One of the things I have realized is that the more I have jumped into the brain tumor world, the more I feel the tragic pain of loss. The reality is that brain cancer sucks, the stats are awful, there is no cure, and ultimately people die of this disease. I have found that I enjoy reading blogs and posts of other people who are brain tumor warriors. Through there writing and works, I feel connected to them as they have similar stories, similar fears, similar experiences. Social media, especially Twitter has open connections for me to find other Brain Tumor Warriors and learn about themselves, their lives, their struggles, their triumphs. These connections are important to me and strong.
Over the last few months some of these people whom I have become connected to in some way have lost their battles with brain cancer. Granted I don’t truly “know” these people, I just have a connection of some sort. But I see myself in them. I see my struggles, my fears, my doubts, my pain, my uncertainty, my frustration, my anger, my hope, the impacts on my family. In many ways their story is my story, which makes it hard when the magnitude of this disease sets in. I thought I would share a little bit about some of these courageous people and even some connections can have big impacts.
Tracey Clarke – So my connection to Tracey is actually through her husband Craig. In 2012, when I was going through chemo, I had a lot of time on my hands. I would be home and would go stir crazy. There is only so much Xbox or reruns of Friday Night Lights that one can watch over a one week period. So I started to get into Twitter. I quickly realized that you can gain access to a huge network of Brain Tumor Warriors, it’s pretty amazing. It provides lots of support, information and understanding. I quickly found that you could find blogs and other resources through twitter. So I did, I actually still follow and read several people whom I discovered via twitter. People who use either the hashtag #BrainTumorThursday or #BTSM. It was great to not feel alone or isolated and have an outlet to converse and discuss issues related to brain cancer. Craig was one of the first people to follow me back and send encouragement my direction. The real connection came early in the morning. I was on a chemo cycle. We were actually down in Sun River, Oregon near Bend. Despite still being in the worst part of a cycle, we decided to make the trip anyhow. The ride was hard to sit through; I had a bucket in the car, just in case! When we got there I was basically confined to the vacation house. I laid around for the first several days. My family went rock climbing at Smith Rock, went swimming at the SHARC and I just laid in bed. Sleeping was always hard for me when I was on chemo. I would be super tired, but had a hard time actually sleeping for an extended period of time. I was frustrated and mad, I was stuck suffering while everyone else was having fun. I was up, it was probably like 4 am, I couldn’t sleep, so I went onto Twitter and tweeted out an angry, chemo sucks type of tweet. Within a short period of time I received back a tweet of encouragement from Craig Clarke. He is someone that I don’t know, will probably never meet, he lives in Virginia, but at that moment in my life he sent me something that I desperately needed – a lift, a warm fuzzy to get me through that cycle. Sometimes in life things that seem so small and insignificant are actually quite huge. Craig’s wife Tracey past away in December of 2013, after a hard fought battle against brain cancer. You can find her story here:
Ed Elston - I had the pleasure of meeting Ed at one of the Seattle Brain Cancer walks, my connection to him was actually through his daughter Maria. I heard her speak about his battle at a Brain Cancer Luncheon in 2012. Again I was on chemo while attending the event. She was very articulate about his battle and the process by which they were making decisions and going about dealing with brain cancer. I soon realized that we shared the same oncologist. Her speech was one of the reasons that I jumped in headfirst to working with the Chris Elliott Fund and EndBrainCancer.com. I wanted to make a difference, I wanted to have some kind of impact on others that are battling this disease. It was a moment of inspiration for me. Things sort of came full circle, as the following year, I was the one speaking at that same luncheon. It makes me realize just how small the world is and how some things work out in an amazing fashion. That speech by Maria, really jump started me to choosing to take a stand. Her speech was inspired through the love of her father and his battle with Brain Caner. Connect the dots and you find a connection. Ed also succumbed to his brain tumor this past December. Today Maria still battles on as a brain Cancer supporter.
