How Do You Cope With Adversity?

Living so much of my life now in the ‘cancer world’ I am always amazed at the things people are able to achieve despite the health cards they are dealt. But this week I saw two examples away from cancer, where these people have overcome incredible hurdles and are achieving things much beyond what they might have dared hope for. In both cases life was very cruel, but they found resilience and determination and never lost hope that they could do something special with their lives. Gill Hicks My first example is Gill Hicks who is a double amputee victim from the London 7/7 bombing. Gill describes how her determination and a strong empathy for the plight of others helped her to create a ‘second life.’  “I’ve managed to create a constructive anger,” she says. “I’m so fortunate to have this second chance. I don’t want to spend a second of that time in bitterness.”

The second example is Nicolas Hamilton who has cerebral palsy but has used his disability as a motivation tool, to become the first ever disabled competitor in the British Touring Car Championship this weekend. Nicolas Hamilton“I’ve had to work and train hard to get to the stage where I can race in the BTCC and I know it will be tough, but it’s all about learning. I want to develop and push myself, and we’ll see what happens. Regardless of their condition, it’s also important for me to show people how they can exceed expectations and push themselves to their limit. I can’t wait to go racing.”

This week has also been an incredibly positive one for my own work too. Firstly, I was invited to feature in the Cancer Knowledge Network  which is one of the largest sites for cancer related work in North America. Secondly, the work I have been doing around psychological support for people affected by cancer with the N.H.S has now been published, with my own story being featured as the patient case study, and this site signposted as an official resource for people affected by cancer. These are giant steps, but as with the two examples above, are not things that have happened overnight, and many hurdles have had to be overcome. In my own case I reflected  on meetings that seemed endless, people being very kind to my face about my ideas, but doing nothing practical to help. Numerous charities unwilling to share resources for the common good because of brand ego, and even when talking to clinicians who loved my work, they felt unable to share it because it was independent and not ‘kite marked’ by the health service.

All I wanted to do was help people, but struggled to find many people within the sector who shared that vision. But like Nicolas and Gill, I became motivated by the setbacks. The biggest frustration for most of us is time, and cancer has awoken me to it’s real value, yet I realise now all of the things I have done, which seemed of little value at the time, have helped get me to the stage I am at today with my work. There certainly is no shortcut to experience! My personal path has been extremely rocky, and there have been many times when I felt like giving up, both physically and mentally. But my body continues to pull through it’s never ending trials and I do my best to keep my mind on the same track. Weeks like this feel like an injection of enthusiasm pushing me on to the next challenge, but that ‘hard yards’ experience tells me to enjoy it while I can.

Of course not everyone can be motivated in adversity, like cancer it is something that affects us all differently.Adversity 1 I have seen some of the most outwardly confident people crumble when faced with difficult circumstances, but conversely some of the meekest people survive incredible trauma. Also there is a relativity about it. To some, what can seem a major issue, may be seen by others as just an inconvenience. I find myself  sometimes looking at other peoples problems thinking that I would do things differently, but of course I don’t know all the facts and am making many assumptions. Unless you are walking in those shoes it is difficult to feel the journey.

Positive mental attitude is something I hear mentioned a lot, but it is an expression which I rarely use. I would like to think that generally I have a positive view of life, but during many more private moments have felt a lot of personal negativity. But I now see that as being human, and nothing to be too concerned about. Several years ago whilst in hospital for a prolonged spell it was viewed that I may benefit from talking to a counsellor. He asked me how I was feeling and I replied “fed up!” He responded by saying, “I’m not surprised, judging by the size of your case notes, I would be shocked if you weren’t!” Which made me laugh so much, and I then understood that there were going to be challenges to face that would make me feel negative, and that was ok.

I am grateful to hear such incredible stories like I have featured above, and use them for personal motivation. There is no hierarchy in problems, our big problem is still ours to deal with, whether it is bigger or smaller than someone else’s!

How do you cope with adversity? Have you found hidden strengths or skills you were unaware of? It is always great to hear your experiences so please feel free to share them below.

You can also watch a brief inspiring video about Nicolas here




  1. Another great blog Chris as always. It’s hard to remain positivie all the time when we are going through something like cancer or another serious illness and I think we do more harm than good if we always focus on being positive. It’s like YIN & YANG – we need both positive and negative in our lives and need to appreciate how both can help shape our lives. We have to see and accept the negative in order to appreciate the positive. The hard bit seems to be keeping things in balance, but I’m working on that. 🙂 xx

    • Thx Kaz, much appreciated as always! It is indeed very difficult to remain positive all the time. In the early days I thought that it was what I should do, and didn’t want people to feel my own negativity. But we learn as we go along, and I have developed a resilience and patience I never felt I had before. Prior to cancer I had real highs and lows, but now I am mostly on an even keel. I feel I have learned not to be too carried away with either, because like most things, they are only temporary! I think after 8 years I have reached that balance you talk about, but time will tell! Thx so much for sharing your own experiences, so we can all learn together 🙂 xx

  2. Dear Chris, thank you, again, for sharing your insights and using your time and energy to facilitate increased understanding and enabling us to uphold one another with compassion. Lots of resonances in their for me today. Thank you.

    • Thx so much for your comments Leah, and glad you enjoyed the piece. My mind is always working, thinking, and doing my best to improve things, and things always seem to fall into place to write a new piece. The examples I quoted today, really inspired me, which is why I wanted to show how strong we can be when rqd. Always happy to share my thoughts to promote a healthy discussion, but love to hear what other people think. Tu xx

  3. I think we are telepathic Chris, I was only thinking the same about Nicholas Hamilton this week. The great thing about the social media cancer network is that we all help each other through, irrelevant of how we cope individually, we muck in, support, reassure, listen, read and share our experiences-I feel blessed to haves made new friends through this adversity! Chris you are an inspiration 🙂

  4. Hi Abi, you certainly went through my thoughts as I was writing that piece. It was an incredibly motivating story! You are spot on when you talk about the cancer community on social media. Although many of us have not even met face to face, there is so much understanding and acceptance for each other. Although cancer is a very divisive disease it can in fact create a very strong bond for many of us. I also agree with you about the incredible people I have met, very different to my old work environment 🙂 So glad we ‘met’ too Abi xx

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