EPISODE 8: WHAT IS CANCER? HOW CREATIVITY HELPS TOBY SHARE HIS STORY
Theatre maker and performer Toby Peach had an autologous stem cell transplant to treat Hodgkin Lymphoma when he was 19. Toby tells us how he turned his experience into the one-man show The Eulogy of Toby Peach, sharing his treatment and recovery story with humour and insight with audiences across the UK.
You can find out more about Toby on his website: www.tobypeach.co.uk
Full transcript (auto-generated)
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welcome to episode 8 of Anthony Nolan patient services team podcast
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And I'm the patient and family engagement coordinator Anthony Nolan through this we hope to provide you with different
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insights into the experiences of having a stem cell transplant.
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We'll be looking at what life can be like before during and after transplant as well as talking with healthcare
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professionals for advice and guidance.
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We will also hear from patients and family members who will share their personal stories and experiences with you. We hope
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you find this helpful and informative.
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Buy to eat as a creative Theatre maker performer and director at work includes the eulogy of Toby peach which is the story
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of tobit experience of Hodgkin's Lymphoma at the age of 19 and then again at the age of 21.
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Can we had an auto stem cell transplant and shares of experiences of self mortality through humour and honesty 10 years on
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to be now work for the rate of young people who are fat and uses art and Drama to express these poignant experiences and
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insightful and entertaining way.
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Here's a clip of Toby and action.
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What is the fastest sperm 270 days before the 9th of the 18th of December 1988?
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Is the night the 18th is in 9424 to 100?
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88 hours which is 13 million
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That time I spent about 180000.
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What's 172 episode?
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Star Trek next
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4000 minutes kissing which
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Not very much.
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It took me today.
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75 to make it to that first
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Play a game of spin the bottle.
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Where I deliver the line.
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After I finish kissing the girl.
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scouts in 9 years
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405 evenings learning about Notts
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Never got a not bad.
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a mum a dad and my brother Tom who is
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9800 hours were spent.
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I dressed up as a bandicoot one, so it's
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9 times by the same girl at school
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the age of 10
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I never told anyone.
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lowest diagnosed from cancer 2102000 minutes ago
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I'm still here.
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Will be chatting today about to experience his work and what he's up to now.
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Hello to thank you for coming onto the it's great to meet you and it's really inspiring inside of you to share your stuff
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having having a stem cell transplant. What brought you do that decision to tell your story.
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So it was maybe 3 years post-treatment and I was trying to understand a little bit more about what happened to me.
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I wrote this very short story actually maybe a I think it was like 5 minutes long.
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I was thinking a true story is a Battersea Arts Centre and I I wrote that about.
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The science of the stem cell transplant and in doing that and then researching I realised I had no idea what happened and
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then I start doing a little bit more research and I read the emperor of all maladies a biography of cancer in incredible
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credible book and again really just made me aware of going home now. This is a huge thing. I think I've kind of
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Stopped it off a little bit and I've been trying to.
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I'd like to know what what did happen and so looking at it and understanding and a bit and realising.
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What like I've had cancer and I don't know what it is for people who have not had cancer. How are they supposed to know
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what it is and particularly?
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I was really interested in where hope comes from and
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In learning quite a lot about how the signs of cancer.
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Is just you and this idea of cells replicating and the language that was being banned about about how I thought this thing
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and how brave I was just.
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The Premiership then going well actually I was fighting myself and rice.
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Saying that he was telling me I was doing was actually this rebellion and also.
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interested in going well actually if I didn't save myself because this thing happened to me my cells and replicated and
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then I was in an uncontrollable way actually then he did save me because
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What means that we have hope something?
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Ok, and then you went on to do the eulogy so.
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What means you go down that Avenue right? Yeah, so the eulogy kind of came about because
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This feeling of trying to paint that picture of like that I was I'm I'm a storyteller and I realise that telling stories
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about cancer is incredibly difficult and because so many people have connections to a bit also a lot of the time. We we
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see that word we hear their stories and no I don't want to talk about that. I don't want to talk about that and
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I think it's really important to talk about it. I think it's really important to clean as we go into a world where it's
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one in 2 people directly impacted by it so I was like how do I make how do I make story interesting and
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One of those things were going well actually I need to I need to make something entertaining. I need to make something
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that people are going to sit there and go as I'm talking about something very dark and there are moments of varied moments
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in it but actually the reality of going.
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there's a lot of lightness that comes from the like an experience of cancer and
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If I want people to listen and to have a conversation with an audience about that I have to make something that is going
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to make them feel comfortable uncomfortable at the right points obviously.
