Cancer as a Guru: 5 Life Lessons from a Remarkable Guest

Breast-Cancer-istockphoto134127959A few days ago, I received the best Christmas gift I have ever gotten. Tracy’s post “What makes Christmas exciting” on FEC-THis made me appreciate Christmas, fatherhood, and life in a way I’ve never experienced before. I wanted to share this post with everyone, but rather than creating a link or a re-blog, I realized that it wasn’t so much the post that I wanted to share, but Tracy herself.

So I asked Tracy to be the first guest blogger on Everyday Gurus. The following post by Tracy is the second best gift I have gotten for Christmas.

Gifts from Antiquity: Lessons Rediscovered in Cancer Treatment

All lessons are gifts.  Each is subtly wrapped with warm, shimmering light and collectively they are bound together with gossamer ribbons from the cosmos.  They are here to renew and restore  the spirit. In doing so they cultivate fresh life for my slightly worn shell, and I hope perhaps they might inspire others too.

1. Hope is always present.

I know hope seems so fragile and ineffective when faced with an aggressive cancer diagnosis or other life-threatening situations – what use can hope possibly be against one of the most prolific killers of our time?   I find it, however, incredibly useful.

Nurturing hope, giving it permission to evolve and grow, brings a sense of inner strength and tranquility that I have never before enjoyed each day.  There were fleeting moments of course, but no consistency.  Today inner strength and tranquility stand with me shoulder to shoulder; they refuse to let me fall.

Hope is also highly infectious. With hope, not only is my spirit free to explore what lies ahead without fear or despair, but so too are the spirits of those near and dear to me.  The future may be different, unexpected, but it is not bleak because hope has infected us all.

2. Every question has many answers and the answers may change over time.

When first told of a threat to one’s health or longevity it’s natural to ask “why me?” I’ve sat in waiting rooms, seen the tears and heard the conversation so many times this year.

I clearly remember hearing my own diagnosis in June and simply saying “Thank you. So what do we do about it?”   This response was both responsible and deliberate since my consultant could not possibly be expected to answer the “why me?” question … and I cannot expect to answer it myself.

It occurs to me that young children are more adept at “why?” questions than us adults. When prompted by “why?” children who have yet to develop the sophisticated reasoning we rely on in later life simply say “just because.”

At the highest level the answer to “why me?” is always “just because.” There are other, more scientific answers – genetics, environment, diet, exercise, a combination of all these and more.  But for those recently diagnosed, relentless pursuit of an answer to ” why me?” drains precious energy. Ask instead “what do we need to do about it?” and in that moment we banish the swirling mists of our minds and create new purpose and direction.

"The mountains are one of my favourite places, for me they symbolise the many pathways we can chose to follow, the purity and rawness of our planet and the journey toward developing a generous soul."

“The mountains are one of my favorite places, for me they symbolize the many pathways we can chose to follow, the purity and rawness of our planet and the journey toward developing a generous soul.”

3. Statistics are like weather forecasts–not always reliable

In 2012 I learned to read statistics in the same way I read the weather forecast.  The sun will almost certainly shine today, but the presenter cannot tell me for precisely for how long, how many clouds might pass by or exactly how warm the day may become. I get up, dress accordingly, keep my sunscreen on hand and go about my day.  I enjoy it without fretting over clouds that might or might not roll in during my lunch break.

Statistics are incredibly useful for scientists and rarely tell us citizens what it is we want to hear. “The survival rate is 75% …. So that’s really good.”  The 25% are likely to hold an alternate view.  However this is the nature of statistics–they capture patterns at a macro level and have no control over events on a micro scale.  I choose not to compare my life against a file of statistics, the weather patterns and forecasts compiled by reviewing many lives across the world. I am one; those lives are many; they are not my life.

4. Kindness costs nothing–make sure to include it at home.

I hold that kindness towards others is one of the most endearing facets of humanity. Long may it continue.  Facing a difficult illness calls for kindness in a wider sense too, and as the slave-driver of my own life I have come to recognize that it is OK for me to be as kind to myself as I am to those around me.

