I still believe: Reflections

Love this tune, breezy duet by Mariah and Krayzie Bone,
Sprinkled with flavor from that classic Willie Wonka song,
Looking back and reflecting on the year that was, the trials and tribulations,
Of lessons learned in the heat of battle, counting blessings and what was taken for granted,
Separating the weak from the strong, uncovering what was there all along,
So strap yourself tight, this’ll be quite a ride,
The year’s almost over, I’m just happy to make it here alive.


Warning: This post contains plenty of clichés and cheesiness

Another visit to Dr. R’s clinic at the hospital was locked in for the 16th of November to check my haemoglobin and iron levels, following yet another blood test the previous week. Accompanied once again by my parents, we made our way to the hospital and waited in the spacious waiting area not far from where Dr. R’s room was located, behind one of several doors on the fringes of the waiting area lined with green chairs and sofas that were overlooked by several flat screen TV’s tuned into daytime talk shows. It was early afternoon in the middle of spring and while the winter blasts had gone into hibernation for another year, the pesky winds and pollen in the air made for some rather irritating days.

If only these meds can do something about the hay fever.

Having said that I would much rather put up with hay fever for the rest of my life than have to live with colitis but I digress.
My parents and I were eventually summoned into Dr. R’s office where she told us more good news; my haemoglobin and iron levels were well into the healthy range. I’d already been told by Dr. B a month prior that I was more or less back to normal but it is always gratifying and reassuring to hear from a medical professional that my body was in good working order after a rather grim diagnosis like ‘severe pancolitis.’

Cue the happy dancing in my mind once more, this is another victory to celebrate.

Needless to say we walked out of the hospital and drove back home in high spirits afterwards. I still needed to take my three serves of Imuran and Mezavant every day until further notice but as long I was healthy, it was all good.

I went for a walk one day around this time and as always, I allowed my mind to wander. I’d usually ponder over the usual subjects; family, friends, work, life, martial arts, working out, music, books and all that but on this particular day, my mind touched up on a few compelling places, the first being the year that was and the bumpy, wacky and, dare I even say it, wonderful odyssey that I’d gone through from the moment I began to notice symptoms to the present day. I’ve already banged on ad-nauseam about the battle itself so I won’t go there again, but during that walk I reflected on little things that had kept me going psychologically during those bad times. As clichéd as it sounds the war against colitis gave me plenty of time for deep thinking and soul-searching that taught me how to appreciate those little things, such as the sweet taste of the oatmeal that I ate every morning during breakfast with a banana and a boiled egg on the side (yum!), the smell of the air as the sun shone while I was outside loading up on vitamin D and even the feeling of excitement I would feel before undergoing those walking drills every few hours, the only means of exercise I could muster while still anaemic. And of course conversations with my parents and sister, no matter how random the subject, were also a great way to keep my head above water and every now and then I would also receive some messages of support from friends even though I hadn’t seen anyone outside of my immediate family for months. These interactions helped to remind me that there were people looking out for me and that I was blessed no matter what.

Great meditations there, Kid. Marcus Aurelius would have been proud.

I was devastated and downright pissed off in the days following my official diagnosis but over time, I grew to appreciate the struggle. Perhaps this was the crucible that would test my character and fortitude. After all, nobody said life would be a smooth ride. Sooner or later severe challenges would come our way to find out what we’re truly made of. But don’t get me wrong, a part of me remained angry at the fact that I got this fucking thing seemingly out of sheer bad luck and that there was, apparently, no definitive cure for it yet but I took it one day at a time, doing what I needed to do to keep my body and mind in the best shape possible and once I shifted my mindset from ‘why me?’ to ‘bring it on!’, I found myself thinking about others who were in far worse shape than I was. Severe pancolitis was a literal pain in the ass and not something I would wish upon even my worst enemy, but I also wasn’t fighting a losing battle for my continued existence and was still able to function ‘like a normal person’. So what if I was shitting out blood and gradually became a frail and lethargic shell of myself? It wasn’t fun but others were making funeral arrangements after exhausting all possible treatments for the cancer that had ravaged them, others were getting through another agonizing day trapped in a body locked-up by paralysis, their minds being the lone surviving crew member of a damaged vessel that will never sail again and of course there were people out there living on the streets, some coping with the severe trauma of a wretched experience with no one to turn to and others being beaten down every day by their lonely battle with their vices.
The list goes on and on.
I thought about all of that and wondered who the fuck I was to cry and complain.

Get over yourself, Big Guy. Compared to the suffering of others out there your bitch-ass got off easy!

