Clive Lewis is changing lives one cup of coffee at a time—he’s using his experience with cancer to bring a smile, offer hope and, as softly as possible, change others’ view of what they can be, even when they are fighting for their lives. He shares his story below:
One of the most important things I taught my children was that everything we say and do either gives something or takes something from someone, so offer your best at all cost and don’t focus on outcome. I had no idea all those years ago how important that phrase or mantra would become to me as I have been fighting cancer. So in the simplest of ways I am trying to change the world, someone’s world, with a kind word, a simple smile or a free cup of coffee as often as possible.
In early 2014 I realised something wasn’t quite right. I was growing more and more tired as the days and weeks passed by, and within a very short period of time I had hot sweats and a gentle but persistent cough developed. Adding to my worries, I noticed that as the cough became more intense it was starting to trigger my body to want to vomit. These symptoms seemed to build in frequency and intensity until one day I was driving to a meeting and I had a slight coughing fit which in a few moments triggered my body to start vomiting. This vomiting came on so quickly and violently I was unable to slow down fast enough and my vision was so bad that I hit the car in front of me. At this point I said to myself “That’s it, enough is enough.” I staged a polite yet purposeful sit-in at my GP’s medical centre. Out of pure luck I was able to see the director of the clinic and I said, “I’m not moving until you find out what’s wrong.”
I was packed off to a lung specialist and a chest CT scan followed in quick succession. During this somewhat routine scan a rather large cancerous kidney was found. This tumour had all but taken over the kidney and was so big it was starting to push against my diaphragm. I underwent immediate surgery.
To keep moving forward after such an event I had to learn to manage my expectations and not just give in to the situation. It is so very important to just step up and keep trying, and if we fail or fall over then we must be kind to ourselves and not berate ourselves or beat ourselves up. Have you ever heard that old saying “How do you eat an elephant? One mouthful at a time”?
I went about my day-to-day activities, setting small but achievable goals, and within six weeks I was back in the gym even though the scar from my kidney surgery was still weeping. Prior to surgery I had been bench pressing 36 kilogram dumbbells in each hand, and as I stepped back into the gym for the first time I found it very humbling to lift as little as four kilogram dumbbells.
In November 2014 I had that horrible sick feeling once more. Yet another cancer was found in my right lung, and in May 2015 I had further lung surgery. I was back in the gym within three days of this operation and striving to regain my life and sense of purpose.
As time went by my life started to balance out once more, until March 2016 when those all familiar feelings came back to me. After a quick dash to my trusted doctor I was issued another CT scan and to my dismay new cancers were found in my body, five in my lungs and another in my pelvic bone. Unfortunately, the location and number of these new cancers meant I was not able to have them removed by surgery.
My care team informed me my lifespan was now very uncertain, and even short. It was a battle to come to terms with terrible news like this. Shocks of this nature shake you to your very core, and this news was another opportunity to learn to enjoy my time and to appreciate the people around me for what they are, when they are what they are, which is really important.
I’ve learned that only one thing is bigger than life itself and that is the desire for it. We perceive life in a different way as we get older, and when life offers you a couple of kicks you start to understand what it’s all about. The more you think about and fight for a quality life the more valuable it becomes. That’s when you get a very real understanding of your own perception of life and what it means to you.
It took me 44 years to find my true sense of me, my sense with my life, my sense of balance with money, and my place in the world, with work and with friends.
The lesson I’ve learned is simple: enjoy every moment.
I was driving down the road with my lovely partner and she said to me, ‘You don’t talk that much at the moment.’ I said, ‘Just look outside—stop and look outside at how beautiful it all is. Stop looking at the car in front of you and raise your eyes two foot to the blue sky, you see, love, It’s about perception. See what you want to see, and then the world is yours. She said, ‘Yes, I get you, but can I ask how else do you get through this?’ I said, ‘You find the good in everything.’
There is good in everything, literally everything.
This is reflected in my being able to give a cup of coffee away at will to a stranger. The purpose of this action is to change their expectations of the world, their world, and make them smile. After all, the world is a little take, take, take; but I think a community is built on selfless giving. From my perspective making a stranger smile is a wonderful feeling so what more could I ask for?