Chapter 3 – Treatment options to the forefront

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

Revisiting One of My Passions

After undergoing surgery to remove a tumor in my groin, I had to take a break from my usual routine and focus on recovery. Healing after surgery is best not rushed! During that time, I realized that I was adjusting to a new way of life, but I wasn’t quite sure what that meant. I knew I needed to put in more work to figure it out.

After a month of rest, I was finally able to explore the mental health benefits of winter sports. My favourite: cross-country skiing. Not only is it a great way to improve physical fitness, but it also helps to eliminate negative thoughts by flooding our system with chemicals associated with joy and well-being.

Overall, I’ve found that returning to one of my passions has been instrumental in my healing process. It’s helped me to stay positive and focus on the things that matter most in life.

Time Line of This Chapter:

  • Again winter > springtime > and then into the Austral summer of 2017-18
  • Recovery from surgery – passive nothingness. Or passive passion!?!
  • Active recovery from surgery through 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

Initially, I skied in the vicinity of the Lodge at the Snow Farm in Cardrona, New Zealand, as I was getting used to a new camera I had acquired.

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

As I proceeded to tear up the slopes near the Lodge at the Snow Farm in Cardrona, New Zealand, I could feel a sense of normality being restored. I couldn’t quite remember if I had told any of my skiing buddies about what I had been going through. Nevertheless, I was beginning to appreciate the importance of social contact as a key component of a healthy life, alongside regular exercise.

Bob Lee Hut

Before long, a perfect storm of factors came together to entice me into a little adventure: my body was feeling stronger, the full moon was out, and the weather was just right for a ski tour. I decided to make the most of the opportunity.

I arrived at my favourite Bob Lee hut just as the sun was setting, giving me the chance to take some stunning photos. After that, I enjoyed a late meal and prepared for my journey back in the darkness, guided by the rising moonlight.

Skiddo at the Snow Farm, Cardrona, New Zealand

However, a significant event occurred on my way to Bob Lee. One of my friends who works at the ski area saw me and stopped on her skidoo. She had noticed a change in my energy and demeanor and asked if everything was okay.

Without thinking, I found myself blurting out the whole story – or at least a shortened version of it. Looking back on that surreal moment, I realized that sharing my experience in an unexpected setting was actually quite therapeutic and helped me to process my emotions.

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

All too soon, the snow began to recede as spring arrived. I decided to take advantage of the warmer weather and traveled extensively throughout the lower South Island. I was determined to check off items on my bucket list and have some fun along the way.

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

How did I feel:

Feeling like one of the mob dispossessed of health, I experienced a profound sense of grief over the loss of my well-being. Despite feeling vulnerable, I also noticed a growing sense of calm within me. I had an inclination to not become attached to anything and to remain an empty vessel.

To achieve this state, I found it helpful to treat all incoming information as provisional and to avoid becoming too opinionated. I realized that being opinionated does not necessarily engender a sense of contentment – but I also recognized that this is just my personal opinion.

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

During my time working for the Department of Conservation and NZ Alpine Club at Aspiring Hut in the National Park of the same name, I had the pleasure of meeting a few wonderful families who were enjoying their vacation in some great weather. Among them was a gentleman who had designed his own electric wheelchair and made the journey to the hut in it – a remarkable achievement!

We stayed in touch through Facebook, and one day, he noticed a picture I had posted and asked if he could use it as the cover for his new book. I was thrilled 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.

If you’re looking for an uplifting and inspiring book “The Art of Recovery” is one I highly recommend. Published by the NZ Spinal Trust

House Keeping Stuff with a Technical Flavour:

🔎 In the spring of 2017, I was summoned to Dunedin Hospital and met with a registrar who was a newcomer in training. I had been diagnosed with mantle cell lymphoma, a rare type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that was at Stage 4A. I was given a life expectancy of 37 months until “curtain time,” and I sympathized with the messenger who had to deliver the news.

Our first discussion was brief, and I could tell that he was still learning. He presented two treatment options along with extensive documentation. However, I felt a sense of urgency and wanted to expedite the process.

The first option was the Nordic Protocol, a rigorous treatment that required me to spend a few nights in the hospital every 28-day cycle. The second was a milder option. The prospect of spending time in the hospital was overwhelming, so I opted to not think much about this for the moment.

During the meeting, an experienced nurse was present, and at the end of it, she gave me her cell phone number. We agreed to text messaging as a form of support, and I felt relieved knowing that I could reach out to her whenever I needed to. It was a wonderful gesture that sent a strong signal of care and support, which is critical for healing.

I was also advised not to Google my disease, and it turned out to be wise advice. Instead, I was provided with appropriate URLs linked to well-balanced and reliable information about my condition.

What not to do:

As I sit here, I’m reminded of something that my local doctor mentioned to me, and it’s crucial to share.

When we receive a diagnosis and develop a plan of action with the help of specialists, we often make significant changes to our lifestyle or diet. But despite our best efforts, the disease can continue to progress, and we may feel like we haven’t done enough or let ourselves down.

