Chapter 2 – An Exact Diagnosis then Skiing Mindful of the Dead

Sunset from the Snow Farm cross country ski area, Cardrona, New Zealand

The Morning After Surgery:

The anesthetic did not knock me around, and this still surprises me. A bonus to be grateful for! Technology marches on!

The next morning I decided I was well enough to travel home, and buy a new camera! The rationale was simple: I needed a reward! And of course I was thinking, “well if I die soon, I may as well enjoy myself by being creative”. A positive option was, “okay I’ll do this with the idea in mind that I’m going to get well”. Either way I saw it as a win/win situation.

Winter on Hawkdun Mountains, Maniototo, Central Otago, New Zealand

My first image with the new camera! Symbolic of Hope. Which of course changes as we age. It can help ward off or reduce anxiety, trauma, and depression. Having hope for the future helps build our resilience, and our ability to get through tough times.

< The Hawkdun Mountains that form the northern border of the rather vast Maniototo – leading into Central Otago.

Time Line of This Chapter:

  • A reward
  • The surgeon’s instructions
  • Finally I ski some trails, aware of two universes. Ghosts even.
  • Multitudes of diverse feelings
  • Annoying aches
  • To many decisions needing speedy resolution (or so I thought)
The mountains of Wanaka New Zealand

It is a truism that surgery in the likes of cancer will buy time. I was to learn later though, that I’d have a bit more of it than I thought.

The surgeon’s instructions were very specific: I was not to move around during recovery. Even around the house for one month-no short walks and no activity, period!

Any exercise could cause lymphatic liquid to pool/leak into surrounding tissue. There is a medical name for this, but the point being if this were to happen the patient would need a bag. As in like a colostomy bag, to drain it.

All I could do for the month was look at the snow on the nearby mountains (as above). And at least look forward to being in them – soon, if I was a patient patient! And well looked after by Robyn, who kept me honest whenever I got restless for exercise.

The Snow Farm cross country skiing area, Cardrona Valley, New Zealand

Snow wise, New Zealand winters are quite short. As the initial doctor’s visit, fine-needle biopsies, and surgery in Dunedin took a few weeks. I felt time was running out to recommence cross country skiing for the season.

The only area in the country, with easy access, is only 40 minutes drive away. So as soon as my month of forced inactivity was over, with nothing bad happening, I was off “up the hill”.

Paradise Ducks. The Snow Farm cross country skiing area, Cardrona Valley, New Zealand

I only had one decision to make: to ski or not to ski. Walking around on foot could mean I would put my foot in a hole hidden by the snow, and do damage to my small wound. This would not be likely with skis on but I could still fall. I opted for walking only. To make sure I even left my skis and boots back home.

It’s a very peaceful place – the local ducks are never frightened away!

Sun dog at the Snow Farm cross country skiing area, Cardrona Valley, New Zealand

The parking area at the Snow Farm, in the Cardrona Valley, is on the other side of this building,. When I was hobbling from my truck one of my friends saw me from up on a deck by the café, and said something like: “get a move on”.

When we meet a few minutes later I told him I’d recently had surgery. He immediately replied by asking, “prostate cancer?”. Well, no I said, and gave a brief explanation.

Patterns on the snow at The Snow Farm cross country skiing area, Cardrona Valley, New Zealand

His story was that he had been through the mill about 18 months previous with his cancer. Seeing him looking so fit and healthy was very encouraging. Right at the time I needed it!

I then remembered that there were others who’d skied here, and had cancer. But never “made it”. The dark side of my humour then rose to the surface, and I realised I was not going to meet the dead ones!

Cross country ski race, The Merino Muster. At The Snow Farm cross country skiing area, Cardrona Valley, New Zealand.

By the end of the season I was blessed to find I was skiing about OK, all over the place. I did not enter the annual Merino Muster race though. And more specifically I did not help out doing marshaling, like other years. I’d become very aware of the importance of looking after myself in regards to energy levels and warmth etc. So I just did a few hundred images.

These racers, pretty much all from overseas, are the leaders into 42 Km,. They’re of World Cup/ Winter Olympic class. As such very inspiring. They’ll usually average 20km/hr over that distance too.

Fence and wind sculpted snow at The Snow Farm cross country skiing area, Cardrona Valley, New Zealand

How did I feel:

So far, so good! A positive surgery outcome was a great boost, and a good feeling to have.

