Right Down The Line – Uncle’s Wise Words

22 August, 2018


Up at 5am to get that blood pumpin’,
The early bird gets the worm, got it done and dusted
Rest and breakfast before dressing to thrill,
This aint no James Bond shit, just goin’ to work like a boring git,
Nine to five of hard grind, not always easy but I don’t mind,
The good outweighs the bad, positives aint hard to find,
Feels so good to be disease free,
Took my licks but whooped that UC,
Onwards and upwards from here, nothing can stop me,
The dark times are behind me, now a distant memory……..


And then I woke up. It was all a dream.




I guess it was too good to be true. I lay in bed for a while, staring at the ceiling, allowing the bitter let-down wash over me before getting up for my customary morning session on the throne. I sat down and did my business before taking a peek at the results.


Pinkish hue present.




Talk about a double whammy first thing in the morning. Reality fucking sucks. But on the bright side there was nothing but brown when I went the previous night. The game of hit and miss rolled on and I remained hopeful that it wouldn’t be long before any traces of red would vanish for good.


Come on, meds. Do your thing!!!!


I was unable to work out and couldn’t be as active as I’d like to be since I was still anaemic and was even forbidden from lifting moderate loads since any disturbance in my blood pressure could potentially spell trouble at my weakened state. Winter was slowly coming to an end and so the sun began to make more regular appearances in favor of cameos but it would still be some time before it would once again take the starring role. Still, I took advantage of this and went outside to soaked up the sun’s rays, hoping that the vitamin D would speed up my recovery.
I also did walking drills throughout the day to stretch my legs and keep my body mobile in addition to some light shadow boxing and movements such as arm raises, pulling motions, lateral raises and knee raises, the only real workout routine that I could perform at this point. I undertook this simple regimen every day, usually every hour or hour and a half, on a tiled area in the backyard under the sun, surrounded by the trees and plants that my father planted. Birds would sometimes fly in and out of the yard, frolicking within the tree branches before setting off and at other times they would sit atop the fence that separated our home from the streets, watching this strange man perform what looked like some weird military marching drill, peppered with sessions of shadow boxing. During ‘after hours’ I would perform these exercises indoors in the living room.
These sessions took only fifteen to twenty minutes at a time and did not require much space so it was ideal. More importantly, during those fifteen to twenty minutes I felt strong and free once more and served as a reminder that while I may have been down, I was definitely not out.

It was also around this time that I finally confessed to my friends that I had been battling a rather serious disease and was under doctor’s orders to live like a hermit for the next few months, or however long it took for me to recuperate. Most of them had texted me leading up to, and shortly after, my colonoscopy, asking why I had suddenly disappeared from the face of the earth and even before my hospital stay some had expressed concern over my pale and weak appearance. I was rather cryptic with all of my responses, simply replying that I was ill but on the mend, keeping the extent of my ailment in the dark from all but my immediate family. Let’s be real, ulcerative colitis was a nasty disease and the symptoms that came with it are rather disgusting and embarrassing. But patients ‘on the mend’ didn’t go on lengthy, unexplained exiles. It took some time before I was finally able to reveal the real truth but once I did, I received messages of support and encouragement. They were definitely a big help towards my recovery, I am truly blessed.
And of course I took my medication without fail as per Dr. B’s orders. Thank goodness that any nasty side-effects seemed to elude me.

I also went for regular check-ups with Dr. G, who was now in regular contact with Dr. B. While Dr. B focused on the progress of my bowel’s recovery it was up to Dr. G to monitor my anaemia and overall well-being. I also made the odd visit to some of the specialists at the hospital that I stayed at for follow-ups to ensure that I would not be a repeat guest. They, too, stayed in regular contact with Dr. G and Dr. B and kept each other on the loop about yours truly.
I was also ordered to undergo regular blood tests that both Dr. B and Dr. G would be notified of. Dr. G and I discussed my results after every test and while my haemoglobin levels continued to rise, they did so at a frustratingly-slow pace.

Man, a snail could crawl from New Zealand to Spain at a faster rate than my haemoglobin levels!

Over-exaggerating, obviously, but there were definitely times where my patience ran thin although slow progress is better than no progress or worse, regression.
Can you believe that? I had an army of doctors and specialists monitoring my progress. On good days I felt like an elite athlete with an eclectic team of trainers around me while on not-so-good days I felt like a science experiment gone wrong with a team of scientists forced to work into overtime to fix me up. And of course my family and friends were extremely supportive and regularly encouraged me to keep going. With a solid network like that there was no way that I could lose.


A few days after my sister’s birthday, my uncle and aunt that lived interstate had left their car in our garage before going on holiday and a few days after my follow-up with Dr. B they made an overnight pit-stop at our place upon returning to recuperate before driving back home. Both of my parents had left for work earlier that day and so I prepared the breakfast table at the house’s extension room that we nicknamed ‘the glass room’ due to its glass windows and door after I finished my own breakfast (the guests had slept in, as one would upon returning from holiday without having to go to work the next day). My uncle was the first to rise and quickly washed up and got dressed before making his way to see me in the kitchen.
“Good morning,” he greeted before pouring himself a mug of coffee, the drowsiness still evident in his voice, “how are you this morning?”
“Feeling better,” I returned, “still got a way to go before full recovery, though.”
My uncle ran his hand across his grey hair before sipping his coffee and gradually began to perk up as the caffeine made its way through his system. We conversed as I prepared the food for him and my aunt, who was still busy getting dressed. We discussed everything from family to work and my life before ulcerative colitis.

