Time is Precious

I realized early in the cancer journeys with my mother, Maxine, and wife, Alyson, that time is precious and finite. Our time on this earth is fleeting, often said to go by at the “blink of an eye.”

These experiences caused me to reassess the value that I placed on time and what I really considered to be my priorities in life.

I was never one that felt the need to define my being with material things. I would never say something like “I live in a $450,000 house (which I don’t). Instead, I’d be more likely to say, “I live in a house that is warm and welcoming, and friends say feels comfortable to them.” One of my go-to sayings that I think captures this sentiment best is: “I want all my belongings to be able to fit in the back of my Ford pick-up truck.”

A new measure of happiness … time

But as I went through my cancer journeys, my priorities shifted. It was no longer about how much (or how little) stuff I had. Or how well liked I was. In this new world order, I found a different type of personal happiness and fulfillment; one that involves family and friends that have a similar appreciation of time and friendship. These relationships are very special because the people are authentic, comfortable in their own skin and “givers” (see prior blog post: A giver has got to know his/her limitations).

Now, I also try to focus on investing my time in activities that give me a real sense of joy and accomplishment. I seldom find myself in situations that are uncomfortable or “just not my deal.” Now that I understand just precious time is, I have learned that the word “no” is not a bad word. In fact, it often leads to a more enjoyable experience for all parties because each participant is committed and all-in.

And that led me to write the following poem. Have these questions in mind as you read it:
“How would your life and decisions change if you knew the end was near? Would you play it safe or take a risk and venture outside of your comfort zone?”

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Time is Precious…

How would your life change if you had but one year?
How would the news impact your hopes, dreams, and fears?

Would you invest more time in your current profession?
Or feel the need for greater purpose and expression?

Would you settle on a relationship long since grown stale?
Or seek a special bond you know will prevail?

Would you surround yourself with loyal friends from the past?
Or spend time with new acquaintances unlikely to last?

Time waits for no one and only you hold the key.
To unlock the door and set yourself free.

So live each day as if you had but a few.
And savor every moment like you are starting anew.

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Remember. Time is precious. Live every day to its fullest.

5 Stages of Grief

When you hear that cancer diagnosis, this is usually the start of the grief cycle for many people. It’s not full loss in terms of a death or permanent loss, but it’s still grief. It’s helpful, I think, to understand the five stages of grief to help you through your cancer battle. These can be helpful both to patients, but also to loved ones who are walking alongside on the journey.

Stage 1:  Denial & Isolation

Often when we get bad news, we simply want to hole up and not see anyone. We can be in a mode of simply wanting to ignore the problem.  When it comes to cancer, sometimes we don’t have the luxury of ignoring things and we must act fast. Either way, we may find ourselves wanting to isolate and separate ourselves from other loved ones.

Stage 2:  Anger

At some point, as we go through grief, we get to a point of feeling angry.  We have a low patience level for things and can get upset over anything – cancer-related or not. Anger may come out to any number of people, from family to the doctors, to God, to even the unsuspecting cashier at the store. 

Stage 3:  Bargaining

As anger wears off, we start trying to take control back and often that comes in the form of “if only” statements. We might say things like “if only we knew sooner,” or “if only we could get another opinion.” We start to bargain and evaluate the situation.

Stage 4:  Depression

Depression can come in terms of emotions related to practical needs, but it can also come out and show itself in a deeper, more quiet expression. Depression can be hard, but I think it’s the most expected emotion we expect ourselves to feel and what we expect out of others. It’s becoming more and more accepted to feel depression and it’s not a shameful emotion to walk through. When we realize, though, that our depression is lingering longer than just a season, we need to get help.

Stage 5:  Acceptance

Reaching the point of acceptance can be a true gift. We have more clarity about our situation at this stage and have a lot of power as a result. We can truly fight our cancer fight with everything we’ve got. 

Is any one stage of the cycle wrong to be in? How long does the cycle take? Can the order shake up? 

The more I dug into this topic, the more questions came up. Since I’m not a licensed counselor or therapist, I know that there may be other people who can speak into this more than I can. What I do know is that by voicing these stages, it gives us all freedom to walk through our battle with grace, knowing that it truly is a journey.  We sometimes have to walk through some hard seasons. Let’s do that together and realize that there are people walking through the grief cycle in all walks of life and in all kinds of grief. Let’s walk together. 

