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Being diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma at the beginning of 2017 turned Josh Hickford CA's life around instantly. Having spent his whole life preparing for a career in accounting, honing the skills and experience needed to secure a role in finance management, cancer wasn't part of the plan.
So how did the Senior Management Accountant at TSB New Zealand step up to face this challenge?
"Getting told that you've got cancer is like a bombshell. As doctors don't know what Hodgkin's Lymphoma is caused by, I constantly questioned what caused my cancer diagnosis. But I decided to just approach my treatment with a positive mindset, resilience and the fact that I could only control what I could," Josh says.
According to Josh, developing resilience and a positive mindset in both one's professional and personal life are key skills that have helped him to focus only on what is within his control. Josh also found comfort in knowing he wasn't alone in his battle with cancer, as he had the support of his network of family and friends.
"I kind of approached my battle with cancer like a cricket game. I had a really good team around me, so the chances of a successful run-chase to remission was high. And with cricket, you can lose a few wickets, but always come back and win," Josh says.
Following months of chemotherapy and radiation, Josh was finally declared free of cancer. Since then, he has been sharing his story with others, and raising awareness as well as funds for the Cancer Society of NZ.
This included taking part in the TV show Survivor NZ. "I was only in remission for two months when I appeared on Survivor NZ which was probably a little bit outrageous at the time. I wanted to prove to myself and others that anyone can achieve what they set their mind to - no matter how big or small the goal," Josh says.
"Survivor's a bit like the business world as you've got to deal with different people and so much uncertainty. When you land on the island, you don't really know anyone - their stories, their agendas, their strengths and weaknesses. My strategy was to sit back, watch and build rapport and a relationship with everyone. Being a CA helped me be strategic and good at winging situations."
After fighting cancer and making his appearance on Survivor NZ, Josh was looking for a new physical challenge and started training for Ironman New Zealand. Josh saw this as an opportunity to prove that anyone can go through something really challenging and come out on the other side.
"Ironman was the end goal just to prove to myself and to my body and other people that I can go through this and still achieve something that I didn't think I could do before I had cancer. Ironman is one of the most gruelling events in the world, not only physically, but mentally and probably emotionally, so crossing that line was one of the most satisfying moments of my life," Josh says.
"I was only in remission for two months when I appeared on Survivor NZ which was probably a little bit outrageous at the time. I wanted to challenge myself and prove that anyone could go on it."
In 2019, Josh joined forces with the Cancer Society Taranaki Centre to launch Ripple, a smart phone app dedicated to connecting people affected by cancer and those around them with relevant information. In 2020, the app has evolved into a 24/7 mobile cancer support service focused on online forums.
"When I had cancer, I had a really good network around me for support, but I didn't actually meet anyone my age that had the cancer I was diagnosed with. I went through the process and I didn't talk to anyone in the same position as me," Josh says.
"I thought that there would be other people who probably did not seek out information and felt quite vulnerable and lost. Having been on Survivor, I had a bit of a profile so I was well-positioned to create something for the community here in New Zealand."
Josh says that his CA training provided him with a strong financial skill set and allowed him to work with stakeholders from the grassroots of an organisation, right to the CEO and Board, to take his initial idea to fruition.
"Being a CA gave me the confidence and skills to convince the Cancer Society and CEOs to invest in the startup as I was able to back up my idea with the financial base. Although I didn't have any experience doing something like this before, I've always liked the idea of creating something that has potential to benefit a wider group," Josh says.
Having successfully implemented Ripple both locally and nationally, Josh hopes to continue using his skills to positively impact the community.
"I'd love to end up with a role in the community that helps to empower leaders to work towards achieving their shared passion and vision. CAs are seen as trusted advisors, and I think I've positioned myself well to have influence within the wider community and create change," Josh says.
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