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.