Adios 2017 and here’s to 2018!

2018 is almost here, and I just wanted to spend a little time on some writing therapy to go through my year and begin to set myself up for an even better 2018 than 2017. I’ve always found New Year’s a bit anti-climatic and all too often an “easy” time to make a “resolution”. That said, I think any day can be the day you move your life forward in the direction you want, and New Year’s can be that fresh start if you want it. That’s the key though, you have to really want it. Your true intent needs to be to change, not just do the “resolution”. I think one of the reasons people fail those “resolutions” is because it’s more of a wish than a true resolution (def: a firm decision to do or not do something). Set your mind to it and don’t give in until it’s done. Oh, and I suggest having the resolution be a progression to 100%, so when the day comes you fail, it only means you make it longer the next time, and the time after that, and the time after that, etc. It’s a process to reach those resolutions, decide how bad you want it and stick to it though the “failures”.

This all comes at an interesting time for me personally. I absolutely love my life. I have a career of teaching life lessons through the sport of swimming, and get to do that on multiple levels, which has been amazing. My relationship with my wife has never been stronger, as we approach 20 years married. My son is doing his thing as a freshman at a great university, and I couldn’t be more proud of him. My puppy, while still a handful at times ;-), makes me smile. And while there is still so much more I could say, in the end I am alive and get to live my life. That said, it’s not easy to care so much about things and not let stress and disappointment get to you, and boy has the past month been a roller coaster of emotions and stress. (Which brought me to this writing therapy)

Don’t worry, I won’t bore any of you still reading this with a breakdown of those emotions and stress, I more just want to share my feelings. I’ve learned very clearly that I my body does not handle stress well. Similar to this summer, I spent most of the end of December laid out and in pain. Maybe again pushing a little too much with travel, etc, but really it came down to a stressful situation and disappointment. I’ve battled with a question all of my career, and that question is if one can care too much as a coach? I mention stress more often than not because it’s how it all manifests itself the most, but in the end it is disappointment. It is the whole idea of more often than not people not appreciating the heart and soul put into teaching lessons, until they are long gone from the sport. I can wrap my head around that, but it’s just hard to forget about the heartache along the way when you are in the middle of it. I also fully understand that most can’t understand this type of feeling. They don’t care as much about their careers in this way, so don’t understand what they do when they do and say the things that come out.

Okay, so therapy writing does need to have some of that release, but I’d rather not focus on that now. I’d like to continue my process of looking forward in life and staying positive that great life is ahead. It’s been an interesting year for sure though. I’ve spent a good portion looking to improve myself as a person and a coach. I’ve had a chance to work with a life coach, which has been awesome. Thanks Kathie. I’ve read quite a few books on understanding more about what I think life it all about and how I want to live it. The crazy thing is that the more I look to improve, the more I learn about and see my weaknesses (by my own definition btw, not anyone else’s thoughts), then the harder this seems to be getting.

Being the hardest person on yourself can take you far in life, but it also challenges you in situations in which you want to change and improve. The thing is I will always expect more of myself. I know the weaknesses I want to change now, and since I do know, I want it changed NOW! Unfortunately it hasn’t quite worked that way, so I am now working my meditation and other tools to help me during that process.

Life is full of ups and downs. The only way to truly avoid those are to stop trying to move forward, and I’m not ready to do that. I have a lot of life ahead and me, and I plan to life it to my fullest. So I continue to learn my process, how to handle things that come up, and remembering to take care of myself. Yet another skill that I developed in swimming, the ability to just “push through”, that has brought me many great things in life but also takes away from my ability to take care of myself. By my definition, I am “okay” until I am not, which these days is way too late. It’s time for me to learn new ways. Learn when to push and when to step back. When to take care of myself and when I am truly okay, or maybe stop trying to draw that line and always take care of myself in different ways.

As I sit and type this only hours from the new year, I want to end with some things I am grateful for this year. Of course my family is number one for me. My friends continue to be there for me, and I am especially thankful for friendships that seem to be so in line that I hear from them when I need them most. Thank you all.

Here are just some things for the year that I am very appreciative:

> Thank you to the Trojan flyers I get to work with quite a bit and for the very kind words this morning. You’ve made my New Year’s Eve, so thank you!