It’s important to remember that our thoughts can significantly influence our immune system. So, it’s essential to avoid beating ourselves up and to recognize that sometimes, even with our best efforts, the disease may continue to progress. The key is to keep a positive mindset and do everything we can to support our bodies and minds in the healing process.

It’s also important to seek support from loved ones, friends, and medical professionals who can provide guidance and encouragement. Remember, healing is a journey, and it’s okay to take one step at a time and adjust our approach as needed.

So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, be kind to yourself and seek out the help and support you need. And always remember that your thoughts and attitude can make a significant difference in your healing journey.

Decisions I decided to make:

I started meditation. Athletes have used visualisation techniques for many years to great advantage. I’ll write more about this topic later.

During my treatment, there were many decisions to make. Time seemed to be of the essence, and the idea was to prepare for a rough ride – to either get well or otherwise.

One item was at the top of my list: how to handle many possible nights in the hospital during treatment (if I chose the more intense one on offer)!?

When I was younger, I spent an extraordinary amount of time in the hospital for unknown reasons. Although I don’t have any personal photos of that 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. The faces trigger some hazy memories! It wasn’t all bad, but it was confusing. I was dropped off at the door amongst strangers by my parents, there were rigid visiting hours, and scary smelly unknown things all around. I felt trapped!

Back then, this experience created an unsettling sense of abandonment, even though my parents were very loving (and this can cause dissociation). The experience often involved sharing a room with four beds with older men. One was there for a quick surgery, another for a few days to establish a diagnosis, and the other to die. Even as a young child, I could tell which was which!

The sense of establishing a victim mentality was something I had not bought into, a long time ago. These experiences have made me who I am, and for this, I am grateful. No one has had a perfect childhood, and mine was pretty damn good compared to many.

So, I decided that counselling would be a good idea. I texted my new nurse and asked for some local recommendations. Her reply was, “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). In due course, I found myself getting the help and insights I needed.

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

Is pushing through mentally – Good or Bad?

In the pursuit of our goals, it’s common to encounter obstacles that can push us to our limits physically and mentally. For many, the instinct is to grit their teeth and push through the pain to achieve their objectives. However, is this approach always the best for our health and well-being?

Careys Hut in winter.

A personal experience highlighted this question for me. Several weeks before my diagnosis, I went on a mountain biking trip with a close friend to Mavora Lakes in northern Southland. Despite my physical struggles during the trip, I attributed it to age and pushed through it. Looking back, I realized that this was not the right approach.

The track was very muddy and wet

It dawned on me that individuals who are not as physically inclined as I am would have likely stopped or sought medical attention if they didn’t feel well. Instead, I had gritted my teeth and pushed through the pain, which had cost me valuable time. However, the experience did help me later on when I had to engage my mental strength to overcome the challenges that came with my diagnosis.

So, is pushing through mentally good or bad for your health? The answer is not straightforward. There are times when pushing through can lead to positive results, especially when facing challenges that require mental strength. However, there are also situations when pushing through can lead to long-term negative consequences, especially when dealing with physical ailments.

Therefore, it’s important to listen to your body and know when to push through and when to take a break or seek medical attention. Sometimes, pushing through can be harmful, and we need to know when to take a step back to avoid further damage to our health.

In conclusion, while pushing through mentally can be advantageous in certain situations, it’s crucial to strike a balance between mental and physical health. We should learn to recognize the signs of when to push through and when to rest and seek medical attention. Ultimately, our health should always be our top priority.

Take Home” Points on Living with a Chronic Illness:

Living with a chronic illness can be a challenging experience. It can impact every aspect of your life, from your physical health to your emotional well-being. Through my own experience, I have gathered some take-home points that I hope can be helpful to others who may be going through a similar situation.

  • Follow your passion: Pursue what makes you happy and fulfilled, no matter what it is. It can provide a sense of purpose and joy in life.
  • Unloading to an empathetic other is okay: Choose wisely who you confide in, and don’t hesitate to seek support and comfort from those you trust.
  • Bucket lists are good fun: Create a list of things you’ve always wanted to do and make an effort to achieve them, no matter how small or big they are.
  • Acknowledge grief: Allow yourself to feel and process grief as it comes. Don’t fight it or suppress it, as it can make things worse.
  • Desist Googling: Avoid using the internet as a substitute for professional medical advice. Instead, read good books for ideas and inspiration, as they usually have professional editors.
  • Ease into treatment options: Take your time to explore your options and make informed decisions. Treating them provisionally can be calming and help ease anxiety.
  • Don’t be hard on “self”: If the disease progresses, don’t blame yourself, even if you have made significant changes to your lifestyle and beliefs.
  • Seek counseling: If you feel that you need additional support or guidance, consider seeking counseling from a licensed professional who can help you cope with the emotional and mental toll of the illness.
  • Get regular health checks: As we age, it’s important to get regular health checks, even for things that seem small or insignificant. Mention any oddities or changes in your health that you may have previously ignored or attributed to aging.

In conclusion, living with a chronic illness is not easy, but it doesn’t have to be a lonely journey. Seeking support, taking care of your emotional and mental health, and making informed decisions can make a significant difference in how you manage the illness and your quality of life.

If you landed on a single post instead of the Home Page then click here please to go to Home >>

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 >>

Translate »