The Benefits of facing a Challenge


As if life were not currently challenging enough, someone in their wisdom, namely myself, decided that more challenge was required.

“Why not organise a talk?” I said to no one but myself.

Seemed a brilliant idea in the moment. Never mind that perhaps my attention should be on more pressing matters, such as my health. Is it distraction? Possibly. Or is it actually something that is a vital part of my healing journey?

When illness and dis-ease blasts the wind from our sails life becomes a series of mental, emotional and physical challenges: daily mountainous obstacles to overcome, to face, or to endure. The  stress and fearful anticipation  of facing operations, hospital visits, scans, scan results, injections, blood tests, biopsies, x-rays seems endless in the face of uncertainty, and no, it doesn’t really get easier. It just becomes a part of one’s routine, an aspect of one’s new life.

But having a goal on which to focus, can be hugely motivational and inspiring. Why? because it puts you back in the driving seat. It reminds you how important it is to have things to look forward to in the future. More than that, it dares you to consider a future when a future of any certainty is the one thing that does not come with a guarantee. It reminds you that you are alive and that you still (and why not) have something to contribute.

Something strange happens when you receive a stage 4 diagnosis: contemplating the future, something I formally would have taken for granted, suddenly becomes the elephant in the room. How do you contemplate any future when what you are actually perching on the cliff edge, and the fragility of your mortality is the loudest voice in your head?

Just after I was diagnosed, in September 2016, my partner gave me – an eternity ring? box of chocolates? roses? nope. A calender for 2017. I didn’t even know if I was going to get to 2017 if I am honest. A calender for pity’s sake?

Fill it in, he said. You’re not going anywhere.

And so I did. And , you what, it turns out he was right!! But it wasn’t easy, it wasn’t easy at all. The feelings and fear and uncertainty it prompts. Yet, we mustn’t be afraid to invest emotionally in our future. It sends out a message to the universe if you like, and more importantly to yourself that you want and deserve a future. Life does not stop at a diagnosis. It used to scare me- Planning something for months ahead, but now? Hell no, we have just booked something crazy and fun for the summer and I have every intention of going.

Unconsciously, we can fall in to limiting ourselves because we buy into the expectations of others. For example, we fancied a little jaunt in our van last spring. We set the compass towards Hadrian’s Wall, but we never got there as we got distracted by the awakening beauty of the Lake District and the blooming Wordsworthian daffodils. We had a blast. However, prior to leaving my oncology team were concerned about the distance.

“Stay near a hospital” they urged. We know people at most of the major hospitals, except around Northumbria and the Lakes, where are you going again??”

Oh dear, my bad.

Not long after diagnosis, unsurprisingly, I felt a little cheering up was in order. And, clothes shopping was my chosen pick-me-up. But, somewhere inside of me a little voice niggled:

“New clothes? Hmmm, you sure you’re going to get much use out of them, after all, stage 4? Tick tock tick tock.

Yes, I actually almost entertained not purchasing a new pair of jeans, for fear of not getting use out of them? Dammit. No, I was not going to give into that fear, not pander to expectation. So I bought 2.

Do not start packing up your life before it is over. When you have stage 4, sometimes it is other people, health professionals, friends, family, who unconsciously and not with unkindness, begin to pack it up for you.

So returning to the subject of meeting a challenge which is to the forefront of my mind with only 3 more sleeps before lift off, why challenge yourself when life is already aiming plenty of arrows in your direction. First of all, I feel really called to do this, passionate about doing it. And I suppose I feel that by making the effort, a considerable effort to attempt to pull off something waaaay out of my comfort zone, that intimidates me almost as much  as it inspires me, that forces me to face my fear and do it anyway, will have a fair pay off in the sense of achievement. Even cementing the date in the diary was fairly daunting. What if I was unable to attend, what if I am unwell, what if… well, just that, what if …… ?

