I have been diagnosed with a very rare brain tumour. I had a couple of seizures and was admitted to hospital just after Christmas (2011) when the medical team found an irregularity in my CT scan. I have since had two surgeries to have it removed, biopsied and diagnosed over a two week period. I am now beginning the next phase of treatment. It is pretty much impossible to cut this type of cancer out. Given that it is a cellular level condition it is very hard for the surgeons to know if they have cut all the cancer cells out, so follow up treatment is necessary.
So I have now had the planning appointment for radiotherapy. This means that basically they built a mask to hold my head still and then took some images of my brain so that they can direct the radiotherapy. They need to make sure that they give the therapy to the same spot each time and they need to make sure that they direct it at the tumour site so there is the best chance of getting rid of Timmy (oh yeah, Timmy is the name I gave my Tumour - and yes I do feel bad about zapping Timmy now). The treatment will be delivered 5 days a week for 6 weeks and will be combined with chemotherapy. This is assuming the medical team end up deciding that this is the best way to treat it at the Multidisciplinary meeting that they are having to discuss my case.
The mask that I wear each session is pretty awesome! And it is going to be a fantastic super hero mask when the treatment is finished! As you can see it is moulded to my face. It is quite tight so definitely doesn’t allow my head to move. It is a weird sensation having your head held still like this. And it is even weirder for me having to stay still for so long, it was definitely a tough ask!
Radiotherapy is not what I would choose to be doing with my time. I could let myself fall in a heap and feel sorry for myself. I could ask why me? I could think what bad luck or what have I done to deserve this. I don’t think any of that. I believe that I can use this experience to learn and grow from. I believe that other people can learn from my experience and that this is a fantastic chance for me to show my students, through example, a better way to think. So I am taking the positives and working with them to make this a positive experience. Having radiotherapy gives me time to think. I think a lot about karate and all the kids that I miss teaching. I think up fantastic new drills that we can do in class and that I am looking forward to teaching as soon as I am strong enough. I plan out new lessons that will help build our students into super heroes. I think about my physio kids and what I can do to help them more, or achieve the results I want for them faster. Each session will give me a chance to come up with better ideas to help more people. I am excited about the possibilities of what I am going to create.
It’s a pity I am not going to become radiation man though :)
Yes I have cancer, yes I am happy!
You can follow my journey and get some great resources here:
Exactly one year ago today I began a new life. On the 28th of December 2011 I ended up flat on my back in hospital after having two seizures.
Only a week earlier I had been practicing and holding one armed handstands on the floor and on a prop. I was hitting my backsault on the floor well, despite an ankle injury. I was feeling pretty fit and healthy.
Then I had the seizures, was taken to hospital and after some scans was told I had a brain tumour and cyst. In a blink of an eye I was no longer healthy. I don’t remember very much about that day. I remember being given Morphine because they didn’t believe the level I described the pain at. I remember being told to breathe by my brother because my oxygen levels were dropping. I remember that I was transferred from the Angliss to St Vincents but don’t remember actually being transferred, I know it happened late at night.
All of a sudden I was a patient at the same hospital on the same ward that I did my physio training at, but this time I was waiting to have brain surgery rather than being the one to help after brain surgery. Very quickly I realised that I had lost all the independence and control I thought I had.
I knew I had a choice at this point. I could think about everything I was missing out on, I could ask why me, I could feel sorry for myself or I could worry about what might happen in the future. The choice I made was to focus on what I could do, focus on what I did have.
I remember feeling quite calm at the time. I wasn’t worried about what might happen with the surgery, I knew the risks too well. Worrying about whether I would be able to walk after the surgery just wasn’t an option. My biggest concern was making sure my family, friends and karate was ok. I hated feeling that I was putting everyone out (especially my family) by being in hospital. I hated feeling like I had let everyone down, that I was a burden to other people.
