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“Andy,  you have leukaemia…”

“Andy, you have leukaemia…”

Andy_ITime to read: 3 Minutes

“Andy, you have leukaemia…”

In September 2011 these were the words told to Andy Isherwood – Managing Director and Senior Vice President of Hewlett Packard UK and Ireland. He had cancer, and he could very well die.

“We all think we are invincible until something hits you, and when it does, we all deal with it in a different way.” Andy tells me, and after he told me how he dealt with it, I knew I had to feature him in a NL Weekly. I asked Andy to summarise what he thought in that moment, what he decided he was going to do about it and what I and others can learn from his experience:

After I heard the doctor’s words, I asked myself – ‘what’s the best outcome that can happen, and what is the worst?’ The best was to remove the cancer the second was death. OK, so what do I need to do to stay alive? What team do I need to put together to ensure that is achieved, and to also make sure that my area of HP can run without me. I knew a positive mentality was critical, and so I set about knowing – not simply believing – that all would be well. I sat down with the medical specialist and we decided on the plan that would give me the maximum chance of living. I simply didn’t have time to go through the ‘change curve’ and do denial – our CEO Meg Whitman has a phrase – ‘run to the fire’ – confront your very biggest issues – and that is where I ran.

It is extraordinary what we have within us when we really need it. I knew that people would feel sorry for me, and whisper in quiet corners – I had no time for any of that, or for any low points. My wife, doctor and I became Project Managers like never before.

After six cycles of chemotherapy over 8 months the cancer went into remission, and still is. And if it comes back I will be ready for it.

The 3 biggest lessons that I learned:

  • Have a very strong informal network around you at all times – family, friends and work colleagues. People you can be there for when they need you, and vice versa.
  • Spend time with people you lead – and know – for no other reason than simply being with them – listening and chatting. I did a lot of this over those 8 months, because I had to. Now I do it, because I choose to.
  • Grow great leaders from the people who work with and for you, and be proud of them, not jealous, when they overtake you on their way to achieving their ambitions.

Andy is a long-time friend, and I hope his reaction to those four words in the heading help you as much as they have helped and inspired me.

Thank you Andy

With my love and best wishes

David x

PS. Please comment or ask any questions below


9 Responses to “Andy, you have leukaemia…”

  1. Well, the expression live or die, s..t or bust, springs to mind.
    Well done andy for getting busy living!

  2. Having people around you is a good thing, especially in a crisis such as illness.
    Bravo Andy.

  3. The network of friends aspect is so important.
    Get the people around u that love you. If they do, they will support you all the way.

  4. Spending time with people you lead to have a better understanding of them is such a good tip.

  5. Hi David,

    wow leukaemia…

    I love your CEO’s (Meg) phrase of “run to the fire”. I think it’s what you have to do with everything in life. Take a few moments to form a plan then attack. If you learn to embrace failure (and ask why) you become truly invincible.

    Great post David thanks for sharing something to personal with us.

    Best regards,

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