My Battle With Cancer

Let me begin this short article by saying that my recent months’ challenge became a fierce battle ground of all FOUR Growth Areas in my life; intellectual, physical, spiritual and emotional.  Battles like these are never ensured of only one outcome. But these types of battles DEMAND that one aggressively attack them from all four sides.

Almost 50. Guess it’s time for that blessed check up. So I did what most men want to avoid doing. I went ahead and gave permission to my doctor to poke, prod, and drain whatever fluid he needed to gather as much information as he needed to establish a “baseline” for my health at this stage of my life.  I must admit that my full on expectation was to leave the office having been scolded about my eating habits and handed a prescription for lowering my blood pressure and cholesterol levels.  That not being the case, the doctor said, “See ya in a few weeks and we will go over the results.”  I knew I had not been feeling well and the doctor had given me a prescription for an antibiotic.  The antibiotic seemed to have done its job.  Felt better when the time came to see the doctor once again. Went in expecting to once again walk out with my anticipated drugs.  Instead, my doctor’s words were, “I think I would like to take some more blood.” Being the impatient one that I am, I immediately shot straight with him and asked, “OK, what’s going on?” His response included, “There is one number that would like to look at again.”
OK, weeks go by once again. I’ve donated probably around a few gallons of blood over these past 6 weeks. I hope he has enough for what he needs to look at. “OK, lets go over the results. First, how are you feeling?” “OK doc, why are you even asking me these questions? I feel fine. Those antibiotics worked great. The plumbing works just fine.” “Your heart rate is excellent. Your blood pressure is down. In fact, your cholesterol is the best its been in 10 years.” I was shocked in a great way. Another bragging right to bring back to my wife; so I thought. “Now, don’t get too excited. There’s one number that concerns me a little.” I may not be the sharpest tac in the box, but I know when to pause and start to wonder. When your barber says, “Oops” is one of those things you don’t want to hear. Another is when your doctor uses the word “concern.” “Your PSA number is almost three times what it should be for a man as young as you.”

Just one number.  What’s PSA anyways? I remember when PSA was an airline out of Southern California. Without going into too many specifics I will say that while it literally stands for “Prostate-specific antigen” (a protein measurement in the prostate gland), a high number when measured from blood work can often indicate the presence of prostate cancer. So, needless to say I was immediately referred to a colleague of his for further “exploration.”
My first visit was cordial. Nice guy. Go figure, he ordered more blood tests. Before I knew it, without offering me dinner I was being examined up the tunnel. And without hesitation the doctor immediately and anxiously communicated that he wanted to do biopsies. My numbers were three times what they should be. My prostate was “much larger than normal.” And lastly, the doctor did not like what he felt while performing his exam.
Now, another wave of emotions flooded my head. Over the past few months I hadn’t shared this “one number” information with anyone. I knew that my wife would figure something was up. Sure enough, like clockwork, following this visit my wife called me on my cell phone and asked what was going on. As I told her what had been happening over the past few months, I could hear her tears roll down her cheeks as she listened and asked questions. So here I am driving home, crying a bit myself and trying my best on how to come along side of my wife who is also just then experiencing what I had several weeks to begin coping with. Where do we go from here?
Well, the biopsies came next, all 12 of them. I will completely spare you the details here. Next was another waiting period for the “final call.” Impatience began to set in with me. I wanted to get moving and fight. Those next few days felt like some of the longest days. The waiting was only shortened by those few moments when I was alone and truly able to sit back, take in, and thoroughly enjoy the weather around me. Then life interrupts you and you get to come back to reality and begin to move forward, not sure what the “new normal” is going to look like.

Well, initially like most people, I had been locked onto what the internet had to say regarding every little question I had. And like most crisis moments the first page of any search brings up the most sought answers which also happen to contain a large amount of doom and gloom. I researched day after day to “get ahead” and put my head around anything intellectually that had to do with this subject. Much of this information surrounded the physical consequences of such cancer. Every moment of this search was enveloped with overwhelming emotions whose goal (it seemed) was to destroy my resolve and bring on hopelessness and fear.
It was then that I began to realize and acknowledge that this battle also contained a spiritual element. In fact I began to just know in my heart that this challenge for me was a spiritual attack at its core. I just knew this in the deepest part of my heart. Hard to explain. The emotional onslaught never went away. I have so much respect for anyone going through new journeys and difficult seasons while attempting their best to maintain some sort of normalcy in their daily routine. I have had the honor and privilege of walking these type of journeys with many before. There have been many tears shed of both sorrow and joy along the way. Now, it is my turn to walk my own journey with my own family. Nothing can prepare you for this.

