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Facing difficulties with determination

Croydon President Andrew McKenzie-Smart draws inspiration from how positive friends and family can be in the face of the most difficult situations.

Andrew McKenzie-Smart

February 2018

I’m writing this in early January in between dealing with personal tax returns. However, I thought that this month’s President’s article should have a theme of “coping with difficulty”, as I have recently seen a number of examples where people have risen to meet considerable challenges.

The first of these is my own father, another chartered accountant, who is now 71 years old. He was first diagnosed with cancer over three years ago, but has only had a short period in remission in this time. Sadly, despite two operations to remove tumours in his bowel and abdomen, as well as frequent bouts of chemotherapy over the years, the cancer has not reduced as hoped.

During this period, the cancer has meant he has had to implement significant changes to his lifestyle and reduce the amount of activities he would usually do. He has also had to deal with the physical side effects of the chemotherapy treatment, including the loss of his hair and other more serious issues.

While these issues are not insignificant, it seems the biggest challenge he has faced is dealing with the continual hopes that he will get better from the cancer that are dashed each time he visits the hospital. Each of the frequent meetings with the doctors and nursing staff carries the hope that that they will say that he is all clear again, while harbouring fears that they will announce that the tumour is not responding to the treatment, and that he is now a terminal case beyond the current limits that they can successfully treat.

Over this three-year period, he has maintained a positive outlook. The stoic way he has addressed the malignant cancer in his own body is remarkable and to be applauded. While the treatment has no doubt had a significant impact on his routine and has greatly restricted his diet and activities, he has managed to successfully continue with his part-time roles and enjoy more sedentary activities.

Moreover, he has maintained a cheerful demeanour to all throughout this time while coping with these personal difficulties.

The second example is someone whose daughter is sadly suffering from suicidal thoughts and emotions. This must be an awful experience for any parent to go through as the daughter in this case is considered an adult, being over 18 years old, but in many ways is still a child growing up.

As a parent, I can only begin to imagine how difficult it is to cope with your own child being so lacking in self-esteem, and damaged that they would seriously and actively contemplate taking their own life.

Again, like my father, I have been struck by the positive attitude and practical way in which she addressed this serious issue affecting her family life.

The final example is my own daughter who is at university, and despite suffering from a condition that means she faints without any significant warning or notice, is successfully maintaining results which indicate that she could hope to achieve a first class honours degree in Psychology from the University of Birmingham.

Each of these people have been meeting a serious challenge over a long period in a manner which is remarkable. They have each astonishing determination to succeed and do not wallow in the way that life has made their journey so much tougher than for others.

I find each of them makes the challenges and difficulties I face seem comparatively trivial and insignificant, and they are inspirational to me when I contemplate my own situation. I hope that should I face similar challenges and difficulties that I will also have similar courage and mental strength.

Andrew McKenzie-Smart is President of ICAEW Chartered Accountants Croydon.

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