My Wake Up Call

My Wake Up Call

By: Ben S. Fogel

I think at some point in all of our lives, we will have a proverbial “wake up” call. Something that made you change course in your life.  

A near fatal accident in your car while driving and texting.

A health scare either caused by your lifestyle choices, or not.

A conversation you had with someone older and wiser then you that got you to make a change in your life. 

Or maybe at some point in life you made the choice to “wake up” to the fact that maybe your current actions are not in congruence with the person that you want to become.  Or maybe you haven’t yet, and if that is the case keep reading… 

It doesn’t always take a life altering event to make a massive change in a better direction.  

Although, in my life – it did.  

October 13th, 2015.  Yes, this was also Friday the 13th.  Coincidence, I think not.  

This was the day I received a call from my gastrointestinal Doctor after months and months of tests – poking and prodding – and after two liver biopsies.  He finally had an answer for what was causing me super abnormally high liver enzyme levels (think like a fatty liver, or what you can get with alcoholism).  

When he called the first thing he asked me was “Are you sitting down for this?”  I am now. 

Then he went on “The good news is we finally figured out what is causing all of this inflammation in your liver.  The last biopsy showed that you have a very rare form of Leukemia, Large Granular Lymphocytic Leukemia, and it has infiltrated your liver.” 

I. Was. Speechless.  

He went on “The bad news is, well, I don’t treat cancers but I do know a great Oncology team that I feel can help you.”  

That was the call.  I remember it so vividly.  I was getting my oil changed, and right there in public I had no idea what to do next.  

All the thoughts running through my head were “Do I call Amy (my wife) first, or my Dad? What about my Mom?  Wait, she will freak out, don’t call her.”  

Honestly, I didn’t know what to think at that moment.  So I just sat and focused hard in that present moment at what I had in my life.  

Two kids under the age of 3.  An amazingly supportive wife.  A brand new business venture that was less than 2 years old.  I had a lot of “new” things in my life, and now this was another “new” thing to deal with.  

This new thing was different.  This was my “wake up” call.  

(There I am after one of my Bone Marrow Biopsies.  Not the most fun time)

It woke me up to realize how valuable every moment in my life was, especially with my family and my kids.   

It woke me up to focus on all the things I could control.

My attitude.

My mindset.

My actions. 

My time (and how I used or abused it).

I had a very good reason now to put myself first.  For the 2 years previous to this that wasn’t the case. I was working “In” my business between 80-100 hours a week.  This was not sustainable.  I knew this.  But, if it weren’t for my wake up call, I may have stayed “in it” for much, much longer.  

At one of my first visits with my Cancer specialists, they told me how bad things really were.  “50/50 chance of survival, but you do have your age and health on your side.”  

That’s when I remember I saw this quote somewhere:

A person who has their health, has a thousand dreams. But the person that’s lost their health, has only one dream.” 

The average age of someone with the type of Leukemia I had was mid 70’s.  I was diagnosed at 35.  Also, I was 6 years removed from competing at World Cup and World Championship level in the sport of Bobsled (and was actually preparing a comeback to the sport, and it was a sports physical that found the initial elevated liver enzymes).  

Looking in the camera, Winterberg, Germany

I am saying all of this because the Doctor’s were right.  I did have a lot of things on my side.  But I was starting to rely on my genetics, and was “too busy” to stay as healthy as I was in the past.  

I needed to make a change, and this diagnosis forced it on me.  

What did I change?  A lot.  Here were just a few things:

  • My focus shifted from trying to work on “everything” in my business to asking for help from my staff and delegating much more.
  • I prioritized my sleep much more – no more days of 5 hours or less of sleep – I strived for 7. 
  • I focused on antioxidant rich foods (mainly working to eat vegetables at almost every meal) because I knew I was missing this, and had the control to change my nutrition.
  • I carved out time for self care.

This was a complete mindset shift, and the shift came from staring at my mortality straight in the face and saying “Wait a minute, I have some say in this.  Maybe I can’t control whether or not the medication works, but I can control all these other inputs in my life.”  

Fast forward and I was in treatment until October, 2017 and have been in remission for almost 5 years now.  

You don’t need a huge life event to make a change in your life.  All you need is that internal switch in your mind to go off and to tell yourself “Enough is enough, I am ready to focus on me now.”  

So take a moment, sit down and focus on it at this moment.  What can you do right now to make one tiny change in your life?  That tiny change may be the tipping point to a different future for you and your family, like it was for me…

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