Did you know that according to Cancer Research UK, the survival rate for breast cancer cases is 79%? Did you know that 7 types of cancer have more than 50% survival rate? I didn’t know. Probably because most of the stats we hear on a daily basis sound like this: “157,275 people died from cancer in 2010 (Cancer Research UK)” or “40% of Britons are likely to get cancer in their lifetime (Macmillan)”. We hear such stats all the time. Fine. But what do they really tell us? That there’s a problem. We know cancer’s a problem, do we really need these facts to remind us what we already know? I don’t. I’ve got enough examples of people fighting cancer to illustrate the fact that the disease is wide spread and difficult to beat. What we don’t hear much is the other type of stats: the ones telling us how many people have had successful treatment and have managed to win the battle over cancer. Why do I believe this is important?
Imagine being told an asteroid is about to hit the Earth in 3 months time. Thinking that you’ve only got 3 months left, you start preparing for the end and try to do as many of the things you have always wanted to do as you can. Now imagine you are told of a hidden place underground, which could give you the chance to escape the danger and survive. Would you not go there, would you not try to save the lives of the ones you love and yourself? Chances are you would.
Hearing the positive news could change your attitude towards the problem and possibly save your life. I don’t know the science behind this but my personal experience showed me that sharing successful stories with those around you who are going through similar difficulties does help. I don’t know if it is simply due to exchange of useful information or whether it goes beyond that and into the ways of thinking and approaching the problem, but it certainly makes a difference.
In April 2010 my grandma was diagnosed with lung cancer at the age of 66. In Bulgaria you need to be pretty lucky to get a doctor who will explain thoroughly what the diagnosis means, what the treatment options are and what could happen. Very often patients are not provided with enough information and so they reach out to people they might know who have been diagnosed with cancer or they live with their pre-existing beliefs about the disease. In the case with my grandma she didn’t know anyone in a similar situation so she approached her diagnosis in the second way. A bit like being told about the asteroid hitting the Earth. You know it is going to come, you know approximately when and you start preparing for the big crush. Having always lived with the understanding that cancer is a terminal disease, she treated it like such. Convinced that she couldn’t possibly do anything to fight cancer anyway, she originally refused to try chemotherapy and other treatments. A few weeks later I spoke to the mom of one of my best friends and mentioned my grandma’s situation. She had been through cancer herself and was shocked to hear how easy my grandma gave up. She told me the hospital where she went and the treatment she had. I remember her words very clearly: “Oh well”, she said, “I lost my hair once or twice but here I am, living a normal life, going to work and taking care of my family.” She inspired me. I told my grandma what I had heard. I told her my conversation in details. And it was amazing watching the reaction. Imagine drinking a glass of water after being thirsty for a whole day. It was as if I gave her something. Not just words. Strength. Hope. She smiled and said “Let’s try this then, maybe it will help”. Hearing that someone else close to me had managed to fight the disease was as if for the first time she heard proof that this was actually possible. She wanted to start her battle, she was ready to experiment. Except that by that point it was too late.
I’ve heard good stories and bad stories. The good ones however, are good enough to make me want to spread them. I am sure you’ve heard some too. At the end of the day it is the good ones that keep us going and the ones that give us and those around us hope in the hardest times. I’ve been lucky to hear them but hopefully Can-Did will let you hear them yourself. Do you have one?