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.
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!
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.
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.
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.