Paul Rose recently endured a horrific medical saga that ended up having a surprisingly happy ending.

Paul, the 288th person I’ve met on my quest to have lunch with 500 strangers, was diagnosed with prostate cancer last year.

During the surgery, the assistant surgeon noticed a lump on Paul’s leg and advised him to get it checked out later. Paul did – and it turned out to be a second tumour, 23 centimetres long, located in his quadricep.

While undergoing tests to determine the best treatment option, the medical staff discovered something else – Paul had throat cancer, his third primary cancer diagnosis in just 10 weeks.

In a short period of time, Paul had to manage a succession of health crises, major medical procedures, radiotherapy treatment and recovery periods. Naturally, that made him take stock of his life.

Until then, Paul had been on the corporate treadmill for decades and had every reason to believe he’d stay on it for the rest of his career. Paul enjoyed his work. He was also very successful – he’d risen to become global president for Pfizer. But now, for the sake of his health, he decided to do something less gruelling.

Paul had no idea what his next step would be. After taking some time out, he discovered the CEO role was vacant at the Can Too Foundation. Can Too is a not-for-profit organisation that runs personal fitness programs, while raising money to fund grants in early-career cancer research . If ever there was a role designed for someone who came from a healthcare background, had lived experience of cancer, loved exercise and believed in the power of taking action, this was it. So in the most unexpected, roundabout way possible, Paul ended up in his dream job.

In some ways, it was all dumb luck. But it also says something about Paul’s mindset, which focuses on doing – not talking – and opening yourself up to new experiences.

Many years ago, during a business trip to upstate New York, Paul’s host asked him if he wanted to make a detour to Niagara Falls, which was just half an hour away. “No thanks,” he replied. “I’ll see it another time.” Three decades later, Paul still hasn’t been to Niagara Falls.

Reflecting on that incident years later, Paul realised the best time to do things is when you have the chance, not off in the never-never. So, since then, he’s achieved bucket-list items like walking the Kokoda Track, scaling Mt Kilimanjaro and climbing to Everest Base Camp. Next year, he’s going to run a marathon, because he realises there’ll never be a better time than now.