Finding Myself – Rising Up and Back on my Feet

Finding myself – Turns out I was in Central America all along

I landed in Havana, Cuba around 8pm and had arranged to meet my fellow comedian and top friend James Beatty at a bar in Old Havana. I had no money, no map, no lonely planet, no wifi, no hope. I arrived at the bar and James wasn’t there. Shit! The taxi driver was shouting at me in Spanish and I was stood In the square in old Havana with no money and my lifely possesions in my backpack.

I was well and truly lost. Literally and metaphorically. This wouldn’t be the last time on this trip but “If you never get lost, how can you ever truly find yourself?”

I remembered that James text me 3 days earlier saying he was sat in Hotel Inglaterra in Havana as was using their wifi. I decided to get the taxi driver to drive me there and after that I wasn’t sure. I managed to change some money at the hotel, pay the driver and then sit on wifi. James finally turned up an hour later and the tension mounted as I had nowhere to sleep that night. I ended up spooning him in a double bed in a Cuban families spare room. I was big spoon.

The aim of the trip was to do 2 weeks around cuba, fly to Mexico, travel on a bus to Belize, Guatamala, fly to Panama then Costa Rica and Columbia. What an adventure but I knew my budget wouldn’t last that long and I have my 2nd follow up scan booked in for March 12th at Southampton Hospital so needed to return home before James was intending to.

Now the trip is individual to everyone and so I won’t go into detail about what to do or where to see but highlights were beaches, salsa dancing in the streets, meeting people from all over the world, learning the history of Cuba and Che, plus visiting a new wonder of the world Chichen Itza, and then partying in Cancun.

If you haven’t met James he is a charming man who runs comedy nights and pantomimes in Essex. I’m sure most of the punters don’t even go to see the shows they just come to get a compliment from James as they arrive. He is a positive person and positivity breeds positivity. I knew if someone could make me charismatic again and show me a good time then it would be him. For the first two weeks in Cuba I could not get near him on entertainment wise or social skills. He can talk to anyone in the street, no matter where they are from and everyone walks off with a glowing smile on their face once they’ve spoken to James.

Its only since finding myself again I realised how lost I was. For over a week in Cuba I was struggling to even say hello to strangers and even the slightest form of conversation. I was living in James’s shadow but I was very happy with that. When I meet a positive person in life who has good characteristics I always want to install those characteristics into my life and become the best possible version of myself. The most difficult thing at the time of travelling was when people would talk about what jobs they did, where they live etc. If I didn’t think I would ever see the person asking me again I would just say my name was Ross and that I was a dolphin trainer and lived on my own. It was difficult if someone kept probing the questions because I only told 3 people on the trip my situation. If I tell them the truth that I was working at Rio Olympics when I found a tumour and have just been going through chemotherapy and only recently recovered from Cancer. It gets a mixed reaction! Usually of total disbelief followed by lots of crying. So I decided to keep it to myself.

As the weeks went on we left the truly tremendous Cuba for party time in Cancun in Mexico. James had sorted everything on the trip, the accommodation, where we would eat, who we would talk to, the travel. On our third day in Mexico I decided to book onto a tour on my own to one of the wonders of the world Chichen Itza. As James had previously visited he wanted to stay in Cancun and do some comedy admin and also moved our bags from one hostel to another new hostel that we were going to stay in that night.

I had a great day at Chichen Itza and was speaking to people on the bus and making new friends. As I returned to Cancun and found our new hostel I was thinking I bet James Is running the show and entertaining all the guests. I thought tonight I would try and “be a bit more James Beatty”. As I walked into Hostel Ka’beh everyone was sat down doing a pub quiz run by the Hostel cruel mistress receptionist named Amy. I gave everyone a wave as I walked in and introduced myself and sat myself in the middle of the table and started to make new friends. I joined the team with James and two Australian girls called Kaitlyn and Sam. I wasn’t allowed to give answers as had not paid an entry fee and they were probably nervous about my quizzing general knowledge. They obviously hadn’t watched my episode when I lost on The Chase.

We all went to a club that night at Coco Bongo which if you are in Cancun you have to go! I was hammered drunk and ended up falling asleep outside the club, then slept on the bus home from the club and then in a hammock in the hostel garden. The next day we took a bus to the beach and again I slept on the way there before sleeping again on the bus home and then again in another club that night during a bikini competition. Everyone kept asking why I was so tired all the time, and the girls all wanted to stroke my hair as couldn’t believe how soft it was and like baby hair. They were all asking what conditioner I was using as they all wanted to use it. Oh no, this is a type of hair conditioner I hope you never have to use. My hair is beautifully soft though. It was a strange feeling because before travelling everyone I spoke to knew what I was going through but during travelling I can’t just introduce myself as Hi I’m Af I’ve just beaten cancer. Because you never know how people are going to react. It was like a great weight on my shoulders that I was carrying around with me.

Everyone from the hostel was at the beach and enjoying the sunshine. James had decided to go for a walk, something that he did each morning of a major hangover. I was feeling great though from my sleep outside Coco Bongo and was cracking jokes left right and center, mainly aimed at Amy who was digging me out for being a gobshite. She was continuously trying to put me down but deep down I knew it was her way of flirting and she loved me really.

