Wednesday, September 14, 2011

September 14, 2011

The Beginning: StayStrong

As Duck fans left Dallas, many of us felt down; defeated. Perspective.
In a world where our every step seems calculated and pondered far in advance, the most important thing any one person ever does is build relationships. How we build those bonds is the true measure of our character. How we nurture them is the truest measure of our maturity. The impact of these bonds is our truest reward. John, you have more people than any one person could hope for supporting you and your family, this is the true power of your impact on your community. The willingness of so many people to step in and include you in their prayers, even those who have never met you, shows just how deep those bonds have been planted. When you think about the immense size of our planet, it is encouraging to know that so many people can care so much about one person.

Through each day, your support system grows ever larger. Take strength from their sheer numbers. The power of the mind can never be fully understood. Your mind is more powerful than your body can ever fathom. I have lived my life in the pursuit of physical strength, but without the power of belief, I would be nowhere. Believe in your recovery. Fight tooth and nail. Remember, it is often the second and/or third effort on the football field that gets the first down or touchdown. Like Jimmy Valvano said… “Don’t EVER give up.” Stay strong.

Thus began a life changing experience for me. The year was 2004, my oldest son was preparing to move from junior high to high school. I had coached both he and my younger son for many years in every sport they played. Layne, however, had moved on from sports and was more interested in academics.

John Walls, June 2005
Then, just before graduation, one of his classmates, John Walls, was diagnosed with a very rare form of leukemia. I had known John for about four years. Often after football practice, though he played for a different team in Wilsonville, he and his friends would stop and ask me questions; mostly about lifting weights. John was an incredibly talented athlete. He was one of the very best players in Wilsonville at both baseball and football. John had great genetics, a great work ethic and the proper humility to be anything he chose to be in life.

Much like he had done with football, John put his head down and plowed forward; he vowed to beat leukemia.

From these very early words I had spoken to him a new motto came to life: LiveStrong and STAYstrong. This was a life lesson as it went far beyond athletic strength and was more important to strength of mind and character. John was only 14 years old; this was supposed to be a time of great joy and excitement; he was going to high school.

Yet, there he was, lying in a hospital bed, fighting a tougher opponent than most of us have ever had to face; and he did so with the stubbornness and defiance most of us can only dream about. John was more mature in that moment than anyone I had ever been around.

Sure, maybe his stubborn refusal to give in to leukemia was nothing more than a fear of the consequence of giving in to the disease. But, knowing John, and knowing his family, that just is not the case in my mind. John was young only in chronology; his mind and body were far beyond that of most 14 year old boys.

John fought the disease incredibly. Any one of us would have been proud if he were our child. John was a classmate of my son; the son of a man with whom I volunteered as a coach; and there I was feeling proud that such an incredible young man existed.

The Duck football team has lived to fight another day. They faced a setback head-on. They came back to win a game. But, much like John's battle to beat leukemia, the battle cannot be won in a week, or a month. As we progress through this season, there will be more adversity.

John Locke once said, "I have always thought the actions of men the best interpreters of their thoughts."

John Walls, through his actions; courage, fortitude, character, trust and generosity showed exactly what he is inside. John has an incredible support group willing to step in and offer their support. These range from all of his family, to his friends, to people who are like an extended family. 

Though his father is a die-hard Husky fan, John, just the tad bit on the rebellious side, was all Duck. When they learned of John's plight, star football player fighting leukemia, Mike Bellotti and Joey Harrington responded and visited with him at Doernbechers. They were merely responding to his character. I told him, "ALWAYS keep character and you will be surrounded by even more character." Every message I left ended with the same phrase: "As always stay strong."

This is the first thought of this series; stay strong. Strong of mind, body and character and you will go far.

As we progress through the season, each Wednesday, I will take you along the journey of John Walls' fight against leukemia. From the heartache of no family bone marrow matches, to remission, to the relapse and finally a bone marrow transplant and beyond. It was through John Walls that I first became acquainted with the folks at Duck Sports Authority. John changed my life in many ways. I hope he changes yours as well.


Post a Comment