How Zig Helped Me Get Through Cancer

Two years before being diagnosed with cancer, I was in the Chicago Public Library deciding which motivational tapes to borrow. I grabbed one that had a flashy cover and looked like it was going to be the cat’s meow, then my eyes stopped on the name, Zig Ziglar. The cover was plain and simply had his name and the title, “Top Performance” on it. I was curious as to what someone named Zig Ziglar would sound like so I decided to take out those two tapes, the flashy one and the one by Zig Ziglar.

The first thing I did when I got home was listen to the flashy tape. BORING. I couldn’t even remember what this person had said, right after he had said it. So then I grabbed the “Top Performance” tape. A man with a southern accent came on who could tell a story and keep me interested like no one else. He had a way of talking about things that changed my perspective on life.

“It’s not what happens to you that matters. It’s how you respond to what happens to you that makes a difference.”

-Zig Ziglar

My favorite story was one about Zig’s flight being canceled. Zig was at the airport and eager to get home. When he got to the front of the line the woman behind the counter told him his flight had been canceled. He responded with, “Fantastic!”

Well, right there I was hooked. Why in the world would anyone say fantastic to their flight being canceled. I’ve spent a lot of time in airports and never have I seen a reaction like that to a flight being canceled.

Zig goes on to explain why it was fantastic that his flight had been canceled. “I figure there is one of three reasons why that plane isn’t taking off. One is that there is something wrong with the plane. Two, there is something wrong with the people who will be flying the plane. Three, there is something wrong with the weather the plane will be flying in, in which case I don’t want to be up there, I want to be right down here. Fantastic!” He then goes on to say he has a lot of important work to do and that he is in a place that provides shelter and warmth to do that work in, “fantastic.”

I loved this story because it shows you that there is always a positive, even in a negative situation. It’s all about how you perceive it and how you “respond” to the situation. To respond is positive, to react is negative, that’s what Zig says.

Zig’s story ends with a statement that I think is very important. He said people would come up to him and ask if he REALLY felt that way. He responded with, “Of course not! At least, not initially.”

I was not pleased as punch to have cancer, but I could find things to be grateful for and that is what I did.

At times it felt like I was two different people, the positive one who could climb Mount Everest and the scared girl who couldn’t believe this was happening.

Every day I would go through a list of reasons why I was lucky, reminding myself that there were plenty of things to be grateful for and pushing back the negative emotions that would start to creep into my thoughts. At times it felt like I was two different people, the positive one who could climb Mount Everest and the scared girl who couldn’t believe this was happening. The brave Joy would just keep saying positive things to the scared Joy until the scared Joy started to believe them. I couldn’t let scared Joy come out too much and especially not to all of my friends and family. I felt like I had to be strong for them. I needed warriors around me to support me and make me feel strong. The minute I saw someone feel sorry for me, sad Joy would come out and say, “I know! Isn’t it awful?!” Then warrior Joy would make a mental note to not be alone with that person again. I’m telling you, not only was I in a physical battle, I was also in a mental battle: the battle to be positive.

That one act of choosing Zig’s tape in the Chicago Public Library helped prepare me for the battle ahead. It’s amazing how much one decision can affect your life.

Listen to Zig Ziglar

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