Finding Hope through chaos

In an attempt to reignite my writing process, I thought I’d start with a blog, and it just seems fitting to talk about Hope in this time of chaos. I’m going to do my best to avoid political potholes here, as unfortunately I think that’s part of our overall problem. Instead I am going to focus on Hope and the things I think grow from that foundation.

The word hope gets utilized all the time, from anything like “I hope you are well” to the deep hope of survival that some experience during their lives, like my fellow cancer thrivors. The range of strength of the word I think leaves some lost on just how strong the word is and even more in the feeling. Hope isn’t just some wish for something good to happen.

In my experience, I’ve found that those who have had Hope tested, but have otherwise leaned on it to get through that time, are the people who truly believe in the power of Hope. It’s not about Faith either. Faith in more about the belief that your journey is meant to be, that there is a higher meaning, and that you can lean on that as support in whatever happens. Hugely important, but I state that only to share my separation of those two words/feelings.

Hope is what feeds your strength, when all else appears to be lost. Even for the most confident and full of belief, hope is what brings people back from the brink. It is that last line of defense before completely giving up, and exactly why I think it is so important to share the Power of Hope.

And never let anyone tell you that you have “false hope”. What is that supposed to mean? They honestly believe that you’ve reached a point where you should give up all Hope and just let things happen? First off, this world has too many incredible things happen to ever think that it’s impossible, but even more I go back to my thought of Hope. When you have Hope it actually isn’t about the future to me. Hope is what can get you up in the morning and it is what lets you live your life with more positivity and optimism (which is good for all of us).

Let’s see if I can put that into reality. I am a big believer in Hope, not because I am here today, but rather because it allowed me to live my life in a positive manner even when I didn’t know if I would be here today. I needed it most when Doctors looked at me like I was a foregone conclusion. I had to fight for it, in fact I needed support so that I didn’t lose it, but once I understood the power, I have vowed to never give it up again.

The past is done, we need to let it go. The now is what we control and that’s about Hope and Love. The future is largely not in our control, so we leave that to Faith. In this time of chaos, I think we need to remember to just live one day at a time. If you need a rest day, take it, but never give up Hope. Let Hope lead to dreams, dreams lead to goals, goals to action (process), and action to results, then you just decide where to reinsert yourself back into the Process of Hope. (earlier blog, Feb 2019)

It is my wish that you are all well and managing to take care of yourselves during this time. And whether it be during this time or anything else that you are ever tested with, remember to never give up Hope!

Honored and Humbled

It’s been so long since I have blogged about my journey, but wow, what an incredible past couple of days it has been. It started with traveling to Washington D.C., as I was being awarded the inaugural Go2 Foundation – Rays of Hope Award in memory of Richard Heimler. I was already honored for this recognition as I traveled out, but then to meet so many members of the Heimler family that were there to help present the award, to learn more about the man Richard was and the love all those around him had for him, the hope and positivity he gave to so many, it was a bit overwhelming actually. But what an incredible honor, which then put it over the top to have learned that his daughter was also on the selection committee. It was a moment that I will never forget and thank you to all that helped in the nomination and selection (thanks Jaimi and Mike :).

And then, with all that going on in my head and this increasing pressure from the clear meaning of this award, I get to stand up in front of a room full of amazing people with unbelievable stories, incredibly strong and kind people, and people that no doubt made a difference for patients like myself to benefit from new treatments based on the funding of research we do get. (While it isn’t nearly enough, I deeply thank all those that fought for the funding we did have, as it has clearly given me more years to live my life.) So talk about this incredible feeling of being deeply honored and humbled at the same time, it admittedly took me a moment to gather myself.

So, stumbling my way into my short acceptance, I regrouped and was on my way. This was one of the good ones I think, if it follows my theory that is. I’m going off the idea that if I don’t remember much of the talk, I must have been in the zone and things going smoothly. At that point, I’m really only going to remember a couple things. #1 any stumbles that cause me to have to think about where I am in my story or #2 is if I get laughs (haha, okay I enjoy when people relate to my corny humor). Anyway, a couple laughs and not any big hurdles, a success on my side at least. 🤷🏼‍♂️ Getting into the zone also helps me not think about the fear of public speaking that comes up into full gear about 5 minutes before a talk and was only magnified in this case. 😬 (Even though my own family doesn’t believe me any more about my fear/nerves. 🤨) I thank all of you that took the time to introduce yourself and congratulate me on the award and short speech, it always means so much.