It wasn’t long before the conversation inevitably led to a sermon from my uncle, who was a pastor. His homily lasted probably all of five to ten minutes, interrupted only by sips of his coffee. No, he didn’t use any dramatic hand gestures nor did he raise his voice like the preachers that one might see on TV and in the movies. He was rather laid-back and conversational in his approach and touched up on the usual subjects, like how we will all be tested throughout our lives, that even the strong can feel broken at times but that in the end, the strong rise to the occasion and carry on and that God will help those that want to be helped. All I had to do was place my trust in Him.
In other words, he was merely echoing the same sentiments that my mother, who was quite religious herself, would remind me every single day, sometimes more than once.


Trust me, Unc, I know.


Still, I sat in silence and let him have his say. It’s nice to know that I also had his support. My uncle drank the last of his coffee once he had finished preaching and folded his arms across his broad chest.
“Do you understand?” he inquired.
“Yeah. I appreciate it, Unc.”
“Anytime, Son. Anytime.”
And with that he helped me set the dining table in the glass room and I laid out the food; some eggs, bacon, bread and fresh fruit. My aunt eventually joined us and she greeted me with a hug and kiss and asked me about my health.
“All good,” I answered, “I’ve been taking my medication and the doctor prescribed me some additional medication that specifically targets my bowels.”
“What types of medication are they?”
“Imuran and Mezavant. Don’t worry, I am aware of the side-effects and I haven’t felt any.”
A registered nurse, my aunt was glad to hear that.
“Just follow your dosage,” she smiled, “you’ll beat this in no time.”
“Yes, I will.”

I cleaned up the table and washed the dishes after they had finished while they returned to the guest room to pack up their bags before beginning the long drive home interstate. It was around 10am when I helped them load their bags into their car – mind you I was only allowed to carry the light loads – before they drove off.
My aunt gave me a quick hug and kiss and wished me well. “Stay strong, Kid,” she said, “you’ll get through this. We’ll pray for you.”
“Thanks and will do.”
My uncle shook my hand before giving me a hug, echoing my aunt’s words. But he was also sure to add that I should do my share of the praying, too.
“I sure will.”
Their car slowly reversed out of our driveway and my uncle checked both directions of the street for any oncoming traffic before reversing into the road and driving off. I stayed in the driveway until they were out of sight before returning to the backyard to begin another round of my exercise routine under the morning sun.


By the way, later that night I told my Dad about the dream I had. He responded by encouraging me to use it as motivation.
“That’s a glimpse into your future, Son,” he said optimistically, “this is only temporary. You will be back to normal in no time. Just fight back.”

I had every intention of heeding his advice.


Letter to B.I.G – Hope you’re alright

Listening to this track by Jadakiss about his man Biggie,
Got me thinking about my old best buddy, how ya been, Homie?
It’s been a while since we’ve crossed paths,
Deep into double digits now, the number of years that passed,
We were tight one time, shared plenty of laughs,
Acted as each other’s confidant, shared stories no-holds barred,
At the time it was hard to believe that one day you would leave,
Or perhaps it was I who did the deed, hard to pinpoint the guilty party,
I sucked at maintaining friendships, that part I admit,
Hold it against me, I won’t begrudge you one bit.

But don’t think you’re in the clear, you’re hardly innocent,
Takes two to end a friendship, you were also complicit,
You could have e-mailed, texted, picked up the phone and called,
Asked me why I’ve been slacking off, but I didn’t hear from you at all,
I should have done the same but I didn’t, that shit’s on me,
But in reality we just grew apart, that was always a possibility,
I guess that’s just the way life is,
Fate had the final say, we’re no longer teammates.

It’s weird, isn’t it? We were like siblings from different parents,
Acted like fools talking random stuff on a daily basis,
It seemed like we’d take the friendship to our old age,
Up to when the story’s down to the final page,
Still talking shit while sitting on rocking chairs,
Maybe playing cards or video games in between bitching about our grey hairs.

Would you even recognize me if we passed one another?
I guess I can’t talk, the question’s more than mutual, I don’t have much ground to stand on,
‘See you later’ was our last words to one another,
Shit was a lie, so consider this the final good-bye,
I wish you well, Pal, wherever you’re at,
That you’re happy and healthy, simple as that,
We may never meet again but those good times we shared won’t be forgotten,
Count on it, cuz you played your part well,
Keep living a good life because you deserve it.


Better Days – Additional Weaponry

Another song by 2Pac, the title sums up what pushed me on,
Hopeful of a return to form once this disease is gone,
Finally reclaiming my health after months of torment,
Revenge is at hand, I’ll come out triumphant.


