Super Saturday. Wonderful Wednesday. Mardy Monday? The Olympics are back. And with it our once-every-four-years random patriotism and love for 50m rifle shooting and the dressage and curling (Winter Olympics. Obvs). We love curling. Sweep!! Sweeeeep!!
Why DO we buy into the Olympics so much?
Random selective patriotism? Boredom? A secret love of dancing horses?
Or maybe it's simple. It gives us a sense of society. Of community. Something to feel part of. To belong to. For those 3 weeks at least. Let's face it, our biggest fear - whether we acknowledge it or not - is isolation. Most things we do are to stave off that aching feeling of being alone in the world. We crave a team.
There is a me in team and I need to be part of it.
When I was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in 1995, I had a choice. Me or we?
When you're feeling like shit and you have that taste in your mouth that's like a cross between a rusty spoon and mild cow dung and you are too tired to sit up, let alone get out of bed, its very easy to cry inwardly 'WHY ME?' (Inward crying is less embarrassing than outward crying.)
But 'Why Me?' is pointless. It doesn't get you anywhere at all.
It's the ultimate in I. And being an 'I' and not a 'we' means that you will just have to deal with this life-threatening illness alone. And that surely can't be the best way of getting well. Retreating. Literally and figuratively. Those bastard cells inside you are not alone. There are millions of them. And they're having a whale of a time. They are having their own Olympics. And what a team they are. They are reigning champions in synchronised diving with the high-tariff 'mutating and dividing' dive their speciality. Tom Daley, eat your heart out!
'Why Me?' is also so debilitating.
You do have cancer.
Pondering on why you have it and whether someone pointed their big lottery finger and chose you is not only irrelevant and ridiculous but it will also eat away at your insides. And you already have that going on.
'Why Not Me' is:
• Much more fun.
• Much more empowering.
• Much more unique making.
It is also a much more revealing and rewarding conceit. Without the incongruous and intangible notion of 'be positive', 'why not me' injects you with positivity by stealth. It also alleviates some guilt, as you become the hero who saved someone else from that same fate.
I took one for the team. The cancer team
Or should I say the 'I don't have cancer, never will have cancer' team.
If only they knew, they would hold me aloft on their shoulders. Their shoulders - that lead to heads with hair on them.
• They would call me a hero.
• A prince among all men.
• Albeit a prince with an illness.
• But a prince nonetheless.
• I don't graduate to King unless I...
• Well anyway, Prince will do.
And 'why not me' is so much more even than that.
It's a celebration of the lottery of life. It's actually an affirmation of me. Of my ability to be able to cope with this mystery inside me.
And the moment you fill yourself with 'why not me', you are overflowing with that 2012 London Olympics spirit where everybody is your team-mate. Your bitterness has gone, and is replaced by a little bit of swaggery arrogance.
You ARE Bradley Wiggins.
Taking one for the team won't take away the gasping loneliness and panic you feel when you wake up at 3am and realise you are in hospital attached to multiple drips and that you have stage 4 cancer and couldn't feel more like a seven-year-old if you tried. But it will help you go back to sleep knowing you wrestled (Greco style) control back and created an environment where people want to be around you and actively enjoy being part of your team.
London 2012 was the longest group hug in history. A feeling all too quickly discarded. Four years on, our need for community is greater than ever and so we cling to the memory of Mo and Jessica and Usain and hope upon hope to get just a little bit of that spirit back. And even though it is fleeting as hell, that little bit of spirit does burst through the post Brexit pressure cooker and invest in us some modicum of hope.
After all, if a couple of young British synchronized divers can do it, Why Not Me?
If you want to learn more about Raz's book - 'Death and the Elephant: How Cancer Saved My Life'. go to https://unbound.com/books/death-and-the-elephant/
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