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Finding Happiness in Hardship- Embracing Life’s Difficult Gifts ft. Dr. Courtney Burnett

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I am alive, but more importantly, I am living. Are you?

Courtney Burnett

Difficult Gifts: A Physician's Journey to Heal Body and Mind: Courtney  Burnett: 9781634894098: Books

Have you ever read a book that completely changed your life? Andrea and Brooke discovered Difficult Gifts: A Physician’s Journey to Heal Body and Mind by Dr. Courtney Burnett and it has transformed their perspective on life, death, and the difficult gifts in between.


Dr. Courtney Burnett

I am a thirty-year-old internal medicine physician living with brain cancer. My brain tumor journey started in January of 2020 when I was studying medicine in Chiang Mai, Thailand. While there, I began to have strange neurological symptoms and ended up diagnosing myself with a brain tumor. Honestly, the story only gets crazier from there.

Even as a physician, a brain tumor diagnosis is confusing, overwhelming, and terrifying. Throughout my journey, I use writing as a therapeutic way to cope with my unexpected diagnosis. On day one of my diagnosis, I started a blog which gained an unexpected worldwide following (“Elephant, Lotus, Brain Tumor” blog at link above).

Incredibly and unexpectedly, blog readers from around the world told me they found my words hopeful and inspiring. Readers encouraged me to write a book, so I did. My first book, a memoir called Difficult Gifts: A Physician’s Journey to Heal Body and Mind, was released on February 8, 2021 with Wise Ink Creative Publishing.  

The words I write are honest, intimate stories of my real-life journey to find happiness, joy, and compassion in a crazy and mysterious life. Even if my story seems unique at first, really, it is not. As humans, we are all trying to find happiness in a life we wish we had more control over.

I hope my words bring you happiness in even the smallest way. None of us need to suffer alone. Thank you for reading.


Courtney Burnett, MD

(The above bio is from Courtney’s website-

Find Courtney on….
  • Instagram: @courtneyjburnett

Our Favorite Quotes From Difficult Gifts

“Cancer saved my life.”

“Fear forced me to be malleable and to accept that human life will have suffering, despite all our plans to avoid it.”

“If we are prepared for the impermanence of everything, the constant change that our lives will bring, we can find a peaceful freedom in letting go and letting life happen.”

“Does postponing inevitable suffering make us suffer less?” – “embrace the suck” “Never postpone suffering because without suffering, we cannot truly experience joy.”

“I decided then that when I was back at work, I would try to spend a few extra minutes with my own patients and provide them with knowledge to feel safe, respected, and understood, rather than afraid and confused.” 

“Do not worry about your illness. Illness and death are a natural part of life.” – Monk in Thailand Courtney spoke to

“Death will find us eventually. If we are prepared for it, won’t it be so much easier to accept?”

“When we deny that death is coming to us and others, it seems we only increase our eventual suffering.” 

“It is only by taming our minds and fully facing the end of our lives that we can fully live in the present moment.”

“A place to stay untouched by death does not exist.” –Buddha

“I hope they say- She took her suffering and realized she could use it to find and spread joy. – This became my mission.”

“If you can find happiness and share it with them, you can take away their sadness.” – How Courtney helped her friends and family.

“Emotions are contagious, so I chose to spread happy ones.”

“I have found that when I focus on the suffering of others, my own suffering becomes relatively unimportant.”

“We have been given the difficult gift of facing mortality, and we used it to enjoy every moment together.”

“When you think about it, the life cycle of a human typically consists of 4 major events: we are born, face challenges, learn something, and die. I am currently somewhere along the spectrum between birth and death. I hate to remind you all, but so are you.”

“The loving mind can observe joy and peace in one moment and then grief in the next moment, and it will not be shattered by the change… The sky is not affected by the clouds. It is free.” -Sharon Salzberg

“Why by the bird, when you can be the whole sky?”

“Perhaps I have been given the most incredible gift. I can live each day, each year, as if it is my last one. If time keeps coming, great! If not, at least I will have lived each moment as my best moment of my entire life.” 

“Complaining won’t change a thing, but it will make my precious time less happy and less fulfilling.”

“To find happiness and acceptance, we have to enjoy the good moments while we are living them. None of these moments will last forever. The important thing is to experience them fully when they are here.”

“Be kind, be happy. Be compassionate toward others. Share your kindness, love, happiness, and compassion with everyone. Let your own illness or misfortune serve to benefit others and relieve them of their own suffering, expanding your courage through the process. I hope I’m doing this, everyday.”

“When life piles on the mud, let’s grow our own damn flowers from it.”

“You are nine days post brain surgery and your legs work- use them”

“Mindfulness does not require you to sit in silent meditation, or even to sit anywhere. Instead, it simply requires you to live in the moment and appreciate the moment for what it is.”

“Strengthening my relationships with the people I love is by far the most important thing on my bucket list. When faced with your own mortality, nothing rings quite so true as realizing that we already had it. I realized that day: don’t just plan your bucket list, live it, every single day.”

“The pandemic brought about a very unique phenomenon: the whole world collectively feeling the unknown that a cancer patient feels every day, all at the same time.”

“If we want to live, we have to find a way to switch “when will…?” to “today, I will…”


In the book, Courtney writes about her mission stating that she hopes, “she took her suffering and realized she could use it to find and spread joy.” We promise, without a doubt, that this book and Courtney herself, fulfills this mission.

We want to encourage everyone to purchase Difficult Gifts and keep it handy for so many life lessons.

We also want to thank Courtney for sharing her story and her gift with us. She is incredible, her book is incredible and we plan to reread it anytime we’ve lost touch with how short life is and are facing a hard time. We urge you to do the same.


Tune into this beautiful episode with Dr. Burnett, as she walks Gold Ivy through diagnosing herself with a brain tumor on the other side of the world, the challenges Covid brought throughout her experience, and how she handled the loss of the guaranteed future she had once counted on. Illness and death are a natural part of life and in this episode, Dr. Burnett will help you to understand that if we don’t address the one certainty in life- death- you may forget to live. You’ll hear examples of mindfulness practices, how Dr. Burnett shifts her mindset to gratitude in the midst of life’s scariest moments, the duality of suffering and joy, and how through dying, she has learned to truly live. 

Behind-the-Scenes Video

3 Gold Stars

  1. Mindfulness: Embrace the moment. Live each day as if it were your last.
  2. Compassion: Remember that everyone suffers. Never feel alone in your suffering. To have compassion means literally “to suffer with.” There is no shame in suffering and there can be no happiness without suffering, just as there can be no right without a left.
  3. Finding joy: Smile, do not cry. Illness and death are a natural part of life.

Ivy Reflections

How can you practice mindfulness daily? What benefits could this practice bring you?

Acknowledge something you are currently suffering with. What can help you get through this?

What things in life truly mean the most to you? How can you live your bucket list everyday?

Piece of Gold

Through dying, I have learned to live. Through sadness, I have found happiness. Through the loss of the guaranteed future I once envisioned, I have found peace and freedom. I am more alive today [living with cancer] than I have ever been.

Courtney Burnett

Healing Food of the Week-

What fruit can you easily add to a drink or food that fights off illness and reduces your risk of cancer? That’s right, it’s a LIME!

Limes are an excellent source of vitamin C and also provide potassium, folic acid, and vitamin B6.

Healing Properties: The phytochemicals in limes are high in antioxidants and contain anticancer properties.

Fun Fact: Limes are more susceptible to frost than any other citrus fruit so the only area in the US that can support its growth is in the most southern portion of Florida.

Recipes to try! 👇🏻

Cilantro Lime Shrimp Tacos tacos/

Berry Chicken Salad with Honey Lime Vinaigrette



Courtney’s Blog –

Purchase Difficult Gifts

The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Michael Murray M.D., Joseph Pizzorno N.D., and Laura Pizzorno M.A., L.MT.

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We thank you for joining us in the fearless pursuit of self-discovery and growth and hope that you transform our lessons into your gold. 

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Listen to your truth and go chase your gold.

– Gold Ivy Health Co.

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