the year of emerging victorious

2012 was supposed to be the year of ’emerging victorious’. Like most projects I have been involved with, this milestone slipped. At the end of 2012, I was about as far from victorious as is possible. Mentally and physically, I was at a very low ebb. I was knocked sideways by my second bout of chemotherapy and I was hospitalised on six separate occasions between September and February with recurrent urinary tract infections.


January – on verge of going to my GP to get anti-depressants but I paused for thought and went to visit my stoma nurse instead. She said the stoma had changed in shape so my bags were now too small which was why they were leaking with increasing frequency. She recommended different bags and accessories and to a large extent the problem was resolved. So was my state of being ‘clinically fed-up’.

February – the insurance company kindly award me a nominal 4% pay rise – for (literally) sitting on my backside.

March – the kidney stent is removed. A surreal experience conducted in an operating theatre by a surgeon wearing bloodied wellington boots with no anesthetic but one that needs no more elaboration here. Guess what – no more UTI’s in the 6 months since then.

April – the realisation suddenly dawns on me that I have now seen every single episode of ‘Wanted Down Under’ and the followup ‘Revisited’ program. I am now mindlessly watching repeats of ‘Brownlow family sample life in Brisbane’. After 18 months offline, I finally start to focus and to open discussions with my manager and occupational health about a phased return to work. Confirmation that normal service has been resumed as I sit in the pub, sipping ale, to see Manchester United win their 20th title.

May – resume working but slowly. Start at 8 hours a week gradually increasing to 18 hours by end-June. My employer kindly arranges for a variable height desk and ergonomic chair to provide me with a better working environment at home.  Begin by trawling through email, QA’ing documents for colleagues and staring at problematic Siebel queries.

June – feel a bit like a spare prick at a wedding. I used to fly to glamorous locations in Europe parachuting in to troubleshoot tricky issues. Now I am supposedly ‘working’ 28 hours a week but I feel like I am grabbing crumbs from the table, coasting and de-frauding my employer.

July – get on a train, get on a tube, buy a coffee  and attend a team meeting in the London office. No big deal and thousands of London commuters do the same ritual day after day. However, it’s difficult to explain (unless you’ve been there) what a massive psychological hurdle this was for me. Taking that step into that office with all my colleagues and some new faces. But, of course, nothing had changed. I hadn’t really changed. They hadn’t changed and within 30 seconds we were cracking the same old jokes, talking about the football, laughing about old war stories and recollecting the ‘Cairo incident’.

August – An opportunity arises to be seconded to a different project working on new product development. This will be in a small team, remotely based, working on Oracle Real Application Testing which is ideal for me. After 8 months, of daily tinzaparin injections, a scan on my right arm shows the blood clot has finally dissipated and we can stop the tiresome nightly ritual. Take a week’s holiday and visit Cambridge. Go out for drinks in successive weeks with close friends which lifts my spirits further.

September – Overcome a late crisis of confidence, get my shit together and go into London for a drink with a few mates.

October – The phased return to work is now complete. We are now up to 40 hours a week. 16 months after surgery, the routine monitoring CTI and MRI scans are clear. Surgeon says if the next scans in March remain clear, then ‘we can get the champagne out’.

Finally, after two long years, I feel that I have finally emerged victorious.