Cancer isn’t a dirty word

26 to 30 January 2015 is Macmillan Cancer Talk Week, so I thought I would share my recent personal experience of having to deal with cancer.

Nothing can prepare you for the moment you are told ‘it’s probably cancer’ but hopefully by sharing my experience others may be encouraged to talk about theirs and help prevent the feelings of isolation many often have when impacted by cancer.

Cancer isn't a dirty word

Last year I was diagnosed with testicular cancer, initially I had an overwhelming feeling of numbness – I mean emotionally, not literally of course, though that may be a side effect for some! Once the numbness subsides, you go through a daunting myriad of emotions.

Looking back, here’s a brief summary of how I (think!) I got through it.

Hope

My personal faith, something I don’t tend to shout about, played a vital role. I always believed I wasn’t without hope, no matter what the ultimate outcome – this may sound trite now but it was my truth.

My church was brilliant both pastorally and practically – I have never eaten so well in the two weeks after surgery thanks to the endless deliveries of food.

I am blessed to be surrounded by lots of amazing family (particularly my wife) and friends – having a strong support network was essential, I didn’t go through it on my own that’s for sure.

I also have a young son, and you can’t help but be lifted out of any dark places when confronted by the humour and innocence of a 23 month old.

Distraction was vital, particularly during what felt like endless periods of waiting for test results.

Dylan, enjoying the outdoors and splashing in a puddle

Our son Dylan, taken around the day of my diagnosis – one of our approaches was to get out and do as many things as possible to distract ourselves.

My sister is a Doctor, so it was great to have really frank and honest discussions with her about what was happening. ‘If you’re going to get one cancer this is the one to get’ was her standout comment.

Ironically, given the name of this blog post I also found it very useful to heed my doctors’ advice and to think of the cancer simply as a growth which needed to be removed.

Humour

I have a dry sense of humour and trying to make people laugh is often my go-to coping mechanism. And boy does testicular cancer offer plenty of opportunities!

I think that if I’m willing to laugh about it others soon realise they can too. Potentially embarrassing or uncomfortable situations are relaxed and an open conversation can usually ensue.

The funniest moment throughout the whole experience however was as the result of what someone else said.

Me sporting a Movember moustache

A #Movember selfie, something I guess I’ll have to do every year now!

During a very serious chat with a brilliant fertility specialist who was explaining the intricacies of sperm production he uttered the immortal ‘You stop producing sperm after about three days, because of course if you didn’t your balls would be dragging along the floor’. At that precise moment we had locked eyes and both burst into fits of giggles, the type from which you think you’ll never recover. Luckily we did and the rest of the conversation had a much more relaxed feeling.

The Future

My prognosis is good – thanks to the amazing care of the NHS I won’t need chemo, I will instead have regular tests to make sure the cancer hasn’t returned.

I know my story isn’t over though, so if you want to talk and ask any questions about my experience (no matter how embarrassing) please do.

I may be a geek….

…but that doesn’t mean I know everything about things with wires.

I was reading this comic from theOatmeal.com which illustrate really well what happens when people find out you work with computers.

It also shows peoples un-willingness to learn, for some reason, people have a mental-block to getting to grips with the tool that (i would estimate) over 50% of us now use on a daily basis at work. In 2005/2006 65 per cent of UK households owned a home computer [1], this must be well over 70% now. Why are all but the few (who are derided as ‘geeks’) willing to get to grips with using computers?

Is it to do with their usability or how complicated they are perceived to be? How many of the endless number of features do you use in Word or Excel for example?

I have often suggested Microsoft creates a Word light, containing only the basic features and formatting options, in particular it could do away with the fonts option and ‘force’ people to use styles.

Anyway, it is nearly Christmas so I’ll stop my moaning and wish you all a happy New Year. God Bless. Here’s an image to get you in the christmas spirit:

[1] National Statistics News Release 18 January 2007: http://www.statistics.gov.uk/pdfdir/efs0107.pdf [PDF document, 130KB]

Lift accessibility

I’m a bit of a stickler when it comes to the accessibility of web sites and don’t really get too tired explaining to people why a PDF of a scanned-in document is a no-no. I always assumed that the accessibility of web-sites was still in its relative infancy compared to other industry’s.

Take lifts (elevators!) for example, according to wikipedia:

The first reference to an elevator is in the works of the Roman architect Vitruvius, who reported that Archimedes built his first elevator, probably in 236 B.C.

Yes, you read that right, the lift was invented in 236 B.C.

Obviously lift technology has moved on somewhat and advances and additions have been made over the years since 236BC. Once such advancement is the addition of the audible announcement of the direction of travel, door status and floor position. The reason for this is for visually impaired lift users, who cannot see the electronic display indicating where and in which direction the lift is traveling.

In our building we’ve recently had some of our lifts replaced, it is these new lifts that I have noticed a change in the order of the announcements. They start by announcing the direction of travel and floor number before the lift doors have opened. The only people who can hear these announcements are the people already in the lift, surely they’re much more useful to the people who may be getting on the lift.

I’m probably being a bit picky but I would have thought lifts would come with a standard configuration which had been tested.

Have we learnt nothing in over 2000 years of lift design?

Content owner apathy

[Rant alert.]

My focus is mostly Intranets, however I sit next to our Web Team so often hear their grumblings of discontent, therefore I fairly confident what I am about to write translate to the world wide web as well.

We rely on subject experts to create and write content, often these subjects experts are policy officials with little understanding of what makes valuable web content. Most of the time, publishing content on the Intranet (or web) is a box ticking exercise and something done at the last minute. Very rarely do they think about the web when they are formulating and beginning to write their new policy. Often when you tell them about how people want web content and read the web you are treated to a sigh and a roll of the eyes and told to just ‘publish the content’.

Content owners often give the excuse that they’re too busy and hard pressed to worry about accessibility, well structured content and the user goals of people looking at their content. They’re apathetic to the concerns of us webmasters!

The result: a sprawling website of inconsistent, unstructured content which is too long to read and a nightmare to search and navigate. And who gets the blame for said poor website? That’s right, us webmasters.

[End of rant.]