” Ok, I have cancer but what can you do?” “We can’t cure you, just manage your disease.” ” How long do I have?” “Unless you are extremely lucky, about 6 months.” So started my entirely unexpected experience with cancer! Incredibly that was ten years ago this year. There have been so many ups and downs, emotions incredibly high then dramatically low, with very little in between. Living between life and death for many of those years, things have really only recently become stable in the last year or so. On reflection I don’t really know how I have got this far, as there were so many times that I just wanted it all to stop. Not just for me but my family too.
The raw emotions of thinking things will be ok and then six months later I am back in hospital. It felt I was a prisoner in my own life! Now I have an incredibly different career to the one I had before. Certainly not financially rewarding but compensated by the emotional highs I receive. How did all this happen, I really have no idea. It started with wanting to do something to improve the terribly disorganised and lack of coordinated cancer support in London, but this has grown to working throughout the world. Slowly one thing led to another and now I am a leading cancer influencer across the globe, with my own charity, helping people affected by cancer across the UK. I am now a professional speaker and writer, and have spoken at many international conferences, and run all my own streams of social media.
None of the above things I had ever done before, and if you had told me that I would be doing them now I would have laughed at you! My previous ambition was to sail into retirement with as much financial security as I could gather. Well that certainly hasn’t happened, but I am in love with life once more! The one thing I enjoyed about my previous job was the unpredictable nature of it. I certainly have that again with this work, never knowing what the next invitation might be, and who might need our simPal service next. Thinking on my feet is a skill I developed early on in life, and it is becoming well used now.
It is not only my life that is changing, but society as a whole. Technology has altered how we deal with everything in our lives, and has given us very different perceptions of our world. The way we do things is becoming more streamlined, and our values are changing. The politics across the globe are drastically different now, and I know we must accept this, particularly as we get older. I have got used to constant change in my own life in the last ten years, which in a funny way has prepared me for living my life now. I embrace change, as it is helping me find new solutions to old problems in the cancer support world. More than anything I am grateful to be living in the ‘Internet generation,’ meaning I have been able to adapt my communication skills to ‘talk’ to people anywhere in the world. As I have got less able to get around it hasn’t stopped me helping people.
I am now a very different person to the one that started the cancer process, understanding what really is important in life. Time is the most valuable thing we have, and that we can give to others. Helping others is now my priority, and I can quickly see with people if my efforts will be wasted. No more polite suffering in silence, with people that I don’t want to work with. I feel strangely empowered by my experience, and can freely select what I do or don’t do, no longer relying on anyone to make a living. Through my work I get to meet many incredible people and visit some exciting places, never knowing what the next communication may be bring. My work is shared around the world and I am regularly invited to speak at international healthcare and tech conferences. But none of this would have happened if I hadn’t got cancer!
Finally I have reached a stage in my life where I am satisfied. My family is growing and are doing well, and I can spend time with them when I choose. My support work is helping many, and our charity is growing rapidly, so I have challenges to keep me stimulated. I am no longer at the mercy of having to work, and unstable industries. Now I can actually work for pleasure, rather than necessity. But would I have chosen this life? Of course not!!
Cancer was always something that happened to other people. Although both my Mum and Dad had it I never really considered that it was going to affect me, particularly as I had reached the age of fifty, with no major health events in my life. But it did, and I have learned many powerful lessons about myself, it is an incredibly humbling experience. Constantly relying on others for support, as a previously very independent man. Realistically, it is what it is, and you have to deal with it! My business career was extremely successful but I believe I have achieved more in life since I got sick, in terms of contribution to my fellow man.
I have been lucky in many ways, and have had a second chance. These ten years have been an incredible experience with highs and lows like you can’t imagine. What will the future hold? I have no idea, but that’s the way I roll, and am just grateful for every day!! Thank you all so much for your support and encouragement over the years.
How has your own life been changed by cancer? Please feel free to share your experiences and thoughts below.