Actor Fabian Bolin (aka the Leukemia Warrior) talks about his #WarOnCancer – Part 2
This is the second part of an interview with Fabian Bolin, who happily agreed to inspire “This is Medtech” readers with his uplifting story about perseverance and the power of a positive attitude. You can read the first part of this interview here.
In keeping with his tell-all blog, Fabian, the 28-year-old Swedish-Brazilian actor with leukaemia, spoke to This Is Medtech with refreshing frankness about his roller coaster of a journey, which includes a campaign to raise money for cancer research and educate people about the disease.
TIM: Which, if any, medical procedure that you’ve undergone is the most mind-blowing in terms of technology?
FB: To be honest, it hasn’t really been a very ‘technologically cool’ adventure. I’ve just gone through a lot of needles, a lot of bags and tubes. X-rays are always cool, but not mind-blowing. I guess living in northern Europe, you’re quite used to high technology. I expect a certain standard as everything is very high-tech in Sweden [where I’m being treated]. For me to be mind-blown is probably different than, for example, someone in Africa. It’s all relative, isn’t it?
TIM: Are there any medical procedures/experiences that you feel could still be improved upon?
FB: Especially at the beginning, it feels like the people around the cancer patient are given a lot of responsibility quickly. My parents aren’t trained nurses. It’s a very difficult experience for the people around the cancer patient and this is always forgotten.
Another thing is the side effects from the chemotherapy. Even though I’ll survive this, it’s two-and-a-half years of my life that’ll be committed to this treatment. There are so many side effects. The chemo is worse than the cancer, especially in the first month. The way it made me feel was beyond anything I’ve could’ve ever imagined. I hope one day cancer will be like the flu ‒ like you can treat it within a couple of weeks.
TIM: It seems that one of the hardest things for cancer patients to accept is the change in their physical appearance ‒ hair loss, weight loss, etc. This must be especially hard for you, given your job.
FB: I was always interested how I’d look with shaved hair anyway, so now I’ve realised that I look better with hair! But seriously, it doesn’t really matter to me. I’m happy to be alive. It’ll come back once I’m strong and I’m back on my feet. Now I’m taking the opportunity to develop other parts of myself. I’ve tried to see it as a chance to make some changes in my life. The way I lived before was very tiring, extremely career-focused and stressful.
TIM: Your world has changed overnight, from being on film and going out to nice dinners and parties, to spending most of your time with doctors and family. Once this is all behind you, how will you proceed?
FB: I don’t know, but I think making the decision to go open with this whole cancer thing, like calling myself a ‘warrior’ in this battle, is going to stick with me. I’ve gained so much from the whole charity thing. Helping others is something I’ve realised I want to do and because it’s my obligation as a human.
FB: I thought ‘How can I make a difference in the quickest possible way?’ so I launched the bracelets, which are selling extremely well. But there are obviously more things that I can do. I have big plans in terms of what I want to do and I want to really give back. At the end of the day, I wouldn’t have lived without cancer research. If it was 10-15-20 years ago, I would’ve been dead, so I think I owe my life to cancer research.
TIM: What advice would you give to somebody who’s just been diagnosed with cancer?
FB: Don’t hide away. I don’t see what benefit there is when people hide. Let people know about it because the support is great. Everybody wants to help out. And keep a positive mindset. But that’s a bit vague. How do you do that? It’s going to come down to who you are as a person. I try to be positive. You already have [cancer], so just try and make the best out of the situation. This is a very unique opportunity to actually sit back and just have a look at it all and reflect upon my life up until now, my aspirations, am I going in the right direction. I think that’s a golden opportunity.
TIM: You mentioned in your blog about the mood suddenly going very serious when you walk into a room full of friends. What advice would you give to people about how to act towards a friend who gets ill?
FB: That’s a tricky one, isn’t it? The advice is to be as normal as possible. You know, what would you say had I not had cancer? But it doesn’t really work like that, does it? I don’t mind people asking about the cancer, I just don’t like the pity. That’s the worst part. It makes me feel so weak and it’s unfair. I’m the same person; I’m just going through this battle.
Fabian’s #WarOnCancer bracelets can be purchased at www.fabianbolin.com/shop and the proceeds will go to charity.