Why vs. Why Me?

Most of us have experienced a moment, decision, or situation that’s rendered shocking perhaps even life changing news.  But how we respond varies greatly.  Some of us feel immediately victimized and wonder why me? Others begin a broader journey of discovery, wondering what must I do to turn this into something good? This episode explores one person’s story, leaving the grand question... what would I do?

May 11, 2021
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Melissa Albers  0:00  
Hey everyone, you are listening to the self awareness Journey podcast. This little banter is about a car ride long and features your hosts, JJ Parker, and Melissa Albers. JJ owns a tech company. And Melissa has been a coach working with influencers for the last 18 years. Well, hello, everybody. I'm super excited for us today, because we have a special guest. This is our second official guest in our pod. So Kevin, and I met a few weeks back in a networking kind of environment. And we just hit it off. And we started to have some really great conversations that are not like your typical networking, right? Like, we started talking about life. And we started talking about all sorts of really deep things. And Kevin had a huge life changing event for him in his life. And it's so impactful, the way that he talked about it that I asked if he'd be willing to come and talk with us today. So Kevin, welcome,

Unknown Speaker  1:01  
welcome. Hello. Glad to be here. I can give you some sense of what that looks like, or how we got here. But yeah, when Melissa and I first met, what was what drew me to her was that she had a knack for what I'll call bringing personal life into her work. And I had an experience in my late 30s, which I'm now in my mid 50s, which I got diagnosed with a pretty serious form of cancer. And what that event did for me, in a very positive way, was made me think hard about well, okay, I'm going through some amazing things right now, mostly, amazingly difficult. But, of course, that's when you learn the most about life is when you're challenged to the nth degree. Yeah. And so at that point, I was drawn to learn more about what Melissa was doing in general and her work. I was trying to figure out how to combine the by experiences in my own life with my work. I've reached a point in my career that probably I'm money is not the driving force. So what is the driving force? And what is the driving force as has been the same ever since I was diagnosed with cancer in my late 30s. And so that's, that's where the discussion started.

Melissa Albers  2:31  
Yeah, and, and oddly, I've mentioned a couple of times on other podcasts that my dad was also diagnosed with cancer, and it was the exact same kind of cancer that you had, which was so strange, right? That's just so unusual. And then just our conversation that unfolded from that was so meaningful, because I remember you specifically saying, my wife keeps telling me, I need to bring in more of my real stuff into my work stuff, which is also obviously real, but very, a very different part of you. And you were really, in that dialogue with yourself about how do I do that?

Unknown Speaker  3:09  
Yeah. And I can, I can, alright, so that's gonna take you down a totally different role. The three of us have talked before, but this will give you an idea of why not only when I first heard you talk, Melissa was drawn to it. But you said that about your dad. Yeah. So I was new, probably four years into having cancer, I was diagnosed huge doses of chemotherapy to try to get it into remission over a six months period. odds of survival the first time around, were somewhere around 40%, which means 60%, you don't survive, you know, dependent on glasses half full or glasses half empty, which day? Exactly. The cancer then came back a year and a half later, and I had to go down the path of what was somewhat experimental treatment for the same disease he talked about with your dad, and which was a bone marrow transplant. And nine months later, I was still on the way down, not on the way up of recovery. And so I reached out to somebody I reached out on the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and posted on their site. I've had this brand of cancer, which is very unusual AML to have that brand of cancer as a late 30 year old. I have had had chemotherapy as a first form of treatment, and then I had a bone marrow transplant nine months ago, and I'm personally incredibly struggling. It can anybody Have anything even close to that, to support me. And after a couple other things that happened coincidentally, within that next two weeks when I had hit total rock bottom nine months after my bone marrow transplant, I got an email from somebody in London, who was two years younger than I was I was diagnosed originally with AML. Within a month of when I was had the same treatment as I did, relapse at the same time I did and had a bone marrow transplant within one day of one itis. Wow. So you know, when when I heard you say, while your dad, of course, my ears perked up. I mean, I could not have imagined Betty being at a lower place in my life and found somebody to help me. Yeah, yeah. And so I mean, Justine, and I exchanged emails for every day for probably six months. We talked on the phone from London to here. And I went and met her, probably two years or three years after my, you know, I was feeling okay to go do that. Yeah, yeah. And so when, when I hear of things or come across things that I say, Hmm, there's something there. I don't know what it is. Yeah. Yeah. I follow it. You know, he talked about, talk about self awareness. Talk about I don't know what that is, you know, are you aware of what's around you? Are you listening to the world? The speak to you in some way? Are you?