> TEAMjeff continues to provide amazing support. I had a story recalled to me this month as well. (So obviously not all bad this month 🙂 Many of you may have seen this on twitter, but here is my tweet:

I love the sport of swimming, story shared with me: “saw a MVN kid with a team jeff shirt on,so i asked her what it meant. Her answer, “he’s a famous coach and if we wear these shirts it helps him beat cancer.” my response ,” it’s working, keep it up” Yes it is! Ty @TEAMjeffj

How incredible is that?

> Over 2 years after my diagnosis, I got to see my son graduate from high school and begin his career as a Bear. Something that if I listened to the first Doctor’s I visited, I would never have seen.

> I’m honored to have the opportunities to share my story in the cancer advocacy world in hopes of sharing inspiration and doing my small part to try to help those that will need to take this journey themselves.

> I am also honored to work with some of the best age group and college coaches in the nation and world, and I thank you all for sharing your passion for the sport and the swimmers.

I think that is good for now, and thank you all. I wish you all the Happiest of New Year’s. Be safe, have fun, and I wish you nothing but the best in 2018!

“Mile marker 11” is now in my rear view window…

This past Wednesday was that day again today, scan day. I️ had it planned way in advance this time, but managed to forget about it until I️ saw it on my calendar the day before, which really worked out pretty well. I thought I️ got through even that day decently, but the day of definitely brought on some worry. Which leads me to my results and just sharing my thoughts as I️ learn to live my new life.

The results were all stable. Small nodule in the lung that has remained unchanged for over a year now I️ believe. So all is good. All is great actually, which made my reaction feeling that much more strange to me at the time. Don’t get me wrong, I️ was happy for sure and my first thoughts were exactly that, I️ think. What I️ remember most though is this feeling. I️ can best describe it as a really thick blanket that had been covering me and immediately upon hearing the voice mail (the plan still working 😁) it just washed away. This sense of physically feeling the relief of not needing to jump back in the fight quite yet.

And I️ guess it’s pretty much that simple. As ready as I️ was to fight for every day when this all started, I️ have an even greater love and understanding of my life, and I️ will be ready to do whatever it takes going forward. BUT, and yes that’s a big but, I’d really love to push that step off as long as possible. I’ve reached what my pinnacle will likely be in terms of scan results and now it’s time to do what I️ can to stay on top. So every 12 weeks I️ get that check up, am I️ still on top or is it time to go back to work with treatment? I️ think my relief may be the let down of my internal build up to be ready to go work if needed, and I’m thinking that may just be something for me to get used to and plan for, as I️ am not looking at getting blindsided by this thing again. 😤💪🏼😏

The next scan will be right around the 3 year mark and what an incredible feeling it is to be here. So on this November day, which of course everyone knows is Lung Cancer Awareness Month, my hope today is that each of you will catch the “moments” in your lives. Those moments that are too easily lost in the hustle of our day to day lives. It’s time to create a habit of searching for them daily. A loved one laughing? The love of your dog? A “normal” everyday conversation that you get to have today? The sunrise? The sunset? There are moments to catch all over. Let’s hit pause just for a moment this weekend and enjoy those moments in our own lives.

As always, thank you #TEAMjeff

The fight…

Just a little writing therapy for me here. While I am obviously well aware that people are dying from lung cancer every day, this week that fact hit a little closer to home. When this journey started nearly three years ago, there was a father on a team of one of my buddies that was diagnosed right around the same time. I communicated with the family quite a bit as our journeys began. His is not my story to tell, but I did want to share some thoughts as this did indeed hit close to home. 

There is this ongoing debate in the cancer world of whether we should call this a “fight” with cancer. My personal opinion is that this is absolutely a fight and it’s one on every level. Mentally, physically, and emotionally, cancer looks to take it all. And while I really don’t feel his story is mine to share, I do feel okay connecting these thoughts, as I know he fought! He fought for his wife, his daughter, his family, and his life in general, and in doing so inspired others to live their life every day. While it was his time to go and that’s not easy to take, I know in my heart that he lived life to its fullest and in doing so fought and defeated cancer. As Stuart Scott put it, “When you die it does not mean you lose to cancer, you beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live.” And that is just what this husband and father did! 