17 August 2018

My parents and I drove back to Dr. B’s clinic for a follow-up consultation a week after my sister’s birthday. I kept up the Prednisone treatment throughout the week and I definitely saw some changes, although there weren’t any miracles just yet. For the most part it was still a game of hit-and-miss but some afternoon and evening sessions began to yield blood-free results, much to my relief.




Never thought I’d ever find myself getting excited over taking a shit. Aint that something!?


Anyway, we pulled up to the parking lot of the business tower where Dr. B’s practice was located during that afternoon. Afternoon peak hour traffic had yet to take into full effect so the voyage was rather smooth-sailing and we were fortunate to find a decent spot in the relatively small parking lot.
There was still some time to kill when we arrived and so we sat in the car, listening to the radio in relative silence. My parents would occasionally make small talk with one another but I stayed quiet and continued to listen to the music. Dr. B had told me shortly after the colonoscopy that the purpose of this meeting was to discuss the further course of action after I had been weaned off the Prednisone and while I wasn’t expecting any more scary news the thought of going to see a doctor still gave me the creeps. Like I said before, going to the doctor or hospital, even if I’m not the patient, makes me feel uncomfortable.
We left the car when it was about fifteen minutes before my appointment and I took a deep breath as we exited the vehicle and I stretched my limbs, my back and glutes having tightened up as a result of all that sitting.


Ok, let’s do this.


My parents went straight to the waiting room as I approached the receptionist to confirm my appointment. She checked my details on the computer system and confirmed my attendance.
“Please take a seat in the waiting room.”
“Thank you.”
And with that I joined my parents, along with two other patients accompanied by their significant other, in the waiting room.

When Dr. B called us into his office he was still dressed in his blue operating room scrubs. He had probably been on his feet since the early hours, rushing back and forth between his office and the Hospital for Specialist Surgery like a madman in addition to frantically checking his e-mails during whatever downtime he had but if he was tired or stressed, he did not show it. He was a true professional.
I took a seat opposite his desk, an assortment of cards regarding different digestive disorders stacked right in front of me, while my parents both took their seats on the side of the room, directly facing the massive window with the panoramic view of the suburbs. I felt less anxious this time as I was no longer swimming under a cloud of uncertainty about my health. You could say that the worse was behind me.


No pun intended. Stop laughing!


Dr. B sat down and tinkered around on his computer to upload some documents in addition to images taken from my colonoscopy before commencing our meeting.
“So you have ulcerative colitis,” he began.
Shoot, tell me something I don’t know, Doc!
“Your colonoscopy shows that your bowels are severely diseased and swollen.”
Oh yes, how could I forget? My official diagnosis was severe pancolitis, meaning that my entire bowel was affected. Dr. B turned his computer monitor towards my parents and I to give us a good look at the images of my bowel taken by the camera during my colonoscopy. I’ll spare you the details but all you need to know was that the images were horrifying and I wouldn’t have been surprised if my parents threw up a little bit in their mouth.
Dr. B did a side-by-side comparison of my results with an image of a healthy bowel and the difference was startling.

Whoah!!! This is what it looks like inside me!!!???

“As you could see, that’s a pretty diseased bowel, when we looked inside it was rather swollen and bloody,” stated Dr. B, “the walls of your bowels are quite ulcerated, like you have a bad rash in there.”
My dad, perhaps to put me at ease, tried to make light of the situation.
“See that, son? It’s nothing but a rash,” he said, “you’ll be over this quickly.”
Dr. B smiled at his attempt to lighten the mood before adding, “it’s not quite that simple, I’m afraid. This condition could require lifelong treatment and maintenance. Your son could have been in a world of pain had we not done anything about this and could have led to a complete removal of his bowel.”

And there it was, confirmation that my sheer stubbornness could have cost me my bowel. Boy, did I feel like a fool for not jumping on this thing quicker.

Dr. B then changed the subject but maintained his relaxed tone. “You’re currently taking those Prednisone tablets that were prescribed to you, yes?”
“Absolutely,” I replied.
Believe me, upon seeing those images of my bowel I was not about to disobey his orders.
“Have they been beneficial?”
“Oh yeah,” I answered, “there’s been less blood every time I ‘go’ and at times there’s been no blood.”
“Oh ok, that’s good to know.”
Dr. B then became serious once more. “And you’re aware that you need to cut back by 5g every week until you are completely weaned off them as long-term use can be hazardous to your health?”
“Yes,” my father responded on my behalf. Being very good with numbers he had tasked himself with the job of preparing my medication and keeping track of my dosage for me as he felt that it would lighten my load and reduce whatever stress and anxiety I was already under.
“Good,” replied Dr. B.
Dr. B then addressed the reason for our meeting – to introduce me to the additional medication that I was to add to my arsenal in this battle against ulcerative colitis. Dr. B printed out a couple of forms for my parents and I to read over.
“So in addition to the Prednisone you will also be taking Imuran and Mezavant. You will continue with the two once you’ve been completely weaned off the Prednisolone.”

Finally! Some heavy artillery to beat this motherfucker.

