The Story Of Two Wood Choppers

A long time ago, two men were hired to chop wood all day long.

They each had a huge pile to chop with an axe, and had to work until they finished.

Ever chopped wood?

It’s tough…all the muscles in your body will burn even if you just do it for just a few minutes.

So, early in the morning, they both began.

The first man chopped for about an hour, then took a break.

The second man kept chopping, without any break at all. As the day went on, the second man noticed the first taking more regular breaks. “Aha!” he figured, “I’m easily going to finish before he does!”

Soon evening came. Both men were tired, and their piles of wood were diminished, but not gone. However, something strange happened:

The first man (who took all those breaks) quickly worked through his entire pile, chopped the final piece, and prepared to go home. The sun was setting, and he was done for the day. The second man still had a couple hours of work ahead of him, and he couldn’t contain his astonishment: “Wait a minute! How did you finish before me? I saw you taking breaks but I didn’t take any!”

The first man replied, “I took the time to sharpen my axe.”

You may have heard that story before but the reality never fades. If you want to do more of anything, you have to sharpen your tools. If you want to have a good business, you have to have a good business plan. If you want to know more about your faith, you read more about the Bible and what it teaches. If you want to be a good leader, you must mentally prepare your mind.

You cannot work hard the “old school” way. You cannot blindly follow the business plan your organization has laid out for you. That just leads to being part of the 97% of people who fail. Now through other posts you learned that failure is also a teaching tool but only if you learn from your failure can you then move forward. Don’t be like the one person that did not stop to sharpen his tool. It gets dull and doesn’t work very well. Hmm, that sounds like some employees I know, dull and don’t work very well. Do not let this happen to you. Sharpen your axe!!

Lessons Learned

October 2013  – My wife Carol had just broken her leg. November- She breaks her leg again. While she was getting her leg repaired, they drew blood to find out why she was falling. She was anemic, which means she was losing blood but we didn’t know where. They scheduled an Upper GI and a Lower GI. It was during the lower GI that they found the cancer. The doctor came up and told me once he was free from the procedure.

My heart dropped, my mind raced, and instantly I thought of many reasons why there was no way this could be true. From there proceeded many tests, emergency room visits, and the aid of a wonderful Oncology Advocate (her background is pathology) and then the diagnosis of Colorectal Cancer. We were told this would be almost routine and there was nothing to worry about.

February 2014 – Carol catches an infection on her leg. She requires a third surgery on her leg. This time they put an external fixator on her leg. That goes good for a bit.

April 2014 – Carol and I are faced with the biggest decision of our married lives outside of us getting married. We opt to have her leg taken off. She recovers fine from this procedure. Now it is finally time to look for a surgeon. We don’t take any chances and go with the best at University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). During one of our normal routine visits to get blood work done, basically prep work for the surgery, we are told to go to the Emergency room in the UAB facility. Her potassium level is way too high and she gets admitted. 3 days later, we go home.

She finally gets to surgery but not the surgery we are looking for. She is told that she will have a colonoscopy. She has that done laperscopically. We also find out that she is and has been constipated. 4 days out of surgery, she still has not gone. She is called into another surgery, this to fix the first and get the stool moving. This surgery finally works. We get home and find out that Carol is in much less pain than before the surgery. For that, she is grateful.

So what becomes of all this if it is not a teaching lesson. Here is what I found out about the whole situation.

Challenges – dealing with shock, while trying to lift the spirits of my 49 year old wife, while trying to stay positive myself, while trying to deal with insurances, hospitals, specialists, family, friends, and above all, making the right decisions. I guess I would call this information overload, but every bit of it was necessary–and all in a very compressed time frame.

Lessons – An oncology advocate is worth more than gold. We started at a local oncologist who gave the first round of treatment. When it came down to surgery, the recommendation given to us was not the best. We then tried to go to the “Cancer Treatment Center of America”. One sitting in Atlanta denied Carol’s ability to use their facilities. I am sure they are wonderful facilities but they are not in the business of helping people as they say they are. They help who they want to help. One phone call to the oncology advocate and University of Alabama at Birmingham was suggested. We had our local oncologist make the referral. It has been the best decision of all. LL- Not all doctors or facilities are the same, even though they might have “Cancer Treatment” in their name.

Her guidance was incredibly invaluable. Without her, I don’t know that a proper facility would have been chosen. I was on the same wave length, however I had no power to make changes.

Unanswered questions – Would more testing done earlier have made a material difference? If testing were done earlier, would my wife have been more prone to be tested more often?

Did this cancer “explode overnight” (per se) or did it develop slowly and therefore might have been caught in earlier more treatable stages? (And yes, I beat myself every…single…day over this regardless of all the kind words people have said to me.)

How can we make testing earlier and more simple and so thorough that it becomes as commonly administered as the old CHEM-7 panel?

I had just completed my testing and wasn’t totally out of the woods as I had 4 polyps that were removed. I don’t think they were any thing to worry about since I am still here and not testing. I do have to go back in a year or so to do it again. The thing is just kind of weird in that women are not even expected to start testing until 50 as well. With Carol being adopted, there is no way to tell if there was a history. What do you do and how do we know?

We’re Going Into Overtime People!

Today is the perfect day to launch another edition of my Blog.  Why, you ask?

Because God has officially let me live one day more! {Cue Katy Perry’s ‘Roar’, close your eyes and imagine me doing a fabulously fierce touchdown dance (think Cam Newton meets Tebow’s prayer pose).} When two teams go into overtime, there is a bit of drama that ensues. Both teams are now fighting for one chance to win. It takes time that originally wasn’t scheduled. The rules of overtime or extra time vary between sports and even different competitions. Some may employ “sudden death”, where the first player or team who scores immediately wins the game. In others, play continues until a specified time has elapsed, and only then is the winner declared. If the contest remains tied after the extra session, depending on the rules, the match may immediately end as a draw, additional periods may be played, or a different tiebreaking procedure such as a penalty shootout may be used instead.

 Why, Why, Why? 

God, where were you when this happened?  WHERE ARE YOU now? Why would you do this to my wife? 

Signed,

A lost soul

When Carol was diagnosed with Colon cancer at 48 years old, a new life ahead of us was guaranteed. It has now been a year since she first broke her leg that led to the eventual diagnosis of cancer.  Carol has been through a lot in the last year.

Just a short recap,

Oct-Broken Leg surgically repaired with screws and plate.

Nov-Second Broken Leg, same leg same repair. Also diagnosed with colo-rectal cancer.

Dec-Jan goes through chemo and radiation

Feb-Leg contracts infection. Surgery to remove infection leaves 3”x 8” wound requiring wound vac.

Apr-Infection does not go away, amputation of leg.

Jun-Switch doctors and head to University of Alabama in Birmingham

Sep-Has colostomy surgery. Also has second colostomy surgery. Released is the information that the cancer has spread to her lungs.

Carol had been given a time limit but I don’t think  I could have lived with that kind of information. Shake that awful thought.

During all this, the chemo, surgeries, and such, there was no time for me to shed a tear or to feel bad about the situation. I was so focused on taking care of Carol that I wasn’t living.

 {Strength}

God can handle all our anger, all our fear.  All of it. It took me a while to figure it out but once I did, it was so freeing.  During the previous said months, I drifted closer and closer to a God I already knew but somehow drifted away from. I have always known that he was there but for whatever reason, he had become a “God of convenience.” I’m stubborn, y’all.  I mean, He put me in this situation to draw me closer to Him. For that I am certain.

On a couple of occasions, Carol and I were at each other’s throat. We were and still are so stressed. My core was shaken and my soul was stirred. What a gunky, heavy, empty, miserable pit. I remember falling to my knees and crying out in desperation…this is it? This is our new life? How could you do this us? If you’ve been there you know what I’m talking about and if you haven’t, I hope and pray you never have to go there.

The good news is God was there waiting all along and His plan was in motion.  To this day, I often visualize God’s giant yet gentle arms cradling my lifeless body and scooping me up as I laid in the downward dog position bawling crying, in shackles and gasping for air.

{Hope}

God is present everywhere.  No matter how big or small the situation or how far apart from Him you have grown, He’s there and can handle anything you dish out. Just close your eyes and imagine a massive pummeling bag dangling from the heavens and go for it…punch it. Boom! Let ‘er rip. I get goose bumps thinking about how mighty He is.

Over the coming months, Carol will be going through another round of chemo. I’ll share how both Carol and I deal with that. Each round is different and this one will be the heaviest. In hopes to kill the cancer at her lungs and her groin, she will have that heavy dose. I share our story mostly for therapy for me but I hope that you learn a little through our plight and maybe, just maybe you’ll laugh a little while we’re at it.

Today IS the first day of the rest of our lives. I’m gonna live mine OT style – sometimes frolicking, sometimes trudging. Carol is not shooting for a tie, she is going all out for the win in this, “Her Overtime” And the best part about it is we not alone. We never was and we never will be.

Leadership is like being Born , and Born Again, Always in Transition!

Being associated with the military for so many years, first in the Army and now as a Army and Air Force Civilian, I have had the chance to move around a lot. Moving from State to State and/or Country gives life and the job a new perspective each and every time you move. Not only do you have a new place to call home, you have a new job, new peers, new supervisors. It is a very unique situation. It is like being in transition every few years or so. Sometimes you can move for a promotion. Sometimes just for a different opportunity. Looking at the promotion aspect we look at the old home now as something we have outgrown. A place that we can no longer fit into. It is now our time to move into a more challenging position.

Let’s take a look at birth. At some point, usually around the nine month mark, sometimes sooner but usually not much later,  you start to out grow the parameters of your surroundings. The womb that you live in is now too small as you grow from a fetus to an unborn child. It is the perfect environment for you while you are growing and changing. But then, You cannot feed in one realm and stay in that realm. If you continue to feed and get enough on the inside of you, you cannot stay within that same realm you start to have a discomfort staying in the dimension that you once lived in. You have now outgrown your environment.

Now when a child is born, he has quite the travel. He has to go through a narrow passage, go through some very not so nice smells, be mixed with some dirty stuff, and this isn’t the choice that the child has made. It is a choice however, that has to be made because the child has now outgrown the home he has become used to. Liken this to leadership, that if you continue to feed the inside of your knowledge and soul, and if you continue to feed the inside, it will open up your mind, open up your thinking, and open up ideas and open up your concepts until all of a sudden, you are uncomfortable in what you were once comfortable in. In reality, God says you should cry when a child is born and rejoice when a child dies, because God understands that birth and death are labors together with him to push you from one world to the other.

When you start thinking on another level, you start to become separated from where you once were. What you used to think was funny, isn’t funny anymore. What you used to enjoy, you don’t enjoy anymore. Perhaps you used to love to sit in front of the television and watch those popular singing shows. Now that you have started filling your soul from the inside, you don’t like those shows anymore, you like to read!. You are not satisfied with the same things you were satisfied with before. Perhaps you don’t even fit in the same places that you once fit in before. Maybe even your friends will change. This is the time you would probably here the phrase, “you forgot where you came from.” My new response to that is, I didn’t forget it, I just can’t stay in it. I’ve got to get out of here. I can’t stay in this rut.

This reminds me of my wife’s latest round of surgical procedures. She was in the hospital for two weeks. She received a colonoscopy. That in itself isn’t really strange, but the way that they chose for her to heal was. The surgical doctor decided that since there was such a chance of her getting an infection because they were working with so much fecal matter, they decided that they would use what is called a wound vac and leave the surgical opening, open. The wound vac assists the healing of the wound from the inside out.

So looking at the leadership example above, you are leaving one job to move to another, you are going through another birthing process to get to another dimension. So really you are being born again, and again, and again. The way the process works in any industry is that you get a job, or as an entrepreneur, you have your business, the business gets going and soon you get comfortable. You get all settled in. You say,”Now I have my life all nice and neat, I finally got it just the way I want it.” But then you look around, and the “water breaks” in the situation and soon enough You have to re-create yourself, re-define yourself and start all over again. You were sure of yourself before but now you are a student again of the new process. you knew how to do everything before the water broke, but now you are learning again and you are, “born again.”

this story isn’t about birth or even the birth process, but the trauma of Transition is what was described above. The trauma of the traveller. The trauma of the child being delivered from one world to another. Are you ready for your transition?

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