Lose the Battle Win the War

I believe that the topic of winning is one that’s rare and special enough that you just can’t write enough about it. Today’s theme, as the title of this blog post implies, relates to the wise saying “lose the battle win the war.” I’ve found that very few successes in life, at least for me, have come without hard work and, in most cases, also rebounding from a loss or a setback.

In a previous blog entry, which I called “What Is the Definition of Winning in a Cancer Battle?,” I wrote about what it means to win from the perspective of legendary Green Bay Packers head football coach Vince Lombardi. That’s definitely worth reading. But today we’re taking a different perspective.

Winning, According to Aerosmith

As you know, my love of music often leads me to quoting song lyrics as a way to convey important life messages.

In Know Your Enemy, the 1st edition, Chapter 9 (titled “Winning Is A Mindset”) I articulated a perspective on winning that ties into the following verse from Aerosmith’s classic song, Dream on. It has one of my favorite rock song phrases of all time.

Yeah, I know nobody knows

Where it comes and where it goes

I know it’s everybody’s sin

You’ve got to lose to know how to win.

Do you get where I’m going with this?

Winning the Cancer Battle

To me, those lyrics put into words what I took away from both encounters with cancer; that you’ve got to lose or give up the sense of being in control or controlling the treatment outcome — to know how to prepare yourself to win your battle against this enemy.

During the early stages of fighting cancer, many people will begin to feel — and maybe even believe — that they are in the driver’s seat when it comes to effectively managing their cancer treatment. Chances are they are not.

There very well may come a time in this journey when no matter how much spirit you bring to the battle, the tables will turn and the feelings will become one of helplessness or vulnerability. It’s equivalent to someone grabbing the steering wheel while the car is still going down the road.

The Aerosmith lyrics I quoted describe this sensation; that is, one of losing your way and sliding back, then learning how to release control.

Surviving the “Losing” Part of Lose the Battle, Win the War

And while I am using music and lyrics to emphasize the keys points about winning is this blog, I can’t think of a better anthem then Argent’s Hold Your Head Up to help pick you up through the difficult times in your cancer journey.

And if it’s bad

Don’t let it get you down, you can take it.

And if it hurts

Don’t let them see you cry, you can make it.

Hold your head up oh, hold your head up oh.

Hold your head up oh, Hold your head high.

Every successful journey includes minor setbacks along the way. My best advice to you, your loved one, or anyone you know who is fighting cancer is this: be prepared to have the steering wheel torn out of your hands at one point or another. That doesn’t mean you’ve lost. It just means you’ve hit a pothole. And once you’ve survived that, any future potholes seem a lot less scary.

You Get What You Need

I was thinking about The Rolling Stones Classic “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” single off of their 1969 “Let It Bleed” album. More specifically, I was focusing on the depth behind the second half of that line “But if you try sometimes, you might just find, you get what you need.

How many times have you really wanted something only to find when you finally get what you want, it’s not really what you expected. Or even more important, it’s not what you thought you needed?

You Get What You Want vs. You Get What You Need

There are so many great examples of this in life: seeking something and then realizing after we get it that it’s not what we really needed. We all have our own stories. Love and money tend to be a part of many of them.

For example, you really want to make more money. So you leave your current job and take another job that pays you $10,000 more a year. That’s what you want. But after you make the change you realize that the pay raise isn’t changing your life all that much. Maybe it’s letting you go out to dinner more or lease a more expensive car. But that’s not making you happy. Meanwhile, the new job is incredibly demanding (What do you expect for more money?) and it’s taking that free time that you’d like to spend going out to dinner and making you stay late at work. You don’t like the people you work with as much and you miss your old life.

You got what you wanted. You didn’t get what you really needed.

Figuring Out Want vs. Need

Life has a funny way of tempering or grounding our envisioned wants or desires.  I’ve found on my journey that the harder I try to get what it is that I think I really want, the greater the obstacles or road-blocks keeping me from reaching or attaining “my desired want.” It’s almost as if a giant Detour sign (see Follow the Signs blog post) has been placed directly in my path. And it’s flashing… “You are about to make a really big mistake… Are you sure you want to go here?”

I’ve learned over time to adhere to the detour sign and have found that this acceptance and patience is oftentimes rewarded with an outcome better suited for me and even greater than I could have ever imagined.

When it comes to making key decisions in life, I’ve found that having the patience to really assess and think through my options–followed by an acceptance of those options based on a present-day reality–usually enable me to get more than what I need.

Keep an eye out for the detour signs in your life. Be introspective and take the time to assess your options. It will help you ensure that you get what you need more often than not.


Sometimes we can learn a lot from music. The Rolling Stones are a great example. Many of their songs, including “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” can teach us some good life lessons. We just have to listen–both to them and to ourselves.

Who’s Your Healthcare Quarterback?

You may not be the least bit interested in the NFL (or in sports at all). But sometimes, a sports metaphor is helpful in understanding something that’s important to each and every one of us. And if you’re just kicking off a health-related battle (pun intended) then stay with me as I explain your need for a “Healthcare Quarterback.”

Understanding the Quarterback’s Role

This week the NFL’s 32 teams kicked off their training camps as they begin preparation for the upcoming 2019 season. Every NFL team roster has 53 players on it. But there’s one position that has the greatest impact on the overall performance of the team: the quarterback. One of the primary goals coming out of training camp is for a team to have answered this important question: “Who is the Quarterback?”