I felt really good about myself and at one point I had noticed myself saying out loud “I am so happy right now, It’s great to be here”. I had said it for the third time and noticed that I was commenting on how happy I was. I was back to being me. Later that night we went to the bikini competition and Sam from Sydney was cracking up at my pathetic jokes and said I reminded her of Ricky Gervais, possibly the second biggest compliment you can give me comparing me to my hero.

Sam then went on to say “Af we have travelled for over a month and met a lot of people but you are the best person we have met on this whole trip” wow what a compliment. As Sam left to return back to Sydney with her equally entertaining friend May, she sent me a message to say “There’s seriously so few people I’ve met in my life where I could sit there and be forever entertained by their presence but seriously you have something about you”

Such an amazing thing to hear from someone, and in case you think she fancied me and this was all a sexual ploy to get into my pants. It wasn’t. Trust me I found that out the hard way. #Friendzone

In the morning James and I were supposed to catch a bus to Tullum on the Mexican coast on our way to Belize. James however had to arrange a stag do for one of his friends so we didn’t leave the hostel in the morning. I went to grab some lunch on my own. I had major beer fear and was at anxiety level 100 and doing some serious self-reflection and decided I would go home instead.

That compliment from Sydney Sam could have just been a throw away comment that she did not know the impact she would have with it. James asked me how my hangover was and I said “I’m going home” He was in disbelief but as I explained it to him I told him that I had achieved what I came out here to do and find myself again. I was straight onto sky scanner and the cheapest way to get home was via New York so I text my friend Alex living in New York and booked the next flight out there.

James and I recorded a podcast most days as a travel diary and mentioned in it a few times that he wanted a compliment from me and I would never give him one, which became a running joke. I realise now that I have always been awful at receiving compliments and it used to make me feel totally awkward even if I knew the compliment was true and heart felt. Now I realise that I was so bad at receiving them because I was so awfully bad at giving them. Part of that reason might be due to the fact that I thought If I gave someone a compliment they might actually give me one back and that’s not what I wanted.

I spent 4 weeks watching how James talks to people and interact with people. Then when I mastered it myself I felt like it was mission complete and went home. What he didn’t notice is I spent the whole trip trying to become more like James and that imitation is the finest form of flattery which is the biggest compliment of all.

As we also came to a conclusion that the world is a reflection of yourself. If you aren’t aware or conscious of you giving out compliments then just try it this week. Try giving one person you know a compliment without expecting one back and without them being aware of it and try giving one to a complete stranger. One because it makes you feel good but more so because you never know the impact it will have on their day, week or year.

James and I spent the last night reflecting on what had been an incredible month of fun and one of the most valuable journeys I have ever been on in my life. My flight to NYC was at 7am and we stayed up till the early hours in a hammock hopelessly flirting with Megan from Cheshire who was out smarting us with her Physics degree but she still fell for the ‘name of the game is snaps’ and the classic eyelash gag.

What a time to be alive,

Thanks for reading, Oh and by the way…….Have I told you how beautiful you look today?

The Aftermath Part 1- I am the Tortoise

Hello again!

I thought it’s time for an update as I have not written anything since 2016. Firstly if you did not know by now I had the best news of my entire life so far on December 12th at 3:15pm. I was given the all clear from Cancer by Dr Wheater at Southampton hospital.

Woooooooooooooooooooohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

I have not written a blog since for a number of reasons and I didn’t even write one about getting the all clear. Mainly because I thought December 12th was mission complete, I wanted to draw a line under the cancer days, put a full stop on it and not talk about it again.

As I was given the all clear I sent a message to all my friends and family, I put a facebook status out there and had a little party that night. Then I turned my phone off for 5 days. I didn’t want to talk about cancer, I didn’t want anyone to say well done, I wasn’t bothered about people saying you had this and I certainly didn’t want to see a ‘you got this’ wristband. It was a totally bizarre and surreal day and few days for me. To be honest it was all a bit overwhelming and I thought I had been born again and been given the green light to carry on my life again as ‘normal’.

I’ll briefly tell you about the day you get the all clear and then I want to let you really know about the aftermath. As since December 12th has passed this challenge has continued. I have genuinely found it tougher psychologically in remission then I have when I had cancer. I’m not writing this in a search for some sympathy or more attention but I want people to know what life is like after cancer so that if you need to support anyone (god forbid) that is affected by cancer then you know the way to support them not only during diagnosis but also during remission.

The day of the scan is obviously a nervous one but in my head I felt good about it and just wanted confirmation. I had one testicle removed in September followed by 9 weeks of intense chemotherapy. The chemo I was on usually takes 12 weeks but with factors like my age and fitness the doctor wanted to blast it out in 9 weeks. Something that nearly backfired in week one when my heartbeat became irregular and I was admitted to hospital for 5 days rather than being at home.

I went to the hospital with my mum, dad, sister and friend Lais who had come to visit from Brasil and was with me in Rio the day I was diagnosed. I had lots of blood tests and then spent an hour drinking 2 litres of dye so that my body could be put through a CT scan. It was then an anxious wait before I was called into the Doctors office just after 3pm. Now you may think its one of those moments where he says “I’m glad to tell you, you are cancer free” and then everyone breaks down into tears. But it wasn’t like the movies. He nonchalantly said “that’s it then, all finished”. It was like a disbelief and I wanted him to say the words cancer free. He showed how the tumour had shrunk from start to finish and explained the blood results and we all left the room in a state of I don’t know what. I then had to go straight into another blood test room to have a follow up blood test so went into meet the nurse.

As I sat in the chair for the nurse to take my bloods she asked if I was ok with needles. It was at that point the overwhelming feeling came in and I burst into hysterical tears. She thought wow he must be really terrified of needles and asked if I was ok. As I told her I had just that minute been given the all clear she started crying with me and started to hug me. I did the bloods and when I left the room my mum was there to give me a big hug and finally everyone was in tears of joy and relief. We celebrated with a glass of champagne in the car park.

Getting the all clear half way through December was a great time to hear the news as a lot of my friends were about to finish work for the Christmas break and some friends had returned home for Christmas from Australia, Dubai and America so everyone was always available to meet for Christmas festivities. I had the best Christmas I think I’ve ever had purely just for the appreciation I now had for everything and everyone around me. New year’s eve was amazing and I saw out midnight dressed as the mask with my bald green head on my best friends shoulders down Weymouth sea front.

As January started I knew it would become boring as everyone left the town again and went back to their jobs. I wanted to go away and get some sun but I had my first follow up scan on January 12th so the shackles were still on for a bit longer. I joined the local swimming pool and was swimming 3 times a week and then went back to my first boxing club Weymouth to do some training but also coach the youngsters at the gym 3 nights a week. The boxing and swimming was so good but the rest of the days were long and very boring. I was watching celebrity big brother every night at 9pm and then I’d watch the repeat of the exact same episode the next day. I was counting the hours in the day and counting down days for the first time rather than making the days count.

However I was so content with this lifestyle, I didn’t want to leave the house or ever leave Weymouth again. I was becoming increasingly frustrated with how remission was going though. My last treatment of chemotherapy was December 8th and I had no hair grow back until February so it still looked like I had cancer. I had put weight on because of the steroids I was on and was the fattest I’d ever been even though I was exercising and drinking healthy smoothies. The nurse said not many people put weight on during chemotherapy but I was plumper than ever. I had a tinnitus ringing in my ears which would not go away and I was so tired as soon as I did anything more than sitting in front of the TV. The worst thing of all and still a major problem is I had pins and needles and a numbness in my hands since chemo started. So much so that I cannot unscrew bottle lids and couldn’t even undo a shower gel bottle lid. I was having to try and open my shower gel every morning by whacking it on the side of the bath. It was painful!

One of the things during chemo is that you also get a thing called chemo brain which is a fuzzy form of thinking. It’s like you’re trying to function on a major hangover but it lasts for 6 months. I can’t remember where I put anything in my house, there’s no chance of finding car keys, can’t remember people’s names and the worse thing is my vocabulary is so bad that I can’t even think of the right words to end some sandwiches, which can make talking to me really confusing these days.

Everyone that had messaged me during the treatment had stopped but not through their fault but because I didn’t want that attention anymore. I didn’t want people asking “How are you” ten times a day. I didn’t want to be associated with cancer or for it to define who I am so I just ignored it all and tried to pretend like I was back to normal.

On January 12th I drove to Southampton Hospital for my first check up and glad to tell you that everything was fine again. As I was in the waiting room I was reading a macmillan cancer book about life after cancer and it was mentioning that I would need to work out the new me. I didn’t want to be a new me, I wanted to be the old Af the one I know and love.

During cancer I laid everything out bare for people to see and to break down any stigmas around the word cancer. Lets say that before cancer I was a racing greyhound being paraded about, during cancer I was in the traps looking out at the track waiting to be released, as I was given the all clear I thought I’m back and can do what I want and chase life again. But what I found is that as soon as the trap gates were opened and I tried to sprint out back into life I realised I’m not that greyhound I once was.

No, in fact, I am now a tortoise. But recently I have come to terms with being a tortoise. A tortoise can still win the race if it goes slow and steady. And tortoises live to have very long lives if they just take it slow. This doesn’t mean I’m just going to take everything slow it just means I don’t have the body I once had. I can no longer go on a mad night out and run a marathon in the same week. Its either one or the other. And I don’t plan on doing any marathons anytime soon.

I was watching more and more tv, doing less and less, and speaking to fewer people. I guess some people might say I was spiralling into a depression. I had no money but I had a credit card and an overdraft. It’s only now after 2 months and looking back at the pictures and reading all of the old text messages people had sent me that I realised how ill I actually was.

I was speaking with my friend Julian who was also going through a battle with Cancer and had been for 2 years. Julian had a diagnosis of a rare bone cancer called Ewings Sarcoma. I am going to write a blog about my relationship with Julian when the time is right but he gave me some news that had hit me hard.

