Living Well

May 16, 2010

Two Sides of Computer Technology

Really, I am a novice when it comes to computer technology.  I don’t fully understand all the do’s and don’ts and how it all actually works.  I spend time every day with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other avenues of the computer age that are of help to me, but still don’t fully grasp it or all its applications.

I do, however, understand its value as well as how easily we can be swept into its Black Hole of poor use, abuse, addiction and self destructive behavior.  The convenience of computer technology, for me, has allowed me to share with friends worldwide, keep current with news happening in the furtherest reaches of the planet, and find thousands of educational articles and resources that enhance my life, teaching and being fully human.  This marvel of our age has also helped me understand the business environment and how the web is essential for today’s commerce.  Computer technology, no doubt, has helped me to live well, engage colleauges everywhere, and live a more informed life than ever before.

The other side, however, is that the convenience of our computers can become a Black Hole with power to suck us into its more unseemly side.  There are many places on the web that are of the most unsavory and morally degrading places we can go.  These places beckon us to the most inhuman and morally flawed places of human existence.  But this technology can also simply just suck away our time; time from doing good work, advancing relationships, or merely spending energy in quite meditation on the blessings of life.  Technology can make us merely spectators to life, never engaging or really living it.  Computer technology, for all its good, can suck us into passivity and ambivelance to what is happening everywhere.

The two sides of computer technology.  We are forced to make ongoing decisions about it daily.  And that, to me, is where character, mission, and personal choices step in to guide us.  Over many months of blogging, I have tried to lay out the items that help us to live well.  In the end, it all comes down to choices we make based on our character and who we really hope to be over our lifetime.  It all comes down to whether we will be only observers to life or actively engage life with all our energy and passions.

No ranting or raving is embedded in this blog about the evils of computers and technology in general.  My post is simply about choices; choices we have to make every time we click our mouse on the computer.  I encourage you to make choices that help you to live well.  Always know that both choices lay at the end of your index finger.  Blessings, grace and peace as you make that daily conscious decision on the side of living well and engaging the best computer technology has to offer.

David Neidert

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February 12, 2010

Patience and Endurance in a Microwave Society

I am home write now.  Recovering.  The recovery is from a very badly broken femur (thigh bone) that required surgery for the placement of a rod in my leg (from about hip to knee), screws, and metal bands to keep it all together.  It has also taken six weeks of sitting and not putting any weight on my leg.  A metal, “nursing-home-like” walker—fixed with a big basket on the front for carrying items around the house—has been my constant companion.

I have learned (actually relearned) an important lesson during this time.  It has been about patience and endurance. There have been a number of episodes during this time that I will call panic.  They came in weeks three and four of recovery.  These were times when I could not see the possibility of being anywhere else except in a chair looking out the window on the world.  The healing process for a bone is long for a person my age.  So, anxiety and distress came during a number of occasions.  It was then that I was reminded of my mission, my life purpose, and goals, especially by those who love me and give me daily support.  All of these pointed to the fact that this recovery would take patience and endurance, even into the many months yet to come.

I am reminded that we want things to happen so quickly in our society—in the West. We want microwave everything.  Speedy weight loss without effort, success without very hard work, a lifetime of love because I smell good or drive the right car, or healing without many hours of waiting for one’s body to regenerate itself.  We have been blinded by an illusion of instant success—like putting 30 seconds on the microwave and then being frustrated because it is taking too long!  If you don’t believe me take as much time as I have to watch the plethora of commercials that hit us on the TV during a ½ hour episode of anything.

I am reminded not only about this during my recovery which is taking time, but also because I am reading Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers” (which by the way I highly recommend).  Gladwell convincingly puts forward through a lot of data and studies (which I like) that success comes through hours of work, patience, and endurance.  It comes with putting in a lot of time and effort—at least 10,000 hours of hard work. 

I love words.  I have a 10 pound, 5.4 ounce Funk & Wagnall Comprehensive International Dictionary that is really important to me.  I bought it for $3 at a rummage sale.  Over those 1,466 pages I find the meaning of words that help me really make sense of what we sometimes so flippantly think about or express.  One of those words is endurance.  My F & W says that endurance is “to bear with strain and resistance, but with conscious power, suggesting a contest to win and conquer; patient fortitude.”  Looking further, ‘fortitude’ says “to be strong, a strength of mind to meet and endure unfalteringly—determination; patient and constant courage, enduring courage that steadily confronts threats and barriers.”

In what Gladwell researches and I have found in my own life and work with thousands of people is that success comes through all the ingredients of competence, very hard work, support and networks, and patient endurance; standing courageously and steadily as we confront the threats, barriers, and mishaps of life.  Success doesn’t come instantly; it comes because of well established goals, focus, mission, having a purpose in life, a hopeful vision for the future, and very hard work.  Euripides, the 5th Century BC Greek playwright penned, “To preserve, trusting in what hopes one has, is courage for that person.”  Patience and endurance through hard work brings courage.

