Men’s Health Month is when we stop to pay attention to the well-being of husbands, fathers, brothers, uncles and all the males in our lives.
So, it is a great opportunity to share my own story on the subject of men’s health and making choices.
Men’s Health: My Journey
“I’m sorry to tell you Michael that your cancer has spread.”
That sentence hit me like a bolt of lightning!
Dr Konok continued, “The lab tests confirm what we suspected during surgery that you had cancer in four locations. One in your large digestive tract near your hepatic flexure (besides the Liver) and three in the surrounding (lymph) nodes.”
He was not finished.
“The large apple core tumour in your colon and one in the nodes was stage three and two in the nodes was stage two cancers. The good news is we think your lymph nodes did their job so well, so cancer has not spread beyond these three secondary sites.”
There was more.
“The other news will take time and much patience. We have to take a wait and see approach to see if a few cancer cells escaped. To help you win on that front, we will start a 10 day 7/24 treatment of chemotherapy directly to the site via intravenous.”
BIGStuff Moment Like No Other!
Wow: Talk about stress!! What to do, what to think, attempt to understand and manage emotions.
Yet I had been given a very unique set of lessons to help prepare me for this type of high impact BIGStuff outcome stress. So I had to very quickly “hit the ground running.”
Focusing was my first order of business. Get a team assembled, sort through the skills I had should use to cope, set some goals, build a plan and start to move forward. Not an easy time for me or my loved ones. Yet I knew if I did not dig deep and use all I knew, and ask for help then both the quality of the journey and the outcome was at a higher risk.
Start With The End In Mind
A very wise person once told me to “Start with the end in mind.” It was time to make some choices!
So that is what I did when I started my urgent quest to discover the most effective ways to help myself at first just survive, offer me a sense of control over this very tough situation, and in time thrive and in time again share with my family and all of us what we can do to become more resilient.
The first thing I did was an inventory of what was vital to do for my spouse. That saw me leave the surgeon’s offices sit in the parking lot have a great sobbing mind cry. Then action mode.
Off to the lawyers and update my will. We had moved due to my work. That meant we changed city and provinces so I wanted to ensure that this was not an issue for her should I pass.
I had no plans to die. However, having up to date paperwork freed me to focus on the urgent upfront issues of my health. Then once the Will was up to date I went and visited our real estate agent.
Having just purchased the home only nine months previous I wanted Peter, our agent, to know exactly what was going on. Shared names and numbers of the spouse, both sets of parents
Men’s Health And Choices You Make When It’s Threatened
In the event of my untimely demise, I wanted our realtor on the team to assist my spouse.
One last call to make was to the moving company we had used. Spoke with the Vice President of Sales and shared the same contact information. Once I had that sewed up, I then drove to pick my spouse up from her job. Then came the adventure of a lifetime.
That was one of the most intense days of my life. My daughter’s brain tumour surgery is also up there. My Dad’s last few days while he fought cancer as well, but not much else had the intensity or duration of this very personal battle.
One lesson I had to repeatedly live through during my challenges with my health to that point is that intense living can cause some serious disruptions to our sleep. Our mental clarity and digestive tract are also affected. Not being able to sleep, having an upset digestive tract and feeling off mentally due to lack of sleep are not things I wish on anyone.
Skills To Help You Cope
That quest led me back in time to some very powerful skills I had used prior to this diagnosis.
So went back to what I learnt from my parents, grandparents, physical education, teacher, martial arts master, piano, choir, trumpet teachers and several others. One skill stuck out as having helped me to have a great sense of control and improve my sleep. I practised each of them as often as I could each and every day.
The Relaxation Response
Men’s health is more than the physical. Being able to relax will support you through various stressors when your health is compromised.
There are dozens of variations of this skill. Depending on where you live and who you connect with it goes by many names and can be accomplished in various ways. One of my favourites is the progressive muscle relaxation response technique.
It worked wonders for me. It has helped me with sleep, calm my mind and with pain management for both chronic illness and post-surgery pain. Remember, it is not a cure. However, it is a very valuable life skill to help you mentally and physically. I trust you will enjoy it as much as I have.
You can get an audio copy of this exercise on iTunes, or Google music and on my store to download.
Always check with your medical professional before you start or take on a new exercise. NEVER do this while operating any type of vehicle!
What does the research say:
Safety and Side Effects of Relaxation Techniques
- Relaxation techniques are generally considered safe for healthy people. However, occasionally, people report unpleasant experiences such as increased anxiety, intrusive thoughts, or fear of losing control. Why? Well, relaxation helps us calm our mind. We then have the potential for “Unfinished or unresolved issues” come back for a visit and a rethink. Not always pleasant. Yet with proper training and guidance, most can deal with this.
- There have been rare reports that certain relaxation techniques might cause or worsen symptoms in people with epilepsy or certain psychiatric conditions, or with a history of abuse or trauma. People with heart disease should talk to their health care provider before doing progressive muscle relaxation.
- So there are many types of Relaxation Technique you use. Each can make a big difference in your life.
Enjoy it! Remember the more you practise it the more the benefits start overtime to accumulate.
So until next time, Imagine Yourself with more Resiliency for Life.
Michael Ballard specializes in helping people, schools, organizations and communities learn how to become more resilient.