This is a topic I have rarely talked about or even discussed (even with many of my close friends) which entailed the first few months of 1983 as I was undergoing rather intensive chemotherapy for my recently diagnosed cancer.

At the time, I was 28 years old and the doctors came in to my room while my parents were at my bedside and told them “I would probably not make it through the night.” The oncologist and his resident explained that I needed complete blood transfusions now to save my life.

This was in the beginning of AIDS when very little was known about it and we were far from a cure or even how to control it. All we knew at that time is studies suggested that blood and blood products transmitted AIDS and that the disease could be transmitted through intimate sexual contact.

Yes, I am now still described as what is officially known as a cancer survivor. During the eight months I was hospitalized, I was administered a number of rounds of intense chemotherapy. One of the drugs in my “cocktail” was extremely toxic and goes by the name of Cisplatin. The other two were Bleomycin and VP16.

Why the doom and gloom?

The hospital experience was quite an ordeal, but at the same time you are given a new life to live along with brand new hair (until you lose it again as you age – bummer).

Sure, we all say we will change and do things differently, and typically that lasts for a few days. It’s sort of like seeing the flashing police lights behind you while driving on the interstate and you go “oh crap,” and you slow down in order to be pulled over and probably get a ticket since you were speeding. Instead, they go around you and pull over someone else.

Now the question is how long do you stay at the slower speed as your blood pressure lowers and you go back to forgetting about the ticket you thought you were going to get?

When tragedy happens in our lives we have a tendency to rethink about whatever changes we would make and then we go back to business as usual. Fortunately, the hospital experience has stayed with me throughout the years and here are the rules that I live by:

Play and have fun: Kids play and why don’t we? When children play, they focus on one thing – playing! Try to let all those other thoughts slip away as you find yourself playing at something you enjoy.

Say what is on your mind: Enough with being politically correct all the time. You can say what is on your mind without offending someone. It is refreshing to be around brutally honest people.

Laugh with friends and family: Always the best moments in life – period.

Forget about being rich or impressing people with “things”: As I get older I realize that the stuff you think impresses people does not. The most impressive trait is very basic – humility.

Do what makes you happy: What will put a smile on your face? What takes away all stress and issues? Find it and do it, whether its just as simple as watching TV or going for a walk through the park.

Don’t put things off for another day: Getting things done or crossing them off your to-do list gives us a sense of accomplishment. Do today what you keep putting off for tomorrow.

Forget the bucket list, just do it: Jerry Seinfeld has a funny line. Rather than calling it a “bucket list” he calls it a “f&@k it list.” Don’t put off that vacation you want to take for another time. That other time might not be there for you. Do it as soon as it’s safe to do so outside the pandemic.

Hal Becker is a nationally known speaker on sales and customer service. He is the author of numerous business books including two national best sellers, “Can I Have 5 Minutes Of Your Time?” and “Lip Service.” Hal’s newest book on sales is titled “Ultimate Sales Book.” He can be reached at


Letters, commentaries and opinions appearing in the Cleveland Jewish News do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Cleveland Jewish Publication Company, its board, officers or staff.

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