Melissa Albers  6:50  
Yeah, I think certainly it my experience at the family level is when you do have some sort of illness that can be terminal, certainly as long term. I think you do change your perspective, you know, and you talk about Kevin, how your life was very much geared around work. Oh, yeah. Very big work. Like you, you do big things. You not just little things, you do really big things. Yeah. And the perspective that shifted for you. I know. JJ has some questions about that, too, I think that he wanted to ask you about, but that is such an impactful time. And I think so many people find themselves here. And nobody's planning for that. No plans for that.

JJ Parker  7:37  
Yeah. Yeah, one thing you said that was really interesting was that you found this other person on the other side of the planet that had a similar experience, as you've had, as you are having. Right, right. How did how did that? How did that connection? How did finding that out make you feel? Like you found that I mean, it was that like,

Unknown Speaker  8:03  
Well, I used to describe my disease after I was in it for you know, at that point, I'm in it for three or four years. I mean, I'd been diagnosed, I'd gone through chemotherapy for six months I I had, quote, unquote, recovered, which you know, you're not after six, you're physically recovered, but you're emotionally not recovered. I got re diagnosed and so you think you're making progress for you go all the way back. And then I went into the hospital for 30 days to get my bone marrow transplant on I got out, I had to live close to the hospital because I had to go there every day. I had to check back into the hospital after being out for 10 days, I went back in for another week because I had such significant problems with my bone marrow transplant. To go another six months losing weight throwing up almost every day. It's safe to say I feel like I used to just cry. I feel like I'm alone on Mars. I mean, nobody can relate to this. I mean, I'm married. My wife can kind of relate but she can't and are good or bad or marriage wasn't great. Before I got diagnosed. I've got three kids that are under six. None of them can relate. Everybody else is in their mid 30s All my friends they have little kids. They've kind of fallen by the wayside. Just not because they don't care. They just don't have time. Yeah. So So what does that feel like to be on Mars and find some My God not only is there somebody else here, but they're on the exact same path. I mean, it. I couldn't even believe it. I couldn't

JJ Parker  9:47  
believe it. Yeah, that had been, like really powerful. I mean for you, right? It's just like this. We talk about the need for connection and wanting to connect with other people. And that that is amazing. You're feeling that you were completely alone. And you, you did find someone else to connect with that is, to me, it's like an amazing story of the power of the internet and the connected world, right? Yeah. Oh, yeah. Yeah.

Unknown Speaker  10:16  
Yeah. So I, during the, I'll give you a piece of it for how isolated I was. So I had two weeks before this happened, I had signed up for a seminar called renewing life, which the clinic I was going to had, which were was intended for people that were having that had had, or were in the middle of cancer. And I was so desperate to get some kind of support some, you know, you're on Mars. And so I had gone to, it was an eight week session, and about a six week, the kind of moderator or whatever you want to call, there's, there was six or seven other cancer patients with me, and they all had different brands of cancer. You know, I think a couple, a couple of women had breast cancer and a guy had pretty far along prostate cancer, and I don't remember what the others were. And at the end of, you know, Session Six, she handed out a list of 104 things that you could lose to cancer. And a list, you know, on the list was heavier last year here, of course, I'd lost my hair, have you lost your friends? Have you lost family members? Have you lost, you know, your job? Have you lost? And I actually thought I was doing pretty well, you know, and in the sessions, you know, I thought what I'm making progress, this is going pretty well. And she said go home and fill out this list and come back and talk about we'll talk about it next week about what you've lost. I went home and I went into the study and I started checking off what I lost. There were only three things I hadn't lost.

JJ Parker  12:07  

Unknown Speaker  12:08  
And I was crushed. I was like I thought I was doing well. But I read this list and I can't I can't believe how bad this is, you know, the human spirits like well, glass is half full. Yeah. And so, of course, I felt horrible for a week while I go back into the session. And again, the person writing it says, Okay, let's go around who asked how much the highest next one was? 57. So that's how much I felt on Mars. Wow, that's, that is amazing. The next day, Justine

JJ Parker  12:44  
emailed me. Wow. So during this whole time you are you working or attempting to work.