Joe Northrup - Joe is someone that I never met. Several years ago I worked with his mother, Sue. Probably about a year ago I learned that she had a son that was battling brain cancer. I became friends with her on facebook and then saw that he had a website that shared information about his battle with brain cancer. I would check in on her posts and on a website created by some of his friends. I would see from time to time how things were going and how he was doing. I enjoy following up on those impacted by this disease. He did a funny standup comedy routine, something that he always wanted to do:
It made me laugh and brought some needed humor to the crap that is brain cancer. Its inspiring to see people still running down their dreams, even when things are bleak. Just from watching this and seeing updates on his website, I got the sense that he was a pretty cool dude. That he handled his cancer with courage and humor. Character is forged when stuff hits the fan, not when everything is going well. From my point of view, he for sure seems like a guy with character. He took his poor diagnosis in stride and moved forward with a smile, that is rare and hard to do. He is a young guy with a young daughter and wife, which makes brain cancer all that more painful. On March 3, he passed away peacefully after a six year battle. He had family and friends around and was at home. More information about Joe and how to donate to help out his family can be found here:
Despite not being directly connected to any of this people, I feel a sense great loss. Three great brain cancer fighters, all with their lives cut short, all having to endure difficult surgeries and long challenging chemo treatments. The truth is I see my own life woven into their stories, the impact on their families and loved ones, the pain on their children’s faces, the toll this disease takes on a person’s body and mind. I can tell myself that my tumor is different than theirs (which it is), that I am somehow different (not really), that I will have a different outcome (still to be determined), but in the end I am fighting the same battle: brain cancer. It makes me sad to see lives cut short and to see families in pain. I have found this to the be the difficult part of being involved with other brain cancer warriors, is that sometimes we lose great people.
Prior to my first seizure and revelation of Goliath, I was dealing with a difficult situation in my life. Some people who were extremely close to me, made some poor decisions that resulted in a breakdown of trust and left me feeling betrayed. These are the types of things that lead to bitterness. (See one of my recent posts for a deeper discussion of bitterness). I knew that this was not the path for me. The next step was forgiveness (again see my recent post on forgiveness for more information on how that process works). For me, the question I had was what’s next? What comes after forgiveness? In terms of dealing with these individuals, how do I act around them? What is our relationship supposed to look like? I didn’t have an answer that made sense to me. Often times I have heard people say “the bible says that we are required to forgive, but we are not required to reconcile.” I will be honest, I struggled with this statement as for me, the entire concept of Jesus, is that through him, we can be forgiven and reconciled to God. The reality is that we are all sinners, we all make mistakes, we all screw-up. But we have hope in Jesus, that even in our weakness and when we are at our worst, we can be restored and made whole. Through him we can be made into new creatures.
“Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things are passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
I kept asking myself, would Jesus ever forgive, but not reconcile? So I did some reading. Keep in mind that I am not some scholar, I am a CPA, a numbers guy, I am not a psychologist. In fact I am a person with brain cancer – so I am not an expert on this topic by any means. So upon my reading of the bible, I did not find a place where the bible directly links forgiveness and reconciliation together. However on the flip side, I did not find a place in the bible that says that the two are not linked. So I am not sure that I would agree with the comment that that bible says that we are required to forgive, but not to reconcile. Omission of something, in my mind, does not mean that something is confirmed.
The closest thing that I found was this:
New International Version (NIV)
18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
New International Version (NIV)
Warning and Encouragement
14 Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.
Basically from my point of view we are commanded to make every effort to live a peace with people to the best of our abilities. The truth is, when it comes to a relationship, it takes two people not just one. Our requirement is to fulfill our end of the bargain. But we are only one side of a two sided equation.
I view this as we are asked to try and reconcile, where it is possible. Now I will be frank, there are some times in which reconciliation is not OK, there are times when reconciliation should not be present. The most obvious case is abuse. In a relationship where abuse is present, forgiveness is not a good enough reason to reconcile. Safety must be present. This is critical, in an unsafe relationship, reconciliation should not occur. It may lead to a continued cycle of abuse, which is not right, nor how we are intended to live.
In my circumstance, abuse was not present, nor were their any issues of safety, it revolved around a lack of trust and betrayal. But I would argue there is a part of emotional and mental safety that is still important. As I went through the process of being truly able to forgive, I really struggled with the “what now” question. Now that I have forgiven these people, how am I supposed to act? How am I supposed to be when I am around them? This was a difficult situation for me. I knew that I need to have a buffer of emotional safety in future interactions, but what does that look like. If I am excluding these people from events and functions in which they were once welcome and then asking others to exclude them from events and functions all on my behalf, is that truly an act of safety? Or am I mixing in a little bit of punishment. I am using my need for “safety” as a justification for inflicting pain?
