Never surrender!

Oct 02 | 2018

Jéan Paul Meiring (JP), The Moving Company, New Zealand, has terminal cancer. In this story he gives his thoughts on the life he had led, is living and will live in the future, however long that might be.

Never surrender!

Jéan Paul Meiring (JP), The Moving Company, New Zealand, has terminal cancer.  In this story he gives his thoughts on the life he had led, is living and will live in the future, however long that might be. 

It’s a Tuesday in early December 2018 and I walk into an oncologist’s office to meet a man I’ve never met before.  After a few formalities he says you have a large tumour in your colon but that’s not the problem, the cancer has spread to your liver and it has less than 10% of its functionality left. There is so much cancer in the liver it’s too late to operate and I’m afraid your cancer is terminal. Your only option is to start chemotherapy right away otherwise you have roughly six months to live. 

JP with wife Natasha and children Ela and LukeNothing can prepare you for the moment you are told you are not going to live long enough to share a beer with your son, walk your daughter down the aisle and that all you and your wife have been working and saving for now seems meaningless as you’ll never get to enjoy it.

My story is not about me, I want to send a message to everyone who reads this that we can overcome obstacles no matter how big they are. My time in the army has definitely helped, I know my mind is stronger than my body and I know I can push this body much further and harder than the doctors are thinking I can.

Cancer has taken me to some very dark and depressing places at times. After 36 rounds of chemo (three full days every fortnight) it doesn’t get any easier to escape the smell, the taste and the awareness of how much your body is being drained of energy and life slowly. However, it has also made me a better husband, father, son, brother and hopefully friend. I am way more patient with my kids, I am more aware of my actions and how they affect the family, I make sure I’m present too – not just physically but actually listening - and I realise more than ever that without my wife next to me for the last 21 years I would never have achieved half of the things I have. I consider myself lucky sometimes, I could have driven home after work one evening and never got home to say goodbye. I’ve been given a chance to examine my life, rethink things, make changes and most importantly to say my goodbyes. I used to worry about all the small things and now I realise how silly that is. Life is short and you don’t know what is around the corner so make today count.

Don’t wait until life throws you a massive curveball to start living – now I’m not saying we shouldn’t have jobs that don’t push us or that we all need to live like hippies, but what I challenge you to do is make sure you are happy. If not, change what is not making you happy as life, love and happiness is more precious than we can ever imagine and we all live like we are going to live forever, but in reality we are unfortunately all mortal and sometimes we realise this too late in life or only when a dramatic event happens.

JP with golfing coach Steve Williams; undergoing treatment in hospital; and with Steve Lewis

I might not have long to live, but I make sure every day counts. Each morning I open the curtains and say out loud “today is going to be a great day, make it count”. My challenge to you is – are you making each day count, are you doing something that makes you happy? -  because if not then you need to. Don’t let the flash of life pass you by.

I’m not sure how many of you have ever parachuted but I remember my first jump, despite having a pilot’s licence and knowing we were at 15,000ft with a long fall ahead, I had it in my mind that when I jumped out the next thing that would happen is I’d hit the ground. The reality is that soon you are in freefall and looking around at the world below with such excitement you can’t help but shout out loud. Then after a period of time you need to pull the shoot and slow yourself so that you can land safely. For me the way I have been processing my cancer news is a lot like a parachute jump. My freefall time has whizzed by and unfortunately my chute has been opened a lot sooner than I’d have liked and the ground is approaching me faster than I would like. But I can panic and worry and in the end I’ll still hit the ground or I can look around me and enjoy the view knowing that Father Time will still call, but it’s how I use the time between where I am and when he calls.

We have been open and honest with the children, we haven’t told them any timelines as for me they are not important as mentally they don’t apply to me, and make sure we ask them if they have any questions and discuss my treatment with them regularly. I have wonderful children and kids are not silly so closing them out would be worse. Natasha and I have spoken about what she should do with the insurance money and who she can trust for advice when my time comes, these might seem morbid things but once the box has been ticked you don’t need to revisit it. I hated paying the monthly premiums and the fancy car my broker drives but knowing my family is going to be financially protected when I’m not around is a massive relief thanks to my life insurance.

Some people prefer to not let others know they have cancer but for me letting everyone know has only brought me support and words of encouragement I could never have imagined. The global moving industry family have been simply amazing and at times when I have felt at my lowest I’ve got a message from someone that is just the ‘pull yourself together’ tonic I’ve needed. With many of you I’ve danced the night away in Mexico, had drinks next to the pyramids in Egypt, walked on the Great Wall in China, played golf in Thailand, cycled across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, sailed around Sydney harbour and strapped mountain bikes onto a chopper in Queenstown to name a few things. I’ve not had a good life, I’m still living a great life and who knows what may yet be achievable.

JP with wife NatashaI know people are genuinely sad and sorry for me but as I tell anyone who sends me a message not really sure what to say, being sad and sorry for me isn’t going to help me. Thinking positively and having a toast to me when you’re having a drink laughing about a story we have shared is more supportive to me. If you have a friend or family member with cancer, don’t act differently around them. Love them and be there with them as you have always been before. It’s hard enough being the person worried about how things will end and knowing you won’t get to experience many of your dreams without having to look at someone else and see fear and concern in their eyes. The best thing anyone can do is just to continue to be your friend.

I will never ever stop fighting and doing everything I can to push the call of Father Time further and further away. Cancer can throw all it wants at me, life is too precious to just give up and cancer chose the wrong person to try to bully. Make sure you fight hard to enjoy each and every day, stop every now and then and smell the roses remembering as Louis Armstrong sang … what a wonderful world.

Top right: JP with wife Natasha and children Ela and Luke.
Middle: JP with golfing coach Steve Williams; undergoing treatment in hospital; and with Steve Lewis.
Bottom left: JP with wife Natasha.

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