But what under-scored this was a sense that time was running out. With a distinct feeling of a need for speed! Understandable because of the wonderful and prompt action from our health system.

During the mandatory month of rest afterwards I came to realise that there was a lot to do. Many people would not want to leave this world without making plans for one’s family, for example.

The obvious being a Will. But there are many little things such as noting down passwords, and where to find all manner of things. This all felt stressful.

I also started to mull over the possible causes of the disease. My wonderful local doctor, knowing me well, anticipated this. He suggested it could be random. Never-the-less I started putting an increasing amount of thought energy into this. Now looking back I do have a valid theory worth exploring. But more on this later. In the meantime, and not voiced to my doctor was, “OK I could consider the cause to be random. But this does not mean my reaction should be!” Looking back I now realise this attitude was a turning point!

Grief! Good grief! Loosing one’s health is a loss I’d not anticipated. Straight away those feelings started to manifest. Arrival of grief can be subtle, or sometimes not. My experience was the former. But it is good to realise this and how it might play out.

Lastly I felt a need to be less cloistered by support. I wanted to be alone more. As fitting my nature; to handle many aspects solo. There is a time and a place for everything. Each individual to us all.

Night full moon ski tour at The Snow Farm cross country skiing area, Cardrona Valley, New Zealand

Towards the end of the 2017 Austral winter my fitness returned in leaps and bounds. I was even able to indulge my favourite pastime of a solo ski tour under a full moon. My body (and mind) loved not having to support a tumour!
And the new camera proved to be “winter friendly”

Technical Stuff:

After surgery I was well and truly inducted into our health system. I was beginning to realise I was being treated like royalty.

🔎 The examination of my extracted tumor in my groin took awhile. And then I was duly summoned to Dunedin to the oncology/hematology department. Where all was revealed.

Meanwhile back home I was becoming used to a constant “aching”, in my lymphatic system. Which extends from the groin area to the neck/head. Unlike our blood circulatory system, this system does not have a pump. I was starting to realise that exercise of the upper body would serve me well.

Decisions I thought I had to make at the time:

As mentioned in Chapter One. An on-going source of anxiety was who to tell!

First off was when to reveal all to my son. As it turned out he found out by accident. Serendipity made a showing when he met Robyn on the street in Dunedin. When she had dropped me off for my first fine needle biopsy.

Sooner rather than later though, I got sick of my own story!

An earlier question was: Should I fight the disease like a battle or not?

Well! I decided early on to not make it a fight. My Dr. noted that in his patients over many years he’d noted those who adopt a measure of acceptance, tend to do better. The road I chose was “non passive acceptance”. A play on words!

If someone were to ask my advice on the benefits of fighting (which has happened), I’d now answer by saying, “OK, but… it could be wise to decide how much energy you should expend”.

I get annoyed when on radio or TV news that announcer says, “So-and-so died of cancer after a long battle“. This is not a good message! It’s a habit thing; for far too long the word cancer has been synonymous with impending death. And it ain’t so – there are hundreds, if not thousands, of different types. Modern science, thinking and technology make remission very possible.

This highlights the problem of lumping a vast variety of cancers together in one prognosis where as  cancers can be very very different beasts. There are so many old beliefs about cancer that are cemented by our society deep into our psychi/brain…things like cancer kills, got to chop it out, …beliefs that are flawed because of the way medical science is now playing god”

Dr Jim Vause – GP emeritus

The word cancer should be banned from the dictionary”

Brian Miller – publisher author www.lifelogs.co.nz  Dunedin

As a disease wears us down, it can pay to consider how our thoughts affect our immune system!

Summation – my “take home” points at the time:

  • Practice self rewards and gratitude – that we can do this is fuel for gratitude!
  • Practice Hope!
  • Follow instructions from medical professionals
  • Moderate feelings of having to rush – honour resting.
  • Be reassured, others have gone before us.


If you landed on a single post instead of the Home Page which is arranged like the chapters in a book, then click here please to go to the start >>

BTW current state of health, as of April 2021, is pretty good!

The next post/chapter will be titled something like, “My first of many meetings with an oncologist”

If you would like an email notification for new posts coming up (at least a doz. planned), then please leave your details here

The content presented on the site is in no way intended as medical advice. Or as a substitute for medical treatment. Guidance from your doctor or other health care professional should always be sought. Be involved with them on all levels.

