Robert B. Haase’s public speaking career was temporarily derailed when he was told he would lose half of his tongue to save his life. On October 3, 2013, Robert had his 13th tongue cancer surgery, known as a "hemiglossectomy", removing the entire left half of his tongue. Robert is currently working on his upcoming book, Run Through the Fire.
Robert is available for public speaking engagements and can be contacted by email or at his office: 360-918-8700.
Today, December 17th, 2014 is the one-year anniversary
of the end of the treatment I endured to kill the remains of this vicious
cancer that took half of my tongue. As I reflect back on the whole experience, I’m
not sure how to feel, really. Should I be happy that it’s been over with for a
year? Sad that I had to go through treatment that almost resulted in the end of
my life? You can read about my near-death experience here. How do you feel about such an anniversary?
As I look back, I think the only emotion that remains is the fullness that
comes with feeling blessed.
As I write this, I am at 37,000-feet flying home from
spending 5-days in Miami visiting with my daughter, Sara. She’s the one who
appeared in the recent USA Today/King5 video. As we were having breakfast
outdoors at the Front Porch Café on Miami Beach this morning and the sun was on
my face, I felt such radiating warmth. Warmth I wouldn’t have felt if I wasn’t
Over the past year I have spoken to numerous people that
have confirmed that I am a walking miracle. Many who face the aggressive type
of cancer I had simply don’t make it. Add to that my near-death experience in
January, and I’m even more “lucky” to be alive. I don’t look at it as luck
though. I remain firm in my belief that I am indeed a blessed man and am
blessed by my Lord as undeserving as I am. Why ME, though? Why should I be one of the ones to actually make it
through and survive?
I spoke to Tamara recently, the nurse that found me moments
before I would have died back in January. Ironically she is a hospice nurse
now. She has told me of other patients with similar cancers to what I had and
they have since left this life. One gentleman in my Pasco, Washington, seminar
had a mother pass not too long ago from squamous cell carcinoma of the tongue. Same
cancer, but now she is gone. So why me? Why should I be spared while so many
others lose the battle with this vicious,
As I sat at breakfast with Sara and we talked about the past
year, I remembered the man I had met years ago at Memorial Sloan-Kettering
Hospital in New York City. He’s the man that I have written about that had
throat cancer and I met him on rounds during my last day of training. When the
nurse asked him how he was doing, he paused and took what seemed like an
eternity to gather his ability to swallow. I have since felt that helpless
sensation during the worst of my cancer treatment. It is scary. Seems like a
simple thing, swallowing. But when the radiation has burned your body both
inside and out and the tissues feel like razor blades are cutting you when
swallowing, the act itself is a bit of an effort. When that man finally was
able to eventually swallow and answer the question, the words he spoke changed
my life. He simply answered…
“I am blessed.”
That is all he uttered. Just, “I am blessed. He spoke the words with peace and a gentle
smile on is face. At that moment he didn’t “have cancer.” Not in his actions
anyways – nor in his words. The gentle-spirited man had the gift of peace with
a “little bit of cancer on the side.”
That moment changed me and planted a seed that would germinate until it was my turn to deal with cancer. So today when I look back and
ask, “Why me? Why was I spared?” I only have one response that could ever make
sense in my heart:
I am blessed.
These past few months have been a whirlwind for me. After
dealing with the financial devastation that came with the costs of cancer
treatment combined with an inability to earn an income, I set into motion a
work schedule for this fall that was, for a lack of a better term, “ambitious.”
Besides the two 1-day business classes I presented in June and July, I
scheduled ten 2-day Secrets of Deep Tissue seminars
throughout the country. In just 13-weeks, I taught in Honolulu, Atlanta,
Minneapolis, Chicago, Sequim, Pasco, Bellingham, Kent, Fort Worth and
Portland. Maybe “ambitious” isn’t the
right word… “foolish”, perhaps? In an effort to make up for lost time, I ran my
new immune system a bit ragged, but I survived. It’s amazing what you can do
when you have both the motivation of needing to pay the bills combined with a
lot of people praying for you. Thank you to those who have been praying for me.
It means the world to me.
I would be remiss if I did not also thank my intrepid lead
assistant, Charity Lisherness, for carrying the largest burden of helping me
during most of my seminars. Thank you also to Jessica Purvis and Sharon Harris
for assisting as well.
Amidst my crazy schedule, I was asked to be a model for the
Gilda’s Club Surviving with Styles fundraising luncheon in Tacoma a few weeks ago. Gene Wilder
started the non-profit group after his wife, Gilda Radner, died from cancer
years ago. Gilda’s Club is an amazing support for families of those fighting
cancer as well as the patient’s themselves.
The models for the event were all fellow cancer survivors
and it was an amazing experience. The most touching were the children who were
so strong and such an inspiration, several having had to face multiple battles
with cancer. The directors of the event, contacted me a few weeks prior to the
event and asked me to be the main speaker, giving the “keynote” address and ask
those in attendance to make a contribution toward the cause. I asked who they
Robert B. Haase, speaking at the Tacoma Gilda's Club
Surviving with Style fundraising luncheon, November 2014
the speech in prior years and the speakers included politicians and
even Cynthia Nixon, the redhead from Sex and the City. No pressure, right? Why
me? Well, I had a unique story to tell.
It’s funny. In the news story on King5/USA Today, the
reporter kept referring to me as a “motivational speaker.” It’s funny because I
never once referred to myself as such, but over and over in the various news
reports and articles, there it was. “Robert Haase, Motivational Speaker.” It
was prophetic in hindsight.
My career has really been all about teaching seminars to
groups of up to 50 healthcare professionals, but when I stood and spoke before
the group of hundreds in attendance, I was at complete peace. I felt in my
element. Not talking about soft tissue injuries or business/marketing topics,
but about my story. I have a feeling that I will be asked more and more to not “motivate”,
per se, but to encourage people. The idea is exciting to me and I can’t wait. I
don’t necessarily desire that possibility as my future “career”, but an
opportunity to bless people and encourage those who are facing the unthinkable.
