Come into the process with a general idea of what you want the book to be, but be open to what the publisher knows makes a successful book. My strength is as a storyteller, so my book is basically a memoir, which also highlights important lessons I learned along the way. But, I originally envisioned it as only a small part memoir and the rest would be teaching others what I did to get well. The publisher’s plan shifted my focus so I’m able to get my story out and continue to educate and inspire hope through my Templeton Wellness Foundation. Changing the focus of the book actually changed the course of my life, for the better.
I had the pleasure of interviewing James Templeton. James Templetonis a 30-year cancer survivor who healed himself from a terminal diagnosis with the use of alternative medicine and healing modalities. He has chronicled that journey in the upcoming book, I Used to Have Cancer: How I Found My Own Way Back to Health (SquareOne Publishers/ April 22, 2019). As the visionary founder of Uni Key Health Systems and Templeton Wellness Foundation, James has since utilized his wisdom and experience to helping others achieve optimum health and wellness.
In a nutshell can you share a story about what brought you to this particular career path?
I was diagnosed with terminal Stage IV Melanoma cancer more than thirty years ago, and rather than accept it as a death sentence, I chose to fight it — and I won. In the time since then, I’ve watched friends, family, and colleagues suffer with cancer and even lose their lives to it. I can’t begin to express the utter frustration and despair I felt just recently as my best friend’s wife was diagnosed with aggressive pancreatic cancer, but she didn’t believe in any treatments outside of what she had been prescribed by her doctor.
It broke my heart to hear of her passing, being over thirty years cancer-free, vibrantly healthy and well, knowing she could have chosen another path like I did and still been here with us enjoying life. I knew then it was time to share my story as far and wide as I could to reach anyone and everyone who will listen. I feel like I’ve been given a second chance at life and I want to make the best of it by giving people hope that they can take control of their own health and overcome a cancer diagnosis.
Can you share the most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?
I met the woman I’ve spent the best years of my life with in a very unusual way. I had just moved to New Jersey to live with my friend Herb who owned a few health food stores and work as his personal chef. I wanted to learn more about his business, so during the day I’d work in his stores stocking shelves, helping customers and doing whatever needed to be done. In the evenings, I would cook a big macrobiotic dinner and we’d have conversations about life, love, the health food store business, and so much more.
It wasn’t long before he started talking to me about a nutritionist he was driving several hours away to see. He carried her books in his stores and had learned about her by reading them. “Ann Louise Gittleman is amazing,” Herb said. “I’ve never met anyone as knowledgeable as she is when it comes to anything related to nutrition and health. I’ll introduce you to her sometime.”
I knew just form his stories that she was someone I’d like to meet. Anyone who knew that much about health was someone I wanted to get to know!
Even though I walked the hills of our small town and kept up with the same lifestyle that got me feeling so well, I couldn’t help but notice I didn’t feel as well in New Jersey as I did when I went hiking in the mountains on the weekends. I did some detective work and figured out we lived between a nuclear facility, a gunpowder plant, and a military manufacturing facility. All this toxicity was taking its toll on my health and I knew I needed to move.
When Herb decided to spend the winter in Stockbridge, Massachusetts to be close to his significant other, Paula, he invited me to come with him. “It’s a big, beautiful place,” he said, “and there’s plenty of room. We can stay there for the entire winter season, except for a couple weeks at Christmas when the owner wants to stay there. Why don’t you join us and, of course, you can do the cooking.” It didn’t take long for me to decide that spending the winter with my friends in Stockbridge was what I wanted to do.
One day that winter, Herb asked, “Do you remember the nutritionist I told you about? Ann Louise Gittleman? Well, as it turns out, she is holding a seminar next weekend at a hotel in the Berkshires. Why don’t you come along, and I’ll pay your way?” I looked forward to going.
The seminar was on the subject of intestinal parasites. Ann Louise was a very good speaker and held everyone’s attention. I was intrigued. She talked about parasites and their connection to health and disease, mentioning that they can often be one of the causes of cancer and immune problems.
That really got my attention. After the lecture, Herb introduced me to her. I told her how much I enjoyed her talk, and then mentioned that I’d had cancer. Then I said, “You know, after hearing you speak, I’m wondering if I have parasites. Do you think I might?”
She paused, studied my face, and said, “Yes, I think you do.”
“How do you know?” I asked.
