Exactly five years ago today I placed a bright yellow band on my wrist. Imprinted on it were the words Live Strong.
During the past half decade I’ve never taken it off—not even once.
Five years ago my life was forever and dramatically changed. I was totally shocked when the doctor found a large malignant tumor inside my left eye. I had a rare form of melanoma on—of all places—my retina.
With that sudden and jolting news, I quickly rearranged my calendar and within the next six weeks my wife and I had flown to Boston twice. There I received the very best medical care from a world-renowned specialist and ophthalmology professor at Harvard University’s School of Medicine. On the first trip I underwent general surgery to prepare my eye for the second visit a couple weeks later. Then, on the second trip, I spent five consecutive mornings in an underground concrete bunker adjacent to Massachusetts General Hospital where my tumor was zapped with a powerful proton beam.
During that time I had no idea what the future held, but I realized that each day is a very special gift from God. To keep that realization uppermost in my mind, I purchased the yellow wristband. There on my arm, the words “Live Strong” reminded me to be strong and to live life to its fullest.
Originally I intended to wear the wristband for only three months until my next follow-up trip to Boston. After returning from Massachusetts the third time, though, I decided to leave the band on my arm indefinitely as a constant reminder that I was not only surviving—I was thriving.
As you may know, the yellow band was created by the famed cyclist Lance Armstrong as he battled his own cancer. I loved the manifesto posted on his Web site which said, “We believe in life. Your life. We believe in living every minute of it with every ounce of your being. You must not let cancer take control of it.”
In the past five years that Live Strong wristband has never left my arm. It has constantly reminded me of the importance of living a full, abundant life. Today I look back with amazement at everything that’s happened during the past five years. I’m truly fortunate. My heart overflows with profound gratitude as I consider all the things God has given me the strength to do. Here are just a few of the activities I’ve experienced with my Live Strong band as my constant companion:
In my career I’ve—
- Left an old job and started a new one.
- Informed a couple of individuals they would no longer be members of my marketing group.
- Recruited and hired others to join my team.
- Encouraged friends who have found themselves between jobs.
- Managed communications for disaster relief efforts. These have included floods, ice storms, a chemical plant explosion, fires, hurricanes and tornadoes. I even spent a week in Greensburg immediately following the deadly F5 tornado that destroyed 95% of the town.
- Been interviewed for TV, radio and newspapers.
- Shared the Red Cross story with hundreds of people at United Way rallies in very diverse work sites.
In my family I’ve—
- Celebrated my 30th, 31st, 32nd, 33rd & 34th wedding anniversaries. (In December Carol and I will pass the 35-year milestone. Wow!)
- Hugged my daughter Jennifer as she graduated from high school.
- Congratulated my son Greg as he graduated from college.
- Walked Jennifer down the aisle as she began her new life with Nathan, my favorite son-in-law.
- Hugged my son Bryan and his girlfriend Annette as they announced their engagement. (They’re getting married next month.)
- Held my precious newborn granddaughter.
- Appreciated the “ordinary” times when family members have gathered around the Thanksgiving dinner table, are watching 4th of July fireworks or celebrating special birthdays.
In my life I’ve—
- Taken my kids to a Monday Night Football game against the reigning Super Bowl champions.
- Escaped unhurt from a three-car crash that totaled the beloved Oldsmobile I was driving.
- Shot 1,000 pictures at a NASCAR race using my all-access pass to gain entrance to VIP suites, hospitality tents, drivers meetings, garages, the media center, opening ceremonies, the hot pit and even the celebration in victory lane.
- Exercised my patriotic duty by voting for both winners and losers in city, county, state and federal elections.
- Served as school board chairman at the private academy attended by my daughter during her senior year of high school.
- Returned to Rockhurst University as a guest speaker in the class now taught by one of my former students.
- Become friends with 342 really cool people on Facebook and connected with 262 influential people on LinkedIn. (I’ve also probably disappointed 278 followers on Twitter because of my vapid and infrequent tweets.)
As far as my health, I’m doing well. Although the cancer took the vision in my left eye, I triumphed over the disease. As Lance Armstrong’s says, “Cancer may leave your body, but it never leaves your life.”
I’m not sharing my story so you’ll take pity on me. I don’t feel sorry for myself, so why should you?
Neither am I sharing because I’m under the delusion that anyone really cares about my medical history. One definition of a bore is someone who talks too much about what ails them.
So why am I telling you all this? Simply put, I’m celebrating my extraordinarily abundant life. I’m living strong, and I want to be surrounded by others who live each day to the fullest.
Will you join me? Together we can help each other rise above the obstacles we may encounter. Together we can help each other to live strong.
Thank you! Just by allowing me to share this dimension of my life, you’ve already strengthened me in ways you can never imagined.
Your story is very inspiring. What scares me most is that I am afraid I will not find a job. I should have looked elsewhere years ago, but I was afraid. Now I feel overwhelmed. Pray that I will “live strong.”
You inspire me, Duane. This post encourages me to create a list of my own awesome life experiences. Thank you.
Thanks, Kenyon, for the kind words. If I inspire someone else, I’m more than gratified. I find inspiration from you and others around me, and we can all find inspiration from the Higher Power that nurtures us all!