My Final Piece
After two years of writing this blog it is time to close it off as I look to put my difficult journey behind me, as best as possible, and to begin focusing on the future.
Although my blog will be closing down from September onwards, my Facebook page will remain open as I continue on my quest to once again run a marathon.
You can find my Facebook page at @nevergiveupchrisp
The Most Difficult Journey
It’s been the most difficult journey I could ever have imagined, both on a physical and mental level. To think that my diagnosis was discovered due to a stranger accidentally hitting me in the leg with a football is crazy. I cursed that guy in my head for weeks as I thought he had injured me, but in truth he saved my life, and I think if it hadn’t of happened, things would have been too far along to have even given me the chance to fight for my life.
Ironically the below picture popped up as a memory on my Facebook exactly 4 years ago on August 20th 2015, when it all began. Little did I know that the resulting MRI would be the start of it all!
I will never forget when I was brought in for my MRI results and the specialist told me that it was infact cancer, and he sat there explaining what was going to happen. I’m pretty sure most of what he said went straight over my head as I attempted to take in those few words that all of us fear most. I will never forget my first and only real question…”can you get me back running?” Thinking about it now, it was the only question I really needed to know, maybe it was my way of coping with the news, I didn’t need to think of any other question. He told me he would get me back running, and my reply was “sure we have to do what we have to do.” That was pretty much it from me. I was told I would be treated heavy and hard and it would be tough, but that I would come out the other side. He told me it was only due to my age and my fitness that he was going to be able to put me through that level of treatment.
I would consider my relapse 9 months after having gotten the all clear as the absolute biggest physical and mental challenge I had to face, even after having gone through it the first time. It’s a strange one because the first time was a severe shock, but I felt like I was just in the middle of it before I even had a chance to realise what was going on.
My relapse was a different story, and I was in a very precarious position, to relapse so quickly was very serious. The same assurances were not there. The way I was spoken to was different. I was told I needed a bone marrow transplant, but that it could only be done if I was clear of cancer. I was in shock and I don’t think I ever really came out of it through the whole process. I could tell you every single detail about my first battle with cancer, the treatment, the schedule, but when I relapsed it was a different story. I don’t remember very much at all, just random memories. I feel as if my brain just powered down due to the shock, but also to help me through it all, to protect me.
After a few months of a lot of chemotherapy and radiation I was given the all clear and it was time for the transplant. Thankfully my brother, or my BMB (Bone Marrow Brother) as I call him now, was a 100% match to be my donor which meant that the transplant would have a much higher chance of working. The transplant funnily enough was actually the biggest anti-climax as it was sort of like a blood transfusion, it was easy and pain free.
It was the aftermath and side effects that were the biggest battle, but with the support of the amazing nursing staff, my amazing girlfriend, both our amazing families and relations, amazing friends and all those who knew me, I managed to get through it and was subsequently discharged on the 30th of March 2017.
The 100 Day Scan, June 14th 2017
This was my last chance, it was all or nothing, can you fathom the pressure? It all came down to the results of the 100 day scan. It was bad enough awaiting the scan results to see if I was in the all clear for the transplant in the first place, because that had to go my way, and it did! I couldn’t have the transplant unless I was in the clear. Now it was all down to the 100 day scan.
The 100 day scan is as it sounds, it is a scan 100 days after the bone marrow transplant to see if the transplant was a success. Off I went for the scan on the 14th of June, I felt sick to my stomach, this was it. Off home I went, and later in the afternoon I got the call, they didn’t even wait to bring me back in to hospital because they knew how much of I state I was in waiting, I got the all clear, it went my way.
On reflection, after having to battle cancer twice and everything I have been put through, I count myself an incredibly lucky man. When the scans needed to go right they went right, when I had to get in to the clear I got in to the clear, when I needed one of my brothers to be a match one of them was a 100% match, when I needed the 100 day scan to be clear, it was clear. I don’t know why I was the lucky one, but I appreciate that fact every single day, no matter what I am going through.
The 14th of June will be a happy celebration for me every single year going forward, it is such an exciting day to look forward to now as it is such a special day. I am now 2 years and counting. This year in particular was the big one, the important one. Due to the aggressiveness of the cancer that I had, I was told that if I made it to the 2 year anniversary I would have a 95% chance of survival, so this year I wanted to mark that occasion in a very special way, which brings me to the Never Give Up 5k/10k fun run and walk!
The Never Give Up 5k/10k
What an incredible way to celebrate my 2 year all clear anniversary, the big one!
I came up with the idea for the Never Give Up 5k/10k when I was in hospital starting out with treatment the first time. I would have my marathon medals hanging off my drip, and my running pictures stuck up on the notice board in my hospital bedroom, all to try and keep me motivated, and also so that the staff in the hospital got to know a little more about me, to show them who I really was, that I wasn’t just a chart number.
