January 29, 2020
Head In The Game sees athletes across a variety of disciplines speak candidly about their mental wellbeing – from occasional periods of poor mental health to ongoing, sometimes debilitating, struggles with mental illness. They also share coping mechanisms and the support they’ve turned to during their lowest points.In the summer of 2017, Andrew Strauss’s wife Ruth started experiencing vague symptoms – a sore back, general aches and pains, and feelingtired all the time.
Andrew Strauss: ’I Try Not To Say I Have Bad Days. They’re Just Days I’m Remembering’
Scans later revealed a surprising diagnosis: stage four lung cancer – a rare form known as ALK positive non-small cell lung cancer, which mostly affects non-smokers.
“The day Ruth was diagnosed it was like our whole world came crashing down,” says Strauss, who was in Australia with the Ashes at the time and rushed back home to be with her. “She became really unwell very quickly.
“It was a huge surprise for us. We just couldn’t understand for the life of us how Ruth had managed to develop this cancer. We had no idea, actually, that if you don’t smoke, lung cancer is a viable option.”
The reality is that an estimated 10-15% of lung cancers occur in non-smokers. These cancers tend to affect younger people and more women than men, and it’s something Strauss wants to raise awareness of.
“To hear it was stage four, so it wasn’t one Ruth was going to recover from, that was incredibly hard to take,” he says.Introducing Head In The Game... Frank Bruno Helped Change How Mental Health Is Spoken About In Sport. Where's The Conversation Now? Treatment afforded the couple, along with their two young sons, another 12 months together. 
“Ruth was incredible in that time, remaining positive, making sure that she appreciated and made the most of every moment, and also not sticking her head in the sand,” says Strauss. “She prepared me and the boys for what was to come.” In December 2018, the family flew to Australia to spend Christmas with Ruth’s relatives. She passed away on 29 December, aged 46.
In the year since Ruth’s death, Strauss has learned a lot about grief – but also life. “I was so busy over the last 15 years playing cricket, working for Sky, straight into the Cricket administration,” he says. “It was always that thing of, ‘I’m really busy at the moment, but at some stage things will calm down and we can spend a bit more time together as a family.’
“I think it’s so easy to just keep pushing down that road forever and never really doing it. I’m certainly more conscious of saying ‘no’ more, not sweating the small stuff as much, and savouring life a bit more.
“I’ve got a responsibility at the moment to raise those two boys, and I’m trying to do as good a job as I can.”Jenny Thomas, the family’s child grief and loss counsellor, told Strauss shortly after Ruth’s death was that there are two key types of behaviour when mourning a loved one: You’re either looking forward and pushing on with your new life, or you’re dealing with a loss, in which case you’re thinking about what’s happened and getting upset.
“Her advice to me was very much like, ‘If you feel like you’re doing too much of one without the other, that’s not great.’ So if you’re just pushing ahead and not thinking about what’s happened, that’s not great,” says Strauss. “And if you’re just sitting there not getting out of bed in the morning, that’s not great either.”
This has become a mantra, of sorts. “There have been some bad days – I try not to say bad because they’re just days when I’m remembering,” he says. “Yes of course, you get sad and you cry. But there have also been a lot of good days as well.
“I’ve always felt relatively accepting of wherever I am in life and just cracking on with it, but there are times when it still hits you like a 10-tonne truck.”In the past year, Strauss’s close friends and family have rallied round, providing support and helping out where needed. But counselling has been indispensable as well.
“Having professional help has been so invaluable, because there’s always someone there that can provide an answer for you – it might not be the right answer, but it provides a way forward for you,” he says.
“Jenny helped us deal with the situation and also helped us prepare the kids for what was coming, and then she’s obviously remained on-hand to help me and the kids deal with bereavement,” Strauss said. “She’s been like a fairy godmother to us, she’s been incredible, and it would’ve been a lot harder without her.”Now, Strauss is slowly turning his attention back to cricket. In September, not long after being knighted,he was appointed to a new role within the England and Wales Cricket Board, which will see him play a part in driving all aspects of the professional game, including women’s, men’s and disability cricket.
But he’s also honouring his wife’s legacy by establishing The Ruth Strauss Foundation – and speaking more openly about death and grief. The foundation offers grants for research into rare forms of lung cancers and provides support to patients and their families.
“I feel very grateful that through the foundation I’ve been able to have a very positive outlet for my grief,” Strauss says. “I think that’s really sustained me, and I’ve got this passion about creating a worthwhile legacy for Ruth’s name – it’s an important thing for me, the boys, and it’s important the world knows what a special woman Ruth was.”
In August, on day two of the second Ashes Test between England and Australia, Lords Cricket Ground“turned red” in Ruth’s memory. It was around this time that Strauss decided he wanted to speak more openly, and publicly, about his grief. He wanted to show it’s ok to not be ok. 
“I just feel that death is a bit of a taboo, and people don’t like talking about it, and grief in particular is a very solitary thing,” he says.
“As a society we just don’t deal with it very well – I look at what has happened with mental health in recent years, and even the MeToo movement, in terms of these incredibly tough times that people go through that they feel like they have to go through on their own.
