Sunday, 23 February 2014

Sharing a cancer experience

Having been unwell for most of December, and early January, I made a deliberate plan to not chase any more commitments for the new year. I had cleared my diary, and had completed my work. Although I had few speaking engagements on the horizon, my blogging and social media work, quite quickly fill up the gaps in between my treatment sessions, so there is always plenty to do. I wanted to give myself some time to think about the coming year.

However, my speaking engagements are really what helps my work come alive, and makes my blogging etc feel real. It is an opportunity to hear other peoples experiences, who, through me sharing my story, have felt able to talk about their own. I have been doing presentations for many years now, and the beauty for me is that each one is unique. I talk to health professionals, and patients young and old, also at fund raising and business functions. From every presentation I give, I learn something new.

This week I had the pleasure of sharing my experience, with a large group of interns, coming to work for a UK cancer charity.For many of them, it was their first ever in depth look at the effects of cancer on someones life. Although, it is never safe to assume that even with a young audience, there is no one who has a personal or family experience. That has happened to me several times.

After this particular presentation I had time to think about things, as I went straight to a session of treatment.The audience was very receptive and enthusiastic, and many spoke on Twitter about how they had learnt a lot from it, which is great.However my thoughts turned to the frequency with which I share experience and information about cancer.I now speak or write about it, daily. Not only that, I am in a cancer environment for 5 days every month, having treatment, during which time I am talking to both professionals and patients.

I am aware that I have become 'comfortable' talking about almost any aspect of the disease. However, what struck me this time, was that people may not be so comfortable listening to certain things. What has become 'normal' for me, is far from normal for most people. Obviously, if you attend a presentation where someone is talking about cancer, to a degree you know what you are going to get. Also, if you don't like the content, you won't read a blog. But I was thinking also about my social life.

Maybe people don't want to know some of the content, that I tell them? Most will not be used to hearing some of the detail. My natural way of communicating is to tell people the facts. My thinking behind that was to help people understand what was happening.

Sharing something like a cancer experience, is a very personal thing. Some people don't do it at all, not even with their partners! Others keep things within the 'friend and family network.' Some like me share most things, and more. I happen to feel that talking about these things publicly, will help raise awareness of the issues, and improve things for the next generation, but not everyone would agree. 

Blogging has become one of the most popular ways of sharing experience. Even in the two years I have been writing I have noticed, a vast difference in the quantity, and detail of what people share. It has become much more acceptable to share very intimate details of treatment and emotions. But of course, in this instance you have a choice, whether you follow a particular blogger or not, if you like that open style of communication. 

Face to face work is very different. But in many respects I find it easier. I can generally feel a mood in a room, and by looking at peoples body language as I speak, I am able to tailor the talk to suit, the audience. But one of the biggest hurdles to overcome in a group situation is that many people are still uncomfortable talking in public. Always when a talk gets opened up to questions there is normally a slight hesitancy from the audience.Afterwards though, many people want to talk!

The beauty of the platforms available on social media,is that people can take as much or as little as they require.They can stay anonymous if preferred, or go public if comfortable. They don't have to enter a situation where they feel uncomfortable. It is important, psychologically, to share things, even if it is only with people on the Internet. We never stop learning, and for me, hearing other peoples stories, really helps me to make sense of my own. If I can do the same for others, I will be a happy man! 

Do you find it easy to share your experience? Is it of benefit to hear from others about theirs? How important is the internet, in how you give and receive support? 

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  1. Love your blog Chris!! Stay strong and give the beast the beating it deserves!!

  2. Hi Dan!

    Thank you so much my friend. Your support is always appreciated. I'm doing my best to spread the word, and many thanks for sharing my work with your friends.

    I look forward to welcoming you back to the blog soon, Chris

  3. Can relate to this very well. I feel like I can share a lot, but I am still holding back a bit. But I only started in January, so maybe I will gather the courage to write about it all. Will be inspired by your blog, glad we meat on Twitter. XXX

  4. Hi Karin

    Glad to meet too, and thank you for your comments. It is always difficult, when discussing cancer. Sometimes we give too much info, and other times, not enough. As you can see, even after more than 6 years, I still find it difficult to know the answer.

    I wish you well on your own journey, and I hope that you will find the shared experiences on this blog, helpful. Chris