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4 Life Lessons from a Cancer Patient

4 Life Lessons from a Cancer Patient

Look at what you’ve got and make the best of it. It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. ~ Proverb

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One Sunday night almost five months ago, my father broke the news that one of my uncles had been diagnosed with stage-three colon cancer. I remember my reaction as being somewhat surprised and not surprised. I was surprised because it was the first time that cancer came this close to our family. Most family-related cancer stories I’ve heard until that point were from second cousins and great-aunts and -uncles. And yet I wasn’t too surprised because my uncle was a heavy smoker and a former heavy drinker. Four days later, my uncle underwent his first chemotherapy session. Some relatives gave us weekly updates about his condition. Dad himself visited the hospital three weeks later and noted how fast he had lost weight. Although still under chemo today, my uncle is strong enough to do most of the things he used to enjoy before his treatment began. What is more notable, however, is his radical change in attitude towards life. Several weeks ago when mom and dad visited him, mom said that my uncle didn’t care about passing soon. “If I die, then I die”, she recalled him as saying. Today, however, that fatalistic attitude seems to have vanished. I’m not sure how the change came about, but he’s very enthusiastic about life now. He smiles a lot and seems to be more concerned about enjoying life with his family. By nature, he’s bossy and arrogant. But even that attitude is now tempered with a bit of brighter thoughtfulness. In my recent visits to his home I simply couldn’t help but be drawn to him. His brand new zesty character is highly contagious to everyone, including me.  I want to share with you what I learned from him:

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1. Appreciate and Enjoy Food More.

One of the first things that struck me about my uncle is his change in attitude towards food. Although he ate a lot, he actually used to complain habitually. He’d complain about being served too much vegetables; he’d complain about stews having too much broth; he’d complain about desserts being too heavy and cloying. Today, he is now more appreciative and thoughtful. At a recent family lunch, there was one “experimental” pasta dish prepared by one of my aunts that I found really weird-tasting. Not my uncle. He complimented the dish and told my aunt, who was a beginner cook, how he appreciated her trying something new. My aunt reveled in the praise and promised all of us that she’d continue learning how to cook. I think us well folks complain too much about what we eat, just like my uncle used to do. But if we think about it more deeply, eating is not just about food—it’s also a bigger aspect of our culture. It brings families, friends and colleagues together. Whenever we take the time to appreciate food and express it, we invite good vibes at the table. With good vibes follow fun moments, and with fun moments follow stronger bonds and relationships. Now I am an advocate of good food. If something has to be said for the sake of improving the dish or educating the cook, my suggestion is to sandwich constructive criticisms between positive comments. Or even better reserve the criticism for a one-on-one conversation later. Or maybe, just forget about the criticism!

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2. Find the Good in Everyone.

My uncle used to talk bad about people from time to time even if they had not done anything that would trigger that kind of tirade. I think it was his inner narcissist expressing itself. He liked to draw attention towards himself by belittling other people. Today, when family conversations turn gossipy, my uncle terminates the topic by injecting a positive alternative reason. He’d say “I don’t know. Maybe the pressure from work just got him. We know how crazy his supervisor is” or “Cut her some slack, everyone. She’s done it many times before. It could have been a simple error!” Sometimes, our own inner narcissists manifest themselves too. We focus on or exaggerate negative stories in order to impress our cliques at the expense of other people. One of these scenario’s possible consequences is that our friends could develop feelings of resentment toward the other people. Before we know it, tensions flare between them. Once the truth comes out, we’ll be exposed as nothing but a fantastic story-teller who’s desperate for attention. For all our sake, I believe that it’s always best to find the good in other people. If we need to speak up in order to prevent damage resulting from someone else’s action, we should simply go directly to that person and talk to them about the consequences of their action.

