What's in a word?

by Robyn_maggies

There is a saying that a hundred mile journey starts with a single step, I would also say that every  conversation starts with a single word and it is amazing where it can lead…..

I was (as is often the case) on a train the other day.  Those of you familiar with commuter trains will be aware they are largely silent with the exception of  an “is this seat free?” and the occasional overloud phone conversation….

Every now and then however someone will join the train who is blissfully unaware of “the rules”  and this is what I witnessed the other day:

A man joined the train and sat at the last seat available on a 4 person table seat. The other passengers were already seated  (A teenager apparently texting, a business woman and a man watching a film on a table)  they didn’t acknowledge him and for a few minutes they sat in customary silence.

After a few minutes the teenager looked flustered put her phone down and started looking through her bag she then appeared upset .  The man asked her if she was ok and she said her phone had run out of battery and she had forgotten her charger – the man then asked the woman opposite (who had  not appeared to hear the conversation) if she had one, as her phone was the same. She then produced a charger for the teenager to use. 

The teen thanked her and  then said she was writing her application for medical school on her phone ,  at which point the man said he was a recently retired surgeon and would she like some help which led to a long discussion.  During the conversation he mentioned a trial he had worked on – which the business woman heard and then said was related to the work she was currently doing ( work which which wouldn’t have happened without the Dr’s trial) After talking about it for a while the Dr and the business woman started a more social conversation. It became clear they had some mutual friends.  Then the Dr mentioned he was from a small welsh village. At this point the younger man who had been silent said he had also grown up there and was now on his way there this led to a lively discussion about many shared experiences.

By the time I left the train an hour later the teenager had some work experience offered to support her application to medical school as well as a load of advice for her interview, the business woman had some background to the work she was currently doing, the younger man had found out more about the history of his village.  As for the Dr he had a big smile on his face, as if he felt he had been able to pass something on and had made what could have been a very dull journey much more interesting.

It occurred to me that this is also what happens here at Maggie’s both online and in our Centres – by saying hello and sharing experiences over the kitchen table  or via our  forum with other members you can stumble upon helpful advice or some friendly words from someone you may have thought you had no connection with.

It can be hard to take that first step – to say hello,   to say or to write how things are just now, but sometimes, as with the train journey,  from a simple question or just someone seeing what is happening (the teenager didn’t ask for help, remember it was the Dr seeing her looking upset) support  and understanding can follow.

There are of course also others (like me on the train) who may listen/watch  but don’t get involved but don’t underestimate the effect on those people.

The online team get many  private messages from people affected by cancer who join Maggie’s Online because  a conversation post or blog they have read from another members has struck a chord and  helped them to take the step of registering or walking in the door of one of our Centres and letting someone know  how cancer has affected them and the people close to them.

Someone may also read  and not register, but perhaps they will understand more about their own situation. They may see a  Dr sooner, know more about treatment or support available and feel more able to ask for help, or perhaps just know  that how they are feeling just now is “normal” or understandable in their situation.

So if you have been thinking about posting a conversation or starting a blog – give it a go  and say hello to someone…

For anyone reading this,  and other online posts, who hasn’t registered  or perhaps you haven’t visited for a while and aren’t sure  how to get involved, you are very welcome to register and to get in touch privately with our professional online team  or to take that step and share with other members too.

As for me on the train – I sat there quietly not appearing to listen as I am sure others on the train also did   and the passengers at the table were probably completely unaware of our interest, however having seen what happened  I have since started a couple of conversations on the train myself – with surprising results… but that’s another story


Blog originally posted by Robyn 2017


  • Admin_maggies wrote

    This blog was originally posted on our old forum there were some interesting comments added so I have added them (without user names ) below

    'Being from 'Up North' but living in London, my kids always get very embarrassed when I strike up conversations with random strangers.'

  • Admin_maggies wrote

    Ah That is the problem with London and the South East - Everyone is too frightened to speak to a stranger. Up here in East Midlands you cannot stop people talking to each other!
    Today, I was on my motor scooter coming back from Nottingham to my home village. It used to be a very close knit mining community until the mine closed in 1997. The people of the village have opened a Miners Heritage Centre but I have never known when it was open. By chance saw it was open as I passed on my way home, so I popped in for a look. I was taken round by the Chairman who used to work there, made a cup of tea by another volunteer and was so impressed with the knowledge and history they were proud to talk to me about. There was a list of men that had died in the mine since it was opened - He knew most of them that had been killed since the late 50's.
    So me, a perfect stranger when I went in, felt much more part of this community when I went out!
    ( comment originally posted by visitor on our previous online community)

  • Admin_maggies wrote

    Robyn's piece is more than merely a "post" as we recognise these things within the realm of social media. It gets to the heart of our instinctive need to be relevant and live meaningful lives. And what's the ultimate way of achieving that? I would suggest by engaging with others via the ryhthmic exchange of what's happening in our lives and sharing thoughts, feelings and experiences with them, either on a one to one basis or in a group setting. I would agree that constant soul bearing can tip the balance and at times be inappropriate, but choosing the right moment to converse with others, be they strangers or people known to you can be cathartic and beneficial all round.

    The Maggie's experience is a perfect vehicle for releasing tensions, fears, good news, bad news and everything in between. As a regular visitor to a Maggie's centre I am constantly amazed by how people, often within minutes of meeting up with one another, find a common bond (or bonds) and can set off down a road where they feel comfortable in each other's presence and can engage on issues, be they lightweight or dark and foreboding. OK, the face to face dimension is not a feature of Maggie's online, but nevertheless it is eminently possible to establish relationships with others and in the process feel part of something bigger than just yourself - a place of safety and comfort where problems are not automatically removed, but where they can at least be shared.

    (comment originally posted by visitor on our previous online community)

  • Admin_maggies wrote

    (comment originally posted by visitor on our previous online community) Yes, brilliant story! I often talk to strangers and it's amazing how many talk about their cancer problems, not realising I am a long term survivor, so in my own small way I am able to give them hope in their future.

  • Admin_maggies wrote

    we're all connected in some way, and talso reach out to others online...:)

    I broke a rule on the bus in London when down for my study day..and initiated a conversation with a flustered looking lady who had the reiki symbol on her jacket.

    Within 15 minutes I'd found out she was a reiki master, had had breast cancer 10 years ago, and was hoping to work with cancer patients - the lady in the seat opposite had a sister with breast cancer, and we talked about support, and a man by the side of me gruffly admitted that he was a bit worried he might have symptoms of prostate cancer. By the time I got off at my stop , I'd given out 'Maggies Online' cards, recieved a hug and a card from the reiki lady, and left lots of smiley people. My son said conversations just don't happen on that bus!
    (comment originally posted by Sue on our previous online community)

  • Robyn_maggies wrote

    You may be thinking of registering or perhaps did so recently and have yet to post or to complete your profile. Many of us when joining a group or an online community wonder why we have or are not sure what we might get from it. This blog about an extraordinary conversation I overheard on a train may help you to find some answers ....