I was also texting a friend who I’ve performed stand-up comedy with on many occasions called James Beatty who was travelling Mexico and he said that he was going to Cuba on Monday and that I should meet him there in two days time.

I didn’t have much money but as him and me have the same mindset he reminded me “you can always make more money, you can’t make more time”

So that was it, I booked my flight, ordered a visa, looked up health insurance for recently cured cancer patients, packed my backpack and was on my way to Havana. It could have been Havana it could have been Hartlepool it didn’t matter.

“It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey”

To be continued………………………………

I am Lionel Messi

Sometimes in life God or fate or whatever you believe in throws people into your life for a reason and you never know the impact they are going to have. People have asked how I have stayed so positive and like I said previously I think I have learned to think this way through persevering different challenges. People have also sent me thousands, and that’s no exaggeration, of messages, well wishes, good vibes or positive thoughts. But the one that got me the most was from my most recent boss and one of my true Gods guardian angels Breno Pontes.

Now I only met Breno in June 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. Yeah I know, random place to meet your angel right? In March of that year I was speaking to a fellow colleague Paul Porter the CEO of England Boxing and he asked if I wanted to travel to Azerbaijan all expenses to volunteer at the 1st European Games. 2 weeks to watch 256 bouts of international boxing and the boxing geek inside me wasn’t going to turn it down. A further carrot on the end of the Azerbaijani stick was that the competition manager for Rio 2016 would be out there and if you worked hard then maybe out of the thousands of people you might have a chance at going to Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Polaroid Picture Frame: https://www.tuxpi.com/photo-effects/photo-paper

There were a small group of less than 20 British volunteers that went to Baku  and they had all arrived two days before my arrival. I got there late at night and the first job the next day was to travel across the capital city at 4am to assist with weighing all 256 boxers on the scales. I didn’t know anyone but with like-minded people that had traveled across the world to volunteer I thought I would just be myself and get stuck in.

On the evening of my arrival the other volunteers were talking about Breno and how they might play it cool or just be themselves or that there was pressure to impress. In my head, I had a vision of Breno being this short 5’2 south American man with a Mexican style mustache in his 50’s. Maybe even a sombrero and a piece of hay coming from his mouth as he watches the boxing bouts drifting in and out of siestas ringside. It was going to be tough to impress the Super Mario brother lookalike but I didn’t know I would end up becoming Luigi.

As we completed the weigh ins of the boxers around 9am this 30 something American dude came up to me and in his dumb ass accent said “man I feel like a coca cola”. I was still in a delirious, excited, energised but sleepy state and grabbed him round the shoulder and said “come on lets get this man a coke” and proceeded to skip down the hallway with my arm round him looking for the nearest bottle. We soon found a secret stash and some fruit for our first bit of breakfast before immediately talking about football and trying to outdo each other with pointless football knowledge and facts.

As we ate and continued to talk I looked down at his accreditation pass for his name and low and behold there he was Breno Pontes- Olympic Games Observer! Ohhh shit. I’ve literally just jumped in two footed and there is no way back for him to think anything else of those first impressions of running down a corridor with my arm around him. Well it turns out Brazilians must love that as an introduction and at the end of the two week games he said he wanted me to work at Rio 2016 and would do his best to get me there.

Now talk can be cheap and everything else has to slot into place for things to work but eventually I left my job and flat in England and on June 18th 2016 I landed in Rio de Janeiro to work at the Olympic Games for the next three months. On top of that Breno and I were to become flatmates in our Olympic apartment for a month. We had the funniest times together with evenings of ridiculous story telling from both of us, whilst there was always a football at someone’s feet and a beer in the hand. He would try and tell me the rules of baseball and I would tell him the how to talk in an English accent. The night before the Olympic Games were going to begin, the day people wait for four years, the most stressful night of the calendar for sure, we drove to Burger King and were crying tears of laughter and choking on our flaming whoppers about something completely different from boxing or the Olympics. Whatever job you are doing in life or however stressful, you can always have fun and laugh.

I could go on about the stories forever about times like when we went to watch Bahia v Tupi away on a Tuesday evening, random girls sniffing my hair, South Park quotes at unnecessary times or when we went to buy Floyd Mayweather a cheeseburger and he made Breno pay for it. But the reason for my Breno post is the message that he sent me when I told everyone the news of my diagnosis.

Polaroid Picture Frame: https://www.tuxpi.com/photo-effects/photo-paper

On the last day of the Olympic Games my favourite Cuban boxer Robeisy Ramirez won his second consecutive Olympic Gold medal. It had also become obligatory standard procedure that when a boxer won their gold medals they would be receive their medals on the podium, do press conferences, autograph memorabilia boxing gloves in the changing rooms and then have a selfie with me before leaving the venue.

Polaroid Picture Frame: https://www.tuxpi.com/photo-effects/photo-paper

Now the Cubans are the ultimate best at Olympic boxing and would be at professional boxing too if their socialist country were to allow them to go professional. They are the Brazilians of football, the All Blacks of rugby, the Kenyans of long distance running. The Cubans don’t just win boxing gold medals for fun but they do it in a beautiful style.

I watched the Cuban team train and box for a month of the games trying to pick up what it was that made them so good. I have watched a lot of boxing over the years and I could not tell you what is different from them and any boxing training session that goes on. I was baffled, no sports science, no hitting each other with sledge hammers, no chasing chickens rocky style. I still to this day have no idea how one nation becomes so talented and original. I was even a little bit disappointed that I had not picked up one training method from them that I might be able to use and I could not speak to them as they did not speak English and my Spanish is very limited to duas Pina coladas por favour.

I waited for over an hour and got a selfie with Ramirez and his brand spanking new shiny Olympic Gold Medal to go with his gold teeth. The changing rooms were now empty as the Cuban team left the building and I stared at my proud selfie of me and the champ.

Polaroid Picture Frame: https://www.tuxpi.com/photo-effects/photo-paper

As the doors finally closed and the last boxer had left the building that was it, a monumental time in my life. Then I realised there was this Cuban baseball cap that had been left on the bench. I walked towards it and the door flung open again and it was the legendary Cuban boxing coach running in for his cap.

He walked in and said “my hat, I forgot it” What, he speaks English? He came over to me and shook my hand and said “thank you for everything”. Wow he speaks near enough perfect English the bastard. All this time I’ve been waiting at the side of rooms watching with intent for someone to talk to me thinking he only spoke Spanish and he speaks English the whole time. “No worries” I replied.

As he walked off he said “We are so thankful for your support, no one can ever achieve anything without having support around them”

Boom, there it was. One month I watched the Cubans for boxing advice but he just gave me the biggest life lesson in ten seconds and that was all I needed. I just could not believe he spoke English the whole time.

As the story unfolded with Cancer I was told in Rio on a Friday that I had a tumour, I flew home the next day, and was diagnosed on the Monday. I told close friends and family but then revealed my news on my Facebook on the Wednesday. I debated what sort of time to put up the post as I wanted good Facebook traffic and optimum likes of course but my friend Karl said put it up whenever. I posted the status and left my phone upstairs for the evening.

I wasn’t ever in any doubt about telling people because I guess I’m ‘that sort of person’ anyway and as my friend Neil put it “you’ll write a status about a Saturday night out on the town, so you might as well do one about cancer”. But it also wasn’t a cry for help from me or an opportunity to inspire. It was just my news.

When I returned I had 350 comments, hundreds of texts, missed calls, inboxes and the support I received was totally unexpected and I thank every single one of those messages that came through. But the one that really hit home with what I was about to embark on was from Breno.

Having support around me for this has made it so much easier but it is something a lot of people struggle to ask for. Asking for support is not a sign of weakness it is a sign of strength. There is also a big difference between asking for help and asking for support, asking for help suggests your helpless but whatever struggle you’re going through you have to remember that it’s only you who can change it. When a football team has a dip in form or they have a big match coming up they don’t try to face the challenge on their own. No, the manager asks the fans to sing louder, to wear more of the clubs colours, to get behind the team and support the players. You support a team, you don’t help a team. As far as I know no one has ever said I’m a Tottenham Hotspur helper!

Asking for support or not even asking for it but showing that you would welcome support and compassion with a situation will go a long way, whether that’s going for a job interview, running a marathon, beating Cancer or even just saying you’re feeling low. But as Breno pointed out to me, it’s important to know you’re role in this team.

Reflecting on my own challenges, I have done the London Marathon twice and the first time I didn’t want any support. My first London marathon experience I got the train to London on the morning, ran the marathon in a personally disappointing time of 5 hours 24 minutes and 52 seconds, saw no friends and family, got the train home and that was it. It was the biggest anti-climax of what was supposed to be a good experience since losing my virginity, but it ended up being lonely and in tears. Just like losing my virginity, apart from the fact it lasted for 5 hours 24 minutes and 22 seconds longer than that night. The second time I ran the London Marathon I welcomed support, I got the train to the start line with 3 best friends, I ran the first ten miles with my best mate Mark, I saw my Mum and auntie at mile 19, lots of other friends on route and had a celebration afterwards. It was one of the best days of my life!

The same goes for when I completed the 3 peaks challenge the first time. It was hell on my own. The second time I did it with 7 of my best mates and its one of the best things I ever did.

As a teenager I thought whats the point of doing things for other people, especially if they won’t do anything to return the favor. But over the years I found that doing good makes you feel good. Some of my best supporters during this experience have said I have supported them at some point during their life.

One of the biggest lessons I will take from this journey and the people that have been involved within it will be the ability to show compassion to others with no expectation of anything in return. If you have never tried it, then put it on your list for 2017 and see how good it makes you feel.

I have spent this whole journey up until now questioning why people have shown this level of generosity as I can never repay you lot. The amount of money people have donated, the hours people traveled to see me, the head shaves, the mustaches, the gifts, the messages, I can never repay these people just like I could never repay my friend Breno for giving me the opportunity at the Olympic Games or the advice that he gave me

It read…….

