What a crazy journey this thing called life can be at times. Through the ups and downs we sometimes lose focus on what is important when we start to get focused on the little stresses of daily life. A large reason we get lost is thinking about the life we want, that perfect life with no ups and downs, but is that what we really need or even what we’d really want out of life? We feed the stress and avoid the happiness way too much. We create the ups and downs more often than life itself does, as we “wait” for “big” things in life to come our way and only focus on those things we think are standing in our way from seeing those things come true.
I had my first opportunity to speak to a high school in January and share my story, and one of the messages I wanted to get across was to celebrate the little things in life. If we are looking, there are incredible things in life everyday. For me that’s been about taking a step back from time to time to really see how great life is now.
For instance, I’ve said over and over that I love my life and it’s absolutely true. It’s especially true though when I focus on the positives and have the negatives only remind me of those things that make me happy. I could describe my life as one where I was diagnosed as stage 4 lung cancer (having never smoked just to add to it a bit, even though we all know it doesn’t matter if I have or not) at 39 years old and told I had 6-9 months. I work 7 days a week. I have to wake up at 5am most days, with one sleep in day of 6am. And I could go on with the personal “hurdles and struggles”, but you get the point I think.
Or I can look at the “positives”. I was diagnosed stage 4 lung cancer, given 6-9 months, and I am still here! I’ve been able to inspire people in entirely different ways through this journey, and that fills my heart. My family means everything to me, and that’s the same having Trenton just come home and spend time in his room because he doesn’t get his own room in college 😁 or actually doing something, anything, with K and T.
Stay positive my friends and be aware of the little things. Watching loved ones laugh. Seeing the sunrises and sunsets each day. Letting the smiles all around you brighten your day. There are incredible little things around you each and every day, and if you can take a day to forget about the “other stuff” and look for those little things, I am willing to bet you’ll end the day with a new appreciation for life.
So here I sit typing this 3 years (as of yesterday) from when I started treatment. Ironically enough I spent yesterday traveling out to Philly (you know me, I just go where the party is 😉 ) to be a part of the Bristol Myers Squibb executives town-hall. Also yesterday BMS announced the success of the treatment combination I was on, in a very exciting announcement for the fight against cancer. This study having everything to do with my situation exactly, even though I started it before the full understanding of why it could work so well for people like myself (pdl-1 expression and a high mutational burden). It’s a special thing for me to be here with two of my favorite companies in the world, because of their focus on the patient first, BMS and Foundation Medicine, to celebrate 3 years since finding this trial with the help of Dr. Goldman at UCLA. I feel so honored to get to share my story and have any opportunity to inspire someone to reach for more (as a coach or cancer survivor).
This all comes on the heels of a scan week last week. All is stable and so we move on to the next 12 weeks cycle, but boy do scan weeks knock me off my game. I’ve thought and talked about this quite a bit this week, and it’s all just part of the ride I guess.
So I was asked by one of the USC swimmers to do an interview about my story, and of course I was honored to be a part of his class project. So I explained a bit about how my life is about 11 1/2 weeks of while always being aware of my situation, really just living and enjoying my life. And then it’s about 1/2 week or so (the day or two before and the wait for results) that my mind starts to run on me. One of his questions was how does it feel when I get the results, which was interesting to me. Please don’t get me wrong, I love the call and the good news, but these days it’s more relief by then. A day later, after the scanxiety wears off a bit, is when I get back to my normal life.
I’ll explain that a bit. It’s my nature to want to move forward. To take that next step in the process. Where things stand for me now is that I have 3 little nodules (largest being like 2mm) left in my lung and all else basically gone. Because of the spread to so many places in my body (especially bone), surgery isn’t really a great option for me. Now, there have been times where they have gone in and have done surgery when it’s been knocked back like this, only to find that those nodules are not even cancer anymore, but just dead t-cells or other calcified cells. I actually truly believe this could be the case for me, but at the same time I will not let myself be sucker punched by lung cancer again. So instead I stress a bit. Not because I think it helps me at the time, but I do believe it will help me take the punch and be immediately ready to go into action on what that next step will be for me when (and if) that time ever comes. So while there doesn’t seem to be an official NED title in my future, there is a lot of life to live. So for roughly 12 days a year I prepare to fight for the life that I have come to appreciate every part of, including this journey itself.
In the end, as I’ve said all along and was reminded of this week when my college roommate got shot by someone breaking into his car (he is a tough dude and recovering well and hopefully out of hospital soon), none of us are promised tomorrow. Remember to reach for the stars but just also remember to enjoy the view along the way.
Thanks for reading my ramblings and I wish all of you the ability to see the great things around you every day.
For those in the LA area, please join me at the Addario Lung Cancer Foundation, Your Next Step is the Cure 5k this coming Sunday, Feb 11th. You can run/walk/support, but please just be apart of this incredible cause. Just follow the link below to join TEAMjeff: