Micro-Interaction. “A smile from a stranger or a quick conversation with a colleague can bring unexpected joy to our day or even teach us something new. In some cases, these interactions will not only brighten our days, but alter the course of our lives.”

My micro-interaction happened during a difficult time. That is often when we learn life’s greatest lessons. The year was 2013. My father in-law was fighting pancreatic cancer at 62, I had 3 children under 5, and at 39 years old I was diagnosed with a Grade 3 Astrocytoma, brain cancer. My perspective changed drastically. I started to see life through a different lens. I had a greater understanding of appreciating the moment, living in the now, and the truly understanding the fragility of life. I started to realize that these were lessons I TOOK from cancer! They were MY gift for the journey I had taken on and I would never give them back. I owned them!

The surgery I had was called a craniotomy. Ten days later, while seeing life differently, I was told I had to go through chemotherapy and radiation. I was expecting this, and was humbled and put in my place very quickly by the severity of chemotherapy. When I started radiation, at Capital Health in Hopewell, NJ, I asked for the earliest time I could get. I was back at work, working out, and and I wanted to make the most of what became shorter days. Lethargy may have come in to play, but the majority of the day was mine, so the earlier we can start the better. Radiation treatments began at 7 AM, and the first opening was 7:15. Done! I’ll take it!

Each morning I would see what looked like a 4’11, emaciated, (I’m guessing) 70-year-old woman having her son walk her to the radiation room. She was obviously going through a very difficult time, and her path was heading in a challenging direction. I never got to speak to her as it was the son who would come to the waiting room until her session was complete. He would then go get his mom and help her walk out of the radiation to their car.

During my second week of radiation, a nurse came up to me and said, “Mr. Newman the woman who goes before you, today is her last day. If you’d like you could have the 7 AM session from this point forward.” Done! I’ll take it! She then told me that they do a ceremony for patients when they finish their radiation sessions. They say prayers, read poems, and then ring a gong to celebrate finishing this difficult process. “Would you like to join us in the hallway to be part of her celebration?”

I thanked her for the invite, and respectfully declined. I told her I would stay in the waiting area and do some work, and to just let me know when you are done and ready for me to start my session. I grabbed my iPad to get back to work, and as I opened it I saw my reflection in the screen. When I saw myself I thought, “Who the fuck do you think you are?? We are a family of warriors, and family is always there for each other at the deepest and darkest of time!

I immediately got up and walked outside to the ceremony. I saw this beaten down woman, with a huge smile on her face; this was her moment, her journey, her legacy that she owned. She grabbed that that hammer, with everything she had she hit that gong, and at that moment I learned what strength really is. It’s not how big your arms are, it’s now how much you bench press, its something that is hidden in our bellies and at the deepest and darkest of times we can find it, grab it and own it. It then becomes ours. I saw real strength, and just started to cry. I was inspired; I was proud; I was part of a family and community that was more real then anything I could have imagined. This was the strongest person I had ever seen in my life.

I called my wife immediately, and I told her that my last day of radiation she needed be there with me to experience the purity of life that I saw from this ceremony. She may not see it the same way, but it was a moment we can share and would always have. I will never forget that OUR day together when I rang that gong, and I thank all the WARRIORS who showed me what strength really is!

My Micro-Intention was learning about strength, understanding community, and knowing my WARRIOR family was bigger and stronger then I ever thought.