It’s just a number, but numbers are significant in our lives. They mark. They measure. They matter. They make an impact on nearly everything we do, including the passage of time and space, the years of our journey.
Sunday Series 100 is significant as a milestone in my journey of telling stories, other people’s stories, those which offer courage, hope and inspiration. Yet at the same time the number is insignificant, because it’s the story that’s important, certainly in the lives of those who have the courage to tell it, and in my life, as I accept the responsibility and embrace the experience of sharing it with the world.
For Sunday Series 100, I am incredibly honored to share the journey of someone who has a view from the top. A man who made his way to an important position of power in the state in which I live, only to be challenged almost immediately, not by other political forces, but by the simple will to survive.
Everyone has a story.
I am Mark Brodinsky and this is The Sunday Series.
The Sunday Series (100): Hogan’s Heroes
“In many ways this journey has been an incredible blessing.”
– The Honorable Larry Hogan, Governor of Maryland
Warrior. Survivor. Hero.
You don’t claim these titles because you want to, you claim them because you earn them. To go from fear, to fortitude, to good fortune – you have to fight, you have to battle, you must have unwavering faith and you must never, ever give up.
Meet Lawrence Joseph “Larry” Hogan Jr.
To have a dream and make it come true is the ultimate goal in life – and few of us get to live the experience. Larry Hogan is one of the fortunate, though fortune is only won because of hard work, perseverance and a dedication and belief in yourself.
In 2014 Hogan was a long-shot to win the top political spot in the state of Maryland, not because of character, or like-ability, in fact he will always be known as the honest and down-to-earth “Larry” to his closest friends. No, he was a long-shot because he represents the minority of those who affiliate with a political party in Maryland.
“Larry” is a Republican.
But on November 5th, 2014, Hogan won the biggest election in the state, defeating the Democrat, Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown, in a landslide. In a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-to-1, the margins of Hogan’s victory were significant, and so for only the second time in 40 years, a Republican would lead the way as Governor of Maryland.
The victory had been an uphill battle from an underdog who is used to fighting hard. Hogan has always been a fighter, but as big as the win was, it was simply a precursor of a much larger battle looming on the horizon, one which would put politics and life in perspective.
Hogan was sworn in on January 21, 2015, but only six months later, almost to the day, he stood at the podium in the State House to announced to Maryland and to the world that his robust political agenda would face its greatest challenge, not from the members of the General Assembly, but by a beast living inside of him.
Governor Hogan had cancer.
He had discovered a lump in his neck and it had been diagnosed as late stage-3 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a very advanced and very aggressive form of cancer. The political game immediately conceded to health concerns and the will to survive.
“I couldn’t believe how quickly it had all happened,” says Hogan. “I went from being focused on how to turn our economy around and put people back to work, to doctors I had just met telling me that a very advanced, very aggressive cancer had rapidly spread through my body. My first thought was how I was going to tell my family and how I was going to tell the people of Maryland.”
While his ability to beat the odds has always helped the Governor handle nearly any challenge, when it comes to the word cancer, you can’t help but feel fear. Hogan says, “I think anyone who is faced with this diagnosis is afraid, no matter how good the odds, or remission is. Nothing really could have prepared me for exactly how this journey would unfold. But even then, I knew that this challenge, and my job as governor would be a blessing, and that being constantly busy and being focused on doing our important work would help keep me in a fighting spirit.”
Governor Hogan soon began an intensive 18-week chemotherapy regimen that began with four days in the hospital, in intensive care. Chemo can take you down, but the man who defied the odds to get elected to the top spot in the state was only looking up. “Having a positive mindset is perhaps the single most important thing you can do when you are faced with a challenge like this,” says Hogan. “If you start to get down on yourself, or let yourself become negative, you lose sight of of what you’re fighting for. Staying positive kept me focused on what’s really important: my family, the relationships I had forged with my fellow patients, and working on behalf of the people of Maryland.”
One of those people is a special woman, who in January of 2015 became the First Lady of Maryland. “One of my biggest supporters was my wife, Yumi. We would start every day with a prayer and she was always by my side.
