It’s true; I’m a self-confessed optimist, not to be confused with a perpetually positive personality. Okay, I admit I am a very positive person, but I try hard not to avoid or ignore the difficult moments. I’m able to sit with discomfort. I don’t recognise negativity as a flaw nor as a threat to happiness. Negativity is just part of being human.
For me optimism isn’t just hopefulness and confidence that things will work out. It also includes being vulnerable, acknowledging truth, gently, awkwardly and sometimes quite emotionally. It’s not easy; optimism isn’t about easy.
When I was diagnosed with incurable cancer it took a year before I accepted that I had changed. I wasn’t fighting cancer. (I have never been comfortable with that term. I don’t want to waste my energy fighting cancer. My oncology team do that for me with an arsenal of weaponry. I want to put my energy into healing.) I was fighting to not be changed by cancer. I kept working. I didn’t miss a day. Mind you I love what I do for a living. So I doubled my consultancy work to prove to myself that not only had nothing changed but I would not be affected by this at all. I was in control. F##K CANCER! Eventually I learnt that this wasn’t optimism; it was fight and fear. I was in survival mode.
Survival mode was all adrenaline, fight, flight or freeze. It got me through, but I was still wounded.
Then came the hard work. Remember it’s not easy being an optimist. Healing my wounds and facing the difficult truth of all wounds, I was changed! Learning again how to be me, how I function in the world, this takes time and lots of kindness. Being kind to yourself can be exhausting. Kindness gave me permission to rest.
Then when I was rested and ready, my acceptance of change moved me forward, forward and into a life that evolved. I realised the constant challenge of ever-changing moments is what drives me as an optimist. There is always something new; every moment is a moment lived.
I learned that my optimism is about acknowledging my wounds and accepting that I can, will and have survived. I believe things will be different in the future. I will continue to be changed by this event and gain the advantage of new knowledge through experience.
My wounds are still healing; everything takes time. I have been changed by this experience. I am still changing because of this experience. I also want to be clear: I’m not grateful to have cancer! I’m grateful for the opportunity to grow in new and unexpected directions.
Time has a new meaning for me now and kindness runs deeper in my veins.
So many of us live with some kind of on-going chronic disease, often undetectable to the outside world. One of my worries was that clients might see me in a different way, somehow more fragile or less capable. It is the complete opposite. Cancer affects so many people. Everyone has a personal connection and a story to tell. It opens up a deeper level of conversation and a shared vulnerability. Truth makes us all stronger. I still love what I do for a living; I know I’m better at it now.
This journey so far has had more laughter than tears. I'm still finding the humour in everything. Turns out laughter really is the best medicine. Just ask my oncology team. The tears are good too; they come in waves. Like the first big downpour after a drought, there is relief and joy after a good sob. I have experienced the power of vulnerability through the sharing of grief and joy.
My cancer is not curable however; it is treatable, and I have responded well to the treatments. I'm now in remission. The future is looking very good.
P.S. I recently went back over all my medical forms and changed the word incurable into curable. I can’t help it; I’m an optimist.
This is a moment in my story and I'm very grateful to be able to share it. If you or anyone you know is travelling a similar journey and you think my story might be of interest, please share. I’m also happy to continue the conversation.
Macao Tourism Digital Engagement
30 shows in 3 days for Macao Tourism
Such an interesting project to write and perform, with lots of challenges.
I was behind a large screen in a soundproof box with facial tracking software taking my face then projecting it onto a big screen as Mak Mak the Macao Tourism mascot. I would then engage the audience live, as the character, telling the story of Macao, highlighting the history and features of visiting Macao.
Thanks to the brilliant teams at International Productions and Cornerpoint Studios for making the whole story come alive. Special thanks to all the team from Macao Tourism.
Creativity is not extinct.
How much fun did I have working with the Visitor Engagement Team at Werribee Open Range Zoo on their hugely successful dinosaur program? A childhood dream come true!
Interviewed by Nina Hendy from In The Black for 8 tips to build a great team.