I like people, I’m a social butterfly, people give me energy and inspiration.
I hate people, I love being alone, people drain me and give me despair.
This virus is differentiating these people easily right now. I have been isolated for 8 days just leaving the house twice.
The Change curve has never been so easily visual to watch people resist any change.
Those people still in denial, we can’t change and have to accept that.
They would rather resist any part of social conformity even if it meant cutting off their own nose to spite their face, saving thousands from dying or killing your gran.
One more thing to realise about the change curve is that you don’t go through these stages just for acknowledging Coronavirus.
It’s every stage for every change.
Working from home is a change which weeks ago we denied got angry for having to sort home arrangements and eventually we sorted a home office.
The children being in or out of school which first we denied and then got angry about having to home school them but now have ideas and work plans in place.
The shutting of pubs and shops and eventually the total lockdown that will come.
The faster you can change from denial, whizz through anger and then end up at acceptance and problem solving then the stronger you will be in this crisis.
As the Reverend Neil Biles would say “If you do not prepare…. You WILL Fail”
What right have I got to talk about this? Why should I give advice like some sort of know it all?
Firstly, I’ve accepted and watched this virus from the beginning and been called out sorts of scaremonger for it. Now it’s here.
Secondly, I spent 3 months in Isolation during chemotherapy where my blood counts were so low that if anyone gave me any sort of virus or infection, I would have become critically ill and risk my life. I know how boring it can get. Pick up the phone and MAKE THAT CALL!
Thirdly, spending 3 months in the county of Turkmenistan one of the few dictatorships left in this world where the entire nation has a lockdown curfew at 11pm every night (This is 2017 and to control people nothing to do with a virus).
You have no freedom to do certain things like take photos or leave windows open.
When those privileges of freedom are taken away from you it’s how you deal with that to prepare for change. Denial, Anger, Acceptance, problem solving.
So, get ready for the BIGGEST change of our generation. PREPARE!
It is not ME, it is WE.
I am ready for that change as I have been there before, this time I have prepared everything, and I have my life jacket firmly on so that I can support others that might need it in weeks to come.
Everyone has family members and people in their local community that will need the extra support. There will be people that just sort themselves out and watch Netflix for the next 4 weeks. We don’t need to encourage these people.
There are people who do want to make a difference but first you must administer your own life jacket.
Fix the roof when the sun is shining. For some of us there is more than a current light drizzle.
“I’m just going to have a brief look back to see how far we’ve come.”
A sentence I said to my friend James whilst on a 15km long walk last week.
I’ve had a couple of low weeks recently and with not much happening or moving forward. I’m currently unemployed and been unsuccessful with a couple of job applications, I’m waiting on Christmas before making any decisions, and I am more single than I thought I was.
All I have to do is see where I was last year and look how far I have come to know that this is not the end. I love the quote “It will all be ok in the end, if it’s not ok, it’s not the end”
I nearly died!
One day last November 2016 I was so ill I nearly died and it wasn’t even the cancer that did it. I went into hospital for a third day in a row of chemotherapy treatment and could not sit up straight in the waiting room chair through exhaustion. The nurse asked if I was ok and started to check my observations. My heart rate was beating irregularly through the roof and would not settle.
Within seconds I was put into a wheelchair and rushed upstairs in an elevator to another ward whilst being uncontrollably sick into one of those sick buckets that look like a cardboard hat. I don’t know what was happening, but they had pumped me with 14 hours of chemotherapy the days before and the anti-sickness pills were wearing off fast.
Have you ever had pins and needles in your head? It was the most nauseating feeling ever. And I was getting hotter and hotter. The nurse that was pushing me in the wheel chair was panicking and went down to level 1 of the hospital rather than taking me up to level 4. She couldn’t find the ward and then when she pushed me back into the elevator she crashed the wheelchair into the side of the wall. That made me be sick again into the sick bucket which was now at its full level.
The week previously my sister had taken a photo of me when I was really struggling. I asked why she did it and she said I can’t always just focus on the positives. She then took this photo of me while I was out for the count.
I was laying on the hospital bed with my eyes shut, plugged into an ECG machine, with blood coming out my arms where all the needle pricks had not properly gone into a vein. I did not want to move one single finger or my eyelids in case that was the thing that raised my heart rate that extra beat to finally finish me off with a cardiac arrest.
One of the biggest reality checks of how dangerous chemotherapy is, is when the nurses administer the bags of it into you. They are covered in full protective clothing including protective gloves up to their elbows and they put the bags under red bits of plastic so that you can’t see the bags of fluid. You’re sat there thinking this nurse can’t get one tiny bit of fluid on her skin because it’s so dangerous, yet she’s pumping this fluid directly into my veins.
I was laying there thinking “great I’m on my way to surviving cancer and I’m going to die of a heart attack instead.” I remember it clearly. I was speaking to God or whoever was in my head listening to my thoughts and thinking “please just give me one more chance and I’ll be good and I’ll do all the things I’m meant to do. I’m not supposed to die yet, I’ve got so much more to do. I’ll be nicer to people, I won’t drink as much, I’ll eat more vegetables, I’ll be nicer to animals. Please just let me get through this.”
Soon the drugs started working again and I woke up some hours later. It was simply terrible and no words will ever justify that feeling of thinking I was about to die. I was meant to be in hospital for one hour that day. I was discharged 3 days later.
That day taught me a lot about myself and life.