5 Ways To Be A Confident Caregiver

Practical Tips For Caregivers of Cancer Patients

If you are about to become a caregiver or just found out that you are a caregiver of someone with cancer, odds are, you have a lot of new things running through your head.  There is a lot you need to know and a lot that you need to learn.  Being a caregiver is a job that includes not only logistics and physical needs, but also emotional needs as well.  We know that you’re often also handling all of your other responsibilities as well.  

Don’t stress, my friend!  You CAN do this and your loved one needs you now more than ever!  Here are a few simple reminders to help you move forward in confidence as a caregiver of someone with cancer.

  1. Take Notes:  There will be A LOT coming at you, so take notes and get organized from the start.  Whether you like a handwritten notebook or binder to keep notes straight, or you like a digital version on your phone or small device, find something that works.  Just remember, that you might be taking these notes a lot of places so you want something that can easily be taken into an exam room and be with you all on the go!
  2. Plan for your own health.  You can’t help your loved one if you aren’t well yourself.  Go into this cancer fight with the perspective that you will have times of exhaustion or physical limits.  Know your limits and be prepared when you hit them.  The last thing you need is to feel discouraged.  Go ahead and feel tired, but plan ahead so that you don’t burn out.  Perhaps you need others to help fill in so that you get a break from time to time.  Perhaps you can’t physically lift your loved one to help them shower or get out of bed. Think ahead to have your network of people around to help!
  3. Gather your information:   Gather the vital information that you or someone else might need.  This includes insurance information for the patient, doctors’ numbers, pharmacy information, etc.  Keep that handy for when others might step in to help or just to save your sanity and make it easy!
  4. Plan for irritability ahead of time.  Anyone going through pain and disease will feel grouchy a time or two.  Often certain medications have side effects that cause irritability.  I’ve found that when I have that as a mental reminder in my head, I don’t take things personally when my patient is frustrated.  You can love with grace instead of taking things as an offense.  
  5. Read my book.  No, seriously.  Read my book and read others like it.  I wrote Know Your Enemy because I want families to be smart about how they approach the cancer fight.  I want to help set you up for success because I believe when you know your enemy and are educated, you can fight better and smarter.  There are people like me who have walked through the cancer fight multiple times, whether as a patient or as a friend, and you can learn a lot from others!

A cancer diagnosis can be quite the shock, and many people find themselves in caregiving situations by default when that diagnosis comes.  You may not feel prepared for this next season, but trust me, you are!   You have what it takes to fight cancer with strength and walk alongside your loved one to help them fight with all they’ve got too!  

Staying Motivated: National Cancer Prevention Month

A wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings, and learn how by his own thought to derive benefit from his illnesses.
– Hippocrates

As you may or may not know, February is National Cancer Prevention Month. What I like about this particular campaign, is that it focuses on prevention in addition to awareness.

Keeping in mind that cancer prevention is possible by making simple lifestyle adjustments, I’ve thankfully been able to gain focus on getting my health in check for February and for the rest of the year.

Here are 3 things I would recommend to do to create good exercise habits for the rest of 2017 in honor of Cancer Prevention month:

Challenge Yourself to Daily 30 Min Exercise
Take 30 minutes each day to get the body moving and blood pumping. It doesn’t have to be extreme and there’s no need for a gym membership. You just need to get up and get outside for some physical activity. On the days when you are not feeling up to a challenge, step it up with some bike riding, running or weights. The important part is to just keep your body in motion.

Evaluating and Optimizing your Diet:
The key here is balance. So, plan on incorporating more plant-based foods into your diet and limit processed foods and red meats. With the reports linking red meat consumption to colon cancer, this should be a no-brainer. Boosting your nutrition habits will help fortify your immune system and cut the risk of cancer.


Maintain a Healthy Weight.
Carrying around excess weight is not only bad for your joints and can place strain on your cardiovascular system; it has also been linked to different types of cancers. Keeping your weight at a solid and steady level will not only prevent chronic health conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes, it can also help prevent against types of cancer. As a bonus, if you follow the first two steps, maintaining a good weight shouldn’t be hard.

The American Institute for Cancer Research has estimated that about one-third of the most common cancers in the US could be prevented by simply exercising, eating better and keeping your weight in check. Read more at American Cancer Society: Weight and Cancer .

For those of us who have made resolutions for 2017 to get healthy, this is great source of motivation to keep going. And for those of us who have had trouble keeping our resolutions, this is the perfect time to give ourselves a second chance.

Just remember, it’s never too late to change your habits and yourself for the better.

Please feel free to share your own story or leave some kind words of encouragement in the comments section below.

I hope the rest of 2017 and beyond, finds you healthy and happy.