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Coaching: Lessons Learned

June 2, 2015

I think for most kids, at some point, they dream of playing professional sports. I know I did as a kid. My dream ended with surgery after a miserable year of baseball playing for a small college. I think lots of parents have that dream for their kids as well. However, the reality is that your son or daughter is probably not going pro. The stats are pretty grim. From high school to the pros here are the stats on high school athletes going pro: Football:.09%, Baseball .5% Basketball .03%, Soccer .08%. Not very good at all. (notice baseball seems like the best option, but that is going pro – which includes the minor leagues). However that will not deter many parents from pushing their kids to the brink through youth sports. Although I do believe that you should always allow your kids to dream of going pro. I admit it’s a pretty awesome day dream!

I had no idea the amount of select teams, travel teams and opportunities to keep your kids in sports all year-long. And no I am not one of those parents that thinks each child needs to be in a select league. I think that too much too soon can lead to burnout and overexposure for a child. I believe that kids just need to be super active, having fun, getting exercise and that will help them to develop the skills they need to excel in sports, which can be going to the park with their friends and playing pick-up games. For my boys, they will have the chance to join a select team once they are really old enough to make the decision and are prepared to put in the time that is required. At this point neither of them are there yet. I am also a big fan of doing multiple sports. I know as a parent I love the changing seasons and the excitement that each new sports season brings. I think I would be bored to have my kids in just one sport all year round.

Granted we are a big sports household and both our boys are constantly going from one sport season to the next. Thus I am not different than anyone else for that matter. We all want what’s best for our kids. Which we all should strive for as parents. We want them to succeed in everything they do, which includes sports. The barrage of sports has led to my involvement in coaching. My first adventure in coaching started early. Jessica and I were on a walk with Colby in a stroller he wasn’t very old. We were walking by a park where a baseball team was practicing. I stopped and was watching the team practice. The coach broke out his players into various drills and was teaching some techniques that were totally wrong. I watched in shock and wanted to jump in and tell the coach that what he was teaching was totally incorrect. Jess wisely stopped me from saying anything. My feeling became that I had to volunteer to coach since I didn’t want someone teaching my kids bad technique. If anyone was going to teach them bad technique, it would be me. Since that day, I have been involved with football – flag and tackle, baseball, and wrestling.

Through the process of writing this blog over the years, I have realized that some of the people who have had some of the greatest lasting impacts on me were coaches that I had during high school and competing in youth sports. I still repeat things that I learned to my kids. “Can’t aint a word”, “Winning takes care of itself”, “Put the hay in the barn”. I model lots of what I do as a coach after what I learned. Heck for flag football, the basis of my playbook is the ISO series that Gene Yerabek brought to Tolt/Cedarcrest High Schools. That series of plays led to a couple of undefeated flag football teams. My time spent playing sports has shaped the way I respond to life and for sure how I approach coaching. Over the past several years, I think I have learned several things from coaching.

I would like to think that I do an OK job working with kids, but I am sure that there are some that didn’t like my approach, or were offended by how I handled something with their child. I think that its probably impossible to coach and not have some type of issue like that. I am also sure that I have some other coaches that I am on their top list of coaches whom they would like to beat. Most likely for something I did against their team. But that is part of the job. You are not going to please everyone…

Here are some of the things that I have learned and the philosophy I try to use when I am coaching.

1. Have Fun: That is the most important part of sports, to have fun. I typically think the kids always do a great job at this, but parents are the ones who typically ruin this for the kids. My goal each year is that every kid I coach will be excited for each practice and game and will want to play the sport the following year. If every kid I coach wants to play again the following year, then my main job is done.

2. Teach technique that lasts: This is a huge one. I think baseball is the biggest offender. Coaches will take a kid that is struggling at the plate and have them fake bunt or take pitches, hoping they walk. That might work as they are young. But the reality is that they need to learn to hit the ball or they will never get better. Sloppy technique can work in lower leagues, but stops working as kids get older. I would rather watch one of my boys fail with good technique than get lucky with poor technique.

3. Try to put kids in a position to succeed: Typically I spend a fair amount of time, trying to figure out the best place for each kid to play. With the goal being to allow each kid the opportunity to succeed. Often times in youth sports, I think kids are either not given the chance to succeed or are put in a very difficult spot to succeed. For example, in baseball, if you are working in a new pitcher, don’t bring him late in the game with runners on, have him start an inning so that the pressure is less. If you help a kid to succeed it builds their confidence, which is huge and can last a season.

4. Structure, but still fun: I would not consider myself a “yeller” when I coach, but I do try to set the tone early with rules about paying attention and following the rules. I put in ways to get the kid’s attention quickly and then teach them to focus in when I need them to. I don’t like it when the kids are goofing off too much. Setting the early tone is huge, if you give them an inch, they will take a mile. But at the same time you can’t be all structure, you need to let them have some fun.

5. Everyone needs encouragement: Encouragement feels good and helps keeps kids motivated. I try to give kids that high five or nice comment to keep their heads up and them being positive. Some parents are not fond of coaches that are considered “hard” or who are yellers, but my take is that a coach can be hard on his/her players, if they provide the corresponding love and encouragement. The player needs to feel supported by their coach, even if they are tough on them.