“Sorry I took a while to reply. I’ve been trying to think of the right things to say. But I have concluded there is no real “right”. There is what I think is what I must share with you, and that’s all. I don’t mind if someone else has or hasn’t told you what I’m about to say, cause I’ll say it anyway. And it starts with this: you have never faced what you’re about to face now. Af, this shit will consume you. It will implore you to call quits! Now, I have never had cancer, so I have no real clue of how it really feels, so what I’m writing to you comes from what I’d like to hear from a friend. I’d like someone to paint me a bad picture. Build me up strong right now. Cause it’s not gonna be a fun ride. You’ve got a bunch of friends and family, and most of them will stick by your side, and that’s really important. But you know what? Don’t always expect it. People are different and they deal with problems differently. Don’t judge the ones who will not be as strong and supportive as you’ve imagined. As you have put it, this is definitely a team work. But you’re Messi in this game. You’re the one who has to step up everyday. Over, and over, and over. This is your game. You are the one who’s gonna have to make this happen. Got it? Af, I’ve tried to sorta look into the character I’ve met in you, and I have no doubt in my mind that you are strong enough for this. But you have to understand that this is a title bout, my friend. This is about strength, power, will, stamina, and love. Titles are only for the deserving ones, and no one deserves it if they don’t prepare themselves. You have laid the groundwork for this fight along your life. Being a genuinely good person, being happy, being strong and dedicated. And now the real true “bout of your life” has arrived. Unexpectedly, the title bout has been presented to you. Now you can’t run from it, brother. You have to fucking fight! The first round was mentally tough already, but you survived it well. You landed some good punches on you adversary. Now he’s coming back strong. Cause this other guy is a fighter too… he’s sneaky! And you’ll get hit hard, man. You definitely will. And if you put your guard down for a single second, he will hurt you, Af. Keep the guard up, and keep on pushing the adversary to the ropes. Your corner is behind you, we are behind you! Keep pounding, no matter how tired and hurt you are. This fight should go the distance too… 12 rounds of agony. 12 rounds of thinking about why are you the one inside the ring. Wondering why does it have to be this way. But Af, my friend, every great fighter has been through this. But only the ones who chose to question less and fight more, fight relentless, fight nonstop, are the ones who got to the end of their battles and had their arms raised. You have been a flashy, exciting and entertaining fighter through your lifetime. Now it is time to be a champion. Be ready for adversity, and become the champion. Af, do me a favor and continue to inspire us. Love, Breno”

I am Lionel Messi………

 

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Chemo Cycle 1, FAQs: Answered

As we draw towards the end of week 3 of my first cycle I thought I would answer some FAQ’s now that I’ve been through a whole cycle of chemotherapy.
FAQ’s
What actually happens during chemotherapy?
My chemotherapy cycle lasts for 3 weeks and I am scheduled in for another 2 cycles, so 9 weeks in total, with the hope to finish before Christmas and then it’s a short wait for a scan to review what has happened so far. There are over 200 different types of cancer and who knows how many different types of treatment. Every case is different and everybody reacts differently to the treatment so you can’t and shouldn’t tell someone with cancer that their mate Barry’s uncle down the road had it and completed it like it was nothing because they may have been on a different level of treatment.

What happens during my chemotherapy is that I go to the hospital 3 hours before treatment to have my blood tests done and determine if I am strong enough to take the chemotherapy. I then have an appointment with the specialist consultant to talk about the week before and the week ahead. During chemotherapy, I sit in a recliner chair, put my arm on a pillow and the nurse puts a cannula into my hand that is attached to a drip.

On the Wednesday and Thursday of week 1 I have 5 different bags dripped into me over 7 hours. You can feel a warm sensation going up your arm and with the more metallic drugs you can feel even hotter and you can taste it in your mouth. I must have been for 15 different trips to the toilet in one hour as they flush your system first. In week 2 and week 3 it is the same process but only for one hour on the drip.

You are sat in a room full of 7 or 8 other people getting treatment and they are mostly bald and over the age of 50 and 60. The previous weeks have not been so bad and the nurses are just amazing. God bless anyone wanting to provide that amount of care on a daily basis for the sick. Some patients read newspapers, have visitors, go to sleep, I booked a nurse to give me a foot massage with some aroma oils that just made me think of Christmas for an hour.

What does chemotherapy actually feel like and does it hurt?
During chemotherapy, I don’t feel any pain apart from when the nurse puts the cannula into my hand, this pain is doubled every time she misses the vein which happens quite often and she has to start over again. In the past weeks, I think that the most pain is when the nurses were ripping the sticky tape off my arms and ripping the hairs out like a waxing session. This could be due to the fact I am just a massive wimp. Put me in a boxing ring and let someone punch me in the face rather than a lady ripping my hairs out any day of the week. I have needle marks all over my hands and arms and missing patches of hair on my arms. For cycle two I have shaved the bottoms of my arms and hands because those hairs are not being pulled anymore sister.

