eNews: Sam Ditzell's Story

eNews May 2012

AICR eNews May 2012 | Issue 70

Sam Ditzell's Story

Sam DitzellGordon and I started working together 4 years ago. He was referred to me after he and his wife decided to train for the NYC marathon. Gordon and Charmaine were successful in that goal, and Gordon and I have teased each other about doing another marathon ever since.

Over the course of the next 4 years of our training, Gordon has had two surgeries and two bouts of chemo for bladder cancer. Some days Gordon couldn't even get out of bed during the chemo, but he still only missed a couple of workouts. More than physical determination, Gordon managed to maintain such a positive, goofy, almost child-like attitude throughout his treatment. It was amazing to watch him joke knowing how awful he must have felt. Gordon's display of mental strength is by far the most inspiring experience of my career.

When I just couldn't stand his cajoling any longer, I agreed to run Big Sur with Gordon, and we started training in December. At the end of that month, Gordon was re-diagnosed with bladder cancer for a third time. He went through another surgery and two more rounds of chemo. Gordon continued his marathon training throughout all the chemo…it was absolutely incredible to watch. His attitude never dropped. I missed more training due to bronchitis than he did due to chemo. On runs when I was injured or sore, Gordon would recite to me the list of horrid chemotherapy side effects that he was living with on a daily basis. It was gruesome hear, and dammit if he didn't take away all of my ability to feel sorry for myself..ever.

I train people's weaknesses for a living: strength, flexibility, posture, mobility, etc. It's my job, so these are usually areas where I excel. Training Gordon has displayed for me my own mental weakness. I have learned so much from him about attitude, focus, and perspective. I always chide Gordon for not taking things seriously, but it's that very trait that helps him endure something that would have broken me a long way back. He taught me look at any insurmountable problem that I'm facing in my career, relationship, or health and simply say "Surely, there's a way".

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