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A New Life - A New You
A Different Life
I’ve been in remission for over a year now, but life has in no way returned to the way it was before. For a start, I’m still making continued trips to two major haematology departments, one of them a two-hour train ride away.
I remember my last day of work: the day before my leukaemia diagnosis. As a driving instructor of near twenty years standing, I’d built up a significant diary of pupils and classroom-based presentations.
But learning of my diagnosis, I’d had to put all my work-based affairs in order. The calls to pupils were sad for so many reasons. And all the plans for lessons would be null and void –they would need to continue their personal road trips to a licence without my help.
After the final call was made, I sat back in my comfy armchair and considered what the future might bring.
I remember thinking that one thing was certain… it was time to draw a line under my lifestyle. No more five-year plans to develop my career… no more continuous professional development days and those free lunches.
The focus of attention would now purely be survival: on putting the odds in my favour during what would no doubt be a very challenging time to come.
Work, replaced with Health
The sharp focus of my health situation meant that exercise became a positive motivator towards improving my overall outlook. Periods at home, away from the hospital environment, became an opportunity to engage in my new-found enthusiasm for cycling.
After cancer, I saw little benefit in thinking about getting back into my old life. I was dealing with extreme fatigue, which wouldn’t lend itself to pursuing any serious gainful employment.
So instead, the days when I felt fine to get on my bike were ones I looked forward to the most. There is something exciting about planning a ride out in the middle of the working week, when all your peers are grinding out a living.
I almost feel guilty for a moment when I have the sun on my back, wind in my face, and the open horizon ahead. But I consider if any of my friends would change places with me given what I’m actually going through… Probably not, I’m thinking!
Now, I do contemplate a work return in some form... but one thing I have made sure is that I won’t ever go back to my old life.
I have let my registration as a driving instructor lapse deliberately. Before I was diagnosed, I was working like the proverbial dog, six days a week, around ten hours a day. I missed my kids growing up. Missed all those school plays. I joined family days out half-way through on many occasions. In short, I had no work/life balance whatsoever.
Of course, the level of work I was engaged in didn’t contribute to my illness, but I feel strongly that it could have contributed to my lack of good health. Having such a sedentary job certainly added to my overall body weight.
Nowadays, I ride my bike for around a hundred and fifty miles a week. I can be found at the gym three times a week. For the first time in my life I have an emerging six pack!
Recently I joined a local cycling club, properly organised, middle aged man in Lycra (MAMIL) stuff, getting out on rides with them is far beyond what I would have ever considered possible before leukaemia.
After much training and group encouragement, I also completed my first century ride at The Great Nottinghamshire bike ride sportive in June. Riding your bike for a hundred miles, over nine hours of sustained pedalling really makes you examine who you are and what your life has come to.
The medal I was given on finishing has come to symbolise the new me and the new life I am fully committed to.
So in summary do I miss my old life?
Obviously, I wouldn’t choose to go through the life experiences I have encountered, but in creating this new life I have no hankering for what once was. I only consider what exciting adventures are yet to reveal themselves.
Everybody has an individual journey beyond diagnosis and treatment. Part of surviving the ‘afterwards’ is discovering how to embrace every new experience in a positive way.
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