There are any number of things that can get my mind wandering these days, but this wasn’t one took my on a bit of a roller coaster this week. During which though I have found a new “theme” song these days, but I listen a slightly different way. The song is “No such thing as a broken heart” by Old Dominion. It’s great the way it is, but instead of you have to “love” like there’s no such thing as a broken heart, I adjust that to “live”. It’s just that clear reminder to not let fears dictate our lives, and as my favorite line goes, “Cry when it hurts, laugh when it’s funny, chase after the dream, don’t chase after the money.” 

I hope each of you will really live your lives, not be afraid to follow your hearts, learn what will make you truly happy, then go after it. 

Thanks all! 

A long time coming… 

Well, only about 8 weeks and 3 attempted starts later, I am determined to finish this journal entry today. I’ve decided this is first priority today, so here I sit. 

So very much to write about and share, I’m not exactly sure where to start. One thing for sure, I’m in a different place now than I have been in a long time. So this version will likely be significantly different than my first attempts. 

I was recently talking to my staff at Rose Bowl that my last month has felt like I was on an out of control horse just doing my absolute best to hang on and keep the horse pointed in the right direction. Now, there’s any number of different things involved that led me to this feeling, but in the end it’s also why has brought me to the point I am in at this moment. 

There’s a lot that has gone on since my last post and so much that I wanted to share, but I think that would be getting lost in the details. That journey might be a little boring for most of you, so I’ll try to keep it as high level stuff. 

Most of you will remember that I struggled a bit this summer. Pushed myself too far and needed to learn new levels, which I continue to focus on and try to “reprogram” 39 years of pushing myself over that edge more often than not knowing that I’d bounce back just fine. I don’t bounce quite the same way anymore. 

Some of the things I have to touch on though: 

First off, just a few days after my last journal it was time to take Trenton to school. For those empty-nesters out there, I’m sorry. I was completely blindsided by the emotion I (we, but Kristine is smarter than me and knew it was coming) felt when we drove off. Now, we could not be more excited for him and really have no doubt that he will have an incredible experience as a Bear. The week before he spent with friends, we knew he’d miss them, so no problem. We drove up the coast for a few days taking him up, which was awesome, but he of course had his own room and we had a puppy, so outings were limited. All still good and amazing time with him. Move him in, all good. 👍🏼 Stay one more night to make sure he’s all settled, we go see him and grab an ice cream sandwich, say goodbye, and still just enjoying it all. Then we get in the car to head south…. are you kidding me? Not going to lie. My emotions took over and the waterworks came hard. The definition of bitter-sweet. So happy for him, but I miss having him around. 

The very next day after arriving home, I was supposed to have my scan. Once again I was late getting it scheduled though and this time didn’t go as smoothly. Scan could only be scheduled a week later. Now that was a long week! Coming off the summer I had and the pain I had felt, my scanxiety was off the scales. Scan and bloodwork all came back once again stable and good. So it was on to the next 12 weeks, which I incredibly coming up again in roughly 4 weeks, but I’m on top of it this time and have it scheduled already. 👌🏼

Those updates just to get to where I am now, and that’s kind of hard to explain. I’ve laughed a bit recently at the fact that just how “slow” I am. I’ve tried to explain to people that I’ve been doing quite a bit of “soul searching” recently. Before I go into it though, I wanted to clarify that I think it’s more like I’ve been doing a lot of “soul exploring”. I think I’ve been in touch with my soul, in varying levels during different period of times, so I’m not really “searching”. I think I’ve been exploring it more so I more than aware, but I understand it. So, for those keeping score (which isn’t good btw, not everything should be a competition… (he says to himself)), it only took me like 2 1/2 years to have a life changing epiphany after facing my mortality. 

I’m going to try to use this exact process to explain my feeling. So I have had questions in my head over the last year. Nothing crazy, just thinking about life, what I want to be doing, what means the most to me, why I do things, etc. I’ve been exploring, and for a year I aimlessly explored. I did it though while taking some of my own pressure off my coaching as an assistant only and not having that direct responsibility for performance. Ok, that didn’t take as much as in the end as I had hoped, but it did more often than not during training. So it was a good year. Then came the summer and I didn’t follow my own “coaching soul”. Performance became a little too much of the focus for me, I pushed instead of lead, and I didn’t do the job I wanted to. Imagine that, I fall off of what my true being is and I struggle? 

