I was not always strong. I have not lived every day on top of mountains. There were periods where I found myself in dark valleys. Times that I was low, where I laid down in despair with no intentions of rising again.
When I was 14, doctors removed a large cancerous tumor from my right thigh.
Along with that – to cover the margins and to hopefully stop the cancer from spreading to my lungs – they also removed several pounds of muscle and tissue. Ultimately, they aren’t sure if it spread elsewhere, so I need to have several scans each year for the rest of my life. (So far, so good!)
Since the initial diagnosis of Synovial Cell Sarcoma, for nearly 20 years now I've had a ton of problems on that side of my body. From knee and shin issues that led to bulging and herniated discs, the lower right half of my body was weak. Very weak.
But let me clear: It was only weak because, subconsciously, I let it happen.
But each time someone stronger than me came to my side; a friend, a brother, a sister, a parent, even a stranger, and with their strength they pulled me up. They did not give up on me and they raised me to my feet with their resolve and determination. They convinced me with their steadfast spirit to fight on. And had it not been for these people, I would not be strong now. I would not be standing in a place to pull others up who have fallen.
It wasn’t until recently that my wife, also a cancer survivor, gave me the confidence to overcome my fear. I’m not sure what exactly I was afraid of, but I had very real visions of my leg snapping in half if I pushed it too hard on a lift.
One day I was having a conversation with her, and expressed my fear and worry.
“There’s no doubt in my mind you can do anything you want to,” she said with a genuine smile.
It seems so simple, but it was exactly what I needed to hear at the time. It’s clear to me now that fear and worry are the only enemies of man – and I was a walking personification of both.
Prior to that, the pain made me stop training and strengthening my lower back in general, so I focused on other areas while my back kept getting worse. I’d get to a great spot on the bench, but a small injury would set me back for months.
But even since my wife said that I could, I changed my mindset. Gutted through the pain and focused on slowly building my strength back up in places that I've ignored solely out of anxiety.
My body is not exactly made for deadlifting; I'm 5-9, but have an oddly shaped torso and very short arms. Recently, however, after months of slowly strengthening my back, I pulled over 400 pounds. Zero pain. In fact, my back has never felt better or stronger. Hitting 400 is not that great comparatively, but it was a significant milestone for me.
In the end, that’s all that matters.
And these experiences have taught me that strength, that perseverance, are meaningless if they are not used to allow others around me to be LIFTED as I was when I found myself low.
I’m sharing this only because it's an example of how much fear and worry can hold you back. There are millions of people diagnosed with cancer who have fought an infinitely harder battle than I have, and it’s embarrassing I wasn’t more mentally strong; I’m trying to change that and pay it forward from my own experience.
It’s my sincere hope that if anyone is reading this and going through what seems to be an insurmountable battle, NEVER give up.
Let’s continue “lifting” each other.