On July 11, 2019, I was diagnosed with a large tumor in my sinus cavity. It was about the size of an avocado. This tumor turned out to be a malignant rare sinus cancer. I am currently undergoing treatment at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

I have decided to write about this experience and share it one piece at a time. There’s so much here, I feel the need to capture the feelings, emotions, joys and anxieties with this process.

There’s so much I don’t know about this process, even the parts already completed. Experts, surgeries, drugs. All stuff I don’t know anything about or understand.

One thing I do know is that I am already different. This is my story …I will update this regularly. Please feel free to contact me if you have any comments or questions. My hope is to share one process to help others who may be facing similar circumstances either themselves or their loved ones.

Angels in the (Out) Field

I’ve never really believed that there are angels out there. I also had this media-created view of angels as these soft fluffy things with wings.

1974, Fort Worth, Texas

I was a child, maybe 8 or 9. My mom was really starting to get sick and we had gone shopping in Fort Worth where we lived. In those days, you went to big “department stores”, which were often multiple floors and frankly a bit difficult to navigate. We had been visiting the old Monnig’s store.

Something happened in the store, and my Mom got really, really tired. This is before cell phones and easy access to quick communication. I remember sitting down with her in the elevator bank and she said, “I think we need to call your dad”. Literally, at that exact moment, her mom walked up who was also shopping in the store. She got home and to the doctor she needed.

In that moment, my Grandmother was the angel.

Was that just luck? Was it divine? I have no idea. What I do know is that time after time, people come into our lives at precisely the moments we need them. And we come into THEIR lives too.

How are you “feeling”?

Oh, just fine. I’m “great”, just awesome. Thank you so much for asking.

The question is genuine, but the answer isn’t. I’m not “great”, I’m something else which I can’t describe.

It’s been almost a year since I completed radiation treatment and the facts are, I am feeling anything but “great”.

I feel exhausted. It still takes alot of energy to do basic things. I still run out of gas in areas of my life that I used to be able to do alot more.

I feel guilty. Over the last few years, I’ve seen too many friends and colleagues suffer with this fucking disease. Why them? Why not me?

I feel pressure. I now know that every day is such an incredible gift that has so much value it’s impossible to even describe. I feel an overwhelming need to do something spectacular with this, but I have no idea what or how to even start.

I feel blessed. Sometimes the act of giving involves accepting the help of others. I am overwhelmingly blessed with resources, love and help.

I feel hope. I somehow know everthing will be OK. It’s not my job to have all the answers.

I think the answers may be simpler and easier than they seem. Maybe it’s just love. Giving, accepting and being OK with just “being”.

It’s 2:48 AM. I woke up with this on my heart. Going back to sleep now. Carry on.

360 degrees in 365 days

Last week I turned 55. One year ago to the day today, I was facing a really ugly tumor. Let’s just say this last year is amazing grace. I just got back from backpacking in the mountains of Colorado with some inspiring friends. To have the strength to do this is indeed a miracle.

A few things I am thankful for today:

  • I am alive
  • I am strong.
  • I am healthy.
  • I have a beautiful wife that loves me, in spite of me.
  • I have two beautiful daughters that are amazing.
  • I still have my Dad and he’s happy.
  • I have a group of friends and colleagues that are lovers of life and God.
  • I live in a beautiful place with the love of my life.

Yea, we had some tough times. Times when I wondered why God was punishing me. But I survived with the support of a lot of people, and those times only served to strengthen who I will be when God is done with me.

I now know those times are just chapters in a really cool novel with MANY chapters.

I can’t wait for the next chapter.

“Fearing Not” – Easier said than done!

COVID 19 is in Dallas, Tarrant and Denton Counties, Texas. Schools are closed, grocery stores are out of meat, and toilet paper, restaurants are closed, Starbucks only allows drive-throughs and people are sick and dying. Businesses are going to close, jobs lost, the market is in freefall. This is the real deal.

In an attempt to stay normal, I took a run this morning down by the lake near our house. I saw ALOT of birds that didn’t seem worried and they seemed well-fed and healthy. One of them, a cardinal seemed to be following me, playfully. She reminded me of my favorite verse. I think now more than ever, we need to not be afraid.

Luke 12-22

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the birds: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn, yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?”

If I learned anything this last year, it’s learning to realize that we’re not in control. Life is a gift, we are only here today because He decided we would be.

Stay strong my friends. Together, we will be fine. It may suck for a while, but the earth WILL continue to rotate.

Harvesting Crops During Cancer

Last year, I pretty much took six months “off” to get well. And guess what, my business actually “grew” during this time. I have been somewhat baffled by this phenomenon, as I have been pre-programmed to think that effort=results. Well, it turns out I was only partly right.