Dr. B wrote me a script for both medications, in addition to the dosages. Imuran, AKA: Azathioprine, was an extremely powerful imuno-suppressant that was vital in keeping the disease in remission and preventing relapses. It was a rather tiny pill but packed a bigger punch than Mike Tyson on steroids and so was not to be taken in large doses straight away. My prescription called for an initial dosage of half a pill (literally, half a pill) before moving onto a full pill three weeks later and then two pills three weeks after that. That way my body can acclimatize to them without feeling overwhelmed.
The other new piece of weaponry in my toolbox was Mezavant, designed to maintain remission and heal the bowel. Dr. B prescribed four tablets a day. Combined with the Imuran the battle plan was to come at that ulcerative colitis as aggressively like a hungry lion on an antelope, reduce the inflammation and then keep the disease in remission.

Imuran (yellow) and Mezavant (brown). Ready for battle!

“Will there be any side effects?” my mother inquired.
Dr. B sighed deeply. “Yes,” he admitted, “but they’re not very common. Contact me if you feel any aches and pains and nausea. You may need to undergo blood tests every now and then to make sure that other parts of your body such as your liver, kidneys and pancreas are still working well as the medication may affect these organs.”
Well shit……those sounded like some rather serious side-effects. My bowel was already fucked and I really didn’t want any of my other organs to follow suit. But I suppose it was take the meds or lose my bowel and there was no way in hell that I was going to get any of my organs cut out of me. Besides, Dr. B said that side-effects were not very common so there was no reason to get ruffled.
“I’m still anaemic, though,” I added.
“As long as your blood count is not going down any further you’ll be alright. It takes time to recover from that, especially since your haemoglobin levels had dropped to some rather severe levels.”
“I know,” I responded with a chuckle.
That colitis was going to pay dearly for that. It rendered me weak, inactive and living like a sick person.
“Just take it easy for a while and remember to keep taking your medication,” advised Dr. B, “you’ll be ok before you know it.”

And with that, Dr. B concluded the meeting and handed me my scripts.
“Go to your local pharmacy in the next few days and you can start taking them starting next week,” he instructed, “I included your weekly dosages with the script. Let’s meet again in nine weeks’ time. Make sure you get another blood test done before then.”
“Ok, Doc,” I replied, “thanks for your time.”
My parents and I shook hands with Dr. B before leaving. I made sure to book my next appointment with the receptionist before we headed back to the parking lot.
The next day, my father and I both went to get our haircut before buying a steady supply of Imuran and Mezavant from a nearby pharmacy. The boxes that housed those pills were a lot bigger than I thought.

Following a dose of Prednisone during breakfast I took half a pill of the Imuran with my mid-day meal and saved the four Mezavant tablets for after dinner. I almost felt like Tony Montana from Scarface before taking each pill, shouting ‘say hello to my little friend!’ in my mind before swallowing them with water. I didn’t feel any side-effects afterwards, much to my relief.


Take that you blasted disease!!!!


I had officially begun my full treatment for ulcerative colitis but I wasn’t naïve. I wasn’t expecting any quick results regarding my anaemia and the blood in my stools but it was a great feeling to know that I was now fighting back. I just had to take it easy, work a fine balance between work and rest and wait patiently before I was back to my best, physically and mentally.

Careless Whisper – MRI Experience

Arrived an hour early, they got me signing papers
Before escorting me to that weird-looking chamber,
Strapped me up then dimmed down the lights,
‘Gonna be noisy in there’, they warned, ‘keep those earplugs tight,’
Then I was off, slowly but surely, before coming to a stop,
That’s when the symphony began, a cacophony of crackles and pop.

Nothing drastic at first, just an initial buzzing,
Before developing into the sound of a chainsaw revving,
Felt the vibrations from head to toe before I heard machine gun fire,
Followed by an eerie bass, the type that went on for a while.

Then a brief respite, heard George Michael on the radio,
Before the orchestra of sound resumed with zeal and gusto,
The bass was up first, sounded like the music from Jaws,
Soon accompanied by a beat that I felt from my head to my feet.

The time ticked by, my body felt empty,
Forced to lie still like a dead soldier, God this itchy nose is killing me,
Surely an innocent scratch won’t harm the outcome?
To hell with it, a man can only put up with such irritation,
The guns went off once more, like a military salute,
Felt like I was on the set of Full Metal Jacket, running, hiding and dodging bullets,
Then the beeping started, here comes a new sound,
Must be an alien invasion, I come in peace, let me show y’all around.

Another brief respite, the earplugs run deep,
What’s that they playin’ on the radio? No time, here comes another beep,
Followed by that damn chainsaw once again,
How long does it take to cut down a tree, man!?
And then the horror theme resumed once more with a stronger beat,
Tried to fuse some rhymes for an impromptu freestyle, but can’t do much while strapped like a captive crocodile,
The bass goes on and on and on some more,
This shit becoming boring now and my legs are getting sore.

Another alien invasion followed by weird drum beats,
Then that chainsaw revs up again, God dammit CUT DOWN THAT TREE!!!!
Silence follows abruptly, a strange voice speaks to me,
“Doctor ordered an injection,” gotta see my insides more clearly,
Wheeled out briefly, felt the sting of a needle,
Followed by some cool liquid flowing through my veins, fifteen minutes more before I’m done with this game.

Wheeled back in before the gun shots rang out,
By now they’ve taken on the sound of helicopter blades spinning out,
Thankfully no more chainsaw but the horror theme is back,
Sportin’ a harder beat, this remix is fire even though a little whack,
Almost an hour now, lying motionless and strapped,
I’ve now lost most of the feeling from my back,
Soldier on, Boy, the end is in sight,
Block out the sounds, your ears are still alright,
Then it’s all over, I see the light once more,
The nurse frees me from my spot, wow my head is sore!
“Gather your things and take this form to the front desk,” she requested,
“Thank you and will do,” and with that I head out to the receptionist.


The Young And The Hopeless – Letter To My 18-Year-Old Self

Here stand the twin bookshelves, music on one side, arts and crafts on the other,
Here you take shelter following another hellish encounter,
You convince yourself that you prefer the sanctuary of the library,
Fuck the student body, that’s what you tell yourself daily,
The proud poster boy of teen angst, it’s a title you wear proudly,
Nursing that chip on your shoulder yet crying about how life is so shitty.
On some level I get why you would think like that,
But in the end it’s your fault that your life’s outta whack.

It’s been one heck of a year, final exams are drawing near,
You’re feeling the heat now, the pressure kicks into high gear,
You’re not alone, your peers have hit the ground running,
Freedom looms but not without hard work and studying,
You try to be a model student and your pluck is admirable,
Especially in the face of another rather serious battle,
The bullies are ruthless, such is their cruelty,
Leaving you overwhelmed and on the brink of insanity.

Yet you refuse to fight back, even when they cross the line,
Why give them the satisfaction? Where’s your dignity and pride?
Don’t have to use your fists, Kid, but surely you have the balls to tell those punks to back off once and for all,
But nah, you fear the school rules and the bullies’ retribution,
You fear getting beat on before getting slapped with a suspension,
Fuck that shit, Kid, you have to take a stand,
Let them know that you aint nobody’s lamb.
You bitch and moan about how your friends betrayed you,
Joined your attackers and made a fool out of you,
You should have known better, Son, you fell for the mask,
You dropped your guard and that’s just the cold hard fact,
You played yourself, Kid, you gave up your honor,
Stop hiding behind denial and admit to your error.

And quit worrying about your grades so damn much, you’re stressing over nothing,
Give it your best shot but not to the point of suffering,
Grades are temporary, your health and well-being are forever,
The world don’t care about a number on paper.
And guess what, Kid!? Life hasn’t started fucking with you yet,
It’s a raging river beyond those gates and you’ve yet to get your feet wet,
The grades you chase won’t mean shit, there are no gold stars,
There’s no reset or retry, like the video games on which you waste your hours,
And if you can’t defend yourself in here, how will you survive in a world where the weak are chewed up, spat out and then left to die?
Leave your comfort zone, just for a moment, explore the world around you,
You’ll see the poor and downtrodden, take a walk in their shoes,
Many days without food and shelter will make your grievances seem trivial,
You think you have it tough? Try getting caught in their vicious cycle.

All you have to do is study hard and stand your ground,
To give it your best and not let assholes push you around,
And in the midst of this you forgot the most important things,
You have a family that will be there through thick and thin,
You can afford to eat three square meals and got a roof over your head,
You can go home at night and sleep on a warm bed,
Many would say you’re fortunate, that you should count your blessings,
Rather than stay bitter over your useless, temporary problems.

And as crazy as this may sound I urge you to enjoy your life now,
Before you enter the adult world with its many ups and downs,
You think that school’s a pain in the ass and that those bullies are crass?
Wait til you face life on your own, with nothing to fall back on but your willingness to soldier on when all hope seems gone,
Life won’t always treat you kindly it can be rather cruel,
Beat you to your knees and beyond, leaving you bloodied and bruised,
The sharks will be swimming, waiting to strike the unsuspecting,
You’ve been fooled before in your youth, your game plan needs revising,
Your teen years are drying up, soon you’ll join that cold world,
Make the most of what you have now before that chapter’s closed.

You’re probably wondering who I am and why I know so much about you,
I aint no stalker but you’ll get to know me very soon,
I’ve been there done and done that and I can tell you it gets better,
As long as you’re willing to leave behind the snarkiness and anger,
Pull yourself together, Kid, be a fuckin’ man,
Grow up and drop the false cool-guy persona of teenage angst,
Step up to those punks, there is still time to give them all a piece of your weird and wonderful mind.
That’s all I have to say, there is still hope for you yet,
School’s almost out, Kid, kick ass before riding into the sunset.

What It’s Like – Secret’s Out

The enemy identified, my worst fears came alive,
But not for long, the time of retribution is nigh,
Acceptance of a battle that will rage beyond overnight,
Marching towards a glorious victory to reclaim a normal life.