Chapter 3 – Treatment options to the forefront

Merino sheep, Cardrona Valley, New Zealand
Ice bow and fence at the Snow Farm, Cardrona, New Zealand

Returning to one of my passions:

Post the surgery, to remove the tumor in my groin, there was a month long period of inactivity and recovery. Some of that time I knew I was adjusting to a new paradigm. Trouble was I had very few ideas what it was. More work was in order! After a month though I jumped straight into my favourite winter activity. Cross country skiing is an excellent way to strengthen physical fitness. Which of course makes it harder to hold negative thoughts. They’re simply omitted as chemicals consistent with joy and well-being flood our system.

Time Line of This Chapter:

  • Recovery from surgery – passive nothingness
  • Active recovery from surgery to engaging the season and environment – enhancing mental attitudes
  • Call to adventure – destiny summons us. To a zone unknown (well actually just messing about on snow for now)
  • A surreal opening to another. A sometimes personal, sometimes benign energy everywhere that supports our journeys.
  • Bucket list stuff.
  • Feelings – one of the mob.
  • Amulets against the dragon forces – books/mentors etc.
  • The all-powerful, all encompassing entry to recovery. First sit-down, with a registrar oncologist – Dunedin Hospital based.
  • Naming something rare, with a need for speed
  • Another amulet – a cell phone number.
  • Oncology counseling referral (Dunstan Hospital in Clyde – one hour drive away).
  • What not to do!
  • A series of tests/decisions/tasks to be grappled with
  • Road blocks that delay visits to doctors
The Snow Farm, New Zealand

At first I skied near the Lodge at the Snow Farm, Cardrona, New Zealand. After all I had a new camera to come to terms with.

Snow Farm River Run

Pretty soon I was able to go further afield. My favourite tour is the River Run, down to the headwaters of the Meg river.

On the Cromwell to Queenstown road you’ll find the Meg enters the Kawarau Gorge. This is right by the car park at the Roaring Meg power station. The Gorge is a tributary of the Clutha River.

Coaching at the Snow Farm, New Zealand

My sense of normality was being restored! I can’t recall if I’d told any of my skiing buddies what was going on. And I was learning that social contact is a proven path to a healthy life. Along with exercise!

Bob Lee Hut

Pretty soon my body, the moon and the weather transpired to lure me into a little adventure – a full moon ski tour.

I like to arrive as the sun is setting and do some photos. Then eat a sort of evening version of lunch, and prepare for my return in the darkness. The light of the moon (here rising) being my guide.

Skiddo at the Snow Farm, Cardrona, New Zealand

But quite a telling thing happened on the way to Bob Lee. One of my friends who works at the area was driving by on a skiddo, and she stopped.

She had noticed my changed energy or demeanour, and asked me what was wrong.

So there I was blurting out the whole story, or at best a shortened version. On reflection the disclosure in a surreal setting was quite a help in gaining perspective.

The Dart River in Mt Aspiring National
Park. Entering Lake Wakatipu.

All to soon the snow was “played out”. As spring decided to appear I traveled all over the place in the lower South Island.

I was entertaining a bucket list!

Martyr Saddle. Where there is a viewpoint overlooking the Cascade Valley. South Westland
A World Heritage site

How did I feel:

Like one of the mob dispossessed of health!

Which means the loss of health will trigger grief – over the loss of same

Very vulnerable, but with a growing sense of calm. With an inclination to not “buy into” anything. An empty vessel!

And that I could achieve the above by filing all incoming information as provisional. Being opinionated does not engender a sense of contentment. Which of course is an opinion!

When we’re open to serendipity this is what can happen:

While working for the Dept of Conservation/NZ Alpine Club at Aspiring Hut. In the National Park of the same name, I met a couple of lovely families. They had a great holiday in some good weather. One of them made the journey in by electric wheel chair, which he’d designed himself. On both counts a huge achievement!

We became FaceBook friends later. Since I post lots of images on that platform he noticed one, and asked if I’d supply a copy as a cover for a new book coming out. I was happy to donate it.

Then one day, right in the middle of the above discussed changes in my life, a “thank you” copy arrived. It was uplifting to say the least. It was very useful to read about how others dealt with big changes and challenges regards health. Published by the NZ Spinal Trust

The Art of Recovery is a very worth-while read >>

House Keeping Stuff with a Technical Flavour:

🔎 Summoned to Dunedin Hospital in the spring time 2017, I met with a registrar (newcomer in training).