But if I can pull meet this challenge, it will bestow a confidence that will stand me in good stead for the other more medically related challenges that may loom upon the horizon. Every time we conquer a challenge it fortifies us for what lies ahead, each time we face a fear and meet it, stand up to it, we pay into our bank of resilience. It may even grace us with the knowledge that we are more courageous than we remember, and that we can achieve more than we realise. Goals are vital for the enrichment of everyone, it gives us purpose, and having purpose is a vital component for leading a fulfilling life. And, the goal need not be the end, just something to aim for, to aspire to, to motivate, to inspire, and  just having a go is equally priceless. That’s all. So, you may not complete every challenge, but that you take up the gauntlet shows that your spirit is willing and desires expression. There is NO failure in having a go.

“If you are going to fail, fail magnificently ” Martin Prechtel

Goals-1The scale of the challenge matters to no one but you. I know there are days when even getting dressed can seem like an insurmountable challenge, so not everyone need rush to the nearest bungy jump.

So, as I sit here feeling the fear. Feelin’ it in my bones. I know it’s a good fear that’s all to do with creating a successful evening, being of service, sharing, coming together in a spirit of hope and possibility, standing united, seeking inspiration and sowing seeds of hope and love and healing. Yes, it’s a good fear alright. It’s a sensation that says : Here I am Life. Embrace me.

That I have the opportunity to celebrate life in this amazing way is such a delightful gift for the soul. And what’s good for the soul is good for the body and good for the mind. So, I am nervous yet hugely excited. I am look forward so much to hanging out with everyone on Thursday – travel safe, be well, I hope to see you there.

Om shanti shanti shanti. Peace always.


Information and booking for : Cancer and The Art of Living – an evening with Leah Bracknell at Cecil Sharp House, Camden.





13 Comments Add yours

  1. Sue Vincent says:

    I love the gift of a calendar. I agree that, with the best will in th eworld and only kindness at heart, people can impose limitations that need not be there. My son’s physio, for example, told him that dreaming of walking again was ‘unrealistic’. He’s just back from a solo trip to India. He still can’t walk and may never do so unaided, but that didn’t stop him travelling by elephant, camel or pillion on a motorbike.
    I really wish I could be there for the talk, Leah, but I’m heading north this weekend. I wish you a wonderful evening, knowing that in giving you will draw strength.


  2. Beautiful, wise words. I’m sorry I can’t attend your event. I hope it fills you with love and life x

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yvonne Stevens says:

    A great post as always. I am looking forward to Thursday x

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Alison says:

    Hi Leah. Would absolutely have loved to have attended your evening on Thursday, but being widowed with 2 children aged 4 & 5 and living in the Midlands makes it impossible. I’m sure you will be truly inspirational. Make sure you enjoy. Big love x

    Liked by 1 person

  5. David says:

    Powerful,motivating and deeply honest you really sum up what Thursday brings for you,and on Friday when you look back I know you will take incredible strength forward to the next challenge.
    Look forward to reading your thoughts after your event.
    Hope you really enjoy the evening and meet some wonderful new friends .
    Om mani padme hung

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Sue says:

    Your words are so powerful and very true. My sister-in-law has recently been diagnosed with stage 4 lung and brain cancer . She is currently emptying her wardrobes of clothes… just as you said, she is throwing out summer tops as she doesn’t think she will need them. Its so difficult to get through to her right now as she is so frightened. I will be showing her your blog… Thank you.
    I love the photo, its so symbolic!
    Best wishes Sue.xx

    Liked by 1 person

  7. paula Rosson says:

    Hi Leah, really sorry I cannot make this meeting, your words ring true with every one, I feel every single thing you have said, good luck on Thursday, hopefully we can read about it after, take care and lots of love, Paula xx

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Aimie Jordan says:

    I’m hoping for a divine intervention and my flight to cancel so I can be there on Thursday as I couldn’t swap my schedule I’m so sorry I won’t be there you are a true inspiration love Aimie x

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Powerful and inspiring words

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Eliza Waters says:

    Wonderful and inspiring post, Leah, thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Julia Hall says:

    Positive and powerful words. My mum has stage 4 cancer. Takes a long time to process. Cancer for me is like an unwanted guest in your house – you would do anything to get rid of it. Good luck/enjoy Thursday x

    Liked by 1 person

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