Like I said, I was feeling low the last fortnight and partly is because I am waiting for the next AFventure. I love having time off work but it gets boring, I love being back home and spending time with family, and I love England but seriously it is so colddddd!!! I can’t deal with this temperature and it being dark at 4pm.
But all these times of being alone and having time to think is a good time to reflect on what has past and what is in the future. A good time to just stop and look backwards for a minute and see how far I have come, before looking forwards again. Something has changed this week and I am more determined than ever to reach my full potential and accomplish my dreams.
Recently I walked the 15km along the Jurassic Coast from Bowleaze Cove to Durdle Door with my friend James. Walking long distances can really reflect a life’s journey sometimes. It has uphill struggles, It has downs, sometimes you lose your path, the views at the top are amazing, you cross paths with people at the right time, sometimes the sun is shining on you and sometimes when it rains it pours. You can look back from time to time, and you can focus on the end goal but ultimately you must live in the now and enjoy the journey while it’s happening and take it all in!
You can’t just look backwards because that’s not the direction you’re going. You can’t just look at the end point of your walk because you might not even be able to see it yet. Just enjoy the walk you’re currently on. Enjoy what’s around you now and take it all in because before you know it they’ll be something else around the corner to tackle or enjoy.
Walks are always so true to life analogies too. Some of my favorite ones being ‘some of the best views require the toughest journeys’ and ‘it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey’.
And that is where I am at now, just taking a pause to look back at where I started, before I continue my journey to reaching the top of my mountain. Confident in the knowledge that after every low moment I’ve ever had is when the most exciting things are just around the corner.
Live in the now!
‘You’re off to great places, Today is your day, You’re mountain is waiting, so get on your way!
“Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, first make sure you are not in fact surrounded by assholes”
A quote by the notorious psychologist Sigmund Freud.
This topic has been on my mind for a while now since the cancer days, because one of the most surprising things to happen to me during my cancer treatment and distributing #yougotthis wristbands was the amount of people telling me they had depression, low self esteem or social anxiety. I’m not kidding you when I first started treatment I had people telling me on a daily basis that they were suffering from depression, but my positivity was getting them through it.
This has continued on a less regular basis, but I still have people telling me weekly about their low moods and they want my positivity. That’s absolutely fine and if you are one of the 50+ people reading this then don’t be offended because this isn’t a moan at you. This is a moan at the people that are causing others to have low self esteem and depression.
People can cause other people to have depression? Of course they can! Just like Mr Sigmund Freud said. We could get into a discussion about is depression a natural thing or is it caused by the society we live in? Is it nature or nurture? Some people have told me they have a chemical imbalance in the brain to make them depressed and its scientifically proven. But what is causing that? Too much alcohol, too much diet coke, too much cocaine? Too much social media, too much living up to expectations from society, friends and family?
If that is the case then I’d like to know the levels of depression that young fathers in Afghanistan have because they are under stress from a bad boss at work, tell me how many children in Iraq are diagnosed with ADHD and prescribed a dosage of Ritalin, tell me how many mums in Syria don’t want to leave the house because of their social anxiety? Controversial I know, and it will rile people up but its worth a thought. Don’t get me wrong I believe depression is an illness but it is our society that is the cause of it.
Two of the main reasons people have given me about being depressed is 1) they hate their job and 2) they hate their relationship. Well get a new job then? But its not as easy as that. No it’s not but if something is easy then everyone would do it. Lets say you’re 30 years old now and you want to do something else in life but it will take 5 years to get there. You can get that job when you’re 35. If you were to retire at 60 then you will have worked that job happier for 25 years then you have worked the last job miserably for the last 12 years. Or just stay in the shit job its up to you but then only person that can change it is you.
You are in control of your own happiness
“My boyfriend treats me like shit” well get a new boyfriend, or get a new girlfriend that will really piss him off. “but I love him” How can you love someone that treats you like shit? It’s just the fear of being on your own for a time. There are 7 billion people on this planet and you’re trying to tell me that the one person out there for you is the one treating you like shit? I went to Wembley stadium the other week for a football match. The attendance was 80,000 people which was a monumentous amount of people in one place. If that stadium was filled with 80,000 women I reckon there would be at least 10 people in that crowd that I could marry and have a relationship with becuase they’d treat me right. And that’s just Wembley. Imagine filling Old Trafford, Wimbledon Center Court and the que for X Factor auditions line just with men/women. I’m sure you could find another boyfriend/girlfriend in there that will treat you kindly.
What I’m trying to say is if you have a boss who is a dick or a boyfriend or girlfriend who is an asshole then don’t diagnose yourself with depression because of them. I know it’s easier said than done and I have been there before where they grind you down to make you feel worthless but you have to remember ‘its them, not you.’ You’ll do anything to cling on because you think that person is the one, but when it’s time to move on it’s time to move on.
One of the best things that I developed since having Cancer was the ability to cut negative people out of my life. Sometimes its not so easy because it can be a best friend, family member and no matter where you work there will always be dicks that try to bring you down. But I have developed a good habit for minimalizing the impact these people have on my life.
You have to love yourself!
We are immediately knocked down for having self-confidence in our British culture. We love to see people fail and get enjoyment out of it. I know the good skills I have and I know the bad skills I have. If I am confident about something for example, making people laugh, I’ve had people say to me “you love yourself don’t you.” Yes! Yes I do love myself, why is that a negative trait? Would you rather I hated myself? Bring people up to your level rather than go down to theirs.
