There’s a very old joke about a man who asks his brother to watch his cat while he’s on vacation.
The man comes back and asks his brother, “How’s the cat?” and the brother tells him, “Sorry,
but the cat’s dead!” The man was shocked and appalled that the brother was so blunt and told
him so. His brother asked how he should have responded, and the brother said – “I don’t know,
tell me something like – the cat was on the roof. I saw it up there and really tried to get it down
but it ran from me, then it slipped and fell, and, well, I’m sorry but – it didn’t make it. Tell me
something like that – that’s how you break bad news!” The brother apologized and said he
understood. Then the man asked, “How are Mom and Dad?” The brother said – “Well, Mom
and Dad were on the roof…”
I tell you this tale because it was exactly what was going through my mind in March of 2012
when I was sitting in a doctor’s office in L.A. after having undergone a series of routine medical
tests. The doctor sat down with me and had a folder with all the documents relating to my
biopsy. I noticed that he didn’t come right out and tell me the results, but instead very carefully
explained the various results that might occur in undergoing the biopsy that I took and that some
of these results involved various forms of cancer. While he was going into these various
possibilities it struck me like a lightning bolt – oh my goodness, he’s giving me “the cat is on the
roof” speech! He’s about to tell me that my biopsy was positive. I stopped him mid stride and
said, “you’re telling me that I have cancer, aren’t you?” To which the doctor said, “Yes, I’m
sorry to tell you that you have cancer.”
I honestly didn’t expect that diagnosis (but in retrospect, who ever does). The thing is – at 56
years old, I thought I was too young for this disease. I knew it was very common in older men,
but I didn’t think that it was something that would hit me at that age.
I had a two-hour drive to meet my wife in San Diego for a business meeting. After I called her
to give her the bad news, I drove in contemplation for the entire two hours thinking about my
diagnosis. Every person reacts in their own way to a diagnosis like this. At first, I just felt
numb. Then I wondered how I was going to deal with all of this when I had a global business to
The next thing that struck me as I continued with the long drive ahead of me was Charles
Swindoll’s quote: “Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it.” I’ve always
loved that quote but I haven’t always lived up to it as well as I could.
Choose a Positive Approach
So, on that day I decided that the first thing I should do to address my diagnosis was to write a
list. It became my list of the possible “Positive Side Effects of My Health Challenge.” Some of
the points included:
Positive Side Effects of My Health Challenge
1. I’ll lose weight.
2. Beth and I will get closer.
3. It will guide me to better health choices.
4. It gives me an opportunity to cut back on those things that aren’t working as well as I’d
like or that I don’t enjoy.
5. I will expand the limits of what I am willing to eat (maybe even grow to like some things
I didn’t like before).
A focus on the positive side effects became the first of four key themes that I followed on my
road to health. It was in many ways the hardest to adhere to, because there were many
challenging times ahead for me. However, as time went on – I did my best to stay focused on the
positive, and I watched as each and every one of the items on this list became my reality.
Talk to Many People
I felt like I was given a challenge. It was a serious challenge and it needed a serious response. I
began by talking to people who had more experience with cancer and with health. The first and
most important person on this journey was my wife. I decided to start with a holistic health
approach, and she was incredibly knowledgeable in this area. She sent me to a holistic health
clinic (ironically, in San Diego – where I was headed to after my diagnosis).
I then spoke to five men and came away from these conversations knowing five ways I did NOT
want to approach my situation. The conversations I had with all of them were invaluable. It also
put the fear of God in me because of the serious side effects from not only the various
treatments, but also from the diagnostic tests (biopsies) themselves. It gave me the motivation I
needed to put into effect the total and complete dietary and lifestyle changes I made.
My wife and I did a massive amount of research (OK, my wife did a massive amount of research
and I read most everything she gave me). We attended the Prostate Cancer Research Institute’s
annual conference in LA where we learned so much from doctors who are on the cutting edge
(no pun intended) of the emerging trends in prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment. We read
books, watched videos, and read many, many articles. We became lay experts on prostate
Be the Captain of Your Experience
The most important lesson from this experience was understanding that I was the Captain of this
experience. The choices ahead of me were difficult, the information was, in many cases,
contradictory, and the possible impact of those choices were long-lasting. But the truth was that
I was in charge of the choices I would make. My doctors were advisors, some, very trusted
advisors. Others, not so much. Other men with the disease were also trusted advisors. I quickly
found out that I could learn much from what they did, and did not do. Most importantly, my
wife was my best advisor. However, I was still the one responsible for my health care decisions.
I realized that I am not my diagnosis, but I am the Captain of the ship navigating the confusing
waters towards health. Today, I am pleased to say that I am fully in remission, 45 pounds
lighter, less stressed, and closer than ever to my bride of 25 years. Oh, and the company is doing
just fine, thank you very much. I would have never thought it at the time, but the “C” word in
the “C” suite can actually lead to positive results.
Called the "father of modern networking" by CNN, Dr. Ivan Misner is a New York Times
bestselling author. He is the Founder and Chairman of BNI (www.BNI.com
), the world's largest
business networking organization. His book, Networking Like a Pro, can be viewed at