What about the sickness and feeling tired?
So far, touch wood, I have only been sick once and that was on the Friday of week 1, Imagine those terrible hangovers when you just want to cry and regret ever drinking that fifth tequila straight after mixing it with a Sambuca and a jagerbomb. That was the feeling except I was being wheeled about in a wheelchair by a nurse who then crashed me into a doorway and got lost in the hospital. I was taking 5 different anti-sickness tablets a day plus tablets for all other things. My mum has been on point with this as I don’t even have to think about what I need; I am just brought my tablets on the hour through the day. However, these tablets all have side effects such as tingling hands and feet, tinnitus in the ears, loss of taste, and a severe joint pain which actually had me asking for the ambulance as I was convinced I had dislocated my hips I was in so much pain. Yes, there are feelings of tiredness and some sleepless nights but I just listen to my body and rest when it says rest and get up a hill when it says I have energy. The chemotherapy kills both the bad cancer cells and your good cells too so during week 2 I have a nurse come to my house every day at 4pm to inject me with a white blood cell booster. This injection also had some crazy side effects and I flipping hate needles.

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What do you do with your time and how much television do you watch?
I still break the day up as a 9-5 working day. I usually get up before 9am and I either try and break my record for amount of time spent in the bath (did over 3 hours one day this week), or I spend time doing admin of posting wristbands, trying to sort insurance claims, sorting benefits. Then I take a 2 hour lunch break (because I’ve earnt it), then start ‘work’ again at 2pm which is looking for things to do in 2017 like finding a new job, writing my book, finding a way to travel the world on a budget of zero, seeing friends that come and visit me, or walking up a hill for the perfect sunset picture. After a tough day at the office its time for dinner, a bit of social media and then before you know it it’s time for bed. The television I watch is just Gogglebox and ‘SAS he who dares’ plus a bit of football when it’s on. I’m not into boxsets since watching Lost and calculating the amount of hours I’d spent of my life watching that. If the day is a slow starter then I have discovered that music is sometimes the answer with the same four songs on repeat that get me going. Really hope the neighbours don’t mind Mumford and sons, Coldplay and Elton John.

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How am I ‘within myself’?
At the time of writing this I am no different to any other time to be honest, every day is a ten of course. I’m at a time in my life where I have been thrown a curve ball but it’s just a means to an end until I get going again. People keep telling me to be positive which I appreciate but I don’t have to be anything specifically. It’s not a case of looking in the mirror each day and say to myself “come on Af be positive.” If I had this ‘positivity in a bottle’ that I could sell then I would but I guess it’s just who I am, however rather than a positive potion in a bottle I have sold wristbands that say ‘you got this’ which is working for people just as much.

Now whether it is a learned trait I have grown over the years or a natural trait I was born with is an entirely different conversation but I’ll save that amount of detail for the book. I lost my hair this week and for a morning I was looking in the mirror thinking “crap I have really got it now, how the hell did this happen?” I could spend my days thinking why me and why now? I was living 50 metres from Copacobana beach in Rio de Janeiro with this beautiful Brazilian girl (sorry ladies) and about to travel the length of Brazil before heading to America. It was the first time I was unemployed since I was 16 years old and I have no income. I could think damn it I’ve had to have a testicle removed and I have a big old scar just under my belly (they pushed the ball up through and not out my ball bag) and my glorious body has changed for the rest of my life. I could think that, but I don’t.

Now instead of hostel hopping with my trusted backpack on the adventure of a lifetime I am regressing to being 12 years old again as I lay in bed with no pubic hair as my mum brings me pancakes in bed. But you know what, I love pancakes and I really love my mum!

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People are inspiring me everyday and who knew the power that three little words ‘You got this’ would bring to people? Some of the messages I have received about this have made me speechless at times. I have realised this journey isn’t just about me, this is about you too. So far it has brought friendships and families closer, given people motivation and an answer to something they may have been searching for.

I’ve had people sign up to running races, go for job interviews, lift more at the gym, ask that girl out for a relationship they wanted, get back out of a relationship they didn’t want, book adventures, shave their hair off, climb mountains and even quit their jobs to pursue new careers.

Yeah it sucks I have to go through this but I know at the end of this it’s going to change everything for the better. What a time to be alive!

Here are the top ten reasons to say You Got This when you need that extra boost

10. It’s free
9. Gets you out of bed in the morning
8. It pushes you harder
7. You will never quit
6. Erases excuses
5. It’s infectious
4. Boosts your confidence
3. Reminds you to keep going
2. You won’t forget
1. You got this

Fight Week!

Chemotherapy is finally upon us and should start this Wednesday if everything goes to plan. I haven’t really documented things like symptoms, feelings, diagnosis, stories yet but I will do eventually. We had the final consultation in Southampton this week to discuss my chemotherapy schedule.

I will be in ‘the chair’ for 9 weeks, 3 days per week. Week one is 7 hours Wednesday, 7 hours Thursday and 2 hours Friday and is in Southampton Hospital. Week 2 will be 30 minutes each day in Poole and  week 3 is 30 minutes per day but not sure where and then we start the cycle again and do that 3 times.
I am as ready as I can be for this, my whole life has prepared me for this challenge.
Its going to be a marathon – I’ve already ran 4 and once I ran 2 marathons in the same week. I cried after mile 51 because I was in so much pain.

It can’t be that bad!