You have to love yourself in this society because otherwise you will end up hating yourself. Recently I got told I was ugly because I currently have a movember moustache, I was told I was clumsy, needy, that I wouldn’t get another job for months, that my slightly protruding belly doesn’t live up to the standards of Instagram models using filter apps. I started to have a low self esteem about my worth and then when I mentioned these negative comments I was told to ‘Man up’.
There is no surprise that the biggest killer in the UK for 18-40 year old males is suicide, because people are so negative towards each other. Mental health campaigns are constantly telling men to talk about their feelings and open up, but when we do, we’re told to man up. Manning up suggests we should have a stiff upper lip and bottle our emotions because we are men and we are brave.
Remember you are magic!
Recently I went to watch Roald Dahls Matilda in theatre and there is a famous scene from the show and movie where Matildas dad stands over her and says
“I’m smart and you’re dumb, I’m right and you’re wrong, I’m big and you’re small, and there’s nothing you can do about it”
Well Matilda does do something about it and she finds the magic within her and moves away from her negative dad and gets her own back on the nasty Miss Trunchbull and lives happily ever after with the positive Miss Honey.
These are morals we are teaching young children from a book to not hang around with mean people and to be magic, happy and positive yet when we become adults we tend to focus on the negative and strive for the attention of mean people. Just like Miss Honey when she is afraid of Miss Trunchbull in Matilda.
It’s good that the story shows Matilda moving on to a positive life, because if there was no change and then we were to see a modern day sequel, I think the Matilda of today would have been trying to live up to expectations of a horrible boss, in a destructive relationship where she was told she was fat and trying to live up to the values that people portray on social media. Ultimately becoming depressed and developing a social anxiety to leave the house.
I much prefer the magic positive Matilda.
So Afs top tips from this blog
Reduce the focus on negative people in your life
Look around you, who is positive, who is negative
Compliment someone on their positives
Don’t bring people down about their negatives
Positivity breeds positivity
The world is a reflection of yourself
Smile and the world smiles with you
Don’t hate on happy people
Now I know life isn’t always happy and positive and sometimes we have to grieve and are going through tough times but we need to be there for each other. (a simple hug can work). I have had people come into my life within the last year and suck all the positive energy out of me and grind me down and down. As soon as they have taken that energy they have moved on and said goodbye. If you want to download your problems onto people then at least be there to receive it back.
I started off with a quoute about diagnosing yourself with depression from Freud and I shall end with another great quote from a phisolopher.
“Be nice to each other you fucking twats” (Panjalizadeh 2017)
I’m sat in the hospital waiting room wondering what will happen next and if there is anyone I can see here that speaks English. Dr Daniel must still be upstairs in the operating theater so I have to keep waiting for another 30 minutes. It’s about 9pm and there are less and less nurses walking around the ward. I suddenly remembered Dr Daniel asking how much money I had in my bank account because if I need surgery then it will cost a couple of thousand pounds. Crumbs, I’ll have to pay this on my credit card. I’ve already spent $400 at the last clinic today and I know that this consultation and ultra sound is $900. That’s $1300 I’ve spent out of my travel budget already today so it looks like I’ll be eating rice and beans when I’m travelling rather than steak and beers.
I’m waiting and waiting and I can’t stop playing every scenario in my head. I’ll message Lais but she’s still in her class at University so she won’t message back for a while. Dr Daniel said to me before he left that he would only see me again if I needed surgery on, so let’s hope I don’t have to see him again even though he is devilishly handsome. He also said that depending on what it is, it could cost a lot of money but if it is a tumour then they will do it all for free. I suppose if it is a tumour at least I’ll save my money on the operation.
After what’s seemed like an eternity, another Doctor I hadn’t seen before came over to me and asked what time my friend Lais would be back from University. I told him not for at least another hour as she is far away.
“Ok I will phone her and tell her to go to your apartment instead of coming to the hospital”
“Ok, but why” I replied
“We are discharging you”
Fucking get in! I’m good to go, I’m outta here, I’ll be on my way to my 3pm flight tomorrow straight to Iguazu Falls then Argentina.
The Doctor went away and came back ten minutes later after he had spoken to Lais on the phone and asked me to come into his office.
He sat me down on the blue bed and with no expression and said the words I never thought I’d hear,
“Afsheen, you have a tumour”
I just shrugged it off. Ok so what does that mean? as I was in total disbelief. I have no clue what he means. I know a tumour has something to do with cancer but is it cancer? Why’s he just saying tumour and not cancer? It can’t be that bad if it’s just a tumour.
He carried on talking to me and said they need to do a biopsy to see if it’s benign or malignant. I don’t even know what these words mean. Suddenly I can’t understand his Portuguese or his English. One tear drop entered my eye but I held it back. I think benign means dead and malignant doesn’t sound great, but even if it’s benign or malignant, if it’s a tumour I don’t want it inside me surely.
He said that I should call Dr Daniel in the morning as he has gone home for the night. What? Dr Daniel has left me without saying goodbye and now wants me to come back tomorrow for surgery.
The Doctor gave me a time to come back the next day and showed me to the reception desk where I had to pay my medical bill on the way out. I’ve got travel medical insurance but I’ll have to claim that back after I have paid up front. Worst or best $900 I’ve ever spent I can’t decide?!
