June 12, 2024

Fatherhood and Resilience: A Cancer Survivor’s Journey with Howard Brown

Welcome to Gut Checks! In this special Father’s Day episode, we feature Howard Brown, a devoted father, cancer survivor, and relentless advocate. Known as “Mr. Shining Brightly,” Howard shares his journey as a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, best-selling author, international speaker, and two-time stage-4 cancer survivor. We’ll explore his concept of being a “cancer whisperer” and discuss his outlook on life, fatherhood, resilience, community, and advocacy. Howard’s heartwarming stories and lessons in navigating the challenges of raising his daughter while battling cancer offers inspiration and practical advice. Tune in for a celebration of fatherhood and a dose of hope.

Happy Father’s Day to all!

Key Topics:

  • Fatherhood forms a priceless bond, reinforcing the importance of family during the fight against cancer. Sharing cancer details with kids requires balance; children need support too.
  • Don’t isolate. Seek help when needed; resilience requires a strong support system.
  • Emotional, physical, financial, and relational resilience are vital and need nurturing like muscles.
  • Engage in activities that divert your mind from cancer, whether it’s sports, hobbies, or nature. Physical activity is essential.
  • Despite dark times, focus on inspiring others through positive actions, fighting against hate with kindness and joy.

Bonus Gifts:

Shining Brightly Mentorship – Discussion Guide

About Howard Brown:

Howard Brown is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, best-selling author of Shining Brightly, award-winning international speaker, inspirational podcaster, survivorship coach, health technology consultant and two-time stage IV cancer patient and survivor 30 years apart. He shares the keys to leading a resilient life with hope that drives successful community leaders, business innovators and healthcare advocates. Be prepared to be inspired! 

Links

About Paul:

To learn more about Paul and the Iron Dad Book, head on over to https://irondadbook.com.

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Transcript
Paul Weigel:

Hello, everybody. Good morning. Welcome to another episode of gut checks celebrating the power of love, hope, strength and perseverance. I'm Paul Weigel. And today I'm delighted beyond delighted to have Howard Brown, who is a fellow cancer survivor and advocate with me today. I'm glad you're here. Thank you.

Howard Brown:

Thank you. Thank you for having me, Paul. You are the iron Dad and I am Mister shining brightly. And I am just thrilled. And it's afternoon East Coast time, but we're here. And it's awesome. Thank you for having perfect

Paul Weigel:

and I will be putting on my glasses and a little bit, we'll be in a good spot. So. So this is a special Father's Day episode, I know that we've talked some as I'm on one of yours. And this is the same for me that we are getting this out. And, and so much of um, that's one of the reasons I'm so delighted to have you on for a bunch of reasons. But Father's Day is so important. And and for people who are paying attention who are on listening to the podcast today, Howard and I met at the color guard classic about two and a half three months ago. And we're sharing similar stories of our cancer experience, just as much about the fact that we have daughters and and we both were sick and dealing with cancer with kids. And that is such a different dynamic and trying to explain to them and how things work. So So as you'll see, we've got so many things to talk about. So let me give a full bio for you here, Howard. So I'm not disrupt this crediting you. You are a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, the best selling author of shining brightly, which I've got my copy of right here. And you got your copy there. Yep, cool. You are a not only the author, urine award winning international speaker, cancer whisperer, inspirational podcaster, survivorship coach, health technology consultant, and a two times stage four cancer patient and survivor 30 years apart. That part is just amazing. Howard shares keep the keys of leading a resilient life with hope that strives successful community leaders, business innovators and healthcare advocates. So be prepared to be inspired. So that is a great summary for what you do. As I was preparing for this interview, I was I was drawn back to thinking about yourself as a cancer whisperer. And and just kind of starting with that, what does a cancer whisperer mean to you? Well,