It’s OK to hear my body say ‘I’m tired’ and offer it a little rest. It’s no big deal if I’m distracted from an assignment because my heart says, “the sky is brilliant tonight, open the door and watch the stars.” I’ve learned to be as kind to myself as I am to others and I feel more human for it.

5. Everyday brings an infinite number of things to be glad about.

I’ve found the trick when dealing with chaos, uncertainty and melancholia is to acknowledge the gloom while preventing it from taking too firm a grip.  Rejecting it outright can make it swirl ominously. Accepting it’s there, in this moment, yet so too are a number of other things helps me retain my sense of perspective.

The world is still here; I am alive; treatment is tough; I love my family and friends; I see beauty in everyday things; I laugh about how bizarre this thing called life can be….. and I know tomorrow is another day where I’ll be offered the opportunity to practice being glad again.  Like learning to play an instrument, practicing being glad has remarkable effects on the overall strength of one’s repertoire and quality of performance. Just as my student-self learned to play guitar and sax and piano by practicing a little each day so my adult-self learns to love life by practicing to be glad, truly glad, through every twist and turn it takes.


Thank you Tracy for these wonderful lessons.

Please use comments below to ask Tracy any question and give her a virtual hug {{{Hug}}}, or better yet, visit her blog and read about her incredible experience.

Thank you for reading, sharing, and/or smiling.

21 comments on “Cancer as a Guru: 5 Life Lessons from a Remarkable Guest

  1. A Table in the Sun says:

    Words to live by.

  2. rarasaur says:

    Wonderful words of wisdom, but I would expect no less from the beautiful Tracy. 🙂 I love her strength– but mostly I love that the strength is drawn from happiness and balance. *hugs* to you both for a beautiful post!

    • Kozo says:

      I’m so glad you already know Tracy, Rara. You guys both have so much positive energy. {{Hugs}} for the comment.

      • Tracy says:

        I’m a little slow responding to comments – apologies – busy busy with work and hospitals this week. Rara inspires me in so many ways, I feel we have lots of positive karma between us 🙂

  3. How wise and beautiful are those lessons Tracy is sharing with us here.
    Thank you so much Kozo

  4. seeker says:

    Hope, I like hope and the rest follows. I’m glad is #1 on the list.

    • Kozo says:

      I agree, Seeker. Hope is #1. To see Tracy put it at the top of her list only verifies my conviction. Thanks for the comment.

    • Tracy says:

      Hope is so important. I’m sure some people will wonder how its possible to hold on to hope when it seems the sky may be about to fall in, but rarely are things as bleak as they might first seem and very good things can come from the most difficult situations.

  5. KM Huber says:

    Thanks, Kozo, for bringing Tracy’s marvelous blog to my attention and Tracy, what an inspiring post this one is. I agree that hope is infectious and after that, the rest just is.


    • Kozo says:

      I completely agree, Karen–Tracy is marvelous and the “rest just is.” If only we could just leave the rest alone–let it rest. haha.
      Thanks for the comment.

    • Tracy says:

      Thanks Karen, hope is both inspiring and motivating and best of all it’s free. I feel it’s easier to have hope than to remain trapped in despair. I also feel it’s kinder for those around me to see me positive and filled with hope than paralyzed by fear. Tracy

  6. diannegray says:

    What a beautiful inspirational post. I’m going over to Tracy’s blog now.

    Big {{{HUGS}}} to you Tracy 😀

    • Tracy says:

      Thank you Dianne, please stop by my blog anytime. Hopefully you’ll find other posts of interest too. Sending you much joy and of course, big hugs Tracy 🙂

  7. […] Cancer as a Guru: 5 Life Lessons from a Remarkable Guest ( […]

  8. cindy knoke says:

    I have never re:blogged but I would like to with this post. Would this be helpful or not?
    I am very impressed.

  9. eof737 says:

    Beautiful post Tracy. What a gift. 🙂

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