What is it like to experience cancer from a loved one’s perspective? In the War On Cancer Take Over of the week Sebastian Hermelin, co-founder and best friend, shares what it was like to stand on the side while his friend Fabian Bolin went through cancer.
In 2015 my life changed because of cancer without me being diagnosed. Instead my best friend Fabian, whom I shared a flat with in London, had gone from being tired for a couple of weeks to being diagnosed with Leukemia, blood cancer. I remember when I got the text message “Hey guys, I’ve got some bad news. I’ve got Leukemia, talk to you later…“. I thought that my best friend was going to die.
Little did I know back then that this would have a profound effect not only on Fabian but also on me. During the first months we spoke on the phone every day. Not because Fabian wanted my support but because I needed his. I needed to hear that he was doing ok. But even though he stayed positive throughout this journey, I was negative – because I thought I knew what cancer meant. Fabian was given a 60-70% chance of surviving. 2-3 months into his chemotherapy I started reading Fabian’s blog where he wrote about everything that he went through, both physically and mentally. By taking part of his experience this way l learned that the most helpful thing I could do as a friend was to treat Fabian as Fabian and not as a victim or a patient. It was hard to do at first but it resulted in us getting closer to each other and we could actually support each other. Throughout this experience, we together co-founded War On Cancer in an attempt to share our experience of how storytelling can help not only someone that is diagnosed with cancer but also the people around him or her (me). Needless to say I found and identified my life’s mission through my best friend being diagnosed with cancer. At least this goes to show that cancer doesn’t have to be all that bad – even though for many it still is.
The elephant in the room can disappear if you listen
“Since we started working with War On Cancer I’ve learned a lot about myself but also about others going through cancer. Cancer doesn’t discriminate based on who you are or where you’re from and it affects every single person in a different way. However, I truly believe that whatever situation you’re in, there is a way to make it better. There is a way to find meaning in something that seems meaningless and “the void” that everyone feels every now and then, can only be filled by truly valuable actions – like helping, giving, reaching out to support or by creating something with purpose and meaning.
If there is one thing that I know worked on my mission to become a better support to Fabian, it was realizing just that. I can only support and I shouldn’t try to fix “the problem”. The distinction is that I make myself available for what Fabian needs without feeling the burden of not being or doing enough.
I wouldn’t argue that you should act as if nothing happened because there is obviously an elephant in the room. But the elephant quickly disappears if you talk to each other and perhaps more importantly – listen.”