Cancer Confessional – Behind the Mask

iStockphoto © PeskyMonkey

If you were to take the time to poll my family, my friends, and my co-workers asking them to describe my outlook on life, most if not all, would described me as an optimist…a glass half-full guy. Dig a little deeper into what makes me tick and spend a little time reading through my DISC profile (high D & I) you would learn that being an encourager is another characteristics which makes up who I am. Optimism and encouragement come naturally to me and throughout my career they have been utilized to build teams and help grow businesses.

However in the scope of writing blog such as Leveraging Life, I have a genuine concern, what comes naturally (optimism and encouragement) could be taken out of context or be misconstrued leaving readers with a false impression that I never have doubts, that I live my life without fear, or that I somehow trust blindly when facing trials or adversity. 

“saying trust God period and living trust God period are two totally different mindsets…one is contingent on circumstance and situation warranting that trust, and the other is influenced by a relationship which is nurtured through circumstance and situation creating an environment of trust.”   


 Luke 24: 1 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 5 In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6 He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7 ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” 8 Then they remembered his words.

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Oh praise the one who paid my debt and raised this life up from the dead

Oh praise the one who paid my debt and raised this life up from the dead

Oh praise the one who paid my debt and raised this life up from the dead

Oh praise the one who paid my debt and raised this life up from the dead

Oh praise the one who paid my debt and raised this life up from the dead

 Jesus paid it all

All to him I owe

Sin had left a crimson stain

He washed it white as snow

Thanks for taking this journey with me and I do hope today…Easter Sunday represents a celebration. One where you, me, and everyone who accepts the Gift that was given acknowledges their lives changed that moment. And by simply accepting that Gift into our hearts we can now have personal relationship with our Heavenly Father and the promise of an eternal life.


trusting God period

Starting next week Peaks & Valleys series – my cancer confessional

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When God Winks On Love

when-god-winks-on-loveWhat you see here is what greeted Shari on the afternoon I proposed. Most people would say three weeks is just too short of period of time to plan a wedding.

We crammed a lot of life and so many experiences into those 21 incredible days leading up to our wedding day. Our decision to be married, despite the circumstances surrounding my cancer‘s return, was met with so many affirmations which lead us to move forward with our decision to be married in the Spring rather than later in the Fall.

Shari and I were were so grateful for the affirmation we received from family and friends who saw in us what we believed God was doing in our lives and in our courtship. We were also blessed by the God Winks which became apparent during this period and helped us to choose to become husband and wife on March 19, 2011.

The Greatest Day of My Life!

Regardless of the size wedding, planning and coordination are key when planning an event of this magnitude in one’s life . The planning should take in all the aspects which create memories which span a lifetime for you and your wife along with the special guests who attend.

Time usually is the best friend for the bride and groom in the planning as they have months to prepare for the big day. Unfortunately Shari and I didn’t have the luxury of time as circumstances dictated there were only 21 days for us to plan and celebrate our wedding day. Despite all the obstacles and the coordinating of all the logistics, somehow, everything all fell into place for us to be married.


Our God Wink Story

Shari and I met in 2008 while we attended different locations (campuses) of North Point Church. We met, but for this part of our story it started and ended with this meeting.  Despite meeting then, both of us would go on our separate ways for the next two years but the meeting in 2008 would be an important footnote in our story which would come together two years later.

Random, Fate, or another God Wink

Fast-forward to the spring of 2010 where we both find ourselves in the North Point Church Singles environment called Fusion. Despite the odds Shari and I find ourselves placed same host home as opposed to the other five during this cycle. We believe the odds for us to be placed in the same host home twice in two years was astronomical and we believe this fate of our placement to be a big defining God Wink in our lives!

This time something clicked, and in our re-connection something was different; and we were different! As we came to know each other through the North Point singles ministry we also connected on another level as learned we had both battled cancer. It was through this connection we grew closer as news of my cancer spreading impacted both of our lives.

The 5 “F’s” – Friends

          FAMILY                              FINANCES      


FITNESS                           FRIENDS 


Like family, Friends play a significant role and are a key factor in the 5 F’s, and there is no doubt what influence friends will have as I move into my Next 25. In two of my previous posts The Next 25 and part one of the 5 F’s – Family there are five elements to living my life differently now based on the life lessons learned.

Bob Balestri © istockphoto

 As I glance in my rear-view mirror covering my First 25 years since college, I see a guy who was blessed with great friends, some where the friendships go back over 3 decades. But I also see times where had I not been too proud to ask, advice would have been given which would have or could have influenced decisions and moved me in a different direction. Also see time when my conscious led me to seek advice, yet my ego led me to those whose advice mirrored what I wanted to hear and not what I needed to be told.

One glaring area was when I was at career crossroads and opened my company The Auto Source. While most assumed my motivation was to finally have my own business, something which had been a life-long ambition, had I solicited input from a few friends who already owned businesses I might have delayed or re-thought the real motivation for opening it at that time. Truth be told, after the company I ran was sold and the staff of 60+ people I had assembled was left with no say in our/my future, opening my company was my way of never letting that happen again. Even with a good business plan, faulty motivation and misguided mission will derail most businesses.

“your windshield is bigger than your rear-view mirror for a reason”

Jim Jurica © istockphoto

Moving forward into my Next 25, my focus will emphasize listening to and acting on the advice I’m given, solicited and unsolicited. Key friends have been assembled to form my circle of influence, or as Buckhead Churchcampus Pastor Jeff Henderson calls it, a personal advisory board. His thinking for his life is that if Coca Cola, Delta, and Home Depot think highly enough to utilize a board of advisers to influence and direct the course of their businesses, wouldn’t it be prudent and wise for an individual to do that as well. 

So in the midst of my transition into the Next 25 years since college, my circle of influence is in place and they have been given permission to speak into my life. They know my faults and weaknesses, my strengths and gifts, and have permission to speak into the times where and when they see faults and weaknesses manifesting themselves in my decision making process and when gifts are not being applied.

“Where there is no guidance the people fall,
But in abundance of counselors there is victory.”

Proverbs 11:14

Ultimately, we all have a choice of who and what has influence in our lives; but for me, glances into my rear view mirror of what a lack of influence cost me combined with this Bible verse has set the course for my Next 25 Years.

I highly suggest listening to Jeff’s message, A Word From The Coach, on the power of a personal advisor board especially if you happen to be questioning your purpose in life and or what should you do with your life from this point forward. If you answered yes to either question or if something resonated from what you’ve read here at Leveraging Life, I can’t think of a better way to kick off the New Year than making the time to listen to the entire Game Plan so Your game plan will be in place for 2011!

Next up is Finances and the role it plays in the 5F’s.


trusting God period

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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.


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.

 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.


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.