Will You Help Me Raise Funds for my Cancer Diaries Project? I’ll Play for You


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This Sunday at 5 PM (NZ ST) I will be performing my last Live Stream with Boosted to raise funds for my HAG Project. Yep, it’s a fundraiser as I will explain below. Every penny helps. If I can raise $1,000 Creative New Zealand will match it!

You Have Cancer

These are words nobody expects or want to hear.

A few years ago, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer after a routine blood test. I had no symptoms, but farther testing showed I had several tumours. I’ve lost family members and friends to cancer and while I kept a brave face, there were times when I was close to rock bottom. When you watch TV shows like American Idol, you see people who have amazing journeys as a result of adversity and I wondered if I might have one of those moments.

The Cancer Diaries

The moment hasn’t come yet, but perhaps you can help me turn it into one, even a modest one, through this Boosted campaign.

Smashed Chair

I have written a series of songs about my journey, starting with the day I threw my director’s chair onto the carpet, smashing the chair and ripping the carpet. That motivated the first song in what I now call ‘The Cancer Diaries’. If I Could Turn the Table shares how I felt at that moment. Most cancer patients will relate.

A BHAG

I want to be able to create a legacy EP and series of music videos to tell the stories and donate it to the Cancer Society, with any proceeds going to them.

After I wrote the songs for The Cancer Diaries and looked at what I would need, it included everything from a jazzy bass to a gospel choir. I found the whole thing pretty intimidating and expensive. I, therefore, didn’t give the project life.

They say things happen for a reason. Maybe this is it.

Care to help me?

I am in remission and the last song in the Cancer Diaries turns this Boosted campaign into a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal). The song is called Dare to Dream. To make it shine, I need the backing of an inspirational gospel choir. In the song, I ask what remission actually means. I sing about writing a bucket list of meaningful things I want to see and do, and the song climaxes with a huge rousing finale.

HopeI believe it will lift a lot of spirits and bring HOPE to people who have cancer or who have friends and family going through such a journey.

So how about it folks? Would you like to come on my next journey with me? Maybe help with a donation in honour of someone you care about who is on a cancer journey? Writing music is a cathartic process. So is listening and watching. I’m also keen to hear from anyone who can help with recording, backing music, video and of course that gospel choir.

Cost Breakdown

There are four songs on the EP. I estimate that studio recording of the first three will cost around $500 each. Recording the fourth song with the gospel choir is likely to be more in the range of $2,500 given the logistics. It would need to be recorded in a venue such as a church and will need a lot of gear and expertise. Mastering adds on around $800 leaving a couple of hundred dollars over for design.

These costs are based on not having to pay for backing musicians and choir. If I am able to oversubscribe, then it would be awesome to be able to give them koha too, especially in these difficult times when virtually no one in the music industry is earning a living.

I’m on Boosted Live Again This Sunday at 5 PM


Hey folks. 111 people came to check out my Boosted live-stream last week. That’s a cool number. Better than most bars are getting right now, sadly 😦
I’ll be up again tomorrow at 5 PM for another half-hour set. I’ll be sharing a COVID19 parody called Your Wipe and will be accompanied for one track by our local tui who seem to like my music on a song called Raglan Rain.
I’m also looking forward to sharing my song You Oughta Run unplugged, unfortunately without the awesome sax from my friend Charly Nice.
I’ll also be paying homage to Christchurch Cathedral. Check out the video below for what it looked like before the Earthquake.
Stand up performance

I Need Your Help With The Cancer Diaries


next performance

When I was told that I had cancer, I wondered if I might turn it into a moment. When you watch programs like American Idol, you hear of the hardship people went through, which motivated them to enter the competition.

One such ‘moment’ was that with my promotion of Relay For Life, I told my story about catching PROSTATE CANCER early, which motivated more than 20 men got themselves tested, which is awesome.

I started writing songs about my journey and decided to create an EP called THE CANCER Diaries and combine that with a music video, which would tell my stories of tough times and of hope. The final song, which is half-finished will culminate in a song called Dare to Dream,  which needs the backing of a gospel choir for the emotionally inspiring (I hope) finale.

The intention was, and is, to donate the finished product to the cancer society. I am hopeful that it will help other people on their journeys with cancer or in support of people with cancer, as it did me in writing and playing the songs.

Anway, life got in the way.

Since COVID19, the good people at Boosted have set up a program for artists, especially musicians and songwriters to raise funds and koha because they are unable to perform live during the lockdown period. I told them about my idea and they said that it sounded like a great project for a Boosted campaign.

So I have set one up, which you can find here. I will be performing live on Sunday evening at 5 PM right there on that page. Hopefully, it will go well. It took me most of yesterday to get my sound gear working for streaming. It’s probably been a year since I was last on Twitch or YouTube live.

