The Fourth Round…

Posted: September 24, 2018 in Postcards from Cancerland., Uncategorized


It’s almost time to go back into the ring.
The fighter shuffles on the wooden stool in the corner, it is a bit too tall for him and his feet don’t quite reach the mat.
He is suspended.
The fighter takes a deep swig of orange Gatorade as he mentally prepares for the next round.
He is halfway through.
Three rounds are done, three more to go.
Each round has left a mark.
He is tired and twitchy.
He has found himself on the ropes, he has been punch drunk.
But, he will go the distance.
There have been celebrations as the bully has gone from a heavyweight to a welterweight threat.
But, the brawl ain’t over.
The fighter awkwardly jumps to his feet and pulls up his shorts.
He is tired and he smells really bad, like old mayonnaise and fried onions.
He tries to spit in the bucket next to the stool, but he misses and the saliva ends up on his chin.
That’s embarrassing.
In the last three rounds, he has learned how to throw a punch.
Now, he is learning to keep punching.
It’s not time to give up or get comfortable.
It’s time to keep fighting.
He is sluggish, but he needs to keep slugging.
There have been distractions, but the fighter has to keep pounding.
He realizes that we ALL have a continual choice, fight or quit.
He will fight.
His Trainer leans in and tells him, “Go out there and be a wrecking machine! Stay hungry! Don’t quit until you kill this thing to death!”
The bell rings…
Before July 9, 2018, I had never stepped foot in to an Oncology Clinic.
I was completely clueless about the C Word.
I thought that “Infusion Suite” was a Beatles B side single.
I know different now.
Now, I’ve spent quality time in several clinics, and they are all a little different. The furniture and the layout is different. There are different paintings on the wall. My favorite office has vibrant paintings of the beach and sailboats.
Every office is different, but ONE thing is the same…
EVERY clinic that I’ve visited has the exact same simple quote prominently displayed:
“When I found out I had cancer, there were two things I could do: quit or keep pounding…I’m a fighter. I kept pounding. You’re fighters, too. Keep pounding!”- Sam Mills Jr.
Sam Mills Jr. played twelve seasons as a linebacker in the NFL. He was a five time pro bowler. He finished his phenomenal playing career with the Carolina Panthers. After retiring he became a defensive assistant/linebacker coach for the Panthers. 
It was January 2, 2004, the night before a wildcard playoff game against the Cowboys. The Panthers were gathered for a team meeting. Coach John Fox had asked Coach Mills, who was battling intestinal cancer, to speak to the team, to give the men a pep talk. He talked about commitment, teamwork, and never giving up. Then he said the words that are prominently displayed in every Oncology clinic that I’ve visited.
“Keep Pounding”
The team got the message, against the odds, they went on to play in their first Super Bowl that year.
Sam Mill Jr. taught his team, with his words and example, how to fight.
Don’t quit.
Be relentless.
“Keep Pounding”
On good days…
“Keep Pounding”
On bad days…
“Keep Pounding”
When you face huge obstacles…
“Keep Pounding”
When the prognosis isn’t good…
“Keep Pounding”
When it feels like you’ve lost it all…
“Keep Pounding”
When you are worn out and you just want to throw in the towel.
“Keep Pounding”
Mills passed away a year later at the age of 45, but not without a fight.
He left a loud and lasting legacy.
“Keep Pounding” is the Panthers team motto, battle cry and favorite hashtag.
It’s a Panthers tradition for the team to select a “Keep Pounding Drummer” to bang a giant drum before each home game.
But, this is  bigger than the Panthers.
When Coach Mills cleared his throat and uttered these simple words, he was unknowingly giving a pep talk for every one of us.
We all have our own fight.
We all face our own bullies.
We are slammed by disease and dysfunction. 
We have setbacks.
Real life can punch you in the face.
Punch back.
Keep punching.
There’s an old quote by Allen Saunders that showed up in a John Lennon song: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
Sometimes life is easy.
But, sometimes life is hard and scary.
We find ourselves on dark, winding roads that are unexpected and overwhelming.
Keep walking.
Go out there and be a wrecking machine!
Stay hungry!
Don’t quit until you kill this thing to death!”
Keep fighting.
Bang your drum!
Keep Pounding!

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