"I did everything I was supposed to: I worked hard, raised my family, helped others. Now I'm retiring and want to enjoy life and I'm diagnosed with cancer. It's not fair!"

A tearful "Susan" sat in my office last year, steeped in anger over the injustice of her diagnosis and fluctuating between rage and deep despair. Life handed her a raw deal. Over and over she asked "Why me?" She didn't have any risk factors associated with cancer. Yet one day it appeared, uninvited, unwelcomed, unfairly intruding on her life.

I didn't have the answers she was seeking. But I could help her find meaning and purpose in this experience.

None of us escapes injustice and unfairness in life. We do what's right and expect right to happen. When it doesn't, the natural response is anger. We may not find the answer to "why me?" and it's not imperative that we do. More importantly, we need to shift our focus from self-pity to self-discovery. Ask instead, "What am I supposed to do with this?" Every experience has purpose and value.

I encouraged Susan to seek direction and understanding. Initially it was difficult. Gradually, she began to realize that life did not want her to "retire" - she was being prepped for a higher purpose. Susan pursued her treatment voraciously as she anxiously anticipated the new life before her.

Another of my clients (from the battered women's shelter) is a perfect example. A survivor of domestic violence and rape, she lost everything: her home, her children, her career, her life as she knew it. She arrived with only the clothes on her back and some emotional baggage: anger, despair, fear, bitterness. Through self-discovery, she found new meaning to life: to become a voice for women of domestic violence. Her new-found passion, born of extreme pain, has birthed an unparrelled conviction to fight for the rights of women and children. Nothing will stop her on her quest for justice. She is a powerful force of hope and inspiration whose efforts have already begun bearing fruit.

I'm grateful never to have been plagued with self-pity. "Why me?" does not exist in my vocabulary. Through all life's unfairness, injustices, and pain, I have never felt sorry for myself. I've always found meaning and purpose in each experience.

As a child, my dad had a vegetable garden. His prized tomato plants grew over eight feet high and produced the most delicious tomatoes around. He fertilized with horse manure (a/k/a sh__). Ironically, the plants never complained when they where "manuered" on. Instead, they used it to grow to enormous heights, as if instinctively knowing it was beneficial to them.

Perhaps, we could all learn from some very wise beefsteaks.

Author's Bio: 

Internationally known motivational and inspirational speaker, Janet is a graduate of Englewood Cliffs College (now St. Peter’s) and is a leader in the field of anger management and conflict resolution.

She serves as a consultant to such companies at the U.S. Army, U.S. Postal Service, Hoffman-La Roche, Carnival Cruise Lines, AT&T, United Way, YWCA, and more.

Janet is a registered trainer for the N.J. Education Association, training teachers and students throughout the state.

As a survivor of domestic violence, she also works as an instructor at a battered women’s shelter.

Janet hosts her own TV show, Discovering Your Personal Power and is a frequent quest on television and radio. She recently appeared on Fox TV, Steve Adubato’s One-On-One, was highlighted by NBC News and appeared on many others. She has also co-hosted her own talk radio show as well.
An award-winning author and freelance writer, Janet writes a column for the Daily Record as well as articles for such magazines as Woman’s World, N.J. Family, Prime Woman and Living Solo.

She has co-authored a book with Mark Victor Hanson (of Chicken Soup For the Soul) entitled “101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life, Vol. 3”, wrote “The Secret Side of Anger” (currently available on CD), and has four published children’s books. Janet is listed in “Who’s Who in Authors”.

Additionally, Janet has spoken at the United Nations, Notre Dame University, is a member of the National Police Suicide Foundation and a board member for the World Addiction Foundation. She has been a committee member and keynote speaker for the YWCA’s National Week Without Violence Campaign.

In 2001, Janet founded the nation’s first support group of its kind for families struggling with issues of estrangement. The group, Reunion of Hearts: Reconciling and Reconnecting Estranged Families, was dedicated to the emotional and spiritual healing of family members and very successfully reunited more than 90% of the families.

Janet is also a member of NJAWBO and A Vision In Motion Speaker’s Bureau.

She has been nominated for many prestigious awards including the Russ Berrie “Make a Difference Award”, and has received many others.

Added to her credentials are numerous awards for her nature photography. And in 1994 – 95, Janet was one of the nation’s top female marathon race walkers, winning gold medals at the state level and gold, silver and bronze medals for national marathon competitions. No one has yet broken her record of power walking every single day for more than 26 years.

In her spare time, Janet rescues abandoned and abused dogs (she currently has 3 beautiful mutts), hikes, and spends time with her family.