Boom, pow and smack who put cancer in my comic book? Sadly, cancer stories are incredibly prevalent in society, but I never thought that demon would ever embrace me. Aggressive Non-Hodgkin lymphoma entered my life in April 2021; quickly followed by six months of chemo and radiation treatment. What the hell but I am superman! Reducing stress and increasing well-being and knowing everyone journey is deeply personal are some reflections that I would like to share.
I was partly lucky and intention to have my finances in shape. Who would have thought weekly budgeting, supportive employer and insurance policy would bring me such solace for the journey ahead. Strangely knowing how my family spend our money and the bottom line on what we need financially was extremely helpful. Crazily I was about to cancel my insurance policy after 20 years. The one-time procrastination paid off! My current employer Ministry of Social Development also was super thoughtful on how I made the transition from working to not working. For me having total visibility over my financial affairs paid huge dividends in reducing stress so I could focus on the treatment ahead.
This one is obvious, but I will say it anyway, having a warm home and family support is the best medicine. Let’s face it when you go through in intense cancer treatment you’re going to have some absolute shit days - where you just feel physically and psychologically wrecked. Nothing beats being a grumpy troll knowing that you are not being judged but rather loved. Also having a house that has a good wairua/spirit and places in the sun assured me that things will pass. In short, I am super aware that not all New Zealanders have this in their lives, and I am convinced that it must make cancer treatment and recovery so much harder. I can’t fix all those things but at least be grateful for what I have and contribute to others where I can.
Life is about friendships. My friends have also just been off the scale with their support. Visits, texts, calls, boxes on the doorstep and the odd treat in the letterbox have made me literally feel well and that I will push through this. It's not the gifts rather it's about being reminded of the criticalness of relationships in obtaining meaning and feeling connected in others’ lives. Knowing that I add value in others’ lives and others letting me into their lives has kept me going through this time. Again, I am aware that some do not have this level of support in their lives and thus making the journey tougher and at times lonely.
Now for the suggestion on how to engage with others who are unwell or facing a life challenge. When I have told people of where I am at ...some have shared promptly their own or friends and family’s valuable stories and tips and tricks for pushing through. Trust me this has been helpful, but one suggestion that I would make to myself as much as for others is that first and foremost just check in with how that person is with their journey and leave a space for silence to listen. What I have discovered is having a health issue has been a trigger for deeper things and I am convinced it is for others too. For me, I have thought deeply about my own death for the first time, how I am and how I want to travel in life with the time I have left. Ha clearly, I don’t do shallow and drift to the extreme! Discussing health events in life is a spark for deeper thinking and an opportunity to share profound things with others.
The unwell person may, may not or may not have the right words to share but give them the opportunity to consider in their own minds where are they at with their health issue in the great scheme of things. But also, be prepared for other discussions on life that you did not expect. To be truly heard at this time I have found to be very cathartic in self-processing my own emotions and thoughts. I have quickly got my head around my diagnosis and to be honest it holds very little power over me. As the picture hints in some way, I have found ways to humour my humanity. More so it has also provided a healthy ‘full stop’ on life to date and thoughts on how I want my story to proceed in the future. That is a truly lemon to lemonade moment.
So, as you see there has been sour but also many sweet moments from this event in my life. I know I will do the treatment process and will come out the other side. All my support is in place and making some lifestyle changes and thus I am resilient currently – to give it my wellbeing its best shot now and in the future. My only fear is that cancer comebacks. But again, I won’t fight tomorrow’s battles (a reference to my stoic circle picture), it is only through these struggles and challenges that I am learning who Pat Cody is and his fleeting and small role that I play in a grand universe. Knowing self in dark times is a great thing and what makes life special and very much worth living for.
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