, who said once in a video that Yvi made, that he admired people who try, much more than those who had natural ability. It was the effort and sincerity that they showed that really stood out to him. I was one of those Karate students who never stood out, was not blessed with star quality, I simply never gave up, and I never gave in.


And amazingly, down to his guidance and support, I ended up finding myself a 5th Dan. To be honest, if I can do it, then so can anyone else who puts their mind to it, you just need to want it enough.


Keep safe and well my dear friends.


Oss!


Austin