All of life is a classroom, so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when suddenly mine included a cancer treatment center.

I’ve taught leadership seminars to people around the world, but this time I’m on the other side of the podium, learning firsthand how to do hand to hand combat with the beast of cancer. And I’m rendered powerless since my port is hooked to an IV drip delivering liquid hope from a plastic bag.

The physical symptoms were anything but normal. And after a stunning bile duct cancer diagnosis and a thoughtful plan of attack, here, like everywhere, I began to look for transformational leadership lessons. I discovered at least six.

  1. A positive attitude in times of change provides a stability.  

At first, I felt as wobbly as a half-sawed tree on the steep side of a West Virginia mountain. Then the positive attitude I’ve practiced and taught kicked in. I knew that I couldn’t control what was happening around me, but I could control what was happening within me. That was the just the stability I needed.

  1. Mutual respect and shared skills make teams effective.

I’ve written about Five-Star organizations and taught Five Star Customer Service, but now I have a Five-Star medical team. Skilled. Efficient. Compassionate. Each has a unique skill set that compliments the other. And they share it respectfully, even including me in the process. I thank them–and I thank the leader who taught them how to be team players.

  1. A personal faith and value system is a priceless component for facing the unknown.

Cancer brags but it can’t beat faith. God was and is in control. My faith in God conquered the fear of the unknown, even before I found a parking spot for my first chemo treatment. I was built for this situation. My parents had committed me to His plans before I took my first breath, and those plans aren’t about to unravel now.

  1. The network you build in common times will support you in crisis times.

Years of traveling around the world introduced me to dear people who are now my support network–praying, wearing Team Toler bracelets, and texting or calling. I’m glad I made the leadership decision long ago to put people and their needs ahead of my plans, programs, or properties.

  1. Difficulties are a journey, not a destination.

I don’t know what the next mile will hold, I just know there’ll be one. Cancer treatment takes a big chunk of my time, but it doesn’t own it. This is just a coordinate on the map of a longer journey. There’s no use moving my office furniture to this hospital unit. It’s just a stopover; it isn’t a destination.

  1. Planning a way through is better than looking for a way out. 

Would this situation be my first choice? No, but I’ve learned to be content with the floor plan given me rather than looking to add doors and windows. But I’m here on an assignment, ready to get on with whatever God has next for me. Looking for a way out only puts a negativity glitch in a positive plan to get through.  I’m making progress. To God be the glory!  Still claiming James 5:14-15