Then the next day brought a first for me. We “stormed the Hill” and had advocacy meetings with our So Cal/Cal constituents group and 7 different Congress/Senate offices. Sharing our stories and hoping to make a difference and bring light to a cancer that causes 25% of cancer deaths, yet receives only 6% of the funding. Or one more picture and thought here, a “passenger jet” full of lung cancer patients die daily and yet there’s no real response. Could you imagine if an actual plane went down every day? How fast would we react? The stigma of being a smokers disease needs to end. I’m not a smoker, in fact I personally hate smoke, but no one deserves this and fault is really no ones to know for sure so shouldn’t be a factor. And I hope, while it’s rapidly becoming a young, female, never-smoker issue, that we can start to do more now before we are even farther behind what’s possible.

Anyway, what a cool experience. At the same time that I can’t tell you we made a difference yesterday in our meetings for sure, I also know nothing happens unless we do the work and hope to make that connection, that earns us a champion in an office, that can grow to others, and impact a policy.

And now I sit on a plane thinking about this amazing journey. The highs, the lows, the incredible people I’ve met along the way, the gifts it has given, and the “gifts” it has given. Going through the lessons I think I’ve learned and the lessons I seem to understand well enough but fail to implement because of past habits. But what a journey this has been, and these past couple days reminded me of all of the positives that have come from this.

Thank you all once again for being a part of this journey with me.

The Process of Hope

Month of Hope Day 29 – I’ve been thinking about my “Process of Hope” lately and felt it was missing a couple key ingredients. (I have to laugh by the way, this is how I guess my analytical mind breaks down something that I’m not sure most would classify as analytical. 🤷🏼‍♂️) Optimism and Positivity play crucial roles in this process and I thought I’d add them in.

So this is my process of hope. I believe that anything that we are wanting to accomplish in life, we are somewhere in this process. Fortunately, unless you’ve been knocked hard enough in life to have your hope rattled or even taken away, you haven’t had to think about its importance, but for me, it is at the beginning of everything we do in life.

I thought today I’d jump through how I see each step. Instead of my process though, I’d thought I’d use careers paths as an example.

Hope – While many jump right through this phase, sadly some are in the position of just hoping for a job, and can’t get themselves to even dream about anything specific, just hoping for a job.

Dreams – whether dreaming of a new job in the field you want to be in or just a specific job you are trying to move to, many people allow themselves to get to this phase and just stop. Whether it’s the risk associated or belief they could actually accomplish it, they will most likely remain in this phase.

“Optimism” – While not officially a part of the process, I believe optimism is that energy that allows you to make the move from dreams to goals. It’s the ability and willingness to let yourself see that vision actually becoming a reality.

Goals – This is where things get specific. What career do you want? What is that job/position/role you want? It’s not only those specifics though, but it’s also setting up the Process. You can’t move to the next step until you set up how you are going to achieve those set goals. Once you know the result goals and then set the process goals, you take that next step.

Process – This is that piece where you are working the process. That phase where you move as quickly or as slowly as the focus and effort you put into it. You have already set up how you were going to earn that position, now is where you work for it. You are committed to reaching that Goal and are working the process in order to do it. (Yes, if you have said all the right things, but then get to this phase and aren’t really working the process needed to move forward you will be stuck here, but we’ll focus more to the positive. Which is an excellent segue into the next piece. 😉

“Positivity” – Again, not an official piece, but adds so much value. I put it in between Process and Result, as I think it is so important in both. I think too often people get lost in “positive” being “cheerleader” type approach. Positivity is your ability to see the next step forward. Whether in the middle of working your process and you get frustrated or the result comes and you are disappointed, positivity isn’t seeing those as great things in themselves, but rather seeing that those things too make you stronger and better. Positivity is accepting the result as just that, and knowing there is more you can do next time.

