‘Don’t call it a comeback, I’ve been here for years!’
So rapped LL Cool J in that hit song of his,
Two last-minute speed bumps in my way, got through them anyway,
D-Day’s finally here,
Time to kick it into gear.
The end of October marked my return to the Wing Chun Academy after months of fighting and recuperating from ulcerative colitis. It had been a long time coming and once the 19th of October rolled around I woke up feeling like Buster Douglas when he beat Mike Tyson, a victory that, to this day, still stands as the biggest upset in boxing history. Ok, that was a very cheesy comparison but colitis (SEVERE pancolitis to be exact) was what Iron Mike had once been in and out of the boxing ring; an extremely violent and merciless prick that took no prisoners and I fought that thing and came out on top.
But first, I had to deal with two last-minute hiccups. Actually, scratch that – it was one little hiccup and followed by a massive scare that threatened to derail my progress.
Let me explain.
The little hiccup arrived in the form of an e-mail that I had received from Dr. B during one particular day in which he instructed me to increase my Imuran dosage from two tablets per day to three, apparently in order to speed up my recovery by further preventing that traitorous, vindictive motherfucker also known as my immune system from attacking my body. It seemed like a reasonable arrangement and the payoff was appealing but in the mind of a man recovering from a hellish disease it definitely raised some concern.
Oh no……is there a problem!?
I sat down and had a brief talk about it with my father, during which he reassured me that I should think of it as Dr. B urging me to get to the finish line faster, not a sign that I had regressed.
“Son, if it was bad news I’m pretty sure he would have summoned you to his clinic right away and booked another surgical procedure for you,” he reasoned.
Put that way it did take the edge off and once I increased the dosage it didn’t seem to have any serious side-effects
Ok, so all was good, right? Well, not quite. Let’s look at the shocker moment.
One day, as I was taking a walk around a shopping center I began to feel a familiar kind of discomfort, one that I hadn’t felt in quite some time. Initially, I tried to ignore it and kept walking without a care in the world but that’s when it decided to be more persuasive.
First, my stomach began to feel funny.
That funny feeling then began to feel quite painful.
That discomfort then made its way a little down south……
GET TO DA CRAPPER!!!!!!
Yes, that was written – or rather, shouted – in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s voice.
I frantically searched for the nearest restroom on the ground floor that I was traipsing around in and while it didn’t take long to find it I was suddenly confronted by a sign that hung on the restroom door on which inscribed were the last words I wanted to read;
‘Under construction, sorry for the inconvenience.’
YOU HAVE GOTTA BE KIDDING ME!!! WHAT ARE THE CHANCES!!!???
I thought bouts of sheer dumb bad luck such as this only occurred in TV sitcoms.
Cursing my luck and resisting the urge to kick that fucking door down, I turned tail and made my way to the nearest escalator to go up one level, practically bobbing, weaving, spinning and bulldozing my way up that conveyor through the line of people content to stand still like a rugby player evading on-coming players on the way to the try-line. I was in total panic mode and I swear I heard The Flight Of The Bumblebee ringing in my mind as I struggled to keep the bombs from dropping long before I’d reached the assigned target as my stomach continued to grumble. I never accidentally hit anyone on my way up that escalator but it must have shocked them to see a man zoom past them like The Flash.
Sorry, folks. It’s a matter of health and dignity!
I quickly scanned the first floor upon hopping off the escalator and found the restroom, thankfully just a few feet away. No ‘under construction’ signs here, I dashed straight in like a man caught under a sudden downpour looking for shelter, into an empty cubicle and did my business. I honestly believed that had I not reached the restroom when I did I would have messed myself right there in the mall, giving horrified and bewildered on-lookers a live re-enactment of THAT scene from the film Dumb and Dumber.
That surely would have been a shitty situation.
Sorry, Dear Readers, I couldn’t resist! Feel free to face-palm.
Once I had unloaded I decided that it would be a good idea to take a peek at the results. I hadn’t felt that dreaded ‘Oh shit!’ feeling since the height of my suffering a few months ago and was hopeful that everything was still normal as far ‘number twos’ were concerned and so I slowly took a glance, expecting no nasty surprises.
Oh, what’s that pinkish hue there? I know I didn’t eat any beetroot over the last few days.
I slowly looked up, blinked several times and took another look. Surely I was just seeing things.
With fear now manifesting itself in the pit of my stomach I stood straight up and took another glance and at that moment the entire world ceased to exist and I found myself trapped once again in that agonizing envelope of deep, dark nothingness, similar to what I’d felt after I’d performed burpees during the height of my then-undiagnosed anaemia.