So how does an NFL team evaluate quarterback talent? According to college and NFL talent evaluator Chris Landry, pro-quarterback prospects must have a combination of physical abilities and key intangibles. They include:

• Having total dedication to football
• Not being an excuse maker or seeker
• Inspiring confidence of his teammates
• Thoroughly understanding pro-style defenses how to beat these schemes
• Having the ability to read and react quickly and stay cool in the pocket
• Having the ability to remain calm and collected to changes in health or treatment status

In short, a quarterback is the team leader. He’s the person everyone will turn to in times of crisis. His success (or failure) will determine the team’s performance in the upcoming season.

Why You Need a Healthcare Quarterback

If you dealing with a major health issue (i.e., cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Parkinson’s etc.), you will likely have a team of people working to help you win the battle. But just like in football, there’s a need for one person to take the lead and be the decision maker throughout the process. That one person will have the greatest impact on your treatment and prognosis. In other words, you need a healthcare quarterback.

If you are thinking that your family doctor or oncologist will fill that role for you, you are in for a rude awakening. Healthcare services today are delivered in a manner similar to how a boutique-style business serves their customers; typically serving their niche market customer set only and not venturing far (if at all) from this familiar zone. Healthcare specialists provide services to their patients in their functional discipline –heart, pulmonary, oncology, anesthesia etc. – but there isn’t any one doctor that will act as your quarterback and navigate you through the healthcare bureaucracy.

How Do You Choose a Healthcare Quarterback

So, now that we know we need a healthcare quarterback, it’s time to start thinking about what characteristics this individual should possess.

Building on the characteristics of a successful quarterback in the NFL, you should look for someone that:

• Has the time and energy to dedicate to battling the condition
• Is organized, intelligent and decisive
• Inspires confidence in the healthcare team members
• Has the ability to understand complex medical procedures and jargon and how it relates to battling the condition

Before you make your decision, though, I have two additional pieces of advice.

1. Don’t exclude yourself from the list of healthcare quarterbacks.

In Know Your Enemy, the 1st edition, I wrote…

”Regarding my mother Maxine’s and wife Alyson’s battles with cancer, we learned early on that Max and Alyson, and not family members, were the real Generals [or for the purposes of this blog, the quarterbacks] controlling the battle. As such, we had to constantly reign in our personal desires and remember to live each day in the moment to stay in sync with Max’s and Alyson’s physical, emotional, and mental energies. This enlightened approach allowed us to reduce the anxiety and stress associated with a leadership void as well as delegate tasks to our troops in a more efficient manner.”

2. I highly advise against a two-quarterback system.

I could bore you with countless stories of failed attempts by college and NFL teams to implement a two-Quarterback system but this quote from John Madden, former American football and Super Bowl winning head coach, 2006 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee and NFL sportscaster, states it best: “If you have two quarterbacks, you actually have none.”

Just like every football team needs a quarterback, your upcoming medical battle needs a person to take charge, make decisions, and keep everyone calm and in line during the most difficult moments.

In the NFL, it’s all about winning and losing, and often the quarterback’s play is the deciding factor in the outcome of a game. For your upcoming medical battle, the stakes are even higher. We’re not talking about a game, we’re talking about your life. You need to have complete confidence that the person you select as your healthcare QB is game-day ready and can take charge, make decisions, and lead your healthcare team to victory! So choose wisely.

It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over: 3 Truths About Remission

I woke up this morning thinking it was time to write another blog post. Just as that thought passed through my mind, two other phrases came to me: Yogi Berra’s famous “It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over,” followed by the term “remission.” Why? Because they have a simpatico relationship.

This is an important topic as it relates to remission, but one that I didn’t cover in my book. Let me explain…

Is Remission the End of a Cancer Battle?

If you are a cancer patient or family member, every ounce of your being is probably hoping, praying and busting your tail to one day hear your doctor say… “I have good news. Your most recent test results indicate that your cancer is in remission.”

Remission, to those battling cancer, represents the end, the finish line and a cause for celebration. Or does it?

When I hear the word remission, I have a slightly different mindset and think of the phrase that Yogi Berra made famous… ”It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over.”

What do I mean by this?

It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over

Remission Truth #1: Remission does represent the end of something: the end of the current treatment regimen.

Remission represents the successful completion of your treatment regimen and you should feel good about your effort and outcome. You must, however, never let your guard down in this battle against cancer and accept that additional scans and/or strategic treatment(s), may be required in the future depending on the cancer type.

Remission Truth #2: Remission does represent the finish line, the finish line for this phase of your cancer journey.

Remission represents the finish line for this phase of your cancer journey but doesn’t mean you should automatically go back to the life you had pre-diagnosis. After you give yourself some time to celebrate and re-charge your battery, you will also want to re-assess any lifestyle issues that may have been contributing factors to your cancer diagnosis – personal health issues, financial issues, stress-related issues, dysfunctional relationships, bad eating habits, etc. Since you are starting this next phase of your life with virtually a clean slate, now may be a good time to start the regular exercise program or get serious about losing the 10+ pounds you’ve been talking about. Or consider quitting the dead-end job or leaving the relationship that no longer brings you joy and happiness.

Remission Truth #3: Remission does represent a cause for celebration, a cause for celebrating life!

Yes, remission represents a significant accomplishment and cause for celebration with your cancer support team. You will also want to start living your life without everything being solely about cancer or its treatment. You had to put your life on hold temporarily to fight this formidable health opponent; now it’s time to begin making time for loved ones, or for doing things for yourself that you have always wanted to do. What are you waiting for?

So Is It Ever Over?

If you’re in remission, congratulations. You have won the battle. So show off your battle scars and be proud of what you’ve accomplished. Live life on your terms but also remember to never stop fighting!