Granted we all have a price to pay for our sin, that is not something that forgiveness excludes us from . There are consequences that we must pay for our transgressions. However if we truly have forgiven someone and they have paid for their transgressions, I think that if we keep looking for ways to punish them, then we really have not truly forgiven them and we are fooling ourselves to think that we have really forgiven them. We can’t claim to forgive, but keep looking to punish. The two cannot coexist. That was my huge struggle, I felt like I needed to protect myself and be safe, but I had a very difficult time figuring out where safety ended and punishment began.
I knew that I didn’t want to be one of those people who would claim to forgive, but be out the next day speaking poorly of the people that hurt me or be the person who cited the virtues of forgiveness and the cross, but was still looking for ways to punish and judge the people who had hurt me. The truth is that as people at some point we will all screw up, we will all hurt someone deeply. I know that I have done it, and will probably do it again. I would like to live my life as Christ did, which means not being a hypocrite. I did not want to be like the pharisee in the parables of Jesus. Saying one thing, but then living another way. But at the same point I wanted to make sure that I was safe and would not open myself up to be deeply wounded again. I knew that I needed to reconcile, but how to do that?
One of the concepts that I thought about was the fact that forgiveness is provided by grace. Whereas reconciliation is something that is earned. The person who committed the offense does not need to do anything to be forgiven, but if they desire reconciliation, there are things they must do to earn it. They have a path to walk out, if they desire reconciliation. In some cases the offender does not desire reconciliation – they are not willing to walk the difficult path. In that case, we need to forgive, but their will not be any reconciliation, as again it takes two.
I came up with some ground rules for myself to follow during this process of reconciliation. Here they are:
1. Repentance: This is the first step. The offender must truly realize what they did was bad and truly be sorry for what they did. When my boys get into arguments, many end with me intervening and then asking one of them to say they are sorry for there actions. After one of them says they are sorry, a common phrase from me is “OK now say it like you mean it.” Too often we say that we are sorry because we are supposed to or because that is what is expected. But really we are just sorry that we got caught. We aren’t truly sorry. If this is how the offender feels, than their is no reconciliation. The first step, to me, is true repentance. The offender must understand the true depths of their actions. If this does not occur, then I do not think reconciliation should or could ever occur.
2. Change: This is the part of the process, if the offender truly wants to reconcile, then they need to seek assistance to try and fix the issue that lead to the problem. For example if someone is causing breakdowns in relationships because of an addiction problem such as drugs or alcohol. It is imperative that that person seeks assistance for their problem. I would also say that this assistance needs to be from an outside source. Too often we think that we can fix ourselves. But the truth is we can’t. If the offender is not willing to get help, then again I don’t think that reconciliation should or can proceed. In some cases, the change could be quitting a job or moving to get away from the temptation or influence that led to the transgression. It can be a lot of things, but it must be the active choice of the offender to resolve the underlying problem. They need to get to the root of the problem and get help in most cases that is beyond themselves.
3. Boundaries: The next step is the boundaries need to be developed and implemented. Boundaries keep us safe and this process is critical to the restoration of trust. Most of the time, trust is broken due to the lack of boundaries, someone crosses a boundary and it destroys trust. So to restore trust, boundaries must be made and the offender needs to respect and follow the boundaries. During this process the boundaries can be adjusted at any time if the offended deems it necessary. One key is that no matter how silly these might seem, if the offender truly wants to reconcile, they must respect and honor these.
4. Time: Time is key. The offender must walk out the above items over time. In many cases, that is not an easy task. The old rule of thumb is that it takes a few weeks to form a bad habit and months to break it. Trust works the same way. It takes years to build, but can be destroyed in a few minutes. Time is required to re-build that trust that was broken and so a path that the offender is willing to walk the walk for a while. Each person will have their own time table and in each case, time is something that can’t be rushed.