August 6 – 11, 2018

The details of the colonoscopy and its immediate aftermath are outlined in the very first entry of this blog. Here is the link: https://musicalmemories.whereishome.info/2018/11/12/the-wonder-of-you/

I may have felt confident and rejuvenated following a heart-to-heart with my mother shortly after my colonoscopy and I carried those good vibes with me over the remainder of the week, but I’d be lying if I said that I was walking on sunshine and dancing atop a hill Julie Andrews-style all the way. I definitely went through a gauntlet of negative thoughts and feelings during these early stages of my recovery.
Anger? Check.
Self doubt? Check.
Anxiety? Check.
Seething with rage at being struck down that I contemplated embarking on an anger-fuelled rampage so people could feel my motherfucking pain? As petty, immature and weak as it sounds, yeah, I did.
Fortunately I prevented such emotions from consuming me, that last one included. I guarantee you that I am not writing this blog from the inside of a jail cell following an assault charge.

Anyway, I walked away from the Hospital for Specialist Surgery with a few bottles of Prednisolone, a steroid medication used to treat inflammation and other diseases. My dosage in the beginning was set at 50mg per day and was to be weaned by 5mg per week since long-term use of this drug could be harmful to the body. I was to visit Dr. B during the following week to discuss my treatment plan down the road, which included prescribing me two more drugs to take over what the Prednisolone had started once I was completely weaned off of it.
The very first salvo was fired during my first meal at home following the colonoscopy and for the rest of the week I popped 50mgs along with my mid-day meal every day. I also adopted the ‘several small meals a day’ approach to eating in an attempt to add more weight to my weakened body without stressing my bowels. I focused mainly on protein from eggs, fish and lean meat to boost my haemoglobin levels but kept the diet balanced with a good serving of carbs, fruit and vegetables.
But I had to go easy on spicy food, wholegrains and fruit as they could potentially stress my bowels and fizzy drinks and alcohol were off the menu, perhaps forever, which was no big loss since I rarely consumed either before all of this happened.
And much to my frustration I was banned from driving, working out and exerting myself in any way, not until I had put this fucking colitis in remission and was no longer anaemic and I was warned that it could be a rather lengthy process. Yeah, that pissed me off. I was essentially ordered to live like an old man for the next few months at least.


Man, this is gonna suck!


Three days after the colonoscopy my family and I celebrated my sister’s birthday. We had a lovely dinner that night but alas, the best dish of the night was on the spicy side and so I couldn’t have too much of it. The little bit I had was beautiful and the rest of the night was spent trying to resist the urge to dive back in for more.


Watch it, Buddy. You aint invincible no more!


It was still a good night overall and we shared plenty of stories and laughs in addition to a nice family dinner. It was gratifying to be strong enough to join my younger sister in celebrating her special day, that right there was my warning shot to the disease wreaking havoc within.


I aint laying down, punk! Prepare yourself for an ass-whooping!


But like I said earlier, I did go through some low points. Feelings of doubt were justified whenever I went to the toilet in the mornings and saw that ugly shade of red in the bowl and my lips, fingertips and ears remained colorless. Being diagnosed as having severe pancolitis, essentially the most lethal form of ulcerative colitis, didn’t help. Would the Prednisolone Army be up to the task of overthrowing this vicious monster that had so thoroughly conquered my system the same way that the Ottoman Empire had ran riot over Constantinople? I tried my best to maintain a positive outlook but these dark thoughts certainly did lurk in the background.
But I needn’t had worried so damn much.
Little by little, small miracles began to make their presence felt days after I began taking my meds. While the results of my morning business sessions on the throne remained tinged with blood, afternoon and evening trips yielded different results, much to my surprise.


Whoah! Hardly any blood. When’s the last time that happened?


It might have been a few weeks between the return from holiday and the beginning of the relapse. To say that it was a relief to know that I was no longer losing blood every time I went to defecate is a huge understatement. The euphoria I felt was so great I almost burst into tears.


On the following evening, a Friday, my extended family dropped by for a full family dinner and that’s when the secret was officially out. I had kept my ordeal under wraps from everybody outside of my immediate family but when one of my aunts, my mother’s sister, asked me that night how life had been treating me (we hadn’t seen each other for months), I was forced to confess as I did not want to be a liar.
“Not so good,” I admitted, “I’ve had health struggles lately.”
And just like that, the family dinner came to a screeching halt and all eyes were on me. Oh boy, this was going to be awkward!
“What? Why!?” she asked.
“I had a colonoscopy a few days ago. I have ulcerative colitis. And I’m also anaemic.”
As I’d predicted, gasps rang all around and then my relatives were left rather stumped. My other aunt, a nurse, knew immediately what it meant.
“So how badly is your bowel inflamed?” she inquired.
“The whole bowel is affected,” I replied despondently, “pancolitis, they called it.”
“And I’m anaemic from losing so much blood. I was in the hospital two weeks ago for a blood transfusion.”

My nurse aunt then proceeded to explain to everybody at the table what my diagnosis meant. A look of horror crossed over their faces and everyone’s appetites were temporarily halted.
Meanwhile, my sick self sat there sheepishly, hoping that the subject would soon be changed.
My other aunt, the one who started this line of questioning, immediately fired up.
“Why didn’t you tell us!?” she demanded, “We could have visited you!”
“I didn’t want anyone to panic,” I said, shrugging my shoulders, “didn’t need that kind of stress hanging over my head.”
And from there my parents took over for me and explained to them all what type of medication Dr. B had prescribed for me and also touched on my eating habits before reassuring everybody that I was doing just fine. That seemed to placate everyone and order was restored.


