Today marks World Cancer Day – a day that joins together people, international communities and countries to raise awareness and take action with ongoing debate and life-saving research. It’s about striving to make positive and lasting change, about bringing new treatments to people and – put simply – it’s about saving lives.
The 2019-2021 campaign title is ‘I Am and I Will’ – a theme that wants to dispel what seems to be a negative and resigned attitude that nothing can be done about cancer and that it’s our own personal actions that have the power and the impact to ultimately bring about progress.
‘I Am and I Will’. How empowering that statement is.
Undoubtedly most of us will have a subjective knowledge or experience of the sheer cruelty of this disease in some form or another, and particularly when you consider the statistic that one in two people in the UK will get cancer at some point in their lifetime. It is brutal. But when I read these words – strong, positive and full of hope – it seems to me they are exactly the words we need to be saying to ourselves to confront any adversity that life throws at us.
Today also marks my Mum’s birthday. Four years ago I lost my Mum, not through cancer but unexpectedly and quickly. Two years later my father died. With both of them it was sudden and I never had the chance to say goodbye or to tell them how much they meant to me and how much I loved them. My parents were my guiding light and the bedrock of my existence. Their support was limitless and they loved me unconditionally. My grief when they died was overwhelming, not just for them and for their loss of life, but for a sense of my own existence. Suddenly I was an orphan – two people who kept all of my memories safe, who were always there to remind me who I was and what I could do, had gone.
I could have done with these words then.
At various points throughout our lives most of us will have to deal with a challenge that knocks us back, that makes us doubt who we are or question our strength of will. Even just the small day to day conflicts can test us and derail the sense of belief in ourselves and those around us. But the real challenge is to recognise that we are the masters of our own impact on everything we do when hardship comes along. We can’t change what happens to us through no choice of our own, but we can hold on to who we are and determine how we are going to deal with it going forward.
There’s a great quote I read recently: ‘The human spirit is stronger than anything that can happen to it.” When it comes to World Cancer Day, individually and collectively, the human spirit can and needs to be strong. We have to be positive, proactive and progressive, and we have to have hope. The impact of cancer can affect all of us, directly or indirectly, in different ways at some point in our lifetime, but as the theme of this year’s day promotes, it’s our own personal actions that have power to make an impact, to change things, and to show support for those affected by cancer.
‘I Am and I Will’ – we need to remember these words, in sickness and in health.