I was hosting mantle cell lymphoma. Quite rare and non Hodgkins (I would have preferred the less severe plain Hodgkins). I was Stage 4A and to “curtain time” was 37 months. I felt for the messenger!

A first brief (due to him learning I presume) discussion consisted of two treatment options. Along with paper intense documentation. I still sensed a need for speed.

The first paper being a pretty heavy-duty Nordic Protocol. (the connection to my cross country skiing amused me). The second a milder option. The former meant I would have to spend a few nights in hospital every 28 day cycle. This freaked me out, and more on why later.

A very experienced nurse was present. At the end of our meeting she gave me her cell phone number. We agreed on text messaging, and it was OK at any time for me to seek support. “Wonderful”, I thought!

Having a caring and loving line of communication gives a strong signal. When we know others care, it equates to a better chance of healing!

Oh, and I was advised to refrain from Googling my flavour of disease. Very wise advice! Before long I was furnished with appropriate URL’s linked to well balanced and appropriate information.

What not to do:

I’m reminded at this moment to write about something very important. My wonderful local doctor mentioned it a couple of times:

We get a diagnosis, and with the best of specialist help, we construct a plan of action. e.g lifestyle or dietary changes.

And off we go, making what can be for many, mammoth adjustments! But despite this, the disease progresses.

The trick then is to avoid at all costs thinking that we’ve not honored our resolve well enough! And we beat ourselves up.

Never forget that our thoughts influence our immune system!

Decisions I decided to make:

I started meditation. Mindful that for many years athletes have used visualisation techniques to great advantage. It’s a big topic to imagine winning, or finishing! And one I’ll write more about later.

At this point though, there were too many decisions! Time seemed “of the essence”. The idea seemed to be to get ready for a rough ride. To either get well, or otherwise.

One item headed the list: how to handle many possible nights in hospital during treatment. (If I choose the more intense one on offer)!?

You see up until age about 9 years, I spent an extraordinary amount of time in hospital. For reasons still unknown.

Although I don’t have any personal photos of this time in Oamaru Hospital, I did find this on the North Otago Museum FaceBook page. It sums up how it was, and I’ll swear I once played with the toy on the left. And the faces trigger some hazy memories! Not all bad, but confusing. Dropped off literally at the door amongst strangers by parents, rigid visiting hours, scary smelly unknown stuff all about, and I was trapped!

Back then this amounted to an unsettling sense of abandonment. That it was from very loving parents was very confusing (and can cause dissociation). The experience also often involved sharing a room of four beds with older men. One was there for a quick surgery. One for a few days to establish a diagnosis, and one to die. Even as a wee kid it was obvious which was which!

The sense of this establishing a victim mentality was something I’d not bought into, a long time ago. The experience(s) have made me who I am, and for this I am grateful. And no one has had a perfect childhood anyway! Mine was pretty damn good too, compared to many.

So I decided some counseling would be a good idea. So I txt’d my new nurse and asked for some local recommendations. Her reply, “I don’t know of anyone in Wanaka, but we can do that. I’ll organise a referral – I think there is someone at Dunstan Hospital” (an hour’s drive away for me). And in due course I soon found myself getting the help and insights I needed.

Looking back this decision was the best one I made during this very rushed period. And it triggered a very deep sense of appreciation. Out of which flowed self 💗 and the very seeds of a few possible ideas.

Pushing through mentally – Good or Bad?

Careys Hut in winter.

Several weeks before my diagnosis I did a trip to Mavora Lakes, in northern Southland, with a very close friend, and we did a day long mountain bike trip.

It was a very tough trip for me – I had to dig deep coming back especially.

I put the experience down to age. I was wrong!

The track was very muddy and wet

I had the profound insight later that non physical outdoors people may put their hand up much sooner than I had, if they don’t feel 100%. And get a doctor’s appointment sooner rather than later. As opposed to myself gritting my teeth and pushing through with my mind.

My outdoor experience had worked against me. It’d cost me valuable time in this story! The practice of engaging peace and stamina with the mind did work in my favour later though.

Summation – my “take home” points at the time:

  • Follow your passion -whatever it happens to be.
  • Unloading to an empathetic other is OK – choose wisely.
  • Bucket lists are good fun (see passion above).
  • Acknowledge grief – let it work itself out. Fighting it seems very un-cunning.
  • Over Googling, read good books for ideas and inspiration – they usually have professional editors!
  • Ease into treatment options. Treating them in a provisional manner can be calming.
  • Don’t be hard on “self” if the disease progresses, in spite of hard won changes to lifestyle/beliefs.
  • Seek counseling, if going down this road resonates.
  • As we age get regular health checks. Mention oddities that once we would have ignored, or put down to aging.