I started to shuffle out the front of Copa Dor Hospital not knowing what to do, where to go or who to call. It’s now gone 10pm in Rio and 2am in England so all my family are asleep. This isn’t the sort of news I want to wake someone up at 2am to give them.
I walked down the steps of the hospital and onto the busy street of Copacobana, suddenly the world came crushing down like nothing I’ve felt before. The bright lights, the hustle and bustle, the yellow taxis driving past beeping their horns, it all feels like an outer universe spinning around me.
The tears started filling my eyes and everything became a colourful blur. I started to heave and my hands started sweating. I’m gonna be sick!
Then all of a sudden Lais text me. The doctor had phoned her and told her what the diagnosis was but she is still in her class.
I’m stood outside the hospital with tears in my eyes, feeling weak and thinking if I should just sit on the pavement as my legs have turned to jelly.
She’s online on Whatsapp and has started messaging me
Lais: Tomorrow we need see him in his clinic to explain for u
Sorry what? It could be a tumor? What exactly is a tumor because they are bad I’m sure of it. All of a sudden Gonorrhoea doesn’t seem like a bad choice. But no he can’t know it’s a tumor just by looking at me. I’ll have to book in a scan and get an ultra sound at another hospital. An ultra sound was impossible to get within a weeks appointment and could cost me a lot of money in Brazil so I’ll wait until I land in Argentina.
My testicle was really starting to cause me some pain, especially when I would go to the toilet so I knew I needed to see another Doctor. I contacted my friend Nacho who was living in Buenos Aires as I had planned to fly there after visiting the Iguazu Falls. He said that I should see a Doctor in Argentina as the medical care there is better than Brazil. Of course, he would say that, he is Argentinian, just like he says Messi is better than Neymar and Maradona is better than Pele. He had arranged for me to see a consultant in Argentina for the following week so I would go there, get any medication I needed and continue the rest of my South America trip.
It was Thursday 8th September and my last night with Lais in my Copacobana apartment as she had to go home tomorrow. I wonder if I will ever see her again? I cooked for her and we watched the movie Deadpool on the big television. I was going to be sad to say bye to her that’s for sure but I’m happy to start travelling.
September 9th 2016
“You’re nervous, you’re nervous, calma calma” Lais was holding me while I was shaking and sweating in bed at 4am. I still don’t know why she’d thought I’d be shaking because of nerves at 4am but I think she was having a dream. I told myself that because I was sleeping under the air conditioning it had given me a fever and I was in a pool of sweat but freezing cold. I downed loads of painkillers and sat up awake until Lais would wake up to.
I was googling local hospitals and Lais made me an appointment at a local clinic 15 minutes walk away. We met the doctor who had many marathon medals on his wall and we were talking about the challenges marathons can teach you about handling life. The doctor checked me over and was very concerned and put me onto an IV drip for an hour while he phoned his ‘friend’ across town because he didn’t want me to leave Rio without seeing him.
I led in the clinic bed for an hour while Lais slept next to me, I took a snapchat of me on the drip with the caption ‘hope this isn’t anything bad #prayForAf.’
The doctor sent me across the city to Copa Dor Hospital to meet Dr Daniel Perpetuo. He was possibly the most handsome doctor I had ever met and his English was very good so that he could talk directly to me. “Call me Daniel” He said “I’m going to get someone to do an ultra sound on your testicles and then if there is a problem then I can do a biopsy later but first I have to perform an operation upstairs so I’ll leave you with my doctors.” Fantastic, a man with a plan I thought.
It was 8pm and Lais had to go to her lecture at University as she had been warned for missing so many classes lately. I sat in the waiting room on my own for over an hour and had a very large woman put a canula into my hand while I waited.
“Afsheen, come through sir”. This young man who looked about 25 called me through to an ultra sound room and began to put the cold jelly substance onto my balls and the scanner. I could see the screen so I was looking at the scan as he did it. He started with my right testicle the healthy one, Ok I don’t know what I’m looking at but at least I have a comparison. He moved over to my left testicle. It looked exactly the same, Yes I’m good to go surely. He went to my right testicle again and followed it up with my left. “Uno momento” and he walked off out the room.
He returned with another doctor also looking very young about 30 and he took the scanner and started to go over my right ball. Yep, I’ve seen that one already, then he went to by left testicle. Yep, looks exactly the same.
They told me I can pull up my pants and dry myself with some paper towels. “Is everything ok then?” I questioned. “The consultant will talk with you in his meeting room” the older doctor replied. “so am I all good to go then?” I asked again.
The younger doctor pulled me forwards towards him and started hugging me
I’ve been living in an Air B and B apartment on Rua Djalma Ulrich, Copacobana for the past couple of weeks. I was sharing the apartment with my new friend Ed but he spent a lot of nights at his girlfriends apartment across town. When he was out Lais the girl I was with, would come and stay over. She lived over an hour across the city and was studying business at a University near by. She was typical brazilian with brown hair, bronze skin, she drank more beer than me and she was completely completely crazy.
Lais, Ed, and I started the day by going down to Copacobana beach and sunbathing for a couple of hours. It was a typical hot and sunny day that you would imagine Rio de Janeiro to be like. Ladies in small bikinis, men playing beach soccer and people rollerblading up and down the street. It was awesome jumping the waves in the sea and afterwards eating corn on the cob from the food sellers walking along the beach. Lais had stayed over at our apartment last night after a party so she didn’t have any spare clothes with her . I bought her a new bikini on the way to the beach, which i’m sure didn’t look as small as the one I chose in the shop.