So the plan is to finish the songs, record them in a studio together with a few volunteer musos and create The Cancer Diaries EP and video. I’m also hoping for support from other people who can help with video and especially with a gospel choir. Do you have one hanging around somewhere?

I also need your help to spread the word about the campaign which runs for 30 days from today, in any way or form that you can.

Live Tracking Coronavirus on a Map


I wrote this 3 weeks ago. Since then almost 80,000 people have contracted the virus, 2,130 people have died from it and whilst some say it is reaching a plateau, the cruise ship in Yokohama and increasing spread in Asia is growing dramatically.

I continue to be most disappointed with the racist behaviour all over the world, including my home country of New Zealand. Most of us said that the mosque shooting in Christchurch had changed us and that we would call out inappropriate behaviour when we saw it.

Well, I’m calling it out. There is plenty of racism in this country and when we stand proud of what makes us Kiwis. We need to embrace the multiculturalism. Yes, this started in China. That does not make people of Chinese ethnicity bad people, or people to be afraid of. I’m sure many of them are far more afraid of each other, but not because of their ethnicity, simply because of where they have been.

Come on Kiwis, pull up your grown-ups pants and set the example! If and when we get Coronavirus, wouldn’t it be ironic if ‘patient one’ is of European or Polynesian ethnicity. Imagine if people were afraid of us?

I know if you read my blogs that you are not racist. I also know we have to call out this scourge when you see it. I’m horrified by news stories of people asking why Asians are allowed on buses, or in our swimming pools, yelling at school children! We need to be careful, sure, but we are damaging relationships with our own people here, which will take longer for some to recover from, than the virus.

SoLoMo Consulting

Johns Hopkins CSSE has developed and published a GIS web map tool, whereby you can live track the spread of Coronavirus on a map. I feel the pedigree is important, because when I listen to my Alexa news brief each day, no two news broadcasters have the same numbers.

Like you I want to know how serious this is, especially now that WHO declared Coronavirus as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) and today as a Global Emergency.

You can view the map in detail, zooming into any part of the map and see the geographic spread inasmuch as ‘facts’ have been reported. I suspect given the pedigree and resources, this will be as good information as any.

Adding a glimmer of hope, it not only shows the number of deaths and where they occured, but also the number of people who have recovered and where…

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Here’s to Staving off Dementia and other Demons


Txt me later - Waiouru Army MuseumI’ve been working on my CV over the last few days as my division and role are being disestablished. On the template there was a field for interests. Now if you know me, you will know I am addicted to learning. I am not happy if I am not developing a new skill, a new understanding or keeping up with the constant state of change in this amazing era I feel privileged to live in.

Why do we need to learn? For a start, we have a massive set of wetware in our skulls, that like any muscle, needs to be exercised. Just like muscle sinews, the dendrites in our brain grow or shrink as they are used or neglected. We have discovered this concept of neuroplasticity, or perhaps more to the point of it, science has proven it exists. We actually knew it all along. The link above has some great ways to grow your brain.

The challenge is to keep learning and my bent is to understand, not just absorb data. We have Wikipedia and Google to do compile the data, we need to understand what it means. We need to be ready to identify our weaknesses and keep pace with change. If we don’t the consequences are dire.

I told someone this morning that I feel like I am living in a science fiction novel. The space race is back on, our oceans, lakes, rivers and seas are polluted. Temperatures all over the globe are reaching extremes, we’re getting rid of plastic bags, the political trend around the world is becoming more nationalistic in many places, as we try to protect something we may not have actually had. Children are rising up and being recognised.

I have to chuckle at this one, because I tried that back when I was a kid. I was lucky to have the opportunity because whilst children were sent to schools and universities to learn, their views were largely ignored. Today they are realising that they can’t let grownups screw up the world that they will inherit.

The challenge was that we didn’t have social media and broadcast systems that allow children on one side of the planet to encourage people on another side of the planet to ban plastic bags. I remember being involved in seminars as a teenager with groups like the World Council of Churches and Paulo Freire, whom I was very lucky to have met and spent time with.

Paulo’s critical pedagogy which is now considered new, included the premise that “Study is not measured by the number of pages read in a night, nor by the number of books read in a semester. Studying is not an act of consuming ideas, but of creating and recreating them”.

That’s how we moved from the Morse Code machine to owning, often more than one smartphone, each with more computing power than was used in the entire Apollo 11 Space Programme.

Successes didn’t happen overnight. For example there were many failures before that light bulb lit up and stayed on. We didn’t stop with that incandescent light, we tried and failed and failed and tried and look at the amazing options we have now. Garden lights powered by the sun that work for years and cost less than $5 each!

