Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Wealth Cure

Is it weird to embrace a book? I want to give Hill Harper and his book a big hug. It is so rare that a book is written straight from the heart and touches my own. I almost didn't read The Wealth Cure: Putting Money In Its Place by Hill Harper this week. With all of the busyness, parties, and celebrations that occur during the holiday season, I was not looking forward to reading a hefty book about financial planning but then I decided to at least read the introduction of The Wealth Cure and I was immediately drawn in. This is not your typical book about money. First of all, in my post Hill Harper: Renaissance Man and Thyroid Cancer Survivor, I announce that Hill discovers the first signs of his illness at the end of the film shoot for For Colored Girls and writing a book about finances. (By the way, I am ready to watch For Colored Girls now. I will watch it over my Winter vacation.) Hill woke up one morning not being able to swallow. He telephoned a trusted doctor to examine his neck. He was sent for an ultrasound and fine needle biopsy. He had three cancerous nodules discovered in his thyroid. Hill Harper was no stranger to cancer-- he was a caregiver for his father who passed away years prior from pancreatic cancer. Cancer also took the lives of his uncle and grandfather. Naturally, he was scared to now have this diagnosis. Being the Renaissance Man he is, Hill used the cancer as an opportunity for growth. In fact, he talks about financial growth as a metaphor for a cancer treatment plan, something he calls The Wealth Cure-- "a return to some fundamental values that have been discarded". The Wealth Cure is divided into five parts:

The Diagnosis
Treatment Options
Compliance: Sticking with a Treatment Plan
Maintaining Your Health and Wealth
Masterminding: Thrive and Survive
Life Account Versus Bank Account

The Wealth Cure describes a journey consisting of The Wealth Factor. The Wealth Factor is a personal list to make oneself "unreasonably happy". The "story" of The Wealth Cure takes place on a train from Los Angeles to Chicago in which Hill in the days leading up to his surgery, he writes his book reflecting on financial management while meeting interesting people along the way. I love books that draw me in through story, not just a series of facts. I also love trains. I have traveled throughout eastern Canada alone on a train and used to travel for free thanks to the fact my father worked for ViaRail, a Canadian passenger train company. Through personal discoveries about his own financial blunders in real estate investments and stock, evolving attitude about money, encounters with new and old friends who reformed their lives along the way, and inspirational quotes, The Wealth Cure for me continues where The Alchemist and The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari left off. Harper applies the basic and important values for existence-- simplify your life, clear your debts, "follow your passion and the money will follow", invest in yourself first and then in some solid financial practices (mutual funds, CDs, emergency funds, retirement savings, etc.) There are a lot of nuggets of wisdom in this book that I will take and put into practice. I realize that I have done some of Hill's suggestions already.

First of all, after completing his degrees from Harvard Law and graduate school, Hill Harper decided to pursue his dream of becoming an actor. With $60, 000 in student debt, he was an "overeducated waiter" at night so he could attend auditions in the day. I admire his vision despite this difficult period. He was given excellent advice from his grandfather to pursue what he loved to do. "Don't pursue law for the money." His Uncle Frank told him, "If you are making any decisions solely based on money, then it is the wrong decision." To receive that advice from an elder is such a golden opportunity. As a result, Hill pursued acting and it has become a very fruitful career, eventually paying him even more than what he would have made as a lawyer. Even as a waiter, he did not do a "half assed" job and strived for his best. He has applied this value to other areas of his life.

Secondly, he wrote about Mastermind circles. When I read that word, I immediately thought "illuminati"/secret society but that is not a complete definition. In fact, I realized that I used and continue to use Mastermind circles during my cancer journey. A Mastermind Circle is a "resource", a "collective brain", "a group of people that gets together to brainstorm or to give support to one another" with a single purpose "to forward the careers and/or business objectives of every member of the group." I have used this approach during my cancer journey through e-mail chains with my relatives, facebook, posts on this blog, connecting with my friends and family, and attending support groups including the Young Adult Cancer Canada Retreat and Conference.

Thirdly , follow your heart is one of my mantras. Although, Hill explains that being at the right place, the place that feels right, the right person, the right decision are not synonymous with "easy". He writes:

The right place is not always the easy place; the right person is not always the person who is easiest to be with; the right decision is not always the one that's easiest to carry out.


The only discrepancy I can find in this book is with what Hill Harper shares about his diagnosis of follicular thyroid cancer. There are some inaccuracies. Follicular represents about 10-20% of thyroid cancer cases. I had papillary which accounts for 75-85% of cases. Follicular and papillary are often grouped together and called "differentiated thyroid cancer". In the section called North Star, he spoke to his doctor about his condition. Here's an abbreviated and slightly edited version of the conversation:

"Hill, we believe you have thyroid cancer. And it looks to be follicular-- the worst kind," the endocrinologist (Endo) said.

"What the hell is follicular, Doc?" [Hill] said as [he] tried to deflect the idea of even having cancer.

"It's the type of cancer you don't want to have," he responded.

The Endo here is in the wrong. I hate ranking cancers but if he is going to, please get things straight. The differentiated thyroid cancers are the more treatable and curable forms. Medullary, anaplastic, and undifferentiated are more difficult to treat, hence "worst" if you wish to go there. On the following page, Hill's friend Tracey who recently lost her husband to cancer says she has "seen worse" after reading the author's medical report. In the final chapter, Forming Your Mastermind Circle, Hill says to his friend Sean, "Thyroid cancer is the best kind to have. It's treatable. I know I'll beat it." I love his optimism however the "ranking of cancers" does not account for the experience of every thy'ca survivor. Thyroid cancer experiences are so individual. Some people have to go through multiple surgeries with severe scarring, vocal chord paralysis, years of recurrences, spread of the cancer to other areas of the body including lymph nodes, salivary glands, lungs, and brain, complications added to other health conditions, depression, repeated radioactive isolation, other cancers, the impact on relationships, and a host of other side effects inlcuding death. Please Hill, don't lump "thyroid cancer as the best". It negates the experience of the thousands of people who experience it each year.

Nevertheless, I am happy to say that Hill Harper's surgery was a success. I would love to interview him one day and I think I will try to send him an e-mail with a review of his book. Hill Harper is a man who seems true to his words, whole-heartened, and sincere. Along with his successes, I hope he finds the kind of love and family that he admits to wanting.

Like Rob Hawke's Kicking Cancer's Ass, it is nice to find a book by a thyroid cancer survivor. (It's so rare!) Go out and buy this book! You'll understand cancer survivors better, experience personal growth, and grow your bank account.

Coming Up Next: Writer With a Day Job: Inspiration & Exercises to Help You Craft a Writing Life Alongside Your Career by Áine Greaney


steverd said...

Good blog. "The Wealth Cure" is really looking nice book with useful information. Can I get this at Used Book store?

Blue Butterfly said...

I don' know. You may wish to try. Thanks for reading the blog and glad you like it.