If you landed on a single post instead of the Home Page then this blog is arranged like the chapters in a book, so click here please >>

BTW current state of health, as of June 2021, is pretty good!

The next post/chapter will be titled something like, “Let’s Wait and Watch”

If you would like an email notification for new posts coming up (at least a doz. planned), then please leave your details here

The content presented on the site is in no way intended as medical advice. Or as a substitute for medical treatment. Guidance from your doctor or other health care professional should always be sought. Be involved with them on all levels.

All photos on this site are my own. With the very odd exception, and attribution is acknowledged on them where possible. To see/ purchase photos from my wanderings, they’re at PicFair >>

Chapter 4 – Rush, rush, and Wait

We rush, rush and wait. And then if gifted “wait and watch”, we could choose scarcity and bankruptcy of the soul, as the years thunder by. Devoid of hope. But if we “see” a road to abundance of spirit, which would you take?
Meadow Hut, Snow Farm cross ski area, New Zealand

Anniversary Time:

Several weeks ago in August this year 2021, I celebrated four years on this journey. As it turned out, it’s been as much about mental health and well being, as it has been about the physical aspects of cancer.

Time Line of This Chapter:

This is where the chronological style of this tale now deviates briefly into about four years of reflection. And what manifested!

  • Celebrating four winters of cross country skiing, (while dealing with the Unknown for the first three).
  • Reviewing the above mentioned winters 2017 through to 2021 – each an anniversary of sorts.
  • Looking down is not cool
  • Finding assurance while being photographed.
  • Meeting my oncologist, and nurse for the journey
  • Art in hospitals
  • Introduction to the art of diagnosis and my first “clinic”
  • Urgency… what urgency! A change of pace, and it’s challenges
  • Rushing then Waiting and Watching
  • Back to the drawing board and the gift of time

The journey into the metaphysical begins…

  • The role of creativity – recommended read. And a dive into art…
  • Attitudes to explore
  • On going decisions
  • Some church humor
Snow Farm cross ski area, New Zealand

My favourite winter place/activity, is the Snow Farm cross country skiing area. It’s in the nearby Cardrona Valley, and has been at the center almost, of each pivotal stage of my cancer journey.

The Snow Farm has been a 20 year love affair. Great snow, learning new skills, mountains, and especially there is a nurturing component. Mountains gift me this! Hanging out with the same people every winter is very special as well.

Reflections on the theme of each winter since 2017…

Snow Farm cross ski area, New Zealand

2017: It was in the car park four years ago, that I phoned my local doctor for my first appointment. A lump in my groin being the motivation!

Then that same winter the place where I came to terms with mortality. As I worked at regaining my mountain mojo post surgery.

Flags, Snow Farm cross ski area, New Zealand

2018: I toured about less with less energy than normal. Enjoying my usual catch up with friends of various nationalities was on track though. This winter became the time to see what I could handle during waiting and watching.

The disease seemed to be taking hold though!

2019: it was “game on”. Orchestrated to perfection! What better time than early winter to begin treatment. The whole of the ski area became my place of refuge and escapism. I experimented with what was possible during treatment. I skied about four days out of every seven. Weather permitting of course, and between monthly visits to Dunedin.

Please don’t get the idea I was pushing myself a lot during treatment. I’d decided on the exact opposite. I’ve seen other people’s attempts to do what they’ve always done. And noted they end up looking like death warmed up. Being blown over by the merest breeze, came to mind. No, I listened to my body.

I recommend never going far without a break. Eating well, honoring hydration and keeping warm, must be priorities. Be grateful honoring the body, and especially morale!

Ski tracks, grooming, Snow Farm cross ski area, New Zealand

Mary, one of my good friends noted that I spent a lot of time looking at my ski tips while skiing (or rather shuffling under the influence of treatments).

This has never been good for balance. Try walking and balancing on a single railway line, while looking at your feet!

I was very grateful for her observations. From then on I endeavored to look into the middle distance. At where I wanted to go to!