I am going to come right out with this, and Niamh really struggled when she read it in one of my earlier articles, but when I relapsed the 2nd time, I started to wonder if the event that I was slowly planning in my head was going to be a fun run or a memorial. Either way I knew I wanted to do it, and that it would be an event that one way or another would bring so many people together to support each other for a fun day, in benefit of a great cause in the Irish Cancer Society.
I suppose I could say that the idea was in my mind for 4 years, but it was really last Autumn that it started. I booked the date and began the journey of organising an event from scratch. I always knew it would be a huge amount of work, but I gave myself 9 months to chip away at it so that I wouldn’t be under a huge amount of pressure. I also had great support from those around me to get it set up, with a special mention to my good pal Wayne who has a huge amount of experience at event management, who was at the end of the phone anytime I had a question.
The last 6 weeks is when it really heated up, a huge amount of work went in to it to make it not just a success, but a fun and enjoyable day for everyone. The day itself was an incredible experience, one I will cherish forever. It was incredible to see so many people in our little village of Inch. In total 700 people took part in the event, and we raised an incredible €19,314.78. The atmosphere was absolutely brilliant, and it looked like everyone really enjoyed themselves. I have to say that it would be hard not to do it again next year.
I couldn’t have run such a successful event without the support of all those who helped out, so a huge thank you to those who helped out with the event, and of course every single person who took part, it was an incredible effort from every person involved.
Life is to dam short. I think long and hard about any parts of my life that I am not happy about, or want to change or improve. I think to myself, about any regrets I would have if it was all taken away from me. My health was taken away from me so fast that I realised how short life can be, and how fast things can change.
A few months ago I contacted an old friend, one of my best friends for many years, someone I had been through some of the best years of my life with through College and also travelling around the world, and the truth is we hadn’t spoken in about 8 years.
It had been bothering me for a few years now, but I was finally recovered enough to put myself out there and contact him to meet up for a cuppa and a chat. I had briefly wondered, even though we had stopped talking back in 2011, whether or not he knew about my illness, which he didn’t. I had hoped not, and I guess I knew in my heart he would have contacted me no matter what if he had found out.
It turns out he was delighted to hear from me, the minute we began texting I knew, it felt right. We met up after just a few days, and now we chat all the time and see each other regularly. Just. Like. That. I couldn’t be happier about it. Why did we stop talking? I haven’t a clue. It’s bad when you think about it considering how close we were, to not even know. Who stopped talking to who? I don’t know. I don’t care. Now it is as if we were never apart, neither of us are too sure or care about what happened, and our friendship is just as it was before, so as my dear Nanny use to say, what about it.
I told him the other day how happy I was to have him back in my life, and he said the same, while also commenting that he doesn’t think about the lost time, he is just happy to be back hanging out again like the good awld days.
My point is, life is short, don’t have any regrets. Sometimes you just need to reach out.
I hadn’t time to contemplate how difficult the aftermath of all the treatment was going to be, on both a mental and physical basis. It’s been a tough 2 years of recovery and I am still recovering. Infact my health over the course of the last 6 months has been horrendous, and winter is on it’s way, fast, but I will get there, it will just take time.
It’s weird to say it but I’m still adjusting to real life again, I was isolated for so long throughout my illness, and have been recovering for so long that I was quite out of the loop. I feel I have had to adjust to reality again, socially, being back at work, being in a relationship, and it certainly hasn’t come easy, but I’m getting there. I’m back to work full-time 2 months now and I have to say it’s so great to be back working on a full-time basis, it’s another step in the right direction. It’s a lot for my body to cope with but as time passes it will adjust to it all.
In my opinion, we should be able to discuss counselling as openly as discussing the weather. After opening up to people through my blog and just in my day to day interactions with friends, many people opened up about the struggles they have faced or are currently facing, whether physical or mental. Life isn’t always easy and you just never know what goes on behind closed doors, and I couldn’t recommend going to counselling more.
I have zero qualms about admitting that I have been to regular counselling for a while over the last year to help me get through what I was put through. How could I not? I like to keep my physical health in shape, to eat well and look after my body, but we have to look after our minds too, my mental health is as important as my physical health.
Some of the physical and mental side effects of my illness/treatment were pretty dam hard to go through, and by going to counselling I have learned so much that I would never have found out without it, it has been a great benefit to me.
A Positive Note
On a positive note, firstly and most obviously, I am still alive. I fought hard, but I was one of the lucky ones.
It may have taken 2 years since finishing my treatment to get back to work but I did it, and now I am back working full-time which is just amazing. On occasion I have said to one of my friends or my family, to have gone through what I have, to be back at work at all is something to be proud of.
I still have my amazing girlfriend, amazing family, and amazing friends here to support me, as I do them, and that’s just amazing.
I am finally back running, not much, but that will come back with time too. Will I ever get to run my sub 3 hour? Maybe, maybe not, who knows. Will I ever get to run a marathon again? Maybe, maybe not, who knows. Only time will tell, all I can do is listen to my body and my mind and see how we go, and most importantly as I do each time, enjoy any run I get to run.