5. Expectations: This is important as well. The offender must be willing to walk out the above items without expectation of anything from the person they hurt. This is not a situation where a tit for tat mentality can be present. In some cases, trust may not be restored, despite the offenders best efforts. Also the truth is that no matter what, the new relationship will have new rules, new boundaries. It can never be the same as it was before. The relationship will forever be different. I am not saying that it can’t still be a wonderful relationship, but it will be different. It will have different boundaries, different rules. Thus both parties must know that things will be different and should not bring future expectations into the process. The only appropriate expectation is that the boundaries will be followed.
This the game plan that I have chosen to use. Granted it won’t work for everyone. But it has for me.
Jesus tells the parable of the prodigal son. It is one of those stories that we have all heard. The son who asks for his inheritance ahead of time. His father grants his request and gives him his share of the family fortune. The son takes the money leaves home and then proceeds to enter into a life of friends, partying, and free spending. Soon he finds himself broke and rummaging just to find food. As it looks at stealing food from some pigs, he realizes that he royally messed up and decides to go home and admit his failures. He figures that he could be at least a laborer on his father’s fields and he would eat better than he is now. He realizes his folly, reaches a moment of true repentance. Then he makes a change in his life and heads home to is family. Upon his return, his father runs out to meet him and claims that his son was lost, but now he is found. His father could have met his son with anger and bitterness. He had ever right to be angry and upset. However his father greets him with forgiveness and reconciles and restores his son to the status of his son and then decides to throw a huge party to welcome him home. He could have allowed him to work in his fields and to live on his property again. Most would have found that an acceptable resolution. But no, the father restored his son, back to the status of his son. This story is in Luke 15 11:32 To me is shows what the process of forgiveness and reconciliation look like.
It is a process that takes two people working hard to make it happen. It is not an easy process and is something that for the most part, our society will not understand. Most will think we are crazy to offer forgiveness and reconciliation. Must we look to seek revenge and would want to continually extract payment from the offender. But to me that is part of what is so powerful about grace. It is something that we don’t deserve, yet it has amazing powers of love and healing.
Reconciliation is not always the correct course of action based on the circumstances. Nor is it an easy process when the circumstances are right for it to occur. But I can say that when the situation is safe for it to occur and it does the results can be pretty amazing. I guess I look at it like this: I know that at some point in time, I will completely screw something up. I will separate myself from God and Jesus due to my sin. When this happens, do I want a to have a Jesus that reconciles coming to my rescue? Or do I want a Jesus that does not reconcile? Do I believe in a Jesus who invites me back to his party, after my sin – assuming I am willing to change, or is Jesus one that only lets me watch his party from the outside, looking in through a window due to my sin? I know for me I believe in the latter.
So just how do you deal with Bitterness? The truth is that everyone probably deals with it differently. As for me, I think the first step to beating down Bitterness is forgiveness. We are called to forgive. I think the bible is very clear about this topic. Jesus was sent to be our sacrifice for our sins, our evil. He came to take the punishment for our wrongdoings. Through him, we are forgiven. It is free to us, it is through grace by which we receive this forgiveness, we do not deserve his forgiveness. It is strictly through grace. We are called to forgive others, just as we have been forgiven. To me this parable sums up this entire concept quite well:
New International Version (NIV)
The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant
21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.[a]
23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold[b] was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins.[c] He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’
30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
In life, I think it is often way too easy to be like the ungrateful servant. We look for forgiveness when we fall short and totally mess things up. But when someone sins against us, it is often hard to turn and provide that same grace. It is easy for us to say to the other person, that they need to forgive others, but really, really hard when the offense is made against us to provide that same grace. We have been wronged and our human nature dictates that we should seek some revenge or that the offender must somehow pay for what they have done. But we are commanded to provide grace, to forgive. Anyone who tells you that forgiveness is easy, is a liar, its not. Plain and simple, it is extremely difficult. It is not a natural way for us to think or react. It is one of the most difficult things the we will be ever faced with.
Over the past couple of years, I have been faced with this challenge. I have been harmed, betrayed, and hurt deeply by those close to me. I had a choice to make. To forgive or to be bitter. I choose the path of forgiveness. It was not easy, in fact I would say that choice has been one of the most difficult paths I have ever chosen in my life. And a path that I am still walking each and every day. It is hard. At times it also sucks as you have to put aside natural reactions like rage, anger and bitterness. But I can truly say that it was one of the best decisions of my life.
Looking back I truly believe that without this choice, I would be consumed with bitterness and anger – but worst of all I would have been able to justify it all. That is what makes the path to bitterness so challenging. As you get deeper and deeper in it, your actions and its evil become easier and easier to justify – you are the one in the right, you are the one that has been harmed, thus you are not only OK to be bitter, but you are justified. Through this process I thought I would share some of the things that I have learned:
1. Forgiveness is not a one time thing: Most people think that once you have made the choice to forgive, that it is done, its over – you have forgiven. I don’t think this is true, I think it is a continual process. Sometimes it requires forgiving daily. I would forgive, but then the next day, those same feelings would reappear and I would have to do it again. Thus I think we should approach forgiveness knowing that it is a constant process, not a one time deal.
2. We will feel like we are the one losing: When we choose to forgive, we are giving grace, meaning the other person does not deserve our forgiveness, but we are giving it anyhow, despite what they have done. Yes we feel like the losers. I know I felt like I was the victim, yet I was the one that had to give something. Shouldn’t I, the victim, be the one who gets something from this ordeal? Yep, when you forgive, you feel like the one losing.
3. There are no Buts in forgiveness: Often times we forgive like this: “I forgive you, but you did something really, really bad.” That doesn’t count as forgiveness. Remember this is about grace, the sinner doesn’t deserve our forgiveness, but we are giving it to them, free from conditions. But’s are conditions. So if we forgive with a but, we are not really forgiving. Even worse, when we forgive with a But, we are deceiving ourselves into thinking that we actually did forgive, however, the reality is the but negates the forgiveness.
4. Not everyone will understand it: We live in a society that feels entitled, we should be compensated for anything and everything that has a negative impact on us. Forgiveness is counter-culture to the ideas that exist in our culture today. Not everyone will understand your choice to forgive. That is OK though, don’t expect everyone to understand because they won’t.
5. Check your actions: One common problem when we forgive is that we tell ourselves, that we forgive someone, we tell them and think all is well, but then in the next moment we are talking poorly about that person or spreading gossip about what happened. Our actions speak loudly, forgiveness didn’t happen if we forgive in one moment, but then talk smack in the next moment. Our actions need to reflect our heart and our choice.
6. It’s not about them, it’s about us: The main reason we are called to forgive is for us, only a small portion of the process is for the sinner. Its really about us and our heart and keeping ourselves free from anger, hatred and bitterness. We forgive to free ourselves from bondage, not just to free the sinner.
I think a lot of this can be summed up in a great quote from the Return of the Jedi, from Luke Skywalker to his father, Darth Vader ( a man consumed by bitterness, fear and anger)
“Search your feelings, Father, you can do this. I feel the conflict within you. Let go of your hate.”
That is why we are called to forgive, to let go of our hate, our anger, our bitterness and when we do, I think that we will be happier for doing it.
So I am going to interrupt my planed blog schedule to give a little fist pump. (follow up to Bitterness coming Sunday). Today marks two years since brain surgery for me! Since surgery, Goliath has done nothing but shrink!! Also I am now officially two years since my last seizure! Which is awesome as well. Its two years to say thanks to some answered prayers! (A quick note this is being posted on the 22nd, but the 21st was the day of my surgery and I wrote this on the 21st!)
Here is my MRI prior to Surgery (Its pretty easy to spot Goliath!):
Here is how Goliath looks as of October (my last MRI) Note Goliath is circled in red, the white part above is where my brain was most impacted by surgery.
Also here are a couple of the cool things that I have still been up to, despite Goliath:
Sharkfin Tower – Summer 2013
7 SAR Race – October 2013
With still much, more to come!