I’m now taking a bit of a “break” until I return to teaching
in February. A break for me means I’m not teaching, but I will be producing and
editing two video projects from home in the coming weeks.
As I enter this Christmas season, I continue to realize how
blessed I am. I have healthy parents, Bob and Violet Haase, both in their 80’s,
three amazing daughters, Ashley, Sara and Holly, two awesome sisters, Linda and
Lisa and I have great friends. I have a voice that continues to improve allowing
me to speak for a living and I remain cancer-free I
truly am a blessed man. Truly.
Thank you all for your prayers and support as I move into
Today marks the one-year anniversary of having 1/2 half of my tongue removed and being told for the 11th time that I was "cancer free" (twice they couldn't get it all.) I have endured more than I could have imagined in the past 12-months, but rather than remember the hard parts, I want to thank all of those who stood by me during my darkest hours. Friends were made and friends were lost during the past year. So many friends came to spend time with me and I can't tell you how much it meant and how much it helped, even when the medications made me fall asleep as you were talking to me. I love my parents and my daughters dearly and am blessed by them so very much. Ashley, Sara, Holly, Robert-Violet Haase, and my sisters Linda and Lisa were all put through so much heart-ache and worry, but they were there for me when I needed them and I cannot thank them enough. I can't thank all of my friends individually because I would likely miss a few, but you know who you are and I will never forget your love, compassion and generosity. All I can say is thank you from the depths of my heart. I remain a Blessed Man.
It has been a while since I last wrote. So much has been happening and I am excited to say that I have been able to return to doing what I love. In the last few weeks, I've been teaching in Honolulu, HI, Billings, MT, Atlanta, GA, Minneapolis, MN and next weekend I will be in Chicago, IL. I've also been actively marketing the new movie called Broken, a faith-based film that is action-packed and full of depth and intrigue. This film is written by my childhood friend, Mark Cramer, and I am proud to be involved in the project. Many of you have asked me to tell my story, putting my experience into words. Although I have written here about individual instances along my journey, I haven't written about my story from the beginning. As I prepared to speak at Neighborhood Christian Center a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to put my story in a written narrative format. It is written from my heart and I want to share it with you now. Sincerely, Robert B. Haase A Blessed Man
I remember sitting in my office at my desk, alone, on the
morning of September 30th, 2008. My doctor called to give me the
news. I had cancer. It was almost a relief in a strange way. I had had pain in
my tongue for the past two years and I had biopsy after biopsy and each time
the doctors would say the same thing. “Good news, you don’t have cancer.”
In early September, in a voice that was a bit more stern
than it should have been, I said to my doctor in frustration, “You know, doc, I’m
also not pregnant. My insurance is paying a lot of money to find out what I
have, not what I don’t have. Please get someone on this that can give me an
answer.” And that’s exactly what he did.
It was the Albert Einstein College of Medicine that gave my
doctor the news. “Your patient has Squamous Cell Carcinoma.”
I was actually relieved in a way. There was an answer to why
I was in pain. It still made no sense, whatsoever though. I wasn’t a smoker.
Didn’t chew tobacco. Didn’t have the Human Papillomavirus (HPV.) It just was
what it was. I drew the “C” card.
Truth be told, I was wondering if my name was spelled wrong
by that point. Instead of “BOB”, it
should have been “JOB” from the story in the Old Testament. Not that I went
through anywhere near what he did, but I was feeling a test of my resolve to
love God and cling to Him versus curse Him and die.
A few years before, in 2004 I lost the love of my life, my
girl’s mother, due to a crumbling marriage. I was impatient with her and did
not deal well with her reaction to several life events. Rather than putting my
needs aside and showing unconditional love, I was selfish and responded poorly,
ultimately resulting in our divorce. I
remarried immediately in 2005 to someone that I really shouldn’t have, for a
number of reasons. I suppose what I got what was ultimately the result of my
own actions when my second wife left in 2008 with her new boyfriend. Her leaving… and then adding another man into
the equation was just more salt in the wounds that had been laying bare in my
Later that same year, the economy started to falter as you
recall. The vocational school that I had spent a million dollars advertising
and building from scratch into the nation’s only hospital-based myotherapy
& massage program had to close its doors. Our students were mostly funded
by student loans. Loans that had previously seen 85% approval rates drop
steadily until every student loan was rejected. Our $50,000.00 monthly overhead
drained our reserves quickly. The good news is that we were able to get our
students graduated before we shut the school down. Over 300 massage schools
closed that year for the same reason. Since I co-signed for every lease and
loan, I had to declare both personal and corporate bankruptcy. First I lost my
wife, then I lost my business, having to let my employees go in a horrible
economy. Then I lost my house, then my BMW.
Then the call on September 30th that I had cancer. It was crashing
wave after crashing wave, knocking me down each time before having a chance to
get my footing for the next wave. The last straw was the painful kidney stone that
came the week after my divorce was finalized. That year left me a bit bruised
In the years that followed, I had surgery after surgery. Each
time the cancer would be cut out and the doctor would say, “Good news, you’re
cancer free!” Then, every 6-12 months, the cancer would return to the same spot
on the underside of my left tongue. It would be cut out again, and I’d be
cancer free. I had a total of ten surgeries until the fall of 2013.
In August of 2013 the pain returned, but this time it was
different. It was more severe and for the first time, there was no sign of it
on the surface. It was much deeper. Dr. Myers, my ENT, could feel what I felt.
There was a palpable mass deep inside my tongue. On September 4,2013
I went into surgery with Dr. Myers at St. Peter’s Hospital. When I woke up out
of the haze of anesthesia, he told me that he got half of the tumor, but it was
wrapped around the nerve that made my tongue movement possible. What was left
was only ½ the size of a Tylenol tablet and I needed another surgery, but he wanted
someone even more qualified to do it. I needed to see the best in the country
for the type of cancer I had and that surgeon happened to be at Virginia Mason
Hospital in Seattle.
After a consultation that next week, I was scheduled for a
September 30th surgery. That was almost a month away. “Perfect!”, I
thought. I could use that month to take my youngest daughter, Holly, on her
graduation trip to Mexico!