Over the years I seem to have developed a balance of seeding for the next season and harvesting from the previous season. I didn’t plan this, it just happened. Sometimes you spend more on seeds, sometimes you spend more time harvesting, but at the end of the day, you MUST do both. Constantly. Consistently.

When drought comes (and it will), you have last year’s harvest to sustain you. When good times come, save up for the next drought.

Relationships, competencies, processes take time to develop and perfect.

I see too many entrepreneurs starting businesses, refusing to plant seeds for the next season and being frustrated when the seeds planted in the ground don’t immediately bear fruit.

Building a business takes time. Don’t short cut it. Otherwise, you end up with short cut crops.

Caring for your Caregivers, Even the Money Ones….

Everybody is constantly complaining about their insurance companies. I’ve posted many times about Medi-share and our experience there. I thought I would share this internal employee newsletter where they featured my story with their employees.

I think it’s important to remember the team of people behind you when you get hit with something, in my case, an ugly disease which was made much less stressful without the “fiscal duress” of unstable insurance or cost containment strategies.

Here’s the article.

February 4th is World Cancer Day, a day dedicated to raising awareness and education about cancer. CCM employees serve hundreds of cancer patients each month, Charlie is just one of them. 

Charlie went in for surgery in July of 2019 believing his tumor was benign. It wasn’t and he learned he would need extensive radiation treatment.

In Charlie’s words, “So this cancer journey isn’t cheap. Radiation, I understand costs roughly $3500-$4000 PER SESSION. I will be having thirty. That’s an estimated cost of $180,000-$200,000. Needless to say, I was feeling a bit anxious about the fiscal part of this journey.”

“I was literally sitting in my car waiting to go in for my first radiation treatment when I get a call from Medi-Share’s VP of Cost Management. He tells me not only are my bills fully shareable but he asks my permission to pre-pay all 30 treatments. I was speechless and incredibly thankful. For all the people who criticize Med-Share, I can’t say enough. These people are amazing! I am a member for life or as long as they’ll have me.”

Cancer is a scary diagnosis not only the physical hardship but add to that the economic ramifications. Never forget that your service to these families is priceless. Your prayers, your interventions on their behalf, your service to make sharing a reality are making a huge difference in their lives. 

Thank you to all of you who directly serviced Charlie and his family.

You are the story…

Six Weeks Post Radiation – Quick Update

So you know how a microwave oven keeps “cooking” the food even after it’s finished? I think radiation treatment is a bit the same. I naively thought that once it was over, symptoms would stop or at least start improving.

That’s not the case. But, I can feel it coming! Apparently, after some “research”, the symptoms “peak”, 4-6 weeks AFTER treatment ends. News to me.

According to the radiation machine’s manufacturer, Varian here’s their definition

The TrueBeam® radiotherapy system is an advanced medical linear accelerator—fully-integrated for image-guided radiotherapy and radiosurgery. and designed from the ground up to treat targets with enhanced speed and accuracy. TrueBeam treats cancer anywhere in the body where radiation treatment is indicated, including lung, breast, prostate and head and neck. Having the power to not only treat quickly, but also deliver highly precise dose rates are hallmarks of the TrueBeam system.

Varian Medical Systems on TrueBean Radiotherapy

I’m still not exactly sure what an “advanced medical linear accelerator” is. Here’s what they say:

medical linear accelerator (LINAC) is the device most commonly used for external beam radiation treatments for patients with cancer. It delivers high-energy x-rays or electrons to the region of the patient’s tumor.

Radiotherapy.org

I’m only sharing this to set expectations for anyone about to do radiation. Especially radiation in the head or neck area. Those areas are apparently have tons of nerve endings making the process a bit more irritating to those tissues.

It’s OK, just means I don’t have to go to EVERY Christmas party or business trip. Hopefully just a few more weeks and the corner will turn!

Being Kind (to Yourself)

Our friend is undergoing the early stages of radiation in Houston right now. The other night, just thinking about what she’s been through and what she’s about to go through got to me. But, I also realized what I’ve been through was getting to me too. While I want to be compassionate for her, I need to be compassionate to myself as well.

This feels selfish, but it’s not. Here’s why.

You simply cannot love others without loving yourself. That means taking all that negative talk out of your head and be compassionate with yourself. Right now.