Thank God!


Unfortunately I had to ‘leave the party early’, so to speak, due to doctor’s orders to get as much rest as I could in order to speed up the healing process. I called it a night once I had noticed that the time had nudged closer towards 9:30pm and said good night to everyone before hitting the sack. I was out after mere seconds of my head hitting the pillow.


The celebrations continued the next day as we spent the morning and mid-day at my aunt and uncle’s house for brunch before spending time in my sister’s apartment for a late lunch and dessert.
You could say it was a day of eating, which was totally fine by me.
At my aunt and uncle’s house my relatives witnessed, for the first time, me taking my meds. I simply took my 50mgs of that Prednisolone after eating and washed it down with water. No dramas and awkward stares were to be had, thank goodness.
I also made it a point to walk around outside after every half hour to soak up the sun and cleanse my lungs. I thought that a good dose of vitamin D would aid my recovery and it was also the middle of winter and sunny days were hard to come by. I must have done dozens of laps around their backyard on the duration of our visit.


After a while we drove to my sister’s apartment located around 20 minutes away for more food and chatter. Surely I must have regained all the weight I had lost in the last few months by this point!
I weighed myself the very next day and it turns out I did not. Damn!!!!
Anyway, it was a typical family get-together, with all the women on one side, in this case the living room, and the men on the other side, in the dining area, talking about their own respective subjects while intermittently interacting with the other party to keep each other informed.
I stayed with the men for the most part but every now and then I would step outside into the balcony for some sunshine and fresh air. The view outside wasn’t exactly glamorous, the balcony overlooked a busy street and a gas station across the street, partially blocked by a towering jacaranda tree at the front of the complex, but beyond the immediate view was what seemed like a utopia of rooftops and apartment buildings within the thick glade of trees.


I stared at that view for a while as the wind blew on my face, reflecting on the last few days and the battle that lay ahead. I was fairly certain that there would be times where I would impatiently question if any of my treatment was working, including having to put up with bouts of paranoia whenever I felt the slightest bit of pain and discomfort, such was the mind of a chronic disease sufferer. I felt like a lone warrior about to embark on a perilous mission to slay some mythical yet dangerous creature that threatened to destroy his life and the lives of those he loved and while I had accepted the mission and was confident of victory, a part of me did question if I was worthy of this battle, let alone if I would emerge triumphant.
It was during this time of meditation that I finally made peace with not being able to work out during this period. I had to accept the fact that my lean and athletic body, at this point still ripped and rippling with muscle, would undergo a change during this exile from athletic and physical endeavors. Yeah yeah, call me narcissistic all you want but the truth is I was once a chubby kid that was teased by his schoolmates about having a gut and man boobs – quite hypocritical on their part since some of them were on the same boat as I was. Angry and slightly traumatized by the experience, I started working out during my late teens and never looked back, gradually huffing and puffing my way into pretty good shape and fitness. Working out had become a huge part of my daily routine so to have to give it up for a lengthy period was not going to be easy. But recovery was way more important than my ego and so rather than complain I switched my mindset into thinking that this illness was only temporary. At the time of this writing the only real ‘cure’ for ulcerative colitis, if you could call it that, was to remove the patient’s colon should medical treatment fail beyond the point of no return or the disease escalate to life-threatening levels. In my mind, however, there was no fucking way in hell any of that was ever going to happen.


I’ll kick this motherfucker’s ass. I’ll show ’em!


I stepped back indoors, where my family were still carrying on their own conversations. I took a seat on the dining table where my father and uncles were talking while my sister, mother and aunts continued their chat in the living room area on the sofa. I didn’t join in either conversation but instead sat in silence, still maintaining my calm but also soaking up the family vibes. All in all it was a great weekend, definitely the boost that I needed.

American Pie – Scared To Get Wet

These UC stories are fast piling up,
Let’s take a breather, back to stories from when I was young,
Here we go, a memory sparked by this tune by Don McLean,
One of my earliest memories of going to the beach.

 One of the most vivid road trips that I can recall from my childhood was one particular trip to the beach, where I would learn that I had a rather embarrassing fear of the water (which would quickly be overcome a few years later) and that sunburn truly is a nasty and vindictive bully. I was about five or six years old at the time and whenever I hear the song that this blog was named after on the radio, I can’t help but smile and laugh at memories from that particular trip.

It was on a Saturday during the summer time and my parents took my sister and I to the beach, accompanied by some of my mother’s work buddies and their families. It was a rather long trip, coming from the outskirts of Quezon City over to the coastal side of Bataan and I took in the view during that car ride, watching as the scenery gradually and seamlessly changed from the quiet suburban streets, lined with iron gates that shielded family homes, to the skyscrapers of the city where cars waged their own chess matches in an attempt to outwit and outplay one another while navigating a persistently chaotic traffic scene.
Driving through the city was easily the longest and most frustrating part of the trip. But as a child I had barely grasped the concept of time and was content to watch the cars around me.
Soon, we reached the rural areas, with their sprawling fields where various crops sprouted from the earth as farm animals grazed. We also drove through a few small country towns, populated by stone houses, general stores and the odd school, church and government building while various mountains loomed in the distance, providing a rather majestic backdrop.


