You often hear of massive negative events being the inspiration for change in one’s life. Which sounds backward, why would, and how can someone create a positive out of a negative? I have been wondering lately, why do people do that? Why is it that some terrible, or horrific situation makes or breaks someone? But just as a bushfire is a catalyst for seed pods to burst and the soil to become more fertile so that new trees may grow, maybe that is what one of these experiences is meant to do. Maybe it is supposed to wake our true selves up out of our slumber and take on the world with a new mindset and some new values and metrics to live our lives by.
I don’t like talking about my brief touch with cancer as I see it as me being a victim and me, to put it bluntly, being a little bitch. But I can truly state that I was one of those experiences that changed my life for the better, fuck it was hard and I am thankful it was. Making me more aware of myself, and how precious life is, and understanding that I had the real possibility of dying and that death is something that will eventually happen to all of us. Understanding that I, as much as everyone in this world, has the ability to overcome any obstacle in our way. Also came to the realization that I have to pursue the things I want in my life, the people I interact with, the jobs and hobbies I have a passion for, read and listen to the people that inspire me, never stop wanting to learn and most of all to help out those who are going through rough times, and to bring everyone I possibly can up in life from dark places. I do want all of you reading this to succeed in life, however, you want to measure success by. You have to command yourself to get it, it will not come to you if you sit idle.
In February of 2016, I woke my Mum up in the middle of the night to let her know that the pain from my stomach was not going away. She had me call up nurse on call, the lovely lady on the other side of the line told me to get to emergency quick. So, we rushed off to the hospital, where I got diagnosed and the next day I was operated on. Appendectomies seem to run in the family, my father and his father had them done around the same age (21). I get out and everything is all well and good, I go on with my life, work, study, hang out with mates, plan for the next ski trip. A couple of months later I get a call while I’m at work. To give you some perspective, I’m in the middle of this soon to be estate on the northern outskirts of Melbourne. The next paddock over is this beautiful green field and small hills were in view, the skies were an ominous dark grey. In that moment I had never felt so small. When the words “We found a tumor in your appendix Carlos – Blank,” hit my ears, it felt like a scene from a movie, the hills kept getting further away and I felt how insignificant I was in the big schemes of the universe. I asked if he could repeat what he said like there was static, but I knew what he said. My workmate asked if I had seen a ghost, I told him that it was my surgeon, he joked if he was calling because I had cancer, he knew how to lighten the mood. I told him that he was bang on the money. I thank him for being a stand-up guy and taking the edge off a bit. I called my mum to break the news I am sure she never wanted to hear. The possibility that her son had cancer.
I count my blessings that I come from I unbelievably strong family, where there is so much love, power and ability to not falter. One where we really pull around those coming down on hard times, I thank my friends that were there when I needed them most, and to my bosses for not treating me any different thank you. So, began the long weeks of not knowing what the fuck was going to happen to me, all I knew was that I was going to win. For the first couple of weeks, I was fucked around by the public health system, from one surgeon to the next, all not giving me a clear answer or direction on what to do next. Thankfully my current surgeon took the situation on and set me straight. The long weeks of going in and out of waiting rooms for blood tests and scans and other procedures were hard, but being around my friends and family, working, studying and training, all helped me keep my mind off the grim situation at hand.
The results came in, no further tumors, however, since the tumor in my appendix was larger than the threshold, the collective of doctors decided to perform a precautionary surgery. I would lose the right third of my large intestines. What would be the life-changing event was booked in. I was upbeat leading up to the date, with the snow season around the corner, and if all goes well I might be able to hit the slopes at the tail end of the season. My surgeon rings me up the week before surgery and says she has come down with horrible flu-like symptoms and will have to push the surgery back a few weeks. The news bums me out for a bit since I won’t be making it to the mountains this season. But hey, I’m still alive and well. So, three weeks later I’m getting ready for surgery, got enough clothes for what will hopefully be a short three to four-night stay. All the procedures before surgery go well, and now I’m surrounded by doctors and nurses and I slowly fall asleep.
I wake up to pure white and an indescribable pain, I take a breath but get nothing, I cough to try to clear my throat. More pain, some red splatters the white background. Is that my blood I’m coughing up? I can’t stop coughing, more red. I hear someone yell “hold on to this as tight as you can.” I grip on to what I assume was a pillow, I hold on for dear life, coughing and blood and pain. All I could think was not today motherfucker, not today. I must’ve passed out because the next thing I know I wake up in the intensive care unit. My lovely mother and father greet me, as I started to come to. I am hooked up to a lot of machines and there are tubes in and out of me. A nurse lets me know that I am hooked up to morphine and I can press a button when the light goes green if I am in a lot of pain. I don’t think I stopped pressing that button for the first couple of days. I had trouble breathing, every movement hurt and all I wanted was to go home. I get a visit from my surgeon, she tells me that the surgery went well, however, there were complications at the end when they were removing the tube from my throat, she told me that I had inhaled a lot of blood and that I would be monitored before being allowed to leave. Two days later I was moved to a normal recovery room, where I could have visitors.
