Firstly I would like to apologise for the delay in writing this post, as normally I publish at the weekend, but the last few days have been crazy, both with my work and socially and I am only now finding myself with an opportunity to sit down and write. I also wanted to include the conference that I was a guest speaker at on Saturday afternoon, so it is only now that the dust is really starting to settle.
When I decided to start my work in cancer support, I don’t think I realised just how big a task I had taken on! The further I went the more I found, and I very quickly became involved in so many different aspects. At that time it was all new, and I could feel enthusiastic at every opportunity that arose as it was all a great learning curve, but after a while, I found things that were wasting my time and others where the project was too large for me to have any real impact.
If I am honest, I could find no organisation going in the direction I wanted to go. It would have been easier if I could, so I tried to take the good bits I had learned and merge them together in my own community. Chris’s Cancer Community has been going for two and a half years and now after a lot of hard work, has a small voice in the cancer world. But even a small voice can be heard, and I know that there are people listening.
I have mentioned previously, that as my work becomes more established I receive more invitations to get involved , so I now have to be very selective in what I agree to. There are times when it feels like I am on a runaway train, so I do my best to stay in control of things. Assuming that I am available to do a project the deciding criteria for me is always, “Can I make a difference?”
The process I use to decide if I should accept an invitation to contribute is now quite an easy one, although it has taken a long time to find! I ask myself if ANYONE can do what I have been asked and if the answer is yes, then I pass it by. Nowdays people know me and my own story, and of course it is unique to me, therefore if part of that is valuable to the process, then I am happy to look at things.
My two most recent projects are the ones that I am most proud of because it was quite easy to see how my contribution could make a difference and it ultimately did, and was pleased I was persuaded to do both. The first was a recent presentation I did at St Georges hospital in London. (My own hospital) I have always wanted to help the team that saved my life and continue to keep me alive so I was delighted to accept an invitation to come and share my experience with both staff and patients.
This had a major impact on everyone including some very emotional encounters with patients on the day, and an invitation from the team to become involved in future staff training days. I can now start influencing how staff can understand the ‘patient perspective’ which I find incredibly motivating and was something I wanted to achieve.
The second is the Macmillan Cancer Voices conference which took place on Friday and Saturday. I had decided recently to finish my public speaking engagements for the year, to concentrate on my writing, but I received an invitation to be the closing speaker at this conference. My initial feeling was that it was too close in time to some of my other work and it was on a Saturday which made life tricky for me. Naturally, it is a great honour to be invited to close a major conference, and it was put to me that it was my story that was required. The ingredients of my work were a perfect fit for what proved to be a very inspiring audience and the fact that there were a large number of new attendees who may learn something from my experience was the clincher for me.
@christheeagle1 A powerful story, inspirational, if you get the chance go and hear Chris Lewis speak! I was there at cancer voices 2014
— Jamie Spencer (@spencer_info) October 11, 2014
Once I had completed my talk and the conference closed, I was greeted by some wonderful people who were inspired by my story and wanted to share their own. They were pleased to find my work, and who knows, maybe I will make a difference in their lives. The feedback I received personally and on social media showed me that I had made the right choice. The biggest problem I face, is getting the word out there, but now these people have found me, they will tell their friends and a few more people can be helped.
I work as much as I can as often as I can, but this sector is incredibly large and complex, and I understand why many projects fail. I know I cannot touch the lives of everyone affected by cancer, but for me it is so important to always ask myself if I can make a difference. Recent events have shown me that I still can, even if it is a minute part of what is needed.
These recent experiences have helped me focus even more on the work I do, and I am not so easily distracted now. Less is more for me, and I must be able to make a personal impact somewhere in the work! I would like to also take this opportunity of thanking everyone who takes the time to read, comment and share my work, on all platforms of social media, you are all helping to make a difference!