When Things Start Breaking Bad
This post is dedicated to everyone who sent messages of support and well wishes after I was diagnosed with cancer. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to properly express how grateful I am, but I will try my best.
What to do when you get bad news
When I was first diagnosed with cancer, I tried my best not to cry but failed. I’ll always be grateful to the amazing team of doctors and medical professionals at the Sunninghill Hospital who diagnosed me as they literally saved my life. As I struggled with my tears, one of the doctors reassured me by saying “if you are going to have cancer, this is the type of cancer that you want to have.”
Despite the bad news, I was extremely fortunate. My cancer is very treatable and we have caught it relatively early. Despite this, I couldn’t help but start crying once again when I got back to casualty. I cried so hard that two nurses came to check up on me because they thought I was in physical pain. The only way I could convince them to go was to lamely mutter that I had just received ‘bad news’.
I stopped crying after about half an hour, and I remembered that the important thing to do in a situation like this is to be positive. As soon as the tears stopped, I knew that I had already hit rock bottom and had begun the process of bouncing back.
In the weeks that have followed, I’ve realised that sometimes we don’t have control over what happens to us. We all know that there is a possibility that we could be diagnosed with a terminal disease or be involved in a fatal accident on any given day. We also know that one day, we will die. Most of the time, these are just abstract concepts but sometimes they can become a very tangible reality. It’s never fun getting bad news. But as bad as any news you receive is, until you hear a doctor say something like “I’m sorry, there is nothing we can do…”, it could always be much worse.
Bad news travels fast. And that’s good…
My first major challenge after getting diagnosed with cancer was calling my family and breaking the news. Within half an hour, my sister and my girlfriend were by my side in hospital and my parents had started a 15 hour drive back from Cape Town to Joburg. I can’t imagine how shitty that drive must have been, but I was never happier to see them than when they walked into my hospital room. This small group has not left my side and have done nothing but look after me. I’ll never be able to thank them for everything they have done and everything they will still have to do before I’m fully recovered.
When I first told my boss Nick that I was sick, he was shocked but incredibly supportive. I initially asked him to be ‘discreet’ with the news, but after a few days of being MIA, as well as being isolated in hospital, I decided that it might be a good idea to go public and share the news on Facebook.
I didn’t know what to expect but nothing could have prepared me for the overwhelmingly positive response I received. I received nothing but love, support and well wishes. I’m thankful that bad news travels fast because I got so many messages of support and so many good vibes that it made dealing with my situation that much easier.
These messages started three weeks ago, and they just haven’t stopped. My friend Dave started a social media campaign for me called #snapsforadam (you can read more about it here). I still get about 10 snaps a day from work friends who want me to know they are still thinking about me and are waiting for me to get better. It’s been absolutely incredible.
Some of my other good friends – Fareed, Anne and Kirsty – have written some truly incredible and heartwarming blogs, while my girlfriend Jade has also written about her experiences since I was diagnosed. Even Natalie has gotten involved by opening up the world’s first ever Black Store. You can find links to all these amazing things here:
Whether it was a simple Facebook comment, a snap, an SMS, an offer to pray for me or a phone call to my family, I appreciate everything that everyone has done, said and offered since I was diagnosed. Cancer sucks but it sucks a lot less when you know you are not alone.
The Good News about Good Advice
If nothing else, being diagnosed with cancer puts things in perspective very quickly. It’s a shame that it usually takes having to go through something as horrible as being diagnosed with cancer to get this kind of perspective. But hopefully you will be able to avoid going through something horrible and just take my word on this:
Every piece of good advice you’ve ever heard is 100% true.
People always tell you that life is short. That you should live each day to the fullest. To spend time with friends and family. To wear sunscreen, etc., etc. As simple as they sound, every cliche that you’ve ever heard about what’s really important in life, how to be happy and how to enjoy your life is 100% correct. If you find that you have either time or opportunity, don’t waste it.
Most of the blogs my friends wrote for me ended with a plea to make a difference by supporting a local cancer charity like CHOC or CANSA. Obviously, if you are able to donate, that would be amazing. But if you can’t or don’t feel that this is your particular bag, I have another suggestion:
Just go out there and try do something good. It could be donating money, donating time or just helping someone who is in need. This experience has taught me that bad things happen every day. But so do good things.
All we can hope for is to be one of those good things.