This is my second article of 2022 and you'll notice it has the same title as the first article, except I extended it as Part 2. I've been thinking, researching and contemplating this entire past week about what I said last week. Something sparked in my mind and heart about my thoughts and feelings. But, to start things off, let me give you a long quote I discovered during my research.
When someone you love dies, you are given the gift of "second chances". Their eulogy is a reminder that the living can turn their lives around at any point. You’re not bound by the past; that is who you used to be. You’re reminded that your feelings are not who you are, but how you felt at that moment. Your bad choices defined you yesterday, but they are not who you are today. Your future doesn’t have to travel the same path with the same people. You can start over. You don’t have to apologize to people that won’t listen. You don’t have to justify your feelings or actions, during a difficult time in your life. You don’t have to put up with people that are insecure and want you to fail. All you have to do is walk forward with a positive outlook, and trust that God has a plan that is greater than the sorrow you left behind. The people of quality that were meant to be in your life won’t need you to explain the beauty of your heart. They already understand what being human is----a roller coaster ride of emotions during rainstorms and sunshine, sprinkled with moments when you can almost reach the stars.
― Shannon L. Alder
Substitute the first and second sentence with, When you die and are reborn, you are given the gift of new beginnings. Your eulogy is a reminder that the living (you in your rebirth), can turn your life around at any point. With those two changed sentences, this quote is exactly what I'm feeling as I leave the past behind after being stricken down by my cancer experience and the ensuing battle. I don't know if I can describe what happened the morning of August 18, 2019 as having experienced death and coming back. I know there is a short period of time that I have no recollection of. I don't know if it was seconds or minutes. I don't recall seeing my life pass before me. I don't recall seeing a long tunnel with a white light at the end. I just don't remember anything for that brief period of time. And, of course, I was completely disoriented when I regained consciousness or grasped life again, whichever the case may have been.
What I do know is that a lot of things changed. To be perfectly honest, if friends, family, business associates or new people see me today, the only thing they will likely notice is that I'm slimmer because I lost about 20% of my weight (and, unfortunately, muscle mass). Otherwise, externally, there is little about the changes I described in the previous article that one can see. The voice I've used to speak and to provide voice-overs for numerous clients is still the same. I still have the knowledge, creativity, any talent I may have been blessed with and the skills I've learned and honed through over 60 years of adolescent and adult experiences. For all practical intents and purposes, externally and experientially, I'm still me. But, as I described, there is a new persona residing inside this older and, now, somewhat modified body.
And, here is my point. Many of us, and realistically, probably all of us will, at some time during our lives, experience a life changing circumstance. It may not be from cancer. It might be some other disease or physical trauma. It might be the catastrophic and completely unexpected loss of someone very close to you. It might be a tragic accident that leaves us altered or incapacitated. It might be the demise of a marriage or some other kind of domestic relationship. It might be a business failure and bankruptcy. Whatever it may be, it's unexpected and, perhaps, you will die just a little. Or, perhaps, as in my case, you experience what may have actually been death or a very near death experience. The bottom line is that, if you live through it, and if the situation is devastating enough, you may experience, what I'm calling, a sort of secular rebirth. You have a “new beginning” the moment you realize whatever the event is.
The Spark of a New Idea for a New Beginning
For many years I've been interested in the concept of what it means to be a social entrepreneur. I've read about it. I've looked at several different businesses, mostly for profit businesses, but a few were non-profit enterprises. Throughout my life I've always felt some kind of draw toward doing things to help others, to make the community, the country, the world a better place. I've kicked around several ideas and thoughts over the years, but nothing seemed to gel. That is, until after my August 18, 2019 cancer experience. Then, one idea I had started to formulate at some time prior to that date, began to make sense to me. So, I've been developing my thoughts on that project. It will take advantage of all of my years of knowledge, skills and experience. And, while I'm not focusing on becoming personally wealthy, it will economically benefit me to a degree that my life will be more comfortable. However, in both the short and long run, it will potentially benefit untold numbers of people, possibly in the millions at some point in the future.
However, after I wrote last week's article and posted it, something new started to ignite inside my psyche. As each day passed, I reread what I wrote and something started to take form. What I'm experiencing and calling a new beginning, because of my “rebirth,” cannot be unique to only me. I've met and listened to interviews with other people who have, in their own unique way, described the kinds of “rebirth” experiences I'm feeling. And, while I'm now past the initial and immediate phase of facing and contemplating the end of my life over two years ago, there are untold thousands who have been stricken with cancer diagnoses just as I was. They are facing uncertainty about their future. They may have strong support from family and friends and have an excellent medical team working with them. However, unless someone has been on this very uncertain and, typically, frightening path, it's almost impossible to understand what the cancer patient is dealing with in their heart and mind. Wouldn't it be wonderful if each patient could have a personal advocate who has been down this road before them and has weathered it, come out the other side and experienced the new beginnings I've been talking about?
That may not be possible. However, the idea struck me, that as a former book publisher, I could solicit the stories of the new beginnings of numerous other cancer survivors, compile them and publish them in small, easy to read and digest books that current cancer patients in treatment could read. These stories from people who have gone through exactly what the current patients are experiencing will be inspiring, encouraging and supportive. It will give the patient a feeling that others have been where they are now and made it through the treatment gauntlet. Others have experienced the uncertainty, the side effects that are sometimes painful, the weakness, overcoming what may be feelings of hopelessness and the challenges of recovering from all of this when the patient transitions to becoming a survivor. Sadly, of course, not everyone survives. However, I believe there is more potential for surviving if a patient has a diet of positive, personal stories about going the course of treatment and looking forward to the new beginning that awaits them.
The books would be published in ebook, paperback and even audiobook formats. They would be available through Amazon and other booksellers. They would be in cancer support stores and support groups in their communities. Doctors might hand them out to new patients during their initial office visits. They might find them in the cancer treatment centers for them to read while waiting for or going through their treatment protocols. Ultimately, these books would be available in as many places and in as many ways to access them as possible. There is more to this idea that I'll talk about in another article. But, the most important thing is that the patient benefits. The survivors who submit their stories for the books benefit by helping others. The doctors and support staff benefit because it helps relax and reassure the patients about their ability to survive, thus making the treatment protocol easier and, hopefully, more effective.
As I mentioned, I'm a two time cancer survivor. Nearly 20 years ago, I was diagnosed with an aggressive case of prostate cancer. I had to go through various tests. I had to learn about possible treatment alternatives. My urologist, who also became my surgeon, had a book he gave me about prostate cancer. That book was the most helpful thing I found to help me get through the learning and decision making processes. It also prepared me for what to expect in recovering and the changes I'd experience in my life after the process. So, a book helped me deal with a major life changing issue. That experience wasn't as traumatic as my latest bout with cancer. But, the power of that book helped me get through that procedure. I'm thankful, to this day, that a large pharmaceutical company sponsored the book and made it available to patients like me through our doctors.
One other important point. This idea or concept is not a pie in the sky brainstorm of one guy who survived cancer. This idea has been proven several times in different topical areas. Probably the most successful version of this idea, began in 1993 and to date has generated over 250 editions (titles) of the book, it's been translated into at least 43 languages, it's been sold in more than 100 countries and total sales of all the editions number more than 500,000,000 books. And, about twelve new versions of the book are still being published each year. And, as I said, there are multiple successful examples of this concept. It is proven.
This project is no small undertaking. I'll need to raise some capital to make this book (and others that will follow the first book) a reality. I already have part of my team assembled. I have a cover designer, an interior designer and layout person and a copy editor. They all worked with me on a book I published last year for another author. But, I'll need a few other members of the team to handle other tasks. Since I've published about 50 books in the past when I had my book publishing company in the late '90s and early 2000s, I'm familiar with the business and the processes. It's still going to be a big project.
Once the first edition of the book is complete and published, I'll be able to follow up with new editions pretty regularly, several a year. I'll have a working format/template. The die will be cast. Also, I'll be able to do most of my work remotely as I travel the country. My travels will allow me to visit with the authors of the stories and visit with cancer support groups, cancer treatment centers and others involved in the process. So, this will be a win, win, win concept that will allow me to be the social entrepreneur I've been wanting to become. I'll be able to help a lot of people. And, eventually, as I'm able to develop other topics, it will help others dealing with other traumatic, life changing situations.
If you are a Stage 3 or Stage 4 cancer survivor and you'd like to submit a story or a poem (about 1,200 words maximum, although shorter is fine), please send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know of your interest so I can put you on a list of potential story contributors. But, even if you're not a cancer survivor, your support and encouragement is solicited and will be very instrumental in this endeavor. That's all for this article. More information is forthcoming.
Live free and be happy, EH