Strength to cruch adversity

By Bryan Welch

When you have your health, you have it all. An old cliché, perhaps, but these words ring true every day for many of us. I had the misfortune of contracting food poisoning a couple of weeks ago. For those of you who have ever experienced it, I feel your pain. For those of you who have never had it, may it never call your name.

Somewhere in the middle of a violent, wrenching, aching evening, it dawned on me that this was going to be one long night. My next thought turned to a client of mine currently undergoing chemotherapy and her battle against Hodgkin's disease. She faces days like this on a regular basis, on a scheduled basis no less. You can believe it takes unconquerable strength to face the dread of these treatments, and indefatigable faith to beat back the enemy within.

Hodgkin's disease is a type of lymphoma. The lymphatic system is a part of the body's immune system. The job of the lymphatic system is, ironically, to fight disease and infection. A vast network of lymphatic tubes (much like blood vessels) deliver infection-fighting cells throughout the body.

Like all cancers, Hodgkin's affects the body at the cellular level. Healthy cells constantly grow, divide, and eventually replace themselves. In Hodgkin's, the lymphatic cells grow at an abnormal rate and can eventually spread and contaminate other organs. The body's immune system is weakened and less able to defend itself. Hodgkin's is a traitor within, an over-exuberant warrior preparing itself for battle with destructive power.

My client is not alone in her battle against cancer. Our staff is currently working with someone being treated for prostate cancer, another with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and another who fights breast cancer. In sharing notes and exercise strategies among our staff, we agree that all four of these members share two pervasive characteristics.

First, they are undeniably healthy. All four work out regularly, set fitness goals, and religiously pursue them. Second, never will you meet a more positive, motivated, driven group. Collectively these characteristics play an undeniable role in their independently successful battles. Physical strength and spiritual toughness are necessary in this battle.

It's relatively easy to be upbeat and positive when things are going your way. The true test of character is how you respond during hard times. Now, of course, everyone has a different version of what constitutes a catastrophe. We all face challenges throughout our lifetime, including the stresses of new jobs, marriages and divorces, taxes, moving, new friendships or relationships and raising children. It can be overwhelming as the days run short and the list of things we need to accomplish grows longer.

I'm a firm believer that a crisis brings out the best in people. I've seen it firsthand on more than one occasion. If you've been faced with the ultimate fight, or supported someone who has, it forever changes your impression of what is important. Your hierarchy of needs and wants is forever altered. Petty stuff like gossip, arguments and selfishness have no place in your life. You seek only the comfort of friends who are genuine, kind, and caring.

Each day is an opportunity to try something new, or to seek the comfort of something old. Your physical well-being is inexorably linked to your mindset. You crave the exploration of physical boundaries as much for the muscular high as for the sense of mental empowerment. You can overcome anything and you begin to realize that the only limitations to your happiness are not thinking big enough, or kind enough, are compassionate enough.

Our ``fabulous four'' are just beginning their journey into what will be a new lease on life. Laughter will resonate like never before, colors will seem more vibrant, and their hearts will hold a big secret -- it's time to get busy living. They have done their homework, and their bodies have a huge advantage in this fight thanks to hours and hours of physical training. Somewhere along this path to physical stamina, a funny thing happened. Their minds have been honed, motivation ingrained in their very being, with optimism seeping out of every pore.

Exceptional people doing exceptional things.

Bryan Welch can be reached at

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