When I was 17 I was diagnosed with leukemia, a deadly blood cancer.
This blog is a story of my journey through it all and shows how I've managed to stay happy and healthy to this day.
I'm also a medical student - so I hope my experiences from both sides of the doctor patient relationship can inspire you to be the best person you can be.
Be sure to subscribe via email and share this to help others!
At this stage I was ready. I'd taken a step back from the depression and shock of diagnosis. I'd questioned all my doubts and fears and was now focusing on being as healthy and as happy as possible. The only things I could control.
I'd locked myself up in my room, told my friends and family to meet me after the first round was done. Chemo brings your immunity down to virtually zero. I couldn't afford to even risk getting the sniffles at that point.
My mind was ready for the ordeal. My attitude perfectly tuned towards getting through this thing, as those who've heard or read my story would know.
But I still feeling alone... I still missed my friends.
It was my last year of high school...
Even if I did get through this, who knows if I'd ever get to see them again?
And then one magical evening, on the night of the State of Origin (the Superbowl of Australia for those non-Aussie readers), just before the chemo was about to take effect, my school mates payed me a surprise visit.
It was the best surprise ever.
For someone who's likely only gonna see the faces of doctors, nurses and family for the next 6 months to a year... this was the best gift possible.
For you guys reading this... I hope this highlights the power of just saying "Hi". To someone who's doing it tough, to the odd kid sitting alone at lunch, or to your parents who you haven't called in a few months. Pick up that phone, or open up that tab and message them now.
Because seeing my friends there, getting to act as if nothing was happening... even for a few moments... that made me believe that I would get through this and see them again.
And that's the best gift I've EVER been given.
But they also brought along another gift...
Before the gang left the room after chilling for an hour, Isnad, a good friend, a good man; the boy on the right, turned to me and whispered,
"Check out what's in the bag."
I opened it up.
Lo and behold...
A Playboy Magazine.
We burst into laughter. Typical High school boys.
But then I realised, "Shit! What if mum sees this??"
And then Dad came to the 'rescue'.
"Here, son. I'll hide it for you."
Needless to say... I never saw that magazine again...
That phrase. We hear it all the time; usually from the mouths of music stars who've just had the horrifying ordeal of being booed, or copping backlash on social media for arriving 30 minutes late to a concert...
But Criticism is something we all face.
Whether it be a demand for more productivity from a boss, the tongue lashing from a dissatisfied parent or the ravings often found in arguments over controversial issues between people, sometimes even friends, on the internet.
And most people don't cope with it well.
I mean it's ingrained into us, the fight or flight response. And we too often resort to it in social interactions, as well as in the face of imminent physical damage.
And when that criticism is taken to heart, it's especially dangerous. The violent outbursts in physical encounters too often over male pride are only the tip of the iceberg. The emotional damage we too often put on ourselves when we believe, or stress over the hurtful words of others is often worse and longer lasting than any injuries you may be able to sustain in a fight.
I've faced that sort of criticism and bullying in my past. I remember, as a child, being teased at school for my size. I was a, as Gabrielle Iglesias would put it, "fluffy" child... and for a long time I used to dread seeing the faces of those bullies at school.
But my mother told me one day, "Next time you call them that... call them "thin sticks". Call them weak."
And I did. And after a while it worked. I teased those bullies back, and they stopped.
As I grew older, into my teens, as any teen does, I'd argue with my parents. They'd tell me, you're lazy, you're disorganised, you're shouldn't be playing games instead of studying.
And I'd get angry. I'd run away and curse them behind their back.
When I'd get a bad result in school, I'd immediately question it. When I got into arguements on YouTube about who the best Basketball team was, I'd maintain it was the Lakers... no matter how many games they'd lost the last season. I'd start hurling insults at them, belittling their intelligence, their grammar, in more heated discussions, questioning their mother's fidelity.
How could I be wrong?
But it became most dangerous when I started letting it get to me. And I realised the effect other peoples' views can have at you most after I got cancer.