Result – This is an actual result or any time you decide to take a step back from working that process and evaluate where you are now. At this point you have a decision to make as to where to reinsert yourself in the process. Technically, I’d say you restart, but unless you saw or are given a result that knocks you back to Hope for whatever reason, you can really assume that all to be there. Some examples here:

Result isn’t there but still have same hopes, dreams, and goals, you reinsert yourself into the Process phase and get back to work.

Result is or isn’t there but now you have questions if this is really something want anymore. You may reinsert yourself in the Dreams phase and start looking at what that next step may be for you.

Result comes in and crushes you. Maybe you are downsized, with a specialty in a downsizing industry, and that type of thing could knock someone all the way back to just finding the Hope to move on.

This all isn’t to say it’s an easy process, but it helps me to see I can break it down into steps. It also helps me to know that I will never ever lose Hope again, so no matter what life throws at me, I will have a foundation on which I will stand and continue to live my life.

Thanks for following along as I went through my examples on the process. Yes, for me I can clearly see how I took these steps in my journey with cancer, but I think it’s more than just those situations. This is the Process of Hope that we are all following everyday, and it’s what allows us to be both amazingly caring and also resilient human beings.

Hope through hardships

Today feels like a day for a blog. It’s now officially Day 25 of my Month of Hope (but this will count as Days 23-24-25, given I am tending to take weekends off of this venture ;-), and I’ve spent a good part of the weekend and morning reflecting of things and starting to look over my journal from January 2015. It’s been interesting to see my journals for the first time in a while. That trip back 4 years doesn’t have me down at all really, but more reflective I would say, and very excited to have started the writing process officially now :). So this is more just sharing some thoughts on hope through the hardships in life.

While, yes, obviously my cancer journey has been a hardship, but I am also referring to those that your hopes may not come true. The one that comes to mind most for me is my mom and her fight against Parkinson’s. My hopes changed many times during that journey, but the key isn’t whether they came true or not, it is what that hope does for us day by day. In fact, while we always termed her as the champion of the underdog, I think that really came from her overabundance of Hope. That deep sense of hope inspires an optimism about life that is infectious, and it’s what I see in her smile every time I see it.

Life is tough sometimes, there’s no mistaking that. While positive mindsets, grit, hope, and so many other things can help you live a better life, we don’t always have control over the hardships that life will throw at us. That’s why it’s also important for us to be able to adjust your hopes and continue on. Re-enter that Process of Hope at the Hope stage and start building from there.

It’s my hope that you can understand that I realize that none of this is easy, but then that’s when we need that hope most. That is exactly the point to me. It isn’t going to ever be easy during those hardships, but hope is what can allow us to stand back up and start living again.

Here are my thoughts from the weekend:

Memories are for treasuring yesterday, any thing else is wasted

Hope is for today and choosing to live your life no matter circumstances

Faith is for tomorrow and believing that there is a bigger meaning to whatever happens

If you are struggling now, I wish for you the hope needed to continue to fight. For all others, I pray that you will never be challenged such that you lose your hope, but if you are, I pray you find it again, stronger than ever.

Thanks #TEAMjeff for following along my journey.

“Hope” in my daily life…. Month of Hope

Ok, fair warning from the start. While I am really doing this for myself in the end anyway, I do hope I can inspire at least someone with my messages as well. Today is absolutely along those lines. While there is a theme to things of how I view Hope in my daily life and messages of that Hope along the way, in the end this is a journal for me. This is that, time to download all of these thoughts running around in my head, type of blog today. So I warn you that it is long for those that would like to read it, and for those that don’t, I totally get it. 😊

As I mentioned at the onset of my Month of Hope, it was time for me to get back on my process. December is a month full of intense meets, travel, and what is really the opposite of a routine. So, while there were any number of pieces to my process that I had fallen off over that time, two seem to have sparked this blog entry, my morning routine and swimming.

Both things have really helped to clear my mind a bit over the last few weeks, but in doing so have also made me aware of more things going on in my head. It’s this weird balance of feeling more energy, clarity, and excitement but at the same time an awareness of other things as well. In an every day life type of way, I guess maybe I’d equate it to a state of flow or “the zone”. The idea of it being the same game, same things happening for the most part, but it’s the difference of being lost in the speed and quickness of it all or having things click just enough that time seems to slow down just a bit and you just start to move with what needs to get done. In that state you start positively focusing on what needs to get done and you start ignoring your negative thoughts. Energy goes up for multiple reasons, but one is that you aren’t focused on being tired and why you are so tired. At least, the mind usually starts to see the positives more, or avoid the negatives, but when part of what you are doing is trying to improve yourself, it becomes a complicated situation.