6. Each kid is unique: It’s true, I don’t treat each kid equally. I do try to provide equal opportunity, but I try to treat each kid based upon their unique personality. The same things do not work on each kid, so I try to figure out how to work with each kid on their terms, so they will listen and be receptive to what I am saying. When I am working with Colby and Cade, I treat them completely different because they each have very different personalities.

7. Winning takes care of itself: This is one that I took from Ralph Kuehn, my high school wrestling coach – his brother Art would also say the same thing. Sometimes the more we worry about winning the more difficult it becomes. It is when we focus on playing hard and our best that typically winning will happen. In my opinion there is nothing worse then watching a kid end up in tears after a strikeout or lost game. There are too many other things in life to cry about. Youth sports should not be one of them. If someone asks me the score, my response is always zero to zero. If I am asked who we are playing, my response is always the best team in the league. About halfway through the season the kids stop asking me those questions.

8. It’s always about the kids: In the end, youth sports are all about the kids, not the parents. Sometimes as parents we forget that.

9. Coaching your kids is not always easy: The truth is that I am harder on my kids than anyone else. I expect more from them and come down harder on them when they make a mistake than other players. This is something that is still a work in process for me as it is a super hard thing not to do. I remember talks with my Dad about this. He coached me when I was young and then coached Keri as we got older. When I asked about that, he said that he thought that boys sports became way too political and didn’t want that to negatively impact me, thus he worked with Keri as at that time, girls sports didn’t have quite the same political fireworks. However, he was always the first person I went to after games for advice.

10. Ask for something and you get the opposite: Kids will always ask if they can leadoff, get the hand-off called to them or be first for anything. My rule is that if you ask to be first, you will then be last. I have all of my line-ups pre-set before the game, thus I don’t honor in game requests. I think the moment you give in to a request, then you are setting yourself up to let the kids run the show.

Granted I am not the perfect coach by an means, but I try to do the right thing. I am sure that I have also failed at some of the items I just listed many times. But like the kids, I am constantly learning and growing too. As much as I would like to think I try to leave the ultra competitive side of me at home. Because really the more important goal then winning is to develop the kids skills. However, I have succumb to the desire to win. I have to admit this was not my finest moment as a coach and some would probably not worry about this for more than a second, but it still bugs me that I have let winning drive the bus. I also crossed one of the cardinal rules of coaching your own son. Don’t bench another kid to put yours in the limelight. It was flag football play-offs, I was coaching Cade. His team had gone through the regular season undefeated. We found ourselves down by 4 with about 2 minutes to go, thus this was our final drive. Without hesitation, I subbed in Cade and put him at QB, putting a kid on the bench who should have played that whole half. I called the next play to one of the best players on the team and he ran the ball down to the 2 yard line. Basically the game came down to one play, if we get a TD, we win and advance to the next week, if we lose, our season ends. I won’t go through the rules of flag football, but on this one play, we were required to pass, thus no two yard run to end-zone and victory. (yes think the Seahawks in the Super Bowl, but you can’t call a running play.) Thus my sub to Cade came into play, he tossed the winning pass on the final play of the game. Game over. We won and then advanced to the next week. I still feel guilty about that series. I think as a coach that was the one time, that I threw out everything and just did what I needed to do to win the game. It was not my finest moment. It still bugs me.

Nope I am not perfect. I do my best and try as much as I can to adhere to the items I listed above, but I do know that I am not banking on my kids going pro. I want them to have fun, learn some life skills, learn success, learn failure, be active and as I repeat have fun. And I do know that I have a blast coaching and plan on doing it as long as I can…or as long as my boys will allow me to.

Cade

colby

DG
DEH

Rallying Fatigue

April 29, 2015

I want to start off by saying that I love the Seattle Brain Cancer Walk. It’s an amazing event that I truly enjoy everything about. For 2015, the walk has been moved from September to May. For whatever reason, I have had a hard time rallying up the troops for this year’s walk. Maybe it’s the time change and feeling like we just did a walk not too long ago, maybe it’s that I am still just coming off of tax season and need to recharge. Maybe because the best time to recruit and get the word out was in the middle of my busiest time at work. It’s probably a little bit of everything, but it has been a challenge for me this year. And over the years I have had simply unbelievable support, having teams that have finished 1st and 2nd for number of people and have finished 2nd place for funds raised during the three walks I have participated in. That is fabulous! Thanks to the Defeat Goliath supporters!

Honestly I have found it harder to push and rally people to support the brain cancer cause as each day my health continues to improve. I am to a point now where if you did not know my story, you would have no idea that I have brain cancer. I have overcome all of the health problems that Goliath brought. The only lasting reminder is the scar on my head. My first warning sign of Goliath was a seizure. I have since been on anti-seizure medicine and have not had a seizure since surgery. Check. After surgery, I had issues with my left hand, where I wasn’t able to use and move it properly. After a few weeks of working on it and regaining strength and control – it was working just fine. Check. I also had some visual recognition problems, where I could see something, but could not process what it was. It’s hard to explain, but I almost walked out in front of a couple of cars after surgeries and was just lucky that I had people with me to stop me. It happened to me twice! That was gone about a month after surgery. Check. The other side effect I had was some stuttering issues. I did some speech therapy and have worked on that over the past few years and now I don’t feel like that is an issue any longer. Check. Fatigue has been an issue from day one as a result of anti-seizure meds, the surgery, and a year of chemo. Although I am not sure if I feel like I have as much energy as I once did. I was also 34 when everything happened and now I am 38, so I think that time has also played a role with this one. But I do feel as good as I have since my seizure. Check.

