Chris H. - Every situation has a silver lining

There is always possibility amidst adversity

"You have breast cancer." I got my diagnosis on the 18th of September 1995 and it hit me like a brick wall. I was only 42, cancer was not in my family and I was leading a healthy life. Two partial mastectomies, four rounds of chemo, followed by six weeks of daily radiation therapy gave me plenty of time to think about everything. I started concentrating on my body. What could I change? I always tried to exercise regularly and to eat sensibly, but there definitely was plenty of room for improvement.

My next question was: Could it be possible that there are spiritual or emotional stresses that brought me to this point in my life? I thought about it long and hard and read some books on the topic - and things became clearer: The stress and pressures that I had so willingly welcomed into my life may have helped weaken my immune system. But how do you go about changing spiritual and emotional patterns that have become so familiar? It would be a lot more difficult than changing my diet and exercising more.

All that thinking about myself made me realise that I look at people, situations and experiences from an overwhelmingly negative standpoint. I suddenly remembered a quote by Albert Einstein: "There is always possibility amidst adversity." And that thought led to the question: Could I change the way I feel, could I view my cancer diagnosis differently - to possibly see it as an opportunity? Yes, I could!

I made a conscious decision to see the cancer and the treatments I would have as an opportunity to slow down and to appreciate the many good things in my life. I decided then and there to see whatever the future would hold as something positive. The experience taught me to look for the silver lining in any situation. That helps me keep my natural pessimism and fearful thoughts in check.

 I began to notice that there were people in my life, who weren't doing me any good. I needed a tool to help me deal with people like that. I created an imaginary circle around me and I decide, whom I let in: People with a positive attitude that are a support to me, who lift my spirits and show me that they love me. Everyone else, anyone who impacts my life negatively, stays outside my magic circle. In real terms that means I will have as little contact as possible with them and I distance myself from them emotionally.

I have had so many great and wonderful experiences after I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I did things I never thought possible, like jumping out of a plane at the age of 50, or earning my Masters degree in Spiritual Psychology at the age of 51. I competed in a dragon boat race, started in a triathlon and ran my first marathon at 53.

I don't allow any sort of stress into my life any more. I know now that it really doesn't matter how long it takes to get to the finishing line. The only thing that is truly important is the joy of learning along your way through life and to help others in need. I have recognised my professional decisions as opportunities to continue to develop and learn.

But most importantly: all that has helped me to help others. The same is true for my time as a Care Consultant for Anita International, because I really enjoyed working with these wonderful people and to do something worthwhile for them.

Henry David Thoreau once said: "It's not enough to be busy. The real question is: What are we doing?". I try to make decisions that match my life goals.