A Showdown At The Patient Corral

The patient experience can be a crazy thing. Often it is more emotional than we think and these feelings can come out at times that are absolutely not convenient. I remember when I had just been diagnosed with thyroid cancer. I thought I took the news pretty darn well. In the doctor’s office, I had been fine. However, out in the world it was a completely different matter. You may not be aware of this but cab drivers and cyclists have a deep abiding love for each other. Truly, we stop at red lights and take the opportunity to give each other affectionate and lingering hugs. Actually that is not really accurate. In fact, you could say that cab drivers and cyclists don’t get along at all. I was riding north on University Ave in Toronto (a major street with a ton of traffic on it) when a cab driver pulled up to me in the next lane and cut me off.

badass cyclist

(This is not me.)

I slammed on my brakes and came to a skidding stop; inches from his back bumper. We shared a few words with each other that were not “Happy Birthday”. Ordinarily that would have been it and we would have each gone our separate ways. But no! I was under the influence of a cancer diagnosis which was baking in my psyche like a bubbling toxic cake. Suddenly, my perceptions changed. The buildings of University Ave seemed to fall away and were replaced by the façade of main street from the old west town of tombstone. I stood facing the cab driver in tense silence. A tumble weed drifted by. The town bell clanged twelve times for noon.

cowboys

The cab driver spoke. “Draw!” I coiled all the rage I had into my throbbing right arm and like lightning I drew my six shooter from the holster strapped to my leg. I aimed down the barrel at my adversary and I realized…that I had completely lost my mind! There I was on University Ave in a shouting match with a cab driver. We were both filled with rage. Oh sure we had something to disagree about but no one was hurt and we both could have just got on with our day. But no, I had completely dove in to the conflict like this was the worst thing that had ever happened to me. Did I have the right to be angry? Sure! Was this the best way to handle it? Nope.

Somewhere in the depths of my brain a little voice sad “Rob, calm down! You’re acting like a maniac!” So I literally took a step back, got on my bike and went home. I’m sure that I would have handled it differently if I wasn’t completely shocked by having this thing called cancer, but I didn’t. It made me realize that sometimes we think we have dealt with something on an emotional level but our psyches need to catch up with our logical minds. This can make us do strange things, like think we’re Clint Eastwood on University Ave. Wherever you are and whatever your story is, hang in there and watch out for tumble weeds.

Clint Gif

The Hope For Today Cafe: New Episode! Gather Your Tribe Around You When You Are Sick

One thing is for certain, when we are having a hard time with cancer or any other tough disease we are going to need some help. But who do we get help from? The people we are closest to? Sometimes..and sometimes not.

Every notice when you are sick (or someone you love is sick) that the people you think you can count on are actually different than the folks who help you the most? I know! Its weird right?

How do we deal with that?

Is it OK to ask for help?

Well, I am kind of in love with this episode of The Hope For Today Cafe. In this podcast my good friend Deborah Kimmett and myself wax funny about how to gather your tribe around you when you are sick. Please give it a listen and share!

10 CC’s of Happiness- Stat!

happiness

I’ve been thinking about happiness a lot lately. It might seem a bit odd to be talking about happiness in a blog that sometimes deals directly to living with cancer. Ridiculous even. Point taken. Living with cancer can be one of the biggest challenges we face over the course of our lives, so where  does happiness fit in? Well, I had cancer a few years ago now and one thing I noticed during all of the tests and treatments and time for recovery was that life goes on for us and those we care about. The journey is often a marathon and not a sprint. So, if we can help ourselves find even small moments of happiness or even an afternoon of feeling good on this journey, we deserve it! The big question of course is “How?” How can we squeeze a bit of happiness out of this strange time of our lives? Heck maybe ‘Happiness” is too big a goal, maybe just “feeling a bit better” is a more reachable target. Either way, there are very simple things we can do to help make it happen.

#1 Spend some time in nature.

Spending time in nature has been shown to improve our mood quite dramatically. In a major study, Trent University Researcher Dr. Elizabeth Nisbet, found that people who spent time in nature on a regular basis felt much happier and as a bonus watched less TV. Do you have to do something dramatic like white water rafting or fly through the air in one of those squirrel suits? No! Just spending some time in a park or ravine or on a nature trail will do just fine.

#2 Write down a list of things that you are thankful for.

Keeping a gratitude Journal or even making a list of things that you are thankful for can have a very significant impact on how you feel. Again, you might have to dig a bit deeper considering the circumstances, but if you start small you might end up with a pretty good list. For instance when I make a gratitude list my most recent cup of coffee is usually the first item and then I go from there. At the University of California at Davis, psychologist Robert Emmons found that having a gratitude journal helped improve the mood of participants as well as increased their tolerance to pain. Isn’t that something? So what are you thankful for? Coffee? Lunch? The latest episode of Game of Thrones?

3: Your Favourite Music.

Can you remember your favorite song right now? The song that gets you completely cranked up, can pull you out of a dark mood and make you dance like a maniac even if you’re doing your taxes?  Me too. In fact, I remember being 13 years old at the top of a ski hill that I was terrified of and listening to Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll” in my head to get the courage to ski down.

Once again the benefits of music are backed up by science. Music can be a very wonderful tool in helping us to feel happier in our daily lives, moment to moment.

In an article published in The Huffington Post called “The Happiness Habits of Exuberant Human Beings” they state that

“Over a three month period, researchers from the Group Health Research Institute found that patients who simply listened to music had the same decreased anxiety symptoms as those who got 10 one hour-long massages.