I am back to doing everything I did prior to my diagnosis. I have completed a 12 hour adventure race, I am back climbing again, having climbed Sherman Peak on Mt. Baker, Sharkfin Tower, Dragontail Peak, Colchuck Peak, Mt. Maude, Seven Fingered Jack, and the list can go on and on from there. This past February I ran my 3rd ultra-marathon – the Orcas Island 50K. I am back to doing all of the things I love to do, despite Goliath.

I think because of this, I suffer a little bit of “survivor’s guilt”. During my journey I have met so many amazing and wonderful people who have been severely impacted by this disease and ask myself all the time “why I am the lucky person to get the Oligodendroglioma grade II tumor?” Why did they get the GBM or the Astrocytoma diagnosis, while I got the Oligo? It’s sort of weird to think about, but I ask myself, why am I the person who got the easier brain cancer path? Why me? What is the purpose or reason behind my health and long term diagnosis? Why are others, given so much more to battle with? Rallying people is harder now as anymore I don’t see myself as a great representative of what brain cancer looks like. I am healthy, I am strong. I got an Oligo.

Once again at this walk, someone whom I met and knew on both a personal and professional level will not be walking this year. He has a child younger than mine. Yet he had a GBM and the GBM took his life. As I went through above, I have overcome all of the deficits this disease caused me so far and have come out stronger in the end. I am still off doing crazy adventures, my career is moving forward as planned, yet I look around and see others who have been decimated and completely derailed by this disease. I have known many people who have died due to this disease. You see I am the minority. Not only in that my tumor only makes up 2% of the brain tumor spectrum, but also that aside from my scar, I have had no noticeable side effects or lasting ramifications, I am strong and out doing the things I have always planned. I don’t feel the limitations and ugliness that brain cancer typically comes with. Why am I the lucky one? Why not all these other amazing people?

My first Brain Cancer Walk, I had just finished a chemo cycle that Friday and then walked on Sunday and had to take a three hour nap after that just to recover. This year, my plan is to climb Mt. St. Helens on Saturday, do the walk on Sunday, then go coach my boys at flag football on Sunday afternoon. Quite the change from just a few years ago.

The Seattle Brain Cancer Walk has a direct impact on numerous people, their lives and their quality of life. Currently at Swedish in Seattle there are some clinical trials underway, which were started in large part due to the walk. From trials of treating brain tumors as being caused by a viral infection, to a device that works like chemotherapy, but without the side effects. Some truly amazing things are going on right here in Seattle.

Before anyone asks, my odds of being part of a clinical trial is basically zero. I am too healthy and my tumor is too rare for me to qualify. I only know of 1 trial that has been done to date on my type of tumor. Thus I will need breakthroughs with other types of tumors to be applied to mine in order to hope for complete healing.

One thing I have learned from being a part of the brain tumor community, is that typically all tumors come back. Even the people who have battled the longest have typically gone through multiple periods of tumor growth and then multiple periods of treatment. And with each cycle, the tumor always comes back worse and more aggressive. Which means that for me it’s probably only a matter of time… Even knowing that I still wonder what my part in this story is, while I am strong and feeling great.

Which is more reason to support the cause you can join team Defeat Goliath May 3rd or you can donate.

http://www.defeatgoliath.org/events.html

We also have new Orange Defeat Goliath tech shirts for only $12.

http://www.defeatgoliath.org/dg-shirts.html

DG

DEH

National Sibling Day, Alice in Chains Lyrics, Interstellar, and Defeat Goliath – Hijacked by Keri

April 11, 2015

“I am not afraid of death… I’m afraid of time.”
~ From the movie Interstellar 

A few days ago was “National Sibling Day”, and so I’m a few days behind on hijacking my brother’s blog.

Photo Apr 11, 6 51 18 PM

The photo above is only one of the few in existence of me with all of my siblings- David, Kyle and I. I am the oldest sister of two younger brothers. Kyle died when he was 3 months old of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) – I was 6 and David was 5.

Fast forward 16 years to the death of my dad, via Multiple Myeloma – I was 22 and David was 21.

Fast forward thirteen years, and David has a seizure that results in a brain tumor diagnosis. For me it was devastating. My only option was to “do something”. I called the tumor “Goliath” and I rallied around the thought of its defeat.

The movement for brain tumor research is important. Brain tumors are highly aggressive and deadly. Brain tumors are the second cause of cancer deaths among youth and children! The statistics are shocking and it blows my mind how underfunded this is. The work they are doing could help many other forms of cancer, and I just want to help- to feel like I’m making a difference and not sitting idly by. I want to walk the walk and fight the fight. I want to make a Defeat Goliath website (www.defeatgoliath.com), and start blogs (read David’s here>) and be in a video with David and his fam for newly diagnosed brain tumor patients (watch it here).