We watched some people stand up paddle boarding out in the bay and wanted us to have a go, so we walked down to Post 8 and hired out the paddleboards for an hour. Ed was hopeless at standing up on the board and was outside his comfort zone, I was way out ahead and paddling with ease. Lais had no chance and ended up sitting on the front of the board while an instructor sat behind her and paddled.
There was a man on the beach taking photos of us and he took our email address and for a small price sent us the photos. The photographer had taken a great one of me in Copacobana with Sugar Loaf Mountain in the background. Lais wasn’t happy with the photos he had taken of her so wanted to get one more picture on the paddleboard. I shouted and said “no come on we have a hospital appointment in one hours-time and we needed to get back to the apartment and get changed first.”
It was the first time I had lost my temper or been angry at something in over a year and I apologised to Ed for raising my voice in front of him but I really didn’t want to miss this hospital appointment. I was flying to Argentina in 6 days and I wouldn’t be able to see a doctor until then If I missed this.
Lais and I went to a consultant at a small clinic across the city and he checked all over my body including my balls. His English was not great so he was talking to Lais and she would nod and translate and they would continue to talk. My Portuguese wasn’t the best but trying to understand what they were saying at the pace they were talking was unthinkable. I just kept my eyes on Lais face and emotions to see if there was anything serious. She didn’t bat an eyelid so it can’t be that bad.
I was listening intently trying to pick out any words but it all just sounded like heth heth eth eth eth eth eth eth eth. They continued to talk and Lais stopped translating so I was picking out some words that sounded similar to English such as dificil meaning difficult and problemo meaning problem. Hmmm ok not the two best words that I could have picked out from those sentences.
They continued to talk faster and faster almost as if they didn’t want me to hear anything. Eth eth eth eth eth eth Gonorrhoea eth eth eth eth eth eth eth Tumour. Eth eth eth muitoproblemo.
Oh shit I just heard him say Gonorrhoea. What the fuck! I’m supposed to be travelling next week in hostels and I can’t start the trip with a sexually transmitted infection. That’s the sort of thing I might pick up from sleeping in hostel dorms but not before I even start the trip.
The doctor finished talking and then randomly handed me some condoms. Maybe this was normal procedure in Brazil?
Lais and I left the hospital clinic and I was in a bad mood because I thought she had given me an STI. We started talking and I said to her “I thought you told me you were all clean and not been with anyone else for a while”
She said “yes I was telling the truth, but we need to go to another hospital for more tests”
“So why did the doctor just say Gonorrhoea then?” I replied
“No, he said that he tested you for sexually transmitted infections like Gonorrhoea, and it’s nothing like that”
“Phewww excellent” I thought
“Yes he said it’s not anything sexual,………she paused………
It’s the last day of the 2016 Olympic Games and I am working at the boxing finals and then tonight I’ve got tickets to the Closing Ceremony at the world famous Maracana Stadium. Yessssss what a time to be alive!
I’m feeling a little hungover today but nothing I can’t handle or work with. Before I went to a party last night I came out of the shower and while I was drying myself, I caught my balls with my towel and it completely knocked the wind out of me. The pain was something else, I was stood folded over holding onto the bed and breathing heavily. It was like being in primary school again when my childhood best friend Shaun Groves kicked me in the balls for the first time. I got dressed and made it to the bar where all the men were shouting Cagado (tortoise) at me for being late. I asked my colleagues Mark and John if they had ever winded themselves while getting out the shower? In true men style they shot me down for being such a fairy and I should man up and drink quicker. I obliged and drank the pain away.
This morning everyone in the Olympic staff apartments are struggling with hangovers and sore heads. Not me, I can handle a hangover with ease, I’ve done this too many times. The Olympic apartments are like living in University dorms with people having parties every night after work. My friend Colin came to my room in the morning before we would go to work like normal. I got out the shower and was talking to him when all of a sudden I had the most excruciating pain in my left side, my back and had to fall to the floor. It felt like I had been stabbed with a knife. “Holy shit!, my back, my side, my stomach, shit, what the fuck is this?”
I led down flat on the cold concrete floor trying not to move an inch of my body, I’m clutching my side and convinced my appendix has just burst and I am in serious trouble. I had just got out the shower and rather than feeling fresh and ready to take on the day I thought I had been stabbed in the back and the knife was coming out my stomach. I have no idea what this could be but this is not a hangover from last night.
I couldn’t move and had to lay on the ground for ten minutes. Colin suggested I stay at home but I insisted I wanted to be at the boxing finals of the Olympic Games. Not just due to my work commitments, but because every nation had a team doctor and one of them must be able to see me. I downed more than a handful of painkillers and was on my way to the stadium.
Working in an Olympic games environment, you meet lots of different people from across the world and some you become great friends with. I’ve become mates with a lady named Becs who is the team manager of GB boxing and we have spent time together in many different countries. We have the same sense of humour and are constantly laughing with each other. I told her the night before that my ball had been painful and she is now referring to my left testicle as a nasty man named Jose.
I text Becs and asked if the Team GB doctor will see me but he won’t agree to it and sent me to the polyclinic in the athletes village. The polyclinic is where all the Olympic athletes have to go for any medical issues. There were all sorts of athletes in there getting treated for different problems, including the French gymnast Samir Ait Said who had recently broken his leg in a terrible accident a couple of days into the competition. The video of his leg break went viral on Youtube and now he was sat in a wheelchair next to me while I was about to get checked over. While I was doing urine tests and examinations at the clinic I missing the boxing gold medal matches that were going on.
