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How Cancer Can Change Perspective

A CEO's mental and physical journey while battling leukemia

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December 10, 2014 was the day that forever changed Nathan’s life. It was the day he found out he had a rare form of aggressive, but treatable, leukemia. A little less than three weeks earlier, Nathan received a follow-up phone call from his general practitioner telling him to get checked out by an oncologist. He had a mass on his chest.

On December 11th, Nathan checked into a treatment center to start his journey to healing. After spending about three weeks in in-patient care, Nathan’s mass had shrunk by over 50 percent, and his white blood cell count was high enough. He got sent home a week earlier than anticipated. About a month later, Nathan started out-patient chemotherapy. Six days after this, Nathan’s doctor informed him that the cancer had left his body. On this day, January 19, Nathan was in remission with an expected 6 to 12 months of chemotherapy to ensure the cancer would not come back. This time was not easy for Nathan, dealing with esophageal problems, leading to temporary feeding tubes and more pain.

While Nathan healed physically, he also took this time to stress the importance of healing mentally. As a means of sorting his thoughts, coping with the tough times and keeping his family and friends informed of his journey, Nathan wrote a blog.

This blog, spanning from the first day he got the call from his general practitioner, to almost two years later, is an amazing look at the spiritually and physically healing journey Nathan takes while battling with cancer.

Questioning

In a way, you could say the cancer woke Nathan up. When he first heard the news, he looked at his life and wondered, “Am I doing what I love? Am I selling out? What really fulfills me?” Faced with the fear of cancer, he began to evaluate the life he had been living. Nathan talks about how he didn’t ask for this cancer, who would? Then he realizes that he had been asking for years, almost his whole life since he was a child, for a sense of peace and belongingness. Nathan takes his questioning and turns it into something positive through the power of acceptance.

Acceptance

“I am learning and growing every day, but it doesn’t look and feel the way I want it to,” Nathan writes on a day that is harder than others. When he first found out about the mass on his chest, he almost immediately reached out to his father to let him know he forgave him. He accepted what had happened for what it was and decided to move forward with this relationship. Through the course of his blog, you see Nathan accepting more and more and questioning less. At one point, Nathan reflects on his realization that the people that love or respect him, do so for the core person he is. “I am on a journey to get healed, to heal myself and to empower all the people and love that go into treating me. I am grateful for that.” Accepting that he may be weaker physically, he knows that he has grown spiritually and mentally.

Power of Positive Thinking

Nathan’s journey is one that is focused on growing love and acceptance. To be able to will this thinking while dealing with one of the most draining illnesses, is something that requires will-power and positive thinking.

When Nathan was first diagnosed, he decided: “I will do everything in my power to think, visualize, eat and speak full recovery.” Knowing that Western medicine was necessary, he also believed in the power of some Eastern philosophies that focused on positive thinking. “Love and compassion help me, and when I believe, have faith, feel power, everything changes.” Prior to his illness, Nathan had thought of himself more of a survivor, not so much an optimist. During this blog you see that progress into believing in the power of the mind to control a situation. While Nathan knows he can’t control his illness, he does reflect with the idea of, “Can I control how I deal with it?”

Passion for His Work

With self-realization being a common theme of Nathan’s Blog, this is not without realization of his career. Nathan says, “I believe my business will get better because I will have more clarity, I will not be chasing the dollar as much as my passions.” During Nathan’s out-patient care, he discusses the difficulty of being able to keep high energy to complete his work. As part of his acceptance, he even admits that he needs to let go and trust that business objectives will be met, even if they change over time.

During Nathan’s cancer battle, his son Jake takes initiative to keep their business, Velocity Sellers, running at full speed. Nathan discusses the joy that came from helping Jake rebuild the business and being able to go to work each day and work with his son. “I am proud to call him partner.”

Nathan and Jake Schwarzbaum

While Nathan’s battle with cancer was one of questioning, acceptance and positive thinking, he remained passionate about his career. It’s hard to not shed a tear while reading about Nathan’s difficult year with cancer. “Well, I can control my perception, maybe my thoughts, maybe my words, and my faith, and who I say I am in this matter…I can’t control things about my illness, because it’s taking time, but I ask myself: Can I control how I deal with it?” The next time you’re faced with a difficult time, remember you can’t control all outcomes, but you can control your perspective and how you deal with it.

To read more about Nathan’s journey, visit his blog.

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