'How cancer changed my life... for the better'

Daily Echo: 'How cancer changed my life... for the better' 'How cancer changed my life... for the better'

WHEN Charlie Hall was told he had cancer, he never imagined it would lead to some of the best things to ever happen to him.

But had it not been for the devastating disease, he would never have met the love of his life, Elen, or had their beautiful baby, Evelyn.

In fact, Charlie remarkably says having cancer has led to some of the best moments of his life.

Put simply, he says: “It was fate I met Elen when I did and it has all come together beautifully.

“My life is definitely richer after having cancer and I realise how much I took for granted.

“I’ve got a beautiful wife, a beautiful baby, a lovely house.

“Having cancer has made me realise you do need to stop every now and again, to reflect and look back, but importantly enjoy every moment for what it is.”

Charlie from Ashurst, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2001 after finding a lump on his neck.

“It was a total shock,” he says adding that talking about it makes the news seem like yesterday and prompts strong emotions and memories.

“It was a complete bolt out of the blue, it didn’t feel real.

“I entered the chaotic world of cancer after being called back to the hospital for test results.

“The hardest thing of all was telling my parents I had cancer, that was a really hard conversation I had to have and the most emotional part of the journey.”

Charlie endured months of chemotherapy and radiotherapy and it was months before he could return to work at GE Aviation Systems in Hamble.

He had also been working towards a Masters Degree in Business and Information Technology at Southampton Solent University which had to be put on hold for two years.

But he was forced to take an unexpected break in his studies and it was battling through the treatment that made him even more determined to continue his education and get a masters degree.

Meanwhile, Elen had come to Southampton from Bahia, in Brazil to attend the same course and had no intention of staying in the UK.

That was until the couple met at the university.

Charlie, who is an assistant Cub Scout leader with the 3rd New Forest North group, says: “It was weird to think the delay that cancer gave me is what enabled me to meet the love of my life.

“I noticed Elen the first time she walked in the room.

“As far as instant impact, I thought she looked like Princess Leia with her beautiful hair, eyes and smile. But having gone through something so hard and challenging, you learn a lot about a person.

"You really find out what people are like and Elen just shone through all of that. Her nature is lovely, she’s just such a wonderful person and a pleasure to be with.”

In 2009, he and Elen, 38, who has a PhD, married in front of their friends and family in a romantic ceremony in the New Forest.

Elen, says: “We became very good friends. It was chance I was in the UK when I was. We say it was definitely fate, that it was meant to be.”

Daily Echo:

The 44-year-old has chosen to share his story to help others survive cancer for Cancer Research UK’s fundraising campaign, Stand Up To Cancer to raise money for ground-breaking research to cure cancer sooner.

He explains: “With cancer, you’ve got an option and I took a positive spin from it.

“Cancer enables you to look at the bigger picture, to step back and have a look at yourself, your family, your friends, life, the universe.

“You start to realise what’s really important. Before I might have just stayed doing what I was doing because I might have thought something posed too much of a risk or was too much of a hurdle.

“But cancer makes you take a step back in a good way, it reduces the fear of failure because if it doesn’t work out, who cares? In the grand scheme of it, it doesn’t matter.

“You just don’t know what is around the corner.

“Cancer wasn’t great, but here I am and all is well. I am just so grateful for every day we have together.”

From swapping stilettos for flippers in the office to standing in a bath of baked beans, people across Hampshire are being urged to get involved and Stand Up To Cancer.

A free fundraising kit is available with great ideas on how to raise money at home or work.

Helen Johnstone, Cancer Research UK’s spokesperson, said: “Thanks to research, more people like Charlie are surviving cancer. But there’s still so much more to do. It’s not technology or knowledge that is holding us back – it’s funding.

“Making a stand can be as easy or challenging as people like – a great opportunity to indulge imagination or test stamina.”

To get involved or for more information go to standuptocancer.org.uk

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