So, there I am and now starting to really question things. So what comes up? Kristine and I re-listen to the book, MindSet by Carol Dweck. If you haven’t, you really should, fantastic book. Which reminds me of that true growth mindset, and that I can either believe that I can learn and grow or that I am destined to repeat the same mistakes and experience the same failures. Okay, that fits pretty well in the process here for sure. 

Then we moved on to the book, Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukav. So this one is all about your spiritual being and your soul. I have found this book incredible and has helped me make so many connections throughout my life. I’ll have to listen to this like 3 times to get half of it, but here’s the one thought that connects so many different times in so many ways throughout my life. In the simplest of terms your life (personality) will function optimally when it is lined up with your soul. I’ll come back to this thought in a second. 

So then at USC they bring in a life coach to work with the coaching staff and she runs a full version of the DISC assessment (behavior analysis). Yet another piece of the puzzle that has settled into place during this journey. It’s funny, I say so often that I’m amazed at how things “just seem to work out”. Or maybe I should say that when I am lined up with my soul, it happens so often. 

So, it’s clear to me that when I am on the right path for me (meaning my approach to life), that things just seem to fall into place. I would still call those things blessings, but to me, those blessings come by following the path of your soul. 

What about the bad times in your life? I have thought back to some of my worst times, those times that I didn’t know if I could get through. I’m not going to review all my bad decisions, but the bottom line is clear to me, it was me that caused that pain. Bad things will happen, there’s no way around it. But the struggles in my life, during those “bad things”, was entirely based on my own decisions. Decisions that I could justify because of what happened, or what someone else did, or how I was cheated, or the world is against me, or anything else you can think of as an excuse. That “bad thing” opens a door for us to run through pointing it going look what it made me do. 😩 I made decisions that made the hardest times in my life as hard as they were. My conscious decision were not in line with my subconscious and my actions not lined up with my soul. It’s so clear to me now. 

Okay, one last story and I’ll wrap this up for anyone still following along. 😊 This past Friday we had a dual meet at USC and I had a bit of an a-ha moment on my way home. You’d think after a 15 hour day including morning workout, Jr day (socializing with Jrs and their parents), and a meet and a dinner with parents/alumni/swimmers that I would have been exhausted but I wasn’t. I actually had an energy that I hadn’t felt in a long time. 

I feel like I have finally really realized what my “coaching soul” is and how I can best use it for the athletes and for myself. As I look now, it’s something I’ve mentioned in the past but never found my clear vision. Friday’s meet gave that to me. I let ego and results get to me too much, and it took away my joy in coaching. I looked around and saw these top end coaches for years using fear, anger, and negativity to produce top results, and I think I allowed myself to get caught up in that approach. That approach though is absolutely horrible for me. I can’t stand it, but yet it took me like 4 or 5 years to really see it. 😕🤷🏼‍♂️

The meet, in ways I can’t really explain, was this calm of being able to have meaningful conversations with the swimmers and just enjoy leading those that would come up to me. I felt connected, which has been my worry over the past year, and I just had fun coaching them.  

So I have learned that I need to stay true to my approach to coaching or what I am referring to as my coaching soul. While I am competitive and I hate to lose, it’s not why I am in this sport. At the same time, I also know that this approach will work great for anyone and everyone willing to follow it. I do this job because I want to help improve people’s lives. I want to have a positive influence on these athletes and inspire as many people as I can to reach higher, believe in themselves more, and remember to enjoy life along the way. Swimming to me is the ultimate vehicle to teach life lessons, but my true passion are the athletes and leading them to a great life ahead by learning incredible life lessons through swimming. 

Alright, so I think that’s probably enough of an update. It’s been a crazy time and I still have some work to do to be caught up, but I am now at “peace” and what a great realization that was this morning. I was preparing for my weekly life coach call and when asked about “challenges or problems facing”, I felt the answer was really just, “at peace”. I don’t feel overwhelmed, I’m not upset about the little things I can’t control, I’m not necessarily “happy”, but I am in a good place. As I try to explain it, I realize just how nice it is to be at peace, and the surprising thing is it is happening in the middle of a time I was letting everything else weigh on my mind. 

