So… It seems I will not die (yet).
Usually, this may sound like a good thing, but for me it makes life a little more complex. To make sure everything stays cool, however – I need your help. It needn’t take a lot from you, but it will mean a lot to me.
Back to the start? (Just about every story has sub-story, but I will try to keep it concise and flowing.)
In 2010 I had a severe case of Graves’ Disease (Hyperthyroidism / an overactive thyroid). To try and give some perspective – by October my T4 reading (used to check Thyroid function) was 150 (the maximum indicator on measuring apparatus at Tygerberg’s Thyroid Clinic) as opposed to a ‘normal’ reading between 4-ish and 12-ish. Your thyroid controls your metabolism, so my metabolism had increased to at least ten times the ‘normal’ speed. Heart-rate, breathing, digestion etc – all those things that your body does automatically. At rest, my heart rate was 120 beats per minute.
I also acquired Atrial Fibrillation (irregular heart-beat) in August. Late in November I had heart failure. In December one of my lungs partially collapsed. By all reasonable accounts, all this should have killed me.
Due to the concern and care of one of the doctors at Tygerberg – who eventually checked me in and booked me a bed before convincing me to stay during a ‘standard’ check-up; a wise Endocrinologist in Somerset West - who has since ceased practicing medicine due to his own tragic health condition; and particularly my father – who’s concern and commitment to getting me fixed steered the process (despite dealing with the after-effects of a serious road accident that had nearly killed him a year before), and probably a bit of my own hard-headedness – I am still here. And almost o.k..
Recovery was slow, but steady. By March 2012 I was retrenched. The pinnacle of my 23 year career in music retail was to be a number on a spread-sheet [one of three, and three had become one too many] and being offered the gamble of another raw deal down the line. This was the corporate solution to keep numbers balanced (instead of an actual solution to keep a business viable) – but that’s a whole story on its own.
Early in 2010 – before I realised how ill I was getting – I made a conscious, active decision to start doing other stuff besides my daily work routine. In life, we too often fall into the habit of routine - doing what we need to simply stay alive. We get a job. We go to work. We get home tired, and we do nothing except just not be at work. We try to relax. We try to get over the day. We complain, but all we try to do is just not deal with being part of the system of having a job. We forget why we started working. We forget that we had plans. Plans to do stuff. Cool stuff. Stuff that would make us happy. We end up forgetting about ourselves. We forget that we are not singular in our abilities and desires. Instead of working to get paid and have a life, we work to maintain our ability to keep going to work. If we’re lucky (like I was) we get a job – and have a significant career – doing something we enjoy, but we’re still stuck in a job working for someone else – instead of making a living and spending time with (other) things we are passionate about. We forget to feed our own sense of accomplishment, creativity, satisfaction, curiosity and usefulness.
After school I studied Fine Art. I studied Painting, Drawing, Photography and Printmaking. My conflict with History of Art Lectures/Lecturers which led to me not completing my studies is also another story, so let’s not get side-tracked. ‘Art’ (for the lack of a better term) was something that I have felt is part of me, but when my studies came to an end, I did not want to become the ‘struggling artist’. I needed some form of security and I needed to make a living. I was lucky and I got a job in a record store. I was thrilled. I still am. Having been able to spend so many years with something that provided me with much satisfaction is something I will always be grateful for. But there was more to life, and I eventually took the step to continue with something that had been put on hold for a long time. It would have been (and would still be) wonderful to continue (or by now – restart) Painting and Drawing again, but the type of commitment it would take from me would have prevented me from doing anything else (like having a job). I resurrected and stepped up my interest in Photography.
My Photography before 2010 had involved film, so I suppose I still have an ‘old-school’ approach. Due to a series of unfortunate events, I had lost all my photographic gear (twice), and the time seemed right to go digital. The immediacy of digital allows me to re-compose, adjust, reconsider the environment etc. I can see what I’ve done immediately, and if necessary (and possible – depending on what I’m photographing) I can change whatever I feel needs changing until I am satisfied – as I would when painting. I struggle with the concept (and practice) of changing an image significantly once I have taken a photograph. But this too is a whole story by itself, so let me stick to the point.
I’d hoped that my Photography might aid my need to take care of more of me and reacquaint me with life in a more complex and satisfactory way than having a job – and just living. It did. I was happy. And grateful. I still am.
