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!
Hi Chris, after reading this weeks post and how ‘you are’ actively making a difference, I felt compelled to reply with a quote by Mother Teresa. There are many wise, kind. compassionate and appropriate quotes but this one I felt fits you particularly well.
‘Joy must be one of the pivots of our life. It is the token of a generous personality. Sometimes it is also a mantle that clothes a life of sacrifice and self-giving. A person who has this gift often reaches high summits. He or she is like sun in a community.
Chris, you are inspirational! You are touching peoples lives on so many levels, from fellow cancer patient to those delivering services. Making change happen require speaking out so that people can relate and understand, so that they can empathize and have compassion, that they themselves will change their interactions with patience as a result of your work. We never know how big the ripple of our efforts will go, but we must speak out and I thank you from my heart for doing just that Chris!
We all have the opportunity to speak up and speak out for those that will take the same journey that we have been through. Never think it’s not worth it! I strongly believe that each day we have the choice to make the world a better place and that our individual actions count.
Just recently on my last appointment, I stumped up the courage to say to the nurse specialist, how distressing it is the be called from the waiting room to get into those dreadful gowns, to wait in the consulting room, to wait… In a room that more often than not resembles a prison cell, and left there waiting for at least ten to thirty minutes, which can feel so much more, for a brief consultation. By which time my anxiety and distress have taken my voice and soul away!
I expressed my feelings to the nurse specialist and she appeared to take this on board, said that she would ask other patience how they felt and look to see if the service needed to be changed. I felt empowered by her response. As she said ‘practitioners often get into habits of practice which they don’t notice until someone speaks up’. It’s not that they don’t care but they just don’t know or haven’t thought about it. I believe it is our job to get them to think about it!
Thank you Chris for encouraging us all to be that voice of change and especially for the great work that you do!
Wishing you a great week,
Hi Tricia, that is a fabulous quote and I may find it and post on FB! Thank you for your kind words, and the quote sums things up nicely really.
I was persuaded to do the recent conference I talked about in my post, because of the audience, and I was aware that they may benefit from my experience. It is always lovely to receive immediate feedback from people and I could feel the impact in the room. That stayed with me for a few days, and I am still being contacted by people.
It makes me so happy that people like you are feeling more empowered to change things, and from the numerous conversations I have with health professionals, they also are happy to learn more about the emotions a patient encounters. but the systems are too ‘clunky,’ and I am trying to improve things there and show that good patient engagement is possible!
As you are fully aware, it is in many cases only small changes that are required, and unless people are told, they may not be aware. I read only today that people do not like to complain about their care in case they are victimised.
Thank you for the feedback Tricia, it means a great deal, and helps me understand where my work needs to focus. Have a great week yourself, Chris x
Hi Chris I am so pleased you had a good meeting, you make a great difference to many more lives that you know. Its wonderful for people to be able to listen to you. You have made a marvelous difference to me as well as others, the only thing is I wish that I had known about you when I was undergoing my treatment. At that time I did not have a laptop so did’nt know of the help I could get. Please do not work too hard or you will end up being ill yourself and then what would your family do? All best wishes to you Chris Georgine xx
Hi Georgine, thanks as always for your feedback, and so pleased to have made a difference for you. My personal frustration is that there is so much more that can be done and wish I was 20 years younger with the energy and enthusiasm that comes with it!
For next year I will be reviewing my personal work load, so I will see how things develop. Chris xx