Poker Helps Breast Cancer Survivor Beat the Odds

Poker Power Instructor Alexandra "Doc" Chauran is a Breast cancer survivor. Learn how playing poker helped her beat the odds.
Poker Power Breast Cancer

One look at Poker Power Instructor Alexandra “Doc” Chauran and you know she’s a badass and not just because of her amazing neck tattoo. She has a master’s degree in teaching from Seattle University plus a Ph.D. from Valdosta State. She’s written a ton of books on a wide range of subjects including harnessing one’s psychic abilities to decluttering your mind to reading ancient runes. She’s Queen of a Coven. When you talk with Doc Chauran, you know one thing for sure — she’s a survivor.

Seven years ago, a truck crossed the double yellow line and hit Chauran’s car head on, smashing her knees and setting off a streak that no one would wish on their worst enemy.

First, she had to learn to walk again. Two years later, Chauran was diagnosed with Stage III-C breast cancer that had spread to several lymph nodes and required five months of chemotherapy, a double mastectomy, removal of 11 lymph nodes, radiation, and an oophorectomy. In 2017, her husband ran off with her best friend only four months after her double mastectomy and began year-long divorce proceedings while Chauran still had a year of immunotherapy left to do in the chemo ward.

Knowing the odds

That same year, Chauran played poker online for the first time and fell in love with the game. “Originally, I decided I wanted to learn a ‘smart person game,’ and I chose between chess and poker,” she says. “I chose poker because I figured I’d be able to make more friends that way. I did start up a home game with friends.” 

Chauran says playing poker helped her get through all the trauma she experienced because it illustrates that you can play everything right and things can still go wrong, which brought her a sense of peace and helped her to stop blaming herself.

“I found a zen in letting go of things I can’t control,” Chauran says. “Poker reminds me I can do everything right and still lose, and that dovetailed with some things I learned in recovery groups. I now realize bad luck is not my fault.”

Understandably, almost all cancer survivors worry about recurrence. Sometimes it’s hard to shake that feeling of worrying whether or not the disease will come back. Chauran says poker helped quell those fears by teaching her not to obsess about the future. 

“Poker helped me to know my odds are good,” she says. “I can make decisions when problems arise, rather than trying to dwell on potential problems before they happen.”

Overcoming trauma

Chauran shares what she learned in her book, “Getting Through It: Reclaim & Rebuild Your Life After Adversity, Change, or Trauma,” a guide for how to work through the worst life can throw at you by using personal stories and proven techniques on navigating life’s greatest challenges. The book applies the famous Kübler-Ross model of the stages of grief — denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance — and provides examples of helpful coping mechanisms along with insights into how to create a new normal. 

Chauran thinks cancer survivors, in particular, need to connect to other survivors. “You’ll find that you’ve just joined a rough club with the very best members in the world,” she says. “There’s something special about people who have stared down death. We cut the crap and get down to the nitty-gritty of life.”

Winning at Venom PKO

Chauran recently won a Twitter video contest for a $2,650 ticket to the Venom PKO, a multi-day progressive knockout tournament, where she won $8,860.76, half of which was donated to a cancer charity by the CEO of America’s Cardroom, the tournament’s sponsor in support for breast cancer awareness month.

What started as an escape developed into a true love of the game of poker and all of its components. “My favorite part of poker is that it is like a practical example of Stoic philosophy,” she says. “Controlling your inner world is vital, and then external events don’t matter so much.”

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