I want to be a positive cancer role model
I took that decision a couple of weeks after my first diagnosis in 2009. Back then I coached cricket. My inspirational friend Jay McLeod said to me 'all of those kids are going to have some experience of cancer in their lives. What if their first experience was how well you'd dealt with it?' That conversation determined how I approached 2009. Judging by people's reaction, we did all right. Not just with the kids we'd initially had in mind. More feedback came from friends my age and the wider network of people I work with.
In the intervening years I have had a sense that I could have done more, that I wanted to use my experience to help others. Maybe that opportunity is now presented by this second, unexpected diagnosis? I'm not being selfless by the way; early on in 2009 I saw how the focus on my wider impact helped me greatly. It distracted me and it guided and sustained me as I navigated the challenges cancer threw out. When I wrote about my treatment in 2009, people remarked on my inner resolve and my positive attitude. I was open with them; what they saw as my strength, I genuinely saw as little more than their love and support repackaged.
As the weeks and months clicked by and things got tougher, I withdrew into myself and gained little energy from outside. I couldn't have written or probably even recorded anything. A high tech, 21st Century battle was being fought and people were using my body as the battleground. Even then though I remained aware of the goal. It continued to sustain me and I was confident that people would expect there to be quiet times too.
The goal is very simple
People need to think more positively (or being realistic, less negatively) about cancer because of how I have approached mine. It probably only needs to be one person; more is better obviously, but that's the test and what guided how I approached 2009. This year, with a second and separate diagnosis, it will guide me again.
Because I have to think about how something will look to others I'm prevented from focusing solely on my own travails, something that would probably be dangerous at times like this. The focus also provides its own energy and motivation and encourages me to keep looking for positives in each situation.
Surely you'd look for the positives anyway?
It's something I often ask people when they remark that they are struck by my positive approach: 'what's the alternative?' Do some people just sit passively, accepting the seemingly dreadful hand life has dealt them? It just didn't feel like a suitable response for me to have. And, I'm not someone who, if I'm honest is particularly positive. I'm a worrier who wins few prizes for optimism. Not so with my cancers. Not at all. A big part of this is inevitably the positive role model. If you're thinking about how to explain something and whether you can put it across positively, you are providing yourself with both a distraction and with a powerful, affirmative motivation.
I'm not sure it will work everyone. We all generate energy in different ways. Mine comes primarily from interacting with other people, in particular from the idea that I am having a positive influence on them. My job has taught me that rooms of people stimulate me. Also, of course, everyone's cancer is individual to them. Not everyone will want to be or would benefit from being a positive role model. But if you think it would help you, the things to focus on would probably be:
1. Fix in your mind a group of people who you may be able to influence in terms of how they currently view cancer. These people will probably be real and identifiable, they may possibly include people who you could reach through social media or whatever.
2. Communicate honestly and openly, firstly with the people around you every day; create time and space for that to happen and listen carefully to what those people are saying to you. Also take the opportunity to broaden your communication to a wider group if that's possible. Invite others to get involved with you. Always being honest about what you're going through and how you are feeling. Don't sugarcoat anything.
3. Look for the positive in everything. It's there, honestly. It may be short term and it may feel outweighed by heavy negatives, but it will be there and you can focus on it!
Go on - get in touch!