Chronicling my journey back from fighting cancer and my mission to lift as many lives as possible
Sunday, February 27, 2011
Through more experience with big presentations in school and work I have developed my own tricks to put my mind at ease. My best one usually happens the morning of at home when I start to get nervous about what lies ahead. I picture myself back at that same spot at the end of the day knowing that whatever I am nervous about will have past and that I would be just fine. All I can do is give it my best and the rest will sort itself out.
It worked when I was nervous about a golf tournament, final exam, speech, or presentation. But would it work when facing a cancer diagnosis?
With so much going through your head it is hard to picture yourself on the other side of the fight in a healthy state when it comes to cancer treatment. Eight months is a long time so all I could do was focus on what my oncologist and nurses said to do and live day to day.
I got very good at putting my head down and living in two week chunks from treatment to treatment.
That’s all I could do.
It became my new normal and rather comfortable if you can believe it.
As I neared the end of my treatment and learned that I was in remission I started to face the prospect of emerging from my comfortableness back into the real world. Add to the mix that I developed the Latitude Concept that I am simultaneously releasing to the world and I feel like I am back in 7th grade behind the curtain waiting for my cue.
Will people be as excited about the prospects of this concept as I am?
The good part is that I am more comfortable with myself than ever thanks to the introspection I did over the course of my treatment. That and I’m not worrying about what my 7th grade crush is thinking about my costume... I now have a hot wife who is incredible in every way and is my partner in Latitude enlightenment.
Am I nervous about what’s on the other side of the curtain now that I am coming back into the real world? Sure.
But it’s more of a nervous excitement when you know you are holding something inside you that has the potential for a bigger impact than anything you have ever done.
There is never a right time to pull the curtain back, so here we go.
I just hope people are wearing sweet underwear...
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Please help make mine exist by going to www.whatsyourlatitude.com and join me in my mission to help people discover their Latitudes and increase the amount of positive energy in the world.
Hit the Facebook Like button while you are at it and share with your friends!
And, if you are so inclined, visit www.latitudeapparel.com to support the What's Your Latitude? movement AND donate $5 to charity based on the design purchased.
Friday, February 18, 2011
You Are Here
Like the time my senior year in high school where I sprained my ankle in school gym class the week before the semi-final state championship ice hockey game. It was the end of the gym basketball season and my team was vying for last place. I love sports and don't like finishing last, so naturally I was trying as hard as I could to win the coveted title of second-to-last...
I tried my hardest to rehab my ankle and find a solution (short of a cortisone shot) prior to puck drop, but the clock ran out. I figured if we won the semi and moved on to the championship game at the United Center in Chicago, I would skate no matter what.
To add insult to injury, the semi-final game was the last time I would be able to suit up against my arch rivals. I had played well against them all season averaging a goal and an assist per game in our 3 prior matches. Instead of being on the ice, I took in the game from the bench on my crutches and watched our team lose in overtime. That was the uneventful end to my high school athletic career.
"What if I would have sat out gym that day and was able to play in the semis?"
I realized recently that I have lived the majority of my life based on the expectations of others. Whether it was the community I grew up in, the peers I associated with, or the schools I attended, there was always something inside me that didn't feel comfortable with the socially acceptable path of life. Perhaps this is why I had a lot of "what ifs?" leading up to meeting my wife.
We can't change the past. And the future is never what plays out in our head. The only thing we have control over is right now.
Just know that the wishing will stop.
I leave you with a great quote from my grandpa about wishful thinking: "Shit in one hand, wish in the other, and see which one fills up first."
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Daily Lift Tips
I will be sending out a DLT on my Twitter stream, (Click Here for @LiftLiving on Twitter), if you are interested in getting a daily dose of something simple you can do to lift your life and those around you.
I hope to keep this up for a year, so you can all keep me honest!!! Feel free to retweet, share, subscribe, and spread the word about the DLT.
A small amount of lifting goes a long way when we work together towards a common goal. If it's one thing I have learned in consulting it's the word synergy!
Here are some samples:
- DLT #5: Hold your hugs for 5 seconds. Squeeze like you mean it!
- DLT #4: Make sure to go outside today and take a deep breath. Enjoy what Mother Earth gave you!
- DLT #3: Take time to celebrate your accomplishments. Even if it's a random donut break, you've earned it!
Thanks for your help!
Saturday, February 12, 2011
If you are not familiar with the term “chemo brain,” let me give you a little introduction. During chemotherapy patients often forget where they put the keys, who they just met, or how to multitask. Chemo brain was originally raised by females undergoing breast cancer treatment, but recently has been noted in many types of cancer across both the sexes. Chemo brain studies are in their infancy so it’s relatively not understood at the moment.
We attended this session for two reasons. One was to learn about how to sharpen my mental abilities post treatment, but the main reason was to confirm that chemo brain was for real and settle a little score between my wife and me...
I was sure I had some form of chemo brain during treatment. The biggest thing I noticed was the inability to access my mental thesaurus at any giving moment. Reaching for the right words became a daily occurrence and very frustrating at times.
However, I maaaaay have used chemo brain as a crutch when I said the wrong thing at the wrong time to my wife during treatment... My wife joked that it was just “male brain” which probably holds a lot of water! In the end, the workshop confirmed its existence and gave us some good pointers on how to regain my brainy superpowers...
Speaking of superpowers, the next session we attended was on the Myth of the Cancer Hero. It was about how society has certain expectations of cancer patients thanks to TV, movies and certain famous athletes that go on to do remarkable things post treatment... Lance Armstrong! ahem... ahem... Sorry, something in my throat...
We all decided the word “hero” was a little strong. One man noted that a true hero would have the ability to take on a cancer diagnosis in place of someone else. We also agreed that any of our friends or family members would have all fought just as hard as we did if they were in the same position. Finally, we appreciated how the cancer hero myth can be a little overwhelming for some survivors who think “I didn’t ask for this” and feel they now have to live up to certain perceptions society has of cancer survivors.
Our group contained mostly post-treatment survivors, but there was one lady, Evelyn, who recently received news of Stage IV lung cancer and was awaiting treatment. As a survivor in remission, I felt a little awkward for Evelyn being in a room with others who were on the other side of the fight. I found myself sharing nearly all of the lessons I have shared on this blog in the context of the hero myth to try and ease Evelyn’s mind a bit about the near future.
Somewhere towards the end of the session the leader asked us to summarize our thoughts. While the rest of the group was discussing ways to live with the hero myth going forward, my mind began to wander through the lessons I learned from cancer instead of paying attention to the conversation. Maybe it was my chemo brain...
I wasn't thinking about the pressures I feel from society's perception of what a cancer survivor should or should not be. I was more focused on how cancer was the reflection point that drove me to question who I was, where I was going, and what I want to do with my life. I thought more about the work I did with my whole life coach, the patience I learned, the fearlessness I acquired, the discovery of the true me, and my drive to lift as many lives as possible. Then it hit me:
I became my own hero.
It's the inner confidence of who I am as a person and what I want to accomplish in life. I remain aware of others' perception of me, but it has taken a backseat to staying loyal to the true me. This was an emotional revelation and I felt it necessary to share with the group, especially Evelyn.
I turned to Evelyn and told her that she should not worry about how others perceive her through this experience. Even though she is later in her life, she could take control of this moment and become her own hero.
What are you waiting for in your life to become yours?
Saturday, February 5, 2011
What's Your Latitude?
I would like to give you a sneak peek behind the curtain of what I plan to launch this month and hopefully work on in some capacity for the rest of my life.
First a little background:
When I was lying through a long scan or feeling crappy recovering from chemo I would close my eyes and project myself to a place I love from life until the scan was over or the nausea went away. For me it was playing each hole of Augusta National Golf Club. I was lucky enough to get tickets to the Masters Golf Tournament with my Dad more than 10 years ago and the place just floored me.
So, while I was being zipped through MRI/PET/CT tubes or fighting off nausea on the couch, I would be mentally lost in each blade of grass on every fairway or smelling the azaleas and pines of Augusta’s landscape. Not only did I play some awesome mental golf, but this exercise literally made my 1-3 hour scans fly by.
The underlying positive emotions I felt were what helped me through some of my longest tests and toughest recovery periods.
About halfway through my 8 month regimen I realized that we all have that place in our head we go to in day dreams or times of stress. A place with a nostalgic pull where we can conjure up good vibes in a heartbeat. While the physical location of these places differ from person to person, the underlying positive emotions are constant.
It was about that time that my wife and I took a trip up to my aunt and uncles’ lake house near Madison, WI and were remarking about our love for the latitude that runs through Wisconsin, northern Michigan, and northern New York where my wife grew up.
After the next week’s chemo session I had my “ah ha” moment on the couch in my family room where I connected my thoughts and found the word to describe the place I was going to in my head:
If you stop someone on the street today and ask them to define the word “latitude” they will either say the horizontal lines on a map or something along the lines of freedom to work outside of traditional constraints. Well, I have a new definition for you:
- Your Latitude is the place where you find the most peace and joy...
- It is the place where you mentally escape when you are stressed...
- Your Latitude is the place where you are at your best...
- It is your favorite place on earth.
It is my goal to redefine this word and help people identify and share the emotions associated with their Latitude with loved ones, friends, and strangers. Right now it's through word of mouth and social experiments I am creating on whatsyourlatitude.com. Hopefully someday it's through Webster's dictionary or the Google equivalent...
By increasing the number of instances of positive human interaction through sharing our Latitudes with each other we can shift the balance of energy in the world and make it a better place. This common bond among humans can connect us all.
And I will work the rest of my life in pursuit of this goal.
I leave you with some famous, highly motivating words from Jerry Maguire:
“Who’s coming with me!?”
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Lessons about courage.
Lessons about pain.
Lessons about love.
Right at the beginning of treatment I was talking to a coworker who overcame cancer at a young age and he said some things which just didn’t add up at the time. He spoke of how this experience would make me understand that there is a natural path for life and achieving goals. And that I would never be afraid of anything again.
I could see his point about not being afraid, but natural path?
I guess I was too caught up in the way things are nowadays where we all want the newest thing and we want it now. Give me a shortcut, I’ll take it. Show me the coolest new app, I’ll buy it.
Constantly moving, checking our phones, speeding to get to the next milestone faster than our parents and grandparents...
My chemo treatment was 8 months long with chemo sessions every two weeks. As I progressed through treatment I found myself getting abnormally conscious (as compared to the “old” me) about small things like the taste of my coffee in the morning or the way the branches in my backyard move in the breeze. I was slowing down. Being present.
Maybe it was the reality of my situation in facing mortality that caused me to fixate on the minor details of life that I used to take for granted. I was overlooking so many amazing sights and missing little moments with my wife and son in my race to where ever I was going.
As I assimilate back to a more normal life where I am not in a doctor’s office every two weeks I find myself more comfortable with the flow of time. Knowing that if I work at the right things, those things aligned with my values, I will end up at my destination and enjoy all the steps along the way. It may not happen as fast as I wish, but I know that if I work hard and trust my gut I can do anything.
Patience IS a virtue.
Combine it with knowledge of who you are as a person and a good work ethic...
You become fearless.