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Bret Martin on Surviving Cancer and Change with a Positive Attitude
Since some of our listening audience may not yet know who you are, would you please tell us a bit about yourself.
Hi, my name is Bret Martin and I am called the Cancer Crooner. After battling colon cancer following 30 years of ulcerative colitis—not to mention a terminal liver disease diagnosis and a blood clot—I began writing songs about my new life experiences. I co-wrote with my oncologist an audio program called “The Ultimate Cancer Pep Talk” including original songs and dialogue to inspire cancer patients and their loved ones to consider the cancer experience nothing more than a change. I have been married for 12 years and have five beautiful children ages 18, 10, 9, 6 and 2. My youngest was adopted from Ethiopia and has been home for eight months. He has a disease called LCH and has been having chemotherapy for the past seven months.
You are a great success. Because of what you've accomplished and where you are in life, what would you tell others to Inspire them today, regardless of where they are in their life?
I invite everyone to consider that life on earth lasts merely a cosmic nanosecond, so live it. I had the jumpstart on my new life by being lucky enough to get cancer. I hope others can gain a zest for living or enhance their present moments without the aid of a brush with death. As far as me being a great success, that label does not necessarily apply to my financial gains. Sometimes following our dreams isn’t always the greatest avenue toward financial wealth. But I wake up excited every morning and I rest assured at night knowing I will never regret the life I've lived and wouldn't trade it for the world. For me, that's success.
We all know that inspiration can change lives. Can you share a personal story of someone who inspired you and made a difference in your life or a defining moment or experience that inspired you or changed your life?
I was always obsessed with pleasure over joy. I bought into the media that told me I needed material things to be happy. This mindset always left me wanting more. I was humbled as I went from being a popular weight-lifter preppy boy to an overweight middle-aged man who pooped into a plastic bag attached to his belly. I had an ileostomy that was later reversed. It made me finally realize that I wasn’t better than anyone else and that no indignity was beneath me. This was a turning point for me and my spiritual growth. That and a great wife who had already planted seeds in my heart for the selfless enlightenment that was to come and go and come and go, and so on.
You make it look easy, but I'm guessing you've experienced challenges in your life. Can you share with our listeners how that has strengthened you to reach success? In other words, how do you overcome adversity?
Whenever a change occurs in my life that I deem negative I immediately assess the event and create an event which is positively charged that exceeds in magnitude the event I see as negative. For example, I nervously awaited cancer surgery to have my colon removed and afraid to tell my friends about the impending disfiguring surgery. I counteracted this perceived upcoming negative change event by hosting "a going-away party for my colon." This was my way to neutralize the fears and embrace the change.
We all have ideas on how to improve our lives, whether it be a new job, moving to a new city, or finding love, but change can be a bit scary sometimes. Can you please share an experience with us where you "stepped off the ledge" with only faith, and took a big risk, based only on your belief that you would succeed?
My biggest risk-taking ventures are all very simple. I confront problems head on. I tell people when there is something wrong and I address issues others often shy away from. When a friend asks, for example, if I like the song he wrote and I don’t like it, I tell him the truth. I have lost some friends but over time all came back and everyone knows now that if you want an honest answer you can come to me and be prepared for an honest answer. Really. I’m still surprised how many people claim to seek the truth when in fact all they really want is confirmation so they can continue their dysfunction or denial.
How can others do what you did?
You can spend more time with the people you love first. I can’t stand it when people use their dreams as an excuse to cheat their family out of quantity time. But if your family is satisfied with you and supports the opportunity for you to pursue your dreams, then do it. Don’t wait and don’t let fear ever be a factor in the choices you make, unless of course you are entering into something that is just stupid and your fear is actually just common sense.
What process, steps or exercises do you recommend that our listeners could do right now and each morning, to improve the quality of their lives?
Drink lots of water and get lots of rest and get up early and do what needs to be done each day to keep the ball rolling forward. Self-starters and innovators like us don’t typically have a boss or a time clock so we have to pay close attention to time and how it relates to our success.
What's the greatest joy in your life?
My greatest joys are family and creating music. So, my greatest joy is creating music with my family.
If you had to wrap up the wisdom of your life to leave as your legacy—call it YOUR BRILLIANCE—what important things that you've learned would you want to pass on to others?
Be mindful of the past and prepare for your future but realize only the present moment exists in real time. Try to live as much of your life in the present moment as possible. Most everything else is just like watching reruns or fantasizing about another time that may never exist.
If you had just one more thing that you could accomplish in your lifetime, what would it be?
Mastery. More mastery. I’ve studied Arabic every day for the past four years and I will never quit until I reach mastery or die. If I lived to be a thousand years old I would master every language and every musical instrument.
For those touched by cancer, Bret has created the ultimate pep talk in the form of songs and compelling dialogue.