2015 was a fantastic year and it was one of the scariest and depressing years of my life – all in the same go.
This post is about one of the scariest moments – a moment that would affect me well into 2016 and affect some of the decisions I would make…and one that would eventually lead to me writing this post…
In February of 2015, I visited family in Scottsdale and did one of my favorite things: riding dirtbikes and quads out in the desert.
Here’s a quick video from that day:
Little did I know then that this exact moment – shown here in all its glory – would have a life changing impact on me and on those closest to me.
After Scottsdale I headed on to San Diego for the annual Traffic and Conversion conference. The annual digital direct response marketing conference at the center of my industry. I make the journey every year and always have a blast learning the latest digital marketing tactics and meeting up with friends from around the globe.
And Then I Got Sick
But this time round the conference ended badly for me. I got sick.
It started with a headache I couldn’t shake for three days that seemed to get worse and worse.
Then the coughing started.
By the time I got home, I was a mess and into the doctor’s office I went.
She checked me out and ordered a few tests.
24 hours later I got a phone call.
Doctor: “Your d-dimer score is off the charts. You need to go to the hospital.”
Me: “Ok I can probably head in tomorrow morning” (It was around 8:00 PM.)
Doctor: “No. Stop what you’re doing and head to emergency right now.”
Doctor: “You need to head in right away. Do it now.”
So I hung up and headed into emergency.
Heading into Emergency
3 blood tests, 7 doctors, 1 CT scan (more would follow) and a barrage of questions later and I was admitted to the hospital overnight.
I had a spot on my lung.
A few days ago I had been having the time of my life in the desert and now I was being told I was likely going to die from lung cancer.
He Pretty Much Told Me I Was Going to Die
As my wife and I sat in the hospital chapel, the doctor spoke in a grave tone and regrettably informed us that there was a high probability that the spot was cancerous and that the outlook was grim.
He also mentioned there was a small chance it could be a fungal infection.
And that small chance was all we needed to hear.
It was both a ray of hope but also threw me into a state of limbo.
The Brain Craves Certainty
I think the human mind always likes certainty over uncertainty – I knew I did at that moment.
More than anything I just wanted to know what the facts were – did I really have cancer? If so, how long did I have? If not, then what was it? And so on.
The mental monkeys began to chatter.
The next morning I went in for a minor surgery – a bronchoscopy so they could take a piece of the tissue and have it analyzed. I had resolved the night before to face this with courage no matter the outcome so I went into the surgery relaxed and confident.
That’s not to say I didn’t have doubts and fears, but I simply did my best to focus on the idea of courage and how I would want to be should this prove to be life threatening.
Two weeks went by.
Two unbearable weeks.
My wife was a rock. I was proud of how she handled it all, and I felt lucky that I got to see her perform in a crisis. A major test and she withstood it gracefully and with seeming ease.
Then the results came back.
“Not lung cancer.”
Momentary relief – quickly crushed by the next words out of the doc’s mouth:
“But maybe it’s cancer of the lymph nodes. There is a lot of swelling and we need to do a more invasive surgery to get a bigger sample”
I’ll spare you recounting the next couple of weeks of uncertainty and doctor’s visits and blood tests.
I Was Going to Live
The end result was that I got a very nasty fungal infection that for all intents and purposes showed up just like lung cancer.
Remember that video I showed you earlier?
In that very moment I swallowed or inhaled a very tiny spore – a fungus that only comes to life in the desert after a heavy rain.
It’s common in Scottsdale and a few other parts of the U.S but here in Vancouver? Let’s just say the doctors up here so rarely see a case of it, it wasn’t even a possibility in their minds.
I made a full recovery.
But during that several week period of uncertainty and testing I thought a lot.
I thought long and hard.
I reflected on my life.
Facing death really does stop you in your tracks.
It made me ask “If I died this year, would I regret anything? Was there anything I left undone? Would it matter?”
The answers I came up with gave me a sense of peace.
Fact is I’ve had a ton of fun.
I’ve travelled the world.
Met the woman of my dreams.
Was (still am) building a career and a skillset that I take great pleasure in.
And I had been on some crazy adventures and had built an amazing group of close friends.
I had good men in my life. I had met my father (after about 30 years) and brothers and I had a huge family back east and new adopted family members out West who loved me.
I mean things were pretty good.
Did I want more?
Of course. There were tons of things I still wanted to see and do and accomplish.
But if I had to go, I was ok with that too.
And if I were to live, I made up my mind to no longer settle for an ordinary life.
I didn’t quite know what that meant yet but I was going to go back at life with vigor. I was going to create something that would influence a lot of people for the better, and I was going to seek adventure and live a life that very few people ever get to live.
What’s the Takeaway?
So what can you take away from all of this?
I think if you’ve never done so before, take some time and think about death.
It’s kind of cliche as it’s been talked about a lot in the self help world but really thinking about what it would mean if you had 6-12 months to live, if you give it your best, thinking like this can really be an eye opener.
- What unfinished business do you have?
- What’s truly important to you?
- What are you driven to do?
- What else comes up for you?
Whatever you come up with, write it down.
This stuff is important.
Take your time with it.
Insight comes from being quiet, listening to yourself, and separating the chatter of your mind from what’s underneath it – what’s really driving you and paying attention to what really gives you energy and gets you going. Focus on that.
My two weeks in limbo between life and death taught me the value of introspection.
It showed me that I had a lust for adventure and that I needed to feed that lust even more than I had done so in the past.
And it reminded me that I had a desire to impact other people.
It also showed me that my wife and I had courage and strength when we faced obstacles – even life or death situations together.
I learned a lot.
I’m going to come back to this post again.
I have more to tell you about 2015 – the good and the bad. There are a couple more adventures I need to tell you and a few terrible things that I need to get off my chest.
But know this: my brush with death set me on a new path, but you don’t need something dramatic to happen to get to the same place.
Ponder death. Dwell on it for a bit.
Become ok with it.
Then ask yourself what you would do with your life if you had the courage to do something epic.
Then look for that courage inside of yourself.
Dig deep if you have to.
And if you lack courage then pretend, if only for a few moments each day that you have it.
Then start opening up to all of the many possibilities around you.
If you’re timid you can become courageous in time and if you’re courageous but lacking direction just know that you can and will figure it out in time.
That’s it for now.