As Victor Frankl wrote in 1946, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: … to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” (Man’s Search for Meaning)

My life has led me to reflect on how we live our lives both individually and collectively. 

In March 2022, a dentist found some lesions in my mouth and referred me to an oral surgeon who scheduled an appointment to see me in early June. The June consultation with the oral surgeon led to a speedy biopsy and the results confirmed our worst fears, a diagnosis of squamous cell carcinoma on my tongue and on the bottom of my mouth. With this news, my partner and I were devastated and fearful of the potential outcome. I was angry at the betrayal of my body. We had many unanswered questions including “ how bad is this going to get?” and “why me/us?” We wondered together, how will we cope with whatever is to come next? 

That same morning, I was also filled with gratitude and awe at the support I was receiving from my partner and countless friends and family as I shared the news. And we both were able to articulate genuine appreciation for the speedy diagnosis and competent health professionals! I pondered on how extreme opposite emotions can occupy the same space in us. Although the diagnosis felt like we lost control of life, we helped each other realize that we could still control our thoughts and beliefs about what is happening and how we choose to proceed. So we made a conscious decision together: We will live our lives with the intention of being present in every moment of every day. We will not let this cancer rob us of any joy or time from our lives together and with others. And we will work our plans around appointments and recovery time. 

At the end of June, I met with the oncologist who confirmed the diagnosis and referred me for more tests to ensure that the cancer had not spread elsewhere. He shared the probable treatment plan. He also realistically shared the likelihood of recovery based on the various stages of cancer. Despite the poor statistics of full recovery from this, I felt positive and confident. 

Between the end of June and the end of July, we needed to maneuver around barriers in the healthcare system to complete a CT scan. While frustrating, we took a simple and solution centered approach to get this done as quickly as possible. We also spent a great deal of time at our cabin, went kayaking, enjoyed our two cats, grew two gardens, attended three music festivals, and had lots of time with the significant people in our lives. We lived our best lives while occasionally checking in with each other on how we were truly feeling. While we did have moments of worry or despair, we were both committed to living out our stated intentions. 

The surgery happened on August 23 and I went into it with full confidence in the oncologist and believing that no matter the outcome, I would be supported by my partner and by all of the people who gathered around and supported me in body, mind and spirit. Thankfully, the results of the surgery are as positive as they can be: the cancer has been removed and no further treatment is necessary at this point. 

This Fall I briefly pondered how to answer the question “How was your summer?” My answer is always and emphatically this: We had a great summer seeing friends and family and doing all the things we love to do! And I had surgery for oral cancer with a good outcome. …How was yours? As for my long term health? I have no answers; but no one really does! My plan is to continue to live intentionally and authentically every day of this life. 

This journey has led me to these questions about being a leader:

  • What would happen if we always showed up with the intention of being present in each moment?
  • How would being a leader be different if we could maintain a mindset that allows us to show up as our best selves each day? And what difference would that make for others in the organization?
  • What role does having a clear purpose or intention have in how we interact with others? 
  • How does being solution focused help us stay on the path we have chosen? 
  • What role does gratitude and appreciation play in our work and what is the impact for ourselves and others?

“No regrets – just lessons. No worries – just acceptance. No expectations – just gratitude. Life is too short!” T. Harv Eker

Author: Karen Caine, OBD Inc Partner