What the fuck is that pink doing there!!!???
Dr. B’s latest e-mail may have triggered alarm bells to my psyche but this was a catastrophic disaster on a similar scale to the eruption of Krakatoa. Resisting the urge to scream out in agony and treat the blue-grey cubicle walls as my personal punching bags, I slowly sat back down and cleaned myself up as the feelings of shock and disbelief washed over me before flushing the toilet and then washing my hands. I then left the restroom, completely dejected, dragging my feet as I slowly made my way to the parking lot like a man that had been robbed at gunpoint, a stark contrast to the spring in my step and the swagger that I had carried with me just ten minutes earlier. I was practically numb with anxiety for the remainder of the day as that familiar, sickening phobia of using the toilet once again set up camp in my mind, again accompanied by that fear of losing more blood the next time I went.
Man, I left this behind months ago! What the fuck happened!?
My mind immediately ran itself ragged wondering if my run of good fortune was only a mirage and that the Imuran and Mezavant had only served to temporarily halt the monster. Perhaps this was the part where colitis would suddenly return following a couple of months in the wilderness, revitalized and with revenge and mayhem in its mind. If that was the case then I would have to explore new treatment options – which meant that cutting out my bowels and walking around with a colostomy bag hanging off of my abdomen would once again become a possibility.
Urgh, pass me the bucket, I’m gonna be sick!
The thought of it made my skin crawl. My team of doctors, family and I had been doing everything we could to avoid that fate and to this day, we still are. No, no way. That will NEVER be an option as far as I’m concerned!
But then something happened to restore the peace. I felt another urge to ‘go’ later that night and upon relieving myself in the bathroom, I took a peek once again and everything seemed fine and it’s been fine ever since. I guess that scare must have been a minor flare-up and a response to the extra dose of Imuran.
Bullshit. Try again, bro.
Ok, fine. Maybe it was partially my fault, too.
While it might have been a response to the extra dose, it may have also been triggered by my allowing myself to slack off with my diet as of late, at times feasting like King Adolf Frederick of Sweden did during his last night of life. Despite my rather short stature I am a pretty big eater on a good day, although in my defense it’s because I am an active person, but I had been warned by Dr. B that I should not place too much strain on my bowels as I was still recovering. I listened to his advice and complied but every now and then I slipped up and literally bit off more than I can chew. The bowel, naturally, felt overwhelmed too soon and let me know about it in a rather frightening manner. It was one thing to be able to work out and leave the house, but I still needed to go easy on my digestive system and perhaps this little setback was the bowel’s way of saying, “slow down, jerk!!!! I ain’t 100% yet!”
Ok, you made your point clear. I’ll be good!
Anyway, my return to the Wing Chun Academy was scheduled for the 19th of October. Much to my disbelief and although I had anticipated it, my parents were a little uneasy, my mother in particular. She feared that participating in any athletic or strenuous endeavor would somehow ‘over-work’ me and that I’d get sick again or worse. Never mind the fact that I’ve been going there for more than five years and was aware that I had to exercise some caution for the time being but apparently, she’d prefer that I lived like an old man whose best days had passed him and accept that I was no longer built for any form of athletic endeavor or anything particularly adventurous all because of this damn disease whose ass I’d just stomped.
I could only shake my head and roll my eyes. I did not fight back hard just to spend the rest of my life ‘playing it safe’ and living like a reclusive hypochondriac. The prospect of being the very best version of myself again, which included being strong and athletic, was what had sustained me over these last few months and Dr. B had also made it his personal mission to get me back into ‘fighting shape’ and to be able to live a normal life again. Fuck colitis and its after effects, I will never submit to that motherfucker.
I repeat, FUCK colitis and its after-effects, I will NEVER, EVER submit to that motherfucker.
I stood my ground and calmly reminded her, and Dad too, for that matter, that I had made it clear as day that I would reclaim ‘the real me’ once I had defeated colitis, that I would never allow myself to live in fear of it for the rest of my life and that Dr. B had given me the green light and dismissed any notion that being active would cause a flare-up, and that it was the cause of the colitis in the first place, a proposition that Dr. G had literally laughed off too, by the way. But I guess it’s a typical case of a mother being worried for her kids and I understood that she believed that she was looking out for my best interests but trying to talk me into living a life that I would grow to hate?
Sorry, Mom, I appreciate the concern but I think I know what works best for me more than anyone and I’m going for it.
My parents eventually let me be, such was the conviction in my tone when I told them that I was not going to be denied, and once the 19th of October rolled around, I made my way to the Academy, excitement swimming through my system as I entered the building and climbed up the stairs leading to the entrance. I heard the familiar sound of bags and pads being pounded on my way up accompanied by the sound of students and instructors encouraging one another.I was quite impressed by the turn-out on this particular Friday evening as I entered, with students on just about every corner of the room. Physically, the interior remained the same, save for a bigger, newer shelf that had replaced the decaying one that previously – and barely – held various pads, gloves and protective gear. The giant red punching bag that hung close to the front desk nicknamed ‘Big Red’ remained, still bearing the scars from a lifetime spent absorbing countless kicks, palm strikes and punches.
Looks like the old boy’s still standing strong.
My presence was instantly noticed by one of my friends and the rest of the class seemed to quickly follow suit and what happened next was a pleasant surprise. The whole class, students, instructors and even the staff behind the front desk, literally stopped what they were doing and gave me a rousing round of applause. It was truly humbling and I waved to everyone and bowed in appreciation for their grand gesture, grinning from ear-to-ear.
I’m home, Fam. I’ve missed you all.
Once all greetings and exchanges of hugs, handshakes and fist-bumps were through it was back to business as usual with training before teaching a group of grade three students during the last scheduled class for the evening for yours truly. I was a little rusty and did my best not to push myself too hard as per Dr. B’s orders but I think it was a decent session.
I did the rounds and caught up with everyone in between and after classes and just as it was during my friend’s house party a few weeks earlier, I gave them a brief rundown of the last few months, confirming their suspicions before my absence that I had been battling a rather serious illness.
Well damn…..did I really look that bad!?
You most certainly did, Buddy.
Yep, it turned out that my training partners-slash-friends, bless them, had silently been concerned about my health the entire time but didn’t want to say it out loud, although some did tell me every once in a while shortly before the transfusion that I looked pale, thin and wasn’t my usual self. Meanwhile, I carried on pretending that all was well.
How thick can you get!? You looked like shit and they knew it but didn’t want to hurt your feelings. You weren’t fooling nobody!
Of those to whom that I shared my horror story there were some that were vaguely aware of what ulcerative colitis was. Many more, however, weren’t quite so sure and gasped when I described to them the symptoms and treatment.
How is this fucking evil disease not yet widely known!?
I had no firm grounds for outrage since I myself was ignorant of it until I was diagnosed. I guess what they say is true, you never know the severity and magnitude of a challenge unless it happens to you or someone you love and that anything can happen to anybody. And Dr. B had informed me, with a tone of resignation in his voice might I add, that there were still no real remedies available for this disease, nor have the true causes been identified and are, for now, largely speculative. Either the powers that be don’t know, are still in the process of finding a cure or, worse, they are not getting the help they need.
What a shame. I wouldn’t wish this shit upon my worst enemy.
But it was good vibes all around at the Academy, nothing awkward at all, and once I had filled everyone in on the reasons for my absence we quickly picked up right where we left off, in terms of training and what was happening in everyone else’s lives. Work lives, family lives, holidays, triumphs and troubles, congratulating students that have successfully climbed up the grades……..no stone was left unturned. It truly felt great to be back.
An anecdote from another friend at the Academy on the following Tuesday truly brought home just how badly the colitis had ravaged me. This particular friend also practiced Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and a couple of weeks before my transfusion, shortly before a sparring class, he demonstrated a move on me that he had been working on that involved lifting me off the floor. He explained to me that he had braced himself prior to executing the move on me that day as he was expecting to lift a decent amount of weight off the floor but it turned out he needn’t had bothered since I was, apparently, light as a feather. Picking up a travel bag packed to bursting levels would have required more effort than my sick, underweight self.
Anyway, I’ve continued to train and teach at the Wing Chun Academy ever since in addition to continuing with my recovery. I know that returning to martial arts training didn’t really count for all that much in the grand scheme of things but for me it was a monumental achievement and that was why I had bristled at my mother’s suggestion to quit. Again, I understood where she was coming from and I guess I should consider myself fortunate that she cared enough for me to speak up but for me, life would have been meaningless if I didn’t allow myself to live it the way I wanted to and partake in activities that I enjoyed. By returning I had fulfilled both a personal goal and one part of Dr. B’s mission and also showed that fucking colitis that it couldn’t keep me down.
The next part? That’s the big one, Dear Reader – the complete remission of the colitis before completely weaning me off of my medication.
Things could only get better from here on out and I still had two more months before the year was over. Bring on November and December, looks like Christmas was going to be sweet!