David is healthy right now, but I know Goliath is still in there just waiting to get bigger and badder. It is hard to keep asking for help and to keep up the momentum a few years after his diagnosis when he is doing so much better, but it is just not good enough for me. I’m not done. If we stop, I won’t have an answer for him when Goliath grows again. I am the older sister. He is going to look at me and I can’t be standing with empty hands- I have to give him something.  Even when initially diagnosed, I felt that was my job. I had to give him hope, and build the “DG” mantra. Three-fifths of my fam left on earth… what would you do if you were me?

So, I ask people to pray for him. To buy DG T-Shirts. To walk with us, to run with us.

I am NOT afraid of DEATH at all (I do believe in heaven after all), but I am afraid of TIME. I am afraid of the lack of time on earth. I want to maximize the time. I don’t want less time for his wife and his two boys (the passion for this fight is selfish for me, but also unselfish for those two boys most of all).

So here is what you can do:

So many of you have helped us do these things- THANK YOU!

Sincerely,
The Big Sis

#nationalsiblingday #dontmesswithmybro ;)

“Here they come to snuff the rooster
Yeah here come the rooster, yeah
You know he ain’t gonna die
No, no, no oh, you know he ain’t gonna die”

~ Alice in Chains

Finishing the Gauntlet

February 15, 2015

When I was on chemo, I was adamant that I would go for a walk each day regardless of how I felt. During the summer I have a vivid memory of one of those walks. Jessica, Colby and Cade had left the house to play at a playground that is very close to our house. The plan was for me to go for my walk and then meet them at the park. The chosen playground is one that sits at the Community Park, which is basically across the street from my house. However they were going to go to the area that sits on the top of a small hill. OK correct that, It’s not really a hill, but a knoll.

During chemo, I had a standard loop I did each day – part of the goal was I didn’t want to have to think about where to go. I did my normal loop, then headed for the park, but as I got halfway up the knoll, I realized that I was struggling. This hill was hard. I had to stop about halfway up the knoll and catch my breath, I felt weak and unsure if I could even make it up the maybe 50 ft of gain to the top. It was a surreal moment, to go from climbing mountains and running ultra-marathons, to not being able to easily climb a 50 foot hill – I mean knoll. It was the ultimate reminder of just how far down my health had gone.

I wrote a blog post several months ago called the Gauntlet. (Yes I do now realize I spelled the title wrong the first time!) It was about how I was going to run a 50K ultra marathon (post Goliath)- The Orcas Island 50K to be exact. During my training there were times when I wondered what the heck was I thinking. I wondered why I was doing this, was it my ego, just why on earth would I want to go out and just suffer and push myself to exhaustion? What do I really have to prove to anyone or even to myself?

The truth is the hardest part of my journey with Goliath has been mental. It was never the physical recovery. It wasn’t trying to get my left hand to work properly after surgery. It wasn’t dealing with the challenges of chemo – always being tired, the constant nausea and a complete deterioration of my fitness. It has always been the mental challenge. Dealing with the new reality of living with brain cancer. Dealing with the lows, the frustration. I would consider myself pretty mental tough, but yet the mental battle has pushed me to my mental breaking point.

Truthfully it’s hard to but into words some of the mental struggles. Probably the best way to describe it would be the fear of forever feeling compromised. That my life will consist of two parts, the part before cancer and the part after cancer. I picture myself telling stories to my boys about how I was like before cancer and how since cancer, I just can’t do that anymore. Which gets harder to think about when I know that there is not a cure, baring a miracle from God, I will never be cancer free. I will never be in remission. That piece is hard for me to except. The concept that no matter how hard I work, how hard I push, I will never be free of Goliath. It’s my forever battle. A battle that someday I will lose.

The mental challenge is breaking those chains that connect me to the forever battle. It’s the challenge to not let brain cancer feel like its pulling me down and not allowing me to dream, not allowing me to feel confident. It’s a big anchor that’s holding me down, it’s holding me back from reaching my goals, my dreams. The challenge of running the Gauntlet is to remove those chains and feel free once again. To know that I can do anything. It’s allowing myself to live with confidence again. To live to my full potential. This 50K gave me purpose and a goal. It required hard training and commitment. The last ultra-marathon that I ran was back in 2008. Back then I was in much better shape as well. It had been a while to say the least.

For this race, I was fortunate to have a friend – Jason Boyle – who was going to run it with me. Jason is an old hiking buddy of mine. When he was my neighbor, we did a lot of hikes and runs together. On several occasions I didn’t even need to talk him into doing some crazy hike, with lots of mileage and no sleep, he would always volunteer for the trips that make “normal” people think that we are crazy. He is my kind of person. So a 50K with 8,500 ft of gain over the 31 plus miles sounded like fun to both of us. This would actually be our second 50K running together.

