Plans

One year ago today, a freak accident destroyed half of Digital Lightbridge’s building and nearly killed a few people. As I think back on all of the things that were going on in my life then, I realize how out-of-control I was and how in-control God was. I had just started chemotherapy, injections and radiation for stage IV cancer. I was physically very sick, weak and still trying to comprehend the reality of my circumstances. Lisa and I met with attorneys to ensure that my life insurance and wills were adequate. That morning, started as most do for me, I had my early morning quiet-time with the Lord, then a meeting with a colleague, then the horrific, loud crash! At approximately 10:30am, an elderly man drove through the front of the office (fire department estimated 45 mph), hit Robin and continued into the office until the front of his car terminated at my desk. Thankfully, I was in the conference room and Robin was miraculously spared physically trauma.

This morning as I read from the devotional “Handbook to Leadership” by Kenneth Boa, the author included Jeremiah 29:11; “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” It was a great reminder this morning, on the one year anniversary of the day that it appeared that my life was passing due to cancer and my business was destroyed, that God is committed to our personal welfare and security.

Digital Lightbridge celebrated its 10th anniversary with two Open Houses on April 27 & 28, 2011. Our friends from Oasis Coffee Spot and Buddy Brew Coffee created an incredible coffee bar and treated our guests to unique caffeinated drinks. Thank you to everyone who attended and the made the events so special.

Yesterday, I had a three month check-up with my radiation oncologist Dr. Hochman at the Florida Cancer Institute. Lisa and Chandler surprised me and met me there. We had a long wait so Lisa left to pick-up Tristan. Chan and I got checked-in and waited some-more. Dr. Hochman confirmed that the PET scan that I had last week was 100% cancer-free and that I continue to recover ahead of his expectations.

Press on friends, Love, Rich

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Anniversaries

Hey friends,

It’s been one year (Wednesday, March 10, 2010) since I was diagnosed with stage IV cancer during the first surgery. Wow! A lot has changed since then. I continue to have regular medical and oncology appointments. I am 100% cancer-free. I’ve been receiving physical therapy for the past few months for my head, neck and shoulder. I’m gaining strength, mobility and relief from the lymphadema.

From a business perspective, January 2011 took off like a rocket! Digital Lightbridge has been blessed with many new, exciting clients and ministries to serve. Our showroom sales approach is effective. In April, Digital Lightbridge will celebrate its 10th year serving world-class organizations. I continue gain great wisdom and perspective from Digital Lightbridge’s board of directors.

The wonderful Tampa Bay magazine Overflow ran a story entitled “Beating the Odds with God” in their January 2011 issue. Getting over being photographed with my new appearance was interesting. I’ve been encouraged by the comments from their kind readers.

On February 1st, Lisa and I celebrated our nineteen wedding anniversary. We went on an amazing eight-day, eastern Caribbean cruise. Thankfully, my father-in-law Darrell and Brenda watched the three boys during the week and my beautiful sister Stacey took the weekend shifts. This was our eighth cruise and best!

I’ve been asked to speak publicly quite a bit over the past several months about the miraculous healing that I received, which is ironic since the left side of my face is paralyzed and talking in a clear manner is a challenge. In January, I was blessed to speak to Somebody Cares Pasco at the Salvation Army. On Monday, April 4, 2011, I’ll be speaking to Pastor Glen Gammon’s men’s group at Countryside Christian Center in Clearwater and on Saturday, April 30, 2011, I’ll be speaking to the American Cancer Society at St. Leo University.

Late last week, I was asked by the Florida Cancer Institute and Caris Life Sciences to participate in a clinical trail on my particular cancer (carcinoma ex pleomorphic adenoma (CxPA)). On Sunday, I was given a vision to start an organization called CXPA Cancer Foundation. The goal of the foundation will be to provide cancer patients, survivors and their caregivers with timely information about carcinoma ex pleomorphic adenoma, head and neck cancers, treatments options, health and disability insurance, my personal story and ultimately where real hope and healing can be found.

In some ways, I can’t believe its been a year since my diagnosis. Time went by incredibly fast. I remember when I was a kid and my grandmother would tell me that “when you get older time goes by faster”, she was right. Even in the midst of the dire uncertainty last year, each day was only 24 hours long. Each day only contained enough trouble for me and Lisa to handle at that moment. And now, with 12 months of perspective, I can see a hint of God’s plan. His perspective is not limited by time or circumstances. He is the author of time and life. As our Father, He only gives us what He wants us, as His children, to manage at each moment. Matthew 6:34 says “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today”. The statement “Today’s trouble is enough for today” for me means, don’t run scenarios out in your head about what you want God to do for you, I think He just wants us to really trust Him right now, in the moment and know that He is God, we are not and that He will work things out in his timing for our good.

