Patient Stories | Jamie McAnsh and the Big C
The lovely Jamie McAnsh tells his story about the impact that his cancer diagnosis had on his life and reminds us all, that life doesn't stop after a cancer diagnosis.
The big C - takes no prisoners, has no consideration and cares very little about who you are or what you do. January 2014, I woke up paralysed from a rare condition called CRPS. No, this is not a flashy new cancer that no one has heard of. It is a condition called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. It effects everyone differently and can be the result of viral conditions, injuries, or illness. For me, this was from shingles and for me it was life changing in many ways: physical and mobility difficulties, mental and emotional challenges, Lasting effects to family, friends and those close to me that needed to adapt.
I have been disabled now for 7 years. I have learned new ways to adapt to my new life, I have found sports and friends in many new areas.
I am proud of the fact that I was the first person to climb Pen Y Fan mountain on my bare hands, I went on to complete a range of challenges: I jumped out of an aeroplane at 15,000 feet, handcycled 100 miles, completed a marathon and raised over £250,000 in the process. I completed 12 challenges in 12 months, each as extreme as the last. The next year I was nominated and won the Charles Holland award - I won the greatest achievement award and I pioneered for disabilities.
I became the first person in a wheelchair to complete the 30k hike across the Brecon Beacons to complete the WAAT4 challenge. I set new standards in sport and became the first disabled person to compete in a Welsh Masters tournament against able body players. Four months later I stood in the line-up in the European Masters as the only disabled person ever to compete. I didn't win, but I didn't loose, I only learnt.
I started playing basketball for Cardiff and rugby for Wales. With the squash and the handcycling I have effectively been capped for my country six times in three different sports.
I am not academic, my teacher once told me the only numbers I would make up were the numbers in the benefits queue. But let me tell you now, you do not have to be academic to show scholarship and you don't have to climb a mountain to aim for the summit of your goals and dreams. But you need a goal and you need dreams. That is the positive drive that creates ambition and resilience.
In 2017 my life came crashing down around me once again. First my wife sat me down and told me that she did not love me anymore and wanted a divorce. Six weeks later, I was diagnosed with cancer. The battle had once again started and I had to dig deep to find the way through. But this time, I had grown in my capability of resilience. The friendships I had formed were there for me once again.
When times are good, I step up to the plate for those around me and when times are bad, I know I have the support of those who are forever grateful. When cancer came knocking, I had strength to face it head on but, I never gave up my dreams and I believe this helped me to keep up strength. My cancer was never going to cost me my life but, it may have cost me the life I have now if I had not kept my strength.
Chemo took its toll. First there was the heat, then the sickness. I could not keep food down and all in all I was losing weight in a non-healthy way. I soon realised that I needed more help than I first thought and do I moved in with my Mother. Two weeks later, I found her collapsed on the living room floor at 3am. It was her 66th birthday and for her special gift, she was diagnosed with a 3 inch brain tumour. The lady that had all my life been my rock and my support, now needed me more than ever before. We needed each other. My Mum is my hero and means the absolute world to me.
The doctors were great and when I was having my treatment, Mum would have hers which meant she could care for me. When she was having her treatment, I was then free and able to care for her. That is the importance of the bond between a parent and child that not many will ever experience, but for us it was priceless and a time I hold very dear.
I still worked as hard as I could at the sport I was involved in and only missed one basketball game and two squash competitions. We still won the National Playoffs and became league champions. I may have at the time been the team's weakest link, but the team stood by me and gave me support when needed. That is how we won, not because I was the best player but because I was part of the best team - a team that worked together, a team that valued the strengths and weaknesses of each player and most of all a team that finished that season undefeated.
All my life, I have been told what I could not do. In school I was thick. When I became ill, I was told all the things that were out of my reach. They said you can't, I heard I can. They tole me what I could not do, I heard what I could do. I then set about finding a way to make it happen. I also survived my many failings.
And here I am now. Am I a success? Yes.
Am I rich? Not in money, but rich in time, health and happiness.
With my sporting achievements, I have blown everyone's expectations and then I started to think about taking it to the next step. With my adventurous endeavours, I have looked at my dream and then thought bigger.
With my company See No Bounds, I have tested, failed, tested and failed. I have relooked at my options and then spent hours working out the plans to make it work.
In January 2020, my drop ship company started to struggle. Why? Because my stock was stuck in China. No one's fault and no way to be resolved. My motivational speaking gigs cancelled, all in one day. Why? We entered a world pandemic.
Did I sit down and let myself be beaten? No, I looked at the situation, respected it, got back up, accepted what I was faced with and then we reformed. Now See No Bounds is the UK's first online community centre with a fast growing business directory. We created a community in a time when all we had left were the communities around us. To offer support, knowledge, skill swapping and connections.
My message is clear. Life is unpredictable. However, it is life, and we must go with the punches and face the challenges. We need to focus on the goal, stay positive and that will give us the mental strength to carry on. Stay connected with those around us, remember they are also going through the journey with you, so involve them! I always kept my eye on the goal. This is not easy and times you ask yourself why and question your choices, but you must try to stay positive and focused.
Community has always been a part of my life. As I entered disability life, I connected with people that could help and support me. Many of those are still friends today. The journey through cancer was very much the same. But, this comes with a choice that you must make... There are two types of people in the world: radiators and drainpipes. Radiators will make you feel warm, positive and sae. Drainpipes will suck the living soul out of your mood, morale and mental wellbeing. You need to hold the radiators close and ditch the drainpipes. It's harsh, but trust me, the importance of this cannot be put into words.
Why am I so positive in my approach? Because the people around me will not allow me to be any other way. And I am willing to step up to that challenge!
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