“It feels like with grief, there’s an opportunity there for us to be much more open about it, because people don’t know what to say, and even for the people who are grieving, it’s hard to open up to people.
“My experience is that if you are open and honest about it, and you’re able to have that conversation, then it makes everyone feel a bit easier – and if you’re going through it, the more support you have, the better.”Visit HuffPost UK’s dedicated Head in the Game site to read our full series of daily interviews with sports people about their mental health and wellbeing.Related... How Footballer Eniola Aluko Pushed Past Her ‘Paralysing Fear Of Failure’ What's The Difference Between Mental Health And Mental Illness? How To Find Love After Loss –And Overcome Those Feelings Of Guilt Useful websites and helplines:Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.)The Mix is a free support service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: help@themix.org.ukRethink Mental Illness offers practical help through its advice line which can be reached on 0300 5000 927 (open Monday to Friday 10am-4pm). More info can be found on www.rethink.org.
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Star Wars Director Says It's About Time A Woman Makes A Star Wars Movie
Jan 02, 2024
Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Sharmeed Obaid-Chinoy is directing an upcoming Star Wars movie that brings back Daisy Ridley in the role of Rey. Obaid-Chinoy will become the first woman to direct a Star Wars film, dating back to the franchise's origins in the 1970s. Speaking about this, Obaid-Chinoy told CNN that she is "very thrilled" to make the movie and create something that is "very special.""We're in 2024 now, and I think it's about time we had a woman come forward to shape the story in a galaxy far, far away," she said.Obaid-Chinoy won Best Documentary, Short Subjects Academy Awards for Saving Face (2012) and A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness (2015).In 2020, Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy told the BBC that a woman would eventually direct a Star Wars movie, saying that would "absolutely" happen, "without question." Victoria Mahoney was a second unit director on The Rise of Skywalker, but a woman has never claimed a top directing credit on a Star Wars movie.On the TV side of things, The Mandalorian has featured a number of female directors, including Deborah Chow and Bryce Dallas Howard. Chow went on to direct the Obi-Wan TV series, too.Another high-profile franchise that has never had a female director is James Bond. Producer Barbara Broccoli and Skyfall director Sam Mendes have both said they want to see a woman direct a future 007 film.As for Obaid-Chinoy's Star Wars movie, little is known about it apart from the fact that Ridley will come back to play Rey. It is expected that this film will be the first of the three new Star Wars films to come to theaters, possibly releasing in December 2025.According to a report, Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight is writing the Rey movie, taking over for Damon Lindelof and Justin Britt-Gibson.
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NBA Names Clare Akamanzi CEO Of NBA Africa
Jan 02, 2024 15:29
The NBA named Clare Akamanzi – an accomplished business executive and international trade and investment lawyer – as CEO of NBA Africa. Akamanzi will start her position on Jan. 23, 2024, and report to NBA Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer Mark Tatum. In this role, Akamanzi will oversee the NBA’s business and basketball development efforts in Africa and will be responsible for continuing to grow the popularity of basketball, the NBA and the Basketball Africa League (BAL) across the continent, including through grassroots basketball development, media distribution, corporate partnerships, and social responsibility initiatives that improve the livelihoods of African youth and families. For the last six and a half years, Akamanzi was CEO of Rwanda Development Board (RDB), where she spearheaded Rwanda’s economic development by enabling private sector growth. Under Akamanzi’s leadership, RDB implemented several business policy reforms and initiatives that led to significant investment and development for the country, including through partnerships with the BAL, Arsenal FC, Paris Saint-Germain FC, FC Bayern Munich and TIME Magazine, among others. “Clare’s business acumen, international experience and familiarity with basketball and the NBA make her the ideal executive to lead our business in Africa,” says Tatum. “NBA Africa and the Basketball Africa League are well-positioned for continued growth, and under Clare’s leadership we believe these initiatives will transform economies, communities and lives across the continent.” “I’ve seen firsthand how sports can positively impact businesses, families and communities in Africa, and the NBA and the BAL are a perfect example of that,” says Akamanzi. “The NBA has done an incredible job growing basketball and the economy around it across the continent, and I’m excited about the enormous opportunities ahead to build on that momentum.” Previously, Akamanzi was Chief Operating Officer of RDB and Head of Strategy and Policy Unit, Office of the President of the Republic of Rwanda. She has extensive international trade, business and diplomatic experience, having previously worked for the Rwandan Government at the World Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland and at the Rwandan Embassy in London, England. Akamanzi has worked or studied in seven different countries and holds an honorary LLD from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, in recognition of her work in Rwanda. She earned a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she was the recipient of three prestigious awards for academic excellence and distinguished contribution to the community: the Lucius N. Littauer Fellows Award, the Raymond & Josephine Vernon Award and the Robert Kennedy Public Service Award. In addition, Akamanzi holds a Master of Laws degree in international trade and investments from the University of Pretoria in South Africa, and a Bachelor of Laws degree from Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. Akamanzi has served on several company boards, including the World Health Organization (WHO) Foundation, ECOBANK and Aviation, Travel and Logistics (ATL) company. She was recognized by Forbes as one of Africa’s Top 50 Powerful Women in 2020.
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