Unknown Speaker  12:53  
When I was originally diagnosed, I couldn't. I was out of work for six months. And then I worked in I'll work my way back up to full time. But then when I had my was re diagnosed in May, I don't think I went back to work for over probably about a year.

JJ Parker  13:12  
How did you deal with that? I mean, I'm, you're a driven entrepreneur. And you had that event? Right? How? How did that affect? Like? Me? You know, for some of us, a lot of times our work feels like it's value, right? It defines us or feels like the value we provide? How did you work through that transition?

Unknown Speaker  13:41  
Oh, we're talking about self awareness here.

JJ Parker  13:45  
In any me i This is like, you know, never been in the spot. You're obviously you've gone through very few people have just this idea of, of how did you feel about work during that time? Were you just like, Screw it, I'm out, or were you still trying to participate? Like how did you deal with that?

Unknown Speaker  14:09  
My work was my self awareness journey. I didn't care about work. What got it became painfully apparent in a near death experience is that work does not matter at all. And I I'm not even sure I would say survival mattered. Why am I here mattered? What am I going to do if I did? What matters to me not today. But if I do survive what what does what matters? I knew that if I knew my son was was six years old and I knew when he turned 15 I was gonna play golf with him at Pebble Beach. I didn't even know the logistics of doing that I had no idea. He and I drove down the fair first fairway at Trumbull beach on his 15th birthday.

JJ Parker  15:15  
That's right. Wow. So there

Unknown Speaker  15:18  
were so that so I could, you know, during work didn't matter is

Melissa Albers  15:25  
it went from being everything to just not even on the radar. Yeah, and

Unknown Speaker  15:30  
like we talked about originally will, that's what drew me here, I have been struggling with getting meaning out of work, given my talents to do some pretty impressive things financially and from a business perspective, right. And so it's great. And I, I'm, I hate to sound, I don't want to sound arrogant in this, I'm gifted financially, I bought my first share of stock when I was 11. I mean, I it came, so naturally the financial world. I, I can't even describe it, you know, I had, I had a pretty senior person at the brokerage firm where I was working at stop me when I was 30. And said, Kevin, you need to go have children. You know, everything there is to know about a brokerage firm. And you just need to get some experience now because you know, every nook and cranny and I was doing periodic reports to the Board of Directors when I was in my it's, you know, 3031 years old.

Melissa Albers  16:44  
Yeah. That's why I really like your story. Because at the beginning of our conversation, you didn't really talk about what you did for a living, but you've had great success professionally. And you are very confident in your skills that way, you know, what you and I talked about this deep enrich analytical and operational mindset, and, and how you've leveraged that your whole career, and then you all of a sudden become sick. And so for you to be talking like you are now that there was such a flip is dramatic. I mean, I think a lot of us would say that, Oh, if we pictured ourselves like that we would, you know, say these same kinds of things. In theory, we'd say, well, of course, work doesn't matter anymore. But the real life story of having such rich work experience, and then suddenly just saying, I don't even it's not even on my radar is really dramatic.

JJ Parker  17:41  
Yeah. Oh, yeah. This idea of why I love, I love there's a, there's a famous TED Talk turned into a book from Simon Sinek, which is start with why it's like a business oriented book, right. But when people start to explore, like their own, why, like, why, why do I exist? It's a really hard exercise. I know what I've tried to, to figure out what like, what is my why? It's really, it's really hard. I spent a lot of time trying to figure it out. I don't know that I know it yet. Now, I don't think I could say it to you guys. So unfortunately, you had to have this like big life event to get yourself to start thinking about, like your why. Yeah. So how can other people get to a spot where they don't have to go through such a big event? So start thinking about this, like, how did you like what, what were the first like, where did you where, where's your entry point to figure this out? Do you start with a spreadsheet, I hope the spreadsheet

Unknown Speaker  18:58  
is either a spreadsheet app in there, or you just have to get a big needle and rather than a COVID vaccine, you didn't Jack them with something so they start thinking about

Melissa Albers  19:09  
an abacus. They're all out there with an abacus.

Unknown Speaker  19:13  
i If I had the solution to that I go in and what I do with that? Yeah, you wouldn't

JJ Parker  19:19  
be on our little podcast, we have something way bigger.

