Lilly, the petite but strong fourteen-year-old, tested for her mixed martial arts black belt on Sunday. In front of a panel of stern-looking judges. All wearing black.


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Lilly goes in for the takedown


So why would you want your daughter to learn to fight? Simple. Because you never know when she might face a formidable opponent. Because you would want her to respond with skill and good judgment.

Cancer was our formidable opponent. And in time, Hubby and I learned how to fight smarter, stronger and better disciplined using these eight strategies:

1. Recruit a stellar medical team. Don’t be afraid to get a second opinion, if need be. Hubby’s medical team all talked to each other, which gave us a sense of being well-covered.

2. Incorporate physical activity. We took up hiking and snow-shoeing. First consult with your doctor. Then find something you enjoy doing and add more movement to your lifestyle.

3. Eat better. Talk with a registered dietician about the best possible nutrition for your type and stage of cancer. Hubby and I added more fruits, veggies, legumes and whole grains to our diet; we eliminated unhealthy fats and sugars; and we used meat in small amounts for flavoring.

4. Manage the stress. A cancer diagnosis brings overwhelming stress. One of the ways we managed the stress was by lacing up hiking boots and getting outdoors. We established Friday Date Night. Overall—and most importantly—we intentionally practiced living gratefully in the present.

5. Cultivate a positive attitude. Instead of counting setbacks, count all the positive things going on in your life. Our list was quite long.

6. Don’t go it alone. Connect with and draw strength from those who can offer support – family, friends, people within the cancer community, from your faith community

7. Look for purpose. Finding meaning and purpose can be a powerful thing. It was for us as we traveled the country sharing what we were doing to live well with metastatic disease. When you’re feeling better, look for a way to give back.

8. Be faith-ful. This isn’t something tacked on as an afterthought. Our faith was and is the entire undergirding of our lives. Hubby and I believed that things didn’t happen randomly, that God could bring good out of the hard. And He did.

This is a glimpse of our cancer team. There’s so much more to say about each of these disciplines. But for now, consider your team. Do you need to recruit more players?

And what would victory look like? For some, victory could mean beating cancer. For others, it could represent living longer and better than expected.

Hubby fell into that second category. He lived much longer with metastatic disease than originally predicted. And it was the best ten years of our married life as we created more adventure and lived more intentionally.

You may be in a battle for your life or that of your loved one. How wise would it be to fight as a disciplined and strong warrior? Be proactive; recruit a powerful team to help you face down cancer.

Oh, and The Fourteen-Year-Old? She was awarded her black belt in a ceremony last evening. (Which means her new nickname is Black Belt Girl.)


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This girl’s grandpa didn’t stop fighting cancer when he was tired. He stopped when he was done. Grandpa would be so very proud of you, Lilly.