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    What We Can Learn from the Costa Disaster

    By Dave Balch

    I like to think that we can learn from many of life’s events, both good and bad. The recent sinking of the Costa Concordia cruise ship off the coast of Italy is no exception.

    Before I begin, let me make it clear that I would never, not even for a nanosecond, suggest that this tragic event was a good thing because it teaches us something. I will, however, say that such events can serve to illustrate certain facts of life that are inescapable.

    Consider this: the passengers of the cruise ship were faced with a terrifying set of circumstances over which they had no control. The actions they chose during the critical moments could very well have meant the difference between whether they lived or died. They could not wish it away, they could not close their eyes and ignore it in the hope that it would resolve itself, and they could not ask someone to go through it for them. They had to do SOMEthing and they had to do it themselves, and they had to do it in spite of their fear.

    So it is when we get a cancer diagnosis. The news is terrifying, we can’t do anything about it, we can’t wish it away, and we can’t get anyone else to face it for us. It’s us against the disease. Period. The choices we make in dealing with it can mean the difference between life and death, or certainly at least the quality of our lives.

    Why is this similarity important? It’s important because it illustrates that we are not alone, and that many people have to deal with many things over which they have no control. They have to face their fear and act intelligently and responsibly in spite of that fear. It’s very unfortunate, very frightening, and very difficult, but what else can you do?

    I don’t know about you, but thinking about that parallel fills me with a sense of courage. Others have done it in different yet similar circumstances, it’s not just us. And we have to make good choices under difficult conditions.

    Some of the passengers stayed calm, fought through the fear, and acted wisely. Others panicked and acted unwisely.

    Here’s another example: When USAir flight 1549 landed in the Hudson River in 2009 after colliding with a flock of birds, most of the passengers stayed calm, put on their lifejackets, walked carefully through the exits and stood outside on the wings to wait for help. Others panicked and tried to open doors in the rear of the aircraft in spite of instructions from the crew NOT to do so. The result: water came into the plane, putting everyone’s life in jeopardy and ultimately causing the plane to sink.

    And so it is with our cancer diagnoses and resulting choices.

    How are you handling it?


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