Last summer, I started writing a book about living with intention so that I didn’t die with regrets. My working title: Not Dead Yet.

The writing was going well. I was exchanging pages regularly with another coach. I was starting to believe that maybe, just maybe, I might see this book to the end (unlike the last two or three I tried).

Then in January, my husband was diagnosed with lymphoma. At first, we were told it was a non-aggressive type that he was more likely to die with than from.

Just to be sure, a PET scan was scheduled during which his pelvis unexpectedly lit up. A subsequent biopsy confirmed our worst, most terrifying fear: that his non-aggressive cancer had transformed into a beast. Stunned, we could do nothing more than silently stare at one another. And cry.

Our priorities at that moment became unmistakably clear: Bruce’s health, and time with our family and friends. All optional activities were abolished from our schedule.

Suddenly, my little book project seemed laughable. My underlying—if not acknowledged—assumption in writing the book was that I was going to live another thirty years in full health. My intent was to fill those years with meaning and purpose and growth. But now, it seemed both presumptuous and preposterous to be writing a book about living with intention when my husband might be dying from cancer.

I stopped writing and turned what little attention I had left on getting through each day.

Then, about two months after all this began, Bruce and I met with a second-opinion doctor, someone who had just reviewed additional testing done by the Mayo Clinic. The doctor explained that Bruce’s cancer might not be the aggressive type at all, but instead a more indolent variety. “You don’t need chemo now,” he said, “and maybe not ever.”

We felt like we’d just been granted clemency and released into freedom. A week later, we were on a plane to Mexico to process what just happened.

While there my book started to re-emerge. I realized I’d just been given an huge lesson in intentional living. It was as if the universe had said, “You want to understand how to live with intention… here, try cancer on for size.”

My life had shown me, in a painfully clear way, what living with intention really looked like so that I could write with a stronger sense of urgency, and perhaps a bit more authority.

Over the years, I’ve seen hundreds of clients get similar messages from life about their own projects. It doesn’t matter what they are writing about—resilience or forgiveness or motherhood. Often, once they get going life will throw them a challenge to make sure they know what they are talking about.

Intentional living was my challenge. Cancer was my teacher.

If you’re not clear on what your life is telling you about a current project, consider joining me Monday May 8th for a free webinar, “What is your life telling you?”