Sunday, July 31, 2016

How to Renew Your Faith in Humanity

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This may be weird... I'm gonna be writing a blog post within a blog post within a blog post today. 
But yes, basically, I wrote this comment to a group of medical students on social media, after writing the bottom comment to a guy who writes this great blog on medical practice. I knew I needed to share this with you. This is directed towards medical student, doctors and anyone who cares about their welfare. So, hopefully, everyone! A popular blog post I wrote not too long ago that delves into the extreme depression that healthcare professionals go through. 


"I read this blog of a medical intern intern recently, and saw, as I always had for the past few years I'd been following him, a trend of dissatisfaction and depression. So I decided to comment this (the stuff below), and it ended up turning into pretty much a blog post of my own haha (I do this sometimes lol... it's how half my blog posts start) This may be able to help some of you out. Here I talk to a doctor... but if you can remember that all the strife we go through as students; the pressure to succeed, the threats of failing, and the constant, unending, life absorbing study - that it all goes to us being able to accomplish amazing things. That how the very hand you're using to click on things, one filled with miles of vessels, nerves and muscle/bone fibres, all coordinated perfectly to deliver the perfect amount of nutrients, energy and oxygen required to function stems from millions of years of evolution, is fascinating in its very EXISTENCE... it could make your life right now feel more worthwhile if it isn't already.
If you guys ever wanna talk btw - I'm right here. Message me here or on my blog (in case I don't see it) and I'll be more than happy to talk!
"Hey man. I've read your blogs for a while now. One thing I notice as a theme is one of depression. Of feeling overwhelmed, as if you aren't really accomplishing much from all of this. The great lie that is medicine I guess is that we will proceeed, in our lifetimes, to save hundreds of suffering people.
First off, I wanna tell you something I tell all doctors in your position.
That no matter what, you can, and ALWAYS will be able to make a huge difference to peoples' lives, no matter how insignificant this thing can make you feel.
Pain and suffering, and indeed, death, you can't alleviate all the time. But the way in which you influence someone's life in their most vulnerable, painful, hopeless moments, makes a HUGE difference to patients' lives. I know from personal experience (I'm a 2 time BMT recipient to treat my AML and suffer severe chronic GVHD because of it now). At the beginning of my journey, when I was first diagnosed, it was my doctor's words that got me to feel that I had some control in all of this. It was his actions, and the way that he practiced that inspired me even further to get into medicine. It was a letter from him to the medical board that allowed for that dream to actually happen.
But even now, with this incurable, long lasting, life threatening disease that is graft versus host, even after I developed this thought process that helped me get through the hardest parts of treatment, I find my doctor's words and interactions influence me greatly.
My care changed hands recently, as my old doctor had retired. My new ones left me disingenuous about my own health. They talked down to me, they refuted everything I said, it was almost as if they wanted to prove me wrong all the time (despite the fact that the publications on medications I'd looked up for a more recent disease I'm dealing with, bronchiolitis obliterans, they hadn't even read papers on... since then, I've been put on the medication...), and left me feeling anxious about my health, for the first time in years. The attitude I'd developed to deal with all those kind of feelings dropped away with that, perhaps because it exacerbated my depression.
Then I saw a doctor, as a second opinion, from another hospital. We talked about my health. The back and forth was glorious. Finally! Someone who was well read in his field actually explaining things to me! Finally, someone who actually cared about my sleep, stress and quality of life. Someone who treated even the little things, like my feet which were aching, rather than dismissing them in favour of "the bigger problems". That one consultation changed my outlook on everything immensely. I still know I may well die to this disease. That it could happen in years too. But I no longer worry so much, I feel better cared for, and that's spilled over to my life in general.
You can do that every single day as a doctor. It won't mitigate the long hours, the fact that many patients won't be helped, or listen to your advice, nor will it eradicate this system, that, in your country in particular, often dooms the poor to poor outcomes. But it will change at least 2 lives.
The first of that patient.
The second, your own.
Because if YOU can go into work, everyday, telling yourself that you're going to be that doctor that eases the pain, suffering and misery of others, you'll not just renew your faith in your ability to cause change, but perhaps even enjoy it again.
I hope this gets to you. And I hope this helps you out."

