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‘There is no medical reason I should have survived’ – Chris Cairns reflects on heart attack, one year on

by Ben Gardner 3 minute read

One year on, former New Zealand all-rounder Chris Cairns has reflected on the impact of a medical emergency that nearly took his life.

Cairns suffered a massive heart attack, causing an aortic dissection. A spinal stroke during emergency surgery then left him paralysed from the waist down. Six months later, he was diagnosed with bowel cancer during a routine check-up, undergoing chemotherapy.

In a post on LinkedIn, 52-year-old Cairns outlined three life lessons he has learned in the aftermath of his illnesses: “1. Set the direction, not the destination. 2. Life is what happens between the plans you make. 3. Find your purpose.”

Cairns also revealed how unlikely his recovery was: “I have been told by people far smarter than me, that there is no medical reason I should have survived. So I will assume that I have been given a gift and I will do what I can to pay it forward.”

He discussed his handling of the strains of chemotherapy as well: “Chemo can feel like Groundhog Day, but I have found that taking it day by day (and even hour by hour when needed) has given me the ability to stay in the moment and I find that calming. It also helps to focus on the little things, watching the kids play sport, helping with homework, reading books, dinners with family and firends [sic]….these little things, strung together are no longer taken for granted.”

Cairns featured more than 250 times for the Black Caps in Tests and ODIs, enjoying a fine international career. In Test cricket, he is one of only five all-rounders — Imran Khan, Shaun Pollock, Ian Botham and Kapil Dev being the others – to complete the double of 3,000 runs and 200 wickets with a batting average above and a bowling average below 30. Notably, his batting and bowling averages are both superior to Kapil’s, who is considered one of the game’s great all-rounders. He was, for a time, the world record holder for most sixes in a Test career, before being overtaken by Adam Gilchrist.

In white-ball cricket, Cairns played a key role in one of New Zealand’s most famous victories, hitting an unbeaten century in the final of the 2000 ICC KnockOut Trophy against India. It remains New Zealand’s only global triumph in limited-overs cricket.

Cairns’ reflections are available to read in full below:

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