This week I was invited to visit one of the most famous cancer hospitals in London, and as I was walking round the wards my personal experience came flooding back to me. It was also the hospital where my late mum had her breast cancer treatment more than twenty years ago, so it was emotionally demanding. As always I found myself reflecting on the day once I had got home. I remember vividly visiting my mum all those years ago and how ill she was at the time, but she survived for more than twenty years until her heart gave up. She did incredibly well because all that time ago the treatment was a lot different to how it is now, they did a wonderful job for her. That was when she referred to the Big C on her diagnosis. This was an expression that was frequently used back then and was felt to be a death sentence. It was then very difficult to not revisit my own treatment, and the horrific experiences and emotions that I had been through. All the evidence was pointing to an early demise despite all the heavy duty treatment, and with so many drugs inside me I didn’t know what was going to happen next. My goodness, I had gone from a very strong independent man to a physically weak one relying on help to get out of bed. Even now I can’t believe I have made it this far!
Sure, I have lost a lot along the way, and physically I am probably half the man I was, in most ways, but I am alive and playing as best a part as I can in society. In the really early days I was bitter, and spent a lot of my time asking myself “what if?” My business would have been bigger, I would have earned more money and could support my children and grandchildren more financially than I am currently able to. But we get by ok now, we have learned to live differently and have very different values. We don’t miss out on much and if I’m honest I quite enjoy the challenges of this work, and if goodwill was cash I would be a multi millionaire! Of course we need money to get by but at my stage in life there is very little I actually require. So to step off the ever turning wheel of buying bigger and better things because you can, is actually quite a relief, as nature forced me to change my life’s direction.
Complaining about what you have lost is not a very productive process and although everyone has a certain sympathy, life is moving on for me and everyone else. One of my favourite sayings in life is “If life gives you lemons, make lemonade!” So I am now making lemonade. When I started this work I was just one voice amongst millions, sharing their cancer experience. Since the progress in social media and a more openness around cancer there are many more doing it. But now I am contacted daily by people wanting to now how my work is so well known. I tell everyone that there is no secret, just hard work and persistence in the face of opposition. This work is now seven years old, and people who are just starting expect to be seeing immediate results.
What I started doing was just a hobby to keep me focussed, but now has turned into a lot more, particularly with the launch of my charity and new partnership with C4CMobile. Life is starting to speed up again now with so much exciting stuff on the horizon, both here and across the world. Meeting many senior people and being valued in the cancer community is great, but now, there is starting to be a media focus as our partnership grows. Winning awards and meeting many famous people has been the icing on the cake, and when I look at my own diary even I can’t believe some of the things I get invited to. Watching my boys careers flourish and my grandchildren grow up are things I never thought I would see and am absolutely thrilled to be around for that. At one stage my 52nd birthday was an ambition and in a month or so I will be 60!
Believe it or not I still get frustrated at the things I can’t do both physically and in my working life, but I take that as a good sign, that my head is getting back to normal, whatever that is. My trip to the hospital was a great wake up call for me, as although I never chose to be on this path it is fulfilling me as a human being. If it wasn’t for a young mans act of kindness by donating his stem-cells then I wouldn’t be alive today. That act has left me with an overwhelming desire to ‘pay it forward,’ and now my life is mostly about giving. The rewards don’t always come in cash terms but they always come! Not necessarily immediately, and generally your ‘return’ is bigger than your ‘investment.’
So it is time for me to be grateful! No my life didn’t go to plan in recent years but nor have many of my friends either and not for health reasons! It really does seem that life is not a plan but it just happens, so lets all try and find something to be grateful for, it really isn’t that difficult!
As always, above are my thoughts and experiences, please feel free to share yours below.