Even when you're down, always keep fighting
HEALTH -- This week hits a topic very close to home. It seems time and time again that this theme rings evident in not only my life in the disease front, but on all fronts.
This theme is the one of never throwing in the towel, no matter how dark the skies are looking, or how bad you are hurting. This is obviously one of the hardest things to do, yet the single most important factor anyone will ever face during battle in their life.
I want to start with a situation that goes way beyond you or me and speaks towards the bravery of a few good men, and I’m not talking about the movie.
It may seem like a stretch, but let’s go all the way back to World War II, more specifically to the Battle of Britain.
Things were looking dark, Britain was surrounded. Most of their Allies were all but conquered, and one of the last allies they could turn to, the United States, was struggling to convince their people to join the war.
The Germans had air superiority and were taking full advantage of it night and day. Yet, the Brits were never going to give in. No matter how dark things looked, with the enemy on the door step, they were not going away easily, or quietly.
With that, I want to share with you a quote from one of my own personal role models, Sir. Winston Churchill, the man arguably responsible for keeping Britain afloat in their darkest hour.
Churchill can be quoted in one of his great speeches saying:
“We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the new world, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”
Now, if that doesn’t show stubbornness, self-belief, and determination to succeed, then I do not know what does. Now, Churchill was in a darker situation than most of us will ever know, yet that doesn’t mean we can’t learn something from this tenacious approach.
I, after all, believe it is the ticket to being successful in any area of life. It’s that tenacity to look failure in the eye, or the darkest skies, and say that you are going to fight through to success, that will carry those forward who really want it.
Now, let me elaborate.
Like I said, whether I knew it at the time or not, it has been this kind of thinking that has allowed me to progress to the point where I am now. The realization wasn’t until recently though, at my latest soccer game where my team - BVB FC - was able to beat the odds and move on to the next round of playoffs.
Still don’t know how we did it, but we did. And this is how.
The team we played, we had faced twice during the season. The first time was our very first game as a team, and we got destroyed. The final score for game one ended 4-0 in favour of our opponents after I had let in two weak goals, and two more that just found their way into the net.
The second time we faced them was a little better. My defense had been solid, but we found ourselves losing 3-2 after they were given a controversial penalty kick when I attempted to stop a breakaway, and ended up drawing a foul.
After both defeats, it was a little intimidating going into this playoff game.
On the drive to the field, I had felt a little hopeless after being defeated twice by these guys. As I was warming up, my team added to the pressure with some of them saying that it would come down to me - because they were either injured, or not feeling well.
This just added to the sense of trouble.
Yet, the game started and we fought hard through the first half. Our opponents scored off the rebound of a tough save I made from a free kick, then again after their star player made a quick run through our defense and skipped the ball across the wet grass right through my legs. I still don’t know how it went in and my one defender thinks he might’ve tipped it. We had also scored but couldn’t capitalize on a few errors to tie it up.
We went into the second half down 2-1.
That second half started right where the first ended, with bad luck. The referee awarded our opposition a penalty kick - I still don’t know for what reason - in the first ten minutes. Off the penalty kick, I dove the right way, the ball had hit my hands, but was shot with enough power that it skipped off the ground and into the net.
That put us down 3-1 against a team that had our number all season. My morale at this point was pretty low, and all I could think was “screw this.” I was so angry because I felt like I had let my team down. I just wanted the game to end... but only for a split second.
I took a moment to think, and realized that the referee might’ve screwed us with that penalty kick and I may not have had luck on my side for the other two, but for the rest of the game I’d be damned if I was going to let in another shot.
I decided to put everything into those final 30 minutes. I’m proud to say that I didn’t let in another goal, and was I ever tested. For the next 30 minutes, the opposition had several good shots, and about four breakaways; all of which I was able to stop. In the meantime, while I was busy stopping shots, the offense was scoring goals and in the final three minutes of the game, they tied it up.
We were going to penalty shots!
I had never done penalty shots before in this kind of setting. Each team would get five shooters, and whoever scored the most goals would win. Well, they are harder than you think and the first four shooters for both teams all scored goals.
I managed to get my hands on one shot but not enough and it went passed the goal line. I came out for that fifth shot, again, determined not to give in, and determined to make the save. I stared straight ahead at the shooter. The ref blew his whistle to indicate to proceed. The shooter approached the ball and hit it.
Time slowed as I dove to the left. I watched the ball take a weird bounce off the ground but got my hands up in time to stop the shot. All we had to do now was score. My teammate approached the spot, and the routine continued. The ref blew the whistle and my teammate shot a laser of a shot top corner, winning us the game.
In a situation where it looked like we were all but done, we persevered and refused to back down. Not a single person on my team had given up and continued to work for the win and we got it. Would that have happened if anyone gave up? Probably not. I know they could have easily had another two or three goals if I had given up, never mind if my own team gave up on the game.
Yet, this is only one example in a sports environment. There was one other time where I chose tenacity and stubbornness over simply giving in.
I chose that route when I refused surgery.
Now, let me get something out right now. Surgery is beneficial for some, and that decision needs to be made on a case by case basis. But here’s my case. I have tried a small range of medications in comparison to others.
From what I’ve gathered, many people with the same disease as myself have tried 10-20 different medications, all of which had failed them, forcing them to pursue surgery or forms of alternate medicine. I have maybe tried five different medications before getting lucky and receiving Simponi Biologic medication for free through an offer my doctor got me.
Yet, a few months ago I had met with him after a scope and he informed me that there was still inflammation. I was given the options of surgery, clinical trial for a new medication, or stay with what I had - which with my current condition is like a moderate IBS experience.
I instantly ruled out clinical trial.
This personally was not an option for me. I was also in a rough patch and began to actually think about surgery as an option. I thought long and hard. Surgery was dangling the promise of feeling actually normal for the rest of my life with minor alterations. The surgery, however, was risky.
At the end of the day, I refused the surgery. I didn’t want it. I didn’t want an ostomy bag, no matter how long or short of a period I would have it. I wanted to get better, not lose an organ and I was going to do everything possible that I could to keep all my organs inside of me.
Now, I can’t exactly say the road has been easy. The road lined with audacity is usually a hard road to travel down. But I don’t regret a minute of it.
Yeah, I’ve had hard days, days where I wanted to quit. But I’ve had good days as well. I’m relatively healthy - so much so I’ve actually managed to pack on at least four-pounds, which is unheard of for me - and I’m happy.
I’m playing sports I wouldn’t be able to play with an ostomy bag, and I’ve been able to fight for my own health, rather than just give up and cut out the broken bits. Again, there may be a time when surgery really is my last resort, and I’m prepared for that. But that moment isn’t now.
Until that moment I will keep fighting on, just like I do in almost every aspect of my life, for success and happiness. Nothing ever comes easy, and that’s a good thing, because if it did, we might never appreciate the good things when they happen.