Skip to main content

San Clemente Journal

A Loving Journey

May 30, 2023 11:16AM ● By Tyler Kindred

Capo Beach resident Les Whitney achieves international success with his philosophical memoir.

by Tyler Kindred

“Every man has two lives, the second one
starts when he realizes he has just one” 

Even before the success of his influential book, Cancer’s Gifts, Les Whitney was an enigma. The upbeat, optimistic, Finance MBA would use his stubborn discipline to rise to a C.E.O. position at a large enterprise, maintaining such a longevity of success in his career that he’d eventually have a legacy award named after him: The Les Whitney Perseverance Award.

And for perseverance, there are few others worth mentioning in the same context. To date, Les Whitney has under-gone 74 individual chemo-treatments, and yet has maintained his energy, his optimism, and his thick hairline. He’s scheduled international vacations to during his recovery time, so that his treatment schedule would fit perfectly within the confines of his desire to travel. 
‘There is no use putting off whatever it is that will bring you and those around you joy,’ writes Les in Cancer’s Gifts, creating his kind of Neo-western dharma.

Together in Iceland, May 20, 2022.


The book is, in fact, half a philosophical treatise, and half a detailed walk-through of what to expect during modern medical treatments of cancer. Its International Best-Seller status may largely be the result of how accessible and shareable the material is; serving as a guide for patients, as well as families and friends who may be dealing with a cancer journey in the periphery. Les advice: acknowledge with empathy, but don’t allow your emotions become a burden - some family members took Les’ diagnosis harder than he did, and he had no time to waste comforting them. There was a gift hidden within this diagnosis, and Les was determined to seize it.

As the title suggests, the gift within cancer is exactly what the book is about: a search, not for life’s meaning, but for life’s joys. Upon the diagnosis, his life blossoms into the assertive path of maximum experience.

Les and Teresa view the aurora borealis in Fairbanks, Alaska March 25, 2023.


Les Whitney is a perfect candidate for such an extradition. His professional life was anything but passive, and he is accustomed to exercising attention to detail in spite of adversity. It is with this same ferocity, he begins.

The contradictions of Les’ life grow thicker on the path, ukulele-playing Les whistles through the gray chemo-rooms, finishing full treatments just in time to board his cross-national flights to Cambodia, Alaska, Vietnam. A lifetime worth of 4am workouts had his mind in peak condition, and an attitude of gratefulness has kept him focused on the days just ahead.

His aptly named “three-year theory” is a perfect scheduling tool for the journey, small binoculars to help maximize experience within an approachable, three-year time horizon. Also along for the ride was appreciation for the miraculous and healing power of sleep, and an attitude of perpetual learning that he has kept all through life.

The sobering phrase in the book’s title may startle, but within the pages is a virulent antidote to the kind of dread that comes with these diagnoses. If fear prospers under unknown power, then the writing in this book is what reveals and cools; a detailed chronology of the process of western medical treatment, combined with an everlastingly optimistic attitude.

For those experiencing potentially life-threatening diagnoses, Les gives three pieces of advice: push for medical treatments earlier, continue to stay physically active, and don’t allow other peoples’ emotions and feelings into your world. Maintain a personal boundary, understanding that others may not be able to keep up such a positive outlook.

“This book, at its core, is a love story,” says Les, referencing the impact his wife, Teresa, has had on his journey. The romance between Les and his wife has taken them on 500-mile walks through Spain and Iberia, through every continent and to 30 years of shared business acumen and ethics.
“This journey would have been much more difficult had I not had her…,” he reflects, sympathizing with those who may not have someone as close. His encouragement to those dealing with a cancer-type illness is to find someone in your life who can join you on the journey. Though the path may be narrow at times, there is always room for two.

To purchase the book for you or a for a loved one.
Remember that each dollar made for the book goes directly to Les’ favored charities:
American Cancer Society,, Rotary Foundation.