Monday 9 September 2013, 16:43 | By

Let’s cherish creativity to counter cancer

CSL Invites

I was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year. I’ve been through all the invasive tests and the surgery stage and after 6 weeks of recovery I now face 6 months of chemotherapy.

Paul Leonard

To say it’s been a life-changing experience would be a massive understatement.

What you have to face is quite a challenge:

• Firstly there was the shocking realisation that I wasn’t as strong as an ox after all. I almost didn’t make it through the surgery and you suddenly have to face up to your own mortality.

• Then there’s the shock and distress that the illness causes your family and close friends. Taken together the two elements can cause enormous stress and anxiety.

• I’m a self-employed consultant and the illness has effectively meant that I haven’t been able to work properly in 5 months. The prospect of a rigorous chemo regime makes it unlikely that I’ll be able to carry out my consultancy as well I would like to do and my clients would demand of me in the months ahead. I’m not house-bound but I am journey-restricted and my universe has shrunk to local proportions. I can imagine that for young people the worry is will I ever be able to hold down a decent job?

• Then there’s the dreaded ‘c’ word. People seem to be in awe of the disease. Everyone, in the nicest way, wants to know how you’re handling ‘it’. It becomes hard to filter out news of cancer from tv screens, the radio and the press. Suddenly it’s the only subject in town. It’s almost impossible to have a conversation with anybody about anything other than bloody cancer. You want to get back to normality but normal life went out of the door when cancer came knocking.

So as well as feeling unwell there is upset and worry, a huge sense of frustration and a feeling of being trapped and isolated by the condition. It is all too easy to become self-pitying. Now my family and close friends couldn’t have been more loving and supportive. But what I found I also needed was something to occupy me meaningfully, to be a vehicle for my creative energy and to make me feel useful again, both in the immediate term and possibly on a career-changing strategic level. I also needed to vent off about the whole situation without heaping even more strain on my immediate family, friends and medical carers.

I found the answer in creative digital solutions. I’ve always been a keenish writer and had produced a blog, called Pasta Paulie, since buying a place in Italy some years ago. The blog has increasingly become my strong, silent partner – the place where I can have a laugh at life and rant and rave with impunity about everything, other than cancer itself. For that I have developed a special place; a discreet diary that is charting my progress. One day soon I hope to e-publish an amusing and poignant look at living with and dealing with the ‘c’ word. I’m also turning the archived content from the blog into a series of e-books.

Beyond that I have created a writing service called Its Write for You for people and businesses local to me who are in need of some help with the right words for a particular occasion or purpose. It’s all served from a website I’ve managed to put together and I can virtually do all the work online with just occasional meetings with potential or existing clients. I’m becoming increasingly conversant with social networking media to cross-promote my writing platforms.

Now the point of all this is not to say hey look at me, aren’t I clever? It’s to describe how digital technology can and did provide a mechanism for me to get back some purpose into my life. Instead of becoming self-absorbed my horizons have broadened again and I feel positive and excited about the future now. Tellingly, I have also brought some of the work joy back; I really do feel good about what I‘m doing and creating.

That’s why I’m so supportive of the aims and ambitions of the Creative Skills For Life programme. There is a real need to give people, especially younger folk, who feel trapped by this dreadful condition a means to explore their creativity and escape its soul-destroying effects. Of course not everyone is going to be a writer but there are so many skills, many latent, which could be harnessed digitally covering disciplines like design, gaming, film, music writing and production, publishing, editing, website delivery and countless others.

There is a tremendous opportunity for companies involved in these multi-media disciplines to reach out and link up with CSL and provide resources for young people living with cancer and other life threatening conditions to connect with a new sense of purpose. It’s the sort of programme that defines a company’s outlook and brand qualities; this could so easily be adapted into a cost-effective CSR or community-based scheme. All it takes is a number of bold and imaginative digital entrepreneurs who believe in a cause that’s based on the principle of ‘let’s cherish creativity to counter cancer’.

Paul Leonard is a leading expert in sponsorship and brand marketing who believes there is a tremendous opportunity for companies to get involved with creative healthcare programmes. To find out more about Paul’s work visit itswriteforyou.wordpress.com or www.facebook.com/itswriteforyou