A video I did on this;


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Cancer Patient Plays Well, and Wins Big For Charity.

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Recently, I was given some pretty bad news. 

I've got bronchiolitis obliterans, a lung manifesation of the graft versus host disease that plagues me after my bone marrow transplant. Essentially, it's my donor's immune system (in bone marrow transplants, you inherit the blood making cells of your donor, which includes their white blood cells) attacking me. This time though, in the lungs. Over time, it's something I'll have to watch very carefully, as the survival outcomes for this aren't that great, and it's something that progresses too.

As you'd expect with anything of this nature, I was scared. Anxious, without even knowing it. Exams were going on too when I got the news, so I didn't even get time to properly take it in, yet alone look it up. When I did, I realised how bad it could very well get for me. And I got even more scared.

A range of emotions go through you when you hear bad news. You'd think I'd be good at dealing with these things now, given how I'd dealt with my cancer, and then my relapse and then a third cancer, and everything else (and there have been a lot of other things too) on the way. But though that attitude I took on board after all those things does help in the long run, it's almost impossible to make some good come out of this when it just hits you. Experience isn't exactly much help with these things. 

But as these things happen time and time again for me, what seems to hit, and stay with me most, and longest, is a sense of finality. 

Dealing with the leukaemia was the easy part, I feel often when I look back. The chronic effects of this all, combined with the frustration and grief (loss is loss; grief needn't be associated with death) it brings about, makes me prone to feeling this way. 

So I had this crazy notion a few weeks ago. What if this was the thing that brings me down? What if one of my hundreds of other conditions caused something like this too? Who knows how long I had left? 

So why not live out my dreams?

For those who don't know, I play poker. I started about a year and a half ago, when the cramps I get, that nowadays leave me debilitated and in pain most nights, started progressing. I needed something to do. Something to get my mind off things. So I started playing this game I learned years ago, something I'd played just for fun and in passing, at our local club. I was gonna cramp sitting at home anyway. Why not play poker while I got them

And slowly, but surely, I got better at it. I started playing buy-in, tournament events (I'd played for free for the better part of a year,  and win some money in the process). Nothing huge. In fact, til just a few weeks ago, the highest buy-in I'd posted was a $25 one. Most games I played were either free, or under $15. And til just a few weeks ago, I'd won over $6000, from less than $1200 in buy-ins! $2050 of that went to charity - as a reader of the blog had insisted on donating something to me, and that it be used for ME to have fun. That act stays with me til this day. The reason she wanted me to spend it on me just hit the nail on the head in terms what I was feeling at the time. But I couldn't just take someone's money in good faith. So I decided to donate all the winnings from her donation to charity instead! You can follow that journey here! 

So, where was I? Ah, right. My dream. Well, for a while now was to go and play in the World Series of Poker's Main Event. A HUGE poker tournament with over 6000 entrants every year, a first prize of over $7,000,000 (and a prize pool of over $60,000,000), but most importantly, one that attracts the world's best poker players!

I knew I was gonna play it at some point in my life. But after hearing the bad news a few weeks ago, I desperately wanted to do it this year. Even after the inital fear and that feeling of doom dropped away, I knew that life could turn at any moment, especially in someone like me. Who knows if I'd even be healthy enough to play the gruelling, 7 day tournament next year??

Yet I was still afraid. The buy in for this was $10,000! I'd be playing some of the best players in the world! People who played this for a living! I knew I was good. But was I that good? What would my parents, what would everyone around me think? Was it really worth spending a good chunk of my savings on this??? 

In the end though... this happened. 



Yep. I did it. I booked the next flight out, for me and my brother, and the next day, we were there. 

And the result?

This. 


I did it. I'd studied my butt off (because contrary to most peoples' perceptions, poker is a game of incredibly complex strategy, math and risk stratification), read all my stuff and played the most focused, quality poker I've ever played, for 10 hours a day, for just under 40 hours and not only made a healthy profit, but beat out thousands of poker professionals (including some of my heroes - who I got to play against too!) to get there!

It was the best couple of weeks I had in my life! All because I made this decision on a whim. 