So being “at peace” is a nice place to be, and now it’s time to get back to living my life and enjoying every moment of it. 

Thanks all and I wish you all the best! 

Limits tested, limits found

I’m going to start this with two thoughts. First is that this entire post will be a practice in my process and a therapeutic exercise for me, so it might be a little more about my hurdles than you care to read (which is perfectly understandable). The second is that I want to make it clear that since my last post I have really felt pretty darn good, which may be what led me to this point.

As you might be able to tell from the title, I ended up pushing myself a little too far this summer, and have paid the price the last few weeks. It’s definitely not one thing either. Instead it’s my failure in my own process, it’s stress, and what I’m coming to understand in that what I believed to be a strength of mine, is now showing up as a weakness.

I’ll start with just laying out my plan, and what I can clearly see now as a bit overly optimistic. This all started when my schedule was as such:

Three straight days of camp – all day on deck, with the majority of it entirely focused on swimmers. I thought it was the best camp I’ve personally led, but it’s definitely taxing.

A few days later I left for World Champ Trials, a week in Indianapolis. Thus far I was good, in fact great. Consistent in working out, decent on process, etc. Feeling as good as I have in years really. But I was only getting started.

After a week there, I flew home on a Sunday morning, spent a few hectic hours at home getting ready to turn around and fly to Croatia for a 2 week training trip with Rose Bowl. This is where the wheels started coming off for me.

As I start I want to make it clear that everything I am experiencing is on me, no one else is responsible in any little bit.

The travel was fine and the camp started great, as we had 3 days of doubles and meetings, and as a coach, I was pretty happy. Then came the hurdles and the stress that I am still recovering from a bit.

Here’s the deal. Croatia is an absolutely beautiful country and the people are amazing. If I was going on vacation it would have been incredible, but I wasn’t on vacation, I was there to work. The problem is I failed to take into account the “vacation effect” of taking 24 swimmers to a place like that, yet asking them to focus on their swimming more than ever. I refuse to admit that it can’t be done, but I do know that it’s going to take more from me to make sure I have a plan that will work and I have the swimmers there that are focused first on their swimming.

So I get asked a lot, “how was it” and my answer is always the same, the location, country, etc are amazing, as a training trip, we didn’t get half of what we could have overall. Of course, some were incredibly focused, but then there were others clearly on vacation and wanting to “experience” everything. This then had me doing a lot of soul searching. Should I care as much as I do, or should I “just enjoy it”. I get it, there are a lot of coaches out there that would have just enjoyed the experience and just gotten what they could have out of the trip. I also understand that in the end I coach a club high school team in this case.

I accept that I did not plan the trip that I should have, but I do not believe I need to change my outlook. I was told, in a very nice email not too long ago, that this person really saw me as a professional coach. Not by definition of being paid, but by my approach to what I do. I explained to the group at one point that I understand I am different than most this way, but if my experience in Croatia was only being on deck and coaching (especially with the view of the coast we had), it would have been amazing for me. It’s something I’ve learned through this journey, I love my job.

In the end, the swimmers had a great trip and I learned a lot as a coach, so in many ways the trip was a success. The only problem is I failed to manage my own stress levels, added to the schedule and a lack of process in a number of areas, and it has left me in more pain than I have been in since my diagnosis. My back and core (“insides”) was definitely different pain than 2 and a half years ago, but the worst I have felt since that time. Which if you can imagine, didn’t do great things for my head. From there I was on the struggle bus for a ride that has slowed down for sure, but still working on coming to a stop and getting off this thing.

So, I think you get the point, and while I feel weak just “whining” about this type of stuff and now sitting out of prelims to make sure I get some rest. This is one of the hardest things I do now. Learning to take care of myself is very tough thing. This is where I found what I thought was a strength is a weakness in this case. Through my swimming career I prided myself on working hard and pushing through. How’s that old saying go? When the going gets tough, the tough get going. It’s clearly an attribute that I think takes a lot of people to great success and has served me well over the years, but I also now believe it can be an attribute that takes you right by that success and into a hole if you aren’t careful. I have so much to learn about what true strength is and how I tell the difference of “just working harder” like it was ingrained in me through swimming or working smarter and taking care of myself when it’s needed.
I think that will do it for now. In the end, I know I am fine. I am feeling better as I go, and the remnants I am still feeling are clearly associated with the stress I am under now. I have found that my body is not a fan of stress. I don’t think it’s good for any of us, I just feel it in my mid-section immediately, and that reminds me of things I’d rather not focus on. So it’s time for me to get things done, decrease my stress as soon as possible, and get back to my process.