So what happens when we stop learning? Have you had the sad experience of having to put a family member into a rest home? What happens in most of those places? They have limited resources and the people in them spend a lot of their time withering away until they no longer know who they are. Yet, we know that playing them music they were once familiar with, can bring them back. Things they learned are still there, but the dendrite connections turned off.

I wonder how we will use that knowledge now that it has been accepted as scientific fact, because dementia is at its highest level in recorded history and I’m not sure it needs to be.

I actually wanted to write about interests and one of mine is linguistics. At various times I have learned and spoken around 8 languages. I formally studied 6 of those. The other one, which I have forgotten was Hungarian, which I learned at 3 because my neighbours at the time only spoke that language. It was easy for me because I already spoke Dutch and English and learned French and German because my parents used it when I was a child, to have a conversation they didn’t want me to understand. Now there’s motivation for a kid to learn something!

I also wanted to talk about conferences, having attended, chaired and spoken at venues in 10 countries around the world, frequently sharing the frustration that most of the people that needed to attend weren’t there, because they were struggling to survive in a changing world and didn’t have time to learn the very things that would save their business. So instead of using Freire’s pedagogy, they kept repeating what they had once been taught, even though it was no longer relevant.

The number of people I have come across who say they know all about their business seems interesting proportional to the number of businesses that are going broke, or the models that are failing because disruptors have delivered what customers were asking the incumbents for, and not getting. So we were frequently preaching to the converted.

I’ll come back to the importance of language in another article, because it is a subject in its own right. Language and linguistics has provided me with a rich career in business and communications. It has taught me much about culture and helped me develop friendships and business relationships around the world.

But haven’t they changed over the decades? My cousins in Holland frequently use words I haven’t heard before and the technology is also now taking us into a whole new area of language, much of which is international, like emojis.

Anyway, I’d like to tell some stories about languages and the value of learning, but you’ll have to watch this space to find them. That’s assuming you still read, but of course you are here. That’s probably a sign of your age, because after writing my latest book targeted at millennials, I realised that many do not like to read at all, but will happily spend hours on YouTube watching educational videos. Maybe one little take away if you are in a business where you want to communicate with people. It used to be simple back in the day.

The things we were taught about in communications decades ago may still work in some niches. The principles still apply, but as Freire said, you have to create and recreate ideas.

So WTS and I’ll BRB 🙂

What Your GP or Physio Should Tell you if you Have an Accident in New Zealand.


Ward 9As you may have seen from earlier posts, I had a back accident 15 months ago and after 4 visits to hospital, the most recent being of 7 days duration, I am still no nearer to getting the surgery my orthopedic spine specialist / surgeon recommended for me and requested ACC to fund.

What went wrong?

I’m going to tell you about 2 critical things. The first is about how I injured myself, by which I mean the primary cause and the second is about who I got referred to.

  1. The Primary Cause

Blackroom Relay for Life 2016 Print-47My latest accident didn’t seem like much. I was at my 6th Relay For Life in March last year and ready to walk a marathon distance (my goal, which I achieved) over 18 hours.

Setting up prior to the event and prior to heading for the survivors’ tent (I am in remission from prostate cancer), we had a 4 room tent to set up, and the poles and pegs were in a big bag in the trailer that was provided by the organisers to get our gear from the car park to our team site.

It was super heavy. No one seemed to want to get it out, including the guy driving the tractor. So I tried. Unfortunately, my back couldn’t take it and I ended up with a back strain injury that still has me off work today, 15 months later.

FC9I managed to do the distance through the use of medications like Panadeine and I had booked a couple of days annual leave after the event to recover, based on previous years experience. I also had a float and massage the following day, so I didn’t feel too bad after that. A bit sore, but otherwise OK.

A few weeks later, on ANZAC Day, in fact; I remember because it occured on the weekend before the public holiday (a Wednesday) and my wife and I had taken the Thursday and Friday off to go away in the Corvette for a few days holiday.

It had been raining, and on the Sunday before our planned holiday, I mowed the lawn and using the catcher to collect the heavy wet grass. I had to twist on an awkward angle to detach the catcher from the mower, twisted my back again, and the rest as they say was history.

You can read previous blogs but the key point was that whilst an MRI showed damage, ACC weren’t satisfied with the injury having been caused by the incident, they said it was age based degenerative disc disease. They said they would try to see if a previous injury could be relevant that they could tie it to which would convince them to cover the cost of the surgery and herein lies the problem.

A Skydiving Accident

IMG_0974Many years ago I had a skydiving accident. It was a tandem jump and if you have ever experienced one, you know that the customer is at the bottom and the Jumpmaster is on top. When she tried to flare at about 30 feet we got into an air pocket and instead of opening up, the parachute closed down. Instead of gliding to a running stop, we dropped and I took her weight on top of my own, on my tailbone.