Unknown Speaker  19:24  
I mean, let me give you a sense for you know, what goes through my head when you say something like that? Well, first of all, if you took you know, if you lined up five people or 10 people and you said okay, you've now got a really serious form of cancer or whatever, you know, some more major problem and divided those 10 people by their by their initial reaction is your initial reaction. Why? Or is your initial reaction why me? It can't have a self awareness Journey if your initial reaction is oh, why me?

Melissa Albers  20:03  
So interesting?

Unknown Speaker  20:07  
If you're down that path, well, you're going to spend your whole life kind of looking at all sorts of things that are not going to allow you to open up to a why versus why me

Melissa Albers  20:23  
an insightful, Kevin,

Unknown Speaker  20:26  
I will say, I'm not always the most optimistic guy, I'm not, you know, I don't jump out of bed singing like my wife does, or you, Melissa. But I can tell you that what I learned about getting diagnosed as I checked into the hospital on Friday, I was getting chemotherapy by 11 o'clock. And by 1230, or by early afternoon, I couldn't stand being in the oncology ward. And so I took my chemotherapy, and I went up, and I sat in the maternity ward, because babies are happy. Everybody out there is happy. And so I learned, I may not be the most happy guy every day, but dammit, at the core me, I am happy. I am

Melissa Albers  21:17  
optimistic. I mean, certainly, yeah. Stick and forward thinking.

Unknown Speaker  21:21  
Yeah. And so literally, I sat up there for four hours getting my chemotherapy, because I just didn't want to be down in the negative energy of people struggling and or dying from cancer, I totally get it. And so the whole vibe, the whole awareness at the hospital was okay, I'm getting, I'm getting out of here. And that's sitting in my room.

JJ Parker  21:44  
You said a couple of things that are that we talked about it in, in the software industry roadmap, there's, there's two parts of it, there's personal focus, which is these like self referencing thoughts all the time. And that's, you know, you flipped that right around from all from that, why me? And then your environment, right? How much our environment impacts how we feel. And you change that to in, in a situation where I'd imagine most of us would not have that kind of insight. Right? That's really amazing.

Unknown Speaker  22:24  
Yeah, I don't, I suppose, you know, I didn't think about it at the time, I just couldn't sit there. Why this is just negative. This is bad karma,

Melissa Albers  22:34  
intuitively taking care of yourself in a way that you didn't even recognize that you necessarily work. It was just a relative thing. Right?

JJ Parker  22:43  
So you've said, when we talked earlier, you said something that I thought was pretty, pretty amazing. We, you talked about how you, you've had this big life event, but you don't want to be defined by it. Right? And you talked about how a lot of times when people have things like cancer, the cancer basically defines them for the rest of their life and you don't like that positioning, right? You don't want that to be the definition of Kevin, can you just talk to us a little bit more about that?

Unknown Speaker  23:18  
Right, as we talked about a little bit to me I want to recover from cancer and to stay in the middle of it to me goes back to staying in the middle of why me? What positive things that I take out of cancer, you know, what good things can I take out of that and then I'm happy to share that forward but I don't want to share or getting stuck there I don't want to share you know go back to having support groups and helping others and that way that if I was truly helping I might feel good about that. But too many times I was running into others to support creep with six or eight people and seven are still in why me that can't get out of the why me and they can't find a deeper meaning of life to say I'm okay with this. There's a purpose reason that I have this cancer that it's either going to take my wife or I need to learn something from it and move on. And and for me, luckily, whatever I I knew when I was diagnosed I was sick at my core. I mean, my mother died of cancer when I was 14 months old. I don't know that I ever really totally got over that. My dad died of cancer three years before I was diagnosed with cancer. I was in a not the greatest marriage when I was diagnosed. I was sick at my core. Hmm.

Melissa Albers  24:53  
And talk about that in the in the self awareness journey. We talk a lot about how things are in alignment you emotionally, spiritually, mentally and physically. When our bodies are in alignment, we have higher awareness and we are generally more healthy. But when we continually have something that's off, how that those emotional, those little emotional traumas turn into bigger emotional traumas and unchecked, I think that's oftentimes where we do see illnesses appearing physically because of emotional and mental illness that is unchecked, are we because we've been conditioned, I think to we've been conditioned to ignore our feelings when they aren't favorable. We've been conditioned to gloss over so many things. And and I think that you're speaking right to that in such a profound way.

Unknown Speaker  25:47  
Yeah. Back to the initial question. Well, how did you forget about work or was impact on work? I just thought it was a wake up call, I got to work on me forget about work. You know, and I didn't even see, my cancer wasn't leukemia. My cancer was everything else that wasn't right in my life. And I knew that the second I was diagnosed. Wow.

