While I entered this challenge with the positive mental attitude I believed was required to see me through it, I didn't really appreciate how my life was going to change. In reality I've come out the other side with a new attitude to life. Yes, we all take our health for granted and yes, it really does sometimes take a major life-death event like this to make you take that required action to do something about it, but what would my situation have been had the cancer not surfaced? I'd have been significantly overweight, probably a confirmed type 2 diabetes sufferer, but still convincing myself I was happy and OK with it all. The diabetes would have forced some changes, but I know I'd have been doing the bare minimum to keep it under control.
Instead, I'm 24kg lighter, no longer at risk of diabetes and have learnt that just doing the minimum doesn't cut it. I also learnt that when given a second chance, you don't waste it, you grab it with both hands and treasure it.
While the dieticians want me to put on another 1/2 to 1kg before they remove Jake, rest assured I have no intention of retaining that extra. Once they agree to remove the peg, I'll increase my exercise levels and cut down on some of the sweeter dietary items to get back to where I currently am. After the best part of six months with only a liquid diet, my stomach has shrunk (I certainly get full on smaller size meals now) and have no desire to return to the large meals of old. I didn't need them, it was just habit.
I've also got a different attitude towards people and problems. I have never suffered fools easily and given what I've been through, my tolerance for people who portray a 'whoa-is-me" attitude over trivialities is now almost non-existent. That said, where in the past I might discount someone/something quite arbitrarily, I now actually listen more and think through situations more before making a judgement/decision.
What else has changed? I certainly have no desire for my work to totally dominate my life like it did before all of this. I love my job and will always put in more than is required (it is a work ethic thing with me), but I also now appreciate the importance of getting some down time so your body gets a chance to recover and you get a chance to de-stress / unwind.
The importance of others really hit home this year as well. The bravado going in about how I could look after myself was quickly dispelled and I became dependent on my now hopefully famous team. It took a lot for me to accept I wasn't some super-hero that could do this on his own, but once I did, my outlook changed forever. No more taking people for granted, but instead understanding their importance and appreciating them (keeping in mind the bit about suffering fools above).
My whole outlook going into 2011 is so different from how this year started and I do indeed now have a new normal. I'm healthy once again and with my new attitude/outlook hopefully a better, more balanced, person to be around. Being given a chance to put the lessons learnt this year into action is indeed something I'm not taking for granted. I'm one of the lucky ones to survive and think I owe it to everyone to make the most of the incredibly fortunate second chance I have been given.
My New Year's Resolution? Quite honestly, I don't have one. I'm more than satisfied with "just" being alive and well.
So, in closing, a final 2010 thanks to everyone who has helped get me through all of this. While some of them have been mentioned before on numerous occasions (family, friends, specialists, doctors, nurses, district nurses, my work family at all levels, cancer unit team, radiotherapy unit team, ambulance staff), some have largely operated under the radar, like Matt and his pharmacy team. The volume of drugs that have come through these doors this year has been not only staggering, but also daunting and Matt and his team have quietly gone about their business ensuring I got what was needed on time, which in some cases was no mean feat.
Here's looking forward to a 2011 we can all enjoy.