Polaroid Picture Frame: https://www.tuxpi.com/photo-effects/photo-paper Polaroid Picture Frame: https://www.tuxpi.com/photo-effects/photo-paper

It’s going to be an up hill struggle- I trekked the himalayas for 11 days and when I got to the top the views were worth it.

It can’t be that bad!

Polaroid Picture Frame: https://www.tuxpi.com/photo-effects/photo-paper

It will be a bumpy Road where I want to quit- I cycled to Paris and fell off my bike on a hill near Dover thinking I would never make it. I brushed myself off got back on the bike and was drinking wine under the Eiffel tower 48 hours later.

It can’t be that bad!

Polaroid Picture Frame: https://www.tuxpi.com/photo-effects/photo-paper
It’s going to be embarrassing when I lose my hair: I lost £36,000 on the chase game show on national television and Bradley Walsh still said “you may have lost, but you have brought sunshine to so many peoples lives”

It can’t be that bad!

Polaroid Picture Frame: https://www.tuxpi.com/photo-effects/photo-paper
I’m going to think my body cant take this and feel lost: I drove the length of India in A 50cc tuk tuk with no map and still reached the finish line.

It can’t be that bad!

Polaroid Picture Frame: https://www.tuxpi.com/photo-effects/photo-paper
I’m going to feel lonely and like I can’t confide in anyone: I’ve done stand up comedy to thousands and told people I don’t know my biggest problems and make jokes about it.

It can’t be that bad!

Polaroid Picture Frame: https://www.tuxpi.com/photo-effects/photo-paper
Its going to feel like the mountains never end but I know the support will get me through : I’ve completed the 3 peaks challenge in 24 hours on 3 occasions and the easiest and most enjoyable time was with my best friends on the journey with me.

It cant be that bad!

Polaroid Picture Frame: https://www.tuxpi.com/photo-effects/photo-paper Polaroid Picture Frame: https://www.tuxpi.com/photo-effects/photo-paper
It’s going to drain me of energy so bad and feel like the worst hangover ever: I had a hangover so bad this year in Portugal I had to have three baths in one day and then couldn’t leave the apartment for three days because I was so sick.

It can’t be that bad!

So team, we are ready for this. All challenges seem hard before you ever complete them, it’s just fear of the unknown they can feel like there is no end in sight but you just keep moving to that goal and you will get there.

I have a 9 week target but it could be 9 months but we will get there.
Someone said that my story has given them inspiration. Everybody has the potential to be brilliant, we just have to recognise that.

Wednesday is the first bell of my title fight, 9 championship rounds of 3 days a week for the championship of life.

The amount of support I have received has made this journey easy so far. People can still buy wristbands by clicking here

People are asking how am I ‘within myself’? I’ve not once been down about this chapter of my life, everything for a reason. The only time I have cried during this has been from witnessing peoples overwhelming love and generosity, and they were pure tears of joy trust me.

So Wednesday is fight night, Wednesday is showtime, Wednesday is lets get readyyyyy to rumbleeeee. And that is when I need those positive vibes, those wristbands worn, those prayers to be said.

Then I’ll be all fixed just in time for Christmas so get the mistletoe ready.

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Afs next challenge – Cancer!

Yep, you read that correctly.
I found out Monday that I have Cancer and I start treatment tomorrow.

“Fuck!” Yeah, That’s what I said too.
“Shit” yeah I said that too.

After thinking I had an infection on Thursday I went to a Hospital in Rio de Janeiro to ask for some antibiotics as was flying to Argentina the next day to start my travelling adventure of South America.

After some tests and scans I was told that I had a tumour and I flew back to England the next day and landed at Heathrow Saturday afternoon.
Monday I saw a consultant and then had an ultrasound and a CT scan which confirmed it.
Unfortunately, the primary Cancer had spread to a secondary place in my body.

Tomorrow morning, I have surgery in Dorset County Hospital to cut out the first bit of the big C. and then I am hoping to start Chemotherapy next week to zap the rest.

I know this is a bit of a shock and is making people sad but team, we got this. My Family and friends have been brilliant and I know they will continue to support me and make me laugh along the way.
Last week I was climbing mountains in Brazil and now I am about to start climbing my next mountain just of a different kind.

Tomorrow I will be In surgery and I’m hoping I wake up in time to watch Southampton play Sparta Prague in the Europa League. If I am not, then I’ll watch the highlights so please don’t anyone tell me the scores.
Always a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and this is just another one of those life challenges that we will complete together.

So far, I have been positive most of the time and I intend to keep it that way. I’m sure I’ll have down days.
Someone asked me after the Olympics what was your summer experience like on a scale of 1-10.
I said instantly “A 10 of course. But I said, every day is a 10 no matter what I’m doing, we’re living aren’t we, what a time to be alive?”
Ok maybe being told you have cancer was about a 7 out of 10 that day but still.
So…………………. We’re going on an adventure and you’re all invited to come on this one with me. If you don’t think you can do anything to help then you’ll be surprised of the power a simple text will do.

You never know what’s around the corner and life is the most precious and glorious thing. So if there’s anything to come out of this post and my experience, go make sure you tell someone that you love them tonight!

Lots of Love. Afsheen
What a time to be alive !!!!!!!!!