Defining Moments

If we take time to examine our hearts we will find moments in our lives which define us. Typically these defining moments are found at the end of a long road of pivotal circumstances. And those pivotal circumstances, positive or negative, can leave our lives forever changed.

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Several years ago Jeff Goins was promoting his new book, Wrecked, he asked people to share stories of when their lives had been “wrecked.” Jeff published the story I submitted and today I share an excerpt of Damage Goods with you today.

Early on we both knew where we were tracking as a couple. Our relationship was so rich, the conversations were so natural, and our values and beliefs were totally in sync. We were confident the path we were on would lead to marriage some time in the fall of 2011. Our plans were for an extended courtship, not because we weren’t ready to get married, rather because we wanted to do everything we could to protect and ensure Shari’s teenage sons had time to adjust to a new man being in their lives. 

ONE WORD 365 – Growth

iStockphoto © sefaoncul

My One Word for 2011 was “pause.” 

Who would have known this one word could have impacted my mindset throughout the most challenging and rewarding year of my life.

~2011 was a year where my dream of being a husband and a father became reality with one single “I Do.”

~2011 was a year where I faced cancer for a third time and battled to the best of my ability through five months of chemo and trusted God period for what I could not control.

~2011 was a year, had I not slowed down and paused through in the midst of every challenge and in every blessing I would have missed seeing God’s handiwork in my life and the lives of those who joined me in this journey.

My One Word for 2012…hmmm? My One Word focus for next 365 days err…325 days?

After much thought and deliberation it has to be Growth, a word that is so appropriate to focus on after the year I had in 2011. I want to take all the life lessons learned…the good, the not-so-good, and the awesome and grow from them. I want to share them with the hope they may help and influence others in a way that they too can grow from my experience.

For me I’m talking about total…across the board growth, both personally and professionally. Growth in the five areas which I feel encompasses a full and complete life.

Cancer Life Lessons

No one issued me my cancer playbook when I got the news I had cancer. But I soon found out there were plenty of cancer life lessons to learn before my treatment season began.

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Reactions vary when you get the news cancer has entered your world but most the reaction is some form of fight or flight. Those who lean toward flight can withdrawal or move into forms of denial as it takes time to process this news. Those lean toward fight can be using it to mask their denial. Either way you most process the news fully before moving forward in a healthy way. Looking back now, I know moved into the “fight” mode too quickly and did not process how the news of my diagnosis would impact my life. I simply thought I would beat it by powering through whatever cancer through at me. So much like preparing for a big football game, I said let’s do this…Game On!

Scouting

Most football teams have scouts who learn everything there is to know about the opponent with the hope of finding weaknesses that can be exploited. Research was my way of scouting merkel cell cancer (mcc), unfortunately there is little published about this relatively new type of cancer, and there is even less focus by the cancer community from an awareness and funding perspective due to the low number diagnosed each year. Despite the limited information, my scouting/research confirmed enough of what had already been discussed with the medical team I was assembling to move forward with my game plan of surgery, skin graft, sentinel node dissection, and 6 weeks of radiation.

 Team Meeting

Another component of my Game On involved those difficult conversations with family and friends who needed to be told. I approached those talks under the false belief, that if my attitude was positive and upbeat it might somehow lessen their concern and worry. In my eyes I did pretty well; as I had my facts together what mcc was and what the medical team planned to do about it, that was until I spoke with my brother Mike. As I was telling him the news in my best upbeat spiel, an image of my 3 nieces flashed in my mind followed by another image where I was missing their proms, graduations, and weddings. I’m not sure if he caught me starting to choke up, but I’d have to admit that was the shortest of all my Game On conversations.

Intangibles

Work was a different type of Game On, similar to a player trying to convince his coach that despite being at 80% he could still contribute to the win. For me it was important to reassure the owners of my company that I regarded this only as a bump in the road with minimal disruption at the dealership. But I knew it would open the door, and for the first time in my career, where my ability to do what they hired me to do would be evaluated not only on talent but also on availability, something I  had little say or control over.

You Have Cancer

Tom, “You have cancer.”

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When you find out you have cancer everything changes. There’s an expression, “you could have heard a pin drop,” not something people normally experience but something which describes those surreal moments in life. But on the day the doctor told me, “you have cancer, I swear you could have heard a pin drop. And when you find out you have cancer the pin which drops is more like the pin of a hand-grenade.

Defining moments are the times in our lives where time stands still, and one of my defining moments occurred when I was told I had cancer!

Your defining moment might have been when finally got your diploma, or it could have been the day you said “I Do”, or it maybe it was the day you held your first born child. These life changing moments become defining when the world as we know it is forever changed and our life takes on a new trajectory.

You Have Cancer Moment

Such was the case for me on December 12, 2009 when phone call led to a defining moment for my life. I was leaving a shopping mall after doing some Christmas shopping when I noticed I had a missed a call and there was a voice mail. I recognized the number as it was from a doctor who had recently done a biopsy for me and figured the call was a formality with news there was nothing to be concerned about. Unfortunately the message received was not what I expected as my doctor called, rather than her PA, with instructions to call her as soon as I possible.

Early Cancer Update

Let me start out with a quick cancer update my sister Molly prepared a few days ago that I never had a chance to share. Keep reading after her update to see what went on this weekend and will be going on tomorrow. 

Simpsons-blackboard-update

Hi everyone, 

Thought it was time for a cancer update on Tom. He got back the results today – out of the 25 or so lymph nodes that were taken out two showed Merkel Cell cancer – one was 6 centimeters and the other was over 5….which is considered quite large.

So what do we do next?

We spoke with several medical oncologists and found one we feel can handle this type of cancer. Because this cancer is so rare and doesn’t look like other cancers Tom’s received very different advice from three different oncologists on what the next step should be. Some say to do chemo and radiation and another says to only do radiation.

So first Tom has to heal for the next 5 weeks from the surgery before he can start treatment and he’s currently battling an infection so that needs to be taken care of.