“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Thank you, cancer. You’ve brought love and happiness into my life.

I didn’t always feel grateful. I was only 6 when my mom was first diagnosed. Back then, I was too young to understand, but when her cancer returned 7 years later, my toxic relationship with the disease began. Despite my mom’s remission, cancer remained in my life. My dad’s leukemia diagnosis when I entered high school turned depression and fear into fury and drive.

Cancer fueled me. I entered college with the sole purpose of curing it. But I slowly realized that my single-mindedness was changing me. Each successive all-nighter in the lab was chipping away at who I was. Such an obsessive life left no room for joy or love. I was determined, but I felt bitter, stressed, and alone. I knew this wasn’t the life my parents wanted for me. It wasn’t the life I wanted for myself.

I couldn’t understand how my dad, who lost everything short of his life to this disease—his career, home, health—appeared happier and more at peace than ever.

“I’m grateful for every sunrise,” was his simple response.

I spent the next decade studying neuroscience, happiness, and well-being with the hopes of curing the “emotional cancer” that had invaded my life. This new focus, instead of draining me, helped me discover and become the best possible version of myself.

I plan to spend my life sharing the science of happiness with others so that they, too, can enjoy life starting with every sunrise.

— CiCi Barrett