On Monday, I was training at a venue in London where I’ve often worked over the last three or four years. I’ve worked with clients there pre-cancer, during chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and in these happy thriving days. But for some reason, on Monday, one particular delegate from the past came to mind.
I met her bang in the middle of chemotherapy. I was at the stage where, even though the loos were only one short flight of stairs away, I took the lift because I couldn’t breathe and do steps at the same time. I was bald, I was fat, I had a PICC line: I was feeling every inch Cancer Girl, and not in any kind of a superheroine sort of a way. The cancer was not a secret – I tend not to work that way, but to be honest I’d have had no chance of hiding it if I did want to keep it quiet.
The delegate in question was polite, but a little stern, and a little on the outside of the group. She was a scientist who worked for a pharmaceutical company, and like most scientists she expected to be convinced of new ways of doing things; she wasn’t going to accept anything at face value. She was working in her second language – something that makes me want to have a lie-down just thinking about it – and didn’t say a great deal.
But right at the end of the workshop, she did say something. As I was packing away in one of the breakout rooms, she came to find me and she said,
I work in breast cancer drugs and it’s easy for me to forget the human side of what I am doing. I get so caught up in the science that I forget what is really important. Now when I work I will think about you and about helping you.
It would have been a lovely thing to hear anyway, but coming from such an unexpected source – someone I would have expected to pack up and leave without saying very much to anyone – it meant a great deal.
It just goes to show that we never know where our help and strength are going to come from. But in my experience, help and strength always show up.