Survivor Stories How to Cope - Survivor How Being an Entrepreneur Helped Me in My Fight against Cancer

Five Principles for Success in Business and Surviving Cancer

Jonathan PassleyCancer is not an opponent I expected to encounter at age 29. Most people my age aren’t forced to confront their mortality so directly, nor are they asked to balance  a regimen of healing and recovery while caring for a family and running a business. But that’s what I’m doing. 

Owning my own company has helped make me the person I am today. I have no doubt my experiences in business are one factor that has shaped my response to the illness that has changed my life forever. Here are my five principles for success that can be applied to running a business or battling cancer. There are undoubtedly others, but these are the ones I’ve found after reflecting on my own history and experiences. 

1. Accept the fact that you’re never totally in control. 

Regardless of how well you plan and prepare, or how much of a control freak you are, your best laid plans will go awry. If you aren’t ready to face this reality, frustration and disappointment will get the best of you, and you’ll fail to respond to life’s surprises quickly or effectively. 

2. Always take the advice of others with a grain of salt.

Whether you’re starting a business or fighting cancer, you’ll run into many people who have great advice to offer based on their background, knowledge, or personal experience. Much of what they say may be legitimate, and you shouldn’t ignore it completely.

But everyone’s circumstances are different, and what works for one person may not work for another. You should trust your instincts and listen to your own inner voice. If something doesn’t feel right to you, it probably isn’t. 

3. Never hide from the bad news.

Denial is a dangerous response to any type of trouble. It may be human nature to deny unpleasant truths, but that doesn’t make it a productive or useful reaction. 

If you bury your head in the sand, you won’t see the real threats coming, and that is what leaves you most vulnerable. To overcome trouble, you must acknowledge it, understand it, and address it at the earliest possible stage.

4. Cherish your relationships, and rely on them in times of hardship.

No one is an island. Our relationships with other people (and with God, if you’re a believer) shape us, define us, and reinforce our best efforts. 

A successful business is a cooperative effort, and so is a successful fight against cancer. Your support network is your anchor, and, without them, hope, faith, and determination can be harder to find and sustain.

5. No matter what happens, keep moving forward.

As hard as it might be, when life knocks you down, you have to get back up, dust yourself off, and get moving again. 

If you fall behind, the world won’t stop to wait for you, and if you stay on the sidelines for too long, you may never catch up again. Everyone has challenges to face; that’s just the way it is, and it won’t do you any good to dwell on the unfairness or injustice of it. 

My family and faith have helped me immensely during this struggle. But life lessons can be learned anywhere and at any time, and I’ve learned plenty of them during my time building my company, and during my battle with cancer. I’m grateful for the way running a business has helped shape my outlook and my character, and I know I’m a wiser and more capable person because of those experiences.


Jonathan Passley launched his company, PDR Web Solutions, at the young age of 22, and, since then, he’s helped numerous small businesses generate new customers and increase sales with online marketing. At age 29, Jonathan faced a new life challenge when he was diagnosed with Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor, or GIST. His experience as an entrepreneur helped him face his cancer diagnosis head on.

This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, January/February 2018.