Full moon, Snow Farm cross ski area, New Zealand
Moonlight on the Snow Farm, New Zealand

2020: was all about seeing what I could do. Treatments continued but in a milder form. Timing of trips to Dunedin Hospital, and snow/weather conditions were in conflict. I missed the best of the skiing. Except for a full-moon solo ski tour in Sept.

The Lodge, Snow Farm cross ski area, New Zealand
Close friends!

2021: This winter past. A time of celebration. I went for it early!

“Good thinking” I thought. As NZ’s second covid lockdown occurred. Exactly when the snow conditions were perfect. Groan! Wanaka skiers (and businesses) went into mourning!

Sunset on snow. Snow Farm cross ski area, New Zealand

A few weeks later when I met Mary again we had time to talk. I brought up the topic of how while skiing I was looking down at my feet. I made the comment that during the treatment time I’d realised I did not want to look very far into the future!

Now it’s time to continue the story chronologically…

At times I do a lot of photography trips with a very close doctor friend in Invercargill. For sometime he’d expressed an interest in doing my portrait.

The restored Arrowtown Police Hut, built in 1863.

He rang me a few days before I was due to visit the oncology unit in Dunedin again in 2017. My first clinic was pending with the specialist oncologist who was going to look after me. He suggested we meet for the day in Arrowtown’s historic Chinese gold mining area. An hour’s drive away.

< The restored Arrowtown Police Hut, built in 1863. It is a couple of minutes walk from the Chinese settlement buildings

I had a good chuckle at his suggestion, and accused him of hurrying it up, before my hair fell out. There was every possibility that chemo treatment was pending.

Well we met on the appointed day, and had a good session. Afterwards over a coffee nearby he looked me in eye, and after a well timed delay said, “you’re going to be OK”. This coming from a very experienced physician meant the world to me. And I realised I was on the road to learning about the multi faceted art and science of diagnosing.

Dunedin from Flagstaff

Two days later I was on my way to Dunedin. To find out what was in store for me, in regards to my upcoming treatment options.

It was to be the first of many clinics with my lovely oncologist (I thought of them as meetings until I knew better!). Things were about to get real!

How did I feel during my first REAL clinic:

The Crossing of the First Threshold! The realisation dawned; everything up to this point had been a fulfillment of preliminaries.

The waiting room was something else, e.g. there were about a doz. distraught looking people coming and going over 20 minutes or so. It must have been my timing on the day, but I seemed to be the only well and fit person present. Relative to the occasion! Or was it that I was having a “poor me/why me, when I’ve lived well” moment. Either way I banished that thought. But there was a lot of evidence of obesity.

The admin team were so welcoming. I felt like royalty – a red carpet rolled out feeling. They were very “present”!

My oncologist appeared smiling, from around a kink in the corridor. While walking down it 20 meters to her office I knew I was in the best of hands. Refinement of my diagnosis was in the air. Starting with my gait and general demeanor. Up until this moment it had been only in digital form hearsay for her.

A deep questioning regime followed as soon as I took a seat in her office. My cell phone accessible nurse was present too. The more the merrier for now, I thought – it’s easy to miss stuff in the heat of a (first clinic) moment.

I felt totally acknowledged and listened to. And looked after!

Waiting rooms and art

Dunedin Hospital is blessed with stunning art. These stained glass examples are in the eye department. Sadly I’ve no idea of the artist’s name.

It is a very powerful concept. Especially for those waiting, getting treatment, recovering, or dying! Subliminal too! Healing is not linear!

I love their philosophy of treating the patient’s personas; spiritual, emotional and physical! And of course, lets not forget the other visitors, such as family and loved ones. People waiting for news and giving love and support. A positive environment is of benefit to all!

via a Google hunt for researcher Roger Ulrich >>>

The British Medical Journal says, “Art is able to provide solace, exhilaration, and satisfaction in a huge variety of
different forms. Above all it is able to humanize a building, infusing an often soulless and impersonal environment
with affirmation…many critical moments in our lives occur there—from birth through to death—and they ought to
take place in surroundings which honor their true significance.”

The effect of the art resonated with my beginnings of a plan. A several points path to wellness (see below)!

The nitty gritty of my first clinic:

🔬 As mentioned above I was under a new microscope!

I had my story prepared. I’d been texting my nurse that I was seasonally engaged cross country skiing. There was a hint of fitness inherent. I got to speak of my fun time follies.

When the words had landed and the snow flakes settled. Then it was time to listen to MY specialist.