I eventually realised that I couldn’t control what was happening and I couldn’t control what was going to happen but I could control the way I reacted. I didn’t have to be worried and sad because I was in hospital. None of us ever do have to be. No its not the best place to be but it’s a whole lot better than the alternative. I was learning a massive lesson about life. I was learning about gratitude, I was learning about happiness and I was learning about simplicity. Many of the things I had tried to understand from the Zen/Martial arts philosophies suddenly had new meanings. I finally realised that Martial Arts was never about fighting. Martial Arts was about living.
Yes I have cancer, but no it doesn’t mean my life is controlled by it!
Follow my journey through brain surgery and more (and access some awesome resources) at:
The other day we ran an awesome karate birthday party for two of our students. It was an awesome party and a heap of fun to teach however I was shocked to hear what came from one of the young kids very early on in the party. In response to me asking if they liked rules initially everyone said they like them, the answer they thought they were meant to give. But then I threw them a bit by saying I didn’t like rules and asked them again what they thought. Several of them agreed they didn’t like them either, nothing unusual about that. But what really struck me was one particular comment. The comment was “they are gay” I don’t think the boy was over the age of 8.
I was shocked to hear an 8 year old boy use this term in such a derogatory and discriminative manner. Many of my friends are gay and they are some of the nicest and most fun people I know.
Some of you will be just saying it is a figure of speech nothing to worry about but I see it as the beginning of a very slippery slope.
I ask that everyone stand up against it, stay away from discriminative speech. Don’t let the people you associate with get away with it either. Our speech becomes our thoughts as our thoughts become our speech. Our thoughts control our behaviours and very soon we end up behaving in a discriminative manner. Every person and animal has the right to live their life without fear of prejudice or harm. Align your behaviours and attitudes with this right and you will create a much more positive world for all of us to live in.
This is true self-defence, this is protecting the people we care about, this is protecting our world!
Tonight marked my first time back teaching since Christmas 2011. In that time I had been diagnosed with a brain tumour and had two sets of surgery to remove as much of it as possible. 5 days ago I finished 6 weeks of combined Radiotherapy and Chemotherapy – I’ll tell you all about that in a little bit, I still have a few weeks before the effects will start to wear off.
When I was younger I made the decision to follow my passion rather than follow the risk free path set out for me. I was doing well at university, had fantastic contacts and heading toward a very lucrative job in engineering and design. At this point I made the crazy decision to change my life and follow my passion. I decided I wanted to love what I did, I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life working on something I wasn’t passionate about. Luckily I had the support of some amazing people to whom I am massively grateful.
So I pushed “The Insane Courage Button” and started physiotherapy to learn more about the human body and started my karate school. That crazy decision lead me to tonight, being able to do what I truly love to do. Tonight was one of my main motivations to get me through the first two phases of treatment and will get me through the third. Tonight I got back on the mats with the kids and had the time of my life! All the poison that has gone into my body disappeared, tonight I got to do what I love, working with kids – teaching them that they can be a Superhero! We laughed, we learned and we had fun. I caught up with some of “my kids” who are fighting their own battles without a thought that it is actually a battle – one who learnt to crawl today and one who is proving the sceptics wrong everyday (Yep I am pretty proud of them!) And for anyone who was there I am pretty certain you could see how much fun I was having. It was written across my face. The side effects from the treatment didn’t matter, the energy I received from doing what I love pushed it all aside.
What is it that you truly love to do? What are you passionate about? What is it that will drive you to push past any obstacle because you love what you do? I learnt this lesson many years ago but really only learnt it today – a massive thank you to the kids for teaching me it. Following your passion is one of the most important things you can do. I can’t tell you how much I hope you too can push “The Insane Courage Button” for long enough for you to follow your passion too. It will give you Superpowers. Imagine what the world would be like if we all had superpowers! Imagine how you will feel following your passion.
Yes I have cancer, but no it doesn’t mean my life is controlled by it!
Follow my journey through brain surgery and more (and access some awesome resources)