After I had a client meeting a work on Friday the 6th, we rolled out from Kirkland and headed up to Anacortes, to catch the ferry. We had a really cool cabin booked on the Island for the night and were excited to embark on our adventure. After a nice home cooked meal and review of the maps and important details, we went to sleep to the sound of rain hitting the roof of the cabin. We woke up to that same sound. The race was to start at 8am, we arrived at the start staging area around 7am. It was still dark, we brought head lamps to walk from the car to the start area. Everyone packed into the main lodge at Moran State Park as the rain fell outside. Why get wet now, when there would be ample time once the race starts. There is always a cool vibe of nervous energy prior to a race start.

Quickly time flew by and we were off. The race opened up with a road section, to spread out the field, then it hit some singletrack. We quickly realized that it was going to be a muddy slippery course within the first few miles on the trail. We then hit the road up Mt. Constitution. The course cruised up that to the south summit. We had decided the night before that we were going to walk that section. We soon discovered that we were towards the end of the pack. However it didn’t phase us. Stick to the plan, we talked about how we would be reeling in people later on in the race. Not worth the pain later to run the big hill. Next was a steep downhill section to the first aid station – 6 miles in. I watched the guy just ahead of us take two pretty good falls on the muddy trails. At the aid station, it was time for some Oreos and gummy bears. We didn’t stop long as the longer you stop, the harder it is to get going again.

The next aid station was at mile 14 and this part of the course was to feature 2 smaller hill climbs. It was this section that we started to catch up with some folks. We got into “chase” mode and would try to run to those ahead of us. The course took us around two small lakes, here I actually slipped and ended up sliding down into the mud. No big deal, I popped up and we were away. We pasted some more people and then made it to the next aid station. Ginger Ale and of course Oreos were on the menu.

After the aid station, it was six more miles until the next one. This part of the race was challenging as we were not anywhere near the end to start thinking about the finish. The course was super muddy to the point where you were not really able to rest on any of the downhill sections for fear of falling. At around mile 17, my backpack strap broke and we had to tie it back together. There was a great waterfall during this section. Very beautiful. Finally we hit the mile 20 aid station. Progress was being made. We knew what was ahead, a grueling super step trail, back up towards the top of Mt. Constitution.

The step section is one that we had both heard about. It is part of the lore of the Orcas 50K. It is like the cable line on Tiger Mountain. Since both of us are hikers, this section really wasn’t so bad. We zoomed past a bunch of people that were feeling the steep incline. It was this part that we had our one amazing view of the water and the other Islands. From the top of the hill, the next part of the race was a small decline of several miles. Honestly for me, this was one of the most difficult parts of the race for me. I was very thankful for Jason as he had energy and so I just followed him and ran when he ran and walked when he walked. Then the course turned back uphill for the final push to the summit of Mt. Constitution and the final aid station. Jason was rocking it and helping me to complete the task at hand.

I had a nice surprise waiting for me at the top, my family was there to give me that final boost of energy to push through the final 5 miles to the finish. It was a huge lift to see their smiling faces and feel their encouragement. It’s hard to say just how awesome that felt. It was very cool. I am thankful for their support and love through training and the race. We stopped at the aid station then were on our way, after some Oreo’s and gummy bears of course. The next part of the race was basically all downhill to the finish. I really relied heavily on just following Jason at this point as I was physically beat at this point in the race. The two things I remember most about this section was there was a humongous tree at the bottom of the trail, that actually stopped us both in our tracks to admire it. The second thing was that once we got back down to the main road in the park, we had to take a side trail to avoid the road and of course it had some climbing to do! We crossed the finish line in 8 hours. My family was there again to cheer us into the finish. It was a magical feeling.

We did not set a record pace, but that was never the point of the race for us. It was about the challenge, it was about the company, it was about fighting through when you want to quit, it was about the mental toughness that suffering brings, it was about having friends and family around to support us through the long hours of training and the race, it was about the mud and the rain, it was about the bonds that happen when you push yourself to your limits with friends, it was about breaking the chains that hold us back, it was about feeling free, it was about me forgetting about cancer, it was about not having the separation of things I did before cancer and the things that I couldn’t do after cancer, it was about finishing the gauntlet.

DG
DEH
family race picture

Wrestling and Adversity

January 7, 2015

The weekend after Christmas, both of my boys competed in a wrestling tournament. Like all tournaments, it was a double elimination tournament, so you either lose twice and are out, or you keep winning and place in the top three. They wrestled tough, but in the end both lost two matches and left the mat in tears. Wrestling is the toughest sport that I ever competed in and as a parent it’s the most gut wrenching to watch. In wrestling, two people compete, one wins and one loses, there is nowhere to hide, no team, just you and the competition. I know there are people out there that wonder how on earth I could be so excited and passionate about a sport that at times leaves your child in tears and in pain. Why would I strongly encourage my kids to compete in a sport that is intense and can be brutal? The simple answer is adversity. Unlike any other sport, wrestling teaches you about dealing and overcoming adversity.