So, feeling a bit down? Play your favourite song or if you’re really ambitious create a playlist of tunes that makes you feel good and you’re well on your way to having a tool that is scientifically proven to help you feel better.

We often think about finding happiness as one of those things that might be impossible especially when going through one of life’s greatest challenges, but by using even the simplest of techniques (that are backed up by science!) we can just maybe make this journey a bit easier and feel a bit better along the way.

New Podcast! How To Talk With Your Friends When They Get Sick (and keep your sense of humour)

Here is the latest from The Hope For Today Cafe!  My good friend Deborah Kimmett and I have some thoughts on how to talk to your friends and family when they’re sick and need some support. As usual, we yuck it up a bit.

Hope you are really well wherever and whenever you are!

The Hope For Today Cafe

FullSizeRender (4)Here it is, the official release of The Hope For Today Cafe. My good friend Deborah Kimmet and I put our comedic heads together and came up with a podcast that offers a bit of Hope and Humour for people going through cancer. If you or someone you know is going through a tough time then we made the Hope For Today Cafe for you.

We are going to bring you funny, insightful content that is meant for folks gong through a tough time in their lives.

Its really strange being on a cancer journey.  Sometimes you feel so alone, even if you have great support from family and friends (like I did-thanks family and friends!). The ironic think is even though we feel alone on our journey, there are so many people who are facing similar circumstances and similar challenges. So, Deb and I thought,  “Wait a second! why don’t we create content that is funny and actually deals with the issues that people go through on a journey with cancer? What if we did stuff for caregivers?  What if we ate more steak?”

(OK, that last bit is mine)

We had several cups of coffee, began recording and now we have the first episode of our podcast ready to go. we’d love for you to give it a listen and heck even comment on it. Let us know what you think! Want to hear us cover a topic?  Let us know!

Full steam ahead. Straight on ’till morning.

Kaboom! Let’s Hear it!

Adventures In The Hope Workshop

hope

I am standing in front of a group of people who are at various stages of dealing with cancer. We have come together for something called “The Hope Workshop” and because this was the first time I had presented it, I was more than a bit nervous. No one was laughing at my jokes and if I tried, I could probably hear crickets.

Everyone looks really serious and concerned.

They listen as I talk about what is going to happen. How we are going to laugh, how we are going to share “the wisdom in the room”, how we are going to do exercises to help us feel good. It feels a bit like the atmosphere on the first day of school and I must admit that I am a bit nervous and excited. The Hope Workshop has begun.

The next two and a half hours fly by, if you have ever been on stage in front of an audience or ridden a bike at high speed or heck, done anything that is truly engaging; then you know what it’s like to give yourself to something in the moment and just run with it. That’s what it’s like in The Hope Workshop. A group of people come together and very quickly become comfortable with each other. Complete strangers laugh, share stories and share vulnerability.

Quicker than I think possible this disparate bunch has become a group of friends that is eager to help each other. Suggestions come fast and furious and I try to capture them all with an old school sharpie on a flipchart. People are eager to share what they have learned on their “journey with cancer”.

Before I know it, the group leaps ahead of me  and tackles issues I didn’t even know were on the table. I try to look like a calm workshop leader as someone shares an insight on a challenge that very few of us have faced. I am in awe of the life changing collaboration that’s happening right in front of me.

At the end of the night, folks tell me that they feel happier, lighter, that they even learned something. They thank me, which feels a bit odd because quite frankly, they helped each other with
their insights, courage, and bravery.

What an amazing week !

I was remarkably fortunate  to perform for and meet some remarkable people in the last while. The University Health Network Nursing Forum was kind enough to ask me to be a keynote speaker twice. I must admit that as an actor having the chance to reform is always a pleasure, hitting the stage at 8:15 AM two days in a row is a bit of a challenge and involves, for me at least, a good dose of caffeine. My talk  Adventures In Patient Centred Care, was very well received and I got to meet some remarkable nurses who shared their stories with me. My sincere thanks to Carolyn McPhee, Joy Richards, Nadine Cross and everyone at UHN Nursing.

The mighty Gord Oxley accompanied me during the second performance and provided some awesome technical support.

Humber River Regional Hospital had invited me to perform for nurses week as well and I was thrilled to get the chance to follow Joy Richards on stage. In addition to Adventures in Patient Centered Care, I also performed selections from NormVsCancer. It was an absolute blast to perform NormVsCancer again. There were 200 very enthusiastic and generous people in the audience. Once again I was blown away by the honesty, integrity and positive energy of the folks I was presenting to. Medical professionals shared their personal stories with me afterwards, not just as folks working in healthcare, but as people who are patients with our own struggles, challenges and victories. It was remarkably moving to be a part of it.

Wherever you are and whatever your story is, I wish you the best.

Rob

Hey Everyone! So glad to do a signing at Mount Sinai today. It was a blast to meet olks and sign some books. Funny it was almost 6 years ago to do the day that I had surgery in this hospital. Funny how life works. Hope your day is awesome.

Invitation to a Book Signing this Friday (Feb. 3rd)

 

Hello Everyone, I am thrilled to do a book signing this Friday in Toronto.

Love to see you there…just come on out and say hello.

Here are the detes..

Robert Hawke will be signing copies of his acclaimed book
Kicking Cancer’s Ass: A Light-Hearted Guide to the Fight of Your Life,
Friday February 3rd from noon until 2 pm.
Indigo Spirit, Mount Sinai Hospital, Main Floor

Meet the Author!

For more information contact Robert Hawke at robhawke@gmail.com