What to Accept — and What Not to — During Cancer


After being diagnosed with aggressive bone cancer, I had to accept that much of my life was going to change.

cartoon drawing of blogger and sarcoma survivor, Steve Rubin

In 2016, I was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare and aggressive bone cancer. I had been healthy my whole life and the diagnosis came out of nowhere. After an MRI showed a tumor in my right femur, I met a surgeon who performed a biopsy and within weeks, I was starting chemotherapy.

Everything happened so quickly that there was no time for denial. I got right to work, accepting that my life path had suddenly changed (even if I couldn’t quite comprehend the implications), and I believe this served me well. My energy and focus were aligned and building momentum.

Over the following year, I accepted that my executive search career would be put on hold so that I could focus on treatment. My chemo required being at the hospital five days a week from 8am6pm. I accepted all the ups and downs of treatment, the side effects, the neutropenia, the uncertainty. I accepted having to endure an 18-hour marathon surgery.

Back home, I accepted that the buzz and excitement of living in New York City— happy hours, concerts and dinners with friends— would now be replaced by simpler moments of joy: moments like savoring a cup of tea, enjoying a good bookor sitting by the park and watching the greenery sway back and forth.

Unfortunately, after I completed my chemo schedule and prepared to resume my career, I experienced multiple waves of recurrences. The situation grew extreme — more extreme I should say, cancer is always extreme. My medical team said that the five-year survival rate for someone in my situation was less than 10%.

When I looked for any signs of hope or encouragement, I found none. I asked surgeons, oncologists and nurses if they’d ever personally seen anyone in my situation turn their health around. They had not. I was told that without treatment I would die, and even with treatment, the prognosis was extremely guarded.

That’s where I drew my line of acceptance.

Somewhere inside, I sensed that above all else, I had to protect my belief that healing was possible. I set out to research alternative healing strategies, studied methods that other cancer survivors had found success with and refused to accept being another statistic.

It wasn’t smooth sailing, but over time, I managed to improve my health. For anyone with questions, shoot me a note at steve@othercword.com and I’m always looking to support the community just like thrivers who were there for me.

Now, over five years later, I believe my decision to not accept that grim prognosis is the reason I’m still alive today… Knowing what to accept and what not to accept was an incredibly important lesson.

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