Yesterday morning, during the weekly Bible study at my office. I admitted to the guys that my faith was so small last year, that even though I knew that God was capable of healing me, I didn’t fully accept it. On August 30, 2010, when Lisa and I went into our oncologist’s office to finally hear the report after the first post-treatments PET scan, I honestly expected to hear one-of-three things from him; more treatments, more surgery or there is nothing more we can do. When Dr. Robbins said “Your not in remission, your simply cancer-free.” I couldn’t believe it. My mind had begun to accept the “reality of my circumstances” – terminal stage IV cancer. But then, Truth showed up and reset my reality. That day reminds me of when the disciples were in the boat with Jesus (and He was sleeping) and the massive, violent storm tossed their vessel around and they believed the “reality of their circumstances”. As very experience, hearty fishermen, the disciples, although they literally had the Savior of the world in their boat, their faith was so small that they were terrified and feared death (Matthew 8:23-27). Today, with Jesus in our “boat of life”, in our every circumstance (big or small), we can be confident (with a little faith) that He will not forget us or allow us to be alone in our fear. I say all of this with love and mostly as a reminder to myself.

Later today, I continue my cancer journey with blood work/tests at the cancer center, an appointment with my medical oncologist next week and my surgeon (Dr. Steiniger) later in the month.

Thank you again to everyone who has walked with me and my family during this strange, horrible, wonderful and miraculous experience. We continue to covet your prayers and notes of encouragement.

Press on friends, Rich

Three months!

Hey friends, I can’t believe that it’s been three months since I’ve updated this Blog. Thankfully, I’ve been working hard to return to a normal schedule.

In September, Lisa and I took a nice three-day weekend trip to Sarasota. My beautiful sister Stacey watched the boys. After a full-day court hearing our foster son’s parent’s rights were legally terminated. Soon he will be available for adoption. This situation is our biggest prayer request. We want to make-certain that we are continuing to follow God’s will and not our own. In 27 days, he will have lived with us for two years and over half of his life.

In October, a great group of guys from my church and office (and Mitchell) attended a Impact for Living Men’s conference at Idelwild in Tampa hosted by Tony Dungy, Nathan and Scott Whitaker. Lisa got to getaway for a “girls weekend” with her best friend Michelle in Georgia. On October 14th, I spoke to a group of business-owners at the historic La Teresita Restaurant on behalf of Somebody Cares Tampa Bay. In late October, after a MRSA infection, I got to take my Dad to a Tampa Bay Buccaneers game for his birthday, they won! Also in late October, God led Lisa and me to help a single-Mom with three young daughters. I met her one evening when her car was broken-down in front of my office. We’ve been in contact with her daily since then. This week she got a job! She and her girls have a long way to go to simply have a consistent and safe place to sleep, but God continues to provide. This opportunity is another big prayer request, for Lisa and me to lean solely on God’s direction and wisdom in how to help, not enable, but encourage and perhaps be part of the transformation of these four beautiful lives. It’s been a great experience thus far. All three of the boys have played important roles in this work. Spending time with people that have regretfully made poor decisions early in their lives has changed their perspectives in a positive way.

In November, I traveled to Chicago to meet with a client and mentor friend of mine, Bob Mack. Lisa and my staff attended the annual Family First Champions Dinner keynoted by Dave Ramsey and artist Michael W. Smith. For Chandler’s 15th birthday party, we had an all-night lock-in at Digital Lightbridge . The kids stayed-up all night playing Xbox on the big screens. My family, Lisa’s Dad and Brenda spent Thanksgiving and three days in Sarasota. The weather was awesome and we ate at the Columbia Restaurant in St. Armand’s Circle everyday. Darrell and I highly recommend their Merluza “A la Rusa”!

In December, Lisa and the Digital Lightbridge team attended the 15th Anniversary Gala for Somebody Cares Tampa Bay. The event celebrated the ministry of our dear friends Kathy and Daniel Bernard. This past Saturday morning (December 4, 2010), I had an MRI and a PET/CT at Florida Cancer Institute on Monday. We got the results on Tuesday, December 7th and I’m 100% cancer-free. That evening, I had the privilege to share my testimony of God’s grace and healing miracle in my life with the C12 Group members and leaders in the greater Tampa Bay area at their annual Christmas  and Member of the Year Awards Celebration.

Lisa, the boys and I are looking forward to a quiet, simple Christmas. I am so thankful for my friends, prayer warriors, board of directors and colleagues who continue to encourage me. In many ways, this year was a faith test. Do I really believe that God’s is in control of everything, especially amidst storms of uncertainty, stage IV head and neck cancer and the car crash that destroyed part of my business. I can truly say that Jesus is worthy of our praise. He really is our provider. He is not subject to man’s ways. His economy is abundant and sufficient.

