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How can I help? June 26, 2008

Posted by Ian Clatworthy in Uncategorized.

Exactly two weeks ago, I received some bad news which will undoubtedly change my life – I have bowel cancer. At 41, I’m much too young to die and I’m pleased to say that I’m not likely to in the near future. Even so, I’m in for several months of treatment, surgery and recovery. Nothing like a wake-up call like that to trigger re-assessing one’s priorities in life!

When I started this blog in 2007, I explicitly made the decision to focus it on professional topics and avoid making it about life in general. I gave it the title Agile Teams, Open Software, Passionate Users .. Life is too short for anything else. You can tell it’s not about life in general because I left Good Wine out of the title. 🙂 There are times like now though when separating professional from personal just doesn’t make any sense. We simply spend such a large percentage of our waking hours working that happiness at work is directly related to personal happiness for many of us, and good personal health directly impacts our productivity and relationships at work.

In my case, I’m extremely lucky to be doing the work I do at Canonical. It’s something I feel deeply passionate about: making it easier to produce great software more efficiently. I also have the privilege of working with a bunch of really smart people and I learn something new from them each and every week, if not every day.

My family and I have been overwhelmed by the amount of support everyone has offered. Almost every one we know has contacted us on hearing the news asking what they can do to help. I’m writing this article because I want to let people know, regardless of where they live, that they can help. Here’s how:

  1. Don’t take your health for granted like I did. Early detection of many diseases in the only real defence so go and get those tests done you’re been putting off because you feel fine.
  2. Do something you enjoy and do it well. Life truly is too short to be working in a job you hate or to be wasting time using unproductive processes and tools. (If you use a computer, try Ubuntu. If you develop software, try Bazaar.)
  3. Take care of the people close to you.

We live in a society where talking about one’s butt simply isn’t done – no-one ever goes to the toilet in any novel I’ve ever read! It’s not easy telling people that I have rectal cancer, but it’s common and often fatal. If sharing my story means other people catch it or another disease sooner, then I’m pleased to have done it.



1. elliot - June 27, 2008

hi ian, i’m really proud of you for posting this. i know you’re going to beat the cancer! will be thinking of you.

2. Alister Scott - June 28, 2008

Sorry to hear your news. I really hope everything goes well for you. Thanks for your thought provoking list of things we can do.

3. Derek Mahar - June 28, 2008

Thank you for sharing this sad news with your readers. Your second point particularly struck a chord with my own experience: life is too short to be miserable in our work. We don’t know each other, but I’m confident that you’ll beat the cancer so that you can continue to make great software! Good luck and stay strong!

4. wiz - June 30, 2008

be strong and good luck with it.

5. Jodie Housman - June 30, 2008

Ian, it is lovely to see you are sharing your news with the world and creating a forum where people can talk openly about the greatest gift we all have and often take for granted : our health. The world today is so obsessed about material possessions, money and keeping up with other people we lose sight of our family, friends and health. I think it is time to refocus on the important things in life and appreciate every day and what it holds for us. The other day I heard one of the greatest sayings of all time (from the turtle in Kung Fu Panda – of all places – I am unsure of the original source) “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift – that is why we call it the PRESENT”. Please everyone live in the moment and enjoy every gift the day brings you. Ian well done on sharing your story and I am so proud of you.
Your loving sister….Jodie*****

6. Amanda Clatworthy - June 30, 2008

Ian, I have always been a fatalist and the more that life passes the more I seem to feel things happen for a reason… however, your news has hit us like a rock… and if you’re a fatalist you would say it must be for a reason. But that is hard to take when you are talking about this news from someone who is such a wonderful, gentle man, a great mind, an amazing father and loving husband. The reason this has happened….??? Well it is certainly not evident at this minute and maybe it never will be…. but maybe you are helping give someone else you know or love a reminder, a wake up call, a trigger to get checked, helped and cured. Life does seem so cruel sometimes. We hope to help you get through this in any way we can. And you know I think you will get better, stronger and this will probably change your life and make it even better than it was. So, go Ian! We love you and we are thinking of you every day. And hey there are 8 of us in this house so that’s a lot of postive energy coming your way! With love, Mandy, Brian (although he probably wants to post his own message) and your family over here.xxxx

7. Friendless - June 30, 2008

Hey Mr C! I don’t know if you read my blog but I too interrupted my blithe chatter on board games to post the news that I had a melanoma:


Although I’ve had the surgery and everything looks fine except for the whacking great scar, I know what a toll this takes on you mentally. About every 5 minutes I see a spot on my arm or something itches or I get a pain somewhere and I immediately start thinking “is that a symptom of spreading cancer?” And honestly, I live in fear. Even worse, I don’t know why I shouldn’t!

I haven’t called to ask if I can help because (a) I’m really slack, but you knew that, but also (b) I recognise that diseases are pretty callous things that just don’t care what we want or how much help we get. The best I can do is to say that I know how you feel and if you’re really scared then I don’t think you’re a girly wuss.

8. Geri Clatworthy - June 30, 2008

Thanks to all those that have done stuff that has made this bearable …. meals dropped off, making us laugh, phonecalls, minding the kids etc etc.
Thanks to Canonical too for being such a shining example of an employer in every way I can think of.
It’s not going to be easy but Ian always shocks me with his ability to make the best of every situation. Life is for living and lets get on with it. Geri Clatworthy (Ian’s wife in case you are confused)

9. Cecilia Bell - July 2, 2008

Hi Ian, just wanted to let you know that Greg and I (Cecilia, Mandy’s sister that is)…have been thinking of you and Geri and the kids a lot, and will be thinking of you as you go through all your treatment, and wishing that you will beat the cancer. Best of luck with it all.

10. Mauve - November 11, 2008

Good for people to know.

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