For me wrestling was probably not my best sport, in terms of my abilities, but it was my favorite sport. It was the sport that really helped to transform me. The first year I started wrestling was in middle school. At the time, Tolt Middle School had a crazy long streak of league wrestling titles. Everyone wrestled, it was the thing to do. The team numbers were huge. The number one move was the head and arm. For some people it was the only move they knew, but it worked and lead to a high number of wins by pin. I was a different story, wrestling did not come easy. In middle school, I was five-foot two and about 160-165 pounds, a little tubby kid. I worked as hard as I could, but finished the year winning a few matches and losing about the same or more. My eighth grade year, I was pumped about it as now that I was in the eighth grade, I should naturally be much better and start to pick up some victories, like my teammates. However that didn’t happen. I actually had a worse year my second year. I even battled with a strong desire to quit the sport. One day, I just couldn’t handle practice, so I took the bus home, instead of staying after school for practice. When I got home, my Dad was there. I told him that I wasn’t feeling good. Honestly I didn’t really want to tell him the truth, that I wanted to quit and was frustrated by the lack of success. He just told me to get some rest. Despite the fact that he would have been fine if I quit, there was something about looking him in the eye and telling him that I was quitting was not something that I ever wanted to do. After that night, I knew that I was not going to quit, I was not going to surrender, despite the pain and punishment, I was not going to surrender. Even many years later in college after having shoulder surgery from playing baseball, it was easier for me to sit down with my college coaches and tell them that I was done with baseball then it was to have that conversation with my Dad. Lessons on never giving up started when I was in middle school, wanting to quit wrestling because it was too hard. I finished the year out as best I could, with the encouragement from some great mentors and coaches.

The next year in high school, I had a choice: basketball or wrestling. I had played both in middle school. The truth is that I sucked at both sports, but liked wrestling better, so I chose to wrestle. This is where my physical transformation started, I went from the 5’2″ 165 little tubby to finishing my sophomore year 5′ 8″ and weighing in at 143 pounds. Running is what started that process. I would go to school super early in the morning and do a morning run and lifting workout. It was there that I started what is now a lifetime of running. I used to run all over Lake Marcel in the summer, constantly training. I am still running today. It has become my staple workout routine for all of my climbing, hiking and other adventures. I really do not think that I would have gotten into all of the outdoor adventures that I do, if I hadn’t started running in high school due to wrestling. The lesson learned, a lifetime of good fitness. It started with wrestling.

On the mat, those first two years of high school wrestling was extremely difficult. I finished my sophomore season 0 and 16 in varsity matches. Nope I did not win a match the entire year. I wrestled varsity at 148 pounds. I learned perseverance. It was hard, but I marched on as I had already decided that I wasn’t going to quit.

I went into my junior season coming off a defeated season. I had successes in other sports, in football my junior year, I was an all-league lineman, but was coming into the wrestling season with very little success. Our first tournament of the year, I ended up in the finals. It was shocking to me to go from not winning a match, to now being in the finals of a tournament. During my first two years of high school wrestling, I actually banned my parents from coming to any matches. They reluctantly agreed. Before the finals, my coached asked me where my parents where. I lied and made up some lame excuse. Luckily for me, one of my teammates – Erik Backstrom – told our coach the truth. I had banned my folks because I was ashamed of myself. Lesson: not be ashamed and It’s OK to let others help to carry your burden. My coach made me call my parents and tell them I was in the finals. They left our house and drove to watch me wrestle in the finals. I lost in overtime, but they got to come and watch me, which was all they ever wanted. My Dad never missed a match after that.

I went through this period of learning to believe in myself. Learning to believe that I could win and that I was not that tubby little kid anymore. Lesson: to believe in myself. I started goal setting and challenging myself. Lesson: Set big goals and chase them down. I finished my senior year with a record of 20-5 and was a league champion. The amazing part was the growth of my mental toughness and learning to believe in myself, to learn that I was very capable of amazing things.

Wrestling transformed me and even today I still benefit from the positive ways that it changed me. I dealt with tons of adversity during my career and many people would have quit, but I think it harnessed my greatest athletic attributes, my ability to suffer and will to never quit.

The transformation I went through is one of the reasons I want my kids to wrestle. The other one is much more selfish: I want my kids to have exposure to adversity. I want them to learn how to fight through difficult moments, to controls their emotions and believe 100% that they can accomplish anything. I just hit my 3 year mark from being diagnosed with brain cancer. Currently I would say that I feel the best I have in over 4 years. 3 years from surgery and 2 years removed from chemotherapy treatment and finally I am feeling back to my “old” self.

As good I am doing currently, I know that down the road, a battle awaits me. Part of the tumor is still in my head. The odds state that at some point Goliath will return. The cure was complete removal. That didn’t happen. Thus I now monitor and wait. But what I do know is that at some point it will be back and I will have a major fight on my hands. I want my kids to deal with adversity, so that when they day comes, they will be prepared as possible for that battle and the possible outcomes. I don’t want them to look back and say that they had never dealt with adversity before watching their dad battle cancer. I think they were both young enough to not completely understand what was really happening after I had surgery. Nor do I think they truly understand the concept that their Dad has brain cancer, to which there is no cure and that most likely it will return. When that battle happens it will be an epic one, as I don’t give up and I have learned how to suffer, thus Goliath will be in for a struggle. But no matter what the future holds, I want them to be comfortable with tackling adversity head-on and not to be afraid of the hard things that life will throw at them and I believe that learning to deal with adversity through wrestling will someday help them deal with their Dad’s battle with brain cancer. Adversity- that is why I want my kids to wrestle.