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3. Think Short Term—What Really Matters is Now

To my uncle, every moment became precious when he started chemo.  He appreciates simple things now and he’s not too concerned about the future. He cherishes his time with his family, especially his granddaughter. Whenever I hear his wife or one of their daughters talk about a problem, he’d go “that’s not even a problem! You know you can do it.” We all are guilty of worrying too much. We often think that it’s normal, but in truth, it’s nothing more than unnecessary stress which causes us to miss the good things that we have in front of us. Instead of fretting, why don’t we think of solutions? And if there are no solutions, well, let’s just forget the problem and enjoy the moment.

4. Remember That You Can Do Anything.

I want to share my own story. When I was about 14 years old, I did something that my mom told me not to do. That day I went home with a wound on my left hand. My mom, ever the panicky pessimist, angrily machine-gunned me with names of all kinds of fatal diseases that my wound could lead to. That night I had trouble sleeping because I thought that I would die soon. I was afraid I would contract a deadly infection. In the morning, she and I visited a doctor who, in less than five minutes, cleared my case. My mom with a big smile told me, “I told you so! You didn’t have to worry!” I ignored her comment because I was so thankful that I wasn’t going to die. The sun never looked so bright that day and I felt like I was given a new lease in life. I felt that I could do and face anything in the world. Nothing could stop me.

Final Words…

We fear and worry about too many things today: leaving a job, moving to a new town, opening a business we’ve always wanted to open, etc. But I believe we all have it in us to survive and come up with all the ideas and strategies that we need to deal with all these challenges. The thing is, however, all these instincts will only surface when we’re already in the middle of the battle. My uncle thinks that no other challenge in the world is more difficult than dealing with his condition. Today, he is the family’s biggest cheerleader. How do you deal with a loved one who has cancer? How do you think you’d live your life if you found out you had cancer? I would love to hear your stories. Please share them in the comments section below.

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Faisal Rehman

Faisal Rehman writes about work and productivity, trying to help businessmen build their brands and increase sales.

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Last Updated on February 21, 2019

The Secret to Effective Conflict Resolution: The IBR Approach

The Secret to Effective Conflict Resolution: The IBR Approach

In business, in social relationships, in family… In whatever context conflict is always inevitable, especially when you are in the leader role. This role equals “make decisions for the best of majority” and the remaining are not amused. Conflicts arise.

Conflicts arise when we want to push for a better quality work but some members want to take a break from work.

Conflicts arise when we as citizens want more recreational facilities but the Government has to balance the needs to maintain tourism growth.

Conflicts are literally everywhere.

Avoiding Conflicts a No-No and Resolving Conflicts a Win-Win

Avoiding conflicts seem to be a viable option for us. The cruel fact is, it isn’t. Conflicts won’t walk away by themselves. They will, instead, escalate and haunt you back even more when we finally realize that’s no way we can let it be.

Moreover, avoiding conflicts will eventually intensify the misunderstanding among the involved parties. And the misunderstanding severely hinders open communication which later on the parties tend to keep things secret. This is obviously detrimental to teamwork.

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Some may view conflicts as the last step before arguments. And they thus leave it aside as if they never happen. This is not true.

Conflicts are the intersect point between different individuals with different opinions. And this does not necessarily lead to argument.

Instead, proper handling of conflicts can actually result in a win-win situation – both parties are pleased and allies are gained. A better understanding between each other and future conflicts are less likely to happen.

The IBR Approach to Resolve Conflicts

Here, we introduce to you an effective approach to resolve conflicts – the Interest-Based Relational (IBR) approach. The IBR approach was developed by Roger Fisher and William Ury in their 1981 book Getting to Yes. It stresses the importance of the separation between people and their emotions from the problem. Another focus of the approach is to build mutual understanding and respect as they strengthen bonds among parties and can ultimately help resolve conflicts in a harmonious way. The approach suggests a 6-step procedure for conflict resolution:

Step 1: Prioritize Good Relationships

How? Before addressing the problem or even starting the discussion, make it clear the conflict can result in a mutual trouble and through subsequent respectful negotiation the conflict can be resolved peacefully. And that brings the best outcome to the whole team by working together.

Why? It is easy to overlook own cause of the conflict and point the finger to the members with different opinions. With such a mindset, it is likely to blame rather than to listen to the others and fail to acknowledge the problem completely. Such a discussion manner will undermine the good relationships among the members and aggravate the problem.

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Example: Before discussion, stress that the problem is never one’s complete fault. Everyone is responsible for it. Then, it is important to point out our own involvement in the problem and state clearly we are here to listen to everyone’s opinions rather than accusing others.

Step 2: People Are NOT the Cause of Problem

How? State clearly the problem is never one-sided. Collaborative effort is needed. More importantly, note the problem should not be taken personally. We are not making accusations on persons but addressing the problem itself.

Why? Once things taken personally, everything will go out of control. People will become irrational and neglect others’ opinions. We are then unable to address the problem properly because we cannot grasp a fuller and clearer picture of the problem due to presumption.

Example: In spite of the confronting opinions, we have to emphasize that the problem is not a result of the persons but probably the different perspectives to view it. So, if we try to look at the problem from the other’s perspective, we may understand why there are varied opinions.

Step 3: Listen From ALL Stances

How? Do NOT blame others. It is of utmost importance. Ask for everyone’s opinions. It is important to let everyone feel that they contribute to the discussion. Tell them their involvement is essential to solve the problem and their effort is very much appreciated.

Why? None wants to be ignored. If one feels neglected, it is very likely for he/she to be aggressive. It is definitely not what we hope to see in a discussion. Acknowledging and being acknowledged are equally important. So, make sure everyone has equal opportunity to express their views. Also, realizing their opinions are not neglected, they will be more receptive to other opinions.

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Example: A little trick can played here: Invite others to talk first. It is an easy way to let others feel involved and ,more importantly, know their voices are heard. Also, we can show that we are actively listening to them by giving direct eye-contact and nodding. One important to note is that never interrupt anyone. Always let them finish first beforeanother one begins.

Step 4: Listen Comes First, Talk Follows

How? Ensure everyone has listened to one another points of view. It can be done by taking turn to speak and leaving the discussion part at last. State once again the problem is nothing personal and no accusation should be made.

Why? By turn-taking, everyone can finish talking and voices of all sides can be heard indiscriminantly. This can promote willingness to listen to opposing opinions.

Example: We can prepare pieces of paper with different numbers written on them. Then, ask different members to pick one and talk according to the sequence of the number. After everyone’s finished, advise everyone to use “I” more than “You” in the discussion period to avoid others thinking that it is an accusation.

Step 5: Understand the Facts, Then Address the Problem

How? List out ALL the facts first. Ask everyone to tell what they know about the problems.

Why? Sometimes your facts are unknown to the others while they may know something we don’t. Missing out on these facts could possibly lead to inaccurate capture of the problem. Also, different known facts can lead to different perception of the matter. It also helps everyone better understand the problem and can eventually help reach a solution.

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Example: While everyone is expressing their own views, ask them to write down everything they know that is true to the problem. As soon as everyone has finished, all facts can be noted and everyone’s understanding of the problem is raised.

Step 6: Solve the Problem Together

How? Knowing what everyone’s thinking, it is now time to resolve the conflict. Up to this point, everyone should have understood the problem better. So, it is everyone’s time to suggest some solutions. It is important not to have one giving all the solutions.

Why? Having everyone suggesting their solutions is important as they will not feel excluded and their opinions are considered. Besides, it may also generate more solutions that can better resolve the conflicts. Everyone will more likely be satisfied with the result.

Example: After discussion, ask all members to suggest any possible solutions and stress that all solutions are welcomed. State clearly that we are looking for the best outcomes for everyone’s sake rather than battling to win over one another. Then, evaluate all the solutions and pick the one that is in favor of everyone.

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