• Todd Schmenk

The Hardest Moment

I had thought the hardest moment was the point in which I found out that someone I loved, my father, was diagnosed with cancer.  I remember the moment quite clearly.  My wife and I were getting ready to head out to Boston to teach a dance lesson for a local venue.

As we were getting ready to head out I received a phone call from my father.  My father, a retired firefighter, has always been solid as a rock and was the one I looked to for assurance in trying situations. 


This was not the person who called me that night.  He was scared, not sure which direction to go, or what to do.  He was looking for guidance.  Looking TO ME for guidance!  How did that happen?  I went numb.  It was unreal.


All I could do was listen, validate his current experience, and begin to process in my mind what this might mean.   I truly had no clue what it meant.  My only suggestion to him after he asked what he should do, was to take a step back and look at all the facts in front of him.  Then to focus on the positive possibility that he would get through this.  This is how our family had always approached such a challenge.


While there were tons of worries for both parties, my training dictated that we allow ourselves to be scared, anxious, depressed or whatever other emotion might occur, but then to focus on the best possible outcome.  Our spiritual base reinforced much the same belief.  That is where I focused, or at least what I remember focusing on.  The longer the conversation went on, the more cloudy the emotions became.


Once I was sure that, for the moment, there was nothing else that could be done and that my father had received the support that he needed, we ended the call.  I am grateful that I already had something else meaningful to do and decided to stick with it, even though my mind was in overdrive.


I, with the help of my wife, focused on what mattered, what we valued, right then at that moment and went and taught the dance lesson.  It allowed me to focus on something else important in my life and time for my soul to catch up with my mind and calm it down.  This is something I refer to over and over again both in my practice as well as within my book, Team Positive.  This became the seeds for how we all would proceed as a family, as a team, through the whole ordeal with my father and for us, it worked pretty well.  My father is still here and the family is stronger than it was beforehand.


Like I said, I thought this was the hardest moment. I was wrong.  This was indeed a hard moment, one of the hardest, but what was worse was what happened with my wife and it was the period of time in NOT knowing what the diagnosis was or what the prognosis might be.


Shortly after my father had completed the initial treatment and was declared cancer-free, my wife began to lose weight and have stomach issues.  This went on for several months with no one being able to identify what was happening.  She continued to lose weight, energy, and eventually had to take time off from work.  This was the hardest moment I had ever experienced, particularly because we did not know what was happening.


Luckily, it was during an eye exam, the doctor there was able to make a suggestion about what might be going on based upon what he had seen, what the symptoms were, and his own experience in having Crohn's disease.   It turns out that he was right on the money.  Within a month, she was able to get in front of the right team and get the right treatment and the long road to recovery had begun.


During this time, one of the greatest gifts that we had was in knowing what the structure of the team was.  It flipped from my father being on top and my mother as the main support to my wife being on the top and I the main support.  The rest of our friends and family knew what to do because the framework had already been established.  That is the essence of Team Positive, the underlying framework, and it has now been applied to those in my private practice with similar results.  It produces a solid understanding of what the framework of support looks like, along with suggestions for self-care for all involved.


This may have been some of our hardest moments, but like what I have seen repeated more times than I can recall, is that in following this outline, there was a sense of support and meaning for all involved.  As for my own experience of the hardest moments was that not only did I get a stronger and closer network of friends and family, but I was able to see quite clearly just how badly a book like this was needed.

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© 2015 by Todd Schmenk

1 Richmond Square, 103k, Providence, RI 02906

401-384-0701