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10 Lessons I Learned From Cancer

10 Lessons I Learned From Cancer

Cancer is a disease that causes so much misery and death worldwide.

As it becomes more prevalent and common among people under 40, one has to wonder what is causing this illness to rear its ugly head.

In our modern world with contributors such as, stress, poor diet, genetics, family history, etc. medical professionals are baffled and short for answers as to what is causing it; even though generous amounts of money and grants have gone into research, only breakthroughs, no tangible cures yet.

Having been a victim of cancer, life has taken an unexpected turn I have learned so much and I’m getting stronger every day.

I learned more about:

Hope

No matter how dark my day was, there was a light at the end of the tunnel. Actually there were three: my wife Lars; son Scott and our new baby son Cohen. As I held their faces close to my heart, it made me want a better tomorrow for all of us to be together, and that hope became a mantra that echoed so deep in my soul it became automatic as soon as my eyes opened when waking up to fight another day.

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Purpose

Due to the illness hitting me at the most inopportune time in my working life, there was not a lot of money saved as a buffer for me to take time off. My boss was supportive with leave without pay (I had no holiday pay left) but I could go to appointments whenever I needed to and I had to find the strength to keep working as the bills needed to be paid.

The chemo sessions would go on Fridays after my half day at work and the recovery, rest and sleep took place on the weekends just to be ready to return to work on Monday, but I never missed a beat.

Kindness

I was working as a contractor with Navy personnel at the time, and my Navy boss Moses would urge me to take my time and sit down whenever I was feeling I could not cope. All the boys and girls in the department I was attached to showed me so much love and kindness, I strongly believe being there and then proved to make a difference and sped up my recovery due to a very tranquil and stress free work environment, and I truly felt I was part of the team.

Friendship

Mark was the boss in the Engineering department, a sub department of the Training Services Faculty where I was working at the time. His kind smile and positive words of encouragement came aplenty, we had a common bond; we both had young families and knew what it was like to slog it off on the job to provide for the daily bread.

Like Moses, Mark always made sure I was well taken care of, and if I ever needed to talk, his door was always open, I still keep in touch with Mark after all these years.

Respect

Then there was Chito, the head of the Health department, who had a lot of time for me, he saw me at my most vulnerable, when I swelled up and my face looked like Shrek’s. No matter how long it took me to get up those stairs, there was a lot of encouragement coming my way.

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During our informal meetings followed by Friday morning tea, Chito once spoke on how much he admired me for not giving up and how much he respected me for my ability to smile no matter how much I hurt. The respect was mutual.

Humor

My friend Bucket (not his real name) was a very popular and respected NCO, and was a crucial link between departments. His cheery nature was soothing and his easy going manner took my mind off the dark clouds lurking above me as another day scraped by.

He would bring me a piece of cake, a sweet, a newspaper or have a joke on the ready.

Who says Warrant officers are all prunes?  Bucket is a top human being and reminded me of the importance of laughter, and I believe this is because of the tough environments they work under and a joke can take their minds to happier times.

Uniqueness

They say every individual on earth is unique, and then there is Alex…..

Alex was someone who was more unique than others, and his strong work ethics and eye for detail would often be seen as pedantic and obsessive, he was quite a character.

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Once I cracked that critical exterior and he showed me how friendly and warm he was. He made me feel very special because he paid attention to me, even on days where I hardly made any sense due to my chemo brain.  He made me feel unique and I never felt alone. I could lean on him and we had lots of long conversations about the joys of illness because he was having some health issues too.

Beauty

My wife Lars tried so hard not to let the tears betray her true feelings, and even though I could see the sadness in her eyes, her beauty shone through the many times she made me a cup of coffee while I was laying down in bed after a hard chemo session.

She understood the need to let my mind wander off to a different world via video games, “Kane and Lynch Dead Man Walking” took most of my down time, often helping me channel my anger and frustration with what was happening to me.

