By many measures, Will Pye is an unconventional man. In early 2011, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor the size of a golf ball—an experience that most might describe as shocking, disruptive, or scary. Pye, instead, says he “experienced a deep peace, knowing all was well,” and at this moment his memoir Blessed With A Brain Tumor reveals itself to be a journey through life as a human with brain cancer unlike any other. Before his diagnosis and surgical removal of what he would eventually learn was a stage three anaplastic astrocytoma, Pye had spent a decade as a student of Zen Buddhism, a “multi-disciplinary, multi-modality, cross-cultural enquiry into the nature of reality and ultimate truth,” and it was this training that informed his approach to treatment for his brain cancer, as well as the manner in which he wanted to live for the rest of his life: full of love, gratitude, kindness and joy. Consequently, his first book is equal parts memoir and manual.
Not everyone with a brain tumor experiences it as a blessing, but Will Pye makes a compelling argument to see it that way. The first half of the his book, Part One: The Seven Gifts invites us to explore the gifts of love, surrender, death, guidance, purpose, co-creativity, and oneness, and each chapter is followed by a series of prompts for the reader to contemplate incorporating these wisdoms into our own lives. Pye writes “in viewing the diagnosis as a gift and opportunity, I was able to encounter gift and opportunity.” He beckons us to do the same with a series of chapter-ending questions he labels “Questions for Altering Reality,” such as
- Do you allow yourself to receive the love around you?
- Who might you speak to now, and express your love and appreciation for?
- Will you first allow a moment to breathe in love for yourself?
In particular, his account of surrendering to his diagnosis is profound and transformative. Rather than experience surrender as giving up or a defeat, Pye asks us to imagine ourselves as lying on an inflatable inner tube at a water park, floating down a lazy river. Rather than struggle with fear that we could at any moment sink and drown, or allow our experience to be marred by the screams of joy of children, he asks us to surrender to the experience, take joy in the beautiful sun-filled sky, and feel peace as we make our way around the twists and turns through the park. His unconventional perspective is an empowering and profound method for experiencing any of life’s twists and turns.
The Life Coach with a Brain Tumor
Part Two of Blessed with a Brain Tumor is called “The Seven Invitations,” which he calls an “opportunity to create the life you desire.” At the end of each chapter, the reader is asked to find a paper and pencil and complete a series of exercises meant to provoke deeper thoughts and refelctions about one’s life. One of these begins “What makes your heart sing? What activities leave you feeling vital, alive, and inspired?”
For any person who is interested in experiencing a more joyful, peaceful, and fulfilling life, Will Pye is there to guide you through that inner, deeply personal process. His ability to honestly share his most difficult moments, his decision-making process, and his joy, has created one of the most compelling and truly useful accounts of brain cancer ever written.
Blessed With A Brain Tumor (2014) by Will Pye. Available in paperback and ebook on Amazon/Kindle and willpye.com
Podcast Interview with Will Pye: