#14 Have the desire to win
I’ve always had something to compete in. I started playing tee ball when I was five. I played baseball for ten years. I didn’t play anything else but I can remember always having the desire to be the best in whatever I was doing. Throughout elementary and middle school there was a reading challenge. You could read a book and take a test on it. Based on your results, it ranked you. I always wanted to read the hardest books and ace the tests. I have no idea how well I ranked but it made me a pretty formidable reader.
When I got to high school I was pretty overwhelmed and didn’t start athletics towards the end of my freshman year. One of my teachers was also the track and field coach. He convinced me to join the track team. From there on, I moved from one competitive season to the next. The track coach was also the football coach, so at his urging I joined the football team the next year. Much to the chagrin of my mother but my dad had a full weight set at home. So I gained 20lbs over the summer (going from a whopping 115lbs to a staggering 135lbs, haha) and started playing football. One of the football coaches was the wrestling coach. So, as you can guess, I started wrestling. Each sport fed into the next and eventually by my senior year, I was fully engrossed in pole vault during the track and field season. I used football as my strength phase and wrestling as my endurance phase. I went into my senior year in the best shape of my high school career.
I would often think I wasn’t competitive. I avoided playing games with others. I avoided playing chess or checkers or something of the sort. The reality was that I was so competitive that I just didn’t want to lose. I often thought it was easier to avoid playing than to lose. It wasn’t until years later that I figured this out and really found that I was much more competitive than I would give myself credit for. This competitive streak continued through the years. I pole vaulted in college. I did bodybuilding shows after that. I eventually settled on powerlifting and strongman which were the last competitions I had before being diagnosed with cancer.
I miss those days but am grateful for all those years of competing. They gave me a strong sense for that desire to win. I hated losing. I often hated training, but I hated losing more. I could live with a loss if I knew I had done everything in my ability. I knew that there would be times I’d be outclassed or just that someone was better than me. I knew I couldn’t always win and the sting of losing still hurt but it was certainly diminished if I had put my all into it.
The fight these days is very different from years ago. My competition is with my cancer. My doctors and nurses are my coaches and trainers. We’ve been meeting anywhere from two to four times a week since the beginning trying to figure out how to win. There’s a constant back and forth between cancer and I. I have my good days and then cancer can certainly give me my fair share of bad days. Just like years ago, I’ll say that I hate losing more than anything else. The “training” days are every day. I have to prepare everyday. It’s imperative that I keep a fighting spirit because I know that cancer doesn’t give up. It doesn’t take days off or have easy days.
The only way I will win is if I wake up everyday and choose to do the right things. I have to diligently take my meds, stay active with walks and exercise, drink my fluids, and eat the nourishing things my body needs. I have to keep a strong mentality of never relenting and realizing that each and everyday, while a blessing, is also an ongoing battle. It’s a battle both against cancer and against myself. I can break down and take it easy or forget to do something important. That leads to having to fight back harder when something has gone wrong and cancer takes the lead. We have to be active and proactive instead of reactive. I have to stay on top of my routines and my actions to make the best of each and every day.
It’s not just the physical fight but the mental and emotional fight. Anxiety and fear can quickly overtake all other emotions and create a runaway train. What if the transplant didn’t work? What if I have to go through it again? What if things are so bad next time I can’t do it? I don’t care who you are and how strong you think you are, those thoughts will inevitably push their way into the forefront of your mind. The fight is derailing them and docking them off to one side without them running away and spiraling out of control. I keep in my mind my goals and aspirations. Things that I want to do and things I want to see. My mental battle each day is to create a pleasant place for my thoughts to reside. I want those pleasant thoughts to permeate into my being. This holds my mind in place and keeps the negative train from escaping.
The idea is to be truly thankful for what I have. Not just a passing gratefulness but a true smile-inducing gratitude. To be able to bask in the warmth that is truly loving what I have. A friend gave us a sign that says, “I remember praying for the things I have now.” I’m not sure as a kid or a young adult I’d ever have dreamed of having the beautiful things I have now. Two amazing daughters that are beyond my wildest hopes. A loving and caring wife that can still bring me to smile as we were walking down the aisle together. I still remember the butterflies I felt in my stomach when I saw her in her wedding dress. I still remember those butterflies because I still get them when she smiles at me. I still get them when my daughters call me, “daddy.”
There’s things beyond passion that can not be expressed. Love can be casually lumped into passion but love is beyond that. Love is gratitude and a thankfulness that brings with it a host of emotions. The largest of which is contentment. Contentment in truly having all that you can possibly have asked for. In truly having all that you need and knowing the peace that comes with serenity.
Those emotions and the mental fortitude that comes with peace bring a strong sense of desire to win against impossible (or even probable) odds. Besides working everyday to be strong and to be stronger still against my cancer, I work everyday to maintain the strong mental and emotional focus that carries my hopes and dreams. The battle or competition is constantly ongoing. It doesn’t stop and it requires a will to win. I have too much going on and I want to continue to experience all the joys life can give. Cancer wants to take that away from me and I’m not about to let it. I have a desire to win.