Thanks all for the support and, if you made it all the way here, for reading my therapeutic ramblings.

And on to the next 12 weeks we go

To be clear from the beginning, blood test and scan were both good news! Blood test shows everything completely back to normal (including liver enzymes) and the scan shows all as stable from the last scan. Again, I’ll have more detail once they do the over-read for the trial, but the net result is everything is great. 

So that’s it then. First 12 week cycle without any treatment at all and all remains stable. It’s strange, while yes I am very excited and happy, what I am experiencing most is just plain relief. The build up over the last few days has hit me I think, added to not the greatest nights sleep over past couple days, and I am feeing this “let down” almost. Mentally worn out for sure, but don’t mistake that at all for a lack of happiness. It’s just been a crazy few days of thinking about this in ways that I hadn’t really in a long time. I talk to people about it every so often and I’m actually happy to do it. I’m honored they care enough to ask and want to know, and for some reason I’m able to just let it go immediately after. It’s like that’s just my past that I am sharing, but in reality it’s my life. Cancer will likely come after me again and again I will be ready. 
For now though, I celebrate the victories along the way. I celebrate getting that much more time with my family, living my life, and getting to coach some incredible swimmers at USC and Rose Bowl. 
I also want to thank all of you for your incredible support. As one of my swimmers put it, cancer messed with the wrong hombre here, and I couldn’t agree more. Not just because of who I am or how I hate to lose though, but more in that the TEAM I have behind me is absolutely phenomenal. I still cannot believe all of the support I have received in the past and continue to now, and I just want to once again sincerely thank all of you for your love and support along this journey. 
Cheers to yet another stable scan and to all of YOU that help give me the strength to FIGHT ON! 

Life flies by… 

Well, apparently life flies by pretty fast. I had the wrong meet as my reference point (NCAA instead of Pac 12’s), so what I thought had been 8 weeks was really 11. 😬 So that makes this week Scan week. 😳 Many thanks to my incredible TEAM of doctors, I went from not knowing to having a blood test, scans and Dr appointment all within an hour. 

On the positive side, I found a way around a week or more of anxiety. If you don’t know when it is until 2 days before, you don’t worry about it nearly as much. 😊 (yes, I like emojis if you can see them) 

But I am within those days now. I’ve been having a non-stop conversation of thought in my head. Questions, followed by my “answers”. I seem to have a pretty good answer to every concern so far, but the one that remains isn’t really a question, so there really isn’t an “answer” to be given. It’s the fact that we just don’t know. I truly believe that I am still good at this point, but I also know there’s a chance. All of the feelings and symptoms I remember from before were from a pretty advanced stage. My guess is that since this treatment has worked so well for me and gotten rid of the majority of locations it had spread, that I won’t feel any symptoms before it shows up on the scan. Because of my read on it, I tend to put a little more worry about the results. I’ve imagined the situation in my head many times. If the time is to come that the scan reveals growth, hearing the news, and all while still feeling great and on a regular schedule. Which is an idea, I think I am going to plan how I hear that news now, just so I am in control of something in that process. 
So now I sit in the waiting room to get my first blood test done in like 11 weeks, and wait for my scan tomorrow. Now is when the mind spins, and just as well as I was able to put it out of my mind during the previous 11 weeks, I am now not able to get it off my mind. I work to relax, it’s been a great time to be back on a schedule of swimming, but the end result doesn’t have it off my mind at all. Positive thing is that it’s only a couple days of this and then we get the results. 
As K puts it, it’s just feedback. If it’s time for the next step of the journey, then that’s the way it goes. And if cancer thinks that I am going to give in, it doesn’t know me very well. And, thanks to the incredible researchers, developers, and everyone involved in fighting cancer, we have more possibilities than ever before to fight this thing. While I would much rather avoid it, just as I have said before, I will fight for every day I get to live my life and love my family. 
Thanks for “listening” to my state of mind, and I’ll be in touch in a couple days.