W.H. Auden, an American poet, challenges our microwave society and impatience when he wrote, “Perhaps there is only one cardinal sin: impatience. Because of impatience we were driven out of Paradise, because of impatience, we cannot return.”  Living well is not a sprint….it is a courageous, competent, hard working marathon.  That relearned lesson over these many weeks has helped me through these days of sitting, of wondering, of my own anxiety and impatience.  It is a lesson I am glad I found again; it brings courage for the many days yet to unfold.

Blessings as you live well.  Grace and peace.

David Neidert

February 11, 2010

Move Toward Your Goals: Use Your Time Wisely

I regularly hear people talk about not having enough time to do everything they want.  While I listen to this patiently, I also know that time usage is a matter of choices.  We know this intuitively, but we don’t apply what we know to our daily lives.  We delude ourselves into thinking that by some magic we can control time, save a few hours of today for tomorrow, or squeeze 25 hours out of a day for all we want out of life.  Nicolas Hayek, co-founder and CEO of Swatch Watch Group says it like this, “You cannot keep time.  You cannot catch it.  You cannot stop it.  You cannot possess it.  It’s always present, but if you try to hold it, it disappears.  So never try to manage it.  It will beat you at every turn.” 

Hundreds of books on time management can be found with a quick internet search.  In a nutshell, they would all say time management concerns giving priority to what is important in your private life, leisure, and work.  While they all have their variation on the theme, they would agree that one of the issues of time management are time bandits; those areas of life that rob us of productivity.  Time bandits can be classified as those items that keep us from reaping the opportunities for personal growth and living well.  Some time bandits are excessive television viewing, procrastination, moving from project-to-project without purpose, or even those many hours spent on the internet for a variety of reasons (surfing, social network without direction, games, etc., etc.)

A lament I often hear is how “I want to do “so and so” (you can fill in the blank) but never have enough time to actually get this done.”  One of the most wonderful experiences of my life that set the stage for my own future came during a breakfast I had in 1994 with Zig Ziglar.  I asked him, “How do you get the time to write so many books?”  His response, “I write one page a day.  In 365 days, I have a book.”  Now that isn’t rocket science.  That is just making a decision about using time every day for something that is purposeful, a part of your mission.  I have used this discipline myself since that conversation.  I have now written three books, nationally published nearly 50 articles, and researched for other books and projects by spending about 7 to 10 hours every week focused on this craft.  That simple use of time gives me between 300 and 500 hours of writing every year.

My advice, don’t get sucked into believing that time is infinite.  My time—your time—is finite; it has an end on this earth.  If no one has told you or if you are living a fantasy or in denial, let me remind you…you are going to die.  Your time WILL come to an end.  And it may be sooner (or later) than you think or want.  So what is your mission? How will this help you make decisions about your use of time? Will you get control of time bandits or let them use up discretionary moments of your life?  You can manage your time by courageously making some decisions. 

Johann Goethe, the 18th century writer, observed, “One always has time enough, if only one applies it well.”  Make some decisions today.  And one of the first is to read “First Things First,” by Stephen Covey.  I use this book with students to help them wed purpose and mission by how they use of their time.  If you take time to read this book, you will be taking the primary step in managing your finite time for the things what will help you live well.

Blessings as you live well in the time you have available.  Grace and Peace.

David Neidert

February 1, 2010

Prostate Cancer: Mission Guided Consultation

My sister is a health sciences educator at a Midwestern university.  On an early test in one course, she asks, “Who is responsible for your health care?’  It is a multiple choice question with answers like the insurance companies, doctors, etc.  The correct answer is YOU.  You are personally responsible for your health care and understanding what is happening.  This may not have been the case in an earlier time (and still is for many senior adults because they do not understand nor question authority), but you are responsible for what happens in a prostate cancer journey and consultation.  If prostate cancer is your journey, you will have to make some decisions along the way.

My own consultation took three hours.  Since I had already chosen a very good surgeon, this was a highly informative time together with me and my wife.  From the start, my advice is go prepared to ask many questions AND to stop the surgeon along the way and ask more questions.  If you want to live well, you have to ask the right questions in the process.

As I write this blog, I am looking at five yellow legal size pages of notes given to me by my doctor after the consultation.  It contains very rough drawings, types of treatments, side effects, and many other items to help me make a good decision about my treatment.  These are the history of that three hour consultation and the reminder of the choices I would have to make along the way.

I was 53 when diagnosed with prostate cancer at Gleason 7.  This age and Gleason Score changes the options often available for younger men that older men have available to them.  After we discussed the biopsy results, we began examining the options for treatment.  At 53, the goal was cure.  At 83, the goal may be to retard the growth of the cancer.  But for a young man, the goal is cure by the types of procedures.  If the cancer is slow growing, early stage, then one option might be the best.  But if fast growing with a high Gleason Score, many options might be taken off the table.  A good article concerning this appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine (Winter 2008).

