The Amazing Resilience Of The Human Being

One of the strange side effects of living with a life taking disease like cancer is that it does without doubt change your perspective on many things. Now in all fairness you can take one of two paths come this test, you can choose to embrace the challenge or you can select not too. Both have repercussions, one is good and one frankly simply is not. I never had any doubt I was going to fight for my survival no matter what the odds or the journey it never crossed my head once, even though my odds were not good. I refused to accept that was my fate, I would not go quietly into the night as they say. In stark contrast however I have witnessed others who have adopted a different view, I came across someone recently who even though fairly young, upon being told that early indications of dementia had been identified decided that the only thing left to do was decide that the end was nigh and well give up the ghost.

Now to be fair we are all different and that is what makes the world go round and in truth I would never want that to change, but what I do find hard to understand is when someone just crumbles. In fairness there is no real logic behind that I can detect it just seems to be a state of mind. I remember some years ago when I went to see a dear friend of mine in hospital, he was my father in law and his name was Ray, he was a mountain of a man, who spent his life working outdoors. He missed out on a school education because he as born on a farm in the centre of Bournvile village in the heart of Birmingham, world famous of course for Cadbury’s chocolate factory. Of course as a youngster during the Second World War he simply stopped going to school because he was needed on the farm for the war effort and well not to put too fine a point on it he never bothered going back.

Do not get me wrong even though he had no proper education and struggled to read and write he was a clever man with a sharp brain on his shoulders. Indeed he was later to be honoured by none other than Her Majesty The queen when he received an MBE for services to education and shire horses, and as her majesty said to him herself she had never known an award for such a combination. It was a proud day for all, but sadly shortly after he started to suffer from Dementia, a cruel and unforgiving illness that eventually ended up in him being admitted to the mighty Queen Elizabeth hospital in central Birmingham.

This of course is the UKs major trauma hospital for all those who suffer catastrophic injuries in the British military, so casualties from Iraq, Afghanistan, and all other theatres of conflict are evacuated to receive the best life saving treatment that they can get. And it was here that I had what looking back for me was quite a significant experience that I have never forgotten. Basically what happened was that I had taken Ray out for a fag in the reception area. As we stood there an army medic came out pushing a lad in a wheelchair, it was obvious this poor chap had massive injuries and although in a wheelchair it was apparent that his legs were gone, so Ray being Ray walked up and said alright son how are you doing. The lad started chatting to him and he told us that he got blown up by an IED, and had lost his legs and one arm, Ray being the man he was said well it could have been worse son you could have lost the lot, the guy smiled at him and said yes compared to some I was lucky, at least I am still here.

His words resonated with me and now when I reflect on the reaction of the person who got diagnosed with early dementia and the quite frankly defeatist attitude that had been accepted from the outset it made me realise just how strong and resilient the human spirit truly is. And fast forward all these years to the amazing achievements of the paraplegics in the Olympic Games. And indeed those who take part in the Invictus games it just makes you think, just how incredible the power of the human spirit really is if you choose to embrace it. But that is up to each of us of course.

Written by Austin Birks

January 15, 2020

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