Julian: The scars that remind me how lucky I am to be alive

Julian Cousins
Tennis coach

Favourite thing: Scars

I know this is kind of my favourite things but I’d like to kind of bend the subject to my most memorable things.

There’s a couple of scars on my face, on the bridge of my nose and on my lip. They’re from a skiing accident when I skied into a tree. It was the same month that one of the Kennedys were killed in a skiing accident and Sonny Bono died skiing into a tree.

“It was like The Godfather where the guy was up to the horse’s head…”

Initially they said I’d just broken my nose and cracked my eye socket which I’ve done before. But when I was back home, I remember getting up and feeling as if I was coughing, choking almost and I woke up and it was like The Godfather where the guy wakes up to the horse’s head, the whole bed is covered in blood… all my bed was covered in blood. A sliver of bone had broken off in my nose and gone into a capillary and then the sliver had come out of the capillary and I’d started bleeding in my sleep and lost a lot of blood. The doctor said I was quite lucky to get out of that, to wake up, because I could have just drained and drained and drained and drained in my sleep.

“For every black thing that comes, comes light”

When I look at that scar, it always reminds me of that particular time. For every black thing that comes, comes light and you just recognise that you were lucky and then you endeavour to make the best of whatever you have to come.

Then we come on to the scars on my leg and on my eyelid. I was on my way to meet clients in Grenoble airport — I was working for a ski company — apparently I skidded on some black ice and hit a lorry coming the other way. I don’t remember anything of the accident itself but the post-accident is very, very, very vivid. I remember waking up in the car and snowflakes coming down and thinking “well this car wasn’t a soft-top, why is it snowing on me?” And then the cacophony of sound hit me.

“The accelerator pedal had snapped and gone through my shin”

The dashboard had collapsed in on my leg and the accelerator pedal had snapped and gone through my shin, which is the scar I have there. It’s such a rough scar because it was sewed up at the scene, rather than at the hospital.

I also split my eyelid. Sometimes you can see the scar and sometimes you can’t. But it’s affected my eyes. My left eye is always slightly more open than my right eye. And I fractured my skull and my eye socket, my nose, my jaw. I broke vertebrae in my back, damaged my spleen and just lost a lot of blood.

“They positioned a mirror so I could see what was going on”

I also fractured my tennis-playing arm — which is where the operation scar comes from. The company made the hospital aware that I was a tennis coach and that repairing my tennis arm was really, really crucial. They put a metal plate in my arm. I’d lost too much blood to have another general anaesthetic, so they operated on my arm under a local anaesthetic. It was great because they positioned a mirror so that I could see what was going on. Seeing that was all part of the rebuild because at the time. I couldn’t see out of my left eye and I couldn’t move because I was in a corset because of the damage to my back but it was the beginnings of a little bit of hope that actually I’m being repaired now.

“It was almost as if I was looking down on myself being cut out of the car”

Those scars also remind me of a moment in the car. I remember talking to a fireman and my point of vision changed. It was a bit weird, it was almost as if I was looking down on myself being cut out of the car. I got hold of the fireman and I said: “I don’t want to die this weekend”. And the operation scar reminds me of starting to get better, starting to re-heal. That was Christmas 2001.

Tennis coach Julian Cousins showing a scar from an operation on his arm

I was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 1988. I lost one testicle and had one mild bout of chemotherapy. Then April 2002, I noticed a lump in my other testicle. I got referred to the Royal Marsden. They said: “This is testicular cancer, but don’t worry we’ll take it off and you’ll be all right.” And I said: “I’m not doing that,I’m not going to be castrated, forget that.”

I discharged myself from the care of the Marsden and found the guy who’d looked after me the last time. We decided I would have intensive chemotherapy with the hope that the tumours would shrink to a size that they could do some microsurgery and still leave me intact. And fortunately, through keeping fit and healthy and doing other supplements and doing my own research about my own care, the chemotherapy reacted in a positive way — way beyond anybody’s expectations. The tumours went into remission and I didn’t have to have any surgery.

My scar on my forearm — a cross-shaped scar — is the intravenous point where the chemotherapy went in for 24 hours a day for about 4 or 5 days a week of my treatment.

“Since then life’s been fantastic… I’ve been married 10 years. I’ve got two lovely little girls”

And that’s really poignant because since then life’s been fantastic. I’ve been married 10 years. I’ve got two lovely little girls — both au naturel, not IVF, nothing like that. And all that validates my decision to go and do my choice rather than someone else dictating to me.

It was a very, very black time that I had to go through. But I wouldn’t have it any other way because all that I’ve got right now, pretty much, has come from that. The cancer’s never too far away, because the scars are so visual. I’ve only got to look down at my arm and it’s right there.

So I suppose that’s why my scars are my favourite thing because they make up who I am and where I’ve got to today.

3 thoughts on “Julian: The scars that remind me how lucky I am to be alive

  1. Jeez what a rough time you’ve had, but u came out the other side so positive.
    You make tough roadies look like wussies.

  2. I remember a good deal of that. You properly ‘manned up’, good fellow, you got the joy you deserved. best, Wobbly.

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