It hurt like mad, but I was also flying high on adrenaline from the jump, so I didn’t really feel the pain that much. That night it was very sore, but we went to a big neighbourhood party and I found that bourbon acted as a great pain killer, so I managed pretty well and enjoyed the festivities as long as I didn’t make any sudden moves.

That night there was a bit of a storm and one of our trees was blown over.

The following morning, I was trying to clear branches in our yard, bent down and found I couldn’t straighten up again.

I went to physio who asked what happened and I told my story, the ACC record said “bent down and hurt back while picking up branches in garden”. I had 26 physio visits, was referred to Pilates and was assigned a personal trainer.

I did talk to them all about the sky diving, but it never made it to the ACC records. It therefore registered as a strain.

Another Accident

I was racing my land yacht in a 180 km enduro on 90 mile beach. I crashed at the northern end of the beach, picked myself up and raced back again and had to endure racing through snapper holes around Ahipara Beach, which is like racing on sheets of corrugated iron. Lots of pain, but again lots of adrenaline. For much of the race, I was going at speeds of up to 100 kph on a thin cushion as you can see on the video above, and with my feet sitting on a steering rod so all of my weight was on the lumbar area of my back.

At the end of the weekend it was a 5 hour drive back home to Auckland and a couple of days later, guess what? I was in the garden again, bending over and suffered intense back pain.

Guess what went on my ACC record?

Lots of physio for an injury sustained doing gardening.

So, when the specialist looking for reasons to not approve surgery (me having had every other treatment they could think of, for over seven months), they looked at what I had been referred for (back strain), looked at old injuries sustained in the garden, so probably not significant, all because I didn’t understand the importance of mentioning the crash or the sky diving on the initial ACC form. After all I was getting treatment. That was all I was concerned with at the time.

So What?

I might have got a very different response to my request for surgery if the primary causes of injuries had been clearly recorded, instead of lost to obscurity. Now I am chasing a Review of ACC’s decision not to fund the surgery which is going to be time consuming and expensive.

So if you are injured and covered by ACC, make sure that, irrespective of which straw broke the patient’s back, that the primary cause of injury is documented, even if you are happy that the treatment will fix the problem.

I’m now in a situation after many back injuries, that ACC are claiming age based disc degeneration disease and I am going to have to prove that I did in fact sustain some major injuries and that it was the cumulative impact of those injuries that has me now needing expensive surgery.

If I had made sure they had all the information correctly recorded, it would probably have been plain sailing for me now, instead of 15 months off work, the possibility of losing my job, and a long, expensive and stressful battle to get my back repaired so I can get back to work.

2. If Referred to a Specialist, Make Sure it is one who Operates in Your Local Public Hospital.

I was referred to a very good surgeon by my GP, largely because he is one of the category of trying everything else before getting the scalpel out and doing major surgery, which in my case will involve 2 surgeons for 4-5 hours and a 5-day stay in hospital.

Because of all the drama with ACC (New Zealand’s Accident Compensation Commission), in April I asked my GP (at the recommendation of my surgeon) to refer me to the public hospital. Whilst I have other medical insurance, it only pays (up to) 80% of the costs, which means I would personally be up for around $18,000 that I have to find myself. It could even be more because they won’t know exactly what they have to do until they cut me open.

So I was referred as ‘URGENT’ to North Shore Hospital on the 4th of April this year. I told them I was not working and that I could come at short notice and asked if they would put me on the cancellation list and they said “Yes, we have a cancellation list, is there anything else?”

I rang a few times, mostly talked to voicemail and the first time I spoke to someone they said “It’s only been a month!” To which I responded, “yes but I was referred as urgent.”

This month I had a flare up and spent 7 days in the Orthopedic Ward at North Shore Hospital. They did an MRI, hooked me up with a pain team and eventually once the pain was under control with drugs, they let me go home.

They told me that the stay would not be seen as my First Specialist Assessment (FSA) for which there is an expectation that you will be seen within 4 months of referral. They said that the Orthopedics Team knew about me and I would probably now be seen within 2 weeks. So they scripted 2 weeks of pain medication for me. They said I would get a confirmation letter from the hospital.

So I got out of hospital on the Sunday, waited until Wednesday and rang to find out when my appointment would be. I had to leave a message on their voicemail. I rang again on Friday and again left voicemail.

On Monday this week I got a phone call telling me that they did in fact have a date for me in late August. Today is the 17th of July.

So much for my 2 weeks of pain medication. I should have got the message when the doctor who checked me out of hospital laughed when I said I was expecting to be seen in 2 weeks.

So what?

