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Bringing Lessons from Cancer to the Next Chapter

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Cancer has taught me valuable lessons and now, I'm letting these lessons guide me.

Man with curly brown hair in a suit, reading a book. A cancer survivor talks about the lessons cancer has taught him, which now guides him through life.

There was a time when I wasn’t sure if I’d ever be ready to take on more.

Back in the mid-2010s, after my bone cancer diagnosis grew further out of control; as cancer spread from my right leg to both lungs and then my left hip; as doctors gave me a five-year less than 10% survival rate… At the time, the only thing on my mind was surviving.

I needed a miracle. Especially after I passed on the only option offered, a clinical trial with a low success rate and painful side effects.

Amid all the trauma and paralyzing uncertainty, just the idea of being left alone — no more poking or prodding from doctors, no unbearable weight of a prognosis hanging over me that left me feeling like a dead man walking as I showed up to medical appointments — and enjoying peace and quiet was all I wanted.

I began to spend more and more time in my apartment, which began to double as a healing center — stocked with everything from red light therapy panels, an infrared sauna, juicers and a fridge full of the finest nutrients I could get my hands on — so I could focus exclusively on healing. This way I could at least tell myself I was doing everything possible to give myself the best chance at surviving.

For many years, this was the best I figured I could expect out of life.

Miraculously, as I stayed disciplined over time, scan results began improving and I managed to overcome the grim survival rate. From there, I celebrated, soaking up as much as I could of that wonderful feeling of relief. And yet, having experienced five recurrences since my diagnosis, it was hard not to stay somewhat guarded.

The thought of pushing myself and asking for more out of life felt risky. I had tried returning to work twice beforehand, and the added stress (among who knows what other factors) led to recurrences at my next follow-up scans.

Living in this state of feeling unable to trust the universe continued for quite some time.

Fortunately, I have an amazing wife who has not only supported me throughout our darkest days but refuses to settle for less than the life she knows we deserve. Thanks to a lot of self-work and her nudging me out of my comfort zone, we have made major strides in rebuilding after cancer. And this year, are taking a new leap of faith.

In the next few months, we’re leaving New York, the only home I’ve known aside from a stint in Maryland during college. We’re leaving our apartment where we’ve stayed for over 10 years as life with cancer grew overwhelming. We’re leaving our friends and the nonstop buzz of the city that never sleeps.

We’re moving cross country for the next chapter of our lives, and that brings a surge of emotions. There’s excitement, exhilaration and many of the same feelings that I faced during cancer: fear, uncertainty, worry… My brain’s instinct is to work the puzzle, desperately in search of control.

But I’ve grown over the years. Cancer has taught me valuable lessons.

I’ve learned that it’s OK not to have all the answers right away; that if you stay focused on your intention, on what needs to happen, and you put in the work to give yourself every edge possible, you boost the odds of getting lucky.

I’ve learned to focus on the process over any individual outcome and trust in myself to make steady adjustments along the way.

And perhaps most importantly, I’ve learned to recognize when it may be best to let go and stop putting so much unhelpful pressure on myself.

It’s time to move on and chase new hopes and dreams — plans that I once thought cancer may have ruled out. Only now, the wisdom I’ve gained is guiding me along, with a more enlightened sense of calm.

Lessons from cancer are guiding me right where I’m supposed to be… One day at a time.

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