When life gives you a 2nd chance

“DO OVER!” It is a common phrase on the playground and a universal truth among kids that everyone once in a while…we deserve a “do over.” (Golfers call them mulligans…although if they had to shout “DO OVER”, they probably wouldn’t be used as much.)

Well, what if you got the chance for a “do over” in life? What would you do differently? That’s a question I’ve been asking myself quite a bit the last couple of months.

My dad spent his entire professional career in the newspaper business. Around the time he was retiring, I asked if he had any regrets or wished he had done something different.

He replied, “No regrets, but if I had to do it all over again I’d like to be a U.S. Park Ranger.”

I wasn’t really surprised by the response because dad always enjoyed the outdoors and going camping in National and State Parks was a regular feature of our summer vacations.

When I was diagnosed with the big c last April, I was hoping for at least six good months and I made a mental list of the things I wanted to do one last time. Thankfully, I’ve been able to check off almost all of the things from that list…and the last six months have been memorable and special.

But now I sit at a crossroads. My prognosis is no longer “one year to live.” I’m still at Stage Four and not out of the woods yet…but with my tumors shrinking rapidly…there is optimism that I’m going to be sticking around for a while. Hopefully, that one year will stretch into many years.

So if life is giving me a second chance…what should I do with it?

I posed this question to Terry Pettit a month ago and he quickly responded, “you should become a motivational speaker and be an advocate on behalf of pancreatic research and fund raising.

An attribute of great coaches, like Terry, is seeing potential in people that they can’t see themselves. It’s why as parents, bosses, and friends I believe we should encourage…see the positive in others…rather than focus mainly on faults, weaknesses, and mistakes. And yes…it should apply in marriages too!

In pondering the “do over” question, there are three main things I would like to accomplish. First, I really want to assist Zach in growing his Schmackary’s cookie business. He has a vision to become the next Mrs. Fields…and I’d like to help him accomplish that goal.

Next, I would like to take Terry’s advice and get more involved on behalf of the pancreatic and big c cause. I recently met Anne Glauber, one of the top public relations experts in New York City. Anne was diagnosed with pancreatic big c in May and as a result she wants to use her experience and expertise to increase awareness as well as increase funding for screening and curing this disease. Anne is putting together a “brain trust” of communications experts to brainstorm on new tactics and strategies and she has asked me to be involved. Our first meeting is on November 11th and I’m really excited to see where this might lead.

Pancreatic research and fund raising has lagged far behind for many years. One of the problems is there are so few survivors to carry the torch. Hopefully, I can play a role in letting people know that amazing things are happening right now in the battle against this disease and that there is now hope in a once hopeless situation.

Finally, I’d like to make it to retirement…to enjoy the fruits of my labor. But even there, my perspective has changed. I don’t want my retirement to be just about me. I realize now more than ever that giving back and helping others is where true joy, fulfillment, and purpose takes place.

My mom is a great example of a person who has made the most of retirement. Mom spent her career as a nurse and being a caregiver has always been her strongest trait. She’s been retired for over 20 years…and even though she has spent the last 18 years without her soul mate…mom has continued to live life with joy and purpose.

Grandma Vicki has kept busy by gardening, traveling, being a mother & grandmother, having a multitude of friends…and especially by volunteering her time to help others. A lot of that time has been spent in hospitals and with hospice…she is also very involved at church and I’m sure is at the top of the call list when help is needed.

After suffering a severe stroke in August, mom is now confined to a wheel chair but she is battling hard every day to get better and stronger. My sisters and I are so thankful that now mom has a steady stream of faithful friends to visit and help in her time of need. The phrase “what goes around comes around” works in a positive sense too.

Mom and her kidsJudi, Jeff, Jill & mom…four cancer survivors

In closing, you’ve probably noticed that I haven’t been as faithful in writing new installments of The Last Train. There are a couple of reasons for that…I’ve been traveling a lot the last couple of months…and at the same time I’m having more bad days on chemo when I don’t feel good enough to write or do much of anything.

But the main thing that’s happened is I have lost the sense of urgency I once had. When I started writing The Last Train, there was so much I wanted to say and so little time to say it…or at least I thought. Now, I’ve got a feeling I’m going to beat the big c. I’d like to keep writing…the challenge will be to make it worth reading.

I hope you’ll stay on board for what might become “The Last Train…a really long ride!”

Medical/Personal update

Maria and Zach have been extremely supportive and patient with me for the past seven months…and I’m so lucky to have them at my side. They’ve encouraged me to travel and in the past 45 days I’ve taken an extended trip back to Nebraska as well as golf buddy trips to Hilton Head and Pinehurst.

But now it’s time to focus more on work…yes, Zach I got the hint…so I’m curtailing my travels. Well, at least until the start of ski season!

Next stop: A Shameless Plug

PiggybackIn the garden with my buddy Jethro

Pinehurst 2014 group shotMy Texas golf buddies at Pinehurst…9 rounds in 5 days

Schmackary's golf ballMy golf ball of choice!

Jeff tees of on Pinehurst #2My first shot enroute to a 75 on Pinehurst #2…not kidding!