If my GP had originally referred me to a specialist who also worked on the public health at North Shore Hospital, there is every likelihood that I would have been referred for surgery at the hospital in November last year, and could well have been back at work by the beginning of this year.

Now instead, I am still waiting for a First Assessment, and they will want to decide for themselves what treatment I should have. So while the logic behind my original referral was sound, the end result is that it set me back anything up to a year.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but the point I am making is that you, dear reader, may have a back injury like me, or perhaps a knee or shoulder injury from playing sport.

By learning from my experience, you might be able to have a better experience, receiving treatment within the same year of your injury and not jeopardising your employment and having double the stress. 

SUMMARY

Being in severe chronic pain for over a year is horrific. The potential consequences can be many including

  • losing your job,
  • becoming addicted to pain medications,
  • sleep deprivation with all that comes with that,
  • becoming stressed to the point of depression,
  • having no social life or family life,
  • which also results in relationship stress.

Here are two ways you can reduce the risk of experiencing what I’m going through.

  1. If you injure yourself doing something major and then aggravate it with a lesser injury. Insist that the cause on the ACC form is the major impact and the secondary injury is clearly shown as secondary. It might not matter now, but in 10 or 20 years it could save you from the horrible 15 months I’ve endured so far.
  2. If you need to be referred to a surgeon, even if you have medical insurance, get referred to one who operates from your local public hospital. You may not end up needing to go public, but at least you have viable options and it could save you many months in getting treated.

Affiliate Marketing That Works While I Wait For my Back Surgery


If you know me, you will know that for the last year, I have been off work with a back injury and I am waiting for back surgery after having tried everything else. ACC isn’t keen to pay for it and I am now waiting for a Review with them and also for an appointment with an Orthopedic Specialist at North Shore Hospital.

I was referred there on 9 April as Urgent and when I rang last week, they said I would be seen within another month or two and confirmed that they do of course have cancellations. I pointed out that I am close by and ready to come at a moments notice, having been off work for over a year now. You can check out the Back Story on my Back here.

seat

I have to sit on a cushion with a wheat bag behind my back

So what have I been doing this last year? Stretching,

IMG_5496

Hanging upside down is great and then gravity comes back

exercising, doing aqua aerobics, hanging upside down, going to specialists, having scans, steroid injections, floats, walking, sitting, stretching, working 6 hours a week and waiting for someone to approve the surgery that was recommended by my specialist.

Now if you know me, you know I am not one to sit down. I look for opportunities to keep busy.

All this time off made me think about retirement. No I don’t want to retire for many years yet. I’m anxious to get back to work full time which I should be able to do, 6-8 weeks post surgery. But when I do retire, I sure don’t want to rely on the pension to give me lifestyle.

I decided that Affiliate Marketing was the way to go. I tried several options as I will outline below, and I have come to the conclusion after some expensive trials with other vehicles, that Wealthy Affiliate is the way to go. It is simple, the education is awesome, and I am well on the way to building something that will provide me with an income in the future when I need it. More on that below. But if you want a shortcut to check out why I chose this without reading on. Click here.

Amway stageI’ve often thought about being able to have a passive income that would provide for my future and I’ve tried various things. Long ago my wife and I were Amway members and we developed a large downline. We even got to the famed 21% but it was incredibly hard work and we could see it really wasn’t for us, especially in New Zealand where there were not that many products and whilst the training and atmosphere was awesome, the income wasn’t.

978-0-473-46328-1

I wrote another book which I published in December after a great many reviews, because I have been taking fairly large doses of painkillers every day. but I got there.

I planned to write and sell a course for first home buyers via an organization called Clickbank. I spent a fair amount of time and money after signing up to Clickbank University and learned quite a bit about Affiliate Marketing, but I felt their system, based around selling courses was a bit limited on its own.

Then I found that the target market for my book, young first home buyers, don’t really like to read. So I set off to create a YouTube video version of the book. You can find it here. It’s great free information.

Through the course I also set up an email list on aWeber. But this also required cost and a lot of work and I decide that people looking to buy their first home, are not looking for training even though in my opinion they really need it.

So after many months, I still wasn’t getting anywhere, until… I discovered Wealthy Affiliate. What was great about it was that it was a no nonsense, paint by numbers course that had you finding a niche, researching it, buying a URL, searching keywords, doing SEO, setting up a website in no time flat and before you know it, you are almost ready to start generating an income.

I just wish I had found this a long time ago. Now this is not a get rich quick scheme. I don’t think anything like that even exists, but without any knowledge of current web set up, I created Guitar Love. This is a website that is going to entertain and educate established and learner guitarists about everything from how to pick a guitar, accessories that make playing fun, writing and composing songs and music and much more. I will share affiliate links to products that I love, help them get good deals and get a clip of the revenue for my trouble.

