Patient #1: Beat cancer is my New Year’s resolution

TJ Sharpe with his wife Jen and two kids, Josie and Tommy on the beach celebrating New Year's Eve.

res·o·lu·tion  [rez-uh-loo-shuhn]  noun

  1. The state or quality of being resolute; firm determination.
  2. A resolving to do something.
  3. A course of action determined or decided on.
  4. A formal statement of a decision or expression of opinion put before or adopted by an assembly such as the U.S. Congress.
  5. Physics & Chemistry The act or process of separating or reducing something into its constituent parts
  6. The fineness of detail that can be distinguished in an image, as on a video display terminal.
  7. Medicine The subsiding or termination of an abnormal condition, such as a fever or an inflammation.

The New Year is one of the arbitrarily-selected times we use to make self-improvements and “resolve” to do better, live better, be better people.  Ask a personal trainer, dietician, or parent of a teenager how most resolutions fare by St. Patrick’s Day, and you understand the difference between “resolving to do something” and “getting the job done.”  (That also applies to all kinds of political commentary, but since we are in the Health section, I will stick to medical cancers.)

Much like the sun, resolutions rise with energy and promise and the glow of potential; a new day, a new opportunity, another chance to make the world – your world – better.  And, much like the daytime, our resolutions face a gamut of unpredictable conditions.  Weather affects how our sun’s rays reach the earth; some days are blistering hot, others leave us cold, still others change potential into a dark, damp, dreary reminder that sunshine isn’t a promise. Then there are days that you wish you could bottle–80 degrees and sunny with a breeze on the water, a quiet snow falling outside a fireplace overlooking the ski slopes, or crisp autumn air that is just cool enough to remind you of all the outdoor possibilities that await. Those are the days you know are conducive to making resolutions a reality.

Our life resolutions follow the same arc as the sun.  My 2012 resolutions were simple and not exactly original – get in shape, have more family time and less “T.J. time,” get involved in charity, and generally be the father and husband my kids would be proud of, much like my Dad is to me, and my Grandfather to him.  In a lot of ways I succeeded – in the last 15 months (I started mine a little early) I was able to:

  • drop close to “playing weight” and check off a Tough Mudder and Spartan Race (“finish” counts as check off – we’ll work on the glacial speed of the runs in 2013);
  • help run and serve on the Board of Directors for A Prom to Remember, a fantastic charity providing the ultimate prom experience for teens affected by cancer;
  • restructure our family time to spend nights and weekends taking advantage of a two year old’s curiosity and ever-growing ability to interact with Mommy and Daddy; and
  • change eating and drinking habits to cut out much of the sugar, meat, and dairy while adding whole and plant-based foods. With Jen being pregnant for the first half of my resolution period, and starting to feel my age on Sunday mornings, I also decided the “drink and be merry” lifestyle needed some adjustments too, so our social drinking was limited to the occasional dinner or party.  For those of you who live in (or have been to) South Florida, you know there is never a shortage of opportunities to have a good time.

Side note for those of you nursing a Mummers-sized hangover the first day or two of 2013 – in a ridiculous example of irony, the same 15 months I basically give up drinking and eating junk foods, I got a bunch of tumors.  I’m not saying that a steady stream of Captain Morgan and Taco Bell on the weekends prevented cancer or kept the tumors at bay, but quite a few of my buddies have noted this coincidence and are not making any 2013 “lifestyle resolutions” just to be on the safe side.  While I am sure their wives and cardiologists don’t concur with having another beer in the name of good health, I’ll leave that to you to decide.

It is ironic that the term “resolution” can describe both intent and finality.  Many of us resolve to start doing something abstract without having a defined end goal.  That achievement is what makes a well-intentioned commitment into a successful resolution.

As I look into 2013, “beat cancer” is the generic mindset that can keep me from being successful and even being alive.  My phone has a list of short and long term goals I add to often – it’s not a “bucket list” of jumping out of airplanes and scaling summits, but instead many small milestones (medical and non-medical alike) that, achieved over time, will give me the greater “subsiding or termination of an abnormal condition.”

My many 2013 – and beyond – courses of action will lead to successful resolutions: remission and eradication of malignant melanoma tumors in my body; helping those who are undergoing the same difficulties I have; and being Daddy for the Sharpe family’s Mommy, Josie, and Tommy.

But first up – get through chemo without any roadblocks. Next, make it through four days on IL2.  Then, a recovery and return to non-abnormal conditions for all of us.  If I can do that, I have faith you can make your resolutions a reality this year, too. Happy New Year, and get those intentions moving towards achievements.