Mood - setting the tone.
Updated: Feb 25
Cancer doesn't socialise very well - its not great at dinner parties or on a night out. It's the elephant in the room. Its the proverbial eggshells ready to be walked on. It's the coffee flavoured Revel always lurking in the pack. Cancer is the worst kept secret that everyone knows about and that no-one wants to talk about. I habitually time people until someone eventually cracks: "but you look so well Darren - given - well you know - what you're going through". The opening one liner of choice. The ice breaker that never disappoints. I know this because this nightmare is my reality - every minute of everyday.
I've gotten used to delivering my story, my 'journey' if you will - and have fine tuned it accordingly - to accommodate my audience - more friendly and digestible - a little less cancerous and a lot less scary. An example of how cancer infiltrates my day is when I eventually went back to work - it would normally take me about five minutes to walk from my office to the coffee bar for a drink - post cancer it's double the time. I get stopped for some cancer chat pretty much every fifty feet - cancer has made me popular - even with people I don't know. Everyone - whether it be morbid curiosity or general compassion wants to know the 'gist of it' - and I will most definitely accommodate them - warts and all. When my hair went white the questions and concern came thick and fast and given my new found fame and Scandinavian look - I thought it would be rude not to participate in the daily cancer Q & A - by toning down the time it took to deliver my cancer story but ramping up the real nuts and bolts of what really is really on - I am now able to tell my story many times and in different ways - my goal is simply to empower people with the truth but using some humour instead of playing the 'woe is me' victim card. I feel I am allowed to do this and get away with it as its me who is riding this rollercoaster - It's my cancer. I've ern't the right. I was recently shopping in a renowned Swedish furniture store - the one famous for its flatpack furniture and meatballs - and I was stopped by a complete stranger. She tentatively asked me - apologising first - if my newly acquired hair colour was as a result of medication or suchlike as I looked like her husband who had gone white in the same way due to chemo or cancer related drugs. It floored me to be honest. I'd never been confronted like this before by a complete stranger but instead of being offended I stopped and we had a chat. I think she took a lot of comfort from what I had to say and the way I said it and she was able to take the information home and relay it to her husband who I'd learned was having a really tough time.
What I am crudely attempting to suggest is the importance of setting the tone before you embark on educating your friends or family about your cancer journey. It's not hard, just a simple change of tact, delivery mindset. Taking an emotive subject from a place of darkness, sadness and depression - to a lighter happier place sounds challenging - and it is. Don't get me wrong there is nothing lovely about cancer but we have to adopt a responsibility in the way we deliver such a sad subject. I am happy to tell people everything - where it is in my body - the treatments that I endure and their fucking horrendous side effects - all delivered with a bit of personality and charm thrown in for good measure. I try not to be crass and belittle the absolute enormity of my situation and the situation of others - but at the same time I try and lighten things up and turn the elephant in the room into a fart - starting off big, gross and disgusting but quickly dissipating into the ether - turning the atmosphere much less toxic and breathable. Cancer isn't funny but it doesn't have to stop you from living a life shackle free - and it certainly shouldn't alter the way that people interact with you. You can control all of this...all you have do is set the tone.