And all of that leads me to here. First off, I hope you can tell by now by the tone and above message, that I am actually in a pretty good place. While I am getting old and need to take care of myself earlier than I used to these days, my health is great. The bottom line is that I feel absolutely blessed to not just be here, but to be able to live my life.

I’ll try not to lose any of you by going too deep into it, but through the last four years I’ve gone on my own little spiritual and self-improvement journey. That’s not to say that I am looking for the answer to life or that I am trying to meet someone else’s definition of a “good person” or any definition really. No, I am just trying to be a better person in the eyes of my toughest critic, myself. When I did this though, it became this crazy journey of opening my eyes to see my weaknesses that I otherwise considered strengths at one time or really thought of myself in a different way because I only looked at certain pieces. Examples there would be an “over-reaching” grit that now leads me to push too far or a fixed mindset that pops up way more often than I would like or even thought happened.

Or something like just how much I tend to prepare for the worst in my mind. I shared this Kristine and another one of my coaches this summer actually and they both seemed shocked as I had never shared it with anyone. I don’t think I overly stress about it, but at the same time I’m not sure how it wouldn’t impact me in some way. Here’s a simple example, if we travel and are coming back together to an empty house, I somewhat expect to come back to a house that has either been broken into or caught fire. As I drive up and I see the house I relax a bit and then I walk in and look left to the TV (easiest reference point in my mind to see if someone was in the living room) to see if it is there, and enjoy being home. A little different I know and not something I want to do, just something that happens as I am driving up to the house.

I am becoming more aware of little idiosyncrasies like that in me. More aware of where I am emotionally and connected to when I am becoming over-run by an emotion of some kind. That said, there are certain pieces that I continue to fight. I used the example above on purpose, as those concerns that I have with the house haven’t actually happened, but what happens when things have happened? It’s something I seem to be struggling with more than I thought and am hoping writing will help process it.

I know everyone still reading by this point is fully aware how much I love the sport of swimming and the opportunity to inspire our athletes to learn life lessons through the pursuit of their personal excellence in the water. It’s why I have committed so much of my life to it overall, and why working 45 days straight in the past over summers didn’t phase me at all. Lately though it had been harder than normal.

I know it may seem like I like to say that I am introverted, but it may not seem like I am. Or maybe some of you understand that introvert can just as easily refer to how I need to recharge over being “shy” as part of being an introvert. I have somewhat of a mix personality that way, but it’s always been pretty clear in my life that I am a small group type person and speaking in front of people has always, and still does, scares me. As part of that as well, I hate conflict. Both relatively common I think, but when your job is to lead 400 plus families and you strongly believe it’s your job to stick to the expectations that you believe to be best for the swimmers, it has always involved a bit of anxiety and over-thinking for me anyway has I walk on deck the first time each day.

Recently though it has seemed worse. It all settles in after I’m on deck and coaching has been great, please don’t misunderstand that, but the anxiety of walking on the deck and waiting for the next issue to pop up has become a more intense feeling lately and I couldn’t quite figure it out for a while. I think I figured it out though and it all goes back to that idea of being prepared for the worst.

I’ve always struggled with the emotional piece to coaching. It’s a really difficult thing to give your heart and soul to this sport, to sometimes be treated without the respect I think is warranted to anyone who is doing their absolute best and is obviously committed to what they are doing. Then to build relationships only to see some of them fall apart because you are honestly committed to doing what you believe is best for the development young athlete but parental emotion sometimes can’t see that when they are in the middle of the harder times.

Right now I am struggling because I don’t tend to actually process things. Cancer started a processing of things like this for me, as cancer isn’t going away, but even then I tend to let things “slip my mind” more than process them. Then, 6 months later or so, I wonder why I am struggling. The “event” happened this summer and I had no doubt it impacted me at the time. As I left I questioned for the first time in my life if coaching was worth it and if I should continue doing it.

