As I get back into the swing of things after my recent IV treatment for my cystic fibrosis (CF)*, I’m drawing inspiration from the battle cry of William Shakespeare’s historic play Henry V: “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more…”
It’s all about re-setting my mindset and positivity following this recent heavy-going
Intravenous (IV) treatment and getting on with my daily life of family, work and sport.
I also get my arm back (where the IV line was) and can play rough and tumble with
my son Felix. I’m once more a helpful dad to Felix and husband to Katie.
Similar to the after-effects of chemotherapy medication for cancer patients, in my
experience it’s not an instantaneous return to energy for the two weeks after my IV course. I feel utterly jaded, sluggish and out of kilter – imagine having severe jet-lag for a week and that will give you an insight into how I feel post IVs.
The IV drugs have helped my lungs reduce the infection in my chest and I know that I am healthier – trust me, I wouldn’t sign up for IVs if they didn’t produce some improvement in my lung function. So I know I’m healthier, I just don’t feel it straight away.
I have learned the hard way over 40 years that it’s best to ease myself back into all my usual life activities. After 60 of these IV courses, I am now used to rising like a phoenix out of the ashes, often joking that I’ve made more comebacks in my life than Frank Sinatra!
Getting back into my sport is the key thing as it has always been so integral to my battle with CF, acting as a barometer of exactly how my health is.
I kick-off with a couple of light jogs around our local park, leaving my house looking and feeling fairly fresh and returning after 20 minutes of interval running looking like I’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards and panting like a labrador!
Following the warm-up jogs in that initial week post IVs, I still have a deep burning
desire to once more play field hockey for my club London Edwardians.
This is my 26th consecutive league hockey season and it’s a run I don’t want to end while I am still able to get on that pitch and make a contribution, while at the same time ‘tuning up’ my lungs. My dad, Douglas Wotton, played hockey non-stop for well over 55 years so I’ve got a long way to go to beat his record. Though records are there to be beaten!
In my life, motivation to keep going with my sport has been the key. Few 40 year olds I know are still partaking in competitive sport and they all have their reasons not to – it’s easier not to be active once you have a busy work and family life. Some people need a goal to get running again – something to aim for, like a 10K run, marathon or triathlon. For me I have my hockey.
The ultimate motivation for me is being as healthy and active as I can be and to live as long as possible for Katie, Felix, my family and friends.
So it came last Saturday – my return to action for the first time since May – playing a league game in Battersea Park, London. Felix and Katie were also in the park that afternoon at the near-by zoo and would lend their support at some point.
It was a hot day on 1st October – nearly 30 degrees. We drew 3-3 having been down 3-0 at half time. I played for more than half the game but my performance was barely 4 out of 10 and I was to blame for the opposition’s third goal.
However, unlike a school report, which might say the classic line: ‘Must try harder’, I
couldn’t have been trying any harder. IT WAS TOUGH and it’s getting harder year on year…
In my playing prime, I had to think hard after a game to remember any mistakes. Now
I struggle to recall my good moments!
I might not be able to fully make a difference to the outcome of the game anymore as I could in my younger playing days, plus my coughing at times can be pretty shocking for those on the pitch. BUT while there’s breath in this body of mine, I’ll keep playing on. For I know it makes a difference to the outcome of my health and my longevity battling CF. I’m still playing… once more.
After the match, I went for a warm down run around half the pitch to try and prevent my muscles stiffening too much. It just so happened that Felix and Katie were walking past the pitch at that very moment.
Felix exclaimed to his mum about me: “There’s daddy. He looks tired. He’s got his head down!”
He then ran onto the pitch past players and spectators and jumped into my arms. After hugging him, I picked him up and showed him to anyone and everyone in my team.
Felix has joined me on the pitch after a few of my games in the past and I’m always full of deep and heart bursting pride that I have a son and that he’s run onto the pitch to be hugged by me.
Fathers of sons are not always the one that their boys run to in emergencies; but this is one time when I know there’s no one else he wants but me. I feel that he’s the centre of my universe and I feel like the centre of his.
At these moments, I know how my own dad must have felt when my brothers Chris and
Jez and I would watch him play and then make a bee-line for him afterwards.
The next day after such an onslaught on my body, I walked around like the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz. It’s all worth it. No pain, no gain.
I will strive to improve my fitness over the next few months, build my immune system by sticking to my daily drugs regime, take pretty good care of myself and have my flu jab.
Setting expectations, I won’t be taking part in an Iron Man competition any time soon, as
with exercise it’s all relative to your health and fitness. But my hockey keeps me going, feeling like I’m conducting a normal life, and it helps me to defy the ravages of my illness.
Defiantly, I now shout a different version of Shakespeare’s Henry V speech to myself:
“Once more unto the pitch, dear friend, once more…”
I dedicate this blog post to my dad, a well-known hockey player and coach, who is my hockey hero and instilled in me the passion for playing all sport. That passion drives me on when I’ve nothing else to push me.
As typified by his playing days, he is being stoic and upbeat about his recently diagnosed Motor Neurone Disease. This unfathomable and cruel condition has cut my dad down to a life in a wheelchair, sadly making the use of his once energetic legs and playing his beloved hockey a thing of the past.
I’d like to think that when I step out onto the pitch, his spirit is with me and together we are still playing hockey through good and bad play, thick and thin, rain or shine – win, lose or draw.
I will keep you posted on my life affirming moments, trials and tribulations as and when they happen. Please keep reading and sharing my blog and sign up if you have not already done so.
Yours cup half full
A dear friend of mine, Darren Smith, is taking part in the forthcoming Great South Run and is raising funds for CF. If you wish to donate to make him go faster, please click.
* Cystic Fibrosis is one of the UK’s most common life threatening inherited diseases, affecting over 8,500 people.
The condition affects the internal organs, especially the lungs and digestive system, by clogging them with thick sticky mucus. This makes it hard to breathe and digest food. Each week, five babies are born with the condition, however, each week, three young lives are also lost to it. There is currently no cure for CF. However, existing gene therapy trials in the UK are bringing people with the illness closer to a form of cure but CF is not that well known and would benefit from more public donations.
For more information and to find out more view the CF Trust Website: