As I sit here on the bus heading to my last volunteering shift of 2018, I spend some time reflecting in the year that was. And what a year it was.
If you were to tell me that I would experience what I did this year at the end of last year I would not of believed you at all.
My advocacy work has sky-rocketed. My health plummeted and my relationships have changed. But let me go into a little more detail.
I was involved in a lot of small little projects this year from being interviewed for Stiletto Sex, a documentary by Michael DiMarco about LGBTI Melbournians, I was filmed for a great clip about masculine vulnerability by Jessi Lewis.
I traveled to Sydney for the Inaugural Ronald McDonald House Charities Volunteer Conference and I even presented at several conferences including Better Together and AGMC Multicultural Conference just to name a few.
Primary Health Network, Genetic Support Network Victoria, QuitVictoria and many others asked me to be a part of their advocacy campaigns. My disability advocacy work continues with the Equality Branch of DOC, Victorian Government and I even picked up casual work with Thorne Harbour Health and Audit Express.
In September/October, I had my story published with the AGMC as part of their Living in Loving and Diversity anthology and also wrote an article on being gay with a disability for Star Observer. But they weren’t the only things that happened in 2018.
At the start of the year, I was diagnosed with cancer (for the second time) - This time, a pancreatic-duodenal stomach cancer. I was scared beyond what words could comprehend. Not having my blood-family here in Melbourne and kind of feeling alone, we were in for a long ride. My mum came down and stayed with me for five weeks while I underwent the procedure and recovery. My friends rallied around me, supported me and came to visit. I lost around 7kg, had trouble keeping food down, struggled to eat and put n weight. This was a challenging process and still is at the end of the year but something I am trying to learn to deal with. Unfortunately, during my treatment, I ended a very strong and beautiful friendship which broke my heart.
Towards the end of the year, my pin increased and added four admissions to emergency with a diagnosis of gastritis. I am now reviewing my diet and still trying to put on weight.
This whole ‘put on weight’ thing is a complete mind blow. A my life, I have been told to be careful what I eat and not to gain weight. Now, I can eat whatever I want to gain the weight back.
But it wasn’t all bad, for three-and-a-half weeks, in June, I got to do some self-discovery and travel to Europe which was amazing. Madrid, Valencia, Barcelona, Florence, Rome, Venice, The Dolimites, and Switzerland were visited. It was amazing, relaxing, reinvigorating and awesome to get away and escape what Melbourne has delivered.
My studies, changed a little. At the start of the year, I was due to commence my Bachelor of Social Science but because of the cancer diagnosis, I was told to put the studies on hold. In June, I commenced my Certificate IV in Training and Assessment and am due for completion in June next year.
Wow! That was a crazy year. So much has happened and so much growth was gained. I may of missed something in my review but they were my definite highlights and lowlights I the year.
Of course, none of this couldn’t of happened without the love and support of my family and friends. To each and everyone of you reading this, I say thank you. Thank you for everything that you have done and helped me with. Thank you for the laughs, the hugs, the shoulder to cry on and the kicks up the arse.
Now I have no idea how I am going to top the coming year but I am going to give it my all and have an amazing time doing it. Happy New Year. Have a fantastic night, be safe and have fun. Much love and see you all in the new year!
Signing off for 2018, Ayman Barbaresco :-)
PHOTO CREDIT: Daniel Witthaus