Eighteen and Cancer – When Growing Up is Not an Option

Eighteen and Cancer – When Growing Up is Not an Option

Tamás Vincze and his family have supported Bátor Tábor for many years, but it took us a crowdfunding campaign to realize that he is a special one as he is a cancer survivor. He wrote a book about his story to share it with the world, and to help those who are traveling the journey that he had to 10 years ago. He also decided to support Bátor Tábor with his book, so now you can help by reading too.

What inspired you to write this book?

Why write a book about my cancer story? Especially well after 10 years? Good question. I must have asked myself that a thousand times. During the early part of 2016, I read a very moving book called Not Fade Away. It details the story of a businessman who after retiring in 1997 at the age of 46, to spend more time with his family, unfortunately passed away in 2002 after a battle with stomach cancer. It is a gem of a book about the shortness of life and inspired me to start thinking about my own story and how would I share that.

I always enjoyed journaling and keeping notes. The process of having thoughts crystallised on paper is very valuable. I kept piles of notes in different places, a lot about what cancer meant to me, and to be honest it was getting a bit out of control keeping tracking of it all. Writing a short book seemed like a good way to summarise everything.

What is your goal with the publication?

I came to learn that there are really two sides to cancer. There is one that’s in the collective consciousness (often fuelled by the mass media): pictures of hospital interiors, unpronounceable drug names, patients who have lost their hair and so on. Cancer is presented as this big mystical thing cloaked in esoteric language.

But through others’ and my own experience I came to realise that there is another side, although that is much less talked about. This one is much harder to define and is far beyond the physical experience. It is the journey of emotions and it is the learning and growth that you experience if you choose to pay attention to what is happening inside and around you (this last part is crucial).

The first image is very well known and I don’t think it needs any further elaboration. Through my story I wanted to talk about that other part. I’ve read a lot of books about cancer but most inadvertently ended up turning into a misery memoir, which I was conscious to avoid when writing my own. Not too many books talk about what happens in your mind when facing something so serious. How do you process the news of cancer? How do you get out of that feeling of hopelessness that’s there initially (for some it stays for the entire journey)? These, amongst others, were some of the questions I was trying to answer in this short book.

What did your illness teach to you?

This could be an entire interview.

My book is about human nature through the eyes of someone who has been through cancer. The biggest lesson for me going through the disease was this: you can look at a shock diagnosis, or any difficult situation in life, as an end or as the beginning of something new. You cannot control the destination, but eventually I chose to see it as a new beginning, and you can do the same. But this requires a shift in perception, which starts with acceptance.

This was exactly what I struggled with the most: acceptance then surrender (I’ve dedicated entire chapters to this in the book). When you are a young and ambitious 18-year-old full of plans it’s really (really) hard to accept when someone tells you that you’ve cancer and your life is about to change. Against your will. For many weeks and months I refused to accept the fact that I was sick, that I had to go to hospitals, that I had to face chemotherapy and that I had to put my life on hold. It was very hard to stay in the present and to truly and objectively look at my life. But the more I was able to develop compassion towards myself, let go of the need for control and not let my ego get in the way of healing the easier the days became. During that year basically I grew up.

How are you today? How is life going?

Since my last post-chemotherapy related check-up (September 2004) I’ve been in full remission. While I had to deal with the long-term side effects of cancer and the treatment, just as many others, my health is in great shape for which I’m very grateful. The journey with cancer made me realise that my health can never be taken for granted.

I share it in the book that my family and I were in the process of moving abroad but then the news of cancer hit and our priorities had to change. After finishing my high school studies in Pécs, Hungary I was fortunate enough to study abroad at the University of Bath in England. After finishing my studies I joined the investment business and currently work for a family’s private investment company (I love numbers J). My wife, whom I met while studying in Hong Kong, and I currently live in London.

Why is it important for you to support Bátor Tábor with your book?

A cancer ward in a hospital is a truly miserable place. This is not a reflection on the hospitals or the doctors rather the environment – it’s one where fear, hopelessness, pain and death are ever-present. It’s often debilitating. While I was 18 years old, perhaps older than your average camp visitor, I still couldn’t process everything that happened there, so I can only imagine what this could mean for a child. It must be very easy to forget that you are so young when you are exposed to such a place very early on in your life. Bátor Tábor provides an alternative and from all that I’ve seen, read and heard the results are immense and can be life changing. It’s a very unique place. An excellent professional team magnificently runs the organisation, so it is very easy to get behind the mission.

Once you go through something so serious such as cancer you understand that you don’t exist in a vacuum rather as part of a larger whole. As a former cancer patient I feel that it’s my responsibility to support, in any way I’m able to, people going through their own nightmares and I’m delighted to do it together with Bátor Tábor. I honestly couldn’t have had a better partner in this book project. It’s a privilege to co-operate.

You can order the book here: 

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Eighteen-Cancer-When-Growing-Optional/dp/1549925105

Amazon DE: https://www.amazon.de/Eighteen-Cancer-When-Growing-Optional/dp/1549925105