Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin referred to his prostate cancer diagnosis as a "gut punch." While Austin received more attention for not revealing the health challenge earlier and more publicly, it is the gut punch that caught my attention. Diagnosis for any life threatening illness is traumatic and is likely to result in dark nights following long days of exploring prognosis and treatment options.
The moment we realize, perhaps for the first time, that we are vulnerable to something outside our control can also be an opportunity to refocus on the things that matter most. Joy Jones-Carmack revealed the recentering that she experienced as a result of her cancer diagnosis. In fascinating ways, her advice applies not only to traumatizing health events but perhaps to the way academics might begin to approach their careers more generally. The major recommendations include:
- Don't let your career keep you from focusing on your health.
- Take leave if you want to, and make the most of it if you do.
- Be willing to relinquish control.
- Don't be afraid to get personal or be transparent.
- Realize you won't be the same afterward.