DG
DEH

Cade Wrestling

The Guantlet

November 3, 2014

The quote “Excuses are the nails used to build a house of failure” was displayed prominently in the weight room of my high school. It was a reminder that a new era was coming. That no longer would the same lame excuses of the past be acceptable anymore. The truth is, though, that we all have excuses. No matter where you go and who you meet, everyone has some type of excuse. Some type of reason why they can’t do something or why things didn’t go the way they were planned. There is an attitude that if the excuse is good enough, then somehow, someway, we will be spared from the results. We will be justified in some way shape or form.

I would like to think that since my diagnosis that I haven’t made any excuses for anything, but I know that would be a complete lie for me say that. I love being in the outdoors, hiking, climbing, skiing, mt. biking, etc. I think in some ways I have curbed back on pushing the limits in these types of endeavors. Granted on the outside, I am still climbing and doing some really cool things. Since surgery, I have climbed 10 of the top 100 highest peaks in the state of Washington, I have completed an adventure race, I did a multi-pitch rock climb of the Sharkfin Tower in the North Cascades, all of this along with countless hikes and trips to lesser known peaks and areas. But despite all of this, the truth is that I bailed in many cases; I passed up the sharp in of the rope on the Sharkfin Tower and didn’t lead. On a trip up Rainier, I turned around at 12,500 ft. Granted I was moving slow and we were trying to make it to the top in a single push, but still I choose to turn around instead of to push on. It was always easy to say that it was “too soon” after treatment, or I am not sure how I would perform no that I am on “anti-seizure drugs”.
Excuses allow us to escape failure without having to deal with the blame. Excuses shield us for the wrath of failure. Without question, everyone hates failure, especially me. It sucks to fail. I will admit it, one of my biggest fears in life is failure. Excuses mask the pain of failure. The better the excuse the less pain we have to feel because we are able to move part of the blame from our feet and place them on the excuse. It works great in our society. When we fail, it’s always some else’s fault. Just like the ref’s lost the Superbowl for the Hawks back in 2005. For me, I have been given the excuse of all excuses: brain cancer. It pretty much covers all of the bases. It’s cancer, so I have all of the excuses that someone with cancer has. But it’s also in my head, so any mental issues or gaffs, can be whisked away due to brain cancer as well. It is the excuse that can cover everything.

This past summer we were on vacation up in the Canadian Rockies and staying at Lake Louise. Jess, the boys and I were heading back to our hotel from completing a 12 mile hike. I was with Colby and Jess has hiking next to Cade, just ahead of us. I forget how we got onto the conversation, anyhow Colby looks at me and says “you can’t run as far as mom can.” Now it is 100% true the Jessica owns the fastest marathon and half-marathon times, as she is fast and an incredible runner. And no, I haven’t been able to keep up with her for quite some time. But I hold the lead in the longest run category as I have completed 3 ultra-marathons, including a 50 miler. But really I sort of “stopped” racing and training in 2009. Thus too long ago for my boys to really remember that stuff. Really what they remember from recent history is a dad who was constantly exhausted and worn out from surgery and chemo. 2014 represents really the first time since not only diagnosis, but also even a year before that, where I am finally feeling as good and strong as I was prior to all of this. In hindsight looking back, I was for sure impacted by Goliath in 2010 and 2011 – I just didn’t know what was going on at the time. But there were many signs that are obvious now, that showed I was just not right. Colby provided a wake-up call to me. As I really have been afraid of putting myself out there, taking a risk, setting a goal and working towards something. Brain cancer has become my excuse. An excuse to avoid any chance of failure. An excuse to avoid any possibility of not measuring up. The truth is, it a pretty good excuse. It goes something like this:
“What’s your excuse?”
“I have brain cancer.”
“Are you in remission?”
“No, I can’t be in remission.”
“Is there a cure?”
“No”

Case closed, that excuse wins out every single time. It works for every circumstance and situation.
But Colby provided me with a wonderful reminder of this. A reminder that using cancer as an excuse not to push and not to dream is not the way to live. It’s just not. It’s not acceptable and I am glad I have an almost ten year-old that is able to challenge his dad to be better. It was the first call that it is time for me to have my own personal “Gauntlet”.

About a month later, I was able to go for a hike with an old hiking pal of mine, Jason Boyle. He is a fellow “crazy” and has done some 25 mile plus hikes with me, hiked through the night and other kinds of things that most people think is insane. He used to be my neighbor, but now lives in Alaska and was in town for a meeting. We hiked up Tiger Mountain. He suggested that I run the Orcas Island 50K. Many years ago, we ran the North Face 50K when it was held on Cougar Mountain. The Orcas Island 50K, so its 31.6 miles and features over 8,500 ft of elevation gain. It sells out every year, so there is a lottery process, thus you also need to be lucky to get in! After hanging out with him, I left that was the second “call-out” of me using excuses not to challenge myself anymore. Thus the “Gauntlet” challenge has been borne and not it is time for me to stop hiding behind excuses, time to push myself again and time to move forward and stop using the excuse of brain cancer to hide behind.