“Well, you have that parasitic look,” was her answer.
“Look,” she said. “Don’t take my word for it. You should go get checked out. There is a world-renowned Columbian parasitologist, Dr. Hermann Bueno, practicing in New York City. “I haven’t met him,” she said, “but I’d like to. I would be happy to ride along with you if you want to go see him.”
Wow, I thought. Here is Ann Louise Gittleman, a brilliant woman, writer, speaker, expert in cutting-edge natural health, and she’s willing to go with me to meet one of the best parasitologists in the world. Then I immediately thought, “Oh God, here is this beautiful woman telling me I look to her like I have parasites.” I put aside my male ego and said, “Yes! I’ll take you up on that.”
At one of Herb’s appointments with Ann Louise, he learned that she was looking for a new place to live. She had been sharing a house with a friend in the Berkshires, but her roommate was soon to be moving out West, leaving Ann Louise with an unmanageable expense and the need to move quickly. Herb invited her to stay as one of his guests at the Stockbridge house, and she traded nutrition consulting in exchange for room and board. There was plenty of room in the house, which had once been a bed and breakfast inn. The day Ann Louise got there, I helped her move in. As fate would have it, her room was across from mine.
I found Ann Louise to be a very interesting person and she had a lot of friends who would often drop by to visit. She and I would often walk together in the mornings, and I enjoyed our conversations and just being in her company. There was never a dull moment when she was around. When I spoke to Herb about her, he told me she was seeing someone at the time. “Well,” I thought “at least we can be friends . . . for now.”
At Christmastime, we had to vacate the house for two weeks as per Herb’s previous agreement with the owner. Herb and Paula were going to New Jersey for those two weeks, and Paula told Ann Louise and me that we were more than welcome to stay at her permanent residence (a few towns away) while she was gone. So the two of us moved into Paula’s house during the interim.
Those were two very magical weeks for me. Ann Louise and I had become good friends, but now that we were all alone, we became even closer. One thing soon led to another, and our friendship blossomed into a romance. I was thrilled to be with this wonderful woman, a true health warrior, who was teaching me so much and was so very influential in my health journey. She practiced what she preached and worked tirelessly to help educate others.
On the surface, we were total opposites. I’m a Texan and she’s an East Coast girl. I’m an outdoor guy and she is all about nutrition, research, teaching others, and avoiding overnight stays in tents. But we found that sharing the same core beliefs bound us together, as it has for all of these wonderful years together.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting your writing career? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I love to tell stories, and I tell them from my unique cultural perspective. I guess you could say I speak fluent Texan. In sharing my story with others from around the country, I found I have regional references and expressions that have no meaning or context to others.
I had to devote more time to explaining what it means to jump over a cattle guard or why you would take a bull by the horns than I did telling the heart of my story, and I saw it getting lost in translation. I learned to change my expressions to be relatable and appeal to a broader audience so the focus could shift to being more on the heart of what I have to say than on how I say it.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
The Templeton Wellness Foundation is where my heart is. I got tired of seeing friends, family, and colleagues get cancer, and many of them dying. I couldn’t stand by and do nothing, knowing I was a more than 30-year survivor who healed naturally and had vitally important knowledge to share. If I can heal, then you can too. The mission of my Foundation is to give people hope and share the tools that survivors like me used to get well and stay well. Everything from the inspiring stories of other survivors to a restaurant guide for healthy eating out is all part of the Foundation, and it’s growing every day. That, to me, is the most exciting thing I can do with the life and health I’ve been given.
What is the one habit you believe contributed the most to you becoming a great writer? (i.e. perseverance, discipline, play, craft study) Can you share a story or example?
My love of storytelling is the gift that propelled me into writing. Mine is a real life story that comes from my heart, and it fits right in for me to not just tell it in-person, but to also put it in a book and get it out there for others to be inspired.
When I stood up in front of a room full of doctors and told my story to their Academy of Comprehensive Integrative Medicine (ACIM) conference, my heart opened up and I felt like people really did care about my knowledge and life experiences. I got emotional and could feel the energy of people connecting and feeling inspired, and I knew I had found my calling and it was time to get my story out there to help and inspire hope in others.
Can you share the most interesting story that you shared in your book?
