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.

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!

Will Power: The Key to Self Determination

The human body is a highly complex and amazing piece of machinery that is seldom exercised to its fullest capacity. Additionally, the human body has a unique ability to transform itself, at any age. The secret to harnessing this awesomeness? Will power. And by that, I mean my friend, Will Mowrey, and his power principles. Let me explain.

The Story of Will Mowrey

Will Mowrey, one of my band of brothers, is truly an elite athlete -and an inspiration to us all, as he nears double nickels.  Here’s a little background on Will.

At 18, Will was competing as a power lifter on a national level. At his peak performance, he was 5’10,” weighed 258 lbs. and could max bench 500 lbs., squat 700 lbs., and dead-lift 600 lbs. As an aside, Will used to rep 225 lbs. over 30 times. To put that into perspective, Kansas State’s Alex Barnes set a new record of 34 reps at 225 lbs at the 2019 NFL combine. These numbers alone are enough to put Will in a very select athletic category but it gets better.

In 2004, at age 40, Will decided that he wanted to lose weight and transform his body from a physical strength machine to an aerobically-conditioned machine. So he took up jogging, which morphed into cycling after he broke his ankle.

Will’s first foray into cycling was on an old, ill-fitted Walmart mountain bike. His early rides were only 10+ miles, and required multiple stops. But this didn’t deter Will in the least. As his passion for cycling grew, his mileage and speeds increased, along with a desire for better technology (which resulted in a numerous bike upgrades).

Fast forward to 2019 … on a recent solo ride, a 178 lb. Will rode his Tour de France-style road-racing bike 82 miles in just over four hours. For the last six years, he has averaged 10,000 miles per year (or 60,000 total miles), with approximately 700,000 feet of climbing, per year. That’s the equivalent of riding up Mount Everest (elevation 29,035 feet) 24 times in one year.

Will rides, on average, 300 days a year and typically logs 220+ miles per week. All of this data has been logged and can be found on a special cycling software program, Strava. The facts are in: Will’s athletic achievements put him in an elite “freak” athlete category by any measurement criteria.

Will Power (and Will’s Power)

So how does Will maintain an elite-level cycling performance regimen in his 50’s? What lessons can others learn from him and apply in their own lives?

Will adheres to a very strict set of principles; which he uses to guide his life both on and off the bike.

Will’s P-O-W-E-R principles include:

Plan:  to define a way or approach to accomplish a goal(s).

Obsess:  to be single-minded in focus or purpose.

Will:  to impose your desires over an action or emotion.

Execute:  to perform a task or action to the best of your ability.

Resilient:  to adjust easily to difficulties or change.

Finding Your Own Will Power

I started this blog by saying the human body is an amazing and complex piece of machinery and has a unique ability to transform itself, at any age. It is my hope that this blog post both inspires you and motivates you to push yourself well-beyond your comfort zone, regardless of the endeavor, as my good friend Will Mowrey has demonstrated in his latest mastery of cycling.

In closing, I’d like to leave you with a quote credited to Darwin P. Kingsley as it relates to will power …”You have powers you never dreamed of. You can do things you never thought you could do. There are no limitations in what you can do, except the limitations of your own mind.”