But then I got retrenched.
My Photography had re-opened parts of my life that I had put aside. I started going to watch live music again. I took trips to photograph stuff. Musicians, Landscapes, Racing Cars… Stuff I enjoyed. I started reconnecting with life outside work. Other less pleasant things were also happening in my life (another separate story), but I started feeling like I was living again, and it made me happy. I still am.
Besides healing and getting accustomed to a very differently functioning body, I have spent the last two and a half years looking for work (a job), and at the same time I have worked at creating a life that would enable me to make a living. My relatively meagre retrenchment package, my UIF and a life policy enabled me to carefully assemble a good set of tools for my Photographic endeavours, and kept me alive for a while. Then I had to delve into savings that were supposed to be used to restore my Kombi. Since then I have had to rely on friends and family who have been willing to help, when they’ve been able to help. That pool is not bottomless and my Credit Card is now just a piece of plastic that increases my debt every month.
Starting a new life has not been easy. I can’t get ‘junior’ positions because I am too experienced. I can’t get ‘senior’ positions for reasons that, again, are a whole story by itself. Starting a new life has not been easy, but I am determined to make it work. Both because I need to survive and because I have found another me that I really enjoy and I want to give him a chance. And I will do it either by stubbornly keeping at it until it ‘works out’, or by being lucky and finding ‘that hook’ that will change things significantly. That process now needs a boost.
I don’t look ill. But I am.
About a year after I was ‘signed off’ from the process at Tygerberg, I stopped taking my medication [Eltroxin, Warfarin and a Beta blocker]. It made me feel too sick and I figured I would rather feel o.k., and that if something went wrong – I would be quite content to die.
In early November 2014, I (was encouraged to, and) went to see a specialist doctor for a check-up to get an idea of how things are really going. Again, despite the initial expectations of the doctor, my tests indicated that I’m not doing too badly. My liver, kidneys and pancreas – the damage to which was only pointed out to me by a dear friend who help me with Shiatsu treatment in the early stages of my recovery – seem to be functioning well. Most unusually for people who have had radio-active therapy – my thyroid function has normalized (after the treatment had left it underactive). But there are still significant issues. My [still] irregular heart beat and [still too] high heart-rate put me at risk of a blood clot forming and making its way to my brain. This probably won’t kill me. The chances are better that I will have a stroke – disabling me and rendering me rather useless. I am not too happy about this prospect.
Now I need to step up my health care. I am back on medication: for my heart – to slow it down and strengthen the muscles, and; to thin my blood to avert the clot. But I need to push through with, and broaden my care ‘base’ to ensure that my care and possible further healing is significant and sustained.
If you’ve read this far – thank you. I don’t actually like baring the state of my being so publicly and in writing, but I have become concerned with the possibility that I may run out of time before I get to everyone… Unlike Amanda Palmer, I have not learned The Art Of Asking, so the following part is even more difficult for me, and I suspect I may lose some of you who’ve been kind, curious or bored enough to get this far.
I need help.
I sometimes wonder what people who know me would do if things got worse for me. How bad would it have to get? How do I ask for help without it sounding like I’m being pathetic? It feels like I have exhausted my options, but I’m probably just missing something.
When it’s too late – it’s too late.
My work and life so far have given me a couple skills and some experience. I’d be happy to do various things, and I’m sure there are as many things that you could do that will help me. I’ll consider whatever is viable, but one thing I am trying to initiate at the moment is to take (personal) portraits of as many of my friends (and whoever has read this far) as possible.
Where? In my home studio in Cape Town. When? The sooner the better, but obviously when it suits us best. But seriously…why? Because it will help me.
If helping me isn’t sufficient as a free-standing concept…
If you come for a portrait – I get better at what I do and can build a more effective portfolio.
If you come for a portrait – we get to hang out and spend some time together. It might actually be fun…
If you come for a portrait – I document part of my life. And yours.
If you come for a portrait – I feel useful.
If you come for a portrait – You might like what I do. You might like it enough to tell your friends. They might like it enough to commission a portrait of their own, or something else.
If I take your portrait – you help me get my health and the process of making a living back on track.
I need your help.
Taking your portrait will help me, so (if you’re anywhere near Cape Town) please send me a message so that we can make a plan.
When it’s too late – Sorry doesn’t cut it.
Love and Peace