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You Are Strong

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By Ryan Chappell – Patient

Have you ever been to the business meetings, the sales meetings, let’s-motivate- our-people meetings and heard a speaker that had a really cool job?  You know when they introduce the speakers, the lights dim and the strobes go on and the music gets loud.  Jobs such as flying fighter jets, commanding a submarine, leading a major corporation, some fantastic sports star, a Navy Seal, or something of this sort.   Stories from the best of the best.

They get up on the stage and tell their stories, and are able to relate these stories to their audience.  Some have a fancy PowerPoint presentation complete with video.  You’ve seen pictures of the military guys in their gear next to the plane, or the sports star scoring the winning points.

I take nothing away from their success.  They have worked hard and earned their position.  As have we all.

Perhaps we think we could never achieve what they have.

To some extent, you may be right, this sort of job is simply not going to happen to many of us.  I was not blessed with speed in running, so many forms of athletics past Little League baseball, where you have to be picked, eluded me.

I would have gone into the Air Force in a heartbeat if I could have flown jets.  If NASA called me today, and said I was going up in the next rocket launch tomorrow, I would be there, and then I would ask where are we going.

But my eye sight was not good, as I required contacts.  I would not be able to fly.

It takes 1,000’s of hours to learn how to fly an F-16, or to be a super sports star.  So let’s count up all the hours we have spent at the doctor’s getting ready for treatment, or recuperating from the treatment.  For me, if those hours had been spent learning to fly, I would be qualified to fly any aircraft.

My point is to ask this question.  Are there any material differences between the drive, determination, and discipline in those of us who fight a major life threating illness, such as CLL, and that of a fighter pilot, a Navy Seal, sports superstar, or a CEO of a multi-billion-dollar corporation?

I say, no there is not.

We are going through this adventure, this life experience called CLL.  And to do so, you must be brave, you must be strong, every bit as much as the fighter pilot.  We did not swim 5 miles, or do 500 push-ups today, we spent 8 hours at the doctor’s office and hooked up to an IV, knowing tomorrow was not going to be the best, because we get to do it again.

When an F-16 is on a mission, the pilot is alone in the aircraft.  Just as you are alone many times during treatment, or hospital stays.  But what makes you and the pilot the same is the wonderful support and information systems you both have.  Just as the pilot has others watching the radar around the plane, you have people watching what is going on all around you.

You are brave, you have the drive, determination and discipline to be in this Dog Fight with CLL.   To go through all the testing, the weekly, if not more often blood draws, the multiple IV’s, the pills, the reaction to the chemo and the other medicines we are given takes strength and courage.  We may not be able to fly faster than sound at 40,000 feet.  Our feet are on the ground, trying to get healthy, so we can do the simple things, like have lunch with our family, or spoil our grandchildren and then give them back to their parents.  Yes kids, pay back is hell.

Some of us, if given the chance would never get into an F-16 and let the pilot show its capabilities.  That’s simply not for everybody.  Me, I would.  Let’s go.   I don’t understand why somebody would not enjoy flying up-side down.  I got the honor of flying in a World War II P-51.  We did loops, barrel rolls and a steep dive starting at 4,000 feet leveling off at 400 feet a few seconds later and succeeded in scaring a bunch of cows.  It was a ride.

The other side is that many people, including some of those described above, would be scared to go through some of the treatments we have.  The difference is the F-16 pilot makes a choice to fly his machine.  We did not get a choice, it was made for us the day we were told we have CLL.   If the pilot thinks the conditions are not right to fly, he does not fly.  We don’t have that option.  We have to take the treatments when the doctor says.

I’ve been told by friends and family they don’t know how I have handled CLL over this past 12 years.  My response is what choice do I have but to remain positive and believe 110% that I will win.  I still believe that today, and I hope some of my words have given others encouragement to believe in yourself, and go forward to a successful completion of your treatment, and in life.

From Monroe, LA, Ryan has invested his skills over the last 35 plus years in various positions in the packaging industry, both domestically and internationally.  His service areas include paper board sales to plastic tank production, flexible packaging sales and corrugated box production and sales.

He has an under graduate degree in Accounting and a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Louisiana Monroe.

He has served on the AICC Board of Directors both as Regional Director and Chairman of the Linerboard Sheet Supply committee.  He is currently serving on the Board of Directors of Pilots for Patients, a non- profit organization, which helps people who are ill reach their medical appointments.  And since 1998, he continues to serve as Chairman of the Ouachita Parish Fire Department Civil Service Board.

He has helped with multiple business start-ups both as consultant or equity owner.  All but one continues operations today or have been sold to larger companies.  As Managing Director of Business Connections, he facilitates relationships between suppliers and vendors to achieve mutual success and provides business consulting services.

He has been published in newspapers, Box Score and The Journal of Accountancy.


Originally published in The CLL Tribune Q4 2018.

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