So my wife and I chose to first tell our children and then only a select few others. In our bedroom with our three kids sitting and standing around the bed we shared with them about the journey that lay ahead of us. Each of them responded in their own and uniquely individual way. One was outwardly emotional. Another quietly began to shed tears while yet another showed his concern by asking how I felt. Each took THAT moment to react and reveal their true self in a crisis moment. Interesting how each of them were true to their inner character/personality through their reactions. After the emotions subsided a bit, I explained to them that I felt intensely that this battle was spiritual at its core. We had trusted and well versed doctors to help with the intellectual understanding and physical aspect of what lied ahead. Now I asked they not just hit the social media and blitz an announcement style of cry for help. I requested that my family and a handful of prayer warriors enter this battle together privately and boldly. For me my Christian faith is my Rock in times like these. This never negates the level of difficulty. It brings me comfort and confidence in whatever lies ahead for me and my family. My approach to times like these with myself, my family and/or others is to approach the Creator of the universe because of Jesus Christ through the power of His Spirit. And that is how the prayers began and continued for days.
The time came and my wife and I went to the doctor’s office to wait on the results of the biopsies. As we sat in the room, we were quiet, quiet enough to overhear the conversations of the rooms next to us. I can remember hearing my doctor have the same conversation with another patient that I had with him only weeks earlier. And then I heard another conversation with another patient that I knew was coming my way. While sitting there, our nerves were screaming and I was ready to get the fight going, not ever being the type of person who loved to wait for much.
(I really struggled at this point for a variety of reasons. Yet my biggest struggle to this point was believing in my heart that this physical challenge was nothing for the Great Physician. I knew if He wanted to heal me, He could. Yet I also found myself in preparation mode for the fight that lied ahead. Where did my confidence lie? Of what was I convinced? Not a second went by each day and night that my heart and mind didn’t swing back and forth from a deep and unwavering desire for healing and determination/preparation for the battle at hand. Was it disbelief or lack of faith if I prayed for healing yet prepared for the inevitable physical battle that awaited us? I am sure I am not unique with this range of feelings. I just wanted to share this with those of you who might have gone through something similar.)
The doctor entered the room. As I shook his hand and introduced him to my wife, I told him that I had brought the “big guns” to this meeting. He put on his warm and consistent smile. He rolled his chair on wheels to where he could see both my wife and I. And with his head slightly held down he began to shake and lift up his head with a look of perplexity I will never forget. With his eyebrows raised high he said, “I have good news, there is no cancer.” Both my wife and I didn’t know what to do or say. There was no immediate jumping for joy oddly enough. I came with questions and wanted them answered, dang it. It’s as if I came for a fight and the other guy didn’t show up. I told the doctor I still had questions. My wife on the other hand interrupted and said, “Don’t say anything, let’s just go.” It was then that both the doctor and I laughed. I asked a few of my questions and we left. My wife and I just sat in my truck, a bit numb and overjoyed at the same time. Not knowing what to do for a few minutes we just sat there. We were both exhausted. It was time to rest.

The next few days have come and gone. We rejoiced with our “team of warriors” and gave all glory to God. This was and is His victory no matter how you decide to slice it. As we shared with our kids, we were able to once again see their uniqueness shine as they each responded to this news according to their character/personality. One reacted outwardly emotionally, one more quietly and one asking me how I felt.
While this battle with cancer was short, its significance has forever impacted our lives. We were prepared for a journey of a different outcome. This short season in our life has been placed in our lives for a reason. And I have chosen to share this with y’all for no other reason than that you and/or others might be encouraged though it.

Now, I even hesitated to publish this article because of its potential to upset some who have had similar journeys with different outcomes. I assure you that is not my intention. My desire from this article is only to provide hope and strength for anyone during his/her journey/season of life. So please read and/or share this with anyone who might just need an ounce of encouragement during their rough season.
As always, I remain available for you, even if you just need a listening ear.


Mike

Seasons of Life

My daughter was so excited to send me this picture she took as she walked across her campus today. These frosted leaves (a rare sight in Southern California) reminded me to be thinking of others during this Holiday Season. Seasons bring with them joy and sorrow, heat and cold, challenges and celebrations.
So it is in this end of 2015 season that I wanted you to know that my heart is here for you. I will keep you in my prayers as we wait and see what lies ahead in 2016.
A text, an email or even just a listening ear. I will remain available for you if this season presents you with challenges where you could use a sounding board or a friend. All the best to you and yours.
Mike

Joy in the Sightings!

Do you know how rare it is to have this sighting? The Oscar Mayer Wienermobile has been spotted. It was not just passing by it on the freeway. This sighting was in a parking lot, giving out samples and fortunately for me, not gathering a crowd.
Yes, this sighting brought me great joy and excitement. It took me back to another time long ago. I remember seeing the weinermobile as a child and wanting to stop it, drive it and even live in it. Then, as a teenageer, I found myself following it on the road no matter where I was and tracking it down just to get a chance to sit  inside and take as many pictures as possible. Yes, I would stalk the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile like paparazzi.
I find it odd how quickly the smallest of sightings can bring about joyous memories from the past. How about you? What is it that brings about those fun memories from your childhood?
I am not talking happiness which is often circumstantial. I am talking about those moments in your past that bring about inexplicable joy, feelings of excitement, laughter and peace all wrapped into one. Take a moment and think about what "sightings" have taken you back and brought you joy. When is that last time you had one? Let's make sure that we aren't so busy that we miss these moments as they drive by us (or in this case, sitting in a parking lot). Look for these sightings and take a moment to absorb them when they do come your way.

The BIGGER the Dog...

How would you finish this statement?  Perhaps "the larger the bite" or "the larger the fight"?  Well, walking into a local coffee spot this morning I overheard two gentlemen discussing their day and only grabbed a quick moment of their conversation while passing by. The conversation went, "The bigger the dog, the larger the poop." I had to stop and just start laughing. It struck me as so funny that I had to share it with the barista. Now, we were both laughing. I ulitmately ordered my coffee and sat down to type out this Monday morning humorous thought.
This audible moment reminded me that in business sometimes we do encounter large poop when we begin to deal with the "bigger dogs". Yet "bigger dogs" does not always mean more powerful individuals/companies. In fact, today's business is never more enjoyable than when "big business" can happen with minor poop taking place.  Hey, Poop Happens. But it always boils down to relationship, trust, and confidence that can help us navigate the messiness that does and will take place. Business can be messy (poopy). Stay encouraged today fi your business feels a bit too messy.
Bigger dogs are awesome to have relationships with. They can be loyal, protective, and just all around awesome to be around. So let's challenge ourselves to always seek the positive in our relationships no matter the size of the dog. Let's also include laughter as part of our every day conversation so that we not only are encouraged but we might just also be an encouragement to others.

Stop and Smell the Roses

I realize that most of us have heard this phrase many times.  Yet, I must confess that I continue to pursue a lifestyle where I go crazy when I have to remain silent for an entire day or even a portion of that day.
So, I am starting one of my New Year's resolutions early.  I am striving to better understand and value the art of being still.  OK, it's easy to (literally) smell the roses when I am in my back yard taking care of my bushes.  But to encorporate this life lesson (and model it to my wife and kids) I have taken drastic measures.  For example, I now will fill my truck with gas at 6am in the morning at my favorite gas station. I can do this with a great deal of forward thinking and planning. At this time of year, the sun has yet to rise and the gas attendant loves to talk. Had I not taken a moment to be still (even in this routine activity of mine), I would not have had the opportunity to get to know someone whom I normally would have just wisked by.  I really do notice more and listen better when I "slow down to smell the roses." I encourage you do the same and get a jump start on a great New Year's resolution through becoming great at the art of becoming still and smelling the roses.

Would You Like Fries With That?

Well, this morning I had another first.  Yep, it was my first viewing of a horse in a drive-thru.  Now, this might be routine for other places in the States.  But it is my first here in SoCal.  I had to get the photo.  So I ran out, took the picture, and spoke briefly with the two young ladies who were out walking the horse.

One of the ladies explained, "We have today off school, so we are working with our horse and training it."  Interesting choice.  No X-Box, no endless moments of mindless music with ear buds permanently attached to the head.  These young ladies chose to be productive, follow their passion, and perhaps even earn a few dollars.  Two things really impressed me about this moment today.  One, that these young ladies knew their passion and chose to follow it with any extra time they had in their lives.  And two, I was also impressed that the horse kept it clean while visiting the drive-thru.

But seriously, each day brings with it choices on what we do.  And sometimes, no matter how unique your day begins, each day brings with it the opportunity to follow your passion regardless of what others might think or how you might look in your pursuit of that passion.  So, next time you see a horse in a drive-thru, take a moment and reflect on your passionate pursuit of what drives you.  Are you making wise choices and taking the necessary steps in pursuing your passion?  We need more passionate-success stories today on people succeeding in pursuing their dreams.  Go for it!  And let me know if there is any way that I can come along side of you in this pursuit.  Happy horse viewing.

Mariachi Music, a Middle Eastern Restaurant and Some Dominicans

It is a rare occasion when you get to see a couple celebrate their 50th Wedding Anniversary.  It is even more rare that you get invited to their 50th Celebration.  Well, that's exactly what happened.  Manuel and Margarita Mota celebrated 50 years of marriage.  Their selfless love and serving hearts now have 8 children and 27 grandchildren who also reflect this serving heart for others.  And my wife and I were honored to attend this celebration.  The choice of food was Middle Eastern while the eating music consisted of a Mariachi Band.  And nearly all of the audience was related to the Mota family.
The setting of around 90 Dominicans, Middle Eastern food, and the Mariachi Band left us with an experience we will always remember.  La familia (the family) atmosphere brought warmth and laughter every time you turned around.
While I have had the privilege of coming along side of the Mota family in their humanitarian efforts,   nothing compares to the joy of knowing members of their family on an individual basis.  Whenever you come across hearts like these, I would encourage you to take time and invest into those individuals and families who in turn invest into the lives of others.  Congratulations Manny and Margarita.  Dios te bendiga.