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Are There Any "Perks" of a Cancer Diagnosis?

I saw this question posed by one of the cancer communities on Twitter, and it sparked my brain into giving it some serious thought.

Trying to think beyond the negatives

I think “perk” might be the wrong word, but I get the sentiment. My immediate thought was that if there are any perks, they certainly don’t compensate for a cancer diagnosis, which is a very scary and life-changing place. It is very easy and quite right to focus on the negatives.

After all, in the cases of those like me with a terminal diagnosis, it is highly probable that our diagnosis is going to shorten our lives. Add in the treatment side effects, and it suggests a perfect storm of negativity.

I’ve really struggled since my diagnosis, aged just 60, with the thought of not being around to do things that matter greatly to me, like walking my daughter down the aisle and seeing my grandsons become teenagers.

As it happens, I will walk my daughter down the aisle this year, covid-permitting, so that’s one event ticked off the bucket list. But seeing my 2-year-old grandson become a teenager will really be pushing the extreme boundaries of my prognosis.

Finding the positives

Back to the question, though, and I have to say that I don’t think that there are perks as such. However, there have been plenty of things that have come out of my diagnosis that have been positive and good.

I was able to take the decision to semi-retire to spend more time with my family, particularly my grandsons, so that I could build memories for them.

Raising awareness

I’ve also been able to devote time to becoming an awareness speaker and volunteer for Prostate Cancer UK, normally doing 20-30 talks each year. I know that these have saved lives by making sure men speak to their GPs and get tested earlier. As we know, earlier diagnosis has much-improved outcomes.

A massive highlight for me in 2018 was being asked to take part in a fashion show, as a model, to raise funds for the Maggie’s Centre in Manchester, UK.

There are Maggie’s Centres throughout the UK, and they are located near cancer hospitals/units so that patients can go and wait there between treatments at the hospital, and their families can do the same.

The Maggie’s Centres also offer psychological support as well as classes, support groups, and assistance with financial matters. The one in Manchester became a place of refuge for me, where I could sit and gather my thoughts having seen the oncologist “across the road.”

It’s also where my wife and I went immediately after my diagnosis for counseling and support, and where I learned the mantra that, “you are not dying of cancer, you are living with it.” It's also where we could sit outside in the garden, hold hands, and cry until we got our heads straight.

An unforgettable experience

I still go to the center every time I’m in for treatment, and it was a real privilege to take part in the fashion show, which raised over £200,000 for the center. I was also asked to speak in front of 650 people and tell my story, which was very scary as it was at the end of the catwalk directly underneath the cockpit of a concord aeroplane!

I also got to speak at the Gala Ball in the evening. This event was simply amazing. All the models were people who had or had been affected by cancer, and we made friendships that will live as long as we do. Sadly 6 or 7 of the models are no longer with us, and that’s the harsh reality of cancer. But we all shared that amazing experience, which will never be forgotten.

I’ve also been a model in a naked calendar raising funds for Prostate Cancer UK!

Uplifting moments after a diagnosis

In closing, I don’t think I would say that there are perks of a cancer diagnosis, but some good things do arise. We can focus on the downsides too much while forgetting the upsides. I’ve been so blessed to be able to do some of the things that I’ve done since my diagnosis, particularly to build memories for my grandsons for when I’m no longer around.

Let me ask what your thoughts are on this. Do you believe that there are “perks” of your diagnosis? Have you experienced any uplifting events similar to mine?

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