I haven’t written for awhile, but have been working on some thoughts… So many that I am actually going to break out things into my next three blog postings as it would be too big to leave as one post. So here it goes…
Bitterness. Lately I feel like I have been surrounded by bitterness. I feel like I am watching people around me, who are close to me, people who I care about, battling a full on attack of bitterness. It has been hard to watch, hard to witness. What is bitterness? I would describe bitterness as anger put into a crock pot. Crock pots are great ways to cook things We throw a bunch of stuff into the pot and then we let it simmer on low heat all day. Lots of times we throw in bones with meat still hanging on. However by the end of the day, the crock pot strips all the meat and flesh off and leaves just the bones behind. Doing that, it provides quite the flavor when its all said and done. Plus its easy to do. If we don’t attend to our anger properly, it is like the bones with the meat still on, it sits in that crock pot and simmers on low heat, this process converts that anger into bitterness, by cooking it slowly over time – it traps in all the flavor and doesn’t let anything out.
What makes bitterness so difficult is that it comes on in disguise, We don’t recognize that it has us in its grasp. The smell though, just as the crock pot does, permeates the entire house. Everything is covered in bitterness. But because it happens on a low simmer, we aren’t even aware of what just happened. We become the frog that is killed in the water that has the temperature slowly raised over time. The frog adapts and adjusts to the small increases in temperature until its too late and the frog dies. Bitterness is similar, it clouds our thoughts, our thinking, it even allows us to change history, by allowing us to revise our own version of what happened to fit its new evil plan. We know that we are right and everyone else is wrong, we believe in the bitterness, because its pits us against the world. A world that has wronged us, thus we have the right to be mad, to be angry. All of our actions, no matter how evil, become justified. Now anger in itself is not bad, its a natural emotion. We are made to feel anger. But at the same time we are instructed to let it go. Even Jesus got angry. Read Matthew 21 – 12:13. Jesus flips over the tables of the money changers as they are cheating people by using rigged systems. He gets flat out angry about what they are doing. Yes anger is OK. Bitterness is not just borne out of anger, but born from us hanging onto it and then letting it simmer over time. I think bitterness can come from being angry based upon people’s actions towards us – mainly negative actions towards us and it also can come from being angry about things that we have no control over. In one case we take a hurt that was inflicted on us and allow it to slowly take over our thoughts. We allow that trespass to consume our thoughts and actions. In another case we feel that someone or something has to pay for the injustice that we received. Its like being mad at the weather for ruining our plans. Yet we can’t control the weather.
One of my first posts that I ever made was regarding my faith (Its titled “Faith” and was written 11/19/11). And how my faith was forged on a mountain, when I was praying that my Dad would be healed from cancer. The answer that I received was not what I wanted. I wanted a story of a miracle, the story of redemption and healing. But the answer I got was that my Dad was going to die. My prayer was not going to be granted. The opposite of my wish was going to come true. I was angry and upset. I was upset as I thought that there are still things that my Dad needed to teach me. The response I received was that he had already taught me everything that I needed to know. That he had nothing else to teach me. So now, when I am perplexed by life, I find myself stopping and asking, “Ok, what did my Dad teach me about this?” Recently, I found myself asking that about bitterness. What did my Dad teach me about how to deal with bitterness?
As I thought about it, I realized that he taught me two important lessons while he was alive. The first occurred when I was in high school and revolved around his relationship with his Dad, my grandfather. The second was how he handled his diagnosis with terminal cancer. Which I find a little bit ironic as I have now been faced with that same difficult reality.
My grandfather was an alcoholic. This was actually something that growing up, I had no idea about. You see during my time as a child, he was sober. When we were around him, he was a wonderful Grandfather, care, fun and loving. My Grandfather was an inventive and creative person, he would collect pieces of driftwood, shells and other items and then turn them into amazing pieces of art. It was always fun to look through his most recent creations of characters, each with their own theme. He was a creator, which is important to note as it is much harder to create than destroy. I know that well from building Legos with my boys. I can spend hours building something only to see it ruined in about 5 seconds. Creation is challenging and requires hard work and sacrifice, where as destruction is easy and works even if someone is lazy. But that is my memory of my Grandfather as a kid. He was unique in his own way, but he was a creator. He was a builder.
When I was in high School, one night my Dad got a call from my Grandmother. My Grandfather was drinking again and he was out of control and she wanted help. My Dad grabbed me and told me that I was going with him. We got in the car and headed to Shoreline. My Dad provided me with some background during the drive. The revelation that my Grandfather was an alcoholic was now known to me.
