This blog is made up of thoughts for my children as I battle cancer. It is not meant to be all knowing or holier than thou. It is simply a place for those that have asked, to read about the lessons that I would like to share with my children, whether I am able to stay with them, or not.



As I contemplate what I have left in this life, my thoughts often turn to “What have I done with this gift so far?” The answer to that question is exactly as deep and complex as the question. I can choose to look at it from a very high level and say that I have made mistakes, but overall, feel pretty good about my efforts. That is fine for maintenance purposes, but as I begin this Introduction from a hospital bed afflicted with Stage IV Prostate Cancer at 40 years old, it is not sufficient. The prognosis for my disease lies somewhere between 6 months and 2 years.

The odd thing about life is its ever changing definitions and standards. When I was younger, I would characterize life as freedom to make my own decisions and choices, beholden to no one. When I married, my life felt like it was intangible, yet to be defined, like a ghost. It was something that I was working towards, a goal. My wife and I were building a life together. It was like watching our first home being built. I saw the foundation, then the structure come into focus. Eventually, we began to see the frame taking shape to resemble our dreams and expectations. After we had children, my life completely became our life. Our life developed into defined roles. Some, my wife assumed, while others became mine. Instead of a mist that was formed by the particles of a concept, life became tangible and required research, planning, and action. I didn’t think of me anymore. Me became us. Not all the time. I’m not so full of myself to disregard times of selfishness, but my family of four, was ONE. I felt that one of my main roles and responsibilities was to provide for my family. To provide is a concept that isn’t only financial, but also to make sure that essential necessities of life were available to my family. Sometimes it was paid for, sometimes it was a shoulder, and sometimes, it was just time.

Not too long ago, our life changed. At 39, what was thought to be Prostatitis was diagnosed as Advanced and Metastatic Prostate Cancer. The cancer had left the prostate and spread to the lymph nodes, bladder, hips, pelvis, ribs, sternum, shoulder blades, and spine. My vision of life turned into a fight to live. My children, ages 9 and 11 became the focus of that fight.

As I pondered that high level question of whether I have done enough with my life, it inevitably became a much deeper question with much deeper answers. The more I thought about the question, the more I realized that the answer was much more involved than, “basically, I did fine.” The fact that I have 2 young children that I may not see progress into adulthood told me all that I needed to know. No matter what I had ever done, unless I left a road map for them, it could never be enough.

So what did I want for them? Easy enough. Everything. The best. All they could dream and all that they desired. As I prepared to make sure that they had all of these things, I realized that wanting these things at a high level, but not defining or measuring what that meant or telling them how to achieve it was the equivalent of calling them to my death bed, shaking their hands, and telling them, “Good Luck!” If that is all I give them, I have not done nearly enough.

These writings then, are exactly that. I don’t know how long I will have before I am called from this place, but I want my wife and children to know what I mean when I say, “I want the best for you.” I want them to feel my spirit with them, even if my body cannot. Mostly, I want my immeasurable love for them to be felt eternally as they progress through this life. I love them with every particle of my being and it overwhelms me. I want them to always know that without question. I want to define what “The Best” means to me and the values that make the type of person who lives that kind of life. This is for them, in the hopes that it will give them a map to use, whether I am there to guide them in this life, or the next.

Friday, June 11, 2010

What we think of ourselves.

It seems like life is scored or judged by others’ perception of us. We no longer evaluate ourselves by a look in the mirror, but someone else’s view. The judge gets the anonymity and latitude to voice any opinion, while we are left to pick through the pieces and select what has purpose and meaning. Many of the pieces don’t have purpose and need to be discarded. I think we start down the wrong path by giving value to an opinion that comes from someone that is not qualified to offer it on that specific situation. I believe in getting input from others on important decisions, but their perspective, goals, and values should be similar to our own or we should not be surprised when their opinion doesn’t feel right to us. What it really boils down to is, taking responsibility and ownership of our own portrait. A self-portrait, the only one that carries weight in this scenario, is, by definition, done by ourselves. It is not to trust or hire someone to do a better job. It simply can’t be done. When we set out to paint the portrait, the palette must be selected by the artist. I might choose “Honesty” as the most important “color”, while someone else may choose “Kindness”. Neither is wrong, but each chooses for themselves. When we begin to paint, we must recognize that this self-portrait starts when we are children and we will continue to evaluate and improve or degrade this portrait by the standards we value and the choices we make throughout our lives. It is truly a work in progress. After we are gone, this portrait is what we leave behind for others to interpret and discuss. Something this important has to be done for ourselves, by ourselves. As with any artist, many influences and methods lend texture, but the image is our own. The reason that I use this metaphor, and believe me, I am no artist, is that I want to explain the importance of enjoying the delight of building a beautiful life and to be the person that, through personal revelation, you know you can be. Others will offer opinions and thoughts about important milestones as you travel through your life. Some will even care. But the consequences of these decisions and the responsibility for your actions will always be yours to bear. You can point the finger for choices gone awry, but you will still clean up your own messes. The more you understand this very simple rule, the better decisions you will make for you and your family. Especially as you travel through your teenage years and into adulthood, pressures will be great to make decisions based on what others want you to do. They will likely not have any more information than you do, but want company in decisions that they make for themselves. This is a trap. All the time. Not that you won’t make the decision with them. It may very well be a very good choice. But, the decision that you make must always come from you, by your own reflection, by your own personal revelation. It then becomes an addition to your self-portrait, not detraction. The choice may not end up being the best one, but make the best one you can at the time, with the information that you have at the time, and with the intent to build yourself up, not break yourself down. As you make right decisions, even if they are not always correct, people will gravitate towards you for the right reasons. Those that would “judge” you will seek your counsel. It is not always about the “correct” decision, but it is always about the “right” decision. What others think will get you what they want, or maybe what you want, at that moment, but may not even consider what you want out of your life. Don’t sacrifice what you want most, for what you want now. The feeling that you get in your heart for a truly unconditional and altruistic gesture is not available through any drug, machine, or possession. It is a small taste of God’s love for us. It is a reward for choosing “correct” and “right”. Those feelings should guide your actions. We are given all of the clues for a happy, righteous life. They are always rewarded by the unquestionable feeling that we have done right for the right reason. This comes from our Heavenly Father and no person can give you this gift. By doing what others think you should do, against your own feelings, will not give you what you need to beautify your portrait. It will lead to damage to repair, apologies to offer, and amends to make. As you get closer to the end of your time here, you will start to see that what you thought of yourself always made you stand a little taller and more proud. What others thought of you, if unjustified, is irrelevant and usually difficult to even recall. Don’t be afraid to look in the mirror to evaluate yourself. Be the person that you want to see in that reflection. Always continue to fairly evaluate where you are and where you want to be. Always know that something as beautiful as what you are meant to be, takes time. Be fair to yourself and allow yourself that time. Don’t hold your expectations so high that you are unhappy with your progress and continually try to start over. Use all of your experiences as a wide variety of brushes and colors to improve your portrait. Work towards your self-portrait, designed by what you know you were meant to be. God made you out of an infinite love for you. Never question if you are ever enough. You always are. If someone tells you that you aren’t, hand them a mirror. Obviously, they can’t paint your self-portrait, so they better get busy on their own.