This blog post is written by fellow 40-something working mum and writer Karen Finn, about a subject which has an impact on so many of us. Her article is about how one cancer patient has created a more purposeful life for himself and become an inspiration to many cancer sufferers around the world.
Karen writes a blog called My Kids 4 Humanity, about raising compassionate kids.
Here is her post:
Why venting about cancer is therapeutic
I don’t know about you, but since I’ve hit my 40s, it seems like everybody knows somebody with cancer. Almost weekly I hear about a new cancer ‘story’ ‒ my friend, my friend’s friend, my friend’s sister, husband, daughter, son, mother or father, as well as various celebrities thrown into the mix ‒ and each week I hold my breath, wondering who’s going to be next.
Then there’s the inevitable underlying question that nobody dares to utter out loud: “Is it me?”
It wasn’t like this when I was younger. I certainly didn’t sit around ruminating about cancer on a nearly daily basis. So what the hell is going on?
We’re naturally more carefree (and generally healthier) when we’re in our 20s and 30s, so it’s simply not on our radar. Thinking about our own mortality is pretty far down the ‘to do’ list…unless something happens to us.
Take model and former Made in Chelsea actor Fabian Bolin, for example. Last summer he was living the dream: parties, auditions, photo shoots and a budding film career in LA. Cancer was the last thing on his mind. But then he found out he had acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) and his life changed overnight.
“I was 28 years old at the time and had been feeling under the weather for a few weeks. I shrugged it off and blamed it on stress and the usual anxiety/worries about life and career that I think most people can relate to in one way or another,” he tells me.
“Finding out that you have leukaemia is shocking. How could this happen, and more specifically, how could it happen to ME? The horror of finding out was bad enough, but it was nothing compared to the months that followed.”
Fabian’s lifeline was a warts-and-all blog he started writing from Day 1 to share his journey. “It provided a huge distraction from the madness that I was undergoing everyday with chemo, meds, hospital visits, nurses, needles, blood, fatigue, boredom, isolation, nausea, headaches, unable to move properly, weight loss (17kg, around three stone, in four weeks) and so on,” he says.
The blog quickly went viral. Suddenly, thousands of people from all over the world were sending him messages of encouragement, thanking him for sharing his experience and telling him their own cancer stories.
“Getting so much unconditional love from the readers of my blog and being able to express my inner emotions openly and truthfully was, beyond a doubt, the most wonderful experience I’ve ever had and I am certain that it saved my life. There is such a lack of mental support for cancer patients in healthcare and the storytelling balanced up most, if not all of that.”
That’s why, a year later, Fabian and his best friend Sebastian Hermelin decided to launch WarOnCancer.com. It’s a first-of-its-kind online storytelling platform where cancer sufferers and their loved ones can describe their journeys and a give people a real understanding of what it’s like to live with cancer. “I want to give others the opportunity to vent and share their journeys with people that will truly listen to them,” he explains.What makes WarOnCancer.com special? “We encourage people to write and share in their own language, and then have translate functions on the stories so that everyone can understand. It’s purely storytelling rather than a forum with threads and we do not interfere in any way with the editorial content,” says Fabian.
Some people are very specific in their way of sharing, with a lot of focus on the actual treatment, whilst others barely mention cancer at all. Fabian points out that the range of stories is what makes it so interesting. “We like to think that each story is unique and we want that on our platform.”
Another thing that sets WarOnCancer.com apart from other online cancer communities is a ‘write for your charity’ initiative. It means that all storytellers can proactively support a specific charity by sharing their stories. The charity’s banner appears on the website whenever a storyteller indicates that they were referred to WarOnCancer.com by that particular charity. Simple, yet genius.
It’s a way for Fabian to give something back to the organisations that are helping to spread the word about WarOnCancer.com to their members. It also makes the platform more dynamic than most. “I think it’ll help us work together with charities to become the global voice of cancer patients,” says Fabian, who’s looking for new partnerships with proactive charities in every country.
“I’m currently looking for real enthusiasts and driving forces to join me in a movement to make the world a better place for future generations of cancer fighters,” he adds. “Each new storyteller makes a tremendous difference for us and I am there to personally assist anyone who wants to come on board and start sharing.”
With cancer comes wisdom
Over the past year, Fabian’s life has changed more than he could’ve ever imagined. When asked whether he can still relate to people his own age, he’s philosophical: “Even though it’s only been a year in time, I feel ten years wiser now. Looking back at myself before the cancer diagnosis is like looking at another person. I had different values and priorities back then. Happiness isn’t the result of career success, or money, or fame. Happiness is the acceptance of the current situation. As simple as that. This knowledge makes it harder for me to relate to other people my age, because most young are still chasing success and wealth, which is what they have been taught by our society. I don’t blame them in any way; I was totally the same before cancer.”
Now Fabian’s goal is to do everything he can to share what he’s learned from this experience.
Blogger’s note: I realise that featuring a 20-something man on Lifestyle Maven breaks with the mostly female ‘fabulous 40s and beyond’ demographic, but actually? Not really. Besides the fact that I personally think Fabian is wise beyond his years and should therefore be an honorary 40-something, he could also be our son (ahem), cousin, nephew, brother or best friend.
After all, everybody knows somebody with cancer.