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“You Have Cancer” My Friend’s Journey to Rediscovering Joy

DISCIPLINE STRATEGY® Blog by Timothy L. Coomer, PhD

Lessons on applying scientific research to solve real-life challenges within a framework called DISCIPLINE: [Decide] [Investigate] [Sort] [Conceive] [Implement] [Persevere] [Loop] [Intensify] [Notice] [Enjoy]

People write books because they have a story to tell, and they want to inspire others. My friend Cathleen Kahn “Cat” wrote Badass and Bendy: A Yogi’s Breast Cancer Story (https://amzn.to/34u8Awu) to share her inspirational story of resilience in the face of a cancer diagnosis.

I invited Cat to be a guest blogger this week because her story fits perfectly with the life change I teach in my DISCIPLINE STRATEGY® book. Recently, I wrote about the need to develop your capacity for perseverance long before it is needed. (See this blog: http://bit.ly/DS_PERSEVERE). Cat’s book provides a roadmap for recovery and stamina through any life challenge. She relied heavily on her capacity for perseverance when facing significant health and relationship challenges. There is much to be learned from her story.

Cat now owns and operates CatFit Yoga (https://www.catfityoga.com/). She uses her life experience as a survivor, Yogi and educator to help others create positive life changes through physical fitness and her unique affirming way of seeing life.

Enjoy Cat’s blog and think about how you can integrate this wisdom into your life.

By Guest Blogger: Cathleen Kahn

I talk about positive affirmations a lot in my yoga classes. I strongly believe in the power of positivity in the workplace, as well. Our attitude determines how successful the day might be. Challenges happen each day at work, and we get to decide how we’re going to react to them.  I have been in the workforce for over 30 years, and I know how to make an environment more effective for myself. Even when it is difficult, I make it a point to see the positive in things around me. I am working on a book about joy and deciding on what I believe are the pieces that contribute to joy. I know it will continue to evolve as I write. Each of these pieces affect my peace of mind and my joy:







I believe gratitude is the foundation of joy. When we are grateful for what we have, we often find that it is enough.  I love this quote from author Melody Beattie, “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.  It turns what we have into enough, and more.  It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” It is all about recognizing what we are grateful for.  


Perspective is a particular attitude towards something. It captures what we believe about something, and it is in our control.  We get to choose how we look at things.  When a car cuts you off at a parking lot…that is annoying.  But in the big picture of life…is it really that big of a deal? We have all seen the image of the dandelion with the caption, “some see a weed; I see a wish.” It is your perspective that determines which you will see. Changing yours can change your day. When I was growing up, my Mom had a quote hanging in her vanity closet that said, “you make me feel this way or that way is a self-imposed illusion…I alone make me feel anyway.” That has always stuck with me.  


Fear keeps joy at bay.  We spend so much time being afraid that we miss joy.  We often let fear dominate the way we talk to ourselves and the way we behave: “I can’t apply for that job, there are many other people more qualified”, “I don’t have time to start that blog”, “I am afraid to apply for that grant, I won’t get it anyway”, “I’m afraid to travel to Europe”, “I’m too old, too fat, too young, too something…”, “I don’t have the right degree.” You get the picture; we all have a reel of fears that play inside our minds. Fear can keep us from living a joyful life.


Victim-hood sucks the joy out of our lives. When we believe ourselves to be victims, we limit ourselves. It is hard to be happy when we believe we are being mistreated. That is not to say that life is always fair, but again, we can choose how we react to things that happen to us. When I was diagnosed with cancer, I was mad and scared. I could have rolled up into the fetal position and stayed there during my chemotherapy and radiation treatments. It was hard to be positive as my hair fell out, and I was throwing up. I wasn’t positive the entire time, but I saw how my negative self-talk, in the early days of my treatment, made me bitter. It was easy to have a pity-party, but that pity party made me feel worse, and it affected the people around me. I stopped the victim-hood mentality and replaced my negatives with positives. It changed my attitude and the attitudes of those around me. 


Our attitude is the way of feeling about something, and it is reflected in our behavior.  We get to decide each day how we are going to react to life that day. I want to respond positively, but that doesn’t always happen. It is hard to be kind when someone is rude to you. My husband and I were quietly playing a video of our granddaughter in an airport lounge recently. The entire video was maybe 90 seconds long. An older woman walked over and yelled at us to turn the video off or put on our headphones. She ruined my day for about 30 minutes until my husband reminded me that we don’t know what she was dealing with that day. Often, we take on other people’s stress, drama, and troubles to our detriment.

