While I don’t want to make these weekly blogs a chronicle of my health history, I have to say that for a healthy 63-year-old guy, I’ve had my share of serious health scares…three to be exact…and since I’m currently going through the third right now, I wanted to share the latest with you (in the context of the other two).
First of all, I don’t plan on dying anytime soon (but if I miss a week emailing you, don’t panic).
I’m also not looking for any pity from you (although positive vibes and thoughts are welcome).
Because writing about this stuff is therapeutic for me, I hope you will indulge me…the latest news is at the end of this post…but more importantly, my hope is that my health journey creates some insights for you in regard to your own life (and health).
I know you all know this but it bears repeating:
I like the fact that this meme gives credit where credit is due for this magnificent quote (i.e., I don’t know of an online guru named “Proverb” …nor would I want to meet him). 🙂
My first big scare (which was nothing compared with the next two) was a stage two prostate cancer diagnosis in 2008…and since I wasn’t writing to you back then, it’s not documented…but it happened.
I had successful surgery…and suffice it to say that I caught it early and I will be dying of something else besides prostate cancer for sure.
And that something else almost happened—without warning—in April of 2019.
Although there was some creepy foreshadowing.
On April 3, 2019, I wrote a post entitled “The view from above ground” and little did I know that only a week later I would suffer a near fatal stroke.
Reading that post after I survived made me think twice about writing about the dance of death because it is going to happen to all of us one day which makes writing about the topic always foreshadowing.
On second thought, I will continue to write about anything I want anytime (and I encourage you to do the same) which is a theme expressed later in this post regarding building a living legacy. More on that in a minute.
Regardless, I was grateful to be alive…and the experience (which I don’t recommend) enabled me to think a lot deeper about the difference between living and dying over these past two years…and specifically what we are leaving while we are still here vs. what we leave when we are gone.
I followed up that pre-stroke post with one post-stroke post titled “The view from below ground?” in February of 2020 (when I was fully recovered).
Once healed, my focus centered on the fact that when we die, we don’t have reliable data on how we might be dealing with that…specifically how we will be feeling…and how we will eventually be remembered.
I know that’s obvious…but it’s worth expressing given the theme of this post.
Put another way, “leaving a legacy” is not a reason in itself for living a productive life.
Your “living legacy” is much more important…and you have to “keep on keeping on” until you’re done being upright.
Leaving a solid footprint behind is noble…I’m just saying that it’s not everything.
I went to The Google for a definition of “living legacy” and here’s what I found which expresses it better despite having no attribution (and I’m sure “Proverb” didn’t write it):
For many people, the word “legacy” conjures up ideas of death, inheritance, and material possessions. [A living] legacy is all about life and living and caring about our world during our lifetime. When you’re alive, you have a unique opportunity to draw meaning by helping others in some way that is meaningful to you.
My virtual assistant from the Philippines (Macy), who prepares this blog for me (and you) every week, let me know that she lost her “Papa” (grandfather) a week before I wrote “The view from below ground?” (which added to the inspiration for writing it).
I also lost one of my mentors Gordon Grossman at around that time as well (“The real O.G.”), and we were also knee deep in COVID, so my thoughts were very much into death and dying at that time (but always in the spirit of life and living).
There are many customs in our country (and Macy’s) that involve reverence for our elders–which then reminded me of the Mexican tradition of Dia de Muertos (The Day of the Dead) and the movie Coco.
The lessons from Coco were the main subject of that original post before my stroke in April of 2019…and those of you who are regular readers know how fond I am of this movie.
Please indulge me once again (especially if you haven’t seen it yet).
I’ve excerpted from “The view from above ground” below.
On the surface you might think Coco is just another animated Pixar film for kids…but don’t be fooled. It is one of the most poignant and meaningful films for adults and children of all ages.
Why is Coco such an important film?
Because at its core, it covers the most important life affirming issues for those of us who are still above ground.
There are two main themes of the film:
1. Loving and supporting your family above all else
2. Always remember those you’ve lost as often as possible
As I mentioned, the movie centers on Dia de Muertos which, according to Wikipedia, is a celebration throughout Mexico, a multi-day holiday, focusing on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died, and help support their spiritual journey.
The film is profound in its simplicity…and it is way more inspiring than it is sad.
It hit home for me in a more profound way in April of 2019 because my book, Overdeliver, came out on April 9th , and I had my stroke on April 10th.
While I was almost below ground, I thankfully ended up above ground.
Believe it or not, there were no new epiphanies from the experience because I had everything, I needed to know to cope from what I learned in Coco.
Maybe it was fate that I wrote that post a week before my stroke and a day before my book was released.
From lesson one from Coco, the lesson that the love and support of family is paramount, the dedication to my wife and kids in Overdeliver expresses that sentiment: “No one can do anything in life without a loving and supportive family, and without Robin, Alex and Madeline, I’d be lost.”
From lesson two from Coco, about remembrance, I share a lot in Overdeliver about my journey through all sorts of marketing wars which were not won (or lost) on my own.
I had a ton of help along the way…even with the losses which were not losses, just “learning”…which makes any part of the story incomplete if I did not honor my family and the greats of direct marketing on whose shoulders I stand.
In particular, Coco asserts that when we die, we are not really “dead” as long as we are thought about and referred to often by those we leave behind.
That means I need to continuously share the genius of all the amazing marketers you might have missed out on who helped me the most, some who are still active, some who are no longer active and especially those who are rarely talked about anymore, both alive and dead.
As I laid in bed in the hospital after my stroke, knowing I was going to make it, I thought about what I would have left behind if had I died; but also, what I was working at that time and what my plans were in the near future…all in the spirit of continuing my contribution to the world (while being alive).
I’m not saying that my contributions are anything special…but they are mine…nothing fancy…just valuable contributions we all strive to make every day.
And a specific thing that was most significant, as I was thinking about my contributions, is that they were enveloped within the contributions from my mentors to both me and the world.
And if I had died, the footprint from the resource pages for my book (www.OverdeliverBook.com) would have reverberated much more than the book itself…because of the tribute to my mentors on those pages.
OverdeliverBook.com is one of many guarantees I’ve created to make sure those looking up at me from below ground (or better yet, looking at me from “on high” in heaven)—are feeling good that they are being remembered which, according to the lessons of Coco, ensures that they are not really dead.
And those who are still alive can continue to collaborate with me to create new living legacies.
Now to the third chapter in my survival story…which is happening right now…with all of these lessons learned from the first two chapters still in place.
I went into the hospital recently for a heart scan to plan for an elective surgical procedure to correct some issues that would help with future stroke prevention.
While the scan was fine, the radiologist picked up, without looking for it, a mass on my right kidney.
I actually mean that…since without the elective surgery I never would have known the tumor was there until it was too late.
Is the lesson here to do elective scans regularly to find malignant masses? Hardly.
However, I will say that staying engaged with your health will lead you to unexpected “bad news benefits” (if I can coin a phrase).
The lesson is actually the same as with any health issue (because we will all have issues at some point whether we want them or not).
Not only do we need to remain positive even with the bleakest prognosis, we also need to stay focused on the contributions we have made to date, that we have nothing left to prove…and the mission is only to keep contributing until our last breath.
With this kidney thing, the prognosis looks good…no spread to the lungs or to the entire kidney…so I will be going in for a partial nephrectomy (a removal of the tumor along with a third of my kidney) …and the hope is that I will then be able to put this third chapter—or third life of nine (with six more to go)—in my rearview mirror.
And I’m ready to attack my fourth life. I’m just getting started.
Because of health scares one and two, my philosophy remains constant with number three:
Live your legacy rather than looking to die with one…since living comes before dying…and dying will last a lot longer.
And…that is not the same thing as saying life is short…life is long…it’s just that death is longer.
Your “non-living legacy” is someone else’s business…your living legacy is all yours. 🙂
Also–remember all of those who have passed and who are most responsible for where you are now…and I encourage you to make a declaration (today?) that you will continue to remember them until you are below ground yourself.
They need your help so they don’t ever experience a “final death” (and you will need to watch Coco to get a true understanding of that). Instructions are in the P.S.
And if any of this sounds morbid, it’s not.
It’s about celebrating life, not mourning death.
Hopefully those who you touch in your lifetime most profoundly (who survive you) will pay it forward by remembering you in the same way you remember, those who are gone who have touched you most profoundly.
P.S. A reminder to watch Coco…which I will be doing sometime before my surgery on July 20th.
It’s available on a number of streaming services…even on YouTube for $3.99.
P.P.S. And if you haven’t gotten the priceless “Overdeliver Collection,” the bonuses honoring my mentors of marketing both dead and alive (and I’m sure many are mentors of yours too), do it now at www.OverdeliverBook.com.
This is not a blatant sales pitch for the book either…I don’t make anything from book sales on this page…and based on the topic of this post, the direct marketing greats on the page will appreciate your support much more than I will.
If you simply look at the page, and acknowledge their greatness…and then take a moment to remember the ones who have passed…you’ve done your good deed for the day.
No purchase necessary. 🙂