I just can’t tell you how easy it was. I’m not saying it isn’t a lot of work, but any business is. I’m not looking to make money right now, but I could if I wanted to. I’m looking to build something that will give me a better lifestyle in future years.

I have always wanted to find a way to do what I love, writing, blogging, making music and just couldn’t figure out how to do it. Wealthy Affiliate has an awesome community and we all help each other out. It has gamification, it has paint by numbers, it has what I wish I had found years ago.

So, do you want a little or a lot more income now or in the future? All it takes is a little desire and a little work. I’m into it and I just wish I had found it sooner. If you are looking for a way to set up your future like I am. Just click on the banner below and check it out.

If you know anyone else that is struggling to make ends meet, a solo parent, perhaps someone semi retired, a student, or like me, wanting to do something for yourself while recovering from an injury or illness, please share this blog or a link with them. The link has a really low cost introductory offer which I and most people used to determine if the system is as good as it sounds.

Any questions, just leave a comment, or if you know me personally, give me a yell.

The Backstory on My Back


acc HELPHi, I’m ACC 18 Number 201905123684, I’ve swapped the numbers a little, although it probably doesn’t make any difference. I’m fairly well known.

My back story consists largely of digital files and probably a few manila folders and other storage media in several Accident Compensation Commission, medical, physio, specialist, hospital, surgeon, Occupational Therapist, Pain Specialist offices around New Zealand. They get shuffled from time to time.

Having said that, everyone on my journey has been friendly, thoughtful and most have tried to help me. A few, who I haven’t met, somewhere in the system have the job of helping ACC to not have to pay for my surgery, with considered justification. I’ll talk about that too.

Blackroom Relay for Life 2016 Print-47In March 2018, I hurt my back getting ready to set up for the Auckland Cancer Society’s North Shore Relay for Life event. The annual 18-hour relay, raising funds for cancer services which I have completed 6 times. I started with my family in honor of family members who have died from cancer, including my late father-in-law.

Then I got cancer myself, and during the fund-raising process I’m proud to say that over 30 men got tested for Prostate cancer because of my story, but I’m getting ahead of myself. I was given the honour of speaking at the opening, having refreshments in the survivors’ tent and carrying one of the flags in the first survivors’ lap. A humbling and emotional experience.

20170325_155154Trying, unsuccessfully, to awkwardly pick up a bag of tent poles out of a trailer provided at the venue by the organizers, for a 4 room tent, would set off a chain of events that has opened my eyes to the plight of many New Zealanders, who desperately want to work, but can’t, because the health system is underfunded, under resourced and inefficient.I became one of them.

I have a job. I hold a management role at the NZTA, a job I love with an awesome team of people who provide mostly Real Time Travel Information to motorists and travelers around the country.

It’s been 14 months since my injury.

My Occupational Therapist, GP, Pain Specialist and my Manager have agreed that I can work 2 three-hour days a week. ACC funds taxis to get me there as I could be a danger to myself and others, under the daily pain medication regime I’m on. That allows me to do something productive as well as socialize with my colleagues and not feel totally divorced from my work.

It was part of my back to work program, which has stalled since the Orthopedic Surgeon advised me that we had ‘painted our backs into a corner, having tried every alternative to fusion and discectomy surgery.’

I am incredibly grateful that the NZTA hasn’t dropped me under the bus and that I still have a job, although I am not currently able to perform my normal duties.

Over the next while, along with other activities, I’m going to talk about my life, one shared with my family and friends, colleagues and the health system.

I’m going to talk about what happened, about why I still can’t go back to work, why I am still waiting for surgery after 14 months. How ACC don’t want to pay for the surgery, how I can’t afford to pay for the excess if I went private, and my current experience with the Auckland District Health Board and North Shore Hospital, where I was referred as an Urgent Patient on the 9th of April.

I have not yet been able to connect with the person who makes appointments. When I rang them at the end of April, the hospital representative at the Patient Service Centre said they must see me within 4 months, and it was too early to ring. I was told it wasn’t worth ringing before the end of May and even then, not to get my hopes up. I rang today and left a message on their voicemail.

I have Prostate Cancer.

Mercy ScannerDuring the dark days of 8 weeks of radiation treatment, followed by chemicals, I think I had less than a week off work, on the odd day when I was so fatigued that I couldn’t function.

I arranged my radiation sessions to be around 7AM every morning so that I could go straight on to work afterwards, and still be on time. That’s how I roll.

I am now fortunately in remission, and my latest blood test last week showed a good result. The irony is that Cancer is fatal and there is every possibility that one day, hopefully decades away, it will kill me.

On the other hand, chances are very good that after back surgery, I will be a little sore from time to time, manageable with over the counter pain relief. Yet, for cancer I had less than a week off work and with a back injury it has now been over a year!

