I was a child prodigy. When my peers were putting Lego blocks in their mouths, I was learning multiplication and reverse engineering baby formulas. As a result, I’ve won many accolades and awards, but my proudest achievement is the title I least expected: cancer survivor.

Cancer is challenging at any age, but being 30 years younger than the average cancer patient makes things much worse. It makes you question the fairness of life and god—if you ever believed in one. As you try to digest what it all means in the grand scheme of life, people in white labcoats recite things like a 24% 5-year survival rate and condescendingly explain, “That means if there were 100 of you, only 24 of you will be here in 5 years.” Yes, I can do the math. Thank you.

I didn’t cry or depart on a journey to find the meaning of life. I approached my diagnosis the same way I tackle complex projects and operational glitches. After all, am I not a natural problem solver and a brilliant strategist? Haven’t I exceeded every quota and every expectation against all odds and led companies to success? So why should this problem be any different?

I managed my cancer treatment like a high-risk, high-reward project, developing step-by-step plans with defined roles and responsibilities.

“Okay, team. Here is the game plan. The radiologist will identify the target, the surgeon will isolate and cut it out, the radiation oncologist will nuke the site, and the oncologist will chemically eliminate any resistance. The best friend will hold my hair back while I throw up from treatments, and other friends will alternate bringing food and checking on me every morning to ensure I didn’t die overnight. Are we ready? Let’s do this.”

I met with no fewer than seven general surgeons before selecting my team. By the time I met the seventh surgeon, I had a thirty-minute PowerPoint presentation, complete with a quantitative analysis and an ROI chart comparing the effectiveness of each treatment option and its emotional and physical toll. And eight months after the project initiation, I have overcome the odds and achieved the unlikely outcome: I am cancer free. In the process, I’ve earned the respect of my doctors with my superhuman pain tolerance, remarkable recovery speed, and iron willpower. More importantly, I’ve proven to myself that there is no challenge I cannot conquer.

The incision scar from the first surgery is beginning to fade. I almost wish it doesn’t. I consider it a medal of valor, a reminder of the arduous battle I fought and won.

Project: Survival

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