A personal visual diary
The Art of Disease
Mauro Fiorese

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Chapter 12


and a Story by Enric Sala



I was recently spending some days with my brother Marco, his

family and friends for a great fund raising event down in Côte d’Azur,

French Riviera, where I met a great friend of my brother, Enric Sala.

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Enric and Marco shared the experience of being Young Global Leaders for the World Economic Forum in Davos for few years and they also traveled together around

the world several times. Enric Sala is a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence actively engaged in exploration, research and communications to advance ocean policy

and conservation.  His more than 100 scientific publications are widely recognized and used for real-world conservation efforts such as the creation of marine reserves.

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Enric is currently working to help protect the last pristine marine ecosystems worldwide, and to develop new business models for marine conservation.

He conducts expeditions to some of the most remote places in the ocean, to carry out the first comprehensive scientific surveys of these pristine areas to obtain a baseline

of what the ocean used to be like.


Besides his great CV, Enric is a man of heart and a lucky husband and we loved sharing our stories even though they were coming from two very different worlds,

Art and Nature, but with a common goal: EXPLORATION.

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So, we were guests of a great couple Leila and Victor, who are also people of amazing generosity and taste and we were all spending time in the pool one afternoon.

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Enric and I went through a deep discussion on what we call “bucket list” which basically means: “what would you do when you are diagnosed with a cancer?”.

Thing that I obviously faced but Enric told me that he wrote something he wanted to share with the people he love the most.

And here I am, very lucky, to have the chance to share those lines with you, my friends, since Enric have allowed me to do so.

Here are Enric’s beautiful and inspiring words….


What I learned from surviving cancer

By Enric Sala


On March 31, 2014, I was diagnosed with kidney cancer. I was healthy, leading an active life, yet I developed an illness that I associated with bad habits or old age. Three days later, I had my right kidney removed – and with it, the malignant tumor that had no place in my life. Until then, cancer was just a statistic, something that others got; that day, it became a loud announcement of my expiration date.

I am 45 years old; if I am as lucky as my grandmother, I might live 45 more years. Only 45 years. What if it is less? In my hospital bed, I thought deeply about re-evaluating my life, about how to take full advantage of every minute that I have been given in this second life. I came up with a thought experiment, which I wish I had conducted before: the bucket lists (rather than ‘list’).

A bucket list is a laundry list of dreams, which we write down in a moment of euphoria – or desperation – and solemnly vow to achieve. When I was a teenager I wrote down a bucket list of places to visit. I’ve been to some of these places since, but never made a focused effort to tick off all of them. That made me think that writing down another list of dreams might not be productive, because the learning from my health scare might wear off after a few months. Will I forget about my mortality once I forget about my surgery?

Therefore I decided to build threebucket lists. These are lists of what I would do if I had (1) one month left to live, (2) one year left, and (3) ten years left. After starting to fill them, it became clear to me that the two first are the most important lists. I would encourage everyone to make these lists.

If I had only one month left, I would go to a place that is magical to me, bring my loving partner Kristin and my family, and extend an invitation to whomever friends wanted to visit. All I would care about during that month is being with the people I love. If I had one year left, I would spend my last nine months in this magical space, and in the three previous months I would ensure that our common ocean conservation legacy would continue and be completed.

The message was clear: my priorities in life shall be to cultivate my most valued relationships and to bravely pursue my major dream – even if I am not around. I also decided that there shall be no room for stress in my life. If I had, say, only one year left, what could possibly stress me other than my own clock ticking? Therefore most worries tend to be over trivialities. Finally, anything that I would not bother to do during that last year, probably I should never worry about. That’s a pretty good way to determine what priorities are.

No one should wait to ask some important questions whose answers can help us develop a richer life.

Who are the people you would like to spend your last month with? Am I spending enough time with them? Am I putting “things” – such as non-essential business trips – before them?

Are you working on your life’s dream? My cancer was detected shortly after I hired a team of world-class people to help me carry out our project to help save the last wild places in the ocean. I could not have planned a better timing. Delegating and empowering talented people allowed me to focus on my physical recovery, on bringing back an essential asset – my health. I should have done that long ago.

Are you working on a dream project with a legacy that will make you proud? Are you working with people who complement you, that is, people who are better than you at what you don’t do best? If you lead an organization, do you have a succession plan? If achieving your dream is truly important to you, can it be done without you? As Kristin pointed out to me, that should help one determine how much of what one does is ego vs. passion.

What is your magical place? I asked my friend the great photographer Reza this question, and he replied, “Where I am is my chosen place.” Not everyone is as zen as Reza, and in my case, I did not have an answer. I know a number of physical places – mostly ‘natural’ places with few humans around – that connect with my spirituality more than others, but I could not choose a winner. I now plan to treat every year as my last year, and spend time in such magical spaces. No more postponing a spiritual connection with nature and special people because of less important issues.

Every time tragedy struck family or close friends I felt the need to prioritize, but the feeling wore off as I was caught within the maelstrom of daily life, and often distracted by trivial issues. I am blessed with a loving partner, family and friends who flooded my hospital room and our home with flowers and love notes – and with a project that fulfills my childhood passion and is humbly contributing to improve the world. Now I hope that I can exchange my lost kidney with some wisdom to keep me on a state of awareness, to further enrich the reminder of my life and the life of those around me. I wish my friends could leverage my lost kidney too.


Enric Sala all rights reserved 2015



Mauro Fiorese all rights reserved 2015

July 2015

To be continued…