The beach must be somewhere out there.


As we got closer to the beach, where the bright blue of the ocean glistened in the distance, a scene unfolded before us that, to this day, I still find rather surreal. On the side of the road were groups of fishermen, their skin brown and leather-like from the harsh mid-day sun and dressed in tattered shirts, shorts and straw hats, drying their fish on the side of the road and warding off the swarms of flies that continually harassed them. It was a rather hot day and our car’s air-conditioning system had konked out and so we drove with the windows down and the strong, salty smell of fish instantly attacked us.
“Those are fish, Son,” Dad pointed out, “the fishermen are drying them under the sun.”
“Are they going to eat them later?” I asked.
“Ok, but first they need to wash the dirt off, right?”
Dad smiled, proud of his boy for pointing out the obvious.

We reached the beach not long afterwards and we were immediately greeted by a magnificent spread upon exiting our vehicles; palm trees, the vast blue ocean, white sand, shining sun, people walking around, relaxed and carefree as can be. For my still-wide-eyed, youthful self it was plenty to take in and I barely managed to contain the many emotions that bubbled within me, euphoria and curiosity being those at the forefront banging hard on the bars of the gate. My sister more or less felt the same and Mom had to pull us both into line.

“Settle down, you two,” she said sternly, “you don’t want to get lost, do you?”

Our group settled on a spot in the middle of the sand and the adults immediately unloaded, spreading towels on the sand and erecting beach umbrellas to ward off the sun before applying sunscreen on their children’s arms, shoulders, back, neck and legs. I wore dark blue swimming trunks with white stripes that day and I struggled to remain still as my mother lathered me up with sunscreen. The stuff felt sticky and uncomfortable and the aroma was quite intoxicating to the point of nauseating. Plus I saw this as a distraction to my play time, I just wanted to run off.
“Hold still,” Mom scolded, “do you want to get sunburned!?”
“The sun can’t burn me,” I shot back, “it’s way up in the sky and I’m down here!”
My young dumb self would be made to eat humble pie later that night.

The kids, accompanied by some adults, soon hit the water. The waves were not too wild that day, much to the dismay of any surfers in the area, so it was relatively safe for young children such as myself, my sister and some of my mother’s co-workers’ children to play without fear of being wiped out.
Well, we stayed in the shallow end and somehow, I freaked out. I’d looked forward to playing in the water all morning and reality ended up getting the better of me. My Dad had stayed in the sand chatting away with the other adults that volunteered to prepare the lunch and upon hitting the water, I wished I had stayed with him. I wasn’t sure whether it was the coldness of the water or the fact that the water was waist-height (for me, anyway) but somehow, I felt uncomfortable.
My mother sensed my discomfort and bent over to pick me up. I immediately latched onto her neck and it was fortunate that I was still young at the time because I could have easily choked her out.
“You’re holding too tight!” she said.
“I don’t want to drown!” I replied.

The water was only waist-deep for me and I was worried about drowning? Good grief!

Get a grip you wuss!

One of my mother’s friends and her children were not too far away and they seemed to be having fun and my sister seemed comfortable dancing around on the water without a care in the world yet it took me a while to see the fun side of it. But once my body finally acclimatized to the water I gladly splashed around with the other children while our parents looked on.


Lunch followed not long afterwards, barbequed chicken, rice and various fruits if I recall. Adults and children alike ate to their heart’s content and for the remainder of the trip the children played a game of tag while their parents huddled together under trees to ward off the sun’s rays.
All told it was a rather fun day trip. But there was a price to pay.
Upon arriving home, my sister and I both took a bath and as I poured water over my head, I felt a sharp stinging pain on my shoulders, parts of my back and the back of my neck, so much so that I yelped and was almost reduced to tears. I took a look at my shoulders and they were bright red.


What is this!?


My mother took a look at me and shook her head in disbelief.
“Looks like you have sunburn, Son.”
Sunburn? What the hell is sunburn!?
“You played under the sun for too long so you got burned.”
“But the sun is way up in the sky,” I whinged, “how can it burn me?”
“Because the sun’s rays can still burn you. That’s why sunblock is very important.”
I guess I shouldn’t have squirmed so much when she applied it on me. Some spots were definitely missed due to my messing about. I looked at my reddened shoulders later as my mother helped me to dress up for bed and grimaced.
“How long will this last?”
“Maybe for a few days.”
I felt my heart sink. In my young mind a few days might as well had been an entire month, that’s a long time to have to put up with these burning sensations.

I eventually learned how to swim later in my childhood and up to now, I like to think I’m a pretty good swimmer. No, I am not Michael Phelps but I can confidently say that I could handle myself in the water.
As for the kid that fell apart over waist-deep water, he eventually became a kid that grew to love the water and most beach trips for the remainder of my childhood were spent frolicking in the waves while dodging surfers. If you lost me at the beach all you had to do was head towards the water because chances are I would be there, playing around in the waves, having the time of my life until my fingers and toes were wrinkled.