Looking Back – the Power of the Human Body

Blog, Cancer, Exercise & Training, Health, Injury, Lifestyle, Psychology, Self Development, Writing

The other day I picked up a parcel from the post office. That parcel contained every single bit of information about the cancer and illness I once had, that includes over 600 pages of notes and well over 1000 different images, from CT & PET Scans, to X-Rays, Ultrasounds and Heart Echo Scans too.

It was something that – may seem a bit weird to people – I was really looking forward to getting. It was a chance for me to fully examine everything that I endured over the past 5 years and try to get my head around things. 

It was slightly liberating knowing that I could access all of this from the comfort of my own home. It was now me being the one in front of the screen, not behind it like I was every time a scan image came up or a test result was analysed.

I am no doctor and am definitely no oncologist, but after my experiences of both my dad’s ill health and hospital notes, as well as my own, I think I have a pretty good understanding now. 

Definitely more than the average person anyway; so with that little bit of knowing, I delved into the discs and found some pretty crazy things!

“Check out the Size of That Bad Boy”

“Check out the size of that bad boy” and “Damn son!!” Were the 2 phrases I remember saying when I got my head around how to view the scientific images…

On a total of 3 disks, were scans ranging from 2013 (the year I was diagnosed) all the way up to the other week in 2018, where I got the “5 years all clear” news.

Upon these disks, I managed to find the scans of which were the most important to me. The first scan on record (from the Royal Marsden) and the most recent scan – both in X Ray form.

Looking at the X-Rays, I was horrified for a few moments. Realising the severity and the size of this tumour in the centre of my chest.

(Left) First X-Ray after having port-a-cath fitted (Right) Most recent chest X-Ray

To the untrained eye, X-Rays are an absolute ass hole to try and analyse for something like cancer, but in this case, I think the three blind mice could see what the problem was!

Anyhow, after printing off each X-Ray and staring at it with amazement for 10 minutes I delved even further into the discs. This time, I found both my CT and PET scans. Yet again, the images were pretty harrowing…

I thought that the X-Rays looked bad, but in comparison to these more advanced scans “I ain’t seen nothin’ yet”!

I was always told that I had a 6x5inch lump in the centre of my chest, which was one big ball of cancer. Alongside this I had a few little spots of it somewhere in my neck.

The next images however, really bought that fact to the forefront of my mind and I sat there for a moment trying to comprehend how on earth I was still sat there. Having just got back from my morning run…

6×5 inch mass in the centre of my chest, pushing on one of the hearts valves

CT Scan – with a badly drawn arrow drawn by me; with another badly drawn circle to outline the large mass in the centre of my chest… This I believe should be an empty space!

As you can see from these two scan results, there was clearly something a little abnormal going on and it wasn’t the size of my Johnson!

When I realise just how huge this mass was and just how much it was affecting things like my heart, it made so much sense as to why I had felt so rough for so long.

This mass couldn’t have grown overnight and so it must’ve been evolving for a long time, without my knowing.

As such a young lad, realising my love for sport, fitness, exercise and combat sports, I always put it down to tiredness and training. However, things were a lot more sinister and it would take me a little while to realise, but my GP even longer to realise…

Treatment & the Power of the Human Body

I’m not stupid, I know that almost everyone in their life will experience cancer in some way, shape or form. Whether they know someone who’s had it/got it, or they’ve had it themselves. Cancer is a bastard – plain and simple – but the treatment almost makes it seem a whole lot worse.

Cancer in real simple terms, is essentially, a rapidly growing type of cell. 

It’s alien to your body and usually happens as some sort of mutation. Your body would usually switch on and kill off them mutated cells, but sometimes doesn’t realise this and if that’s the case, then that’s when you “get” cancer.

“Egg & Spoon”

The treatment however, is the real nasty ass mother flipper and that’s what the scariest part is in all honesty.

Conventional treatment usually consists of (in my case anyway) chemotherapy and potentially radiotherapy.

Chemo is the real feared one, as it essentially wipes out your immune system and is usually the thing that causes a persons death. Not so much the disease!

For instance, although my Dad’s cancer became terminal, it was his weakened immune system from the chemotherapy, that lead him to contract pneumonia and then pass away. It wasn’t technically the cancer that killed him…

Anyhow, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, despite being great at killing off cancerous cells can also mess up a lot of healthy cells and potentially end up leading to secondary cancers or damage to internal organs (reproductive, heart, liver, lungs, etc).

The point I plan on making here however, is that despite all of this treatment (from what is essentially a form of poison), how well the body can adapt, recover and return to “normal” afterwards.

How the Body Responds

I’ve been lucky. 

My body, I feel, has responded pretty well to all that it was put through. Although, I often feel that the treatment is also to blame for many things that I feel I fall short on, physically.

The toxicity of the drugs often means that muscle wastage is a side effect. It also means that bodily organs can be effected and weakened, as I mentioned in the previous section.

I personally find that muscularity wise, I give myself a hard time, because I don’t feel as developed as my peers, despite how hard/well I train.

However, what I have to remind myself is that to go from where I was, to where I am now, is no easy feat and that my body has near enough had to reset and is still building itself back up!

Internally however, which may be even more surprising, I feel that my health and fitness returned with relative ease and in a short space of time.

Training throughout treatment was one of the best things for me – mentally & physically

Whether this is due to my exercise and my healthier lifestyle, I don’t know… But it really is amazing to look back at the images and the notes that I got through in the post, and see just how well the body can respond to such trauma.

The body is an amazing thing and although it can let us down at times and break our hearts at others, it really is something to be treated like a temple.

The biggest piece of advice that I could give to anyone who wants to look after their health as best they can or who wants to try and get their body back to full health after having a disease like cancer, it would be the following…

Treat your body like it’s worth everything (because let’s face it – it is)!!

Go to an effort to make sure that your body is well looked after, well fed, well hydrated and well exercised.

It is really, really stupidly simple, but always overlooked.

Another few points would be:

  • Do your own research and learn about your body and your health
  • Listen to your body – your body will tell you what it needs
  • Live a healthy lifestyle – healthy doesn’t mean being ripped to shreds, healthy means living clean and being active.
  • Work on your mind & mental health – life is tough, particularly after having some sort of treatment. Work on your mental state and try to develop your mind and even try practicing meditation

Looking Forward

Looking forward to the future, I’m sure that my body will continue to change, grow and adapt to the situations it finds itself in.

Through leading a healthy lifestyle, in both a mental and physical capacity, I fully believe that I can live the rest of my life disease free.

It won’t be easy, but for the sake of the rest of my life and for my family, friends (and maybe even future children), it’s something that I must and everybody really, should make sure that they invest in.

“Look forward to the future, enjoy the present and learn from the past…”

In loving memory of my old man, Paul Kevin White. x

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