It’s similar to that old saying, it’s not paranoia if they are actually out to get you. Yes, I know it’s not whether things can or have happened, but it’s living life and not letting yourself get carried away by concern of something that isn’t likely to happen at all. For me it’s about growing as a person. I have a choice as I move forward. I can let my experiences in life allow me to grow in a positive way or I can build walls, put in what I believe to be protections in my mind, isolate myself more than I want to as part of my personality, and build anxiety up inside of me until it takes away the joy in that activity.

Wow, it’s been a while and all of this seems to just be flowing from one to the other for me, but I don’t want to take it too long here. So, you are either thinking at this point how crazy I am or how this all ties back to Hope on a daily basis. Yes, Hope is that foundation that let’s you stand and start climbing when you feel you have reach rock bottom. It has that power for sure. I believe Hope is used on a daily basis as well though. Let’s see if I can walk through how I see the Process of Hope on a daily basis.

The Process of Hope starts very simply with the willingness to hope for something “better”, and there is never a time in life that I believe we can’t, or shouldn’t, have hope of some kind.  That hope allows you to start to build a Dream. It’s that step from the general feeling of hope to a more formed and visualized Dream. This dream now allows you to start taking steps forward in reaching for it. That Dream then gets broken down into Goals, or the specific steps that will bring you closer to the Dream. Breaking it down into your daily life is then forming the Process that will allow you to reach those Goals.

Process of Hope

It’s life in a process to me. Where we are spending the most time just depends on what is happening in our life. Cancer for example clearly took me all the way back to Hope and I needed to spend a good amount of time there to understand it like I do today. While this would be a much longer blog if I went into it, Dreams become a complicated step for cancer survivors. Dreams by nature to me taking on a longer time-frame that sometimes becomes difficult to think through because of our past.

Let’s take a more simple everyday type process. I’ve said since early on that I hoped to write a book on my journey. It was something I am willing to hope for because I believe it can happen and I believe I can do it. Over the past year I would say it’s taken the step of becoming a Dream. The vision of it has started to come together and I can see it more now because I’ve been willing to take the step of dreaming about it. Just last week I’ve now moved in to the Goals stage and I’ll share the top goal here so I can feel that energy of having shared my goal. I want to finish my cancer journey book by my 5 year survivor date, January 4th, 2020 and self-publish through Amazon. Now it’s an exciting time for me, it’s time to build the process. Whether you consider part of the Goals stage or Process, it’s really just that next step. It’s figuring out how you will proceed forward towards the Goal. The Results stage is really just that and really just feedback. From there you again just go back to the appropriate stage and keep working.

A new Dream to follow? A new Goal along the same Dream? Didn’t reach your goal yet? Then we review the process and start working it again, until we get the results we want.

I hope that you all can see that life can just be a series of steps along this process, and none of it is “bad”. Negativity and pessimism really only come from expectations in my mind. You’ll notice that the above really didn’t have a “finish”.  There’s a reason I don’t put “Success” at the end of the process, as that would set an expectation and missed expectations lead to negativity, pessimism, and a lack of confidence in your ability to accomplish something.

Which will take me full circle here. I have hoped for years to have better control over how I handle stress or emotional situations, and now that I seem to be more aware of the impact on my body, that hope has become even stronger. All that said, it’s been stuck at Hope and nothing changes on Hope alone. (That’s a wish, or something you would like to have happen that you have no plan to work for or no control over happening.) Recently I’ve tried to push that into Dreams more. I’ve tried to see myself not only learning how to meditate and handle things when I feel stress build up, but how to not allow my mind to even worry about the negative potentials for no reason, or make little things bigger than they are, or any of the other crazy things our minds do to us.  I’m starting to Dream past my own limitations. I’m have started to Dream of being able to change those mental idiosyncrasies or negative habits, and think inside the way I try to lead my life on the outside. And through this blog hope to be moving to through the goals stage and now need to start developing my process to reach that goal. Meditation, swimming, reading/listening to books, writing/blogging, and the process starts…

Wow, if you have made it this far, I thank you for being on this journey with me. I hope this wasn’t sharing too much, but again figured it’s your choice to read or not. 😉  It’s all part of my process and breaking down some of that fixed mindset stuff. Breaking down some of those “walls” trying to act like I have this all figured out and being worried about being judged by my actions all the time. In fact, I’m still waiting to feel like I have it all together like I thought adults my age now did when I was a kid, but that would be a whole different blog.

