Firstly I would like to clarify that this is not a quote from me! It came up in a recent conversation I had with a fellow patient and someone I had met for the first time, so I was a little taken aback. I questioned the statement but the reply affirmed what had previously been said. A little further into the conversation I started to understand the point of view, but it is not certainly something I could ever say, despite the positive things that have happened since I became sick.
One thing about cancer that is undoubtedly true, is that however we are touched by it, our life will have been changed forever. If we are not affected directly, it will be our loved ones, family, friends, colleagues etc. Which will change the way we think about things. We will never see life the same way again. In my own case my mother and father both had cancer, leading to the direct death of my father, and the treatment, to the death of my mother many years after her operation.
There is never a good time for cancer to ‘knock on your door’ but for me, I was fifty and at the peak of my earning capacity. My job and earning potential was taken from me at a stroke, and it looked like my life would be following quickly, as I was told how sick I was. Before that, life couldn’t be better for me, I had a job I loved and a healthy and happy family.
Staying alive became my new ambition, and just learning to live with cancer was my new challenge. I felt I had fallen so far in society, and I had no energy or desire to start climbing again at my age! I suppose that as I was so happy before my illness, it made things a lot tougher. After a couple of years just ‘living’ wasn’t enough for me, and I knew that I wanted to improve the cancer support landscape for others.
The rest as they say is history! My ‘cancer C.V’ is slowly filling with lots of incredible things and with the launch of Your simPal I am speaking to many influential people around the world. Also meeting special people and doing things I couldn’t imagine I would be doing in my previous life. I can pick and chose what I do and when, and I have the sort of freedom I could have only dreamed about before. All of what I am doing now is a bonus, and I am incredibly grateful for it.
But it was not my choice to be living this life! If I could turn back the clock I would still be chasing around all over the world, trying to make money. Yes I have met so many incredible people and done many exciting things, but there are many times when I wish to return to plain old Chris Lewis WITHOUT cancer.
The person I was speaking to, did not enjoy their work and had got stuck in a rut. Now they too are doing many exciting things in the cancer world. So I sort of understand why it was said. Many people seem to be able to reinvent themselves after illness, and change their lives completely feeling empowered to do things by choice rather than necessity. Helping people seems to be the most popular thing, which seems quite natural really.
They say that when life gives you lemons you should make lemonade, and that is what many people do. Making the best of the cards they have been dealt and go on to lead a fulfilling time after seeing such dramatic health issues. My own life has such a meaning to it now, to be able to help people affected by cancer is very humbling, and I’m so pleased that I can use my personal negatives to become positives for others.
My illness has changed me to a person I struggle to recognise now, not so much physically but mentally. I’m now incredibly patient and compassionate, two things I never was before! Having said all of this I feel I am a much better person for my experiences. But I still couldn’t say I’m glad I got cancer.
Cancer plays around with your head and turns your world upside down. It is no surprise that after a time you might struggle to think clearly. For many of us lucky to be in ‘survivorship,’ it can be more difficult to cope with, than the disease itself. We all lose so much to cancer, I guess that the law of averages suggests it might give us something positive back at some stage.
I’m certainly grateful for what I have, and the opportunities that are in front of me. Whether that is by luck or not I don’t know? Yes of course I enjoy my life, even more so than I did before I guess, because I was so close to having it snatched from me, but I can’t say I am grateful to cancer for showing me all these things!
What are your views? How has your life changed since cancer? Have you managed to find any positives? As always please feel free to share your own thoughts and experiences below.
It’s a very interesting viewpoint and I understand it to a certain extent although I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m glad I had cancer as such. I’m glad to have the people in my life who are here because of it; I’m not bitter about having been diagnosed with it; I seem to have come to terms with having gone through it; I think it’s changed me for the better in some respects; plus my life is certainly a lot busier, revolves far more around helping others. I’m not altogether sure I’m meeting my own needs, but I’m mentally stronger for it. It’s challenging – I’m back to work tomorrow after two weeks signed off to rest and recover from asthma issues, my GP’s not happy with my cholesterol level and thinks I may have a thyroid problem, but I’m not stressed about any of it because the breathing issues weren’t a recurrence in the lungs. Cancer has changed my perspective a lot! Arguably for the better, and I’ve just had a seventh birthday following it which is a positive. Oh, and I seem to swear a lot more as my favourite philosophy tends to be f*** it!! Yet I’m not generally uncouth. My mother finds it harder to accept than I do, especially the changes she sees in me as a person and my ‘image’. Cancer’s a very personal place to be, everyone deals with it differently. I suppose the crux of it is who’s to say there’s a right or wrong way, there’s just our own way. Hoping all’s good with you and yours, Chris. xx
Hi Deb. I agree with a lot of your points, especially about the wonderful people we meet, but more importantly, I feel like you I’m not meeting my personal needs. Your seventh birthday is great news and of course our perspective is massively changed! You are so right, cancer is a very personal place to be, and of course there is no right or wrong, just what works for you.
Yes all good this side thanks Deb. We are ready for you if you would like to spread word of Your simPal service. What do you need from me now? I know we can help many of your families and all ready are. Tu xxx
That’s great news Chris, I was going to email and say whenever you’re ready to go ahead just hit me with whatever you need sent round. If you have specific marketing materials feel free to email them across; ditto anything specific for social media. Shall we start with whatever you’ve got already and I can work from there? Sorry to be a bit vague! Deb xx
That will be great Deb, I will email you some bits tomorrow. Thank you so much. Chris
Thanks Chris, shall look out for your email. Enjoy the rest of Sunday. Deb xx
Very thought provoking Chris, as always. I wrote on my blog recently about being changed by cancer. It’s left me a little bit wonky. And not really a situation I’d ever say I was grateful for. But perhaps a better person too. X
Thx Aileen, my situation feels very similar to yours. I am still wonky as you describe but do feel a better person for it. But we have to keep making lemonade Aileen 🙂 Big love to you xx
Another great blog Chris.