What I didn’t realize is that during those 26 days, the
cancer went from the size of half a Tylenol to the size of a Oreo cookie. My
new surgeon told me when I woke up that what I was dealing with was an
extremely aggressive cancer and he needed to go back in with a more aggressive
response to get the rest. The procedure was too complex and he needed his team
to help him on October 3rd. “The hard news”, he said, “is that we
are needing to take the left half of your tongue, dividing it down the middle.
We will use your left forearm tissue to build up the tongue mass, but the right
side will have to move the arm tissue around. You should be able to communicate
eventually.” I was really glad at
that moment that I didn’t have a tattoo on my left forearm. Can you imagine
what my tongue would look like? But more importantly, I was a public speaker. I
needed my tongue. How was a public speaker supposed to speak with any sort of
comprehensible articulation with only half of a tongue, especially half a
tongue that had to work dragging the other lifeless half around?
Ever felt like you were in a Twilight Zone episode? He
basically told me that if I wanted to live, I had to sacrifice half of my
tongue. The cancer was aggressive and moving quickly. Time was not on my side
and waiting wasn’t an option.
I don’t know what the expression on my face looked like, but
my heart sank. I was numb, trying to comprehend what he was telling me. It was
all too surreal. I have always been an “up” person, glass half full and could always
see the good in everything. I KNEW that God has a plan for my life, but I was a
public speaker. HOW could THIS be part of His plan?
The surgery went as planned. Dr. Bayles and his team removed
the left half of my tongue. Then they removed a large swath of tissue on my
left forearm, all the way down to my arm tendons, folded that tissue over and
sewed it onto what remained of the right side of my tongue. Next, tissue was
removed from my left thigh with the equivalent of a “medical cheese slicer”,
using the skin to cover the hole in my arm. The forearm was then stapled up. It
was intense and looked freakish, but the team wasn’t done. Next they cut the
left side of my neck open and removed 20 lymph nodes in all. One had burst open
like a “squished blueberry” and team feared the cancer had escaped into my
lymph system. Instead of surgery and 30 grueling treatments of radiation, they also
needed to give me chemotherapy in high doses as well.
My radiation oncologist had warned me about what was ahead
for me. “I wouldn’t do this to my worst enemy… the treatment protocol that you
need is the worst and most painful that I can give. I’m sorry.” She was right.
Five days a week for 6-weeks I had session after session of
radiation, each time giving me a sunburn of sorts, re-burning the same area each
time. The skin got more and more red, resulting eventually in 2nd
degree burns and permanent scaring and darkening of the skin. Chemotherapy was
tolerable at first, but eventually led to constant, daily vomiting. The
vomiting went on for weeks after chemo was over and at the worst of it, I had
dropped from 215lbs to just under 150lbs. Today, I’m a healthy 165.
The good news is that cancer cured my weight problem… I
can’t taste food for the most part and more importantly, can’t eat much because
the eating process tires me out and the space for food to get down my throat is
severely reduced in size. Also, due to the weight loss, my Type II diabetes was
cured. My cholesterol levels? Now normal. Blood pressure? Normal!
Between 2008 and 2013 I had lost a business that owned me. I
lost a house that was worth half of what I bought it for. I lost a car that was
worth half of what I owed on it. It’s like that verse came alive, Romans 8:28
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,
who have been called according to his purpose.”
With the cancer diagnosis, I have heard things that people
have said to me that are hurtful and untrue… things like, “You must have cancer
because there is sin in your life…” or, “There is cancer in your tongue because
there is something that you aren’t confessing…” Even, “There is someone you
haven’t forgiven… you need to forgive. You have cancer because of your
You know, as with the story of Job, things sometimes just
happen. Matthew 5:45, “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and
sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”
Not everything that happens is a punishment, but everything
is a chance to draw you closer to God. He allows all the “stuff” and uses it
People say, “God won’t give you anything more than you can
handle.” Sorry. The Bible doesn’t say that. What it does say is that we won’t
be given any more temptation than we
can handle. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “God is faithful; he will not let you be
tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also
provide a way out so that you can endure it.”
The truth is, God will
allow things to happen that you can’t necessarily handle on your own. But you
can through Christ. Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who
I KNEW in my heart that if God was going to allow my tongue
to be taken that He must have another plan for my life. A plan that I couldn’t
have envisioned. I had two choices. I could either be bitter and angry that
things didn’t turn out the way that I wanted, or I could be full of hope,
excitement and joy that there was a better, more amazing future that I could
not yet fathom.
Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,”
declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you
hope and a future.”
You’re thinking, but “He did take something from you and you
were harmed”, right?
I have news for you. I have not been harmed. Let me explain…
When I became a Christian, I was healed… my heart, mind, soul and spirit. But as for the body? God
intended it to carry our spirits around as vehicles while we walk this earth,
but I have some sad news… our bodies are dying a little every day, and worse
yet, life is a death sentence. It comes with a guaranteed prognosis. You are
going to die.
We are given a finite time on this earth, and according to
the Bible, we aren’t designed to last past 120 anymore. We all die of
something. If the reasoning that disease is because of something you did or
“sin in your life”, then that means we all end our life because of a sin we
have committed or as punishment for a past behavior. That’s not true though.
Our body gives up from old age because of our cell’s inability to continue
replicating in a healthy way. We suffer from physical decay, malfunctions…
cancer… Death is a part of life.
I am not really worried any longer about dying. I am worried
more about not living while I’m still
Stop spending all of your time, energy and resources trying
to keep this body perfect and beautiful and start spending your time blessing
others. It isn’t about how you will eventually die, but how you will spend the
time you have living. I have ½ of a tongue and only one working vocal cord. And
I chose to use those to encourage you.
You know, despite all that might be going wrong in your
life, you are still blessed. The smallest of things can be blessings, but it is
hard to see those things when we let something block our vision.
Take my small iPhone for example. If I hold it in front of
my eyes, it is huge, blocking my view of a majority of all that is around me.
But if I hold the phone at arm’s length, it blocks only a tiny percentage of
what is around me. In other words, the more we concentrate, focus on and hold
close what is bothering us, but more it chokes out the amazing blessings that
we currently have.
I’ve been told I’m a motivational speaker, but motivation is
finding a reason to do something, a
carrot dangled in front of you, a reason to move forward. If I had to choose my
reasons for living and persevering through the tough times, I suppose those
reasons would mostly be encompassed around my family and my three amazing daughters.
But I would rather be an Encouragement or Inspirational Speaker. The cowardly
lion asked for courage, not motivation, right? It takes courage to face what
seems impossible. I want you to know that you can truly get through whatever
life throws at you. As for me, I have
the peace that comes with knowing I can do
ALL things through Christ who strengthens me.
I pray that you desire God’s will more than your own too. I’ve
been learning that it really is so much better and there are better outcomes
when I seek His will versus my own. It isn’t necessarily easy. I mean, look at
Christ, He prayed to his Father saying PLEASE
take this away from me, not wanting to suffer the horror of what he was
about to endure for you, but He knew the Master’s plan was so very worth it.
One summer, years ago, I was carrying a heavy box in my
garage. As I turned around, the latter that was next a stack of heavy boxes
fell towards me and struck me in the back with the heavy boxes crashing against
it, increasing the weight and forcing the metal ladder to tear into my flesh.
As I took a step away from the ladder, its sharp metal dragged down, tearing
more deeply into the tissue. The only thing I could do was drop the heavy box
and then turn to face the ladder. That’s kind of like life. Sometimes you need
to drop what you are holding onto and face the problem head-on or it will just
dig deeper, drawing more scars, pain and torment. Let go, face it and trust
that God will give you the courage and strength to get through what is coming
You know, my walk with Christ has become really simplified
through this experience, but let me explain by first backing up a bit.
I got into an deep discussion with someone who was stifled
in her Christian experience because she’s trying to be “good enough”… While there are different types of sin, all
sins have consequences in the day-to-day reality of your life. What’s worse is,
Matthew 5:28 basically says that that if
you’ve done it in your heart, you’ve done it… you are seriously screwed.
In the Old Testament, you would bring your lamb to the high
priest for sacrifice, using the blood of the slain lamb to cover your sins. The
high priest would inspect the lamb first, looking it over for blemishes. If it
was perfect, it would be sacrificed to atone for your sins. What he didn’t say
was, “Nice lamb, what else have you done
for me?” Jesus was the ultimate
sacrifice and his blood washes your sins, past, present and future. All you
have to do is accept His gift of salvation, asking Him for forgiveness and His
salvation that comes with it.
His work at the cross was enough. If it wasn’t, He wasted
When the Pharisees asked Jesus what the greatest law was in
Matthew 22:34-40, Jesus said the first was loving God with all of your heart,
soul and mind and the second was loving your neighbor. He didn’t say, “Don’t
steal… don’t kill, or don’t eat the bacon…” Just “love God and love each
other.” Simple stuff.
That said, being “saved” and living a pleasing life to God
are two completely different things. One is an insurance policy. The other is
experiencing the blessings that come from not grieving God. I mean, if you have
a habit of robbing banks, your life is going to have a downside unless you
really enjoy prison life. The law was written for our own good. Not being
perfect isn’t going to end in you losing your salvation, but it will put a
damper on the joy you could have experienced while living out your days on this
But I digress… you wanted to hear about my cancer story. The
truth is, cancer was frightening, but not nearly as terrifying as what happened
on January 11th of this year, 2014.
If you know me, you know I love toys. Electronic toys to be
specific. Gadgets of all kinds. I built my first computer in 1993. I look
forward to each Apple announcement and each Microsoft, Samsung and Tesla
product unveiling. I subscribe to Wired magazine and never miss an issue of
Popular Mechanics. I’m a technology guy. Anyways… I’ve watched the news for
years and every January have been glued to the newscasts about the Consumer
Electronics Show in Las Vegas and salivated about what was new in technology
and what was coming out soon. Each year it was more and more amazing to see. So
after years of wanting to go, this past January I took my best friend with me
to Vegas to experience the show in person. Sure, it was only 3-weeks after
finishing chemotherapy & radiation and sure, and I was still feeding myself
through a stomach tube with oversized syringes… I could handle a trip to Vegas
travelling in a confined airplane and hanging around 300,000 disease-carrying
people from around the world while I had no white blood cells to fight off
disease, right? No worries. Right? Well,
as it turns out, the answer was “no”, not so much.
After spending 3-days in Las Vegas seeing every new gadget
and piece of technology, I returned in the wee hours of the morning on Friday,
December 10th. Later that morning, I got up, spent the day with a
few friends, went to bed Friday night and never woke up on Saturday.
On Saturday morning, Tamara, a close friend of mine, was
trying to contact me to see how I was feeling after my trip. She knew I was
trying to decrease my medications and, as a registered nurse, she was concerned
when I did not respond to her emails, texts or voice mails from that morning.
She knows my iPhone is nearly always close by and had an uneasy feeling when I
was not responding.
As time passed and I still was not responding, Tamera’s gut
told her something was wrong and she contacted Brenda, my landlord, begging her
to enter my town home to make sure I was okay. Brenda reluctantly agreed and
met Tamara at my unit. Entering first,
Brenda yelled out, "Landlord... Robert, are you here?" There was no
response. Tamara peaked into the garage on the ground floor and saw my car in
the garage. They knew I must be home. Still calling out, there was no response
from me. As they entered my master bedroom on the 3rd floor, they found me
under the covers in a position described as "decerebrate posturing."
I was unresponsive. Tamara was even more concerned from my posture as it apparently
most often indicates severe, irreversible brain damage. My upper body and head was arched back and I
was rigid as I laid on my left side. My legs were fully extended with feet and
toes pointed down. My arms were curled and rotated away from my body. It wasn’t
good. The medics were on their way.
As they waited for the medics, Tamara tried to move my legs
and arms out of their rigid state, but she could not. With persistence, she was able to straighten
my torso and arms into neutral position, but as soon as she would let go, my
rigid posture and positioning returned to how they found me.
