What do you say? (by Nikki Shah)


It’s an interesting question…

What do you think you would do if your colleague came to work tomorrow and told you they had cancer?

What do you think you would say?

How would you feel?

When Mike was diagnosed, I feel I went into autopilot, I just did what I needed to do, not realising how exhausted I was because I was running on constant adrenaline. And no, not that adrenaline that I would get from being attached to my snowboard, or surfing but the one where you know you just can’t give up because of another human being. Maybe this is what it feels like when you have children, maybe this is what Mike was thinking in his mind. He couldn’t give up for his 7 year old son. 

I wouldn’t say that work was my escape but it gave me a sense of belonging , allowing me to still feel I was heading towards my goals and achievements, it was also a place I could go to and be me, be Nikki . Laugh, joke, drink, eat yummy lunches and spend time building relationships with my colleagues and clients, something that was very important to me.  I would talk about what was happening to my clients and I do feel it meant we started to build a very different and honest relationship. I tried to talk to my colleagues too but, honestly most wouldn’t really want to hear about anything that had the word Cancer in it, people would rather hear what party you went to that weekend, or would just try and change the subject. This always put me in a difficult situation, I just wanted to be able to talk to people about my life, my whole life, and this was part of my life now. 

Whether I was at work or in a social situation, no-one wanted to talk about this huge aspect of my life. The response was always “I’m so sorry,” then quickly the topic would change. It felt really lonely at times, to be honest most of the time, apart from when I was with Mike. Even though he was going through copious amounts of treatment, recovering, in pain or having tests all the time, we talked, we talked about motorbikes, snowboarding, beaches, boats, going to Boots Darling (if you couldn’t find Mike at home or hospital, not just his favourite cafe, this was his next home, I think he probably gave them half their revenue!). We also talked about what scared us, our fears, about the cancer. We laughed, watched Netflix, listened to music, watched crazy YouTube clips, talked about our day honestly with each other, talked about our dreams and aspirations, the holidays we wanted to go on, what the future could be. We were normal but the rest of my world around me wasn’t.  

Even when Mike passed away the conversations did not change, people just didn’t want to acknowledge or talk about it. I become quite conformable telling people about my situation, but found that it was not normally received in a way other than shock and disbelief, followed by once again changing the subject.

One area that I feel is important to address moving forwards is how we actually deal with this information, how we process it and how we help others in difficult situations. With the likes of social media and mobile phones, real-life human interaction is becoming harder and harder for some of us, and when faced with difficult times, we just don’t know how to deal with it.

So here are the questions again, have your answers changed at all?

What would do if you colleague came to work tomorrow and told you they had cancer?

What would you say?

How would you feel?

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