Thx so much Ken. That conversation I had made me think too!
I might not use the word “glad” but I would not go back to life before cancer over 7 years ago. The amazing people I have met, the things I have learned and done, the skills and wisdom I have gained, the blessings and benefits I have received in so may ways – they are immeasurable and have filled my cup to overflowing, to use an old-fashioned phrase. They have enriched my life and I would be – and was – so much poorer without them.
Thanks as always for getting us thinking & acting, Chris.
That’s really interesting Jo. As you know a lot of that has happened to me, and I agree completely about the people, but personally I would like to take my life back to where it was if I could.
Isn’t that the really key thing about cancer, that it treats us all differently?
This is proving to be a great subject for people to think about and engage with.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts Jo, and I wish you well with your forthcoming challenges. Chris xx
Very thoughtful and Interesting article Chris. I’ve often said to others that having cancer changed my life and made me a far better person. I agree it does seem to make survivors more compassionate and empathetic. I know for me a little humility has helped to change my view of the world and those in it. I also know I wouldn’t be were I am now and doing what I do if it wasn’t for the experiences I’ve had.
Thanks so much for your comments Leslie. I feel the same as you in many respects, and I also have so much more humility than I ever had. Many of us would not be doing what we do unless we have had that experience. I’m certainly grateful for the people I meet and things I get to do, but certainly would have preferred to stay as I was given the chance! Maybe humility and things come with age and experience too? Keep up your great work Leslie.
Lots of truth in here Chris. Great blog xx
Thx Kay, I’m glad you found it interesting. The conversation I had certainly made me think!
Thank you Chris cancer has changed me in many ways like you I think I am a better person. I had retired before my cancer started in 2011 and used to think I was here for ever!!! Before!!! I also feel it is harder on yourself mentally when you have given the all clear suddenly you are free to do your own thing but it does not work that way I have learnt to live a different life and because of New friends like you and the internet am happy and think my family feel the same. Love to you and your family Chris xxx
It is so difficult after a cancer diagnosis Georgine. It certainly shakes your mind and body about! I am grateful that it taught me the value of time, and that I was given some extra to be able to help others. It seems that we have both learned to live differently now and find satisfaction. But it can certainly take time. Thanks so much as always for sharing your own experiences, and love to you both Georgine xx
Cancer certainly brings your life into sharp focus and makes you analyse what is and isn’t important. I’ve met some very inspiring people but it still sucks that I had to be diagnosed in the first place!!
Agree entirely Margaret! xx
As usual an interesting blog. The language around cancer and long-term conditions is always interesting to me. As humans, i think we need to find a narrative- a way to make some sort of sense of the muddle, the unknown.
I couldn’t say i’m glad i got cancer.
Cancer is a thief,
Cancer can hold you hostage in body and mind.
Then you can find a way through to some unknown place
I am glad i got an early diagnosis and had access to the treatment i needed.
I am glad to have had and continue to have support.
I am glad that i have found a way through the emotional fog (which still turns up uninvited).
I am glad to have a life i enjoy but was angry for a while that i couldn’t pick up from where the cancer turned up and assume business as usual .
Couldn’t say i’m glad I got cancer.
Wow what a fabulous piece Kay! It sums things up brilliantly, thank you so much for sharing. I will definitely re cycle that at an appropriate time, with the credit of course! Chris x
As you may or may not know, calling cancer a gift or hearing someone say, I’m glad I got cancer, is one of my biggest cancer pet peeves. That kind of thinking just doesn’t work for me. At all. In fact, I actually titled my memoir along those lines. “Cancer Was Not a Gift & It Didn’t Make Me a Better Person: A memoir about cancer as I know it”. I am not glad I had a cancer diagnosis for so many reasons. I do not feel cancer made me a better person either. Why would I give cancer credit for anything? Of course, I love the many wonderful people I’ve met since my diagnosis, but that does not change my mind. My life would have evolved quite differently if cancer had not intruded, and I likely would have met wonderful people in that life too. I totally respect the views of those who feel differently than me, but the societal expectation and pressure to feel any sort of gratitude for having cancer, still makes me cringe. No matter how you try to re-frame this disease, it’s still horrible. Thank you for the interesting post.
Hi Nancy, so lovely to hear from you! I love so much your interpretation of things too. Yes it is different to most I have heard from, but that is what this platform is all about, sharing and learning. We are all affected differently as we both know very well, and this post has provided a great deal of discussion.
I met many wonderful people before my disease and you make a valid point, there is no reason to thing that would not have continued. Cancer is a horrible disease, and my view is that if I could I would turn back the clock and miss out on all my recent positive experiences. What cancer does is take away your choices!
Thanks so much as always Nancy for sharing your thoughts and experiences with us all on here! Chris x
Cancer has given me a fire under my butt to jump into
life and stop waiting. “If not now, When???”
Cancer has given me a fire under my butt to jump in and
do the growing that I’ve needed to do. I see so clearly
when I need to say”no” to people when I want to say Yes” to people.
And I follow the instinct with action.
Cancer has given me the impetus to look death squarely in the face and say,
this is a natural part of life. I don’t need to be be quite so scared.
Thank you so much for your above comment Audrey! This sums up exactly how I feel! It’s very powerful xxx