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have the moments where audiences are gonna laugh where they're going to engage with it when I'm going to connect with her
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kind of a story that that moves them as well and that's the wonders of and
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turn other art forms as well, but for me I would came from a theatre background and said that was kind of my way into it
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Edinburgh Fringe Festival with something I never thought about doing it seems like a long time ago that I did it was like
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for four years ago now something that went up and that was where you did you started and again? I'd never never been up
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there. I've never made a solo show before.
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Cute and the idea was that cancer is unfortunately. It's a terrible one man show when you play all the parts and so this
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premise of what cancer is and that show was looking to clear.
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The reality of the fight for telling me about and how I actually I played two characters in that show myself from one that
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looks incredibly like me and how they're kind of.
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They're like the conflict between them is the reality of my cancer diagnosis is how do you find the humour in at Tilbury
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for some patients? They find it really difficult to talk about. How do you find the humour in this store?
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the humour comes from the honesty and one of the things is never a joke at the expense of
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The the difficult moments as well, it's to look at how we make those difficult moments engaging so there are examples in
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that he there is some stuff about an affair with an IV stands and lots of people have relationships or IV stand had a
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blood cancer any most cancers. I guess and I built the store which was about how easy at my ID stand kind of girlfriend
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and how that relationship.
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And how she was this kind of bad influence on me that she shaved all my hair that we do drugs together and like but the
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reason why that the way to talk about it was to talk about loneliness and Cheryl about how a lot of time. You've spent on
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your own and you think about your mortality and
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hunting these things
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When your life I was 22 when I was kind of in that kind of reality I guess so.
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finding the way that somebody can
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understand what that might be about it's really important because unfortunately people aren't going to sit there and
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listen to me moan about cancer and I wouldn't want them to anyway so
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It's just finding a way to make it accessible. My guess is in the way you do that like your character to the ivy style and
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that's really cool and how do you find your audience response when you sell your story I think.
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Over the years there's been a real sense of understanding an audience wants from a cancer story and it's very difficult to
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anticipate and respond to it a lot of the time as well. There is a certain audience of choosing to come and see you so
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they show about cancer which is why perhaps theatre is.
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Is good and useful appointable also inaccessible in some ways as well because the difficulties in certain people coming to
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choose to see that show it's really difficult when Netflix is so.
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had incredible responses years ago on I've been I am feel very privileged about that understand that where it's coming
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from is from her that place of of facts and a real life and that is the inspiration to make the show and
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And a lot of the time. I find the people of finding moments that they are perhaps either.
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yeah, I had that experience or my friend that might be what they're feeling that yeah, and and then there were moments
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that are relatable to one that's
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That's the thing about cancer experiences that so unique there is no one way of telling it and I'm that's one of the
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important things again about trying to stay true to the story.
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send tell somebody else's story I can use my own as an inspiration to talk about it and
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Particularly, I think talking about.
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Hope is probably the hardest words for fighting cancer because so many people are getting affected by and so many in a
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One of the things what about being so hope is important in a cancer story because we need to know where it comes from so
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that we can give more people hope in the future and the unity very much looking at the history of of of cancer as well and
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looking at how Sony 72 years ago making just checking that 72 years ago that the father is leukaemia in Boston and that
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was the start of chemotherapy and it I'm really interested in how 72 years ago. I would have no chance there was no answer
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me if I was diagnosed them, am I recite point is my nan's brother he died from a blood cancer and probably before that
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time as well as it's just this igniter.
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If I was diagnosed then no chance and comparing yeah where we've got yeah, and it's the same.
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The paint going this is where I hope has come from from the developments that come over these years this incredible people
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that pull together and how humanity is the thing that actually gives us hope.
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When I'm quite.
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I explore the fact that I don't think I did as much like I'm looking at them who they do the thing that saved my life and
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looking at these things again actually that's that's with hope comes from from the from the research from the wonders of
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the NHS for my treatment and those loved ones around you pull you through those hard moments and
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And it's not to say.
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Let's just stop there Pat herself on the back to acknowledge of going that's where I hope comes from so that keep pushing
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down those roofs that put the funds into these amazing kind of developments and things so that gives more patience.
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Absolutely about that goes and it's not feel very lonely, but then there's the healthcare professionals your family and
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friends, so it's nice to can a tiny bit of a like on that you know through creative works which is amazing so on that note
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it's very evident how creative you are you're very talented different theatres Entertainment channel. So what are you
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working on at the minute?
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There are arranged with the particular. I found as I mentioned earlier.