JJ Parker  26:12  
That's really interesting perspective. Kevin. Let me ask you. Another. So you're now many years out, right? Like if do you still Are you still worried that, like, they might come back cancer might come back here, or you might fall into another big life of enemy? That seems like it could be on your mind you like? Do you have anxiety about that? Or how do you how do you deal with that?

Unknown Speaker  26:48  
Short answer is yes. How often is less over time? I have certain time, I've got post traumatic stress from it. You know, obviously that gets better over time. But to give you a sense for it, I was diagnosed in August, I had my bone marrow transplant in August, I had both of my hips, each different one replaced in August from the treatments all in different years. I split up from my wife at the end of August. Let's just say August is not a great time of year for me. Yeah. And I

JJ Parker  27:30  
even today, like like, just as the calendar years roll on that that season. Yeah. makes you anxious.

Unknown Speaker  27:39  
Yeah. Makes classic post traumatic stress, not severe. But I want to be alone. I don't want to deal with hard things. I just feel overwhelmed. As I would describe it, tell it to other people. It's like I'm going through an earthquake. The world is shaking around me. And I just want stability. Oh, no, man, it's

JJ Parker  28:03  
such a great way of describing things.

Melissa Albers  28:05  
I know you do. Great, amazing killer. Yeah.

Unknown Speaker  28:10  
Thank you. I've got a lot of time to think about.

JJ Parker  28:20  
Well, this has been super interesting. Kevin, I thank you so much for coming and sharing your story and being open with us. And there's a lot of really good insight that we've talked about today.

Melissa Albers  28:35  
And I would I would just like to ask one final question on my side. I agree, JJ, it's been such a such an impactful conversation. And we so appreciate you willing to have it with us. It's just it's it's been great. I I wonder if you had you knew you were coming on the pod and we would be talking about this. Is there anything that you wish we would have asked you that we didn't or any lasting parting perspective you'd like to leave?

Unknown Speaker  29:10  
No, I mean, I actually appreciate having the opportunity to tell some of the story because it's I think there's something in it that can help somebody else but I can't put it into words. I don't know what it is. And then I probably have 25 other stories so that I think could help those that are more about why then why me and I don't want to give up on the people that are more why me but the why me people is just so much harder to get them to pay attention. There's so much out there that you can do that you can make an impact on that you can I guess make a difference. You know, just make a difference in how you look things. And so yeah, having a platform to do that is a very happy to have it very happy to have it.

JJ Parker  30:09  
A whole nother podcast in the future will be how do you get your art out into the world? Time for that to that

Unknown Speaker  30:17  
my wife and I just started painting and it's ugly, but it was just

Melissa Albers  30:27  
a That's great. Well, I think sometimes sometimes when we can't put into words, our own perspectives, our stories and our energies are clearly telling the story itself. Yeah, I'd say that that's the case with you is we don't have to have words you don't have to have a well crafted chapter version of a book you your emotions and your thoughts came through loud and clear. So thank

Unknown Speaker  30:50  
you. No, thank you.

Melissa Albers  30:53  
We hope that you've enjoyed today's episode. Our mission is to help people become happier and more effective by gaining insight into their own thoughts and feelings. We'd love your support. First, share this podcast with anyone you think might enjoy it. Second, leave us a rating or review on your favorite podcast safe. This helps others discover the podcast so we can reach more people. And third, sign up for our newsletter at the self awareness journey.com. This will help us communicate better with you and build our community. Thank you so much for joining us in the self awareness journey. We'll see you next week.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Discussed in this episode

Let's get real

Meet your guides

JJ Parker

JJ Parker is a serial entrepreneur passionate about building creative strategy, efficient operations, and unique marketing perspectives. Parker got his start as a student at The Minneapolis Institute of Art, and soon after launched his first company Tightrope Media Systems (TRMS) with a high school buddy in 1997.

Melissa Albers

Melissa is passionate about developing people’s self-awareness and ability to positively interact with others. She focuses on the importance of building influence, and highlights the most important relationship we have is with self first. Ms. Albers speaks on leadership and self-awareness, and has shared the stage with John Maxwell (Leadership Author and Speaker), Lee Cockerell (Exec VP of Disney) and Les Brown (Motivational Speaker) to name a few.

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