I am thankful that some of my friends came to see me and keep me from going insane. If you are reading this you do not know how much it meant to me. All the ones that didn’t go but sent best wishes do not feel bad, it is life, things come up and I know that everyone has their own problems that need sorting out. I do not view you any less and love you all the same.
I could not eat until my digestive system had rebooted, and I could not leave until I had shown that I had stabilized and the pain had subsided a bit. I can’t remember much of the first couple of days due to the morphine removing not only the pain but my ability to process what was going on. After a few days of rehab and exercises to open up the lungs and get me walking, the tubes and machines slowly disappeared to other patients more in need of them. I made it my mission to get out of there as soon as I possibly could. If they wanted me to be able to walk one loop around the small rectangular complex I would try to walk twice around. If they wanted me to do a few exercises I was going to do them to the best of my ability, whatever it was I was going to smash this. Once I stopped using the morphine as much I became more of myself, I tried to make the situation as light as possible, Yeah, I almost asphyxiated myself, but I was going to press on. After seven days I finally got out. My parents said that they were not too far away from picking me up, so I signed myself out after getting all my stuff together and headed down to the lobby. I was so ready to leave that I was waiting for them, but it didn’t matter, I was out.
The first meal outside of the hospital will forever stick in my mind. It was probably the biggest burger I have ever eaten along with a creamy milkshake, I paid for it later but it tasted so good. It’s the little things in life that create happiness, I try my best to not take them for granted. Shout out to one of my best mates who swung by and picked me up. Love you man. After two weeks of sitting at home not really doing anything productive, I told work that I wanted to start. I said that I will need to be on light duties, and they made it so I was needed. It was the best thing for me to do, it kept my mind off the pain, and allowed me to feel valued. Get on with life, because it won’t slow down for you. A month later I was cleared to start working out again, building back the strength was challenging but the experience made me really appreciate gym more, not being able to work out sucked balls, and whenever I catch myself whining about it I remember that specific feeling of pushing out that first rep since surgery and how good it felt.
Through the process I did not tell many people, I felt like I would burden them with my problems, or I would seem like I wanted some pity love. From the few people I told, word spread and many would come up to me and ask how I was going, many would send me well wishes and often would ask me why I didn’t tell them. I suppose in a world where everyone posts what is going on in their lives, I felt like I didn’t want to place my problems out there. I felt as though I could press on through the suffering by myself since it was only me who was experiencing it. I also hate being in the spotlight. I had many great chats with people who had been through similar circumstances, it was an uplifting feeling, that so many people cared and shared stories with me. It made me realize that I was a little bitch for thinking that only I was suffering. I often feel that most people put into these situations feel the same and tend to bottle up emotions. I know I did. It was a few months later when all the pain really came out, to the only person who I could really show how hard it was. I had to be strong for everyone except dad, he has been one of my greatest role models and best mates. On that day I let my walls down for a brief minute. It felt good, I guess I never spent the time to really address my pain. From then on, I would try my utmost to check in with myself and I started to become more aware of myself.
Like everyone I had good days and bad days, I would catch myself thinking why me, why did this happen to me. After putting it into perspective, I am still alive, my life is not that bad, I have a place to sleep, food to eat and things to do. Others are not so fortunate. All you can do in these situations is to push through. No one is going to make you feel better, you have to push yourself and break through the uncomfortable pain and suffering to get to the other side. The mindset I had through the whole process was to make sure that I never let it get the best of me, some days were harder than others, but I would do my best to rise above the situation and learn from it. It has taken me almost two years to put all this into words. And really start living my life by my own values, do the things that interest me, understanding and overcoming my fears, and changing my life. Asking out the girl of my dreams, starting BJJ, reading more, listening to the things I like, spending time with close friends and family, starting this blog, putting myself in uncomfortable positions that will eventually help me grow as a person. I know this is a long read and if you have made it this far thank you. I hope you all reading this can take something from my experiences and apply it to your life, remember it starts with the mindset. Create good out of the bad, use it as fuel, live your life your way and push through the uncomfortable. Life is a journey, make it your own.
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Thank you again, and see you on the mats.
Edit – Follow-up post of what I learned in posting up this story of my battle.