James Templeton: The Man Who Beat the Odds and Overcame a Devastating Diagnosis
The way I live my life has been shaped by the battles I’ve overcome. As a fifth generation Texan, I’ve always admired my ancestors’ fighting spirit, ingenuity, and down-to-earth common sense, often against incredible odds. I found myself tapping into these same qualities—in the fight for my own life. More than 30 years ago, I beat terminal Stage IV Melanoma cancer—when doctors said there was no hope. Today, I’m vibrantly healthy, happy, and successful, and I’ve learned a few things that I’d like to pass along:
A diagnosis can change everything. When I was in my early 30s, I felt like I was in the prime of my life. But when the doctor found a suspicious mole during a routine exam, my perfect world—my wife, our baby daughter, our home and the businesses we had built, everything I was looking forward to in life—all came to a screeching halt and crumbled before my eyes. Everything changed because of the words “You have cancer.” And what seemed like the end of the world 30 years ago turned out to be the most amazing journey, with twists and turns I never could’ve imagined.
Take charge of your own life. When the surgery and experimental chemotherapy weren’t enough and I was given the news I was terminal, I realized in that moment I had a choice to make. I could either accept what I was being told and make peace with my end, or find my own way to fight this battle and win. I chose to fight. I’ll never forget lying in that hospital bed, feeling as though I’d been thrown in the ring with the heavyweight champion of the world—and I didn’t even know how to box. That seems to happen in life—we find ourselves in situations where the odds look insurmountable and we don’t have the slightest clue what we’re doing. But I’ve learned that when we take charge and step out in action, the answers we need come exactly at the right time, and often from the most unlikely places.
Set small goals and keep success within your reach. When I walked out of that hospital in search of a new way to fight for my health, I was shaky and weak and barely able to stand. I couldn’t do much more than rest in bed and prepare a few meals. It’s hard not to feel discouraged when you are in that state, but I was determined not to let that cancer beat me. From day one I set small goals for myself, and each time I reached one, I set another. My healing was built on a series of small successes, which built my confidence and helped me stay positive each step of the way. Whatever mountain you’re facing, you can conquer it by setting small goals each step of the way and keeping success within your reach.
Fully commit to whatever you do, but stay open-minded and keep learning as you go. When I was facing that terminal diagnosis and found new answers to the question, “How do I fight cancer and win?” I knew I’d have to go all in and give it everything I had if I was going to succeed. Whatever you’re facing in life, you have to do the research, create a plan, and completely believe that the path you’re choosing is the one that will bring you victory. Once you start walking that path, keep your mind open and keep learning. Throughout the years, I’ve traveled the world and met some of the most inspiring and fascinating teachers I’ve ever known. What I’ve learned has changed my direction many times, and I believe being flexible and open to new knowledge is a big part of what’s kept me healthy all of these years.
Live with a purpose. It’s so important to find your “why?” I felt like I lost everything when I was diagnosed with cancer, and in a lot of ways I suppose I did. But I was also given a second chance at life and I knew I wasn’t going to waste it. I didn’t go into that battle knowing what my purpose was, I just knew I had one and I wanted to find it. Healing didn’t happen overnight. I went on a journey that took me across the country and spanned a few years. And then one night, I woke up from a sound sleep with a vision to start my company UNI KEY Health, which stands for the universal keys to health. I knew in that moment that my life had changed and my purpose was to help others heal and teach them what I had learned.
Pay attention to what you put into your mouth—and equal attention to what comes out of it. If you are facing an illness, I believe there’s nothing more important than breathing clean air, drinking clean water, and eating clean, nutrient-dense food. When I started out, I researched the macrobiotic diet and had confidence it would work for me. I researched and read stories from people with cancer who used this same diet to inspire me. At the same time, I kept my attitude and words positive, because if I didn’t have confidence in what I was doing, everyone around me would question it, too, and that would drag me down. I worked hard to not let worry, doubt, or depression get a hold of me, and I stayed positive in my thoughts and my speech. If you want people to believe in what you are doing, you have to model that confidence and positive attitude and they’ll follow your lead.
A good, supportive community is just as important during the good times as it is when we struggle. When I was first home from the hospital and healing on my own terms, I struggled with finding the strength and knowledge to do everything I had just learned about. I was fortunate to have my stepmother by my side to help me. But, once I got back on my feet, I felt alone. No one I knew was eating the way I did, and they didn’t have any interest in learning. I couldn’t go back to the same social circle I had before I got sick, so finding a community of like-minded people became a priority on my healing path. Once I found others on the same path I was, I didn’t feel so alone and I certainly wasn’t tempted to stray from what I knew was healthy for me. Even today, it’s exciting for me to share my love for healthy food with the people I love. Find your people—the ones who will stand by you when you struggle and celebrate with you when you succeed.
Be courageous and share your story with the world. We all have a story to tell that can encourage others and help them see their way out of a tough battle. People call me a born storyteller and I think that’s one of the things too often missing in this modern day. Our stories and those of our ancestors let us know where we came from and reassure us that we have the ability to survive and thrive despite life’s greatest challenges. This is why I just wrote my book, I Used to Have Cancer. It is not only my purpose in life but my greatest honor to inspire, encourage, and teach others to find their own healing path. What’s the story you have inside of you?
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