True music for a lockdown

True music for a lockdown

We’re into week ten and pandemic news, stories and feelings keep rolling on. There’s history now – I find myself saying remember what we did in the first lockdown, and television programmes with references – do you remember during the lockdown when we…… (from The Pact of Silence filmed in Wales during Lockdown). The roads are busier now, much busier than the first level 3 which felt tentative – are we allowed to do this? – replaced by traffic jams at Kumeu where surfers heading to Muriwai mix it with locals, tradies and families meeting for picnics (well that’s what to say if asked!).

Winter starts slowly, teasing, is it the one we know, you know the old bank advert? – just like the start of this lockdown – there’s been one case, could it grow, more news, a press conference – the orchestra winds up and Vroom!, it’s here, full lockdown and Vivaldi’s Violin Concerto in F Minor Winter from the Four Seasons is away. It feels just right as my go-to classical music this lockdown, even though Winter moved to Spring and it’ll be Summer before we’re out. Somewhere in Spotify, you can find out how many times you’ve listened to a track, but it’s got to be dozens, several times every day sometimes. A quiet moment before a video call, some actual work to be done and it’s on again.

A challenger arrived soon after lockdown – maybe before we were at level 3 – True – Spandau Ballet’s biggest hit, from the album of the same name in 1983. Released a month before I moved to Auckland and where I’ve been ever since. You know when sometimes you just can’t stop listening to a track – this is it for me – I’m addicted. Spotify says it’s had nearly 300 million listens – I feel like I’m a million of them.

But I’d like to leave Auckland – well not for good – but sometime soon to go to Queenstown, and to Christchurch to see Mum and Dad. Auckland’s doing it’s bit with over 90% of first vaccinations and we’re hopeful that we’ll get to 90% double jabbed by Christmas. Then we’re on the Traffic Lights, but they’re on red at the border until everyone else is 90% too. Come on Reefton! Step up, I want to see the folks! Even if you think we deserve to be stranded here for being Jafas, this is something we’re doing for all of us and it’s really easy and can only do good.

I’m still walking – every day without fail – sometimes twice, and we ran a 10,000 a day challenge at PwC recently which was a great team booster. Some of my team did their steps during meetings, and I still find myself checking the daily tally to see how I’m going.

I figure I might as well enjoy lockdown – that’s not to say it’s easy for many people – but I’m not staying miserable for months at a time. I figure that I can do my bit, encourage others to get vaccinated, walk, work (yep, I’m fortunate, very), music, and dream of a time when we’re out of Lockdown and reminiscing about all the good things we did during Lockdown. Like learning about living in the moment and the lack of pressure to go anywhere. Some days I quite like it.

True.

Stephen

For trustworthy information on New Zealand’s Covid-19 Vaccination check out the Ministry of Health site.

Day 510

Day 510

Well it would be since we first went into Lockdown on 26 March 2020 although I have to acknowledge that there’s been a couple of gaps in my blogging since then! Out walking this evening the roads were silky black and wet. I counted five buses – two only with interior lights on, only one passenger all up. It seemed fitting for the audiobook I was listening to – The Road to Wigan Pier – a grim first person account of depression-era England in the Industrial North, by George Orwell. I selected it on account of another listen to Orwell’s Animal Farm, a book I first read in High School. It’s a depressing yet delightful book all in one. I’m not sure what I make of The Road to Wigan Pier yet, I’ll need to complete it.

Since Day 1 when we were first placed in a national state of emergency and into Level 4 lockdown, recorded global deaths have gone from 14,000 to almost 4.4 million. It’s trite to say, we’ve changed and in the middle of change.

Reflecting back 510 days ago, it seemed like the pandemic would be over in a few months – I’d put my trip to Ireland to see my son and his family – back to July “to be on the safe side”, and I was confident life would be back to normal in relatively short order. It started to, although not the travel, until I had a soft tissue sarcoma identified in my right leg on 12 June. Big dates stay with me and I’ve passed the first anniversary of that find with treatment and surgery behind me, although there’s ten years (I hope!) of follow-up. Because it’s not far off the anniversary of surgery and the weather is similar, I can’t help but feel slightly disoriented – am I home recovering, is it a lockdown, or just normal working from home? When I have a little pain in my leg, am I back to last year or is it just a little pain that’s normal these days?

