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Sunday, August 03, 2008

The Dynamically-Changing Nature of a Relationship

By Victor Cattermole

Asia Pacific Bureau Chief

This month I am writing about a long time friend of mine Glenn Aikin, and how our relationship changed and the impact that has on how I value friends and family. I am hoping that this will help all that read this column, wanting to learn more about networking, to understand in order to develop a strong network we have to work one at a time and be prepared for changes in relationships.

I have known Glenn almost 30 years, our roots go back to days gone by of rock bands, booze, girls and …. well you don’t want to know all about that.

It must have been early 1990’s Glenn was in his early 20’s and he got diagnosed with melanoma, a spot on the back of the neck, quite common for men in New Zealand. It was operated on and successfully, Glenn has the scar half way across the back of his neck to prove it.

Our relationship as friends took a fairly usual path sometimes not seeing each other for weeks on end and other times every day. It was around 2002 when Glenn through a variety of reasons came under a considerable amount of stress. As a friend I could see the signs and changes in his life and this started to impact on how our relationship developed.

I recall the day Glenn noticed a lump in his throat, didn’t think a lot of it, we talked about it and over a few days it got larger, then one night a significant pain next day it was gone. Within a week it was back even bigger than before. So off to the doctor, hospital for a biopsy and 2 days before Christmas the doctor advises the tests say melanoma of the thyroid.

Glenn and I go to work on the internet and as readers here will see you don’t find a lot of positive information about sufferers of melanoma on the thyroid. The best we could find at the time was 13 months to live.

In New Zealand over Christmas and New Year the country basically shuts down and by the 8th January Glenn looked like he had a mobile phone shoved down his throat. A trip back to the doctor suggested if they don’t operate he maybe has one week to live, Glenn rushed in to hospital to be told the surgeon dealing with him was away until end of January and would contact him on his return and that there appears to be large black marks on the scan of his lung which they assume could also be cancer.

After getting back from the hospital Glenn managed to contact a surgeon at Sydney Melanoma Clinic who arranged an appointment for Glenn in Sydney three days later and two days after that they operated and removed his thyroid and a 188mm tumor. The photo I received of Glenn after the operation was like something out of a horror movie. Six weeks later they operated again and removed 1/3 of his lung with melanoma tumors attached. Three days after returning home from the first operation the hospital in New Zealand sent an appointment for the original surgeon, if he had waited for that he would have been dead.

The sad reality was Glenn had melanoma on two internal organs and as awesome as the staff at Sydney Melanoma Clinic were the harsh reality was statistically he had six months to live.

During this ordeal tough decisions had to be made, there was a high chance Glenn would lose his voice from the first operation and so he made a video for his kids, last words they may hear him speak. His life insurance company paid him his life insurance, which covered hospital expenses. At this point life becomes a lot clearer in the devastation of reality.

So that kind of brings me to the beginning of this article.

My good friend’s life has just drastically changed, how does that impact on our relationship and the relationship he has with others?

It’s a good question to consider when it comes to our network. Life is changing, relationships are changing, are we dynamic enough to see, receive and deal with change in order to maintain our relationships? In so many cases I have seen change in one persons life impacts on others in such a way that relationships end because we are so set in our ways when it comes to the connection we have with people, we don’t like change.

Consider applying the drastic change thought to our relationships and even consider what you would do now if you knew in six months time they could be gone completely. What value do we put on the relationship when we do this?

Six months after Glenn’s second operation he returned to Sydney for a PET scan. The doctors could not find a cancerous cell in his body. Three months after that he also returned to Sydney for a PET scan and again they could not find a cancerous cell in his body.

In February 2005 I stood on Sumner beach in Christchurch, New Zealand and watched my good friend Glenn Aikin run across the finish line after completing the one day grueling 243km Coast to Coast Multisport Championship. He got 150th and completed the course in 16 hours, 38 minutes and 39 seconds.

I talk to my miracle friend every week I can, because the dynamic of our relationship changed and the value and importance was only fully realized when it potentially could have been stolen away. Glenn taught me the reality of the situation is one thing we accept and deal with. The opinion of others, in this case doctors giving him six months to live, does not have to be something we accept and receive as reality.

Apply some life threatening reality to relationships and get them in to perspective.


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2 comments:

Kevin Knebl said...

Victor,
Tremendous article! For those people that have never lost a friend or loved one to a life-threatening illness, your words will have different meaning than to those that have lived through this. Isn't it amazing that we often have to look reality in the face before a situation really registers? We can tell the kids not to touch the stove because it's hot, but when they touch it it goes from theory to practical application.
I lost a good friend to Lou Gehrig's disease last year. I remember the last time that I saw her and I knew that it was going to be the last time that we would see each other. Amazing how lack of options produces clarity of vision.
We take so much for granted every day. If we knew when our time and the time of our friends and relatives was going to be up, we'd make some different choices and clarify a lot of situations and relationships.
When most elderly people are asked what they'd do differently, the most common answer is that they would have taken more chances and not played it so safe. I think this also pertains to relationships. An example of "playing it safe" is not saying that you love someone and not keeping in contact with them on a regular basis. We take things for granted. Life is short and we need to cultivate our relationships and networks and take the time to communicate.
Thank you for taking the time to write your article. I know that it touched me and I'm sure that it has touched many others.
Kevin Knebl in Colorado Springs

Kevin Knebl said...

Victor,
Tremendous article! For those people that have never lost a friend or loved one to a life-threatening illness, your words will have different meaning than to those that have lived through this. Isn't it amazing that we often have to look reality in the face before a situation really registers? We can tell the kids not to touch the stove because it's hot, but when they touch it it goes from theory to practical application.
I lost a good friend to Lou Gehrig's disease last year. I remember the last time that I saw her and I knew that it was going to be the last time that we would see each other. Amazing how lack of options produces clarity of vision.
We take so much for granted every day. If we knew when our time and the time of our friends and relatives was going to be up, we'd make some different choices and clarify a lot of situations and relationships.
When most elderly people are asked what they'd do differently, the most common answer is that they would have taken more chances and not played it so safe. I think this also pertains to relationships. An example of "playing it safe" is not saying that you love someone and not keeping in contact with them on a regular basis. We take things for granted. Life is short and we need to cultivate our relationships and networks and take the time to communicate.
Thank you for taking the time to write your article. I know that it touched me and I'm sure that it has touched many others.
Kevin Knebl in Colorado Springs

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