David Richman is an author, public speaker, philanthropist, and endurance athlete whose mission is to form more meaningful human connections through storytelling. His first book, "Winning in the Middle of the Pack," discussed how to get more out of ourselves than ever imagined. With "Cycle of Lives," David shares the interconnected stories of people overcoming trauma and delves deeply into their emotional journeys with cancer. He took time to answer a few of our questions.
Humor Beats Cancer: What made you decide to make this book and what do you hope people get out of it?
David Richman: I’ve always been drawn to understanding how people handle the traumas in their lives. How and why people deal with (or avoid dealing with) trauma provides so much insight into the human experience. Since we all face so many and varied traumas, we are given the opportunity to form deep and meaningful connections with others, and a greater understanding of ourselves, by attempting to process and understand the underlying emotions. I wrote this book, which examines the emotional facets of cancer, as seen through the hearts and minds of 15 remarkable, evocative, inspiring people, with the hope that it will provide the reader deep insight
into the forces that shape people’s emotional experiences with cancer. My hope is that the reader will become better equipped to engage in deeper, more heart-centered interaction with friends and loved ones, and gain more insight in the emotions behind trauma, and especially the trauma of cancer.
Humor Beats Cancer: How has cancer been a part of your life?
David: Cancer entered my life when my sister was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. She had a husband, two young kids, and a large circle of friends who were devastated by what she endured. After she passed, I attempted to keep her memory alive by doing endurance athletic events in her honor, and to raise money for the cancer center that took care of her. Over the last 15 years, I have stayed connected to the cancer world through these events, serving on the board of a nationally recognized young adult cancer organization, and through my Cycle of Lives project and book.
Humor Beats Cancer: What have you learned from the disease?
David: That no one cancer and no one perspective is more traumatic than the next – each person’s experience with cancer, as a patient, loved-one, caregiver, survivor, or professional, is unique and consequential. By understanding this, I have gained a better insight into the possible feelings and emotions that lie within those experiences. I have come to not assume what people might be going through and have learned how to better engage in deeper connections with people. By actively seeking to provide a safe, caring, mindful space for people to share what they are going
through, I have developed a very real sense of compassion, empathy, and understanding for others and of myself.
Humor Beats Cancer: Can you share a funny story from facing cancer in your life?
David: While I was biking across the country to meet in person with the participants of the book (whom I had been interviewing for a few years), I was in the middle of Nowhere, Texas, on the side of small highway, fixing a flat tire. I noticed a group of cattle grazing on a nearby farm. The herd made their way near me, and I began to have a conversation with them about my troubles as I complained about the heat, my mechanical issues, and being hungry and tired. It took a while to sink in, but at some point, I realized they were looking over at me like I was crazy. Their eyes said, “Silly human, we can’t understand a word you’re saying, but you keep talking to us like you think we do.” I was many miles down the road before I stopped laughing at myself.
Humor Beats Cancer: What is your favorite story from the book and why?
David: That’s not fair! All the stories are my favorites. You’ll just have to read it and let me know what story your favorite is.
Humor Beats Cancer: Why is humor an important tool for facing this disease?
David: Stress is such a negative force, especially when facing a serious medical issue, a disease such as cancer, and so many other traumatic, overbearing events that are part of the human condition. The biggest stress-reliever humans have is humor (with a caring touch being a close second). By looking for the funny and amusing moment — even the absurdities — that are hidden in these traumatic events, we can enjoy some relief from the sometimes ominous, over-bearing realities around our fragility. Humor is one of the most important tools we can use to lift ourselves out of the stress, even if for just a moment, and lighten our hearts and minds.