“Why would I recommend an immediate start. It would involve putting poisonous chemicals in your body”, she said. “Lets wait and watch”. That was my understanding of the conversation!

Knowing of the pressure drug companies can exert, I felt relieved and delighted with her advice. Research into lifestyle/alternative treatments is slow. There is no money in it for them.

A new concept dawned. My disease might be one I die with, rather than of!

And it was at this clinic when she first said, “The Power of the Mind…”. In a voice that got my attention. It was an open statement, with a tone of fact. Something worthy of detailed examination.

I was on my way! 💗

The concept however of suddenly going from a sense of urgency (for treatment, and/or tidying up one’s affairs) happens in various fields. Rush, rush, rush, and then wait was no stranger…

Whenever aircraft are used in mountains for dropping off, picking up, or re-supply, it is very common…

Squirrel helicopter picking up trampers, Otago, New Zealand
A one to two hour wait is on-the-cards in NZ
C130 Hercules, Antarctica
Simply because the weather has to cooperate at the take off point, the destination, and back at the take off point. Over perhaps ten to fourteen hours.
In Antarctica schedule three to ten days!

So back to the drawing board!

That I had time to “wait and watch” surprised me. This led to a whole new level of perception. And so my fledgling plans were waylaid.

I don’t know if it was a coincidence or that my whole energy changed. Within days, I felt deluged by loving advice from various friends, e.g. “Donald you must see so-and-so”. Or do “such-and-such”.

The realisation dawned! Even following a few leads would be beyond my energy and time capabilities.

The gift of time on a cancer journey is precious. This was my second dose – the first being the tumor removal surgery. Taking a long and deep breath I decided on, broadly speaking, three courses of action:

  • Embrace the health system and the science
  • Tend the decision making away from the logical intellectual mind a little bit (more). Take the advice of the professionals, while developing a parallel course towards what was ‘heart-felt”. While never entertaining fear!
  • Keeping the above in mind, construct a plan comprised of about 10 points. And aim for a full ten percent of quality for each.

Creativity was the obvious first candidate (ramp up the power of the mind!). I started thinking, “it’s at about six percent of capacity, so get it up to ten”!

We all of course have more than one creative avenue. But having a head-start I went with photography. (Noting here that this blog also fits!)

Which of course ties in with doing more in the great outdoors! Another point to aim for a full ten percent in.

< My above mentioned doctor friend using my camper Turtle, for his tripod base. Near Poolburn Dam/Reservoir in Central Otago

“Art is the set of wings to carry you out of your own entanglement”
Joseph Campbell (acclaimed mythologist and author).

Meaning that an illness can mean we become entangled with it. Identify with it. Where it becomes our all dominating story.

Recommended Reading…

Very useful and fascinating information for the beginning of my wellness journey! And written only for eBook (as far as I know), in his 80th or so year. Shortly after he passed.

I first came across him as a teenager when he was the subject of a TV doco series. Then more recently, his teachings, on a writing course.

His chapter on art is fascinating. And concepts of mythology can help us predict our future even.

< Available at Apple’s iBook and perhaps for Kindle (no I’m not on a commission!)

The Hero With a Thousand Faces, and The Hero’s Journey, are two of his most well known works.

“Living in the Sacred” is one of my favourite and most intriguing chapters in the above book. He makes some fascinating points about the relationship between art and illusion.

An aspect that works for me, is the first feeling I have when I’m exposed to great art. He describes it well.

You may have experienced it on seeing one of the above photos. It would be great if you have. If you’ve been fortunate enough to spend time in some of the worlds great art galleries I’m sure it’s a certainty.

It will have been a split second long experience. A moment of “arrest” before your mind starts to interpret what you’ve seen, or heard, or felt. It’s the reason we value great art!

A moment where language fails us. In fact it’s not even present!

The useful aspect is that it bypasses ingrained beliefs. It fosters a revealing of reality, divorced from our thinking mind. The awareness moment can be learnt. In an unlearning (of ingrained beliefs).

A sense of tension in the composition may manifest also. And endure even, when we interpret what we see/hear.

Googling a phrase like: “photography + tension + composition”, has not enlightened my understanding. And least of all, how to learn the technique. But no matter – it’s the split second moment that I always want to experience. Not the subsequent tagging.

  • From now on please keep in mind that the below is new territory for me. Work in progress on how to recognise the phenomena, and what to do about it.

There is the flip side though to the “arrest”. I’ve never been prone to hosting anxiety in my persona for a period of time. Yet I do find that I can experience the negative side of an arrest too, for the same split second.

It can be a phone call, or email subject. For example a grumpy client, or an unexpected expense. Or from the other side of love (being fear), and directed at me from a loved one! And I experience scarcity. From anything from 1 second to 60. Every so often for much longer (less and less as I age)

Such brief experiences release chemicals that compromise our immune system. The old flight or fight reaction that we have inherited from our cave days.

Trouble is our modern world often denies us a release of the flight or fight chemicals.

For me nullifying these quick gut reactions is ongoing work. I am blessed to know the value!

RIP! With a sad Sayonara

If we dwell on the above!

I want to be clear here though.

Positivity is no guarantee of survival!

But it is known to make us happier.

< It is easy to stagnate, to feel despair, and become overwhelmed if we dwell on the photo to the left as a outcome of a diagnosis. A near immediate demise, can be how it feels.

We could give up and not bother trying. Despite all the advancements and improvements in our world.

Like being born into royalty we may have been birthed into a tough situation, put ourselves there, or had it thrust on us.

A world where a scarcity based mindset can prevail. If we countenance it.

Good News: We can transform our lives when we decide to focus on gratitude! And make a little changes to develop a sincere trust in life in the future.

We are part of an unfolding story. And we can be the author who determines the point – the end game! Be it one of contentment fused with happiness, or a hero’s journey of adventure. Death could be this even!

It’s not so much being positive. More a change in thinking, where we take wisdom from the past. And bless our future, that it never becomes an angst in our past!

An uptick of self awareness – an engagement of the executive brain that brings balance to the lower reptilian primal urges will serve us well!

This is very important to keep in mind – it is too easy to have an apocalyptic vision of the future. This type of unhealthy fear (unhappy even), be it even of a split second’s worth of residency has consequences! Cortisol is ever-ready to rev us up. Which in turn mobilises an immune response – when there is no need!

An adrenaline deployment is better suited to the surprise company of a grumpy dog with rabies.

The Unknown will probably start out in the guise of fear. Then progress to an uneasy acceptance. It will be your friend once it is welcomed. Then it becomes a place to store processed thoughts, and dreams – letting them go. Once there in the company of infinite probabilities, sooner or later one of them will ultimately slow down in frequency as energy…and come back into three dimensions as matter.

Anyway back to decisions I thought I had to make back in 2017:

How much time daily to devote to examining options, and which to discard. In a daily time-table that now had to feature distinct periods of relaxation.

What should my ten point plan feature?

How to mentally handle waiting and watching!

Lastly perspective born of history can not only teach us valuable lessons. Humor is inherent in everything…

The Serpentine Church, Central Otago, New Zealand

Cost £100. Contributed by the diggers.

The first service is described as follows: “The minister being late the congregation of miners, after waiting for some time, went down to the hotel for refreshments and drank deeply to keep out the keen July air, keener than ever at this altitude.

The service opened with a well-known psalm and an encore was demanded by the congregation. The preacher after expressing very strong disapproval, went on with the service which was however abbreviated”

Not many services were held because of the small number of inhabitants, and the difficulty of access.

It stands at an altitude of 3100 feet – when built the highest church in New Zealand.

Summation – my “take home” points at the time:

  • Seek the company of positive and reassuring friends, over those not so inclined. Continually focusing solely our own levels of positivity maybe the less productive use of those sort of energies.
  • Trust professionals – this frees up energy.
  • Look around at the hospital environment, considering how to engage the potential for wellness that is inherent.
  • Learn how to leverage the power of the mind.
  • Dare to dream! That rushing will slow down. That we can develop a set of wings and enter the (flight) path to wellness.
  • Monitor self thoughts – be an eagle on the shoulder watching, and whispering wisdom in our ear. Or a butterfly! Or a ruru/morepork. Work our imaginations!
  • Look for humor. Find it everywhere, rubbing shoulders with gratitude.

If you landed on a single post instead of the Home Page then this blog is arranged like the chapters in a book, so click here please to reach the start >>

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The content presented on the site is in no way intended as medical advice. Or as a substitute for medical treatment. Guidance from your doctor or other health care professional should always be sought. Be involved with them on all levels.

All photos on this site are my own. With the very odd exception, and attribution is acknowledged on them where possible. To see/ purchase photos from my wanderings, they’re at PicFair >>