I think Jim Carey encapsulates every lesson you could take away from this in one minute.
 


\
So. What am I gonna do with the winnings? 

Well, it's not a $28,000 profit. Remember, $10,000 was used to buy me in. 

But that's still HUGE for me! 

10% of the money goes to my brother. He's long been suffering alongside me. Indeed, more than me, I'd say. It's not easy going through cancer... but I reckon it's MUCH tougher watching someone you love have to go through something like that, while not being able to do anything. He's suffered not just the emotional and physical burden of looking after me, but also given up much of his life, just so I may have a semblance of a normal one. I can never thank him enough for that. But I can definitely try!

Around 10% will be going to my cousin, whose family took me in for a couple of months, and treats me as their own, til this day,  and my father, who's turning 50 this year. 

And 10% will be going to charity. I'm an effective altruist, and don't just believe, but KNOW that the best way we can make a difference in our lives is to give to the organisations that change the most lives per dollar spent. A great website actually does the research for you and ranks these charities for you. Which of these top charities am I giving to then? 




 
A great summary of Effective Altruism - a way of giving that makes sense!

In a way, all of them. Because, also something you may not know, recently, I started up a social enterprise - a charity that works as a business and distributes all profits to charities - called PlayWell! It's been slow work, but as soon as I'm a little more healthy, I can dedicate more to it. And it's well worth it. Because this thing could change the world. 

Imagine being able to make those hundreds of thousands of hours you'll spend in your lifetime on entertainment achieve good. Well, on PlayWell, you can. Through many direct and indirect ways, your every action on this entertainment app will allow you to make the hours you'd be spending on Facebook, or YouTube, or Tumblr or Instagram - the things you'd be doing anyway - make money for charity! Every tiny action of yours will generate revenue for charity! All while you enjoy watching stuff from your favourite stars, supporting them, and discovering the best content on the internet! If you know an internet star/a budding one - let them know they're invited to join now! Hopefully, it'll be a thing - sooner, rather than later, and help charities make money in a completely different, currently untapped, way!



If you know anyone who's a budding/current online star, who wants to make more money while helping the world, tell them to sign up at www.playwel.org!


And the rest of the money? Well... that'll be put to letting me play Next Year too! And in bigger tournaments for the year to come! At least 10% of all my poker winnings from this day forwards will be going to charity. And I've proven to myself that I can play with the best of them. I'm sure now that this is an investment that will pay off

While I was in America, I also visited some amazing doctors. And it's not too bad news for me overall, and the lungs! A doctor who I get second opinions from routinely saw me in person for the first time, and said I looked much better in real life than on paper - which was great for my prognosis with this disease. The lungs are still iffy, all agree, but it's not progressing, and indeed, may not progress in the near future, if I convince my doctors to get me on some drugs I've been telling them to put me on for months now... If you sense frustration there, you're right. One of my doctors described the care I'd been receieving from my recent doctor as "neglect"... And though there's one little issue left that may be concerning, overall, it's still great news!

And most importantly, I feel good! This trip has done so much for me. No matter how much I tell myself I can still do a lot - something that's kept me going despite the frustration this disease brings - I still occasionally get brought down. Now, I'll have at least one week that can remind me that I definitely can. Hopefully, that will help me continue to try and do as much for this world as possible.

 

Monday, May 16, 2016

5. Long. Years. And I'm STILL Here.

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On this day 5 years ago, my doctors told me these words... 

"Nikhil. The good news is, you're 17 and you have leukaemia. But the bad news is, you're 17 and you have leukeamia."

And they've changed my life. 

They've transformed me from a boy, fresh out of highschool, who wanted to help people, but mainly just wanted to play basketball all day, to a man who focuses on the opportunities rather than the prices paid, one who needs to put his all into that desire to help others...
But also one who often can't. 

