Health is Wealth – Dont take it for granted

Posted on: 06/10/2018

Not my normal style of blog as it is not directly covering a fitness related topic. However, it does touch onto my ethos that there is ‘no wealth without health’

My prompt to cover this on my blog came last week as I had flashbacks of my own experience with ill health as a result of a radio interview with a professional footballer called – Joe Thompson on Radio 5 Live. Joe was diagnosed with a cancer in 2013 and how he has subsequently overcome the disease on two occasions to continue his dream on playing football at professional level. His determination and positive attitude is very inspiring to anyone going through similar experiences and I could relate to so much of his own experience. Listening to his personal story and being brave enough to talk about it like he does, touched me as I have never really spoken about my own journey through Cancer. I have always felt kind of embarrassed to as I am known to friends, peers and clients as the Fitness Pro. The person who promotes health and fitness to the core. Well I do and have done from a very young age, so you might be surprised to read of my own experience at the age of 26 years old. The scars on my legs do tell a story and they are not from anything other than extensive surgery from Cancer.

For those of you who don’t know me and are aware of my personal battle a few years back, Yes I have had cancer but have been clear for over 10 years now. I guess, this isn’t something I ever talk about and certainly don’t drop into conversation with anyone that I meet on the journey of life. I will try not to bang on about my own horrendous experience too much as I feel blessed to have come out of the other side and not to be suffering any major long-lasting effects as I know there are many that have been diagnosed with the exact same form of cancer as me and have not been as fortunate to pull through. I am blessed in life to be surrounded by a wonderful family, a beautiful wife, 3 children and to be successful in one of my biggest passions in life – Fitness.

So here it goes, I will summarise some of my own experience without the gory detail!

It was in June 2006 when I started to experience some strange symptoms around a large mole on my left leg. I can only describe this as tingling sensation which would come and go. I guess it did become more frequent and was beginning to occur in different areas around the leg but couldn’t quite pinpoint it. The indicator, not that I knew at the time was a mole that was probably half the size of 1p had become quite shiny and very jagged around the edges. Yes, I worshipped the sun in my teens and early twenties as the dangers was not so well publicised back then. I played sport all day out in the sun and spent a lot of time in hot climates playing tennis.

During a holiday to Spain in the summer of 2006, the sensation become so intense that it prompted me to book into see a specialist on my return. On explaining my symptoms to the Doctor and after the assessment was conducted on me, I could tell from his face that he had concerns. I was swiftly booked in for a biopsy to have the mole removed. Post biopsy, I returned back to see the specialist 7 days later. I was then sat in a consulting room with 3 other specialists to be informed that I had a Melanoma which is an aggressive form of skin cancer and it was rapidly spreading itself into other areas and needed urgent attention. Ok, what the hell does this mean was my initial thoughts as you see your life flash before you. So, gather thoughts, what next?? I just didn’t see that coming.

It all moved so fast after being diagnosed and it felt like I was in a wind tunnel. I was literally rushed into a series of tests over the course of 2 days which included abdominal ultrasound, chest scans and CT scans. It became an unwanted adventure into the unknown. After various meetings/sit down chats with the Cancer Doctor (who was so amazing, words cant put into context), I was booked into have surgery on the cancerous area to remove a large part of my lower left leg.

The date was set for the 16th August 2017, with no idea on what shape I would be in after and what other treatment would be required. I was an extremely fit 26 year old, had completed two Olympic Triathlons earlier in the year, trained in the gym every day without fail, a presenter of Spinning classes, led a very clean life and had 8% bodyfat. You would have looked at me and thought, a picture of health and an ultimate fitness machine. If only that was the case underneath.

My body was basically under attack from this disease called Cancer and it just knocks you down hard. One of the important things it taught me was that you can be knocked down but don’t let the issue knock you out, which has very much been my mentality ever since. Life doesn’t always work out the way you want it to and you can take knocks at anytime, but it is how you come back from these that defines you.

One of the biggest challenges during that time was the ripple of confusion, fear and panic among almost everyone I knew. I felt people didn’t know what to say to me which was really difficult as you almost feel socially awkward.  Shedding a tear brings out the best and worst in people and cancer is no different.

After extensive surgery to remove the cancerous cells and a course of treatment, I left hospital after over 3 weeks of being confined to a bed/wheelchair. I was back at home, still unable to walk for over 2 months but I began to come out of the other side. I was given the all clear from the cancer later that year and have a set of scars to show for it. As of today, my only long-lasting effects are nerve issues, tightness in the leg and oddly constant migraines which I have only ever suffered with post-surgery. I have had a couple of minor scares in the last decade, but I look after my damn body so much in every way and try to reduce the risk of anything occurring to me like that in the future.

As I see it, you can only reduce those risks in life and it does feel like we are dodging bullets at time. This is one of the reasons why I promote health and wellness from a variety of angles including the mental and physical components of a fit and healthy person.

This subject is close to me and hearing of someone who dedicated life to Sport as I did when diagnosed inspired me to share my own experience. I have to say that Joe really has a story much more interesting then me. So much so, his book is available to pre-order Darkness and Light which is due to available from the 22nd October 2018.

Like I always say, be the best you can be and look after your body. You only get one!