Merry Christmas and press on, Rich

Two Words Beat Three, Cancer-free!

On Monday (August 30, 2010), my medical oncologist told Lisa and me that I’m “cancer-free”. Those two words shattered the words “you have cancer”, that I first heard March 10, 2010. This strange journey has ended. I will still need a few months to fully regain my strength, endurance and energy, but being out from under the banner of “cancer patient” to “cancer survivor” is absolutely incredible.

I’ve learned a lot about myself, other people and God’s character. Personally, the human body is amazingly resilient. A lot of “parts”, muscles, glands, nerves and lymph nodes were surgically removed from my face, neck and shoulder. Although I have left facial paralysis, limited strength and range of motion issues in my arm and neck, my body is compensating and finally healing. Adjusting to the new, abrupt ‘normal’ is strange, but getting better each week. I would never have chosen cancer, but I’m glad God allowed it as I’ve learned so much in a short period of time. Lessons that I’ll be able to share with my three sons as Lisa and I continue to enjoy watching them grow up.

I’d love to know how many people prayed for me and my family during this strange time, certainly, hundreds. Thank you, thank you friends! God really does hear our prayers. He answers them on-time, never early, never later, on-time, His perfect time. The answers are not always what we think they should be. Lisa and I prayed with our pastor early on the morning before my first surgery and God’s answer was stage IV CxPA cancer. That’s not what we were expecting. I thought God might make the recovery period from that surgery even quicker than expected or perhaps not even necessary at the last minute. I was wrong.

The random acts of kindness, meals, notes, cards, gifts, visits, hugs and encouragement demonstrated by you my friends is wonderfully overwhelming and incredibly special. I am a blessed man. Throughout chemotherapy treatments and especially radiation, those gracious gestures lifted my spirit and gave me the determination not to quit. Lisa knows that I considered quitting a couple of times, either due to the frustration or pain. Thank you for being used by God to spur me on to get well.

God’s character is love, perfect love. As it says in John 3:16 “God loved the world this way: He gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him will not die but will have eternal life.” I love a lot of people, but I wouldn’t consider killing any one of my sons for anyone. God allowed his only son to die for us, that’s a perfect love. Here’s a cool video that tells the story of hope: http://www.billygraham.org/specialsections/graffiti/graffiti.asp

I titled this post as “Two Words Beat Three”, but one Word beats all words, Love.

Thank you friends for praying for me and caring for me when I could do neither for myself. I am grateful.

Love and press on, Rich

Apollo 13 & Cancer

One hundred and sixty days ago, I was diagnosed with stage IV carcinoma ex pleomorphic adenoma (CxPA) cancer. My health care team performed three aggressive surgeries, radiation, chemotherapy and other targeted therapies. Over the past several weeks, since initial treatments concluded, I’ve been waiting to physically heal enough so I could get tests to determine if the cancer is gone. This week, I had a two medical examinations, blood work, PET and CT scans. On Monday, August 30th I’ll receive the results, prognosis and next steps.

I love the 1995 Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon and Bill Paxton movie Apollo 13. It’s a documentary style movie about the near lost of the three astronauts from the 1970 NASA mission to the moon. “Houston, we’ve had a problem” is a classic line from that event. Over the years, I’ve called times in my life when I had to wait to see if something was going to turnout the “Apollo 13 Principle”. The Apollo 13 Principle is essentially that awkward feeling when we don’t know how something will come out and when we are not in full control of the process.

Neither mission control or the astronauts were in full control when the spacecraft lost radio communication and was traveling on the dark side of the moon. Thankfully, Gene Kranz, Flight Director, led his team to a successful conclusion.

I am confident that Jesus Christ, who causes all thing to work together for good for those who love him, will be glorified in whatever the outcome may be (Romans 8:28).

On another note, reconstruction is in full swing at Digital Lightbridge. The new space, upgrades and improvements will provide our amazing clients, employees and business partners with a great, unique experience when the work is complete.

Two weeks ago, Chandler began high school and Mitchell started middle school. Lisa has them off to a great start. Our foster son is enrolled in a nice preschool and a program at a local elementary school. God continues to protect him for his birth-parents by keeping them incarcerated.

Today, the boys are shooting another “Army” movie in the backyard and Lisa served women in an domestic violence shelter. Tonight, we are taking friends out to dinner.

We all have Apollo 13 moments in our lives, times when we absolutely have no control over a situation. That’s the perfect time to patiently wait upon the Lord to perform a miracle.

Press on my friends, Rich

Five Months

We spent Lisa’s birthday at her best friend’s house in Canton, Georgia. Her super husband and beautiful daughters gave Lisa a very special memory. It’s awesome that they’ve been inseparable “sisters” for over thirty years.