He prepped me on what I was going to see. He provided some insight to growing up with an alcoholic Dad. When we got there, the pep talk did not prepare me for what I saw. I saw a person that I did not recognize. I did not know that person whose actions I witnessed that night. This was not the person whom I knew that was an amazing creator. This was not the person who I knew as a child. He was not the Grandfather that I knew growing up. He was someone consumed by bitterness. He cursed the world, he cursed everything for putting him in the life that he led. Bitterness clouded his thoughts, his judgement, his words, his actions. I didn’t know that person. Bitterness had reduced him to a shell of his true self and the alcohol was the vise that fanned that flame. The alcohol became the release valve on that crock pot filled with anger.
The reality of the fact set in, my Dad had lived through that growing up. He had witnessed that battle with bitterness many times before. To me it was new, but not to him. I am pretty sure that lesson that he hoped I would learn was the harm and damage that alcohol could do. That lesson hit home, loud and clear. I actually still have my Grandfather’s AA certificate of completion as a reminder of the destruction that alcohol can cause and I keep it as a reminder of the Grandfather that I knew – the creator, not the person consumed with bitterness. Not the person who allowed alcohol to control him. The other lesson I learned that night was about bitterness. I think that my Dad should have been extremely bitter towards his father. He had every right to be bitter about growing up dealing with the alcoholism. It was about six months after that night, my Grandfather would commit suicide.
Yes I think that my Dad should have been bitter. Most people would have, most would have been filled with bitterness and resentment. But my Dad wasn’t. He never said anything bad about his Dad. He obviously wished that alcohol hadn’t consumed him, but he never spoke poorly about him. He still loved him, despite his flaws and shortcomings. He made the choice not to be bitter. He chose to break that cycle. He chose not to let that same bitterness gain a foothold in his life. That was the main lesson I learned from that night.
The second lesson on bitterness I learned through watching him deal with a terminal diagnosis. Sure he was angry, mad and afraid about being diagnosed with cancer. Truth be told, I can’t compare my diagnosis to his as his was far, far worse than what I have. But he did not let the bitterness enter. He kept his head high and fought the good fight. When he was diagnosed, the doctors gave him one year to live. He didn’t quite make that one year before he died. He did everything that you could ask someone to do in order to fight. And during that time, he was not bitter about the whole thing.
The greatest moment I spent with my Dad before he died actually occurred only a few days before he died. He had crashed and was basically brought back from the dead. He had regained consciousness after being out of it for awhile. It was the middle of the night, I was sitting by his side, I had been on his case ever since he was diagnosed that he needed to workout and keep fit. He looked at me and asked me to help him with his exercises. We sat there, I worked with him through his workout routine, consisting of exercises using surgical tubing. He pushed through the complete routine as best as he could. He knew the end was near, but he wasn’t bitter, he wasn’t angry. To me I have always viewed that moment as his way of saying goodbye. Not bitter, not angry, but holding his head high and doing what he set out to do. Pushing through, working hard.
Honestly when I look around I see people filled with bitterness, It breaks my heart. Truthfully, I think, if there is anyone who should be bitter and angry in this world, that person should be me. After the last two years of my life and the cards I have been dealt, you would think that I should be a little bit bitter. But then I think of the lessons I learned from my Dad and I think to myself: actually he is the person who should have been bitter. He is the person who was dealt the bad hand. But the truth is that he chose not to be bitter. He chose not to be consumed by things that he could not control. I learn from his lesson and thus I choose not to be bitter, not to be consumed with anger, not bitter about things I can’t control nor about the things that have been done to me by others. No I will not be bitter. And I would encourage you not to be bitter either. All we have to control is how we handle what life throws at us. How we react is our choice. And as for me, I know what I don’t choose, and that is bitterness.
So in a week and a half, there are two awesome events coming up where you can jump in and support Defeat Goliath!! Both should be great fun!
The first is Friday Night October 11th. My Rotary Club – The Rotary Club of Kirkland Downtown is hosting an Acapella night featuring incredible groups from both the University of Oregon and The University of Washington. Yes those schools have a football game on Saturday! Anyhow come out and watch some great performers! All net proceeds of the event will go to benefit the Chris Elliot Fund, where I have been serving on their board! They work with patients and caregivers of brain cancer patients to make sure they have immediate access to the care they need. You also might get to hear me say a few words to top off the fun night!
