A business leader preparing for a strategic shift begins by gathering resources: preparing for the future, determining and communicating strategy, gathering financial assets, and applying talented teams and workers. But in our personal lives, we rarely think that way. We should.
Planning for medical challenges
I’m in this situation now. My wife will have shoulder surgery in a few days, and as her recovery begins, I will begin radiation treatment for prostate cancer. Like any of you in this situation, we have listened carefully to the doctors and read all the handouts and research about what to expect.
But it strikes me that as patients and consumers, we generally accept such advice — often, while in shock — and then expect doctors to take care of us. We treat our medical problems as misfortunes to be weathered, endured, and overcome, and expect our network of friends and family to come rescue us if we need help.
That is perhaps the right course of action if you have no time to prepare. But what if you do have time to prepare? Do you try to enjoy your last few days of normalcy before the storm hits? Or do you, like the business leader I’ve just described, marshal your resources?
How I’m marshaling my resources
I cannot help my diagnosis, but I’ll be damned if I’m just going to sit and take it. I’m doing things to maximize my chances of success.
Here are the facts I know about my treatment:
- I will have five radiation treatments a week for five-and-a-half weeks.
- For each treatment, I will have to lie flat on my back and motionless on a hard, flat surface for 15 minutes — not an easy task because I have chronic back problems.
- To maximize the effectiveness of the radiation treatment, I must position myself each day in the exact same position I was in when I had my targeting scan and hold that position. (The technicians help with the positioning.)
- For extra fun, there is “Protocol P”: I have to drink 32 ounces of water or another liquid a half hour before each treatment, to ensure my bladder is in the right position when I’m being irradiated.
- There are potential side effects, including fatigue that may kick after a few weeks of treatment.
Given that knowledge, here’s how I have marshaled my resources:
- I had already been working with an extremely talented dietitian on weight loss and reducing blood pressure. We have now redirected our efforts to creating the best possible diet for radiation treatments — high in protein to help me heal, and in fiber to maintain the health of my digestive tract during the radiation. The weight loss goals are less important now (in fact, any significant change in my shape will actually interfere with the treatment), but since I already had this relationship with this coach, I took advantage of it to change to a diet intended to support my treatment.
- I had already been working with a physical therapist to recover from a back injury. At my request, she has now provided me with stretches I can do (both at home on my own and just before the therapy) to reduce the chances of muscle pain and cramping during the treatment. I am approaching this as an athlete would a competition, and training and conditioning for it.
- I will practice meditating, to allow me keep my mind occupied while lying flat on the treatment surface.
- I have contacted my financial advisor and requested liquidation of some investments to prepare for the cost of the treatment. I know what that cost will be because I tapped the expertise of a free financial counselor working with the doctor who diagnosed the cancer. (Regrettably, I’m still a year away from Medicare).
- I have completed as many household tasks ahead of time as I can; the rest can wait.
- I have asked my adult children to be aware of the needs my wife and I will likely have and to be prepared to spend some time with us if we need help.
- I am minimizing time spent with others indoors and masking with my children in common areas, because given the treatments my wife and I are having, getting COVID now would make things much worse.
- I am completing work on all my client projects except for one ongoing project that I’m committed to over the next several months. This will allow me to maintain my business commitments even as both of us are in treatment or recovery.
- I am getting emotional support, not just from friends, but from all of you reading this and from my connections on social media.
Why am I telling you this?
Because I hope that if you’re ever in a situation where you need to prepare for a big challenge, including a medical challenge, that you won’t think of yourself as a victim. Think of yourself as the CEO of you, and the Co-CEO of your family.
What resources will you apply to prepare yourself for what’s coming?
It’s not just about “fighting” the disease (which was a metaphor I never really understood). It’s about being smart and doing what you can ahead of time. Any notice you have about what’s coming is an asset. Don’t waste it. What are you doing with the time you’ve been given to prepare?
This freakin’ thing may very well overwhelm us in any case. But I’ll be damned if I’m just going to sit around and wait for it.