Spreading the Word

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Coming off stage after my speech at the Hilton Hotel March 2010
After giving up teaching in April 2008 I was left in a void, struggling without something meaningful to do. Cancer charity Tenovus phoned me up one day and asked whether I’d be interested in speaking briefly on the radio about the effects of heating bills and the impact upon cancer patients. I had never done anything like this before so I thought it would be a great idea to get the message across to a wider audience. The radio interview very quickly became a TV interview with BBC Wales and that’s how my new role as Tenovus Ambassador started.

With Jackie and Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen
I’ve never had a problem talking about my cancer. I know some cancer patients do which I fully appreciate, but I've always felt there are so many barriers which remain between the public’s perception of cancer and the reality. In my own small way I've tried to dispel some of the myths surrounding the treatment and given advice on how to overcome some of the many pitfalls that people encounter during the course of their illness.

Over the last four years I have spoken on Radio Cymru, BBC Radio Wales, S4C, BBC Wales, ITV Wales and at quite a few public events. I get very tense and nervous beforehand but I always feel fine once I start. I don’t know why, it’s just the way I am.

The BBC Wales documentary following the Sing for Life choir was a very uplifting experience,  not just for myself but for all concerned. Even being on stage at the Hilton in Cardiff in front of 200 people, and being filmed by the BBC delivering a speech alongside Jackie and Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen didn’t worry me too much. I felt it important to convey, not just my feelings, but the feelings of others I had known who were in a similar situation at the time.

Speaking with Claudia McVie at the Senedd.
I felt very strongly about my question and answer session with Tenovus Chief Executive Claudia McVie at the Senedd (the National Assembly building) this year when speaking in front of the First Minister Carwyn Jones and Health Minister Lesley Griffiths. Those were the ideal times to tell people how I felt and had benefitted from the wonderful work that cancer charities like Tenovus do.

It was a great privilege and honour to speak at the Tenovus St. David’s Day Dinner at Sophia Gardens this year. My nerves were literally shredded before I took to the stage in front of 500 people but my talk went down very well. I just hope the small amount I say will touch someone and make them feel that all the good work people do in the field of cancer research really does help.

It’s been a privilege to meet some wonderful celebrities over the years who have given their time freely to help further this cause and I hope I will carry on doing this for as long as I possibly can.

Having dinner with Rory Bremner. Tenovus St David's Day Dinner, Swalec Stadium, March 2011
The last time I was in hospital having an operation was November 2nd 2011. Even whilst lying wide awake on an operating table with my neck open to the world my consultant told me how important it was to talk as openly as possible about cancer and it’s many effects. He told me this as he felt it would also break down the barrier between people like himself and the first time cancer patient bravely taking that first step into the unknown.

Cancer is an awful thing to have but I feel it deeply important that people who want to discuss it can do so without the stigma felt by the mere word itself. Understanding palliates the paralysis that the word cancer causes. As many have said before me, ‘Cancer is a word, not a sentence’.

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