My Month of Hope continues with a 3-day worth blog to get me through day 18 now. Thank you again to everyone on this short journey through Hope. It’s been a great way for me to start 2019, and I am looking forward to a great year ahead of learning and growth.

There’s no such thing as “false hope”!

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As I was thinking through my “Month of Hope”, I had originally thought this would be a quick post and I would just leave it as simply as that, There’s no such thing as “false hope”. So, that’s it in a nutshell, but as I was thinking it through this morning, I wanted to explore that a little more in a blog entry.

Before I start, please understand that while I have personally been blessed in my cancer journey thus far, I am very much aware that the hope demonstrated doesn’t always turn out how one was hoping. And I really wish to convey first that this isn’t meant to be a judgement on anyone’s personal journey, how things were approached, or against some that even possibly hold a resentment towards the hope that was felt in past heartache, these are just my thoughts for those interested.

With that said, it seems to me when people speak of “false hope” they are not really understanding what “hope” is or at least what I believe it can be for people. “Hope” is never a promise of a certain thing happening in the future. Nothing can do that for us. Hard work is about the closest thing I can think of that can come close to a promise of something in the future, but I digress. To call something “false hope” because it’s not likely to happen misses the point entirely, and sadly takes hope away when I think it is needed most.

“Hope” isn’t a promise for tomorrow, in fact I don’t really think it’s about tomorrow in the end. Yes, we are hoping for something better tomorrow, but if you really look at what “hope” means to people, it’s not about tomorrow.

“Hope” is a state of mind in which we live life. It’s about how we live today, with that foundation of hope beneath us. No one knows what tomorrow brings, but even more reason to me to live today with “HOPE” established firmly in your heart.

#MonthofHope #Day4 #Hope #TEAMjeff #LiveLife #Catchthelittlemoments


My view on Hope…

Day 2 of my “Month of Hope” and I would like to share what “hope” means to me. Seems like that might be a good place to start these posts, I guess. 😏

Hope is something that has taken on an entirely deeper meaning to me over the course of my journey. I actually share my journey of needing to fight for hope in doctor visits when I get the opportunity to share my story. All when I thought we were going to try to find a TEAMmate to help me fight. This isn’t that story though. This is more about the result of how I see hope now.

My short definition is that hope is the belief that something better is possible tomorrow. It’s really quite a basic belief, but after my experience, I believe it to be the foundation in which we build life. Not the only one, in fact a notebook I was given and use for notes on these types of things seems to lay out three pretty important foundations. Faith, Hope, and Love. Define them all as you wish in your life, but they are all pretty important foundational pieces.

I’m talking about Hope though. That belief that something better is in store. It’s amazing to me how when things are going well hope springs eternal, but when we actually need that foundation the most, we are willing to let it be taken away. When we hit rock bottom we need to realize that the rock that we have hit is hope that we can now stand up and move forward. Hope is that exact willingness to stand up when all else seems lost.

Hope may very well be one of the most basic of things in life, yet I believe it to be one of the most powerful as well.

Let’s see if I can tie a couple of these things together. At least share how I view it a bit. Let’s imagine that you feel lost and in the dark. If your personal faith or whatever you believe to be true about life is your “light” in that darkness, then Hope is your ability to let your eyes refocus to that light and allows you to see a way forward from where you are now.

Hope is a strength that I pray none of you ever give up. It’s not easy and we may lose it from time to time, but never ever let someone take your hope away and definitely never just give it away yourself. If you find yourself needing it, be willing to let your hope lead the way. And once you do, then be willing to get to work to get back to where you want to be.

Thanks for joining me on my Month of Hope. I am sharing some of my deeper thoughts on hope, but maybe you will also find pieces that connect with you. From here there will be shorter thoughts on hope and it’s impact on my life. Thanks again all for being a part.

#MonthofHope #Jan4Feb5 #LiveLife #Catchthelittlemoments #Hope #TEAMjeff

A “Month of Hope” to celebrate 4 years!

