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Keeping Perspective - It's a Wonderful Life
Cancer Talk

Keeping Perspective - It's a Wonderful Life

Cancer Talk


Colleen Rivers, MD

Do you remember the end of “It’s a Wonderful Life”? In my favorite Christmas movie, the protagonist George Bailey (when going through a personal crisis) gets a glimpse of what things would look like if he never existed. He gets to feel the emptiness that comes when his life and his loved ones vanish in a moment. Then he returns home in the final scene to find his little world unchanged but himself completely transformed.

I feel like George Bailey.  This year, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I am incredibly fortunate that it was found early and my treatment was completed with a double mastectomy. I only traded my usual life of mom and doctor for that of a patient, watching her children be cared for by others, for a short while. However I pray that I never lose the gratitude and perspective that it gave me.

So I’ve been wondering - how do we do that? How do we bottle the feeling that all is well in our lives and we don’t need a single thing? The stoic philosophers suggested that we contemplate our death on a daily basis to bring us to this place of gratitude. While that may sound extreme, it can certainly put our daily stressors into a different context. Marcus Aurelius said, “When you arise in the morning, think of what a privilege it is to be alive, to think, to enjoy, to love.” Is there a better way to start your day than that?

And then I think it comes down perspective. Not a single person reading this blog is exempt from life’s hiccups. Whether your brand of adversity comes in the form of a health crisis, financial, relationship, or other — there is probably something that’s not going your way somewhere along the line. That’s when we have a choice. We can focus on what we don’t have or what we do have. It might just be that simple. In my experience, it’s these unwelcome detours that have the power to remind us how incredibly good we’ve got it!

Keep seeking, my friends!

Colleen Rivers MD is a cancer survivor and founded Seek which provides heath coaching and workshops to inspire simple changes that are transformative and guide you on your journey to restored health, renewed connections and a greater joy of living.

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