The Bright Side
Friday 23rd September
No one tells you what will happen when you decide to leave your country to move to another one, just as no one tells you what will happen after a lung cancer diagnosis.
I was born and raised in Italy, and before moving here to England two years ago, I had no real idea about lung cancer and how people deal with it, nor about the statistics relating to this dreadful disease.
I started working for Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation in February 2015 as a Graphic Design apprentice; I now work here full time and spend my free time volunteering for the charity. Due to the nature of my job I rarely have contact with people outside the organisation, and I’m not usually first in line when it comes to meeting patients, supporters or fundraisers as I work in the “back office “along with many others. I love creating layouts, graphics and colourful images, but the best part of my job comes when I get the chance to see the reaction of other people to my work.
When I think about lung cancer, I see it as being like a medal with two faces. We are used to thinking about the bad face - how quickly this awful disease can spread, how many people are diagnosed with it, the challenges that each stage sets for patients - and how absolutely shocking are the statistics.
But there is also another side to this medal - the brighter side. There are people who survive cancer, who fight and win their battle, and there are also those who find their own ways to be helpful and supportive after a loved one receives a lung cancer diagnosis.
There are two key moments from my time here that will always stay in my memory...
The first concerns a seven year old boy called Oliver, whose grandma had been diagnosed with lung cancer. Oliver lost his tooth and asked the ‘tooth-fairy’ to donate the money that he would have received to his nana instead. Oliver’s family set up a donation page, and, in less than a day, they raised lots of money to donate to lung cancer research. To thank Oliver, I became a ‘tooth-fairy’ for a day and wrote him a letter – which he then showed to all his friends at school. Knowing that I had played a small part in making him both happy and proud of his actions really made my day.
My second special memory is of a lovely man, Tom Kelly, whom I had the honour and pleasure of meeting in November last year. This gentleman, with his shining eyes and big heart, has, over several years, built a very beautiful and very special Christmas tree. The tree rotates, and has a little train running around it - and if you say the “magic words”, snow starts to fall from the top and drifts across the room.
Every year Tom adds a little bit extra to this tree - a new decoration or feature. The look on his face - absolutely full of happiness - when he saw me and my colleague cross the threshold of his house to take pictures of him, and the joy he had in telling the story of his tree, are still very clear in my memory. After a loved one was diagnosed with lung cancer, Tom decided to open his house to everyone each December, inviting in families to see his super tree and keep him company. If they wish, they can leave a donation for Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation. Over the years, Tom has raised thousands of pounds for our charity.
As someone wise once said, “The problem is not the problem; the problem is your attitude to the problem” and I couldn’t agree more. Moving to the UK was very difficult at first – I found it hard to cope with the feeling of not knowing what would come next. Of course I can’t, and I won’t, compare it with the sensation of not knowing what is going to happen after a lung cancer diagnosis. All I can do is share with you my own experience and how I have dealt with it.
While working for Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation I’ve seen and heard about so many people that discovered the toughest part within them during the hardest times, and that’s exactly what happened to me. I discovered how strong I can be, I’ve learned to be alone away from my family, from my loved ones and from all my secure things in life. I re-invented myself and I realised that the way you approach the problem really helps you to solve it. I find this ability in most of the lovely people I have had the privilege of meeting here. They are now a source of inspiration for me.
No-one can say what is going to happen, the future is unwritten for all of us - but having a positive attitude even in the worst of times might just help. My wish for all people affected by lung cancer is that they can stay strong. I’m sure that better days will come and with them the chance to beat this awful disease forever.