5 Lessons From One of Life’s Hardest Teachers

It’s virtually impossible for me to comprehend a more vicious and devastating blow than hearing the words “you have cancer.” It knocks the air out of your body faster than a Roy Jones Jr body shot.

Trials in life come in varying speeds and intensities. While I can’t say I’ve experienced all of the life-altering news that some have gone through, I can stand firmly behind the notion that hearing the words “you have cancer” is about as fast and fierce as it could possibly be. I could write for hours about this topic, but I’ve narrowed it down to ‘5 Lessons’ that getting cancer has taught me about life. 

Lesson #1 – We Need People There For Us  

Lesson number one is that, when it all hits the fan, we simply need to have people that are there—that showed up. Gifts, advice, and words of wisdom all play a role and they’re fine, but they are all meaningless compared to simply having people there. Certain situations (such as getting cancer) render gifts worthless, and comforting words fall to the wayside when your ears become numb and time has stood still. The solace that comes with having people there for you, with no agenda but to simply be present, is unparalleled. As someone that loves to talk, often far too much, I realized that words can (and never will) match the physical presence of another beautiful soul. Regardless of how strong we all may think we are or wish to be, the reality is that we cannot, nor should we want to, endure this life alone—so don’t!  

Takeaway: Lean on the loved ones in your life, and be there for others to lean on in their time of need. Show up! 

Lesson #2 – Get Busy Living 

I know we’ve heard it all before, all those cliches about “time is preciousness,” and, “you never know how long you have.”

All those things that you “know,” but don’t actually understand at all because we don’t truly believe they will happen to us. You know what I’m talking about right? Yeah, all those cliches are actually real, and tomorrow you could get a call that sucks every ounce of oxygen out of your respiratory system.

So heed the advice of Andy Dufrain and “get busy living or get busy dying.” Now, throwing all caution to the wind is a bit extreme, but I now live my life far closer to a free-fall than harbored in safety by my comfort zone. All the hopes, dreams, and visions that have pulled on my heartstrings have been riding shotgun with me ever since. This beautiful world was meant to be seen, experienced, and lived in; and I fully intend to get busy living within every acre of it.  

Takeaway: All the cliches about life’s fragility are true, so go live out your dreams now!

Get busy living or get busy dying.

Lesson #3 – Taking Care of Yourself Is An Investment In Your Future  

There was a time in my life when I weighed 250lbs. I was out of shape in every way and ate like an unsupervised kid in Wonka’s factory. Fortunately, however, I found a life of health, fitness, and overall wellness in the years prior to going through this new life of a ‘post-cancer patient’. For reasons unknown, I acquired a diseased body. Even post-cancer I deal with bloodwork that is downright frightening.  

I can attest to the fact that had I never changed and was still in the shape that I was in, I would have been buried by all of this. At the very least I would have been dealing with a completely different type of uphill battle. It’s always better to be proactive than reactive, and when it comes to your health playing the reactive game is a gamble you don’t want to play. Too late can truly mean too late. 

As Chris Rock once said they should call insurance “in case s*** happens.” Well I can tell you right now that s*** is gonna happen, so hem it up now. 

Takeaway: Take care of your body and be your own insurance policy. 

Lesson #4 – Forget The Good Times. Your Faith/Strength Is Tested In Tribulation. 

It’s extremely easy to proclaim your faith & strength when the potential of tribulation remains in a state of “potential.” The real hard work only comes when you’re in the thick of the storm.  

My oncologist Dr. George Howard (who is an amazing guy I might add) had a conversation early on in this whole process in which he described how “these moments tend to make or break people.” The ability to remain true to what you ‘said you believed,’ when believing seems impossible, is all that matters. I realized very early on in this process that,

a) This was not going to be fun.

b) The time was now to practice all that I’ve preached and fully display my faith.

I made the decision (with the support of others) to dig deeper into my faith and live out the strength that I know resides within my fearful body. If I am going to be faced with a pivotal decision, I refuse to let my emotions override what I know to be virtuous.  

Takeaway: When life tests your strength of character (which it most certainly will), put your money where your mouth is. 

These moments tend to make or break people.

Lesson #5 – When You Don’t Know What To Do You Pull Your Big Boy (or Girl) Pants Up 

This final life lesson is an extension of number four. Self-pity and sorrow can set in quickly, and with an abominable force when you get news like this. Life’s not fair and you won’t have answers or justice for the malady that you’ll be faced with. Truth be told you don’t need them. When those tribulations come your way, and your faith/strength is tested leaving you in that numb “I don’t know what to do” predicament, you suck it up, pull your big boy pants up, and go to work. Self-Loathing is the kindling that fuels the flame of defeat, and defeat is not an option.  

Takeaway: Life is going to beat you down, never feel sorry for yourself, pony-up and overcome!  

Never feel sorry for yourself.

BONUS: F*** It, Get An Ice Cream! 

I try to eat pretty healthily for the most part, but when I got the phone call that I had cancer (after a brief moment of paralysis) the only words that came out of my mouth were, “I want ice cream. Let’s get ice cream.

When you take all these life lessons to heart perhaps the biggest takeaway is as Jacque Torres once said, “Life is short. Eat dessert first.” We can take all the precautions in the world and still get bad news; so grab a spoon, make it a large, and dig in! 

Takeaway: F*** It, Get An Ice Cream! 

I pray that you will never receive a message like that. Whether you do or don’t, these lessons can be applied to you, right now!

Heed these words: Don’t waste time adding life to your remaining years on this earth. Learn to bob and weave with the punches of life, and know that sometimes you have to feel the bruises to appreciate how beautiful the lessons are that lie within each blow.

If you’d like to learn more about Mark or Zarate Fitness, visit the links below:

Facebook: Click here.

Instagram: Click here.

Website: Click here.

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to get automatic updates when new content is released. (You’ll also gain access to exclusive content never shared on the website)

Then get started on more great articles: