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.

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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”

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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 >>

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