In 1982 a 43-year-old Tony Handler had emergency surgery to repair a ruptured stomach. Following the surgery, the doctors told Tony that they had "good news and bad news." The bad news was that he had cancer and the good news was that they'd seen people live as long as two years with this rare form of pancreatic cancer. Tony had been given a ready-made excuse to turn in his chips and call it a life, but instead, he decided to prove the doctors wrong.
While in the hospital recovering from the stomach surgery, he happened to see an Ironman triathlon event on TV and decided that one day he would run an Ironman. To beat "Mr. Cancer" (his name for the big C) and to be able to one day compete in triathlons, he cleaned up his diet, switching from fast foods and fried chicken to a healthier fare that included more fruits and vegetables, and started exercising. These lifestyle improvements, along with adopting a remarkably positive attitude, must have worked, because in the ensuing 26 years Tony has survived and thrived through:
- 16 more surgeries
- Recurring bouts with 6 types of cancer (pancreatic, prostate, liver ...)
- Removal of half his thyroid
- Angioplasty to relieve 95% blockage of a main coronary artery
- An aortic valve replacement
- Hernia repair
- Monthly chemotherapy shots which he will probably have to endure for the rest of his life to deal with tumors currently in his body
- AND the completion of 220 triathlons
That's right. Tony, who has had ample opportunity to make excuses for why he can't do everyday things, never mind compete in triathlons, has been able, since 1985 (the year of his first triathlon), to somehow wedge about nine triathlons a year between all the surgeries, cancer treatments and recoveries. This includes completing his first of two Ironman triathlons (2.4-mile swim + 112-mile bike race + 26.2-mile marathon run) at AGE 61!
Tony doesn't just complete these triathlons -- these ultimate tests of endurance and stamina -- but he excels in them. In October of 2008, for example, at the Masters Triathlon Championships in Orlando, Florida, Tony finished first in the 65-69 age group competing in the Olympic-distance/division. Still going strong more than a quarter of a century after his doctors gave him less than two years to live, Tony plans to run a Half Ironman, a 70.3 miler, to celebrate his turning 70 in 2009. He sees each of his 220 triathlon finishes as defeating "Mr. Cancer" and sees himself enjoying the triathlon challenge as long as his body holds up.
Despite his monthly chemo treatments, Tony typically trains year round by swimming 8 miles, biking 400 miles and running 25 miles each month. While many people spend their lives looking for excuses as to why they can't do one thing or another, this amazing athlete feels it's more important to "find reasons why you CAN do something."
Florida's Tony Handler has turned his seemingly endless string of mega trials and tribulations into reasons rather than excuses. As a result, he is enjoying his life more than the majority of folks who don't have a small fraction of his challenges with which to deal. Because he took charge of his life when the doctors gave him a life sentence of just two years, he is now celebrating 50 years of marriage to the real love of his life, his childhood sweetheart, Narda.
The question is: When faced with your current situation or next challenge(s), are you going to make excuses as to why you can't ... or are you going to use the situation you find yourself in as a reason to charge ahead and live life more fully?
For a video and audio clips featuring Tony Handler, go to www.GrowingBolder.com and find issue #92.
Ed Mayhew is a speaker (need one? a good one?) and the author of the books: Fitter After 50, Fitter for Life and AGE BLASTERS: 3 Steps to a Younger You Visit Ed at: www.YouCanGrowYounger.com www.FitterForLife.com and ask for your F*R*E*E Fitter After 50 / Fitter for Life e-newsletter