As part of my massive blog overhaul that has been taking place over the last few weeks, a few new series are going to be introduced, regular posts which deal with a common theme or topic.
This one is entitled 'Inspiring Individuals' - and, in a self-explanatory manner will consist of a post dedicated to an individual who has positively inspired and impacted upon my life in one way or another in recent months.
The series was inspired by an induction day I attended last Thursday for Macmillan Cancer Support, an incredible organisation who I successfully managed to get a two and a half month internship with within their Cancer Information Development Team. I feel extremely grateful to have received this great position, more so because the induction day for this position rewarded me with the opportunity to hear the story of Chris Lewis.
Chris was diagnosed with Mantle Cell Lymphoma Stage IV in 2007, after experiencing extreme tiredness, lack of sleep and swollen tonsils. After a successful stem cell transplant, found through the Anthony Nolan Trust, Chris had begun to feel much better, yet unfortunately suffered various infections and diseases as a result of the transplant, such as Grant Versus Host Disease (GVHD) and shingles.
As Chris' ill health deteriorated, he was tired of feeling like a prisoner in his own home. Before cancer, Chris was a successful self-employed Business Consultant specialising in women's fashion. He was lucky enough as a result of his job to travel the world through his hard work, and made his living alongside his wife and two children. Cancer, although a debilitating illness, did not suspend Chris' hard work and determination.
Chris started contacting national cancer charities, such as Macmillan Cancer Support, to seek a voluntary role in order to get him out and about whilst also raising vital awareness of cancer. Initially, he begun volunteering with Macmillan for a day a week - which allowed him to exercise the frustration Chris was having for not being able to work due to his illness. His friends later encouraged him to begin a blog, providing Chris with an extra focus through writing about his experiences. Through writing his blog, Chris wished to remove the feelings of isolation associated with cancer, and used the blog as a mechanism through which people were successfully able to talk about cancer and their experiences.
This is where Chris' Cancer Community came about and is what led to Chris' success today. Chris now works with a variety of national health organisations in order to campaign for continued support and aftercare services for all affected by cancer. He speaks at various conferences and events across the world, from appearing at 10 Downing Street, to speaking at the the European Bone Marrow Transplant conference. Chris works with Macmillan on a consistent basis by delivering talks to interns such as myself as a reminder of how essential charities and organisations such as Macmillan are for people like Chris and all others affected by cancer.
We all know someone affected by cancer, or we may be affected by cancer ourselves. That fact is well known. Chris' story reminded me of the importance of making the best out of an awful situation. Each day is an experience which we can use to educate and inspire another. Life has the ability to throw awful things at us which are out of our control, and Chris' story demonstrates the ability to shape these awful things into change for the greater good. The importance of social media as a tool to start these discussions and make these changes cannot be underestimated.
Sometimes hearing the story of a complete stranger can alter your entire outlook on the way that you view the world. I can't even emphasise how vital and crucial it can be to be open to hearing the stories of those around you. Chris' story has made me determined to keep working hard for what I believe in, and to try to make the best out of each situation.
You can find Chris' blog by clicking here - in the meantime, have a wonderful week!