Russ’s Story………………

After 7 hours in surgery; 9 months off work; 3 years of chemo; 4 years of drug trials; and 10 years of post-cancer treatment and monitoring, Russ got the ‘all-clear’ from cancer. He doesn’t have any advice to give on how to get through cancer, but here are some of the things that worked for him.

  1. “I realised very quickly that I was helpless. I didn’t ‘fight cancer’. I just lay in a bed while the NHS fought it for me. I was a battlefield, not a combatant. But oddly, feeling helpless allowed me to slip into a relaxed attitude about it.
  2. I suffered far, far less than my loved ones did. Yeah, I had pain, sometimes absolute torturous, excruciating pain. But we have evolved to forget how physical pain feels. The emotional pain my loved ones felt – that remained. Reassure them if you can.
  3. This obviously isn’t the same for everyone, but my tumour was vast (17cm and 5KG) and I was certain I’d die in hospital. I didn’t, obvs. So I just treated everything after surgery as gravy: some free, bonus life I never expected. It’s a good mental state to reach if you can.
  4. Let yourself cry and panic when you feel like it. Don’t be ashamed. Don’t hold back. Talk to family and friends, let it all out. I’m terribly British, and baulk at most emotions, but I really learned the point of them when I was going through the worst bits of cancer. Vent them.
  5. Becoming very self-centred is normal. If your loved ones are going through this, and you think they’ve turned into a nuisance…. forgive them. It happened to me for a while. The ‘real them’ will come back, you just have to give it time.
  6. Try not to feel unlucky. No matter what your situation is, you have, by historical standards, miraculous levels of treatment, pain control and care available. Cancer is a shitter, but cancer at any time in the previous 250,000 years was worse. You’re doing ok.
  7. The world is a lovely place. If you don’t believe me, read about what it’s like on Venus. Enjoy it while you can. And this isn’t confined to people with cancer: we’re here for an amazingly brief time, and there is so much to learn and love. Enjoy it.
  8. Find books that are completely immersive – it’s a place to go and turn off the nagging noise in your head. TV won’t have the same effect.
  9. Sometimes it’s easier to talk to a complete stranger – I remember unburdening my entire life to an incredibly sympathetic Malaysian nurse who held my hand for hours one awful night. She was a miracle, I think. I’ll never forget her. She did as much for me as any surgeon.                        (WE HAVE COUNSELLORS HERE AT THE MACMILLAN CENTRE READY TO SUPPORT YOU)
  10. It’s never bad to hope. If you can’t hope for yourself any more, hope for your loved ones. It’s faith without religion – a belief that the world continues after you’re gone. Cos it does, and it’ll be fine.

Good luck to anyone living with this.”


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