When she came in the room she held Cohen in her arms, and she looked so beautiful, making me more determined to get better and beat this ugly and deadly illness.

Loyalty

My immediate supervisor David always stuck up for me, and kept the wolves at bay. He stood by me, and together with Moses, Mark and Chito provided so much support and encouragement.

Loyal people are a rare gem when times are tough, and I have to admit, David was it. We had video games in common and we often discussed fatherhood, the joys, challenges and responsibilities and the relationship flourished.

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Even though we parted ways, I will always remember the many kind things he did for me.

Patience

On Fridays while the poison killing me was being injected to help me live, my mind would wander off. This process would take between two to three hours on Fridays and the whole world came to a standstill. All the anxiety would blend in with the shadows made by the sun shining bright outside.

While sitting down getting the poison in me, I could not do the very things I loved most, and I had to find ways to tame my need to do something, anything and everything.

While the hours ticked away, I started to become calmer, and five years later, I am no longer in a rush. I am happy to wait at the supermarket, petrol station without the need to rush, what a great lesson to learn in order to survive the madness of modern life.

If you or someone you know is going through this horrible disease, please be patient, forgiving and kind. Cancer is not just a physical disease because through the struggle it becomes a mental challenge, and there is a high probability of developing some level of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD, it is quite traumatic.

In my personal case, the steroids turned me into a very angry and unstable person; as I said, it has taken me almost 5 years to get back to how I used to be, it has been a long and often grim journey but I feel better as a father, husband, son, brother and friend.

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Louis Salguero

UX, HCD, UCD, GUI, graphic and web designer

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Last Updated on February 18, 2019

13 Tips to Face Your Fears, Grow with It and Enjoy the Ride

13 Tips to Face Your Fears, Grow with It and Enjoy the Ride

Fear. I spend my life talking about fear — fighting fears, fixing fears and understanding fears. And yet I doubt I get 10 calls a year from people saying “Mandie can you help me fix my fear?”

Why is this so critically important to you?

The realization for me is that fear is not the fundamental driving force in your life it’s what regardless of whether I’m talking to a doctor, a teacher, a CEO’s, a senior citizens or teenager – every single one of those conversations has a direct correlation with your world.

Fear can range from the overwhelming desire to look away or stop in your tracks to literally fleeing your country and the life you knew. In this article, I will share you with 13 tips to face your fears and enjoy the ride.

1. Know That Fear Is Real, but Can Be Overcome

Right now around the world people are facing fear — real fear. Fear that I pray my children and I will never experience. Does that lessen my fears or your fears in your relativity safe 21st century life?

When I look at the world we all live in, I find that fear like so many other emotions can mean so many different things to so many different people:

  • The child who has to be physically dragged to their first day of school.
  • The man facing the judge.
  • The woman with her hand poised over the buttons over her phone because she has to walk down a dark corridor late at night alone.
  • The man as the surgeon says “count backwards from 10 Mr Smith.”
  • The woman that’s told “We are sorry, we can’t help you.”
  • The man that faces the empty circle of a gun and prays for his very existence.

These and a million more (Portrayed in every kind of movie, book or song you could imagine) are what make us human. We face fear and somehow move forward or are stopped in our tracks.

Like the rabbit in the headlights of the car that veers off through the field away from the tyres of the car or stays still praying for salvation. Like someone will save them. Sound familiar?

Fear is huge. Fear is everywhere and yet fear can be overcome, controlled and can even be a power for good.

2. Accept Your Fear

Firstly if you aren’t facing the barrel of the gun, atrocities that make the news or impeding death, that’s a good start. However it doesn’t mean your fear is any less real.

We are quick to say “I can’t moan, my life is not as bad as X.” While in theory, that’s honorable your appreciation of Mr. or Mrs. X’s horrific life won’t change anything directly. So accept your fear is relative to you.

And here’s what can be done.

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3. Get Some Perspective

I found myself asking anyone that would answer “what is your worst fear”. The answer that intrigued me the most came from my daughter (15 years old and she usually has a copy of Fight the Fear – my book – in her school bag so she can help someone else be as positive and confident as her. No matter what life throws up.)

And her fear, surprised me — heights. I pointed out that we live in a sprawling bungalow (one storey) and the highest she goes is two storeys’ at school! She laughed but added, fear isn’t like that Mum. I know it’s not a real fear, but it’s like when you stand on a chair and feel unsafe.

That girl will go far. Because she truly gets fear.

We know something is scary and yet we still do it. Why? Because we have a perspective to the fear. When you lose perspective, it can feel too big, and too scary.

So look around you to get some perspective on your fear:

  • Are you really at risk?
  • Will this kill you?
  • Which leads us on to..
  • If the worse was to happen what would it be?

4. Hold a Hand

As a coach, it is my job to holds someone’s metaphorical hand and help them face a fear.

Like the child petrified of the thunder storm or the teen that can’t get back in a car again after failing their test, your job as a parent is to reassure, encourage, enable and motivate someone to face something that ideally they never would choose to again.

We know many of our fears aren’t real. However, it is only when someone guides us with love, respect, lack of judgement and safety are we able to get through fear. And trust me, you can get through your fears. I’ve seen it so many times.

Ask yourself:

  • If the worse were to happen, what would that be?
  • Could that really happen?
  • If the worse did happen, how would you recover?
  • If the worse were to happen, what would you need to do next?

By seeing fear as not the end destination but part of being human, you can see through it’s wily evil ways and move forward.

5. Know Whose Hand You Hold Either Physically or Emotionally

This helps with fears for the rest of your life.

Think of someone you can always rely on (and ideally you won’t just answer yourself because that adds a lot of pressure to your existence!) And you will find that you’ve already found a way to get through fear.

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The beauty of this is that it means that fear becomes part of life not something to be feared and shied away from.

It means you know you can turn to your friend, partner, colleague, parent, sibling and say “Right I need to deal with this, and I’m going to need you to help me.”

For one moment, think about it from the other person’s view point. When we get to help other people we feel valued, loved, respected and lots of other positive emotions and we get a good dose of positive chemicals setting off in our bodies too.

Your fear, and your determination to fight it, helped someone else too. Now that’s cool right?

6. Understand That There Are Some Things Fear Will Never Touch

I like to find role models in life — people who have faced heroism, history changing moments, war, atrocities, miracles, life saving inventions.

Not everyone was looking for greatness, however they all found it. And one of my favourite books to date is written about Alistair Urquhart, the forgotten highlander. If this doesn’t get turned into a film in the future, then no man’s story is likely to.

Alistair went through the most horrific experiences in the 2nd world war. If you think of one of the awful things that happened back then in our world, Alistair went through at least 3 of them! Asked afterwards how did you cope? He talked about how whatever they did to his body, no matter how they starved, tortured, threatened or mocked him, they couldn’t have his mind. In his mind he was free.

Of all the people’s voices I’ve heard in my head over the years, this is one of those statements that reminds me anything is possible if you have faith and hope.

Look for the things in life that fear can’t touch. They will create confidence and faith for the future, whatever you face. And they will give you a sense of why being you is awesome.

Of all the billions of people on this planet, no one will have an answer identical to yours!

7. Process Your Fears to Carry on with Life

Being brave is not about sticking your chest out and smiling regardless of what hell you endure. It is about finding a way to emotionally process your fears to be able to keep going.

I have a tool kit of things I can rely on – tools, strategies, techniques. They include people to hug or talk to, music. hobbies, walks on the beach and even my favourite food. It sounds mad but at the times where I have questioned “how will I get through this?” I’ve found immense joy in doing the most unlikely of thing that makes me smile.

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It may be a short lived moment of happiness. However, it reminded that nothing stays the same and I can find away.