Yesterday, marked five months since my cancer was diagnosed. I thought that by now my “side effects” would be a faded memory. My energy level is still very low and unpredictable. The pain and discomfort in my head, neck and shoulder is only tolerable after significant mediation.

Thankfully, this week we are in a very restful place. Our friends, Julie and John Faulkner have allowed us to vacation for a week in their beautiful Waynesville, North Carolina cabin. Lisa, the boys and I have enjoyed peaceful times relaxing in rocking chairs on their back porch listening to the creek and watching hummingbirds. We’ve explored quaint nearby towns, National parks, eaten farm fresh fruit and vegetables and the boys enjoyed an afternoon at Sliding Rock.

This additional recuperation time gives me lots of hours to think about lots of different things.

Most of us have had a moment during our lives where we thought that we should have died. Whether a car accident, terrible illness or some other “near-miss”. The fragileness of life becomes very real in those moments. The key to life is knowing where we’ll spend eternity. This leg of my journey is a vapor, a puff of smoke, a short excursion when compared to forever. Where do we find real hope to make sense of this crazy world, something that we can really trust in? The government? Our careers? People? Money? Stuff? Intellect? The only thing that passes the test is a person named Jesus Christ. Knowing about Him is not enough. I know about airplanes, but you surely don’t want me to pilot a plane, especially if you’re the passenger. Knowing is the start, experiencing a trusting, perfect, loving relationship can be your hope, comfort, confidence and assurance.

On August 23rd, I have a PET scan and blood work and a CT scan on the 25th; we get the results and next steps from the oncology team on Monday, August 30th. The outcome is in God’s hands. Perhaps He’ll radically heal me from this rare, stage IV (CXPA) cancer. Maybe, He’ll want me (and my family) to go through another series of treatments (second mile). Whatever the course may be, I am really content knowing that God is in control and that He’s being glorified through this faith journey.

On Thursday, July 29th, we received the permit to begin reconstruction of Digital Lightbridge. Anclote Construction began the process the next morning! The aesthetic and functional improvements will advance our ability to serve clients and provide them with critical business, marketing and communications solutions to advance their organizations.

Digital Lightbridge’s stalwart board of directors has continued to provide Lisa and I and my team with incredible important perspectives that drive long-term client and employee value.

Please also lift up our foster son (3 1/2 years old) in prayer. He needs protection from his birth parents and the “system”. His mother was just released from jail yesterday and his father will be incarcerated for a long time (new charges sentenced yesterday). They need our prayers as well. Lisa, the boys and I went into foster parenting as our family ministry, with the idea that we could help young, struggling parents gain life skills. To date, we have not been able to meet our foster son’s birth parents due to their active drug and severe criminal activities.

Chandler (14 years old) starts high school and Mitchell (11 years old) starts middle school on Monday, August 16th!

Thank you for the prayer support and continued notes of encouragement.

Press on dear friends, Love Rich

Sent from my iPad

Confidence

On Monday, I had an appointment with my medical oncologist due to some weird numb and cold sensations in my hands, arms and feet (weird because it’s been over 90 degrees every day for the past month or so) and to hear the results of the Caris report. Dr. Robbins recommended blood work and a CAT Scan. Wednesday afternoon, I had the CAT Scan and should get the results on Friday. Monday was the blood work. The results from the Caris Target Now report didn’t indicate any significant changes to our current treatments. The radiation burns have healed faster and better than expected and the stubborn wound behind my left ear from the first surgery on March 10th is finally beginning to heal. This week, my energy level is much better than last week.

It’s amazing to realize that 2010 is half over (or half undiscovered).

Lisa continues to be a huge encouragement to me during this strange journey. Chandler is at Word of Life camp this week and Mitchell is spending time with Lisa’s Mom, my parents and my sister Stacey. Our foster son has been blessed with some new resources to help keep him protected for the horrors of the “system”.

Through so much uncertainty, early this morning during my quiet time, I was reminded of where my confidence is found and renewed by reading the following passage.

“We Are at Peace With God Because of Jesus
Now that we have God’s approval because of faith, we have peace with God because of what our Lord Jesus Christ has done. Through Christ we can approach God and stand in his favor. So we brag because of our confidence that we will receive glory from God. But that’s not all. We also brag when we are suffering. We know that suffering creates endurance, endurance creates character, and character creates confidence. We’re not ashamed to have this confidence, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
~Romans 5:1-5

This life is so fast and so short and so quick. The temporary suffering that each of us endures has the potential of making us more or less Christ-like. I choose to be confident.

Hopefully, the reconstruction plans (due to the May 17th accident) for Digital Lightbridge will be approved soon, so Anclote Construction can begin to remodel our office building.

Thank you for the comments to my Blog, Lisa’s CarePage, emails, cards and especially your prayers for healing. You are a blessing!

Press on friends, Rich