My meditations continued as I walked and I also thought about my average day-to-day living before the colitis struck. To be more specific I was thinking about the way I worked out. Prior to colitis, I did strength training during mornings before beating up a punching bag we had at home at night on one day, then performed sprints on a treadmill in the garage in the morning before beating up the bag again at night the next day and I’d alternate between days for five or six days. Modesty aside, such a routine gave me a ripped and lean physique like Bruce Lee’s and I took pride in the fact that I was able to power through each day without fear and it certainly helped me in the Wing Chun Academy, as a student and as an instructor. But weighing in at the mid to late 50kg mark, while still reasonable for a rather vertically-challenged man such as myself, wasn’t exactly solid and having to constantly adjust loose trousers despite wearing my belt almost to the last few notches that would strangle most men and having most of the clothes in my wardrobe, even the smallest sizes, feeling baggy on me wasn’t exactly a good look. At times I looked like a little kid wearing his father’s hand-me-downs.
And so I decided during that walk to cut running out of my routine.
I was already punching and kicking the bag. That was good enough cardio for me and was a lot more fun than running. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against running and will continue to swear by its benefits, but I never really was the runner type. As a kid I was too chubby to enjoy it and as an adult I did it to keep fit but hated every minute of it. I already knew other ways to achieve the desired outcome with the added incentive of having a blast along the way in a far shorter period of time and so I decided to ditch the running shoes and leave it to the road warriors.

As I neared the end of my walk my mind took a trip back in time, about eight years to be exact. Between 2010 and 2013 I’d started a blog in which I would give my thoughts on random topics, mostly weird and wacky shit that I’d read about in the news. I was younger, angrier and more cynical back then, the result of being bullied in my youth, even by so-called ‘friends’ that eventually became bullies themselves, and so I spent – or rather, wasted – a good portion of my twenties victimized by a ‘fuck the world’ mentality and trusted no one. Time and maturity, however, eventually saw me grow out of it and reading some of those posts now it is quite mind-blowing to me how much I’d changed since then. If I’d met that version of myself now I’d slap him across the head and tell him to quit being a little bitch, drumming advice into him in the same profane manner that my inner drill sergeant did for me whenever I was in an emotional funk. It would be the height of denial to say that I no longer recognize that person because at the end of the day we will always carry with us any version of ourselves, the good and the bad. But I’ve definitely learned to keep that bitter and cynical fool with the chip on his shoulder on a leash rather than allow him to control me.
I am also an introvert. Always have been. Sure, I’m genial towards my family and friends and well-mannered towards people I meet, even during the height of my ‘fuck the world’ years, but to be honest I tend to keep everyone, even my nearest and dearest, at a certain arm’s length and have a very difficult time ‘letting people in’ so to speak, even to this day. I can open up to a certain extent to some people but even then, they ain’t going to know my deepest thoughts and true feelings. Over the years I have become very, very, very good at masking how I truly felt on a given day, maintaining an upbeat and/or stoic facade even if I was feeling like shit, physically and/or mentally and that’s why no one, not even my parents and sister, knew how badly I had been suffering until I finally came clean to them. I am well-aware that such behavior can be self-destructive but it’s just the way I am and some habits can take a lifetime to break.

On the odd occasion that I do open up to others I tend to express myself far more effectively through words than I ever could through speech and through that old blog, I was able to speak my mind and express my opinions about certain issues and events far more comfortably than I would if I was to talk about it. But somewhere along the way, I gradually stopped writing as work, life and the other things that come with growing up took over. I guess you could say that I totally forgot about writing, which was a damn shame since writing had always been something I felt I was good at, even as a child. I was an average student at school but when it came to writing stories and even essays, guaranteed I would get a good grade. Jack-of-all-trades I was not but I came to see writing as my specialty, though I am far from being among the world’s best.
I’ve thought about getting back into writing again for years but would end up in that dreaded cycle in which I’d start off motivated then gradually taper off and then before I know it, the project is in the scrapheap. But that walk, coupled with the recent memory of the stumped faces of some of my friends and family when I told them what I had been dealing with, rekindled the writer within.

If I’m gonna be cursed by this thing, I might as well turn it into a blessing.

And just like that I decided to start a blog in which I would tell my story, not just as another outlet for whatever ill-feelings I still carried within me and as a means to show the masses what I could do, but at the very least to do my bit to spread awareness about this disease.  And I was not going to hold back, I was going to recount every last ugly, agonizing, colorful detail in my own words. Plus the more I thought about it the more I thought that it was a rather interesting and colorful story, guaranteed to amuse, entertain and shock readers.
I hopped into the car and drove home with a big smile on my face that day. Finally, I’d found my muse. I never thought I’d ever form an alliance of sorts with my enemy but sometimes life is funny like that, a theatre of the unexpected. But don’t get me wrong, it would be a stretch to say that I am thankful to have ever been afflicted by this damn disease. I may have come to see the positive side to it but it didn’t change the fact that suffering from colitis SUCKED! If I had a say in everything that ever happened to me in my life colitis and I never would have ever become acquainted.

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