As I got out of hospital, I was no longer my 6'2'' handsome, strong self. Instead I was bald, I had patches of ghastly white on my brown skin, my face had swollen up from all the medications to the size and shape of a basketball. And I was self-conscious as hell. Even more than most teenagers are in their decade long, hormone-driven insecurity. It wasn't even actual confrontation, criticism or hate that brought my self-esteem down. It was the the lingering gaze, the off look and, too often, My Own Mind that spawned that crushing self-doubt. That imagined fear of others' judgements isn't confined to the minds of cancer patients, depressed souls or minorities. It's something almost all of us feel at some point. We worry so much about what others think of us that we too often forget to live our lives ourselves. I talked about this, and how I got over that, in a previous blog post (click here to read that), but essentially, all I did was take a step back and question WHY I was letting that all get to me. And it's when I did that that I realised that, in the end, most of it was me imagining those judgements... and that even for those who did think badly of me... why should I stop myself from being happy and doing what I wanted for their ignorance of who I really was? That's how I got over it. It didn't take extraordinary bursts of inner will or strength, or me accomplishing something crazy to affirm myself that I was a good person... all it took was some introspection of myself, and my actions. That's something ANYONE reading this can do to get past their own self doubt... But when it comes to criticisms of our ideas, our work, our actions... when we're not being personally criticised... it's hard to cope. When I got those bad marks on essays in school and university, when my arguments and beliefs were challenged, when people told me my ambitions to try and help as many people as possible through writing and speaking wasn't the best use of my talent... I immediately dismissed their criticism.
I thought to myself, "What do they know?" and kept going, and doing my own thing. That sort of reaction is, again, natural to us. When our work and our ideas are challenged, we either walk away from it, unchanged or else think "What idiots!". But after a while, I started thinking about that reaction we all seem to have too...
And it was my Dad, who I don't always agree with, who gave me some solid advice on that too.
He told me, "When I'm at
work, presenting a new proposal... I always do my first presentation early on.
Before the idea is even fully formed and perfected.
I let people tear it to shreds,
point out the flaws, why it's a horrible idea, why it won't work... But instead of taking that personally... I go
back to the drawing board and figure out how to solve the issues that actually
And the next time I go and
present my idea... It's bulletproof. Or else, if they're right, and it's a
horrible idea, it's a completely new proposal."
Instead of fixating on one idea,
instead of believing, blindly, that his idea is the only correct one - he takes
others' criticisms on board, he doesn't take it personally, and he uses it to GROW and BETTER his idea.
Now THAT's how we should deal
That's how we should deal with
So next time you hand in an
assignmentor a proposal, the next time
you find yourself being told by your boss, a stranger or your friends that you're
not motivated, reliable, or wrong;
instead of stooping to their level and labelling them as "stupid"
"know-nothing" "nincompoops" - use it to make yourself and
your ideas EVEN BETTER.
What better way to stick it to
your haters? It won't happen straight away.
You won't go from yourself to a super-new motivated person
overnight. It'll take time. You may need to get help. Whether it be from a
friend, a psychologist, or Me (I'm happy to talk to anyone going through tough
times - be it here, on my Facebook page or through my email at
If you're being confronted or being blindly hated because they want to bring you down... I've learned you've just gotta walk away. A guy was commenting on my YouTube video... hateful... horrible things that you wouldn't say to anyone. Accusing me of being a terrorist. Wishing for my cancer to come back. For a while, I was gobsmacked. Who would say that to someone? Then I was bemused... but even though I was laughing at his ignorance as I typed away at him, arguing with him for a while... in the back of my mind... it ate away at me for a few days. I learnt then that with those special assholes out there, those who just want to see the world burn, who just wanna bring you down... the best thing to do is just smile and walk away.
That smile will eat at them, instead of your frown eating away at you. So don't let it get to you.
Now, if you can't just walk away... if you're getting bullied or
abused physically or sexually, if you're finding yourself struggling to grow
from constant criticisms or see past your own flaws... even if this verbal, or self-abuse has been
going on for a while... this won't be that easy - you may well need help.
not weak for doing that. You're actually pretty strong. You're not snitching...
You're not in the wrong. THEY are. If something is bothering you -
do contact the appropriate agencies and get help.