High Standards Prevail, but in Context

I went back to the gym last week and I’ve never been the biggest/strongest guy there AT ALL, but I’ve traditionally been on the respectable side. Not now. Last week my trainer put up a tiny little set of weights and said go for it. I refused and wanted bigger ones, which we did. But, in this process I realized I simply had unrealistic expectations of myself. I would never expect one of my daughters, or Mary or really anyone else to try and bench press their body weight after 5 months off and radiation therapy.

What’s my problem? At that moment, my head started pounding and I just sat there feeling dazed. At that moment one of the really nice people at our gym just looked at me and said:

“Charlie, be compassionate with yourself”.

This really got me to thinking. WHY are we so hard on ourselves? One of my biggest mental struggles in this process is not feeling productive. I’m a serial entrepreneur, I own three separate businesses all of which have their own needs. But I’ve been careful to own them, and not operate them. They’ve been fine…they haven’t grown much in the last 5 months, but they haven’t shrunk either. So in that way, I accomplished EXACTLY what I wanted…a business that doesn’t really need me. But, it’s also unnerving.

Managing your mind is likely more important than managing any other part of your life.

I’ve been learning about “mindfulness”, which is basically taking the controls back of your mind. I am really bad about letting all the voices run wild in my head with worst case scenarios, whispering in my ear all kinds of crap. Meditation has helped this over time I have learned to slow down the mind and just “be”….and “be compassionate with yourself”.

Psychotherapist and wellness coach Megan Bruneau suggests practicing simple awareness of thoughts and feelings, particularly the “critical inner voice” — without trying to change anything. She helps her clients understand how their critical inner voice has been helpful in the past. “What or who was it protecting you from? How did it motivate or comfort you? Once you find understanding and compassion for the critical voice, you can thank it for the good intentions.”

Allison Abrams, Psychology Today

Why compassion is important, especially when you fail

I have a friend who is dealing with a very public business failure. I am not fully aware of everything, but I know he’s been hurting, re-evaluating his associations, values and other things. He shared his stories of panic attacks every time the phone rings, and waking up in the middle of the night with soaked sheets.

I’ve been there. So have others. It sucks. But in his case he seems to be close to forgiving himself, for allowing himself some compassion. In the long run, he’ll be the guy that conquered all that and went on to the next thing and he’ll be better for it. I’m proud for him crossing the chasm.

In my experience self compassion in that situation is super hard. That situation is harder than cancer. It’s harder because in your mind you created it and you have yourself to beat up for it. It’s also your professional reputation, which is fragile. With cancer, there’s nothing to blame yourself for with but when you fail in business, your blame is everywhere. At least that’s what you tell yourself. I am praying for his self-compassion soon, if it’s not already there.

God is compassionate, YOU can be compassionate too.

So to conclude, our small group last night we had a discussion about prayer and asking God for support, love and compassion. Why not? What’s holding us back? In the New Testament, stories abound about loving your neighbor as yourself, and so on.

So it seems to me that loving yourself fully is the first step to loving others and bringing good forward. Being compassionate with yourself and others is part of the plan.

Now, get out there and show some compassion, but start at home.

Weakness in Healing. 3 Weeks Post Radiation

Yes, that picture is me on my 50th birthday. I’m just a couple of years older now but have been through more. It seems to me that without THAT strength the process I’ve just been through of enduring two surgeries and 30 radiation treatments would have been MUCH worse.

So the preface for the little pity rant I have now is that without preparation and strength, weakness would have been MUCH worse. I thank our trainer and coach Adam Hammett for making this real. Without him, I’m really not sure how this would have gone. Worse for sure.

So I finished radiation treatment three weeks ago. I was excited for the discomfort to come to an end.

It hasn’t.

In fact, it’s stayed pretty consistent. Headaches, fatigue, sinus pain from the treated area and some other things I won’t bore you with. Let’s just say I still can’t taste or smell. I must admit to getting a little irritable. When I met with our Dr. last week I asked how long this will take.

‘They don’t know. It could be two more weeks, months or even years. “. She says.

Well shoot. Time to get used to the new normal I guess.

Look I’m thankful it wasn’t worse. I have my eye and all my brain still in one piece. But I gotta tell you until you see the light at the end of the tunnel this is annoying.

So I go searching for some kind of uplifting passage about pain and healing. This one came up.

“Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

Isaiah 53:4-5

Like many of you, I’ve read stories about the suffering endured on our behalf. I have to admit I still don’t really get it. I’m not suffering I’m merely annoyed and hurting a tiny fraction of what He endured. Why are we so weak? I do not feel strong today but I know I am, because I know I am not alone.

I’m looking forward to getting through on the other end of this and being the man that endured and thrived.

Until then I need some pain medicine. 👍 .

Pity party over. Carry on.