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She was show that I've been privileged to show two over coming up to 6 hours and people across the world and I'm so so
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fortunate to have to go and do that one of things about how do we make the stories accessible to others and how do we make
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sure that people are finding it something they can pick up because people are getting in and been getting in touch saying
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can I can I have a copy Script can I see a video of it and the difficulty is that as it is a theatre show you can only do
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it in certain kind of moment and there's the at the gate around that so one of the things. I was trying to do was go well
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actually, how can I make sure that others can pick it up and say I'm really interested and have been developing a way of
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making it into a graphic novel and this is through my own experience of going actually.
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I would not read that Script if I was diagnosed now. I would not read The Script the emoji like it's not something. I I
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just think it it doesn't.
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Translate the way that I would like it to it and actually if I want young patients to pick it up, but also people who find
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cancer is something that is quite hard to look at I don't think you're going to pick up a script about cancer, so I was
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really interesting and so what would I pick up and one of the first things I picked up after about 3 years again was a was
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a graphic novel had a tiny little bit about his he had hodgkin's lymphoma and I just was like actually I picked this up
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because it was beautiful perhaps because I thought it was going to be something really heavy and there are so many
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incredible books out there and things and I was just really interesting over. How can I
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Use the unity which has got a lot of scope for these kind of magical worlds that occur and graphic novels a lot more
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perhaps then than a regular book and so yeah, that's the that's one of the next step so that peace is looking at ways that
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we can find that projects so that we can make the whole book and get it into particularly into the units units across the
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UK and making.
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accessible for young people like that's always been one of the things about the ug is that
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Young people engage with it and I know that is something that is very difficult to do for cancer and so I can find a way
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that this graphic novel can keep doing that and reach different audiences who wouldn't engage with something like a
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theatre show then that's what I would love to do that. So there's a lot of benefits to having that are in the different
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Can we have so many great creative about that? How would someone be able to find out more about you and accessing meet us.
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So you can go on on Google or other search engines are able and I'm just hoping peach fortunately. I seem to be one of the
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only type of features out there particularly talking about cancer. So yeah, so beach.co.uk or I'm on Twitter and like to
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drop me a line if you're fantastic to speak to them about your recovery after stem cell transplant. Yeah, so I was perhaps
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in a state of like.
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Learning how to be well again for a number of months.
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I think and actually I'd say that's the physical side of things over number one's in the mental side of it is a lot longer
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and I'm really keen to talk.
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How the end of the story is not at the end of treatment a lot of your time and they're the eulogy does stop a treatment
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that's that's that narrative it starts and ends with leaving the room and going home and actually one of the important
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things. I've seen afterwards is how much we have to talk about the afterwards and how important it is to tell stories that
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don't just end with treatment. I made another show two years ago, which was called the other side of a hurricane and that
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was another young patient and that was about trying to acknowledge that there are a lot of things that continue Honour of
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invisible impacts as well as visible ones I guess and play again through. I need talking about my own experience of a
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young person who has experienced. They are going well actually there are things about identity.
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This guilt there's like the emotional responses that happen beyond something like cancer at young age because it's such a
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particular that happens in your formative years and I I think that's one of the hardest things to talk about is how I
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Better now wow and I might have looked well. Maybe a year post-treatment and people go yes, are you at Great fantastic?
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Actually either the transition into to being a healthy person. I guess again or I got still ongoing and I think it will
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always be ongoing in a way that the narrative pastry and doesn't doesn't end in a miraculous way, and how important it is
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to talk about that because there are questions that have been opened up at a young age that you're living with the rest of
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your life and a lot of young people who I speak to you in work with are facing a similar things of how how best to talk
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about the fact that they're still like struggling with anxiety. They're struggling with going well. Who am I now? I'll be
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on treatment and what do I do next so?
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I think it's so important to keep keep these conversations going is that we are finding ways to to talk about those people
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who are coming like who are in Treatment that actually we start having these narratives that paint the picture of actually
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it does go on and the sooner we start talking about that the sooner we make it easier for those people who are having the
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Yeah, because it's not something that point and then you just forget about it has a huge impact on your life. So you're
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totally right to have those questions and explore those feelings and yeah whatever for their individual. I was really
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should I got discharged. Maybe 18 months ago or something and I wrote a piece about how.
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I felt like it was it was like a break up like this amazing break up but also like how how much I missed my that that
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safety net and people on our website can Healthcare world of how that that kind of cut-off point when you are discharged
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and which is an incredible thing and it really is but it is also something like is checking me I really want that person
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to check my my lumps and bumps I want to know if somebody's looking out for me and again. That's the whole thing is how we
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make people understand that I want you just like really happy that you like finished.
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Like seeing a doctor in your cured. That's me doing the bunny is it in podcast?