At thirty-two years old, I went from living the American dream and having it all — successful businesses, a beautiful wife and daughter, and a newly built home on our ranch — to feeling as though I had nothing to live for. I was lying in the hospital with terminal cancer, unable to work, and my wife had taken our baby daughter and left. I was feeling hopeless, helpless, and miserable when the phone rang.
When I answered it Ron, the preacher from the church I sporadically attended back home, was on the line. He was an ex-professional baseball player and called to pray and give me the best pep talk of my life. “I just want you to know, if anyone can beat this thing, you can… Don’t give into this. You get in there and you fight!”
I hadn’t been living the holiest life I could and I had done some things I wasn’t proud of, but in that moment it didn’t matter. I prayed like I had never prayed before — it felt like every cell in my body was crying out to God, the Creator, the Spirit — and I felt a deep indescribable sense of peace and calming like I had never felt before, and I knew the answers I needed were coming. And they came — in the form of 3 knocks on the door.
The first knock came from a college friend I hadn’t seen in at least seven years. He brought me an article about a book written by Dirk Benedict called Confessions of a Kamikaze Cowboy, which was about his healing journey from prostate cancer in his thirties using the macrobiotic diet. I had never heard of it, but, in that moment, I felt instantly inspired and knew it was the path I was meant to take.
He brought me the book the following day and I read it cover to cover. It sounded like a journey of true healing, and wasn’t what everyone else was doing. After being told I had very little chance of surviving with what my doctors had to offer, I knew I was being led by divine inspiration to go a new direction, and this was it. For the first time since being given this terrible diagnosis, I had hope.
The second knock came the very next day from Mama, my stepmother who raised me. She had a book in her hand called Vitamin C and Cancer, which was written by Dr. Linus Pauling. His research showed that terminally ill cancer patients who had been given high doses of vitamin C went on to live for quite some time as long as they stayed on it. What did I have to lose from trying vitamin C? This certainly was another answer to my prayer, and it brought my fighting spirit back. Pastor Ron’s prayer and pep talk were coming to life in me!
I woke up the next day to the third knock on my door. It was the hospital psychotherapist, who had been sent to help me handle the troubling emotions that come with a terminal diagnosis. By this time I was looking for answers in every knock at the door, so I eagerly agreed to his request to come for a lengthy visit the following day.
I felt like I had renewed strength, so all I had been doing for days was reading and studying this new way of thinking about healing. When he walked in the door, the first question I asked was, “Hey, before we get started, I wanted to ask if you’ve ever heard of some diet called macrobiotic?” He looked at me, hesitated, and then walked across the room and quietly closed the door. He then pulled up a chair and sat down next to my bed.
He asked me to promise to keep our conversation confidential, because he feared losing his job over what he was about to tell me. I solemnly agreed, and in that conversation, he became the third answer to my prayer. He encouraged me with what he had heard about the diet, including many success stories of critically ill cancer patients turning things around. He warned me of the importance of following it to the letter and giving it my all, and told me about two books written by Dr. Anthony Sattilaro who healed from cancer using the diet. By the time he left my room, I was determined to be the next guy to tell my healing story — I wasn’t going down without fighting the biggest fight of my life.
What is the main empowering lesson you want your readers to take away after finishing your book?
You can take charge of your own healing and become the author of your own story. If I can heal from terminal cancer then I believe anyone else can, too. I feel that the hard work of healing starts with believing you can. It’s heartbreaking when a doctor looks you in the eye and says there’s nothing more they can do for you. It takes courage and hope to find your own healing path and take control of your life.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in your journey to becoming a successful author? How did you overcome it? Can you share a story about that that other aspiring writers can learn from?
Finding a publisher who believed in me was the biggest challenge in the process. Most people don’t even want to think about getting cancer because it’s so terrifying, and I think publishers had a knee-jerk reaction to the topic and didn’t want to go that direction.
I overcame this obstacle simply by not accepting it. I didn’t give up; I kept putting it out there and decided that as a last resort I would self-publish. It took some time, but I eventually had multiple publishers interested in my book. I had to choose the one I felt whose publishing goals aligned the closest with the purpose I had for writing the book.
With all the books on healing from cancer, from self-published works on amazon to hardcover books from big publishers, there’s a lot of competition out there. If you feel it’s truly your calling and your time to write a book, then don’t let that sway you — keep knocking on doors and don’t give up because it’s going to happen, you’re going to find the connections you need.
Which literature do you draw inspiration from? Why?
The three books I read while lying in my hospital bed inspired me to literally crawl out of that bed at two o’clock in the morning and leave that hospital for the last time, in search of hope and healing in the fight for my life. Confessions of a Kamikaze Cowboy by Dirk Benedict spoke to me in a way that I could relate to. He was a rancher, like me, in Montana, and I felt a connection to him that made me want to trust what he had to say. At the same time, he was incredibly knowledgeable about the macrobiotic diet and gave simple, detailed instructions for it that I felt confident I could follow. I finished that book feeling like I had a fighting chance and it gave me hope that I could make it.
Recalled by Life by Anthony J. Sattilaro, MD did something similar for me. He was a medical doctor in a big, well-known hospital who had been diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer and through a chance meeting with some hitchhikers who were knowledgeable about macrobiotics, he was introduced to the diet that gave him a second chance at life. All I had known about healing to that point was that if you get sick, you go to the doctor and follow their advice to get well. It gave me confidence to read about a doctor who had to leave that way of thinking just like I had to, and it encouraged me to pursue the path that macrobiotics was taking me.
Vitamin C and Cancer by Dr. Linus Pauling and Dr. Matthias Rath was like a bridge between the two ways of thinking that I had been introduced to. It contained credible medical research into a natural compound — vitamin C — and helped me to see that I could transition from the world of surgery and experimental chemotherapy into using diet and nutritional supplements and have a chance at fighting this terminal cancer and winning. This book has had many updates, the most recent being last year, so the information in it now spans 5 decades of research done into the effects of vitamin C on cancer, making it one of the most comprehensive references I’ve seen.
I can pick up any of these books and be transported back in time to when I had to fight so hard for my life, and it always brings me to a place of gratitude for the abundant health and success I have now. These books help me to never take even a moment of my life for granted and to always be thankful for even the little things.
How do you think your writing/book makes an impact in the world?
I want to be known as the guy who was given a second chance at life and got well, and used that knowledge and wisdom to help others get well, too. My main goal is to give people hope through my story and my example.
What advice would you give to someone considering becoming an author like you?
If you have a good story that can really help someone and you want to get it out there, then meditate and pray on it. If it’s your dream, your calling, or even a feeling inside of you that wants to give back, then go for it. As long as you’re coming from the heart, people will show up to help you.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. You don’t have to write the whole book before a publisher will be interested in it. I thought I had to have the whole thing written and polished and ready for publishing before a publisher would even look at it. Once I started looking for a publisher I found out all they need is the Book Proposal with a comprehensive marketing plan and a couple of sample chapters.
2. Find an experienced agent to get your book proposal out there. It’ll save you a lot of the leg work and they’ll have connections and resources you haven’t even thought of. A lot of publishers don’t even take direct communication from authors, it all has to go through a literary agent. The agent pitches the book for you to multiple publishers and takes care of a lot of the business side in exchange for a commission.
3. Come into the process with a general idea of what you want the book to be, but be open to what the publisher knows makes a successful book. My strength is as a storyteller, so my book is basically a memoir, which also highlights important lessons I learned along the way. But, I originally envisioned it as only a small part memoir and the rest would be teaching others what I did to get well. The publisher’s plan shifted my focus so I’m able to get my story out and continue to educate and inspire hope through my Templeton Wellness Foundation. Changing the focus of the book actually changed the course of my life, for the better.
4. There’s a lot of back and forth with the editing process. Don’t get your feelings hurt if they change your language style and wording. It’s not just about writing a story; it’s about getting your perspective out there in a way that more people can understand it. They smooth out the rough edges and make it flow better so you can reach a wider audience.
5. Be prepared for the time and energy commitment. It’s pretty much a full-time job for several months. Think of it like building a house — it takes a lot of time, sweat, and tears to get things the way you want them. There’s a lot of back and forth, a lot of research, and even the original blueprint can change. Even though it’s your story, it still takes a lot out of you in time, energy, and emotion. You may relive painful parts of your past that you haven’t dug that deep into for quite some time. If you understand this ahead of time, you can build in breaks where you can rest and recharge and go back at it with renewed energy and strength.
Thank you for all of these great insights!
About the author:
Chaya Weiner is the Director of branding and photography at Authority Magazine’s Thought Leader Incubator. TLI is a thought leadership program that helps leaders establish a brand as a trusted authority in their field. Please click HERE to learn more about Thought Leader Incubator.