With October being breast cancer awareness month, I am dedicating this blog to my mom, Diane Carol Wratten. She passed away in 1985 when I was 14 years old.
I have met a few ladies and families that have been through this horrible disease, and most of them I have met through doing my Caminos. Not to take anything away from anyone else and their struggles, but I am not sure if anyone realises how stressful the mental side of the disease is. These ladies must often go through this alone or with a partner who has no idea what they are going through.
Unfortunately, we will all be alone when we get to the end.
My mom had a mastectomy and she showed me the result. It was so hard for her as a woman. It hurt me so much to see what she went through. She was only 39 years old. Way too young for this.
I am going to tell you how breast cancer affected me.
The day my mom died, at 02:17 in the morning, I found myself sitting next to my dad in the basement car park of the Johannesburg hospital in utter disbelief, with him breaking down and me not being able process what had happened. I took my loss hard. However, a sure sign of shit to come was the fact I could not and would not talk about it.
In the following three years my father had to work to pay off the medical bills. He owned a sports shop that he ran from 8am to 6pm. Then he coached tennis until 10pm every weeknight. During the week, I had nobody but friends. I saw him and spent quality time with him on weekends, playing tennis and a multitude of sports. However, I had no mom. I took my anger out on myself. If you knew me then you would have seen a confident, hard, tough boy, who was always the centre of attention. I would make jokes about myself and my weight problems before anyone else could, I was full of self-loathing, and it was my way of coping. There is no rule book for this. I missed her terribly and I was lonely. I was an only child, so I cooked for myself, looked after myself, and the way I dealt with life’s difficulties was how I thought it had to be done.
I did not have a person to teach me the difference between right and wrong. My father thought that he would lose me if he tried to discipline me himself. I had become an adult at 14. My father had no choice at 17 but to send me to the army. I was uncontrollable. How do you tell a child to do something when he already looks after himself?
My mom was 39 when she got sick. I was ten. We would spend every night for the next 3 years at her bedside, and you could see she was in pain. It was the worst time of my life. During that period, I used alcohol and drugs to ease my pain. I had already started on my path of self-destruction.
A person that has experienced rejection fears rejection, and a person that fears rejection tends to push or run away before they can be rejected. In their subconscious mind they have avoided rejection. In reality they have been rejected again – this time by themselves.
My friends became my family. Honestly, if it were not for them, I would not have got as far. I owe all of them my sincere gratitude. I cannot blame a single person for my problems. The partners and friends that I had, and those were to join my journey, were my only source of stability. Some held my hand while I was dying. Some were and are my best friends and ask for nothing in return but my friendship. You all play a vital role in my journey. Thank you all for your love.
In 2009, when my father died, I felt that I had lost everyone whom I had loved. I passively tried to kill myself with alcohol and drugs. Loneliness is cruel, and even though you can be surrounded with the most impressive friends (and I do have the most incredible friends) and being with the most wonderful partners, you can still feel very much alone. I lasted until 2015, and then my body gave in. But I survived, and on the 18 November 2022, I will have given up alcohol and drugs for 8 years.
All that I can recommend is to talk to someone. Do not bottle it up inside, and do treat yourself well. If you do not get over it, you will or will not wake up one day and a few decades have passed. Do not be a Chad and do mourn! Mourn as hard as you need, and then forgive and get on with your life.
You are not responsible for your trauma, but you are responsible for breaking the cycle and not hurting anyone else because of what happened to you. You will never control your future if you let your present be controlled by your past. What happened may not be your responsibility but how you behave today is. Cancer is nobody’s fault. It certainly is not yours.
To those ladies out there dealing with breast cancer: I can only say you are amazing. You are all beautiful and the way women always put themselves and their pain on the backburner for their families is truly inspiring.
My heart goes out to all of you, and I am in your corner.
Ok, enough of this. Here is a non-sad Mom story ; -0
My mom had a small life insurance policy and, as my mom knew that I was not going to be an academic, she asked my dad to use it to send me travelling. They had spent 1969 – the year before I was born – working and traveling in Europe and North Africa.
Somehow, she knew my best chance in life was to be independent, strong, and to be able to look after myself. So, 6 months after she died, I came home from school and my dad was sitting there waiting for me. I thought the shit had hit the fan and i tip-toed in. He sat me down and told me this story and that he had a present for me from Mom & Dad. They used that small insurance policy to send me on a school trip to the USA and Mexico. How is that 😉
I left school 4 days before the end of term, missing a few exams (which I was ecstatic about), and I had the most incredible time. That was where I got my first taste of travel and the university of the world. The travel bug had bit me. I learnt how to look after myself thanks to my mom.
I would go on to be on the road more than anyone else I have ever met. I have seen and done things only rock stars get to do. I have almost died more times than I can count. I have dined with famous people, made lots of money, and lost lots of money. I have had the privilege to spend most of my life in nature. I have walked 8000km across a desert. I have eaten, drunk, and inhaled more than Jim Morrison and I inherited an ability to play almost any sport well (due to my dad’s hard work, not mine). I was a naughty and rebellious child. However, I am not a bad person. I do not wake up in the morning and decide who I should fuck with today. Due to those initial 14 years of life and my parents’ guidance from beyond the grave, I always seem to know when to pull the plug.
I have a soft heart; I am generous and loving. I want to help others who are also battling with life. Mind, body and soul are one: you cannot get your mental health sorted if you are not looking after your body. You cannot get your spiritual side sorted if your mental health sucks.
As you get older, you realise that your diet is not just what you eat. It is what you watch, what you read, who you follow, and who you spend your time with.
So, if your goal is to have a healthier mind, you must start by removing all junk from your diet.
Obsessing over the things that society says you are ‘supposed to do’ will kill your happiness.
Do not listen to fake fairy tales of how your life is supposed to be going.
You do not have to go to Varsity at 18, or get a job by 21, or buy house at 25, or get married at 30, or have kids at 35.
Everyone is different, and your path to happiness is too. 😉
I have been asked to write more often and with more pics. I will now write shorter blogs but more often. So here are some pics from the life and times of the great Juggernaught. 😉
Dont forget our Yovember retreat close to the coast at Moon valley river lodge. Please see below and come join us. Especially if your lonely 😉
Then in December i have the Khan and Swakop river hikes.
Here are the dates for the Caminos 2023
With that i hope you an awesome week ahead. Keep fighting you & remember its a good life if you dont weaken.