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It’s often fascinating to hear the stories behind the products […]

It’s often fascinating to hear the stories behind the products and services that we love to use. Two that come to mind are Post-it notes (developed by Art Fry of 3M to help him find pages in his church song book) and Edwin Land, the inventor of Polaroid instant film technology.

With the publishing of their new book this week, The Cancer Code, Mindjet LLC co-founders Michael and Bettina Jetter have joined the pantheon of inventors with amazing stories to tell. What’s unique about this story is that Michael Jetter conceived and developed a mind mapping software program — MindMan 1.0 (later rechristened MindManager) — while undergoing treatment in a leukemia isolation ward in Germany in 1994. Faced with the possibility that he could slip into the acute phase of leukemia at any time, and could be dead in a matter of months, Michael was determined to leave behind a legacy, “a precious little gift to the world.”

Michael, a software programmer, was fascinated by paper-and-pen based mind mapping techniques, and also dreamed for many years of creating a perfect graphical interface for computers. With limited time and energy left to create this legacy, Michael decided to focus on creating a mind mapping software program. Here’s how the book’s Web site describes the Jetters’ amazing odyssey (I think it does a great job of capturing the essence of this book):

” When all attempts to cure his life- threatening illness fail, a young computer programmer decides to leave behind a legacy; software that, by reflecting the way the human mind works, brings tremendous gains in creativity and productivity.

Working from an isolation room of a German cancer ward, the man writes his digital epitaph — then survives. Undaunted by his continued health problems, he and his wife turn the program into a multimillion-dollar business.

But more important, they transform their lives — as the battle against chronic myeloid leukemia takes them down a path they would have otherwise never dared travel.”

This story could have easily been a depressing read, but instead is positive and uplifting, because it intimately reflects Michael and Bettina’s tireless resolve to keep moving forward, despite the odds against them and numerous setbacks in Michael’s health. They also explain how developing MindMan (now named MindManager) turned out to be an effective form of mental therapy for Michael during weeks of isolation while he underwent leukemia therapy, and how his creation steadily grew into a full-fledged, international business.

While I have never been a fan of autobiographies that chronicle a person’s struggles and triumph over deadly disease, I found The Cancer Code to be a very engaging read. In fact, the book is a testimony to Michael and Bettina’s indomitable spirit and their passion for life. It also explains how this life-threatening illness helped them to focus their lives on the people, relationships and things that mattered most to them.

The Cancer Code is co-written by Hobart Swan, MindJet’s publicity manager. He helped to knit together Michael and Bettina’s alternating first-person narratives into a cohesive whole that tells two parallel but tightly interwoven stories: Michael’s fight for survival through numerous leukemia therapies and setbacks, and a behind-the-scenes look at how MindManager has evolved over the last decade.

This is a self-published book that can be ordered via the Cancer Code Web site. The cost is $19.95. I highly recommend it!

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