The anxietyometer was up a bit yesterday, settled but it’s still elevated. All the complications and disturbances of the 510 days are back to the fore for a fresh look. I think that’s a good thing.

Stephen

Looking back at habit forming

Looking back at habit forming

A year ago we were recently out of lockdown and I was continuing a walk a day to not break the chain. Good habit forming. The chain was well broken after surgery in September but once I got off the crutches I was up for another crack at one a day. So far 141 walks in 2021.

I noticed during the Lockdown in March and April last year that it was possible to form new habits much more quickly than I had thought. Adapting to life mainly at home wasn’t that difficult, in fact I quite enjoyed it and the new routines that went with it. I shouldn’t say this out loud but sometimes I feel like I wouldn’t mind another lockdown to have a break! Not that WFH is a break, but for me it has a sense of calm and I know others who feel the same.

It’s about now a year ago this week, that I thought I should see a physiotherapist, assuming I had a muscle problem. There was a delay until an appointment on 12 June 2020. The date is stuck in my mind and always will be. That’s the day I had a scan and consultations and knew, subject to biopsy and MRI, that I had a soft tissue sarcoma in my leg. Studies in both the US and the UK indicate that the typical time from symptoms to diagnosis is over a year. I feel blessed with the rapid support I got from medical specialists, including the physiotherapist who, without my knowledge, immediately consulted with an specialist before referring me for a scan that day.

So for me it wasn’t just Covid that gave rise to new habits. Cancer did too: I don’t run now. I can’t! I don’t jaywalk – there is no quick sprint available if needed. I don’t use stairs yet, unless I have to although I’m told I should get there. I’m careful with seating and make sure I put my leg up when I can.

Taking these two major events to create positive and lasting personal and professional change has been a source of renewed energy and contentment for me. It’s not that work hasn’t continued to grow in intensity and volume. Or that I am physically where I was before. Covid created professional opportunities and the possibilities of new ways of working.

Cancer created the freedom to get on with many things, reinvigorated healthy habits of exercise, but most importantly, took away things that don’t matter giving space to focus on what matters. A new calm energy.

And in case you don’t have the habit of monitoring days of the year it’s 140. I’m one walk ahead!

Stephen

p.s. I am mindful that disease and cancer in particular can be triggers for many of us, and that not all outcomes are as positive as mine is now.

An Honest Climb

An Honest Climb

Tobins Track has a steep incline of about 2.5 kilometres from Arrowtown. A man on a cycle moving barely quicker than me on foot, went past about two thirds of the way up. “It’s a good one isn’t it?” I said. “It’s an honest climb” he replied. As I approached the landing, with a view over Arrowntown, across to the Crown Range and a peek of Lake Wakatipu with downtown Queenstown nestled in the foreground, I felt quite emotional. Last time I’d done the walk was in September last year, recovering from radiation treatment and two weeks out from surgery to remove a soft tissue sarcoma in my leg.

I knew I had a problem during the first lockdown almost a year ago and blogged at the very end of my last daily post on the final day of the lockdown that my leg was still a bit sore. Six weeks later I knew I had a tumour, soon diagnosed as malignant and needing treatment and surgery.

The cyclist was resting at the landing when I reached it. He told me I’d done well. I told him the last time I’d been up here was just before surgery for cancer – “been there done that” he said. Nothing more needed to be said. We enjoyed the view.

Over the last nine months I’ve felt many blogs circling in my mind about the experience, but nothing felt right. It hurt, it felt private and it felt very uncertain at times. I kept a handwritten diary – The Sarcoma Diary – which was a source of calm when I felt the need to look back at it.

Arrowtown seen from above during Autumn

And yet my story is extremely positive – my prognosis now a first world problem compared to many – I limp a bit and possibly always will – and stairs are a challenge.

My resilience has been tested, and at times I considered existential questions, although they passed, and looking in the rear view mirror it’s slightly unreal. More mundane work and home life concerns soon took hold – the meeting at 7.30am, really? and why is the gas bill so variable?

So coming out of this cancer has felt honest, with a clear head and a tight focus on what’s important. All the things I already know, but with an added honesty that keeps me focussed.

I told one of my specialists that having cancer was one of the best things that’s happened to me. Apparently it’s not that uncommon.

Having said that, I know that cancer is a terrible disease. I’ve heard more stories in these last nine months with bad endings than I thought could exist in my circle of family and friends. I know that I’m blessed and for that I’m very grateful.

Stephen