Sometimes disease is not about disease, sometimes it is about what we need to heal in our lives, and it can take us on a journey of self-discovery — if only we are willing to take that path.
Healing occurs on many levels and comes from many sources. Healing is our own responsibility; other people, including doctors, can only guide us.
– Teresa Towpik, 2018
A powerful narrative anticipated by readers, media, colleagues and patients alike, ‘Cancer, My Greatest Teacher’ is the forthcoming autobiography by pre-eminent Australian physician Dr. Teresa Towpik.
An inspired affirmation of finding an inner strength you might not know you possess , ‘Cancer, My Greatest Teacher’ is Dr Towpik’s second book and follows her life journey from her from her early years in small town post war Poland through to the moment she discovered the life-changing lump.
A grandfather shot in the forest, a father who escaped the German labour camps. From humble but honest beginnings Teresa Towpik fought her way through to an education, arriving in Australia in 1987 with one bag and $100.
From there she worked her way to the top of her field before cancer, broken marriage, bankruptcy and the loss of all of her possessions, house and investments found her penniless again at the age of fifty-two.
Forced to confront not only the disease itself but all the other aspects of her life that needed healing, today Dr Towpik stands as one of the country’s most highly lauded medical pioneers. A book about turning something we are taught to fear into a strength, ‘Cancer, My Greatest Teacher’ is about the human spirit’s ability to rise through adversity. Through a soul laid bare, Dr Towpik shows us how to tap into an innate, potentially dormant, ability that lies within all of us.
Following her original cancer diagnosis in 2001, Dr Towpik’s cancer returned in 2019. With one tumour 3.5 cm from her heart she sometimes wondered if it was loneliness manifested as a broken heart .
One of the only people in Australia to have gone through and survived the cancer journey herself, she met the love of her life in 2021 and has never been happier.
Amazingly, a few months after meeting her man the tumour close to her heart disappeared. Her clinical condition is now stable in spite of having cancer spots in her bones. However, she believes that complete cure is still possible.
‘Cancer, My Greatest Teacher’ is her story. So far
“Cancer got me on my knees. It made me humble and humiliated. It made me investigate my existence and mortality. I was forced to question who I am, and this ultimately led me to create other experiences in my life. Cancer made me question my priorities.”
3. What was the first book you loved reading? Why?:
Can’t exactly remember any particular one. As mentioned already, it was all fairy-tale stories.
I just loved the world of fantasy where everything was possible. All you needed was a magic wand.
4. When did you first think about writing your first book? Why?:
I have written my first book in 2017. I felt that this simple introduction kind of book was needed for busy doctors to familiarise themselves about basic science of the new field. The second edition was then published in 2019, expanded version, where more practical information was added.
5. What was the greatest obstacle you've encountered when you were writing your book? What made you overcome it?:
My greatest obstacle in writing my first book was the belief that I am not capable of writing. However, I just kept on going and it helped.
Dr Teresa Towpik
6. What pieces of advice can you give aspiring authors? What worked for you?:
When have a story within you to share with the world, don’t hesitate, just do it and don’t worry in the beginning about minor details such as style and grammar, it will all come together. Just persist.
7. Who are the authors or what are the books that had the greatest influence in your own writing? Why?:
Actually, when writing about my cancer experience, the inspiration came from within. I woke up one October morning in 2017 and a voice in my head asked me what really cancer meant for me and the answer came instantaneously: Teacher. So, I ran to my computer and typed the title and the rest is a history. I just followed that inner guidance.
About the Author:
Dr. Teresa Towpik, an Australian physician, is the author of "Cancer, My Greatest Teacher," her second book, which covers her life path from her early years in small town postwar Poland until the moment she discovered the life-changing lump.
Her granddad was killed in the woods. Her father managed to flee the German labour camps. Teresa Towpik worked her way through school from low but honest beginnings, coming in Australia in 1987 with one bag and $100.
She rose to the top of her field before cancer, a failed marriage, bankruptcy, and the loss of all her goods, house, and investments left her penniless at the age of fifty-two.
Dr. Towpik, who was forced to confront not just the cancer but also all the other areas of her life that needed mending, is now regarded as one of the country's most eminent medical pioneers.
8. What are your current or future writing plans? What can readers further expect from you?:
I would love to share my experience when cancer came back. However, time will show. I am awaiting that inner guidance again.
1. Did you love reading books when you were little? Why or why not?:
Absolutely, it was almost like a ‘’love from first sight’’. I lived in a very humble environment plus I wasn’t very popular among other kids. So, Books helped me to create my own ‘’parallel universe’’.
2. At what age did you start reading books? What were your best memories of that time?:
Learning how to read was very easy and effortless for me right from the beginning of my 1st year in primary school at the age of 7.
Within couple of months, I was borrowing books from the town and school library, could be few weeks per week. Initially, it was fairy-tale stories of kings and queens, later on about adventures and mysterious foreign lands, travels, Greek and roman myths and in general anything I could put my hands on.
My best memory was to go to the room in the attic and immerse myself in reading, I felt transported to another world. I really loved the felt sense of that.