Firstly I would like to thank John for inviting me to write this piece, and like to think that what has happened to me in my life will encourage you to follow your dreams at whatever stage you’re at in your own.
At school I always felt the odd man out, as I never fitted into a convenient mould for what I wanted to do for a career. As all my pals went to university, I had no idea what I wanted to do and took the first job I was offered, which was in the local supermarket. Quickly promotions came and within a few years I became Assistant Store Manager, earning more than my educated friends.
But I became bored again, and was offered a job as a rep, selling ice cream to shops in South London. Within a year I had become the best salesman in the country for that company, but I couldn’t see where I could progress.
Very soon, a friend of mine offered me a job as a Salesman in his fabric business, a totally new challenge which kept me motivated. I started to earn money like I had never seen and began taking my family on expensive holidays around the world. Everything I touched turned to gold and my reputation grew quickly. I was in demand and decided to work for myself.
A friend of mine approached me and we decided to work together to create a business from nothing, by combining our resources and knowledge. After several years we were turning over millions and were serving some of the biggest customers in the country. Therefore I have always believed there is nothing I cannot achieve.
Then in 2007 I was diagnosed with stage IV Mantle Cell Lymphoma, an incurable blood cancer. My prognosis was poor, six months at the most. I was given aggressive chemotherapy and required a matched stem-cell donor from Anthony Nolan. My luck continued as firstly I went into remission and then a 100% matched donor was found for me in London.
I managed to survive my transplant, and made it out of hospital, but I had become a shadow of the man I was, on all counts. I had lost a lot of weight and barely had enough energy to walk. Then followed a very complex few years where my compromised immune system got infection after infection, and I nearly died on several occasions.
My health had become unreliable and after so long out of work it became impossible to return. Although physically I was a wreck my mind was still active and I wanted to do something to give something back, and help others like me. It was a strange feeling being in a sector where no one knew me.
My dream was to help as many people around the world as I could, and people smiled at me kindly. But my business skills meant that I knew how best to go about achieving that. I started speaking at conferences but my unreliable health made that difficult, then friends helped me to start working on social media.
It is then that things really took off, people started to find out about my work and I started many collaborations with patients and healthcare professionals. I founded Chris’s Cancer Community which quickly gained traction, then followed with Facebook and Twitter (@christheeagle1). Now my work is read around the world, and I’m able to work with large healthcare organisations helping improve cancer support for others.
Living with cancer is proving extremely challenging, but my work helping others has given me an incredibly positive focus. I am contacted by many people around the world daily and my work has won numerous awards, I also get to meet many famous people. All of this is a far cry from my previous life.
Now I have a unique partnership ‘Your simPal,’ providing free calls/txts/data for people affected by cancer. We want to remove the isolation and economic issues that people can face at such a difficult time. We are already helping families across the UK and have been invited to launch our service in the US.
Surviving this cancer so far and creating an international cancer support service were dreams, added to the ones I had as a young man. I have always followed them and so far I haven’t gone far wrong!