“You can spend your time alone redigesting past regrets, oh
Or you can come to terms and realize
You’re the only one who cannot forgive yourself, oh
Makes much more sense to live in the present tense” PJ

I put my name in the lottery and got it. The Race will be held on February 7th 2015. And the training has already started. And no matter what, moving forward, Goliath is not any excuse anymore…

DEH
DG

It’s a Beautiful Day

September 23, 2014

September 20th, was the 2014 Seattle Brain Cancer Walk. Once again I captained Team Defeat Goliath. Although this year I decided to just go with my own team. The past few years I have teamed with the Chris Elliot Fund to join forces and resources. The past two years we had over 250 people walk and raised over $40,000 dollars. Not too shabby. But this year I wanted it to be a little bit more personal. I wanted to know everyone walking with me. And I didn’t want to feel the pressure of organizing, coordinating and getting tons of folks to donate. I really just wanted to go with friends and family and just enjoy the event and the people. It turned out to be a perfect day! Team Defeat Goliath ended up with around 70 walkers, we raised over $2,000. But to top it off, I had a wonderful day.

I just wanted to say thank you so much to everyone who came and walked and all of those who donated to the cause, and those that just shared my story to hopefully raise awareness to brain cancer. Really that is the first thing that needs to happen. Enough people need to care about this disease in order to bring real change. Compared to other types of cancers, brain cancer is vastly under funded. Especially if you consider the mortality rate associated with it.

But off of my soap box and back to the day. It began with my name being drawn in the raffle for teams that had raised at least $750. I won two Delta Airline tickets. Pretty awesome way to start things out! Then I was able to partake in the walk surrounded by some incredible people who were all there to support me and this crazy journey that I have been on the past three years. Three years- it is pretty crazy to think it as been almost three years since my first seizure and then the MRI that revealed the presence of Goliath in my head.

For me the walk always brings out some emotions for me. One of those is guilt.

Guilt: I have often heard stories of people who survive a life threatening event, in which others lose their lives, but they make it through. Only to be gripped with an overwhelming feeling of guilt. They don’t understand why they survived, while others perished. For me that feeling of guilt is real. At times I struggle with it. As I have mentioned many times in my blog, I am lucky. My type of tumor is one of the type you would choose if you were told that you must choose a type of brain cancer. Granted, there currently is no cure for me and I still have a part of Goliath in my head – which requires continual MRI’s and daily seizure medication, but my tumor is slow growing and even the stats aren’t that bad as compared to most other types. Yes I am lucky.

Through my journey, I have met many others in the area who have a form of brain cancer. And in almost every case, my type of cancer is less aggressive and by the numbers, I have a better life expectancy then they do. Many are measured in months, yet I am measured in years. The people, that’s what makes the walk so special to me. I love touching base with some incredible survivors. I was talking to a fellow brain cancer warrior, whom I actually helped as a client in dealing with some financial issues that had arisen due to their battle with cancer. Which was challenging in its own right. Helping a fellow warrior prepare for the worst case possibility really sucks. At the walk, I was informed that the tumor is back and a third surgery is two weeks away. Two children younger than mine are involved with this family. Heart breaking. The guilt is gripping, why him and not me? After the walk a group of us went over to the Seattle Armory (the Centerhouse) and had a bite to eat. A fellow brain cancer warrior, whom I had not met before, came over and took a picture of our group. She asked who we were walking for, of course the answer is me. She asked me “So how long did they give you?” Guilt grasped me. I was never given a number by my doctors as I am beyond a point where they could make any kind of logical guess. But when you look at the stats, the answer is 12 years. She was given less then 12 months. She has a GBM, which is the death tumor. She is now at over 5 years. Again why her and not me. I felt like I was not worthy to call myself a survivor. 12 years versus 12 months! That is not in the same stratosphere. Yes I feel guilt. Why am I a lucky one? The cards I have been dealt suck, but they are good enough to stay in the game for quite some time. Long enough to maybe even get lucky and win the whole pot in the end.

Reality: One of my favorite parts of the walk is when they call up all of the survivors on stage for a picture. I love feeling the energy and strength of such a strong group of people. It is awesome. But at the same time, it is a huge dose of reality. There is a reason why I am here, a reason why I walk, a reason why I am on that stage. I have brain cancer. Yes I am living with brain cancer. Most of the time it doesn’t really register with me. I try to live my life as I always have. Screw the cancer, it won’t control my life. That moment on the stage is the reminder that Goliath is still here. He is still in my life, and I will continue to have to monitor him forever. It’s the blow to the jaw that says “You are not at this event because it’s wonderful and raises funds to help people, but you are here because you are living this, you have brain cancer. And we are raising money because there is no cure.” I will be honest, shortly after I left that stage, tears started to flow. Especially as I walked back to my two boys. I was hit on the head with the reality that I have a terminal disease.

Emotions are good. They help to remind us that we are all real people, we are fallible, that things matter, that there is more to this life then we know. It reminds us of what is important and helps us to battle on through the ups and downs of life. They connect us to others and bind us all as one. They are important.

Once again the walk was a huge success, thanks to all of you who lift me up and support myself and my family.

Thank you

DG
DEH

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