Strategies for Living a More Joy-Filled Life 

  1. See yourself being happy and successful. Our mind is powerful; what we believe about ourselves helps to shape our truths.
  2. Surround yourself with positive people that encourage and empower you. We are happiest when we surround ourselves with people that are also happy and have many of the same goals.
  3. Let good things happen.  Don’t try to second guess the whys of the good things happening, just recognize and accept them.
  4. Listen to your heart.  Do things that make your heart smile.  We often have to do things that are not fun but when you can choose, choose things that make you happy and help you enjoy life.
  5. Do things you love.  I love horseback riding, and I seldom get to ride, but when I do, it makes me happy.  Is there anything you love but don’t do?  Why not?
  6. Be driven by purpose.  Why are you doing what you are doing?  Most of us need to feel as though we are making a difference in the world in some way. Our purpose helps to make what you do more fulfilling. If your work does not fill that need for you, find that purpose outside of work.
  7. Recognize change happens and that it doesn’t have to be a bad thing.  Having the ability to change and accept change can help you live happier. You get to choose how you react to change. 
  8. Recognize the small joys. Notice the good things in life. Look for little things that make you smile, crisp, clean sheets, a bright blue sky, fall leaves, the smell of coffee – I encourage my training clients to make a gratitude list each day.
    1. In the morning, I ask them to list three things that they are grateful for and be specific. For example, I love how my spouse laughs at my jokes. I love how my spouse makes me feel special. I love that my daughter runs to give me a hug each evening when I get home. I love the smell of coffee. I love the smell of cut grass.
    2. In the evening, I ask them to list three things that happened to them that day for which they are grateful. Mine for yesterday: My husband sent me some loving text messages, the laughter of a baby, and having dinner with one of my dear friends.

Choose your attitude and let that choice help you to live a happier life.


I hope you enjoyed this blog by Cathleen Kahn. If you are interested in learning more about Cathleen, read her full bio below. Her life experience is certainly unique and her bio gives you a feel for the basis of her positive attitude toward life, perseverance, and joy.

You can order Cat’s book Badass and Bendy: A Yogi’s Breast Cancer Story here: (https://amzn.to/34u8Awu)

P.S. Pre-order Discipline Strategy book here: http://bit.ly/_DS

Cathleen Kahn Biographical Summary


Cathleen Kahn is a yogi, a speaker, a traveler, breast cancer survivor and a fitness expert. She began her career in fitness and became a positive body image advocate while living in Hawaii. In New York she taught in fitness facilities in Highland Falls, NY then later in Watertown, NY. While in Highland Falls, Cathleen was the Coach for Army Cheerleading at the Military Academy at West Point. She also taught fitness to the college football, basketball, wrestling, women’s lacrosse and women’s soccer teams. Cathleen was the Fitness Director at a facility in Lubbock where she developed training and conducted continuing education for fitness instructors. She fell in love with yoga over 19 years ago and has seen a difference in her own life and the lives of those she has trained since incorporating yoga.

Cathleen is a breast cancer survivor and said about yoga and cancer: “I loved yoga, but it was just another fitness activity until cancer struck.  After cancer, I lived yoga. When I lost my hair, yoga didn’t care how I looked. When I felt betrayed by my body, the yoga mat welcomed me. Yoga was therapeutic and a place of acceptance and healing for me during and after my diagnosis”.

Cathleen is a speaker and has spoken to businesses, civic organizations and support groups. She speaks on positivity, joy, yoga, and stress in the workplace.

Professionally, Cathleen owns a yoga studio with her sister. She is a certified fitness and yoga instructor and a continuing education provider for yoga alliance. She has a master’s degree in business education (MBE) from Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU). She holds a graduate certificate in creative writing from MTSU Write. She has been a co-facilitator of the West of the Moon creative retreats for the past five summers in New Harmony, Indiana. At West of the Moon, she led yoga and taught presentations on creativity and the creative process. Cathleen has written articles for and has been published in the Crossville Chronicle, a local Tennessee newspaper.

Additional Information:

  • Trained instructors and provided ongoing fitness education at U.S. Military Academy at West Point, NY
  • Coached 20-member co-ed Army Cheerleading Squad; Conducted fitness assessments
  • Acted as Chairman for Kids in the Kitchen, an anti-childhood-obesity initiative
  • Functioned as certified fitness instructor, yoga instructor, personal trainer at Flex Fitness Center and became the Fitness Director
  • Trained instructors at U.S. Military Academy; coached 20-member cheerleading squad
  • Spearheaded children’s anti-obesity outreach program (for a volunteer organization)
  • Developed commercially-offered Knowledge Management Certification course for tech company
  • Wrote new hire training manual; developed marketing tools for Wyndham marketing dept
  • Recruited volunteers and members for civic-minded volunteer organization
  • Graduate Certificate, Marketing Strategy for Business Leaders – Cornell University
  • American Council on Exercise (ACE) Certification – Group Fitness Instructor
  • Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA) Group Fitness Instructor
  • Tae Kwon Do – Black Belt, 1st degree
  • 200 eRYT yoga instructor
  • Yoga alliance continuing education provider

Random information:

  • I love helping people. One of my favorite things to do is to help someone see themselves beautiful, strong and successful.
  • I want to make a difference in the lives of others. I want to know that I have helped. I want to do this not for my own gratification but because I believe we can all help others and make a difference.
  • I love coffee, red wine and laughing. I am serious and focused, but life is too short to not have fun.