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So yes, how to make people understand that has happened that actually then I went to a stage after that happened when I
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was like really difficult to go well now. I'm not having something to me if I do who do I go to your face from feeling
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worried about something ok? Look after myself. I don't have to but usually they would be available if you needed them, but
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I know what you mean. It's a different sort of stage of the the journey mercy.
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Do you find Toby that your audiences are familiar with hodgkin's lymphoma and stem cell transplant lot of the time. I
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think the audiences who are choosing to come to a cancer show up perhaps have got some kind of bleach about it, but I
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don't think a lot of the time the you know what cancer is until perhaps it at first you may be directly or indirectly but
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also if I can use my own example even after having it. I had no idea what it was. I mean. They're so often I described
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that cancer being an account so kind of experience and treatment of cancer is a little bit like being in a hurricane and
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so often like you just kind of Spinning Around you're saying yes to everything and I'll take that I'll have this. I'll
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have that and and then if you want you can throw now.
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The other side then you carry on spinning for quite a long time and you can't get your feet down. I properly and then
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there is a moment you can perhaps put your feet down like a solid stance and suddenly.
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Unless you looking over your shoulder at this wreckage and perhaps not even knowing what I gone on there and that's where
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I decided that. I was really interested to know what.
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Was that what what is hodgkin's lymphoma? What is a stem cell transplant and yeah like I said like no idea really see the
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science of it and how incredible it is I mean I really remember just Desserts
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Really strong memory which is in the eulogy and as we drove quite a lot of money to tell the story was about just coming
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out of collecting my own stem cells and so I had an auto transplant and so we have to go in and have them collected and I
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went in at uclh just up the road and had them taken out the number of hours. You do and then left in that bag which looks
00:05:15.405 --> 00:05:15.800
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Automatic catch up again. It's really like not impressed. I remember at the end of that day being told that they taken out
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9 million stem cells and
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Ok, and then I left and I went across the road to go and have some dinner.
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Sat down there because you're over just leave and I'm being sat down and eating this dinner and going.
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I just taken out 9 million little bits of me.
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I can go home.
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And I was like how have I done this? How do you take out 9 million little bit of somebody and then they can go home and
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play just really
00:06:00.700 --> 00:06:06.900
Play me realise how incredible our bodies are an incredible the treatment was that point.
00:06:07.540 --> 00:06:08.240
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Yeah, it's one of those things are going that is an incredible moment which perhaps I didn't even notice through going
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through it and it's only through reflecting on it and then trying to create some kind of accessible content makes that a
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little bit more. Yeah, open I guess the discussion that we can make you understand what them foamers and watch them cell
00:06:31.580 --> 00:06:39.027
Transplants are and social memory to that and how that meant so much for the time is the next step in your treatment, so
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well, that's really interesting memory question for you. What advice. Would you give when he's going through a stem cell
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I think the advice I find the
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One of those things the uniqueness of an experience I guess is the difficult thing and acknowledging that whatever is
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whatever you can do to be good for yourself is the important important thing in this time.
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Regardless of whatever can see you you have or how your treatment is going you are the one who can know about what's going
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on for you and your mind and also in your body. I guess so it's about being kind to yourself through a treatment for me
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that was perhaps like making sure that I was looking after myself mentally by a distracting myself from from the
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treatment. I guess or being kind to myself and making sure that I'm buying a cup of coffee that I really want to have
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something like that and it's completely unique to everyone but the important thing is this is your your own unique
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response to it and
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As the process goes on its finding ways that you can make it as and cope with it as best that you can.
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Only you will know where that is I guess.
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Very very good. Bye, then. I think you're right. It's the small things can make a difference of tuning in the yourselves
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and what's important to me today. Maybe as you said that cup of coffee and it's just taking it went by moment in that way
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as well. So that begin with me today to be I know a lot of people benefit from listening to this on your story and what
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other work we'll come up with in the future. So thank you so much.
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Thank you for listening to Anthony Nolan podcast if you find this podcast useful, please share on Facebook Instagram
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Twitter and let us know what other topics you like to hear.
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For more information on stem cell transplant recovery as well as free resources that you can download an order visit our
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website at the moment.
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I take a look at a patient and family pages.
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We also have a fantastic supported platform. That is our patient and family forum or you can connect with other patients
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and family members have also been through the same process.
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Define up to the form, please visit anthonynolan.org form.
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We also have our own Anthony Nolan patient and families Facebook page or you can access our latest posts events and much
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We also offer a telephone peer support service or you can speak to someone who had a transplant at least two years ago to
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hear more about this order see other ways we can support you and your family you can also email at patient info at
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the colours on
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