Lessons Learned from Cancer

Bob Riter is the retired Executive Director of the Cancer Resource Center. His articles about living with cancer appeared regularly in the Ithaca Journal and on OncoLink. He can be reached at bobriter@gmail.com.

A collection of Bob’s columns, When Your Life is Touched by Cancer: Practical Advice and Insights for Patients, Professionals, and Those Who Care, is available in bookstores nationwide and through online retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble. All royalties from the sale of the book come to the Cancer Resource Center.

I’m always happy when readers tell me that the advice I provide in my columns about cancer is just as applicable for people with any type of serious illness.

Increasingly, I think the lessons I’ve learned in the cancer world have applications to life even more broadly. Here are some examples:

  • People should stop giving advice to everyone on every topic. You can see this now on Facebook. Someone will post that they’re having a problem with their health, relationships, finances or whatever, and their friends (and often complete strangers) respond with advice. Honestly, most of this advice is not helpful and it’s sometimes harmful. Giving advice regarding cancer is especially dangerous. It’s good to support your friends when they’re having problems, but stop telling them what to do.
  • Realize that you can’t control everything. We don’t know why most people get cancer. Things happen in life that we can’t control. But we can control how we respond to the challenges that we encounter.
  • At some point, you have to trust the professionals that you work with and accept that they have your best interests at heart. If you don’t trust your doctor (or lawyer or insurance agent, etc.), get another one. If you find that you don’t trust anyone, you should look at yourself.
  • There is no single right path through cancer or through life. Don’t think that your path is the right path for anyone else.
  • Anxiety and depression make us poor decision-makers. It’s good to address those problems before you need to make critical decisions.
  • We need more people to listen and fewer people to talk.
  • We all have the ability to be kind to one another. There’s nothing that’s more important.

Reprinted with permission of the Ithaca Journal.

Click here to see all of Bob’s Columns

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