Mine is a common story, but one with which for the first 40 years of my working life I had no personal experience. I’d heard stories, mostly about people who allegedly don’t want to work, and enjoy living off the taxpayer’s dollar, but there are so many more people like me, who desperately want to work and contribute to society. If you have a look at my profile on LinkedIn you will read that my goal in life has always been to help people.

I consider my work important, a contribution to reducing the pain of traveling on our ever more congested road network by offering information about planned and unplanned events, about expected delays, alternative routes, alternate modes of transport, helping people plan for holiday road trips and much more.

I lead a team of awesome people who really care about you, their customers. It matters to me, but I’m being kept from it.

It’s funny, we talk about the cost to society of people who are needlessly killed on our roads. The cost takes into consideration the contribution they will make to the country’s GDP over their lives. Yet, the cost to taxpayers to get me back to work by providing me with back surgery, is far less than the cost of keeping me away from work.

As I said, mine is a common story, but it’s not one that people like you and I can easily relate to, unless we are directly affected.

Of course, in each instance, it’s not just the patient, it’s our partners, our family, our friends, our colleagues and of course the workload that must be done by someone else, or perhaps not at all.

seatI’ll try to make the story interesting, maybe even have the odd laugh. But let me tell you, this is no joke. I have gone from being super positive and highly motivated, with a bucket list of things I want to do which I prepared when I found out I have cancer, to being virtually trapped in my home, on the border of depression, not being able to stand, sit or lie down for any length of time without significant pain.

I’ll share an email I sent to ACC after having read a report prepared for them by a specialist, who said that “The patient appears to be doing reasonably well”.

Interestingly, this person who was paid by ACC to investigate my case did not once speak to myself, my GP, my Orthopedic Specialist, my Case Manager, my Pain Manager or my Physio.

I guess ‘reasonably well’ is a relative expression. I’m not dying.

The email is quite personal, but that’s really the point. I am a person.

Anyway, that’s it for now. I’m hoping to hear back from the hospital today and am getting on with other things in the meantime.

You may find my story interesting; you may be in a similar situation yourself. I know I’m not alone. I understand it was stated in Parliament Question Time last week that the number of elective surgeries completed last year was 10,000 ‘elective’ surgeries less than the year before. Reasons included strikes and funding. It’s little wonder it could take months for me to just be able to speak to someone.

Feel free to comment or ask questions. I know I’m not alone here and you may be in a similar situation to mine. I grew up as a fan of New Zealand’s welfare state. I learned that we are the system and that if we don’t stand up for something, no one else will either. I just didn’t know how bad it was.

So, you there. Have you had any experiences like mine? How do you get some action without ruffling people’s feathers and having your manila folder dropped down the list a little? Of course, that wouldn’t happen would it?

I welcome your comments.

 

 

 

 

Thinking About the Consequences of our Education System, Bullying, our Health System, Coach Azul, Cameron Harold and FREE Publicity


I listen to a lot of podcasts. I was listening to them while commuting to and from work. Then last year I suffered a back injury and I have been waiting at home, consuming pain medications and exercising for what seems like forever, for ACC to approve spinal fusion and a discectomy so that I can get back to work.

Around a week ago they notified me that they are not going to pay for the surgery on the basis that I have degeneration in my discs that was not caused by the injury. It ‘rendered them symptomatic’ and I am now waiting for an appointment with the Waitemata District Health Board, whilst working on a review claim with ACC, New Zealand’s Government Accident and Injury insurer, who I feel could have had me back at work 6 months ago. They are still covering me for the back strain, but my specialist has said that they have tried everything bar surgery. “We’ve painted ourselves into a corner” he said.

I’m told that the North Shore Hospital spine surgeon is fantastic, but they also told me they have to legally see me within 4 months. In other words, just because it says “urgent’ on your case file, doesn’t mean you will even get to speak to someone anytime soon.

So I’ve had a lot more time to listen to podcasts while exercising, strengthening my core, whilst awaiting the needed surgery I still need, so I can return to work. I suspect there are thousands of people like me, numbers that get recycled in meetings focused on saving money. Ironically, when I work I am saving citizens much more money, but I digress.

One of the podcasts I enjoy is from Azul Terronez called Born to Write. If you follow me, you know I am passionate about writing and storytelling as a means of sharing a message on my various blogs and books.

The latest podcast from Coach Azul really resonated with me. The guest was Cameron Harold, a writer, entrepreneur, business mentor and founder of the COO Alliance.

He talked about some struggles he had growing up when he was told that he was  not academically in the top 40% of students and how he battled in his mind with that through school and university.

