The Gift You’re Probably Overlooking

I’m lucky. I’ve been given a gift. It’s not that I’m a successful teacher and musician for almost 40 years. It’s simply the gift of life.

A little over two years ago I was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia and the initial tests indicated a 10% survival rate. I felt as if I had fallen through a hole in the sky. Why me? I couldn’t figure out what I had done to cause this awful disease.

And then my doctor gave me a gift. She said, “This has nothing to do with what you ate or where you live or anything you brought into or around your body. You did not cause this.” And that was a gift. It let me focus on healing.

What I’ve learned from the experience of chemotherapy, a marrow transplant and multiple hospital stays, is that life is a gift.

My cancer experience was hard and I might have damage, but I’m alive. Let me say that again. I’m alive! ! ! And that is the ultimate gift – Life.

I did not see it before. Prior to my cancer, I had the news on in the morning, and spent my time thinking about work, getting to the gym, fighting traffic, listening to more news on the way to get a hair cut, blah blah.

Today, I have no hair to fuss over, I don’t yell at traffic, I turned off the news, and eat my morning granola thinking how lucky I am to get this nourishment into my body. I walk 4 miles outside every day I can. And most of all, I get to marvel, and smile and beam watching my granddaughters. Do you know how lucky that is? I did not think I would get to meet the youngest.

A few weeks ago I took my five year old to a zip-line place where I got to watch her giggle and swing through the air. And we read The Night Before Christmas, twice! And the two-year old and I watched Ice Age together with her older sister explaining everything that was going on. It makes me smile just to think of it.

It’s right there… the simple things. When I’m getting ready to teach at the University I focus on that day, that chance to reach my students. I stop to enjoy this gift of what I can give that day.

My University asked if I would serve as interim Chair of my department and I turned it down. Not because of fear of my disease coming back but because I now I focus on what I want to do. I love to teach, to give back. Administration is a great thing, but for me, reaching my students with the latest information about how they can advance their music careers is much more important.

My cancer may come back tomorrow, but for the past two years I have discovered what life really is all about… it is a gift.

Chris Daniels is a professional musician with albums on the charts, an award-winning college assistant professor and a leukemia survivor. For more stories about focusing on the present and overcoming adversity, please visit


Donna F.
Donna F2 years ago

ty for the important reminder. I do understand, too, when Life feels like punishment instead of a gift. my heart goes out to all those who feel it as punishment. There's no way to understand how life can be a gift at some times, and seem like a punishment at others.

Carole R.
Carole R2 years ago

So true

Natasha Salgado
natasha s2 years ago

Thank you

Lis T.
Elisabeth T2 years ago

Thanks for sharing....

Anteater Ants
Anteater Ants2 years ago

The gift of ants!

Nimue P.

We all need to remember this. Thank you, Chris :)

Anna Wang
Anna Meng Wang2 years ago


LMj Sunshine

Thank you for sharing.

LMj Sunshine

Thank you for sharing.

Hent Catalina-Maria