It has been 15 months since my last blog post. One year ago this week, we received the unfortunate news that I had a very rare form of cancer, Eccrine Porocarcinoma (EPC). EPC affects approximately one out of 400,000 people annually in the US, typically in patients much sicker and older than I was. We immediately googled the name EPC as well as what we should experience related to time frames, recovery, treatments, and healing. We found little to no information that set the expectations of what we would go through. With no known treatment protocol and very high mortality rates, we attacked our treatments beginning with an 18-hour surgery on April 27, 2021, to defy the odds and return to some type of normal healthy life. We continue to fight this battle every day.
There have been many more challenging days than positive days. In the last 8 months of 2021, I spent 33 days in an in-patient hospital room and went through six open-head surgeries to heal wounds and fight infections. We also had 32 days of radiation where 6,000 grays of radiation were administered into my newly formed head. While recovering in the hospital, the door to my room was typically closed all the time, and when I received a knock on the door, it typically was a nurse having to administer a painful test or treatment or to bring me hospital food, which was most of the times cold and not good. There were several situations in 2021 my doctors said I should have not survived and I find thanks with every day. I am still walking around with an open wound on my head (covered with a bandage). The shape of my head is still similar to a rhombus and we will have several more surgeries to fix these two final challenges. However, I am back to work and feel better than ever. We have paved the way for others to learn from the treatments we went through and how to set expectations for healing.
There were two scenarios where the knock on the hospital room door would bring a smile to my face. The first scenario was when my wife or kids walked into the room. This was always the highlight of my day. The second scenario was when a volunteer would walk into our room with a therapy dog. We are a dog family and throughout 2021, whenever I would return home from the hospital, our two dogs, Honey and Daisy, would greet me at the door with wagging tails and crazy enthusiasm. The volunteers and companion dogs created an environment of therapy and comfort whenever they walked into the hospital room.
You will hear me discuss a concept called “Post-Traumatic Growth” where a person goes through a very traumatic event in life and commits to helping improve the lives and experiences of others. There are two steps we have started in our Post-Traumatic Growth Journey. The first is that we are training our newest adopted dog, Blanton (Pictured Above) to be a therapy dog where any member of our family can hopefully bring a smile to the face of a child or an adult in a healthcare setting as they are experiencing their own recovery. We want to return the joy brought to us while we fought cancer. Blanton is a Blue Nose Pitbull who is a gentle giant and loved by everyone. His therapy training will take a while to get him certified, but the therapy he brings me every day is amazing.
The second step is more tangible in nature. We wrote a book about our journey to healing, called “We Got This, Leadership Principles Learned and Reinforced Through a Twelve-Month Battle With Cancer”. Our hope with sharing this book is that it will help motivate and inspire others to perform at their best, have a positive mindset when dealing with difficult to impossible situations, especially within the small community of EPC patients, and to live life every day as if it could be their last.
I have learned a lot over the last twelve months about pain, healing, compassion, empathy, and communication. I have learned that people typically fall into one of two categories of thought processes when suffering through a challenging time:
Thought Process #1- “If I had to suffer through it, others should too”
Thought Process #2 – “If I had to suffer through it, I’ll work to make sure those who also go through it will learn from our successes and mistakes”
I choose to be in option #2. Success typically comes to those who are positive, helpful and finish a project in a better place than what they inherited. Very rarely do you hear of successful people with negative outlooks on business or life. We still have a long way to go to be fully healed from the events of 2021 but We Got This!
Well Done > Well Said