Some Life Advice
As a person who was close to losing their life twice I decided I would point out my own life advice my experience has taught me:
- PLEASE OFFER TO DONATE YOUR BLOOD AND YOUR PLATELETS. Donating your blood and platelets saves lives, it is as simple as that. We’ve all heard about donating blood, but I’ll be honest and say to you that before my transplant I had never heard about platelet donation. It basically works the same as a blood donation. I needed platelets throughout my treatment leading up to the transplant, and quite often my treatment was delayed because of the shortage of platelet donations, so I can’t stress the importance of donating. Please donate.
- Reach out to others when it comes to mind, even if it feels out of place, you never realise how much that can mean to a person.
- Life is short, you never know when it could be snatched away from you, make the most of every day.
- Open up. Opening up to others quite often leads to others opening up to you, you never know what goes on behind closed doors. We are here to support each other, and it’s easier to win in numbers than alone.
- Get it off your chest with Counselling. I found that I was really able to get stuff off my chest in Counselling, stuff I didn’t even realise was going on, when you find the right person to go to it can be incredibly beneficial.
- Don’t take fresh air for granted. I am so dam thankful to be able to walk outside and breathe in fresh air. I could have been months on end in hospital in a room where I could not open the windows, I could not breathe fresh air, so every time I walk out the door and breathe in fresh air I savour it.
- Life could be worse. The next time you get angry or pissed off at something small, just remember, things could be worse, a lot worse.
- Even though you might have everything you really want in the world, a partner, a good job, a nice car, a house, money, it all means nothing if you don’t have your health, look after yourself and your body. I broke down crying with my Mum at one point through my treatment when I was at a point of severe illness, saying to her that I just wanted to be healthy again to live a happy life with Niamh, your health is your wealth.
- Hug your loved ones as often as you can, tell them you love them as often as you can, you never know when that might be taken away from you.
- No regrets. Don’t leave something for next year because next year might never come, live for today.
I could not have navigated my way through the last 4 years without the support from others.
I have to say a huge thank you to my family, they moved the world to help to keep me going through the toughest of times. My Mum and Dad, my sister and two brothers, they couldn’t have done any more than they did! Every single day of the week one of them was with me, day or night I was never left alone, I don’t know what I would have done without them, along with my relations, they all held my hand every step of the way to keep me going.
My girlfriend Niamh, to be faced with something like that after just 6 months in the relationship, here we are now 4.5 years later, I couldn’t have done it without her, and she really gave me a reason to fight. Her family are now my 2nd family, they took me in, looked after me and helped me through the worst of times, and I can’t thank them enough.
My incredible friends, they did anything and everything for me, they were absolutely awesome, whether it was driving me to or from hospital, bringing me food, keeping me entertained or just lending an ear, they never let me down, I couldn’t be more appreciative to have them in my life.
All those people who said prayers, lit candles, posted messages, sent texts, who visited me in hospital or at home, everyone played their part. Those people I have met through my blog and for not only supporting me with your kind emails and comments, but for opening up to me also, I can’t thank you enough.
Tomorrow Niamh and I are heading on holidays to Portugal for 2 weeks of total rest and relaxation, I need it, we need it. To think we were together just 6 months when I was first diagnosed. We weren’t even given a chance. We have had to battle my illness together, and do everything in our power to not let cancer take our relationship down. I can so easily see now how an illness can threaten relationships, marriages, families, so I am incredibly thankful that Niamh and I managed to come out the other side of it, it was not one bit easy, but we did it. I don’t know what I would do without her, from our very first date I knew she was the one. Now it’s our time.
We recently spoke about how tough it’s been on us, how hard it’s been, but we never gave up. During the toughest of times we still made the most of our relationship as best we could, we clung on hard, and now we can begin to finally start enjoying life, it’s time to leave my cancer battles in the past. Off to sunny Portugal we go.
You can find my Facebook page at @nevergiveupchrisp to continue following my progress.
I’m going to miss blogging, it’s been a very cathartic experience. I will however on occasion be publishing positive articles in the Happy Magazine (Website address link below), Ireland’s dedicated cancer support magazine which I am delighted to do, to help others who are in some way affected by cancer.
I have been humbled enough to have other people open up to me about their own difficult times, and I am proud to have been able to support others in their time of need, that’s what it’s all about, supporting each other.
Now it’s time to put on my runners, and restart my quest to one day run a marathon again, I certainly will not give up on that dream, but only time will tell. Maybe for now I will just start with a 5k 😀
A trip to my local Parkrun in Tymon Park when I am able, my local Parkrun that has been a huge part of my return to running, might just be the perfect option
Thank you for reading.
#NEVER GIVE UP
#LIVE FOR TODAY
#HEALTH AND HAPPINESS