It's been long. I've had 2 bone marrow transplants, with 8 rounds of some of the hardest chemo you can get, plus over 20 "maintainence" chemos (in truth, the fatigue they bring sometimes feels worse than those hard ones). I've relapsed, been to ICU at least twice (probably a few more times that I can't remember), lost a rib to a different cancer altogether, an eye to I still don't know what (the other eye's missed being blinded twice now since...), and lost my mind for 2 weeks to a reaction that almost reduced my chances at relapse to 0... The side effects from that last one alone, the drugs I'm still on and the constant threat of those seizures returning, still bear heavy on my mind... not to mention the major side effect of this all - the Graft Versus Host Disease that turns me into a child, cursing, screaming, pleading for the pain to stop, most nights due to the cramps.  
I've had over 300 bags of blood products infused into me, one that nearly took my life, 2 that have saved it (the bone marrow transplants). I don't even know how many appointments I've had. I STILL have monthly infusions, still go to monthly checkups with 3 monthly, 6 monthly and yearly ones thrown inbetween, and currently have 8 specialists looking after me.  
It's changed me from this; 














to this... 

















The isolation after being so self-conscious due to cancers' changes, made life dreary, and lasted months before I developed the mentality that got me through it...


The torture of losing friends, over and over, made me question why I even bothered... living.

The pain I still endure every day sometimes that makes me feel the same sometimes...

And it just keeps going on... 



There's so many different ways of looking at all that...
And I bet immediately, you went to the bad...


Being told you have a 10, maybe 20% chance of surviving at 17? A relapse? ANOTHER cancer? Your disabilities? Dude... that's horrible... 



I mean you could also think, "Wow.. you had 5 marrow matches? Many don't even get one (that's something YOU can change - click here to find out how) You've had, and met some amazing doctors and people in your life... you've learned so much from this... you've grown from it all. You're so blessed!"



If you asked me if I feel blessed or lucky, or if I'd do it all over again, my answer... 
would change. 
Depending on the day. On how I felt. On how much pain I was in... Or how much my depression prone mind was affecting me...


But overall, I am a happy guy. The way I dealt with it, by taking a step back, looking at where I was and then realising, when I didn't have emotions stopping me from doing so, that it only made sense to take the path that led me to success... To view the world in the good light, which is always there, and bend my attitude to focus on that so I'd have the best chance of being happy.

It's made me a man who sees opportunity, everywhere, even where most people see dead ends. 
It's made me able to laugh at the traumatic stuff I've been through, able to learn from it, and try to help others do the same, rather than being scarred. 
It's made me thrive, made my desire to help others a need rather than me curling up in a ball of my own misery...

At least, it's made me that... most of the time... 


The times I'm not can be horrible, with spells of utter depression that have lasted months...
leaving me numb, self-doubting, sometimes, suicidal,..

The grief I talked about here is just part of that.
When I'm cramping, and have been for hours, and I feel like I can't do anything, that this body I've been given isn't mine, and isn't worth it... you can understand how I don't really see much point to this all. 

But if you asked me how I felt today... 

I'd say Thankful. 

Not so much triumphant, ecstatic or gleeful... Though of course, there are hints of that.

Thankful. 

I have suffered, and in the days up to writing this post, I wondered if that's what I'd be focusing on as I wrote this. But no... It's not. 


I'm thankful for the doctors I had who not only gave me premium care, not only went above and beyond the call of duty to keep me safe, not only listened to me, getting me the medicine that's probably kept me alive, but also gave me the words that made me realise I had a CHOICE in how I viewed life. 

"the good news is, you're 17 and you have leukaemia..." 

I'm thankful for the nurses I had, who not only were the doctors, the real healers who'd look after me, administering the poisons that brought me misery and bringing me the meds that relieved that, but also be my confidants, carers and friends in all this. My angels. Who I couldn't visit today (I've got an infection I don't wanna spread to other critical patients) but would, if I could, give them the world for the comfort and happiness they brought me in the hardest times of my life... something they do for every single person they care for.  




























Me at my 18th birthday, when I was feeling so down and out about being THERE of all places, and at my 22nd, when I was told I had a THIRD cancer and needed surgery.
Both times, these amazing angels picked up on it. Both times, they threw me a party. Both times, they showed how much they cared. 

But what I'm thankful for most, is my family. An eccentric, funny, spontaneous father who'd always be able to make me laugh; something you need in tough times...

A brother, who's given up so much for me, and continues to do so Every. Single. Day of this young life, despite my being the biggest, baddest, most dickish troll ever... 





And a mother, who's done, and would do anything and everything for me. Who's slept in a fold out, often basic chair for months of her life so I didn't have to move that metre and a half to my phone. Who's had to watch me go through hell, ICU, and so much trauma, helpless, unable to make a difference as I did. Who's always there for me, who takes so much of my crap and somehow still somehow not only loves me, but laughs about it, and inspires me... sometimes even as I'm berating her...


just one example of how my mother, hell, any mother, will be the most selfless, loving beings you'll ever encounter.
just wow...

And I'm thankful for you. You guys who've read this, spread it, the friends who've kept me happy, those who've allowed me the privilege of coming into your lives to help, and just be there. 

And I will do anything and everything to try an make the most of everything I've been given... Starting with this;

My idea, trying to hack into the billions of hours we spend online and make good come from it.
to try and help those we love to watch keep doing what they do, for a living
to try and make it so easy to help people, by just opening an app, or loading up a site, you can change the world.
Tell anyone you know who entertains to join at www.playwel.org ! They won't regret it. For sure


My only wish, is that everyone be as strong as they possibly can. That they learn from me and my experiences and not wait for tragedy to strike, or circumstances be changed to become the best possible version of themselves. That they be able, and willing to help those who are struggling... That's what my new charity, an app/site - PlayWell, is all about. 


And look... if you can do that... then you've made this guy on this day, happy. 

Thank you. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

A True Miracle that didn't have to be...

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So recently, my uncle's come over from India for a visit. He's THAT uncle, the one who had chronic myeloid leukaemia and was treated at the same hospital, for the same procedure (a bone marrow transplant) by the same doctor, as me. The one I talked about here.



His story is heartwarming. He got his leukeamia at around the same age as me, he came here, Australia, trusting his life and limb to a foreign lands' systems, and a doctor he'd never seen before and he stayed here with us. I wasn't even 10 at the time. I didn't get what was going on, didn't understand the processes going on in his body. I didn't even know what cancer was. All I saw was his suffering, his progression from a healthy looking, young man, to an emaciated wretch. 

But he got better. He went back to his homeland. And after problem after problem, he defied the odds, defied his doctors, and now has a son. 


But amidst our long, deep talks, I found out how miraculous he really was. 


See, he was diagnosed in India, and after he was told he needed a bone marrow transplant, it was almost entirely left up to him to find a match. That was part of the reason he decided to be treated  in Australia. 
There's a 30% chance of siblings being a match. His brother wasn't one. He didn't get one on the bone marrow donor registry. Only 50% of people do... and that statistic plummets when you're of Asian, Middle Eastern, African American or Aboriginal descent. 




A video that explains the process of matching pretty well!

There were other databases to look through... international ones and the like. But my uncle wanted to cover all bases. So he asking all his cousins to get theirs checked. The HLA profile that your donor needs to match to you in a bone marrow transplant, comes from your mother and father. There are literally THOUSANDS of possible combinations of these. The chances of matching to your sibling are decently high... yes. But when you have another family, not blood related on BOTH the mother and fathers' side to you, the chances of a match hit the 1/MILLIONS again. 

He went to the hospital to arrange the test. But India is a poor nation. And the public hospital he went to had little in the way of resources, yet alone specialised tests and facilities for the complicated, and, at that time, fairly new, bone marrow transplant. 
So his doctor was adamant. Given the tiny chances of a match being found, he could only have ONE of his cousins tested. 

He was devastated. But there was still one chance. 

One of his cousins put his hand up to take the test. But on the day, there was a mix up. His cousin couldn't make it! He was stuck in traffic!

There wasn't much time... he only had one more shot really... So the other cousin was called. 

He took the test.

And he was a match. 

 A life-saving coincidence. A less than 1/1,000,000 chance... who could have forseen that delay?? Who could have seen that coming?? 

What if it hadn't...

The thing is... needless miracles need to happen every day to change lives. 

I myself was told, after being told I had a 10 or 20% chance of surviving, that my chances of getting a bone marrow match was just as small, as my mother's half of my HLA was extremely rare in and of itself. 

I ended up getting 5. 

40% don't even get ONE. 

And the craziest thing is... Joining that bone marrow donor registry, hell, joining that organ donor registry takes little to no effort at all

If you're reading this in America... all it takes is a SWAB OF THE CHEEK. (Click here to find out how! And encourage your friends to!)
They take your sample, check your DNA and write down your profile in the database. 
In Australia, only a small sample of blood when you're giving blood anyway, which is not only easier than most people think (just a jab, and 5 - 10 minutes), but is beneficial to your health and hip pocket too!
You have a 1/400 chance of being called up per year... so chances are you won't. 

But when you do... you not only get a chance to save a life... It's actually pretty easy too... 

Because contrary to what people think... In over 90% of cases... bone marrow transplants... don't actually involve the bone marrow at all. 
What they need are your STEM CELLS inside the marrow. The ones that make blood cells, so that it can repopulate a recipient's blood after it gets hit with chemo, and so that their white cells can kill off any cancers left! Check out the process below. 


It's a miracle my uncle  is here today. It didn't have to be though. And if anything will convince you to help make this end... it's gotta be this. 


To join the bone marrow donor registry:
http://www.bmdw.org/
To become an organ donor: 
http://www.irodat.org/




Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Facing Fear. Pain, Panic and Relapse.



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For the first few months of treatment, I hated getting needles. 

I’d never been afraid of them before, it was only after getting so many (and having so many miss) that I became frightened of them. REALLY frightened… I’d sweat at the thought of having one.  
This fear got so bad, that one night I refused to have blood cultures done by anyone even though I'd spiked a fever while my white-cell counts were low... an infection then could KILL me.

And I found out what the consequences of that were the next day, when I got that infection that almost took my life.

It was after I recovered that I realised I’d be getting hundreds of those things, and worse, over the next year or so of treatment. I got scared again. Hints of panic came over me just thinking about them. But I stopped for a second, took a step back from all of that, and asked myself…  

Why I was scared?

It was on that day that I realised that the fear I'd work myself up to before they'd take blood was more painful than the actual jab could ever be. Indeed, that pain was over in a moment…

What REALLY hurt most was the Worry and Stress I’d feel before that. And in the end… that was all coming from ME.

When I kept asking myself why I was putting myself through that… I had no answer. At that moment I realised the biggest pain we feel is that which we put on ourselves.

That was a huge turning point for me. It was the night I learnt that it was ME who was harming myself.

It's not like I cut out that worry immediately after seeing that... I mean, it's not like I like getting needles now... I don't think anyone does.

But you know what? I no longer let things I can't change, or things that have to be, affect me. When I do think about things, even things much more substantial than a blood test (from bone marrow biopsies to bronchoscopies to asking a girl out – the hard things in life), I ask myself why I’m worrying, and then focus on doing everything to get me OUT of pain, misery (and rejection), and do that instead.

And you can too. 


Actually how I saw needles back then...
Still do sometimes.



But that’s the worry and anxiety you get BEFORE turmoil.

How do you keep calm, or stop yourself from stressing or panicking when you're in the middle of a crisis?

Well it was on 1 night, during the workup to a second bone marrow transplant I needed, that I REALLY put that thought-process to a test
I was getting some platelets, and after the bag was half empty, about twenty minutes in, I noticed my face was starting to itch. In fact, I found myself itching everywhere, and soon enough, my lips were swelling up to twice their normal size.

I pressed the emergency button and nurses and the emergency doctors started streaming in.

They were amazing, finding out what was wrong, getting medications up and ready and, most importantly, keeping me calm, so I didn't end up pulling out my lines or lapsing into unconsciousness.

It was all going fine... 
Until my throat began to swell.

That's when I felt myself start to panic. Eyes wide, I glanced around in all directions, looking for help. I tried to sputter out what was happening, but panicked even more as I found my words weren't even coming out. My mind was telling me to lurch out, to pull away at the nebuliser that felt like it was constricting me, to kick at the nurses and doctors who, despite all their assurances and calmness, were scaring me with their sudden presence.