His story to becoming an entrepreneur resonated with me but from a different perspective, particularly the education part. It fascinates me how education systems seem to fail at both ends of the spectrum, contrasting with today’s apparent dumbing down of some generations whist the skill levels that create our greatest achievements are held back, limited to those who often achieve despite the system, rather than by its design.

I was one of those kids who didn’t fit in school, particularly once I got to high school. This was not because I wasn’t in the top 40%, but because I was in the top 2%. I’m starting to write about it, but not at this stage for publication.

I used my smarts to survive in a school (being a good guitarist helped) where the height of success was failing exams and getting into the school rugby 1st 15. In my school an A+ meant getting bullied for showing up the other kids. We had streaming, but being in the ‘Ac 1’ class also put a target on the back of your head.

Even teachers who tried to encourage kids to do well were on occasion beaten up and thrown down stairwells because the kids they tried to help were embarrassed in front of their peers. I liked sport (I played in previous schools, hockey and club soccer when living in Holland) but the thought of having to stay at school a minute longer than I had to (for training) was anathema.

The podcast I listened to this morning was about getting FREE publicity. I learned similar lessons to Cameron Harold early in my career, when I was racing landyachts as a hobby sport, and I was looking for sponsorship to send a team from New Zealand to the USA.

90 Mile Beach

Me on my Class 5 Winger on 90 Mile Beach

I needed publicity to attract sponsors for a sport where one minute you see the yachts racing over the sand on a long beach or on the tarmac of an air base; and for the next half an hour or so, you sit there waiting to see them briefly again as they would fly around a mark, crashing into each other on 2 wheels. It was a great spectator sport for about 4 minutes of each race that could take up to an hour and a half.

I did two things. I got a well worn small book from the library. I don’t recall what it was called but it may as well have been called “Get the coverage you want by giving the media what they want”.

One of the things it said to do was to ask them what they wanted. That seemed to simple but I did it. I rang radio sports journalists, I rang TV, I rang magazine editors and I rang newspaper sports writers. I introduced myself and gave a quick pitch of why I was ringing, explaining the challenges of a fast exhilarating sport, with yachts on wheels doing over 100 kph on the beach that no one had heard of.

Next thing I found myself in the newsroom of the New Zealand national daily, speaking with the Sports Editor. End result, they got some great stories, we got global TV coverage, we got international magazines and radio stories, we got sponsors and our team (unfortunately I had to pull out at the last minute) went to the Nevada Desert and won the America’s Cup of Land Yachting! And I learned how to get more than my fair share of media coverage for my employers and my modest entrepreneurial ventures.

Ironically listening to Cameron’s story, and despite being very gifted intellectually, I didn’t do any university study until much later in life, because I spent many of those teenage years rebelling against a system that had no place for bright people. I’ve had a pretty exciting life so far and I feel I have made a strong contribution in my endeavours, but I also wonder if I didn’t live in the land of Tall Poppy Syndrome, how much more I could have achieved if the education system had acted on what they discovered about me and nurtured it.

Which sort of brings me back full circle to my ailing back. I have now sat down too long writing this and need to do some stretches and exercise as I wait for my number to be called by the Waitemata District Health Board for my first specialist meeting, so I can have my surgery and get back to my job. When you’re a number in the system, a few pages in a manilla folder, you are equally invisible if you want to work and be productive as someone who will quite happily live on a benefit.

Does any of this resonate with you?

 

When People Say Good Luck


gruntled

I was in the shower this morning listening to Episode 55 of The Poker Mindset podcast.

One of the topics they discussed was wishing people good luck. Like saying “good luck on the table tonight”. Gareth made a great comment along the lines of (paraphrasing) so the 3,000 hours of playing on the tables and 500 hours of study, come down to good luck? I hope not.

It’s been a while since I consciously thought about this, but I rarely wish people good luck unless it is with their Lotto ticket or something that truly requires luck. There is no skill in parting with cash for a raffle. Otherwise I do feel that wishing someone luck, is almost a sign of disrespect. You know, like a sarcastic “Good luck with that!”

I’m waiting for approval from ACC for back surgery and when it finally comes, I don’t want people saying good luck. I’m relying on the surgeon having completed years of diligent study, of his attention to detail, a great team alongside him, all with many years of experience and the fact that he has performed the particular fusion operation, which is fairly new, over a hundred times with only one surgery that had complications which I believe were unrelated.

I met a cop recently (I only mention his occupation because fitness is a crucial part of his daily work) who had the same surgery from the same specialist, and he was back on the job after 6 weeks of recovery. That’s what I want.

I was going to write a spiel about some of my many past career successes, but it started looking like a memoire when I still have a good chunk of my career ahead of me. The crux of it was a saying I really like and that is probably all I really needed to say.

The harder and smarter I work, the luckier I get.

Your thoughts?