I sat waiting in the clinic with Olympic athletes wondering what this could be? The back pain is exactly where my kidneys are so i’m convinced that I’m just dehydrated and been drinking too many beers. I need a few nights off the alcohol that’s for sure, but it’s the last night of the games and then i’ll have some time off. In June I posted on Facebook that I was coming to Rio for the Olympic Games and my mate Marcus commented saying “Good Luck catching Zika virus”. Maybe It’s Zika?
The nurse sent me to do a urine test in an area of the clinic that had no power or lights so I had to use the torch on my phone. I couldn’t see the pot where I was supposed to be peeing but I think I caught most of it. When I returned and spoke with the nurse she asked about my sex life and could she speak with my girlfriend. The nurse phoned Lais this Brazilian girl that I have been seeing for the last 3 months and she explained that I had a urine infection and would give me an injection in my bum and then two tablets to stop me being dehydrated.
I was bent over in a Brazilian clinic with my pants down and I’ve never felt pain like it. It was like a horse had kicked me in the arse. I walked very delicately back to the boxing venue and walked past the USA team where Billy Walsh the head coach asked if I was ok. I had to say in front of the whole USA boxing team that I had just had an injection in my arse and that is why I’m walking like I’ve shit my pants. I got back just as Nicola Adams won her second consecutive Gold and managed to be the first person to get a selfie with her shiny new Gold Medal.
The drugs started working and I was feeling better. The doctors at the boxing said another 2 or 3 days of drinking plenty of water I will feel right again. Perfect, I’ll just ride this out for a few days and I’ll be on my travels in no time, Iguazu Falls here I come!
But first it’s the last night of the 2016 Olympic Games and I have a hospitality ticket for the closing ceremony. Free Beer!
I went to the ceremony with Colin and two Japanese men that are working for Tokyo 2020, maybe I can get a job there? Even though I’m sick it’s the last night of these historical games and it’s free beer at the stadium. We all got drunk and left before the ceremony ended to go to Team USA HQ to party with all the USA athletes. They were glad to see me walking normal again since the injection had worn off from when they saw me in the day.
Life is amazing, tomorrow I am moving to a new apartment across the road from post 5 on Copacabana beach with my friend Ed.
I’ve got money in my bank, an apartment in Copacabana for 3 weeks, Brazilian girlfriend, living with my mate, parties to go to and then i’m going to travel South America. Wow I am blessed, can it really get any better than this?
“If you’re going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don’t even start. If you’re going to try, go all the way. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives, jobs and maybe your mind.”
The opening lines to a poem named Roll the Dice by Charles Bukowski. Not a direct line or quote I have lived by but it’s not far off. I was reaching new career heights after working in boxing for 5 years in England. I left my girlfriend, my job, my relatives, and my mind for a new experience to roll the dice in Rio de Janeiro at the Olympic Games.
Brazil was always my number one destination to visit and specifically Rio de Janeiro. When I was younger I would tell people that I was from Brazil so they would think I was a better at football, I nearly changed my name from Afsheen to Denilson and I had a Brazilian item of clothing for every occasion. I had made it to the biggest event in the sporting world, in the city that I had dreamed about for so many years. I left my job in Essex at the start of June to move to Rio where I would work for 3 months, and then take time to travel south America before chasing one of the big worldwide organisations to work for by the new year. I had been approached by the International Boxing Association before the games and a possible move to Switzerland was also on the cards.
During the games, I had a good relationship with a boxing company in Australia and Team USA Boxing that had asked me to send my CV and give them a visit to Colorado Springs in October. So as plans changed and options started to appear on the table I decided I would make decisions after spending a month on the road with my brand-new backpack that I was now in love with.
Working at the Olympic boxing event can be long hours with not much sleep involved, then if you add the Brazilian party lifestyle you are soon exhausted. We had made it to the penultimate day and the end was in site with just two shifts left for some gold medal matches to be decided. The wrestling and weightlifting events had finished so we decided to have a party with their staff on the Saturday night with lots of beer, steak, and cachaça.
It’s emotional times when the games finish because some people work towards the Olympics for four years, they sacrifice lifestyles to get to these events. Everyone was discussing their jobs that they were going to back in their home countries or they were moving to another event. Not me, I was a free spirit, I was about to go travelling and had a completely blank canvas for the first time in my life. A new adventure that who knows what would happen. So excited. I had a flight booked to Iguazu falls and that was it. Everything I owned was in a back pack. I was rolling the dice and my numbers were coming in every time. This is an adventure. This is living!
However my dreams and freedom were about to change forever and also my families and friends lives too.
In this book I shall begin with telling you how I got to September 9th 2016 the day that my life would change. The first part of this book is building up to September 9th when I started to keep a diary. I never used to keep a diary just take lots of pictures and post lots of facebook updates. After September 9th I went into diary mode and that is how this book will evolve.
But first I’ll let you know what happened along the way.
I am writing this is to my family, friends, anyone affected and especially to my Mum.
Two star crossed testicles, both alike in dignity, in Rio where I lay my scene
I shall set the scene. My name is Afsheen Joseph Panjalizadeh Marseh, Or Af for short. I am 29 years old and a lad that loves sports, parties, adventure, making people laugh and generally taking the piss. I grew up in Weymouth, Dorset on the south coast of England with a mixture of seaside life crossed with countryside sluggishness. I studied Sports Science at Brighton University with a mixture of seaside life crossed with university sluggishness. I charmed my way through a degree making some excellent friends along the way. The aftermath was 6 years living in Essex working within boxing and youth work teaching boys and girls about boxing and lifes challenges.
In the summer of June 2016 I left my secure, well paid job and comfortable lifestyle for a 3 month job in Rio de Janeiro to work at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Then I would go on the adventure of a life time and travel South and North America on my lonesome to find a potential wife, career or new place to live.
It really was as good as it sounds. ‘Living the dream’ Facebook friends would comment. Working at my second Olympic games, in boxing the sport I love, plenty of beer, parties and Instagram posts. When the Olympics finished I had an apartment that was 50 metres from Copacabana beach by post 5 which I had friends come and stay with me to join the fun times. My biggest decisions of the day was which beautiful mountain to climb, what stunning beach to lie on or if I would drink beers or cocktails that evening.
I was planning to leave Rio to travel the rest of Brazil, then across South America and all the way up to Canada as I had met many friends from all over the world as a result of working at the games. The only thing stopping me from leaving was this 24 year old Brazilian lady that you can imagine straight out of any Copacobana tourist board pictures. Brunette, dark skin, beer drinking, football lover, amazing dancer. You know the ones you see on music videos walking along the beach wearing a tiny g-string thong bikini and drinking from a coconut. Yeah I ended up extending my stay 3 weeks longer than I intended.
It was four glorious months spent in Rio and my journey was about to begin with a first stop to Iguazu falls on the border of Brazil and Argentina. Somewhere I had always dreamed of going from seeing on google images. I had booked a cool looking hostel that had a good rating for single 29 year olds travelling alone and I couldn’t wait to meet new people.
That was the intended journey. To go get lost in South America. “If you never get lost, how can you ever find yourself”. My last big adventure before I think about taking life more seriously when I turn 30, and starting to do the more grown up adult things and ‘choose life’ as trainspotting would describe it.
My flight was booked for 3pm on Friday 9th September. However I was about to find out something that would give me a totally different journey, another mountain to climb. And this one involved everyone around me.
Welcome to my story, we are going on an adventure!
Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather stole my phone and owes me a Cheeseburger
Yes the head of The Money Team, Mr 49-0 ruined my dreams and stole my phone and money in clear day light in Rio de Janeiro. Sounds crazy right but let me tell you what happened.
Firstly, if you don’t know exactly who Floyd Mayweather is, he is one of the greatest boxers of all time. With a perfect record of 49 wins and zero losses. He is the self-proclaimed money man and cash cow and has been the highest paid athlete 4 years running earning himself over $500 million dollars. He is a global superstar phenomenon who literally throws hundred dollars bills into crowds of people. He owns over 30 super cars, super yachts and lives in a super mansion in Las Vegas. I on the other hand do not have this sort of money and the only super thing I own is a super soaker 5000.
I was working at the boxing event at Rio 2016 Olympic Games and had made a prediction to my friend Colin that a superstar would turn up at some point during the games. While I was working at London 2012 I met Amir Khan, Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis. It was awesome!
I said to my boss at Rio that if someone famous came then could I be the one to put them into the VIP section. There were rumbles that Floyd Mayweather was turning up in the evening. However, first the whole USA Basketball team showed up. I don’t follow basketball so didn’t even know any players apart from Kevin Durant, who was massive. Then I got a snapchat from Colin who was sat ringside saying that “The Money Team was in the building” Shittttttttt. I was out the back and got goosebumps and sprinted up to the stands where he was watching. I was ten feet away from one of the greatest boxers of all time.
I was a massive Mayweather fan and this was too much excitement for me. I have watched all of his documentaries, I chant his quotes such as “all work is easy work” and “hardwork, dedication”. I had even bought some ‘The Money Team’ socks in the passed which are a ridiculous $20 for a pair of socks. Floyd watched about 2 fights and then ran off because was going to the Athletics to watch Usain Bolt. It was literally pandemonium around him and his entourage wherever they moved people were running. Even Floyd was running as they tried to get into their cars without too many people asking for photos.
Later that night I was speaking to a colleague who said that Floyd was due to come to the boxing again tomorrow but not to tell anyone because he would send me to the gates to meet him and escort him into the stadium. Great I thought. I watched some Mayweather YouTube videos that night planning and imagining what I would say to Floyd the next day.
The next day came and I was constantly looking at my phone waiting for the text to say run to the gate to meet the Money Man. I was practicing opening the camera and making sure it was on selfie mode because I knew I would have approximately about two seconds to get that precious photo. I got the text saying “Floyds arriving go to the gates.” I sprinted out the back to my area where I was working and ready and waiting.
When I got to the gate there were about 6 other staff waiting there too, they had all been sent by someone else to escort Floyd as well. None of them spoke English though so were unable to communicate with the entourage. Now the whole money team had to take off all their jewellery to go through the airport style security and metal detectors. Wow seeing a $5 million dollar watch up that close is something to behold. Especially when it’s put into a grey tray and slid through the detectors underneath my nose. I could just steal this now and run into the sunset forever. But I didn’t fancy my chances against Floyd or his bouncers.
As they all passed the first security I went to walk them down a passage but was stopped by further security. None of the Mayweather team had tickets or accreditations. They shouldn’t of been there, but this was Floyd Money Mayweather the greatest fighter on the planet. This security officer couldn’t speak English and I had to radio for head of security to run down. We were waiting there for at least 5 minutes. 4 Mayweather bouncers, a guy holding one of Mayweathers bags that is filled with a million dollars cash, 3 of Mayweathers women, The Champ himself and Me. As we stood waiting for the head of security I turned to Floyd and said “While we’re waiting do you mind if we get a picture together”. He looked at me, and looked down at his phone and completely ignored me like I wasn’t even there. I turned to his bouncer and he told me to just give him a minute to calm down. I was next to Floyd admiring his watch and jewellery and peaked down to his phone to see him scrolling through his whatsapp where a very attractive lady had just sent him a very attractive photo. Before we knew it we were running again and into the stadium where Floyd and the Money team would occupy the VIP area. No photo tonight, maybe next time.
Two days later I was told that the Money team were arriving and to go and meet them again. This time security had been briefed and he got out of his car and went through the airport metal detectors again. I said hello and asked for another photo with the Champ, this time he looked at me and said “yeah sure but let’s get it in the stadium because I want to get and watch the boxing” Ok, so we all ran down the passageway and into the VIP seating. This time Floyds main bouncer had remembered my name and said “Af can you get us a load of drinks like Coca Cola and Waters.” I knew where there was a fridge that supplied free cokes and waters so I filled up a plastic bag with about twenty bottles and delivered it to the Money Team. Again, second time meeting him and still no photo. Dam I hate you Floyd Mayweather.
Now I had given up with Floyd. “Never meet your heroes” they say and now I believed them. Its like a circus wherever he goes. As soon as he arrives anywhere people are chasing him. Its pandemonium, he can’t walk anywhere and is just running constantly. I was asked to go meet him for a third time but this time I wasn’t so enthused. I literally walked to the gate shuffling my feet hoping that I had missed him and someone else would escort him. It was such a pain trying to clear a sea of people to get him to places. Floyd arrived again and today had his headphones whilst his chief bouncer gave me a high five and said that I looked tired today. He was a really nice man on the surface. It’s the same man that Conor McGregor was calling a juiced up turkey on the world press tour last month for the half a billion dollar fight him and Floyd are about to take part in.
We started to go around the back again and half way down the passageway Floyds 3 women said they needed to go to the restroom. He wasn’t happy about it but I said they could go into the Referees bathroom. We waited outside for them and Floyd got his phone out again. After about a minute I thought you know what I’m never going to be here again so I’ll ask one more time, and that’s when all hell broke loose.
Af: “Hey Floyd, could I get a photo while we wait”
Floyd: “You just took a photo of me”
Af: “No I haven’t”
Floyd: “Yes you did, you just took a fucking photo of me man”
Af: “No honestly I haven’t”
Floyd: “hey, ya’ll, hey ya’ll get his phone, take his phone off him”
The bouncers ran over to me
Bouncers: “Yo give me the phone”
Floyd: “Show me his photos”
Bouncer: “Show us your photos”
Af: “Ok ok I’ll show you”
Floyd takes the phone out of my hands and starts to scroll through my pictures
Af: “Please don’t swipe too far, wohhhh that’s not a picture of me”
Floyd: “get the translator”
Brazilian translator comes over
Floyd: “Tell him he can’t take photos of me when I’m not looking”
Translator shouts something at me in Portuguese
Floyd: “and tell him he has to ask me if he wants a photo of me”
Translator shouts more Portuguese at me
Af: “Yes Floyd I understand I can speak English”
Floyd: “quick then get a photo, real quick”
Floyd posed for a photo and in fairness to him he looked at the photo to see if it was ok. My hands were trembling so not only was it blurry but also because we were in the shade you couldn’t really see him very well. He said that I could take another one and we walked into the sun light and took another photo. I was shaking and my heart was pounding. Please don’t punch me, or what a story it would be if Floyd knocked me out right now and I was his 50th victory right here right now. I looked at him and with a trembling voice said something stupid like “I really like your work”.
We took Floyd into the boxing stadium and his bouncer shook my hand, put his arm round my shoulder and said “Af, Floyd wants some cheeseburgers can you get them for me”.
The two juiced up turkeys, my boss Breno and me went to the burger stands to get some food. They ordered 3 turkey burgers, 3 cheeseburgers, 3 hamburgers and a load of bottles of coke. They pulled out a fistful of dollar bills and said “ahhh man we only got US dollars”. Breno and me looked at each other and managed to pay the bill. He’s worth $500 million dollars and I’m here with less than £500 to my name and I’m buying 9 burgers and cokes. The true icing on the cake experience.
I was so done with Floyd and his team at this point I didn’t even return to the VIP area with them. I was out the back of the stadium where athletes prepare for their fights and I heard the circus coming, followed by all the fans. I looked across and Floyd saw me through the fence. We didn’t even say bye or wave to each other and I really hope he felt the disappointment in my eyes as he ran off into his car to go and meet Usain Bolt after he had just won the 100 meter gold medal final.
Life lessons, don’t meet your heroes without being prepared to be disappointed, don’t ask for a photo with them more than once, don’t carry enough money on you to buy them cheeseburgers.
Floyd if you’re reading this, please give me some money back!