“Of course my father, Larry Hogan Sr. and my entire family was a huge source of support as well. I also gained an incredible amount of support and inspiration from my fellow patients who I met during my treatments at the University of Maryland Greenbaum Cancer Center, especially the kids. When you see other patients, especially children, fighting much tougher battles than your own and facing their battles with such positivity and strength, you can’t help but be inspired. The other patients I met kept me laughing and determined to beat my cancer.”
Every cancer warrior has their own story and so many gain inspiration from others fighting for survival, those who are trying to beat back the beast as well. To become a hero in this struggle you must look for others who are doing the same.
“I have many heroes,” says the Governor. “Kids like five-year-old Andrew Oberle, who I met through partnering with the Cool Kids Campaign and who was also fighting cancer. Andrew and I became pen pals and he would give me advice on dealing with chemotherapy. Another hero of mine is Jimmy Myrick Jr. Jimmy and I met at the hospital during our treatments and I was immediately struck by his positivity and sunny outlook. I learned he was a 20-year veteran of the Polar Bear Plunge and a Special Olympics athlete. He inspired every person he ever met and I felt he was the perfect person to win the first-ever Governor’s Special Olympics Maryland Medal of Courage Award. Sadly, Jimmy lost his battle with cancer last month. But I was determined to ensure his legacy lived on and now that award will be known as the Jimmy Myrick Jr. Award.”
To be respected in a position of political power in America you must be in service to others, and if you do it right, those you serve are ready to respond and to support you, especially when times get tough. Governor Hogan says “the outpouring of prayers, well wishes and thoughtful words was absolutely amazing. I would read every single note. I would tear up over the “get well” artwork that schoolchildren tucked into bursting envelopes. I met with Pope Francis and received his blessing on behalf of cancer patients around the world. Country star Tim McGraw even dedicated a performance of his song, Live Like You Were Dying, to me. These acts of kindness kept me strong, kept my spirit strong and are undoubtedly among the reasons why I am on the road to recovery.”
Fortunately for Governor Hogan the road in his cancer journey did not become the one less-traveled. Instead, the intense chemotherapy regimen to fight the lymphoma worked, and just before Thanksgiving the governor announced he was in remission, although he still gets monthly treatments to keep the cancer at bay.
Just a few months ago and prior to his final round of chemotherapy, the governor paid a visit to the Ronald McDonald House in Baltimore. It was not what he expected. “That visit was a total surprise,” says Hogan. “I thought we were going to the Ronald McDonald House to visit with some of the patients and their families there. I had no idea they were holding a special pep-rally for me. I was blown away that the staff and patients there were so invested in my fight when they had their own problems to deal with. That night taught me a valuable lesson about the incredible good nature of people and how important it is to come together and support one another during times of challenge.”
To truly live the journey of life you will undoubtedly be faced with challenges, some which at times may seem insurmountable. And that’s why you need the power of others. One is too small a number to achieve greatness, you can’t do anything of real value alone. If you are going to be a hero in your battle against cancer you will rely on other heroes to champion your cause, to support you during your struggle – to love, to serve, to care. Governor Hogan knows he has been blessed to meet heroes at every twist and turn in his journey.
“This has been a life changing experience in every possible way,” says Hogan. “The prayers and well-wishes I received and continue to receive have truly touched my heart. One thing I want to share with others who are going through the same challenges, is that I am just like the more than 70,000 people diagnosed with lymphoma every year – who fight it, who beat it and who continue doing their jobs at the same time. Although I do hope to inspire others who are faced with this challenge, I want them to know that it is their fight, their strength and their determination that has truly inspired me, and for that, I say thank you.”
Thank you to all the Heroes, every one.
Until next time thanks for taking the time,
(Postscript: The tough and brutal irony is that while Governor Hogan was able to defeat one health battle over which he had some control, he could only stand by and watch while his sister, Mary Theresa Lazarus, passed away from a rare brain disorder just last week. My condolences to the Governor and his family on their loss.)
Mark Brodinsky: Author, Blogger, Speaker, Speech Writer, Emmy Winner, USHEALTH Advisors
Huffington Post: (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mark-brodinsky/)
The Profile: (http://www.talkinggood.com/profiles/MarkBrodinsky)
USHEALTH Advisors: (http://www.prweb.com/releases/markbrodinsky/072015/prweb12862708.htm)
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