When the medics arrived, more tests began... my pupils were
pinpoints and nonreactive to light. I was administered a dose of Narcan to
reverse the potential effects of my prescription narcotics. My pupils still did
not change making them believe that I truly had a stroke, which can lead to the
decerebrate posturing I was holding.
My oxygen saturation was not registering for the EMT's pulse
oximeter, which cannot read below 50%. Because
I was found with my head covered and deeply down under my blankets, they
believed I had been re-breathing my own CO2 for some time. Not good.
I was hot and pale as well. My first temperature reading was
103.5 degrees, but I didn't sweat until I was uncovered and they had given me
numerous painful sternal rubs. Worse yet, I wasn't noticeably breathing
initially, but once I started, my breaths were almost described as
"agonal" or "dying breaths", but not quite.
With my tongue and throat having gone through surgery and
radiation treatment, the medics had a difficult time both intubating me forcing
the tubing into a tiny space, causing more damage to a surgical site that was
already compromised. Locating a vein to start an IV took some time as well
thanks to the scar tissue from so many blood tests and the effects of
chemotherapy. Thankfully, they eventually got a vein and rushed me to the emergency
room at St. Peter’s Hospital.
Test after test was performed throughout the day on Saturday
and the official answer as to what I had experienced was a combination of
septic shock, pneumonia and respiratory failure. Any one of those three could
have resulted in my death, especially in my weakened state from the cancer
treatment. Amazingly, when I finally woke up, there were no signs of brain
I truly believe that the prayers of Tamara and Brenda at the
scene in addition to those of my family, friends and Facebook friend's saved my
Why Would a Loving God Allow This?
When horrible things happen People often get angry and ask,
“Why would a ‘Loving God’ allow this to happen?” They get furious that God
doesn’t keep “bad” from happening in this world. The truth is, it was my choice
to go to Vegas with a compromised immune system put me into an unsafe situation.
We are all given free will and the results of our free will initiates chains of
events, ripple effects resulting in negative consequences and outcomes. Even
our weather patterns can be affected by our personal choices, or example. When
we pollute our water, it can drain into the ocean and that can affect sea life
which we ultimately eat which can lead to our own disease… yet we blame God.
You know that Carrie Underwood song, "Jesus Take the
Wheel”? Well, if we were ever to really want to keep bad things from happening
on this earth, that is exactly what people are asking for when they get angry
Let’s play this through. Say you are craving a greasy,
artery-clogging Triple Whopper and you get into your car… you are driving down the
road towards Burger King. If you want
God to keep “bad” from happening, like that future heart attack you are working
towards, what you are asking for is for God to literally reach down, take the
wheel, and drive you to the nearest vegan restaurant. Right? Or maybe you’ve
made a decision to step out on your spouse… you’re angry about not getting what
you deserve in your marriage and rather than work it out, you lose patience and
want to rendezvous with that coworker you have been flirting with. Again, how
would you feel if God should reach down and take the wheel from you, forcing
you to drive to a marriage counselor’s office instead?
What happens in this world is really all just the result of
our humanity enjoying the freedoms of doing what we want, a series of chain
reactions resulting in outcomes that are good and bad. And unexpected illness
is just the body in its process of returning to the grave. We are each born, and we will each die. What
we do in the time between the two is a lifetime of choices.
What if you knew that you would go to bed a month from now
and would never wake up? What would you do with the time you have remaining
until then? What would you do differently today? What is your purpose? What
choices will you make?
Bitter or Better?
I have been asked if I have grown “better rather than
bitter” through all of this, and if I am better, what are the keys to pulling
In general, I have never been a person that gets bitter, and
the few times that I have become bitter about something, the emotional toxins
that came from it burned so badly that I had to make the decision to release it
fully and let it go.
The Bible says that if we can’t forgive each other, then God
can’t forgive us. But what do you do when the one that offends you IS God? For
me, the very thought of being angry with God through all of this, through any of this, has never made sense. I
mentioned that life is a death sentence and our bodies are designed to live for
a finite period of time. Some of us will die of heart disease, others through
an accident, others from cancer. Every one of you has cancer cells in your
body, but your body does its job defending you, eradicating those cells. As for
the cancer that attacked me, my body simply failed to do that.
If 2 out of 5 of us will inevitably get cancer, being angry
or bitter at God would ultimately mean I was angry that someone else didn’t
have cancer instead of me.
That thought doesn’t compute.
If Christ can be tortured for me to have eternal life, then
dealing with a little cancer and enduring the cruelty of chemotherapy and
radiation for the sake of a friend… a neighbor… even a stranger, is nothing.
I have seen too many people in my lifetime that hold onto
bitterness and I cannot stand to be around them because of their negativity. I
didn’t want to be “that guy.” I knew that how I responded to my battle was a more
important witness that would say a lot more about me than just empty words and
So how do you do it? How do you not face the unfaceable and
not become bitter? It has been said in many different ways that holding on to
bitterness and resentment is like drinking poison and hoping it will kill
someone else. Simply put, spending time being bitter is a waste of time. We end
up consuming our finite time being angry when we could have used that time to
live life. A life of blessing and blessing others. This life is short and
spending it angry is really kind of foolish.
A woman I know valued time more than anything in her
marriage to her husband. Time together was gold. It was the way she felt loved.
When her husband started a new business to support the family, he ended up
working long hours, week after week. With each week that passed, the woman grew
more and more angry… bitterness took root. She was focused on his being gone
and was so consumed by it that when he was home, all she would do was spend
their precious time together telling him how upset she was that he hadn’t been
there. Ironic, isn’t it? The very time she was craving was right there… but she
could only focus on her anger and angrily talk relentlessly about the time that
he had been gone. All of the time he was home was filled with bitterness and
lecture about how he needed to be home more. The time he was able to offer his
wife was wasted, every moment filled with the wife’s wrath and words of
Remember the mobile phone analogy? How holding the phone at
the bridge of our noses blocks everything else that could have been in our
view? The more you focus on what angers you, or the more you focus on the
challenge before you, the more you allow your troubles to become the most
important thing in your life. You give that life challenge the power to block
every good thing in your life. When that happens, we often end up pushing away
those who care or want to bless us.
