It has been several weeks since my last post, and I must admit, it is because I have been very distracted. I had fully intended to continue chronologically with my story and the lessons I learned along the way. But the truth is I just needed a break. I needed to pause from reliving the journey. I did not want to think about cancer for a while. It was surprising to me that I simply was unable to just continue writing. But, as a mentor recently commented to me, it is all still very fresh and very personal. I allowed myself to become distracted from thinking about cancer, and it was good.
As I prepared to start writing again, I realized that there was a relevant lesson in my recent experience. In reflecting back on the first weeks after my diagnosis, I was reminded of how I actively pursued “distractions” to keep my mind from being totally focused on and preoccupied with cancer. And I continued to do so through out the treatment and recovery process. Even as my body deteriorated under the stress of radiation and chemotherapy, I kept my mind focused on things of interest and importance to me.
If I think back to where I left the story, which is still on the adventure cruise in Antarctica, I recall how I immersed myself in learning about the wildlife, the environment and the history of man’s exploits in this remotest of continents. When I had free time, I prepared notes and slides for classes I was committed to teach at the University of Pennsylvania. It was enormously helpful to be able to occupy myself with subjects other than cancer.
I have used the phrase “battling cancer” conjuring up the image of war. When I think of soldiers awaiting battle, I think of how important it is to have ways to occupy their minds, to rest and recharge, and to stay sharp. When you think about yourself or a loved one battling cancer, the need is equally important.
If you are spending time with a person battling cancer, you can be a source of positive distractions. If the cancer fighter wants to talk about their experience, by all means engage and indulge the conversation. But recognize that the person continues to have interests, plans and needs, and does not want to be singularly defined by the cancer.
In the early days and weeks after diagnosis, it is easier to do things that can take your mind off of the cancer. It just takes discipline and will power to do so. I know from my own experience, however, that it gets harder as you proceed through treatment, especially if treatment includes radiation and/or chemotherapy. It gets harder to concentrate and it can get harder to read for extended periods of time. Still, there are ways to be gainfully distracted. For me, podcasts, the Food Channel, Ted Talks and the Stanley Cup playoffs were effective even when times were tough.
So, what has kept me distracted during my short hiatus from writing for this blog? I had some wonderful distractions. But I cannot honestly blame any or all of them for my not writing or publishing a post for a few weeks. Still, I must share some of the excuses I could have tried to use.
My youngest son, Cameron, turned 21 on March 24 and we had a big celebration. Those of you who know Cameron will understand when I say that he was the star of his own birthday show. Cameron sang and danced, and entertained his appreciative guests with seven costume changes, which brought Elvis, The Greatest Showman, Johnny from Sing, School of Rock, Grease, Mary Poppins and Mama Mia to life. Down Syndrome has never been a disability for Cameron. Wow. I am so thankful for my overcoming cancer and being here to witness this incredible celebration of life.
I enjoyed a week in Beaver Creek, Colorado with my wife, Cameron and four very special friends. We enjoyed plenty of good food, drink, music and laughs. I hit the slopes and skied 7 days in a row. I was able to do so because of the expertise of my awesome trainer, Christian, who has guided my physical recovery since last July. (In fact, I had 23 pain-free days on skis this year.) I am so thankful for the level of fitness I have been able to achieve in a relatively short period of time.
I have also been very busy with current and planned business ventures. (I don’t believe in traditional retirement.) My management consulting and executive advisory work is my most substantial undertaking. I am equally excited about plans for a Recovery, Performance and Longevity center, aimed at bringing cutting edge technology to help people heal, to achieve high levels of performance, and to maintain functionality, flexibility and strength through their 80s and 90s. I am passionate about this area, and I look forward to helping to improve the lives of many people. I intend to leverage my own experience is a positive way.
I feel better now.I am ready to get back to telling the story of my very different journey. Next time we will pick up the story with my return from Antarctica, my first Pet Scan and my first meetings with Oncologists.