What 2016 Taught Me

So much happened in 2016. Some good, a lot not so good. It might be one of the most unpredictable years in recent history. Whether it be the outcome of the Presidential election, or the fact the world lost so many legends – Muhammad Ali, David Bowie, Prince, Princess Leia and her mom, Debbie Reynolds as well as many, many others.

For me, 2016 had an impact I never saw coming. I was rocked to my core. As many of you know, this past summer I was diagnosed with a very aggressive, but treatable form cancer. It was so aggressive, it had metastasized. My life was turned upside down. My wife, Mary, and I had to figure out how to tell our children and our family. I had to find the words to talk about it to friends, colleagues, and the team at MBA and all of our members. It was overwhelming and all consuming.

Those of you at our October Annual Convention in Boston know I chose to speak about my battle with cancer from the “big stage.” During my speech in front of thousands of MBA members, I talked about the road ahead and the aggressive treatment protocol I chose to pursue. I was fortunate enough that I could still lead MBA and work during my treatment. The support Mary and I have received from family, friends and colleagues in the industry has been unwavering. The #StevensStrong wristbands, never-ending notes of positive encouragement and prayers from around the country kept us strong. It helped bolster us on the days we felt so low.

I have not said much publicly since October. Other than a few progress reports to family, friends and the MBA team, I have spent my time undergoing treatment and dealing with the side effects that go along with it. I have an amazing team at Johns Hopkins administering every stage of the protocol. I am so thankful my health is in their hands.

Last week, I went through an extensive surgical procedure – a risky but necessary part of our attempt to kill the disease that has forever changed me and my family. I am thrilled to report that the surgery and other treatments to date have been so successful that my medical team believes that I could be cancer free within the next 18 months. At minimum, my long term prognosis is extremely positive. While radiation is in my future, it is there as a precaution.

So, my biggest lesson in 2016 is one I want to share with all of you. If you are ever faced with a serious health issue or if you feel like something is “wrong” even when your doctor says it’s nothing to be concerned with — get a second opinion. If I had not done so, my outlook would never have been this promising. It is almost certain that cancer would have taken my life within 5 years. Shopping medical teams when one has a life threatening illness is a must.

Going through this experience has taught me a lot about medicine and humanity. I am so fortunate to have the best of both all around me. I could never have gotten this far without the world-class doctors and without the unending support of my friends, family and industry colleagues.