What Cancer Patients Can Teach Us About Living. ~ Richard Calautti

Via elephant journal
on Nov 29, 2012
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I am important, I count and I can love myself.

A few years ago, I developed and coordinated a research project amongst over 200 cancer patients, survivors and carers about the important aspects of life. The theory behind the original concept was that a cancer diagnosis, whilst devastating, helps to ‘snap’ into focus what’s really important in life.

While many of us are constantly rushing and caught up with the daily stresses of our lives, we forget that everything could suddenly change with a cancer diagnosis.

For me, the results of this research were very profound—I regularly refer to the findings which I regard as a real-life ‘self help’ guide, with advice and guidance from those directly affected by cancer willing to offer their opinions about life. The advice, information and direct quotes provided by the cancer patients about life is the best self-help guide I’ve ever read.

Some of the key findings from the study include:

“Have the courage to be yourself” was first (42.4%) when asked “What advice would you give your old self (before diagnosis) about life?”

Treat others the way you wish to be treated” was the most popular choice amongst various phrases/philosophies/book titles which provide the best advice. (“Your happiness starts and ends with you,” was second.)

87.8% of respondents agreed that positive thinking makes an enormous difference in our quality of life.

Gratitude is a quality acknowledged by many participants throughout the survey, with “I am more thankful” ranked first when asked “Has the illness improved your life in any of these ways?” and was mentioned multiple times when asked “What has the illness taught you about life?”

For those of us who complain about the daily grind, many suggested we visit the oncology ward of a hospital to be more thankful for being able to experience ‘the daily grind.’

The majority of participants (59%) agreed that “To love, and enjoy the act of living” was the meaning of life, whilst the quote “Life is a challenge, meet it” received the highest number of votes amongst various quotes by Mother Theresa about life (“Life is beauty, admire it” was second).

Stress was the highest ranked variable when participants were asked if they believed any behavioral or life-specific factors contributed to their illness.

“Friends and family” ranked first when asked “What cheers you up?”

94.1% of respondents agreed that life was better with lots of love (rather than money, at 2.9%).

For non-patients who feel like ‘giving up’ on life, participants were very forthcoming with advice—seeking counseling, striving for goals, looking at the positives and living in the moment were frequent suggestions.

Inspiring quotes provided by cancer patients in the research:

What has your illness taught you about life?

You never know what’s around the corner. The things you thought were important, such as a good job and money, are now right down the bottom of the list of things that are important in my life.

Deep appreciation for every moment of every day and gratitude for my many blessings.

Cancer has brought out the best qualities in myself, and I have also found that in others. But, ultimately, I can’t rely on anyone else for my happiness. It’s up to me.

That the important material objects you once wanted and needed are just not important. Being happy and content is much more essential to living life completely.

Don’t wait until ‘later’ to make the changes that will give you the chance of a happier, more loving life.

There are no certainties, but you can achieve amazing things if you believe in yourself.

That a lifetime cannot be measured in years, so make the most of now.

What advice would you give to someone who feels like ‘giving up’ on life?

If it’s possible, find something that brings you joy and get lost in it.

We have the power to heal our lives if we only trust and believe in ourselves. Don’t give up because you don’t know what you’ll miss.

God put you here for a reason and he needs you! Find out why!

Find something to be grateful for every day and feel the joy of that.

Love, respect and appreciate the uniqueness of you. Give up living to the expectations of others. Accept full responsibility for all that has occurred to you in life. Search their heart for their life spark.

 What does success mean to you?

Waking up every day and thanking God for giving me another day with my family.

Living in awareness every moment of my life.

Being true and honest to yourself.

Completing goals, no matter how small they are, each day.

Being content with life daily, hourly, momentarily.

Nothing. Both ‘success’ and ‘perfection’ are concepts that side-track us from living.

 What advice would you give to people who complain about the ‘daily grind’?

Just go and spend a day in the chemo treatment room and then you will realise just how lucky you are.

The opportunity to grapple with ‘the daily grind’ becomes a blessing when confronted with the imminent possibility of death.

Any day above ground is a really good day!

Be grateful that you can grind. There are many who can’t.

Thank God that you are alive, and have a life to live.

The best thing I have learned/gained from having cancer has been:

It came to help me improve my life.

Not to take life so seriously and relax.

How much my friends and family care about me. I had my insecurities before—now I know for sure how special I am to them.

That every day is a gift, even the not so good ones.

That you can take nothing for granted.

I am important, I count and I can love myself.

To change what I can, and to leave alone that which I can’t, such as the past.

 That I am the only person responsible for my life and that I must make the decisions that are right for me.


Richard Calautti is a Marketing/Marketing Research professional who has been an ashtanga practitioner for 12 years and has practiced in many locations including London, Boston, Sydney, Melbourne, Byron Bay and Perth. Over the course of his career, Richard has combined many aspects of research and marketing in his line of work, and provides these services to clients, with a particular focus on wellness. Richard is based in Perth, Australia.



Ed. Evan Livesay

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3 Responses to “What Cancer Patients Can Teach Us About Living. ~ Richard Calautti”

  1. […] The weight of cancer sunk away. For two hours Ram meticulously needled the ink into my skin. His soothing calm and respect relieved any anxiety in the room. Almost effortlessly I lay topless on the table unafraid. After the last wipe of ink was cleaned off, I sat up and turned directly to the mirror. I wept. I smiled. […]

  2. […] Felder, an ovarian cancer surviver, and yoga teacher has designed a practice with healing in mind. Healing for the cancer patient, to […]

  3. To change what I can, and to leave alone that which I can’t, such as the past.