One client told me that it was crazy when it felt like their world was falling around their ears to run a bath to the brim (you don’t waste water) get the best bath oils, light too many candles, lock the door and drink a glass of bubbly (champagne is only for special occasions.)

Did that moment fix the disaster that my clients life felt? No, however it gave them a moment of calm and the brain is far quicker to find solutions, resolve and motivation to keep going when you do that.

It may feel like madness to do something you love, however it can be a powerful way to help you find solutions to the fears you face in life.

8. Assume the Worse

If you read the statement from the client above. Notice how they assumed it was wrong to fill the bath up to the top? How bubbly is only for special occasions?

Think how naughty they felt to be doing something that was not allowed?

  • Think about what age it may have made them feel?
  • Think about how they feel about champagne?
  • What special moments it’s been a part of in their lives?

And you can see how the assumptions they made about their “right” to have these things was not healthy.

When I drag the assumptions out of people’s words for them to see, they are often struck by how negative the words make them feel.

Don’t assume your words aren’t impacting on you. You can go through fear and actually enjoy the ride when you take the time to understand how you are letting words get to you.

9. Take a Fear That Feels Insurmountable Right Now.

If you were to repeat it to me out loud, what would you say?

Would you have blame on yourself in there? Would you assume others can do it and it’s just you? Would you feel small, unsuccessful, useless, unworthy?

Usually, when you do this exercise, you are able to spot the untruths that run wild in your head convincing you that you are doomed. And rarely when we are faced with our assumptions is there is a lot of evidence to them.

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10. You Are Not Defined by Your Fear

One fear does not define your life – be mindful of that. It is likely to lead you to thinking of all the times you’ve succeeded and bring a moment of calm, confidence and faith back to you.

11. Go with Fear

When you learn to go with fear, you could find yourself actually having fun, no seriously – having fun.

I have a few amazing clients I’m working with right now who would describe themselves as life long worriers, or pessimists. In the past that has served them well, enabling them to keep safe, steer clear of risks and even develop strategies in the event of disasters. However, now they find it’s becoming hard to break the cycle and they really want to because it’s holding them back.

Notice how they’ve found their hidden fears and want to face them?

One client said “I knew this was going to be tough, and I knew I couldn’t fight it alone and I knew you would be the one to help me.” Before I sat an incredibly successful, confident, capable business owner with a family and a social life to die for.

However, I’ve learned that the most successful looking lives can hide things that impact on life, success, love, happiness and business.

We didn’t start with the fear that they felt was holding them back, we broke the fear down, and found lots of little obstacles that had been deemed as “life” and “unchangeable” and “that’s just the way it is” by developing awareness to the little steps on the road to their obstacles to happiness and success they were able to tackle them in a different way.

12. Discover Great Skills in Your Scary Moments

And in that clients words “I came here to work with you to grow my company, and my own personal skills. I didn’t expect to get the children to be cleaning up after themselves and my partner being more attentive! It all feels a little magic.”

The moral is that out of the scariest of moments, we can find great skills we didn’t know we had. Find better, healthier, happier ways to live and find ways to enjoy life more. (And have a bit of magic!)

What a great place to be in ready for the next fear that thinks it’s going to get in the way of you, right?

13. Own Your Fear

Think back over these tips and come up with at least one example for each one. Write them down. Put them on your phone. Turn them into a piece of art. Turn them into a poem. Frame them. Go for a fast walk across the fields, beach, down town and repeat these things in your head to the sound of your feet on the ground.

We rarely take the time to appreciate how far we have come, how much we can achieve or what we are capable of – by really owning the tips in this article you will have given your brain a big fat dose of “Damn right I can do this!” and the motivation and accountability to say “Let’s find a way” through any fear.

You can’t help but feel good when you see that can you? And fear doesn’t stand a chance, does it?

More Resources About Fighting Fear

Featured photo credit: Ben White via unsplash.com

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