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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 March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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