Thoughts on Prayer
This entire chain of events has had a specific impact on my
“prayer life”… or more specifically, how
I talk to God.
I want to encourage you to stop thinking about prayer as an
item on your to-do list. Sure, setting aside time in the morning for prayer and
reading the Bible or a devotional book with scriptures is great, but prayer and
“time with God” has become more than that for me.
Paul says to “pray without ceasing.” What does that mean?
How do you place your lunch order at Happy Teriyaki when you are supposed to be
praying at the same time if you are to “pray without ceasing”? What the Apostle
Paul meant when he wrote that to the Thessalonians was more about keeping a
constant communication line open with God.
Do you remember the days of dial-up connection to the Internet?
If you wanted to get your computer “online”, you would have to launch a program
that would tell your computer to connect. The computer would use your home’s
“landline” to place a phone call. Then you would hear a bunch of beeps and
bong-bong noises followed by a screech and white noise. Then you would be
connected briefly until you got kicked off by a bad modem or from some other
software glitch. Eventually we upgraded to the new technologies of broadband
and DSL… and the constant connection that came with those technologies. No more
having to “dial-up” and wait. Today, my prayers are more like a broadband
connection with God listening to my ongoing chatter, my thoughts… God knows
your prayers before you even pray them. What He wants is to have a relationship
with you that is free of judgment and He just wants to love on you when He
hears your pains… and hurts… Your communication doesn’t have to sound like
“prayer”… just a conversation. If you can quit the old habit of starting prayers
with “Dear Heavenly Father” and stop ending your prayers with an “amen”… it
becomes more like a never-ending texting conversation with that person you care
about… no “amen’s”… no goodbyes. Each check-in with God can simply start with…
“I was thinking” or “and…”
Remember not to hog the conversation. Taking time to just
listen to what God might be trying to say to you. That “still small voice.”
Take time to be quiet and ponder the many little things God has blessed you
with… and then listen some more.
Believing in What You Cannot See & Surviving the Flames
It might sound strange, but I am not a Christian because of
faith. I am a Christian because it makes logical sense and there is nothing
that science throws at me that detracts from the Word of God or Who God is. I
believe because of the overwhelming proof that is all around me. The very hands
I use in my profession are proof to me of a “handmade” design… Most
importantly, I don’t need to “feel” God’s presence to know He is there. I can’t
see the wind, but I can see what it does. The wind might not be blowing, but
because I am breathing, I know the air is there.
I spend a great deal of time in planes because of my work
and my travel habit. A month ago I was in Nashville. A couple of weeks ago I
was in Hawaii and then Montana and in two days I am off to Atlanta. If you
don’t fly much, you may not have experienced one of my very favorite things… On
the darkest, rainiest and most dismal of days, I love to fly because when the
plane takes off and begins to climb through the clouds, I KNOW there will be
blue sky and sunshine above the blankets of fluffy clouds below. Even though I
cannot see the sun on a stormy day, I know it is there just like the fact that I
cannot see God, but I know He is there too.
People have said to me, “Aren’t you proud of what you’ve
done? What you’ve survived and what you have come through?” The answer is always, “no.” It was the
situation that required me to move. I didn’t have a choice.
Let’s say you are in a house that is quickly engulfed in
flames… fire is all around you so you instinctively run as fast as you can
through the flames, right down the hall and out the front door. If someone said they were proud of you for
running, that wouldn’t compute, right?
For them to be proud of you for running out of a burning house doesn’t
make sense. You have to go through it
because giving up isn’t an option.
When you go through something as frightening as what I have
gone though, at some point the idea will pass through your mind about ending it
all. Regardless of your thoughts on suicide, the thoughts will come and you
will have to have a heart to heart with yourself on the subject. Even if you
haven’t yet faced something like this, I know that some of you have already
contemplated ending your pain, if only briefly. You've thought, "If I
ended my life, it's no big deal... and I wouldn't feel what I'm feeling
now." That is a load of crap.
What I want you to know is that you are more important to
people on this planet than you yet realize and leaving us behind would hurt
others because of your absence. You have touched someone's life already and
your continued presence on this planet allows you to continue to make a
difference in touching the lives of others.
I remember over the years many instances people being
affected by the smallest of things that I have done or said and I had no clue.
To me, those things were inconsequential. To the person I was affecting? Life
When I was in massage school student back in 1991 and had
the opportunity to massage a friend of a friend. For the sake of anonymity,
I’ll refer to him as Kai.
Kai was a quiet man and gentle in his mannerisms. He was a
little introverted, even though he dressed well, and looking people in the eyes
didn’t seem to come easy for him. When
Kai arrived for his massage that first time with his boyfriend, who I'll refer
to as Brody. Brody was loud and obnoxious in how he carried himself. He seemed
to control Kai with a look or a gesture. Thankfully Brody and Kai scheduled massages at
different times, allowing Kai the opportunity to truly relax.
When I asked Kai what kind of massage he was hopping for, he
simply said, "I just need to relax." I said, "Okay. I'm going to
go wash my hands and let you undress to your level of comfort and get on the
table under the sheet."
When I returned, I proceeded to give Kai a relaxing massage,
barely saying a word to him, only checking in to see if a certain technique was
too much pressure or to ask him to change his position. At the end of the
massage, Kai simply said, "Thank you. So, next week... can we come on the
same day and time?" I said, "That works. See you then." Kai and
Brody’s weekly massage continued for months.
As time went on, Kai began talking more during his massages,
opening up and letting me hear about his life, until one night Kai said,
"I need to tell you something."
"What's that, Kai?" I asked.
"You saved my life", he said in a soft voice, his
eyes directed down at the floor.
"How did I do that?" I said with my eyebrows
raised. Kai’s statement caught me off-guard.
Kai then raised his head and looked me in the eyes. Calmly
he said, "Remember the first massage you ever gave me? Well, that week I
had made the decision to kill myself. I couldn't take life anymore. But, you
were the first man that ever touched me that didn't want to rape, molest or
hurt me. You just cared and wanted nothing in return. You gave me hope and I
felt safe. Thank you for that."
Wow. I had only been doing my job, fulfilling my massage
hours for school and, oh by the way, I saved a life in the process. I was
needed. I made a difference. Just like you… You are needed and you are making a
difference, even when you think you are not.
That said, getting through the darkest of times will require
you to take inventory of the times in your life when you thought it couldn’t
get any worse and later you realized a positive outcome happened from your
experience. Hold on to those moments. Be thankful. Look for the blessings that
you have in your life. Regardless of what you may be going through right now,
hold on and be thankful. Don’t let your current situation take a position up
close, blocking the amazing blessings you’ve had and do have, even the smallest
of things. You know, when you put ice
cream in your mouth, you taste an explosion of flavor… but I can’t. You see, what I don’t have are functioning taste buds, but
what I do have includes family and friends who love me and daughters who bless
me. Don’t waste time thinking about the
things you don’t have, because you still have air to breathe. You woke up on
the right side of the lawn today… giving you another day to be a blessing.
When Foundations are Temporary
We take so much for granted in life. Some of you have never
really known significant loss. Sure, you may have lost a job, but eventually
you ended up with another one. Perhaps you’ve been financially blessed with a
career and assets that give you the comfort of not worrying about life. But if
a situation like the story of Job were to happen to you, what would you do?
What would you hold close and never let go of?
My girl’s mother has a saying that I try to live by… “It’s
all gonna burn!” and it’s true. The “stuff” you hold dear, your career, your
home, your car, your finances… those things can easily be gone one day. The
same goes for your health. And mine.
Tonight you will probably go to bed relatively healthy, but
what if something unexpected happens tomorrow and you go end your day with a
body you don’t recognize? What about your family and friends? We take for
granted that they will be there like they always have been. But what happens if
an accident or illness suddenly takes them away from you, their loving hugs and
laughter gone? What do you do when the ground you take for granted breaks free,
sending you into an emotional freefall, dropping you into an abyss of loss?
Putting your faith in yourself and the things you have can
be like building your house on the sand at the beach… the waves will inevitably
come and cut away at the foundation of what you know to be your reality. For
me, knowing that I am loved, eternally blessed and the fact that there is no
situation where God won’t hold my hand through it all gives me the courage to
make it through. And even when it comes time for me to move on from this life,
my confidence stands firm.
Attitude is a Choice
I came to understand the power of words when I was just a
boy. While I was still young, my father was a lieutenant in the United States
Navy and as a supply officer, he would go out to sea for six-months at a time, leaving
me, my mother and my sisters behind. His deployments took place in the days
before Skype, email and Tivo. That means that Dad did not have much to occupy
his free time except spend time with his fellow crewmembers and read books. Dad
had begun his interest in hypnosis while he was a college student but he
perfected his skills with continued study while at sea.
My father read book after book about hypnosis and the
amazing power of suggestion. He practiced the techniques on fellow students at
St. Martin’s College and eventually his fellow shipmates after graduating from
Officer Candidate School and entering the Navy. Eventually Dad became
exceptional with his skills of hypnotic suggestion. As a matter of fact, he became so good that
he was asked to entertain Navy personnel while at sea. The stories of Dad's
performances have reached the stuff of legends. What he was able to achieve with his words
alone was remarkable.
Growing up, Dad would tell me to be careful with what I
spoke aloud as there was power in every word. He wasn’t talking about quantum
physics and the power of my thought, but actual suggestion to the human brain.
His words to me have proven true over the years. For
example, I would be willing to wager a bet that there is someone's name that I
could simply mention to you that would give you either a spontaneous headache or
feeling of stress or aggravation as soon as his or her name left my lips. The
name could be of an ex-spouse, business partner, or even a politician.
My point is this…
If my words can cause you pain,
my words can also alleviate pain.
As a medical massage therapist or “myotherapist”, I see
firsthand how my words can affect my clients and patients, for both good and
bad. Specifically, words directly affect the muscles. Why? Because muscles are
controlled by the brain and the brain is affected by what it hears. I can
literally help someone stand straighter just with words of encouragement alone.
Powerful stuff. But our words also direct focus.
In the lecture portion of my injury treatment seminar,
Secrets of Deep Tissue™, I discuss something called the "Gate
Theory." This theory applies to my current situation directly.
Let's say you been working in the yard, pulling out
blackberry vines next to your home. You are working hard in the warmth of the
summer sun and as the day goes on, you find yourself covered in dirt and sweat.
While working away, listening to music in your headphones, a neighbor approaches
and strikes up a conversation. As he is talking with you, he looks down at your
arm, and says, "Hey, you've cut yourself! You're bleeding!" As you
look down at your arm, sure enough, there is a long scratch that somehow took
place without you noticing from the thorny vines. Amidst the dirt and
shimmering sweat, there is a long trail of blood and in that moment you feel
the pain of the scratch.
Prior to focusing on the injury, your mind was kept busy. It
was feeling the sun on your face and the strain of your muscles working. It was
hearing the music of your favorite band and feeling the sensations of
refreshment from a bottle of cold water. What your mind did not feel was the 4" scratch on your
forearm. Why? Because other sensory input kept your brain busy, drawing
attention away from your arm.
So, how does this apply? When facing the unimaginable, my
focus is controlled by choice. I can use the Gate Theory for my own good. For
me, I needed to stop focusing on the obvious negative impacts of my loss and
subsequent treatment and begin focusing on what was important. I have had
friends say, "Don't be afraid to be 'real', to be 'human'! It's okay to
show weakness!" I agree, but at the same time, when I focus on my pain,
guess what I feel? Pain.
Life is like that. When we focus on the negative situations,
things we cannot control, physical pain, things we don't have, how others have
wronged us, hurts from our past, we feel the emotional scratches from the
blackberry vines of life.
My prayer for you is that you are able to put your focus on
what is important and the many blessings that you DO have and use the
"Gate Theory" for good. Fill your mind and thoughts with that which
is good and positive, the silver linings. Let those things make you smile and
leave no room for that which would rob you of your joy. I will join you in this
exercise and continue to search for my many blessings amongst the increasing
It says in Philippians 4:8, “…whatever is true, whatever is
noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is
admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
Just because you haven’t faced the trials that I have
doesn’t mean that you can’t ready yourself and be equipped to handle whatever
lies ahead. Even if you face wave after
wave of challenges as they pound you emotionally against the rocks, you can have
the tools to get through your own trials when they come. They will come. Would
you like to know my secret of how I got through? Although there were several
tools I had in my toolbox, there was one that I had to use before any of the
other tools would work. Are you ready for my secret of how I got through?
I chose to.
Your ability to get through anything is a choice. There is
no sense asking God to have your back and carry you through if you don’t want
Him to take your hand to begin with. There will be times when He stands back
and encourages you just like a father giving guidance as his child wobbles on a
bicycle for the first time. There will be times when He steadies your arm or
takes your hand giving you “power assist” up the face of the steepest
mountains. There will be times when He catches you as you fall off a ledge and
times when He just wants you to crawl into His arms, knowing you are loved and
protected. No, you probably won’t necessarily feel those arms, but like the sun
above the clouds, He is there and He has His angels surrounding you as well.
Choosing to let Him get you though is the key. You have to make a choice to get
through and then know He is faithful to see you through.
I remember a story my pastor told years ago when I was a kid
about a man that fell off of a cliff and on the way down he grabbed a root that
was sticking out of rocks. The man hung there precariously, his legs flailing,
trying to get a hold but he couldn’t. He began yelling, “Is anyone up there?
Help!” The voice of God said, “I’m here.
All you have to do is let go of that root and I will catch you.”
“Seriously?!” the man yelled. “You want me to let go?”
God replied with a gentle voice, “Yes, let go and let me
catch you. You have to let go of what you are holding onto so tightly. Let go
and let me…”
The man thought about it for a few moments and then yelled,
“Is there anyone else up there?”
Getting through whatever happens on this journey of life
comes down to a series of choices. You can choose to give up. You can choose to
do it on your own and push away those who love you or even the help of a
stranger, but you still have to choose.
That same pastor talked about God answering prayer with
another story. You may have heard it, but it has to do with expecting a miracle
and not recognizing it when it is in your face…
There was a flood forming around a woman’s home and a state
policeman came and told the woman, “A flood is coming. Come with me now and
I’ll drive you to safety.”
“No”, she said. “God is going to save me.”
As the waters rose a boat came to her as the water was level
with her second story window. “Get in the boat”, said the man… “I’ll take you
“No”, she said. “God is going to save me.”
She climbed onto her roof as the waters continued to rise
and a helicopter came by with a search and rescue team. They lowered the basket
and a rescuer yelled, “Get in… we will fly you to safety.”
“No”, she said. “God is going to save me.”
The waters continued to rise and the woman eventually drowns
and goes to heaven. As she enters Heaven, she asks God, “Why didn’t you save
God replied, “Are you serious? I sent a state policeman, a
boat and a helicopter… what else did you want me to do?”
We pray for God to help us get through the trials of life
and often are so full of pride that we reject the help of those who offer to
help us. My girl’s mother, Debbie, is a tender, gentle woman, but her words of
wisdom can cut to the quick… during this process she told me, “When you deny
someone the ability to bless you, you are robbing them of their blessing.” What am I saying? Make the choice to get into
the stinking basket! I’m not saying that climbing in won’t be difficult or give
you a few scrapes, but you have to make a choice.
You can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens you…
you can get through any trial. The outcome of that trial may not look like what
you think it should look like. Sometimes God takes your pain away by taking you
home allowing you to leave this life and giving you rest. Sometimes He lets you
endure because you have unfinished business to complete on this earth still.
Either way, don’t focus on how you will die… focus on how you will live.
What will you do today to be a blessing to someone else? How
will you use your gifts and talents to make a difference in someone else’s
life? You might give 10% of your income
to God or charity, but I would challenge you to give 10% of your time making a difference in the lives of
others. There is nothing worse than a “humble brag”, so I’ll spare you the
details, but I love using the gifts God has given me to bless others without
telling everyone about it. In other words, don’t post a photo of yourself on
Facebook with the caption, “Look at me selflessly feeding the homeless at the
soup kitchen!” But I will tell you that even when things couldn’t look any
bleaker, you can put your problem at arm’s length as you focus on others and
then put that outstretched arm around others, being a living blessing.
One final thing that I need to say before letting you go,
and that is this… my hope for you isn’t that you necessarily make a decision
“for” Jesus, but I want you to first make a decision “about” Jesus. There is a
little book that I love by Josh McDowell called “More than a Carpenter” and it
poses the question, “Who is Jesus? Lord, Liar or Lunatic?” Systematically, it
walks through evidence, logic and Jesus’ own words and arrives at one
inevitable conclusion. He was who He said He was.
I was looking for a church years ago and a friend
recommended a certain church in my hometown and I called the pastor up for
coffee so that I could ask him some questions about his church and see if it
would be a good fit for me. Within a very short time, it was apparent that I
was destined to be there for his sake
and not mine. The short of it is that at one point he said, “Well, we don’t
necessarily believe that Jesus is the only way to Heaven…” At that point I
leaned forward and said, “In John 14:6, Jesus was quoted as saying, ‘I am the
way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’
If God is in Heaven, how exactly do you deal with that verse in your
philosophy?” He started to instantly
perspire and with sweat rolling off of his forehead, he looked down and
said, “Uh… we have a hard time with that
verse.” I smiled and said, “I bet you do.”
Jesus didn’t deny who He was and we have the choice to
choose Him. He was either The Son of God, a Liar who’s wisdom and words should
be ignored, or he was a Lunatic. If you look at the evidence, it all boils down
to Jesus being THE way.
I hope that my experiences and insights have encouraged you,
helping you see that you can and will get through whatever you are facing or
whatever may come your way. More importantly I hope you choose to join me in
accepting the simple gift of eternal life that Jesus’ sacrifice can provide for
you, with no strings attached.
All that said, I may have lost half my tongue, had my body
cut apart, endured cancer treatments and almost died, but I have so much more
and so many blessings to be thankful for.
God bless you. If I
can pray for you, please e-mail me here.