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I will forever celebrate “new year’s” just a few days later than most. Today, January 4th, 2019 marks a full four years since I was first handed the diagnosis of lung cancer. And with the blessing of being here and getting to live life, what a journey of life lessons learned this has been for me. If I were to really be open and honest, it’s more about the life lessons I have been exposed to and am now working on to truly learn. It’s all a process and never an easy one, but I am just happy to be here to enjoy this journey.

I have decided that I am going to go through my own, “Month of Hope” (Jan 4th (diagnosis) to Feb 5th (treatment began), to share something that has come to mean so much to me through this journey, which is my feelings on “Hope”, and to help myself get back on my process of healthy living and finding personal balance by doing things for me like writing. I figured using this Month of Hope would help me get back on things that I have let slip and celebrate life for all it offers us and the hope for a better tomorrow.

To be honest, I wasn’t exactly sure where this post was going to go. I just wanted to share my journey of a Month of Hope and thank all of you for everything you have given me over the years. Things as simple as kind words or prayers have meant so much, and then to see what I have seen in support and love, I still tear up to this day thinking about that piece of it. It’s been an incredible 4 years.

I found what I wanted to share though. As I typed of getting back on my process, new year’s, my month of hope, etc., I kept thinking about resolutions. In the end, it’s all that I am looking to do. I resolved 4 years ago that I really should be living a healthier lifestyle and Kristine and I have continued to explore what that means for us nutritionally, physically, mentally, and any other way that may come up.

So, I hear, or read, about so many people saying resolutions shouldn’t be used. They always “fail” anyway. It’s pointless to set them and then just feel bad about not doing them. I guess I understand that those people aren’t “wrong” about the results, but I feel like they are missing the point. I wanted to offer my suggestions on how not to give up on resolutions, but to change your approach to them instead. My suggestions on how to approach your resolutions.

  • Call it a resolution, goal, or whatever you want, the bottom line is this is something you have decided that you want to do, awesome! And January 1st seems like a pretty easy to remember start date for this venture to me. So far so good, I don’t see any negatives there.
  • Change isn’t easy, you need to believe in “why” you want to do this resolution. It’s the first step and often the most missed one. Motivation is fleeting if it is not backed by a deep sense of why you want to make this change. Is this just a fleeting decision likely to be replaced by something else? Is this something you have always “wanted” and “failed”, and just continue to say you want? Ask yourself “why” and decide if that “why” is strong enough to start the process.
  • What’s the process? Whatever the resolution is, there’s a process to get to it. If you believe you can just make the one “simple” change, this is going to be nearly impossible to stay consistent or even ever be successful in the first place. Quick example, I want to sleep 8 hours a night. Simple resolution, my wake up is 6am, so that simply means I need to be sleeping by 10pm. If I leave it simply at that, I would be shocked if it worked, even with the “why” behind it. But if you take the next steps of looking at what that means to the rest of the evening; dinner should be at this time so I am done eating x hours before sleep, turn off electronics x hours before bed, going to do this to wind down, etc.; then your odds of being successful will skyrocket.
  • Be realistic on what you call success. The last step in giving yourself the best opportunity is really to be more realistic on what you consider success and the timeline it needs to be done. If we quit everything we ever “failed” at, we would not be a very advanced society. To make a resolution at 100% or bust is only setting yourself up for failure from the start. This is a year long process for you to find a way to make it a habit. If it means something to you, then see the little successes along the way and just keep taking those little steps.

Thanks for reading this journal, and if you do want to follow along, my “Month of Hope” will include different social media posts and journal entries about Hope, what it means to me, and what I believe it can do for all of us.

It’s this strange blend of the fastest 4 years of my life and yet thinking back through how blessed I am to be here and experience all that I have been given over those same 4 years it seems like there is so much. I guess that is it in the end, even with the ultimate blessing of being here to live life fully, it still all goes by way too fast. I hope that each of you will remember to enjoy the day, catch the little moments, and remember how blessed we all are to be living life.