It’s at Lake Washington High School and starts at 7:30
Here is a sample of what you will hear!
The second event is the 7 Summits Adventure Race on Saturday the 12th
Defeat Goliath has a team you can still sign up and join us! It is the first themed obstacle course race around. Its only 7 miles and will feature some amazing challenges. I would encourage everyone to sign up and join team Defeat Goliath!
Hey if some dude with terminal brain cancer can do it, so can you!
When you sign up there is an option to join a team, by selecting that you can then select Defeat Goliath! We are going to race as a team and use team work, so don’t be afraid to join us!
Hopefully you can make one or both. I am pumped for both events and would love to see you there!
This past weekend was the Seattle Brain Cancer Walk. Once again, I was the captain of Team CEF/Defeat Goliath, and once again it was an amazing success. I am left speechless at the generosity, support and love that I have received since my brain cancer diagnosis.
I was surprised though by how different this year felt to me compared to last year. To start, last year I was in the middle of a chemo cycle, so I was basically in a fog the entire day last year, I actually went home after the walk and slept for four hours. The Friday before was by far the worst day I experienced during my 12 months of chemo cycles. Last year’s walk was much more emotional for me as well. Just grasping the fact that people are here walking with me, supporting me, however it is not just because they care about me, but its because I have brain cancer – a brain cancer that currently medicine can’t heal, can’t fix. A cancer that won’t go into remission, it will always be a part of me for the rest of my life. A cancer that if the odds are correct, will not allow me to watch both of my kids graduate from high school. That is a tough realization to wrap your head around. A mix of anger and sadness that is tough to explain. We had the largest team in 2012 – the most walkers. We raised over 12K for brain cancer research. I didn’t know what to expect, how to feel, what to do. At times I just felt like crying. It was a glorious, but difficult day for me. Happy depression is how I would sum it up.
The 2013 walk, I felt a lot more hope. I am almost to two years since my surgery, I have been through 12 months of chemo. And now, aside from my scar, I don’t think that anyone, who didn’t already know, would be able to tell that I am living with brain cancer. Hope that the tide might turn for survivors, that something big is near. I found great hope in the fact that we heard doctors from multiple institutions speak at the event. Hope that we will see the brightest and best in Seattle start to completely collaborate together and work as a unit to fight for a cure. The speakers included my doctor by the way.
I saw hope in watching Brian Nelson, his wife Lisa, who joined Team CEF/Defeat Goliath and the huge amount of supporters that came and walked with him. He was diagnosed with brain cancer in the past year. I saw hope in that the fact they were not doing this alone, but had a great amount of supporters that are surrounding them, lifting them up. I know that brain cancer is not something that you can fight by yourself, you can’t be in isolation. You need an army of people battling with you, carrying you along the way, cheering you on, giving you meals, giving you rides, giving you hugs, giving you laughs, just being with you down the journey. At the walk Brian was awarded for being one of the top individual money raisers for 2013.
I saw hope in the survivors that I have met the last few year, the fact that they are still here, still fighting, not giving up. Yes the people in light green survivor shirts give me great hope.
I saw hope in the sea of Kelly Green EndBrainCancer shirts that were everywhere on Saturday. I saw hope in people like the Bohner’s who were responsible for making the shirt a reality. Thank You! That was Awesome!!
I saw hope in all that I have learned since November of 2011, what real grace is like, what forgiveness truly means, that you should always go two miles and not just one, that there are lots of things at work that are beyond my understanding, how to receive, what humility really is, not to waste the time that we have, to have no regrets, what it means to have “moving day” friends, to cherish each and every second that I have been given, to fight but also to know when I should rest, and most of all that hope can lift anything. And for all of these lessons, I am truly thankful.
I saw hope in all of the people that have lifted me up for almost two years, keeping my head above water, keeping me grounded, for all of you, I am truly grateful. Thank you for making it a day of Hope for me.
Yes what a difference a year makes!
The results: we had the second largest team and raised over 22K this year! So thank you to all of you! Thank you for lifting me up, supporting me and making the walk an incredible day of hope!