Drawing a hierarchy of treatments, my surgeon explained six of them to my wife and me.  There may be more that you read about, but these are the typical treatments to choose from.  In the hierarchy, “watchful waiting” was at the bottom because of the Gleason Score and my age.  Both were against me.  Next was a series of chemical injections.  Again, this put time against me as this takes a number of injections to see results.  Fourth on the list was hormone therapy.  This can be a good option for older men with slow growing prostate cancer or early stage.  Hormone therapy retards the growth of the cancer.   These were treatments 6 through 4.  These treatments are not cures.  They are means to control prostate cancer.   Here I say emphatically:  You MUST consider your age in treatment AND you must ASK your doctor all the risks and side effects of each of these treatments.  EVERY treatment does have a side effect from impotence to incontinence to breast tissue enlargement (hormone therapy) that you must be aware of before you make a final decision.

 For me the goal was cure.  Cure treatments would allow me to live well.  Cure treatments also have their side effects, but would allow me to still life a full life.  In a previous blog, I talked about my personal mission and how it guided me in this particular choice.  Additionally, I had a trip planned for Egypt.  I had tried for 8 years to get to this country that I taught about every year at my University.  But because of so many circumstances, I could not get there.  I wanted a cure—one that would give me life and allow me to live this dream of touring archaeological sites in Egypt.

Curing prostate cancer is never 100%.  As I know intellectually and my doctor reminds me in the ongoing blood tests, “It only takes one cell to get away and multiply again; so we work at cure and ongoing monitoring.”  THIS is the life long journey started with prostate cancer, as with any cancer.  For me the options for ‘cure’ were freezing the prostate with liquid nitrogen, radiation, or prostatectomy.   Freezing may be a good option, but does have some dangers associated with it.  While there are significant safeguards, if an area unintentionally gets frozen, it is destroyed; no turning back.  Radiation is a good cure, but again, age is a factor.  The return rate of cancer following radiation may be as much as 15% over 15 or so years.  Thus if you are 80, that is not a problem.  But if you are 50, that is a problem.  And if radiation is used, it burns up the prostate and the tissue around it.  In essence, as my surgeon said, your prostate is like a charbroiled brisket.  If the cancer would return, there is nothing to surgically remove or radiate again.  You may be faced with chemotherapy as the only option.  The final option for me was surgery, a prostatectomy.  The cure rate is approximately 93%; remember nothing is 100%.  This is the cure treatment I chose, again because I want to live long and well.  There was a good deal of life remaining for one seeing the future from age 53.  I will explain this procedure in the next blog and the options related to it.      

So now, questions to know in the consultation or ask of yourself in the process:

  • What is my Gleason Score?  Is my cancer slow growing, early stage or fast growing?
  • What factor does my age play in the treatments for prostate cancer?
  • What are the side effects of each treatment offered to me?
  • What is the cure rate for each of the treatments offered me or are these treatments meant only to retard the cancer’s growth?
  • What is my goal in prostate cancer treatment related to my age and circumstances?
  • What is the percentage of reoccurrence of prostate cancer if I use this treatment option?
  • What does my wife need to know about these treatments or options?  What is she feeling about these cancer issues?
  • Finally, remember to ask questions, ask questions, and ask questions…..

 

 My personal mission and desire to live and live well helped me choose that option of a prostatectomy.  It allows me the best option for living a long life and growing old with my lovely wife.  While nothing guarantees anything, choosing this option from a place of being fully informed allows me the greatest potential to live as it is intended.

Blessings to all you men in the prostate cancer club who are currently faced with many decisions.  Make them well and with focus on life!  Grace and peace.

David Neidert

January 30, 2010

Prostate Cancer: My Story Guided by Personal Mission

Life is about choices.  My personal mission guides me all the time.  It guides my thoughts and how I make decisions.  Because I want to “invite people to abundant life by choosing God’s best” I am writing this particular blog on the area of my prostate cancer surgery and future.  This is my experience.  I want to weave through it how my personal mission helped me (and continues to help me) make decisions 1 ½ years after my cancer surgery.  I write it as an encouragement to men who are facing the reality of prostate cancer and potential surgery or other treatments.

I am writing, too, because when it was determined that I had prostate cancer; I joined a ‘secret club.’  I use this phrase because of encounters I have had with men concerning their own potential of cancer.  I have often had men come and talk close up to me about ‘their situation.’  This is a private matter for men, but I want to break that silence and talk frankly and authentically about prostate cancer, its treatment, and the life journey.  In the end, it is my hope by sharing my story; other men will find abundant life by how they make choices in their own prostate cancer situation.

After I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, I began researching about this disease.  While I found a lot of good medical advice, I didn’t always find how men actually worked through this emotionally.  As I stated in a previous blog, the outcome of prostate cancer always revolves around three ongoing concerns: impotence (the inability to have an erection or sustain an erection during intercourse); incontinence (the inability to hold one’s urine and thus a man leaks, often forcing them to wear absorbent underwear), and; cancer management.   I have this discussion every time I see my surgeon.  But I did not find any reflection about these topics in my internet search.

I don’t take these lightly because for men they are important issues.  Plus I think it important not to just deal with these three areas of concern, but with the emotions that go with them.  I will deal specifically with impotency in another blog, because it is the one that I did not find a good deal of information on.  Since this deals with sexuality, I will deal with that later.

There is a billboard near our house that says, “You wouldn’t tell a person with cancer to just get over it.”  The billboard is about how we sometimes respond to people about depression.  It is an apropos statement because a person getting a diagnosis of cancer does not get over it, but this diagnosis also can lead to depression.  In my own case, I realized that I was a victim of a drama not of my own creation.  There were ‘actors’ coming in and out of my life that I did not create, but had to acknowledge and work with in this journey.  For me, I would have moments of heavy sighing….just a ‘soul sigh’ because I had cancer in me that I could not control.  It was growing and I couldn’t do anything about it.  I was moving to the instructions of a lot of people simply following their directions and making decisions on the advice they gave me. 

This is where my personal mission came into play.  In these moments, I kept asking myself what was important in life. What had I determined was important for living well?  How would I honor God in how I lived my life and made choices about this cancer journey?  How would I set an example for my children and other men I came in contact with?  My personal mission served as a foundation for the choices I would have to make.

The first choice was to accept that I had prostate cancer and would have to do something about it.  At 53, there are not a lot of options.  Older men have more options related to prostate cancer, but younger men have to be intentional in seeking consultation that will help them win over this disease; to find a cure.  If one is in their 70s, wait and see can be an option; but at 53 waiting is not in one’s favor.  So the first choice was, “Who should I listen to?”

I had a plethora (dozens actually) of people ‘telling’ me how to proceed.  Everyone had their own story, their own advice.  I had a number of people point me to experimental drugs, herbs, new techniques, and a host of other ways to deal with prostate cancer.  But, each man has to deal with this journey how they view as the right path.  After a lot of reading, I intentionally chose a well respected surgeon (plus a dear friend put me in touch with him).  This was and has been a key for me.

As I close today, my mission guided me to choose a good doctor.  In today’s health environment, YOU are responsible for your own health care.  The Ad Council has a good commercial.  A person is asking all kinds of questions of a waiter about what is in a particular menu item at a restaurant before they order it.  But in the next scene, they are sitting on a table in a doctor’s office.  The doctor says, “Do you have any questions?” To which the patient says—“no.”  We would rather know how many calories are in a plate of food than what is happening in our bodies!  Men, in particular, are more likely not to ask questions. 

Thus the desire to live well allowed me to make a good choice—I have things that I believe I am to do in this world; a table of opportunity set before me.  So I chose a good doctor and took control of my health care at that moment.  I had some depression along the way as well, yet my personal mission, faith, and life of prayer helped me work through these moments of ‘soul sigh.’ 

A personal mission and future hopes guided me in this initial endeavor.  It can guide you, too.

Blessings, grace and peace.

David Neidert

January 29, 2010

You have the Tools: Now Write a Mission Statement

“Live in such a way that when you die the preacher doesn’t have to lie.”  That statement on a student tee-shirt has always been humorous to me and captures what I believe about personal mission.  It is unfortunate that people spend a lifetime working on “something” thinking that “someday I will do what I am supposed to do in life.”  Problem is it becomes like St. Augustine observed, “By and by never comes.”  Often we wait, but for what?  What are we waiting for to live out that we cannot start to live at this moment?  I love the comment by Tony Campolo, “When we get to the end of life, we ought to be about all used up!”

If you are following my blog, you are at the point of trying to write a personal mission statement.  Take the legacies you want to leave behind, the values you believe identify you, and write a sentence that will help you set before you those areas of life that are important.  Whatever you write at this moment does not have to be polished because it is a first attempt at writing a mission statement.  Mission statements are not at first an exact science, but a fleshing out of your thoughts, dreams, and what you believe about yourself and your future.

After you write out your personal mission statement, test it by asking, “Can I really affect my world and the people in it by living out my mission?” If your answer is yes, then how will you do this?  If no, how must your mission read in order to keep you actively working toward its fulfillment?

Your personal mission statement will guide you and give you focus related to your preferred future and legacy.  The statement you write should be challenging to you and something that you are passionate about.  It does not need to be a statement exciting to others, but must extract your best abilities, passions, use of time, and daily actions.  When you read your mission, it should give you an ache to live well in what it commands from you every day.

Here is also a way to test your personal mission.  It comes from Laurie Beth Jones, international bestselling author of Jesus, CEO.  As a side, it is an honor to also have her as one who endorses my book, “Four Seasons of Leadership.”  Jones believes your mission statement should be a single sentence (in standard English this is about 7-10 words); simple enough for a 12-year old to understand and recite, and; you should personally be able to recite it from memory at “gun point.”   Jones received criticism for this last element, but she is right….sometimes we have to make split second decisions that require us to know exactly who we are and what we will stand or not stand for.  Life sometimes forces us into its corner where we have to decide that quickly.

I originally wrote my own personal mission statement in 1989.  It was a few sentences.  It did not fit Jones’ criteria above.  So I worked on it over time.  I honed it over a few years until it now reads, “inviting people to abundant life by choosing God’s best.”

Now it is funny, but I actually have people say to me occasionally, “What is your mission statement?”  Some know I teach leadership courses and this concept; some just hear about this activity I believe deeply in.  These are my “gun point” moments.  And so I recite it to them from memory.  It is my agreement for how I will live in this world, both today but also in the days ahead.

In the end, here is the real point of having a personal mission statement.  The purpose is in not having a written statement to impress people, but to use it for goal setting, making decisions, determining what really matters in life, and “living your life in such a way that when you die, the preacher will not have to lie” but only recount what you did during the years you had on this planet.

I am convinced that if you ponder your life, figure out a personal mission, and set it into writing you will live well daily and you will influence those around you both now and into the next generation.  In the end, having a personal mission will influence the quality of your relationships, career, community service, and how you make potentially critical decisions should they come your way.

There is freedom in knowing your life’s purpose and in living your personal mission.  The Apostle Paul writing in the First Century challenged “Be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds” (Romans 12:1-2).  We can be transformed and live well—fully living what we were created to be IF we work out our personal mission.  It is a task worth agonizing over.  It is a choice that will lead to a life lived well.

Blessings, grace and peace.

David Neidert

January 28, 2010

For What are you Willing to Die?

Difficulties in life will come your way.  There is no doubt about this.  I have already written a little about prostate cancer and as I write this blog today it is from a chair where I have been for 3 weeks.  Three weeks ago this day I fell on ice while scrapping snow from the windows of my car.  In that fall I experienced a spiral fracture of my femur that required surgery, a rod that runs the length of my thigh, four screws, and a band to put it all back together.  For three weeks now, I have been looking out the picture window of our house because I cannot walk, except with the use of a walker.  Reading, blogging, and working from my computer to my office have been the majority of my time.  But I know that through my prayer time and also having a solid mission and purpose keeps me focused toward the day when I will be active again.

I personally wrote out and considered the implications of all the questions I provided in the last blog as it relates to having a personal mission.  Honestly answering these questions is a start, but they need to be shaped into a mission statement.  If you read through the answers to those questions for the BIG areas of our life that are important, they will gradually begin to surface.  These big areas will ultimately become legacies, those things you hope to accomplish in life and accomplishments you hope to leave behind.  Legacies will also help you focus now and in the future.  What they are calling you to live now and in the future will also help establish your goals and achievements for the years ahead.

 An example of developing legacies comes from my own answers to the questions in the last blog.  After reading through each response, I began seeing areas of importance for me that I believed were what would help me live well over my lifetime.  Those areas of importance are: living a faithful life as a Christian, being a loving spouse and parent, being an effective teacher, being active in my community, and being a writer.  These areas are foundational for me.  These are legacies around which I set monthly and annual goals.  These legacies also help me to make decisions in the day to day.  And even more, they do help me make choices related to right and wrong—ethical and moral decisions.

I say this because it is true.  Legacies and their appropriate goals give us boundaries.  If I want to be a loving spouse that desire sets the tone for how I will relate to my wife.  It means I will respect her, stay committed in our circumstances, and always be faithful to her.  So you see, personal mission and legacies are not just about accomplishing THINGS in life.  They also help set the moral and ethical tone of it.

I want to give one exercise for today on your journey to writing a personal mission statement.  This is not unique to me.  It is available from the Centers for Ethical Leadership.  They are a good tool for studying and thinking about leadership as well.  This exercise helps you determine your values.  These values (who I think I am and how I actually live) are important to goal setting and decision making.  The exercise goes like this:

From this word list, choose ten values that are important to you; they are words that reflect what is most important to you in life.  Make the choice in no more than two minutes.  The list is: peace, wealth, integrity, joy, happiness, love, success, recognition, friendship, family, fame, truth, authenticity, wisdom, power, status, influence, justice, nobility, fairness, virtuous, gentleness, kindness, goodness, purity, hope, honesty, freedom, faith, honor, dignity, respect, equality, charity, simplicity.

Now, from the list you created in these two minutes, select FIVE values that most accurately describe your core life values; the values essential to your identity.

Now, from the list of FIVE, select three.

Now, from the list of THREE, select only one that answers the question, “For what one of these three values am I willing to be persecuted for or die for?”  I heard Dr. Bill Grace, founder of the Center for Ethical Leadership; take it to this last question at a Greenleaf Conference many years ago.  He challenged us to consider the one thing that is never negotiable or to be compromised in your life; the ultimate value for which you are willing to die.  Again, knowing this in advance also helps making ethical and moral decisions, because when we violate or compromise that one value, we may never be able to look at ourselves the same again.

Many people will find most of my blogs ho-hum or too esoteric, I am sure.  I have wrestled with that thought.  But in the end, I know through witnessing the lives of others and in my own experience that these things matter.  I know (and follow the best authors on leadership to verify) that mission and goals help us to live well.  I hope you are trying it.  In it you will find…

Blessings.  Grace and peace.

David Neidert

January 26, 2010

Prostate Cancer: Personal Mission Helps in Facing Identity Issues

Consultations can be overwhelming.  That was the case with my own prostate cancer consultation two weeks after my biopsy showed I did have cancer.  My doctor, Dr. John Ramsey of Urology of Indiana, spent three hours with my wife and me discussing the biopsy, treatments, and the outcomes of any decisions we would make.  My wife and I sat as he drew pictures, explained in detail procedures, and thoroughly outlined any options we might have before us.  He answered a lot of questions.  In the end, because of my age (53 at the time), the best option out of six potential solutions was surgery.

This is where personal mission, faith, and belief in living well help one to make decisions that matter for the long term.  Knowing what is important allows us to evaluate all the complexities and make more effective decisions in the moment.  Having a written mission statement and living it out can make decisions easier.

I have to back up a little to describe one of the issues that men MUST face, discuss, and talk through related to prostate cancer.  It is the issue of male sexuality.  Again, I am no psychologist, but I do understand myself and am aware of the many innuendos our society places on virility, mostly subconscious.  As a teacher and student of ancient history for thirty years, I know that sexuality has permeated every culture of the ancient world, from fertility cults to ritual practices to architectural design.  It doesn’t matter if you consider the Far East, Ancient Middle East, or Meso America, you will find sexual rites a part of every society (we just don’t read about them in our history books).  The phallus (as well as women’s sexual anatomy) can be found in all cultures as a representation of masculinity, virility, and power.  In ancient myths, sexuality, intercourse, and male power displayed in the phallus are commonplace, even if we never read this kind of literature in polite circles.

One of the very real outcomes of prostate cancer (whether through surgery or leaving it untreated) is the loss of impotence (erectile dysfunction).  This is a fact of the male reproductive system.  The nerves that allow for a male erection are side by side with all the nerves connected to the prostate.  While I do not know all the physiology, I have given recommended websites to help men understand their anatomy.  The bottom line is that erectile dysfunction will increase with prostate cancer.  Thus, men must think through this part of who we are.

So a question has to be answered.  Will men lose their lives to try and save an erection by not having surgery (or other treatments) or take the treatments or have surgery and save their lives?  Will my identity be wrapped up in my ability to have an erection or will it be built on character, purpose, and living well in all life areas?  Our world is saturated with sexuality.  It tells us if we are not sexually capable, we are actually not men.  Just consider hand gestures used in profanity.  Consider statements made in movies, like “what’s the matter, can’t get it up?”  Men are portrayed as less than adequate in all kinds of commercials and media if they are sexually unable to perform.  Prostate cancer leaves men with this very possibility of impotency.  It is important to know that if nerves get cut during surgery or even damaged by radiation or other treatments, the ability to either get an erection or maintain one will be diminished. Viagra, Cialis, and other ED drugs can help, but men MUST know that they DO NOT restore an erection to 100%.  So, this section and answering these questions are critical for men and their wives related to prostate cancer.  (More in future blogs about ED drugs).

For some time, I had the Bible verse on my mind that whoever seeks to save their life will lose it, but whoever looses it will find it.  That verse along with my desire to live well forced me to have to think clearly about this part of prostate cancer.  My friend David, however, was the one to force the issue.  I did not know he knew I had prostate cancer.  David had undergone a prostatectomy (full removal of the prostate) about a year earlier.  He stopped by my office to just “talk.”  He asked how I was, but then forced the discussion of sexuality and impotence.  I am a private man by nature, but I needed him to talk frankly with me.   I needed him to be honest with me from his own experience.  He talked most candidly about the change in the sexual relationship with his wife, but also the joy of it….the deeper parts of intimacy came through.  They had found newer ways to love each other sexually.  But before he left my office he said, “Seek the higher good; save your life to find more life.”  That was honest and that was the confirmations of my own thinking…possibly lose the potential of some sexuality to find wholeness, well being, and life.  Trust in God and trust that my life decisions would matter over the long term.

So it was at the end of the three hour consultation that Dr. Ramsey asked, “What do you want to do?  You can leave and take a few days to think about it, if you like, just don’t wait too long.”  I leaned forward onto the table where we had talked that evening and said to him, “There is something you need to know about me.  I am a man of deep faith and a man with a mission and purpose in life.  I want to grow old with my wife because I love her and there are things I have yet to do in this world.  I make the decision to have a prostatectomy.  When do we schedule it?”  Dr. Ramsey chuckled a little in response, “You are pretty sure. That is one of the most purposeful responses I have ever heard.”  My wife nodded in agreement.   He continued, “Sometimes men leave here because they cannot consider the possibility of impotence and never come back.  It is an important decision to make so that it doesn’t take your life.”  And with that, we scheduled the surgery for the next opportunity.

You see, it does matter that we have a sense of purpose, a mission, a deep faith that will help us think through difficult issues, even the issues of sexual identity and performance.  If we know what we believe, we can be confident in whatever life presents us.  In the blogs ahead, I want to outline tools to use for writing a personal mission statement.  I will return again with frank sharing on the topic of prostate cancer, because I needed a place of authenticity in my own journey; but I did not always find them.   I some future blogs, I will talk about these last 16 months of my own prostate cancer journey and the aftermath of it.  But for now know that a personal mission can help you choose life in life’s toughest moments.

Grace and peace.

David Neidert

January 25, 2010

Prostate Cancer: How Personal Mission Helps in Crisis Decisions

This blog is my first public sharing about prostate cancer.  I will be sharing a number of important topics during the upcoming blogs on this cancer journey.  I share them because I have had many men come and ask me about their own prostate cancer issues.  I am sharing frankly and authentically about my journey.  I am not an expert in prostate cancer, but I do understand my own emotions about it.  I want to be frank in these posts so that other men with prostate cancer in their future can find some honest insights into what they will experience.

My cancer journey started in December 2007.  I have an accountability partner.  This is friend who I meet with regularly to discuss life, my goals, and areas of concern or frustration in my life.  He is a really important friend.  One of my commitments to him is to have an annual physical since I am 55 years old (I was 53 at the time of cancer discovery). 

I went to my doctor as promised and completed my physical.  While all was good, my doctor said, “Your PSA is just a little high.  Let’s send you to a urologist for a follow up.”  I went to a urologist in the following week.  While his bedside manner was lacking, in retrospect, he was the first to detect my cancer by digital rectal exam (DRE).  I didn’t really want to accept that initial exam from him, so I began praying about my next steps and where I should go in this process.  I couldn’t ignore it; I had to deal with something that several doctors told me might be growing in me.  A dear friend (who had dealt with prostate cancer) led me to Urology of Indiana and Dr. John Ramsey.  As a side, I would encourage any man thinking they have prostate cancer to locate a urologist they are comfortable working with.  This is a critically important issue.  We all must take charge of our personal health.  My desire for a second opinion (allowed by most medical plans) was a way that I did take charge of my own physical health. 

It was now January 2008.  I had been dealing emotionally with all that was transpiring over the course of three weeks.  I had a range of emotions—fear, disbelief, anger, denial—emotions that moved from moment to moment, day to day.  I began searching websites and found many that described prostate cancer as a “life journey.”  I realized this was becoming the start of a much longer pilgrimage than initially imagined.

My faith was a solid foundation during all this time.  As I have stated in my “Who I Am” section, I am a believer in Jesus Christ.  I believe he watched over me and was protecting me in this journey and initial discovery.  Not only did we discover I had cancer, but also an aneurism.  I was finding that my faith was a central point for me.  A stable faith continued guiding me in times of doubt and frustration.  Believing that God was watching over me was essential to giving perspectives to the tears I shed at times wondering about the upcoming doctor’s visits.

A month of waiting and personal agonizing had now turned into February 2008.  On Feb. 20, I had a biopsy.  A prostate cancer biopsy consists of inserting a probe to the prostate through the rectum (the probe is about the size of a frankfurter).  This probe has a needle in it that inserts a Novocain or anesthesia into the prostate.  The prostate is a gland that sits on both sides of the urethra, the tube leading from the bladder into the penis for urination.  One half sits on each side of the urethra.  The prostate holds the semen that is emitted during intercourse/ ejaculation.   The probe then has a needle that grabs microscopic sections of the prostate.  Typically there are four to six sections taken from each side of the prostate.  The probe sampling stings a bit.  The noise of the probe is like a loud mouse trap snap.  This snap startles, but the Novocain makes this tolerable.  You are lying on your side in a fetal position during this procedure.  After the biopsy, you are a bit tender in sitting and will experience some blood in your urine over the coming day or so.  The procedure takes about 30 minutes, in which you are awake the entire time.  Once the procedure is complete, the waiting begins.

On Feb. 26 my doctor called.  I definitely had cancer.  One side of the prostate was a zero (on the Gleason Scale), but the other side of the prostate was a seven on the cancer scale of zero to 10.  This meant a series of appointments must now begin.  The first was to have a full body bone scan.  Prostate cancer makes its path into the bladder and bones.  Prostate cancer is always prostate cancer, except that it can lodge in the bones or move to the bladder (which is only separated by millimeters of tissue).  So, my first appointment was a full radiation body bone scan to determine if the cancer had spread.  With a report that the cancer had not spread, I was ready for my first major consultation on the steps we would now need to take to deal with my prostate cancer diagnosis.

During the weeks between January 1 and Feb. 26, I had a lot of time to process my thoughts and emotions.  I had to deal with them….any man with prostate cancer will have to deal with them.  I had to deal with the possibility of the spread of the cancer, the possibilities of complications, the fact that I am young with this disease, and the effect this diagnosis might have on my sexuality and sexual relationship with my wife.  But in it all, I was focused on the items I have already been blogging about….having a personal mission and knowing what really matters in life.  My faith, my mission, and my determination to live well were always at the center, even in times of grief and anxiety. 

Having a personal mission helps in crisis decisions, like those of cancer.  Whether it is cancer, a broken relationship, a loss of a job, or other events that happen in life, I am convinced that knowing what personally matters and making a choice to live well allows better decisions and choices to be made.  Having a personal mission doesn’t change the fact of the situation or maybe even the outcome, but it does allow you to be in a place for creating a brighter path through these life events.  A personal mission helps make the decisions cleaner and more definitive.  It also adds courage for the long outcome, not the short term issues.

My faith, mission and life purpose would allow me to make some choices.  I will explain how in upcoming blogs.

Grace and peace.

David Neidert

January 21, 2010

Make a Choice to Live, Not Just Endure

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Multitudes of people die a little more each day at 5 pm without even knowing it.  This is the hour when scores of people awake to discover they died a little more that day because they are in jobs they hate, force themselves to endure, or use merely to pay the expenses accumulating in their lives.  This is confirmed by a survey released today showing that 55% of workers, both young and old, are dissatisfied with their work environment.

Some time ago, I read a “Letter to the Editor” in a popular business magazine from a young man toiling in a company that he cannot wait to leave once he has “enough experience.”  This toxic working place is draining the life out of him eight hours at a time.  No wonder he lamented in this letter that the only energy he musters is for enduring rather than contributing to his company.  His letter gives us an image to go with the observation of American poet, Edward Dahberg, “Man pines to live but cannot endure the days of his life.”

In earlier vernacular, it was fashionable to speak of ‘pining’ for something, particularly one’s sweetheart.  The phrase is no longer in vogue, but it legitimately captures the way multitudes of people feel about their work and lives.  People often grow weary with longing for a more fulfilling job, career, or life.  Women and men not only grieve but also ache to possess a more satisfying existence, one that makes them feel complete like having the love of a special someone.

I don’t think it is off base to assert that people feel grief (a loss, brokenness) for a more fulfilling job or daily existence.  As a former HR director and student of leadership for the past 30 years, we see this ‘soul grief’ played out in lost productivity, high turnover, absenteeism, and debilitating stress.  I used to watch the percentages of these in workforce figures.  These numbers often gave me a clue when things were not going well in the heart of those employed.  What is sad for leadership (or should be a concern for leaders) is that this grief and stress secretly harbored may become so profound that is spills over in how a person engages their families, friends, and those closes to them.  What happens in the work environment, I believe, has a direct link to the quality of our well being not only personally, but in our communities.

I hear and read about the longing of employees several times a year in a class I teach.  During a five week course, the final class assignment is developing a personal written mission statement.  The students in this particular class get to present his or her mission statement after they have used many of the questions I am including in my blog posts.  It has NEVER failed that on the night of these student presentations that some of the adult students announce they have resigned from his or her current employment because he or she awoke to the subtle death happening to them eight hours at a time.  I always forewarn them that this might happen during the opening night of class, but most don’t believe it.  I haven’t been wrong yet, even with the most skeptical of students.

Developing and living by a personal written mission statement helps us have a sharper image of what will bring well-being and fullness to our lives.  A personal mission statement will also help us make the choices necessary to live well in all areas of life.

Is spending your life just enduring what happens appealing to you?  Does dying eight hours a day to pay the rent fulfill your dreams and purpose?  Spending time coming to terms with your life and purpose is a worthwhile endeavor, because you have to ultimately answer the two questions above.   So consider:

If no barriers existed to what you could do or be in life, what job, work, or activity would you undertake that would bring you personal fulfillment?  Why would it fulfill you?  What would it provide (honestly) that your current situation does not supply?  What would it take you to start uncovering your dream job, work, or activity?  How would living out this change help you live a life that has meaning and purpose?

Blessings for this day.  Find life, hope, and excitement as you consider this moment and your future.

Grace and Peace.

David Neidert

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