#Hope #LiveLife #catchthelittlemoments #4yrCanceversary

Pushing through…

This topic was recommended to me a few weeks ago by a friend of mine and while it had obviously come up for a reason back then, now seems like a perfect time to reflect on this a bit. While I’ve given it quite a bit of thought, it seems to be something I struggle with in my life. As a swimmer, and then in normal life as well, I’ve prided myself on my ability to “push through”. Be it in workouts and challenging yourself for that extra little bit or in life and just pushing through to ups and downs that come your way, is there a limit to the benefits of this skill? It’s funny to me actually, this is so ingrained in me that even asking the question seems wrong to me somehow. Maybe because I feel it’s taken me far in life or maybe it’s because I am also now a coach and far too often people don’t know how to reach for more and push through the first barriers to reach their potential, but in the end, it seems to be that health and shorter term success have different lines drawn in this case.

I write this now knowing without a doubt that I must learn where those lines are drawn and find the blend of wellness and pushing to the success I want for my swimmers. I’m hopeful to be recovering from the worst set of illnesses I have experienced in years. A fever and upper respiratory bug that floored me, only to recover for a couple days to then turn into the worst headache I have ever experienced and again taken my out for like 3 days again. In part because I wasn’t sure I could handle anything anyway and in part because I’m really trying to be smarter about these things and take care of myself, I have had to miss more workouts than I normally would in an entire year or two. In fact, I am not sure I missed this much when I was diagnosed with cancer. But still every single decision to miss workout left me feeling on edge and frustrated.

For those that know my cancer diagnosis story, it’s largely the same thing. I went through 6 months of pretty significant pain (no real idea when any “discomfort” started) before I (okay, it wasn’t even me at that point that made the decision) went into the emergency room to get checked out. In this case, the timing led to the treatment I went on and the story is a success, but only out of blessed timing.

As the Winter Olympics continues to share story after story of incredible grit, determination, and athletes that have been able to push themselves through more than their competitors and are on sports highest stage because of that push, I ask myself if it’s too much. Is it healthy to have that as what you pride yourself on? Is it possible for someone to be aware enough to know when to “push through” and when to rest? Can we coach that awareness to ourselves and/or others?

And just to complicate things a bit more, who defines those levels? I fully admit that I have a long way to go to be more self-aware of these things, but I can also appreciate that my levels are going to be different than others. For instance, I’m a stage 4 lung cancer survivor that has chosen to work 7 days a week and travel to share my story from time to time, but the general schedule is not my concern. I live better on structure and passion, it’s why swimming has always been so great for me. Many people would think that it’s too much, but I don’t share that same concern. First off, I said work, but this are really my passions and I feel extremely blessed to be able to do what I do. If I can inspire one person to live life to their potential, then it really isn’t work at all. I do understand how I must get better at taking care of my body and mind though, to help me handle the stresses of life that will always be there to some degree.

So how do we pride ourselves on being “tough” and being able to push through almost anything thrown our way, but then also be aware enough to take care of our bodies and minds when it is needed? In the era of “no limits”, how can one recognize their limit for that day and understand that sometimes rest is the best step?

I wish I had an answer that satisfied the tiger inside of me and didn’t leave me questioning if that understanding is possible and if it can be found without impacting top end performance. How does one believe they can push through any obstacle, but then understand when it’s time to not push through? For me then, how does one take the benefit of this attitude into something like a cancer journey and see the incredible benefits of it, but then also be aware enough to not beat myself up when it’s time to take a step back from the drive and let myself rest?

I’d love to hear thoughts, but for me, I’ll continue to just try to be aware. To train myself to be especially aware of things when I am too tired, sick, or stressed to want to be aware of anything, and teach myself that strength isn’t just doing the planned action or assumed expectation, but it’s about being aware of what is best in the situation and doing that. To not have my actions driven by any potential perception of others or feeling judged for not living up to the expectation I have built up in my head, that is the struggle.

It still makes me chuckle to think that when I was younger I really thought I’d have this thing called life figured out by the time I was in my 40’s. Now I feel like I am only beginning to figure out the bigger picture, or at least how the collage of life all comes together differently for each of us.

So I will continue to push through, and to try to learn when to push through and when to rest (whatever that may look like in each circumstance). I hope each of you can find your potential in everything you do, but find the balance and understanding to know when to not push through as well. I hope that each of you are extremely proud of the people you are, but also that each of you understand that there is more to you than a single skill or attribute to define you.

Push through until it’s time to rest, then rest because you know it’s the best thing for you to do at the time.

Thanks all and have a great weekend!

3 years in and ready to enjoy more of the “little” things

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: