Monday, June 13, 2011

Top 3 Lessons I Learned from Cancer

I recently read Jim Higley's book, Bobblehead Dad, which chronicles his journey through prostate cancer and the lessons he drew on from his youth. He'd been living the corporate life for 20 some odd years and his diagnosis forced him to take the summer off to heal from surgery. In his recovery summer he realized some deep truths about himself that nearly everyone can relate.

Jim's book got me thinking about lists... Not like the top 10 lists on Wayne's World or the ones we'd make into t-shirts in college, but a legit list of the top lessons I learned or carried into my cancer journey.

So, from public access Blogger on the couch in my basement...

The Top 3 Lessons From Roger's Cancer Journey

#3 Spend energy on healing, not score keeping
Over the course of my life I was conditioned to compare and keep track of my performance as it related to others. Was the gift I gave my friend "the best" one he got for his birthday? Did I beat the field in my golf tournaments? Did my bosses like me more than my coworkers?

My college roommate gave me a glimpse of this lesson while we all were adjusting to his new disability. Some acted how he thought they would, others, not so much. It wore on him for a bit, but he came to the conclusion that there was no right way to grieve and he would let people come to terms on their own and be there when they arrived.

I carried this lesson into my cancer journey and it allowed me to focus my energy on healing instead of keeping tally on who was bringing meals or sending mail. I appreciated everything equally.  (Full entry on this topic here: The Score Sheet)

#2 Present is a state-of-mind, not something you give your boss
I've mentioned in previous posts that one of the hardest parts of being diagnosed with cancer was that my life was on hold while I got treatment. I was forced to sit idle for 8 months while all my friends and coworkers continued to ascend the corporate mountain.

Funny thing happened... When I stopped thinking about where I wanted to be in a year, what meetings I had that week, or what my boss would think about me taking a day off shaving I was forced to get present in the moment and find what was truly important in my life.

If you are too busy living in the future, it's going to take you a long time to line up your priorities with your values. And chances are, it's gonna be too late.

#1 Live life as the True You
Before cancer, I built my life on the guidance of others including teachers, parents, siblings, peers, media, etc. The list goes on and on. I thought I was living a pretty sweet life in the eyes of everyone else, but you know what? There is only one set of eyes that look back at you from the mirror at the end of the day:

Yours.

This final lesson is what sparked Lift Living. I want to translate the impact of receiving a cancer diagnosis into something the every day person can internalize and implement in their own lives so when they look into the mirror they can't help but smile.

Imagine a world where the term "Bucket List" has no meaning because we didn't spend our lives neglecting the things we wanted to do the most. It takes courage, acceptance, patience, and determination to live your True You, but if you are willing to put in the work you are on your way to a fuller life.

And that's a lesson worth living.

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