Then, in the middle of all of this, I took as deep a breath as I could. I stepped back and asked myself WHY. 

Why did I want to pull the nebuliser away? The mask may feel constricting to my face, but it was the only thing keeping my airways open. Why was I scared that there were so many doctors and nurses in the room? That they were here was actually a good sign and that they were calm and focussed meant they'd been through this all before and that I'd be fine. Why was I panicking about it all? It may be uncomfortable at the moment, but by simply laying back and observing things as they went along, and being curious about what was happening (I'll probably have to be the one administering the care to someone going through something similar in the future as a doctor-to-be), I'd distract myself from all those things and recover quicker from this episode.

By doing that, in my mind, I changed that experience from a frightening, traumatising one into a lesson.

And I knew, when I did that, that I could do that in the most difficult circumstances.

And I have! That same principle… the same way I got through that, I used to get through my fear of needles, the exams I had to sit for medical school (when life got back to normal – or as normal as life after cancer can) and even helped me to not worry as much about the terrible R-word. It really did.You couldn't help but feel that pang of dread as your doctor called you with results, or as you glimpsed your hospital on the way to work or as you were (and this is something you'd think people would NEVER do) told, yet again, by that aunty of yours about that friend of hers who'd died after relapsing

What you can control is how you let that control your life. 

I still have dreams of me being back in hospital. 

But instead of letting my mind run circles about something I couldn't control, I decided to focus on the things I could instead. My eating habits, exercise (however much I could) and just focusing on seeing the good and the fun in everything.

And soon enough, that does become a habit. You do get out of it. 
Trust me, you do.
And it makes that anxious time that much better.



Amen, random person!
 
But it’s harder to deal with when your mind is rigged to making you feel scared at the slightest threat. Real anxiety can be crippling... And I went through that for a while…Luckily it was only that.

During one of my treatments, I developed an allergy to one of my drugs, a severe one that gave me seizures, hallucinations and thescariest two weeks of my pretty scary life.

But it was after that, when the care of the ICU and my neurologist dropped away, that I got REALLY scared. Post-hallucination perception disorder is something REALLY scary. Hallucinations are so life-like, so real, that after seeing things like I had, I’d not know what was real or not. When cars sped by, I’d be baffled by how something could move so fast, when my brother and I played basketball, I’d wonder why it was so hard to jump up and dunk… I was lost, in all senses of the word.

A few times, it got really bad. I’d see something weird and ask myself if this was real or not? Why was I feeling weird? Why I wasn’t in a bed anymore? Is leukaemia actually a thing? Was this all a conspiracy or some sick prank?? And soon enough, I’d start going through a panic attack.

I had a few of these over that time. I don’t even know how long it went for.

But after a time, one day, when I started panicking after I couldn’t puzzle out something I was reading (as you can imagine, novels and movies weren’t the easiest things for me then…), I stepped back from it all and took on that observer space again, and thought, “Why not use my hyperactive mind to pull myself out of this”. After thinking how I could calm my racing mind down for a bit – making radical plans, becoming fearful of everything as this happened – I barked at my brother who was standing nearby to get me the iPad and put on an episode of Tom n Jerry. 



As I watched the thoughtless humour that abounds when a senseless enemy tries to corner its wily foe, my mind slo-wed down to a point where I could manage it, and I realised that this was something that could help!

I watched what must have been hundreds of Tom-n-Jerry videos in those times, but what really got me through that is something you need to deal with any mental illness.

A plan.

After thinking about it, with a clear mind, it wasn’t just the watching of mindless things that helped me get through an attack. It was having my family on the side - having someone to talk to. It was stopping myself from getting an attack, or getting stressed out in the first place – not worrying about the things I couldn’t control. It was telling the doctors about it, and getting help. Trust me – seeing a psychologist isn’t as scary or weird as it seems. In truth – it was just us having a chat for me. The fact that they weren't going to judge me, that, hell, I didn't have to see them again was comforting. 


And after that chat, I realised that those steps are exactly what you need to get through this. They don’t require any crazy amount of willpower or bravery. They’re something ANYONE can do.

And if you do those things, you can beat any demons that plague you!