When I first got the news that I was cancer free, I thought, “I just beat cancer. I’m a badass.” I strutted around for a bit. I was excited. I couldn’t wait to get back to Jiu-Jitsu. Then reality kicked in. I realized that I hadn’t really done anything. In fact all I had done was to make it to my doctor’s appointments on time. That is when it clicked. Through doing my research I had discovered that 50 years ago my cancer was untreatable and would have most likely killed me. I should have known from the start. It wasn’t me that beat cancer. It was the doctors, the schools they went to, the research they had done and the technology they had developed over the last 50 years. It was the government grants that had supported that research and the society that had enabled all of this to take place. Realizing this was a humbling experience. There was nothing innate in me that was just better than everybody else. It was just that I went to the right people at the right time.
Pretty soon I tied this experience into my Jiu-Jitsu experience. How many matches had I been so proud to win at tournaments that were really just the result of me having gone to the right people at the right time? The answer was pretty much all of them. From the strength and conditioning I did with my team mates to the positions I drilled with them. From the submissions my coach taught me to the atmosphere of training he created in the gym. From the training partner who choked me so many times that I couldn’t possibly be choked that way again to the wrestling coach that taught me not only how to wrestle but also how to come into a match mentally prepared. These were the bricks that built my BJJ foundation. I couldn’t build a strong foundation on my own. Every person I trained with added another brick. Bricks can come from almost anywhere. When I had cancer every doctor I saw added some more bricks to help me beat cancer, but on the tough days Jiu-Jitsu gave me the mental brick that allowed me to get through it and get back on the mat.