Almost five years ago I was diagnosed with a brain tumour and almost four years ago I listened as a doctor uttered four glorious words to me “we got it all.” The emotion I felt at that point is indescribable.. but that is not what this is about… This is about what happened next. I had focussed everything I had in beating the tumour that I never contemplated what I would do when the fight was over. So after a somewhat heavy night of celebrations and still reeling from the hangover from hell, I decided the only way to get my life back in order was to set myself a series of challenges.; some big some small but all very important to me.
Challenge One; Find A Job.
Having being forced to leave my job for obvious reasons I now had to get back in the working seat yet again particularly as my pond of life savings were quickly turning into a puddle. I figured this was going to be one of the easier challenges but oh how wrong I was! Imagine how saying “I have had a brain tumour” will kill a conversation; well imagine saying that after the interviewer asked the standard question “Reason for leaving last job?” It puts the person interviewing you in such an awkward position they will get the hell out of there as soon as possible. On one occasion after I responded to that question the interviewer simply said “Ok well thanks for coming in.” After countless interviews I was finally given a job, but there was a problem.. I had completely forgotten about the job; like no recollection at all! Not even the interview. So of course the day came for me to start this job and obviously I wasn’t there because I had no clue I needed to be. With me not arriving they decided to call me and this how the conversation went. “Hello it’s blah blah here from blah blah limited”
“Err you’re meant be having your first day with us today”
“Oh really? Sorry where are you calling from again?”
“I’m blah from blah blah limited, we offered you a job you’re meant to be starting today”
“I’m so sorry I don’t remember but I can come in now if you could tell me your address?”
‘It’s ok I think we will leave it”
So before I had even started I had been given the sack, an excellent start. Feeling somewhat deflated I took a walk into town to try and cheer myself up. There I noticed a pub with a poster in the window advertising bar work, feeling brave I strolled in and announced I wanted the job. As luck would have it the manager gave me an instant interview and to be honest it was going rather well, until that dreaded question “reason for leaving last job?” I’m not proud but I lied swiftly replying “I was made redundant.” BOOM! I was hired, all I had to do was not forget to turn up. Placing post it notes all over my house made sure I didn’t forget and before I knew it I was starting my first shift.
The job in the pub was good for me, my memory issues were easily hidden as at times it was pretty hectic and when I did forget things they all just thought it was part of my quirky personality. I did forget to turn up to one shift but I just blamed the rota for that one. I only really had one major issue working there and that wasn’t really with the pub itself. I had just finished a long night shift and walking out at one in the morning feeling totally exhausted I quickly said my goodbyes so nobody would notice I was struggling and began to walk to my car. This is where my problems began. After walking for around ten minutes I suddenly came to the realisation I had no idea where I had parked. I was now searching everywhere in town for my car but by now it was coming to three o’clock in the morning. This is when I realised something else; I had no idea what I was looking for.. I couldn’t remember what car I drove or even the colour! There was nothing left to do but to walk the three miles home. This was one of my lowest moments of being tumour free but it all turned out ok the next day, I remembered where I parked and more importantly I remembered what type of car I had. Phew!
Challenge two; Go to see The Foo Fighters live in concert.
Ok.. so this hasn’t happened yet so Mr Dave Grohl if you are reading I am ready to accept any tickets going spare. Please? Thanks.
Challenge Three. Get thirty people to hug me in one night.
This wasn’t an easy one; you wouldn’t believe the amount of people that won’t give a strange man with random tuffs of hair a hug. I actually didn’t think this one was going to be possible, but then night out with some old Uni friends happened in Manchester. After telling my tale of woe to my friends they came up with a cunning plan. In the middle of a sold out club they told the DJ my challenge, the DJ then asked me to stand in the middle of the dance floor whilst he announced my life story to the whole club and the hugs just started to flow like a river. My friends counted 98 before it just turned into a mass hugathon. I was literally the meat in a club sandwich. By far one of the most surreal moments of my life and one I am very happy to say I will never forget. Even with a mushy memory.
Challenge Four. Sing out loud and not care who’s looking
I have always been a fan of in car Karaoke but I always found myself turning the music down and not singing in built up areas through fear of looking like a fool. On this day my plan was to look a fool, my chosen road was the M6 in rush hour at spaghetti junction. Without even trying I found myself in a trafffic jam to end all traffic jam’s and I positioned my car in the middle lane so I could be seen from all directions then I slotted in my CD of choice Foo Fighters Greatest Hits (they are my favourite band hint hint Mr Grohl!) With the volume as high as it could go I pressed play and my car suddenly filled with the start of ‘All my Life’; then I simply let myself go. In my head I was now the lead singer of the Foo Fighters and I was belting the song out like a pro! People were now starting to notice and that just spurred me on more; I was on Fire! The songs rolled by and I carried on bellowing them out then ‘Best Of You’ came on and I’m not going to lie, I went a bit crazy. I grabbed my glasses case, used it as a microphone and totally let go of all my inhibitions and sang to everyone in this God awful traffic jam like there was no tomorrow. With the end of the song approaching something came over me, I felt free and before I knew it I had opened the sunroof and with my glasses case in hand I stood up and sang the last lines of Best Of You with everything I had. With the last roar of the song fading out I thanked the the watching fans sat back down and cried, I cried with joy I had completed another challenge and I was now ready to go home. Only problem was I was still stuck in traffic.
Challenge five. Go to Rome.
Completed and even if I do say so myself completed in style!
Challenge Six. Run a marathon.
Before being diagnosed I had already done three marathons, so this challenge was for me to see if I could get back to level I was before. Ok so I’m not at the required level just yet, the most I’ve done is 12.5 miles but I’m working on it. I’m now running most days so with any luck I will be where I need to be by the end of the year.
Challenge Seven. Drive across Europe.
Does driving a few hundred miles across France count?! I’m not too sure it does but I am taking good old Bertha back to the continent again later in the year (twice) so this epic challenge will be completed this year I have no doubts about that.
Challenge Eight. Do the Jacking it dance.
Ok so this challenge I didn’t actually set myself this one is down to a very sarcastic friend of mine and in typical me style I happily accepted without actually knowing what it is. If you’re thinking this is just a simple dance you would be wrong. The Jacking it dance is a scene from South Park where a character gets undressed in public and dances in the street naked. Obviously there are a few issues with this.. Firstly anything involving me getting naked is not a pretty sight and I don’t think I could inflict this on random members of the public. Secondly I’m pretty sure it’s illegal to expose your private parts in public and I don’t fancy going to jail. So it looks like this one could be an epic fail. My only other option to complete this challenge in part would be to give Steph a private show one of the days. Be more like a horror show though.
Challenge Nine. Write a book.
This is a working process, I’m currently 12000 ish words in and still going strong so the signs are looking for to have this challenge completed in the next ten years or so. I may be slow but I get there in the end.
Challenge Ten. Be happy.
This was by far the hardest challenge I set myself and one I struggled the most with. On the outside everyone around me was of the impression I was on top of the world and to be honest I should of been. I had been declared tumour free. I had been given my life back. The problem was the life I had been given didn’t feel like my life; I didn’t feel the same; I wasn’t the same person I was before the tumour and that was beginning to eat me up inside. No matter how many challenges I set myself nothing seemed to fill the void I was feeling. I wanted to remember like I could before. I wanted the feeling of constant confusion to disappear. I wanted to feel like me. Luckily for me I found my guardian angel and that angel came in the form of Steph. With Steph by my side I started to ease back into my stride, I was no longer facing things alone, when I fell she caught me, when I suffered from a memory lapse Steph would and still does guide me back to the light. Even when I do something completely off the chart and utterly unexplainable like me deciding the best place to store our passports just before a holiday was the top shelf of the fridge! Yes that did cause some panic for a few hours; until one of us decided to get a drink from the fridge and found the shocking discovery. Even then she just laughed and helped me try and figure out why I decided that was the best place for the passports. That will definitely go down as one of life’s unsolved mysteries. Now I can say this challenge is COMPLETED. I am happier than I ever have been, oh sure I do some cock-eyed things from to time but that’s just me and I have finally accepted that this is me.
In total I gave myself one hundred and eleven challenges and at the time I felt I needed to complete them to prove that this thing that was growing inside me hadn’t changed me. Looking back I realise how stupid I was, of course it changed me, how could it not? So far I have completed sixty four of my challenges and each time I do I find a piece of me that I didn’t know I had. Sometimes I like the thing I find and sometimes I don’t but I suppose that’s just life. You can’t like everything you discover can you? And you never know at one hundred and eleven I may find the answer to life the universe and everything. Hang on isn’t that 42?