Howard Brown:

first of all, I want to thank you for that introduction. And you mentioned it in the opening that the best title and job is dad. Right? We that. I mean, that's how we came together. My daughter is 23. And yours is amazing teen preteen. And that's how we came together. And we'll give a shout out to the Colorectal Cancer Alliance for bringing us together and cologuard and the exact sciences as well, because that's how we met. But that's the best title and job we know. And you and I just sat there just you know, beaming over fatherhood. And that's incredible. And I love having a date. That's our own. But that's everyday for us is that is

Paul Weigel:

true. And we've yet I know my daughter says why don't kids have every day and I'm like every day is Kids Day. But realistically, every day is Father's Day for us. Right? I mean that the chance that we've had this opportunity that we are still around that we're still breathing and that we get to see her daughter's grew up. So how has that experience been for her? Because she was obviously a little older than mine. But what when and but you had two different times with that. So could you talk a little bit about those experiences? Sure.

Howard Brown:

Let me go back to First Question. I will because Yeah. Emily was No, no, you're right. But Emily was a freshman in high school when I was diagnosed with stage three B, colon cancer. And she was you know, front front and row center seat along with my caregiving wife, you know, in the house, just like your daughter with us. And so the cancer whisperer thing is, and we'll get back to the kids and their view, because that's really what your book about in that perspective is, is that I made up the term cancer whisperer. Okay, so when I call that mentorship, it's just another word for mentorship. And when I was searching for answers, people took me under their wing, okay, from the the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, which they call allies from Colin town, and they took me under their wing and these are people that were 510 steps ahead of me a year ahead of me that got to no evidence of disease. And that's all I wanted was to be able to have a pathway forward when you actually, you know, I got diagnosed, the chemotherapy, the surgeries failed me the clinical trial failed me. And when they tell you that you have 4% chance of living, the next six months, your window, that time clock on your life is shrinking. And then also told me that they didn't have many options for me and colorectal cancer, we have very limited options except to repurpose the old stuff that didn't work. So for me to be able to find the right people to be able to give me the guidance, the knowledge to be able to make other decisions because you are never out of options. You're never out of options. And I needed to learn that. And they guided me through finding this crazy surgery called cytoreduction, hyperthermal, intrapreneurial chemotherapy. So CRS high tech for short, where they put hot chemotherapy, they took out all the cancer, my stomach, they shaved my liver, they took out my bladder, they took all my gallbladder, and then they poured a hot chemotherapy agent to grab absorbtion to kill Microsoft cancer. This is in March of 18. And as a 13 and a half hour surgery, and thank God, I found out about it, thank God, I had people that had gone through it, they prepared me for it. And those were my cancer whispers. And Paul, here's the beautiful thing is that you and I and for the folks even a shout out to man up to cancer, we are the cancer whispers for each other. It Yeah, you don't saying Cancer sucks. But this has been the beautiful thing about cancer is meeting guys like you and me and being able to actually spread the love and support other people going through this awful, awful journey. Well,

Paul Weigel:

and that's some of the great work that you've been doing with Colin town too, and PAL town. And having those communities that are out there that that is such a huge network and so valuable, certainly compared to when I was sick 10 years ago that I would say, Where do I go? How do I get an information and there was basically nothing out there. So it is and and you not only need to be fighting, and you not only need to be exploring and getting more answers, like you said, there's never a time that there are no more options. But people don't necessarily take that responsibility to own up to it and continue to drive. So that is a great point. With pal with oh, let's go back to her daughter's for a second here. You said she was in high school as you started going through and you're going through just a critical time, obviously is you're being led to stage four, and you've got a teeny percentage chance of you're being told that how much information did you share? What was she going through during this, it's a lot different than my three year old who really didn't know what was going on.

Howard Brown:

It is different so and she's super articulate super intellectual. She saw the raw deal, not everything, but a lot of it because she's in that same household. So when I'm coming back from surgeries are uncommon, I'm having, you know, major side effects from chemo, and I can't get out of bed that day. She's seeing that. And also that the thing is that, you know, I tried very hard to stay somewhat active in her life, I was the team's soccer manager. Although maybe I couldn't drive to the game, another dad would drive to the game and we'd have both players in the backseat. I had a lot of windshield time with her. So I actually and she was able to handle majority of that. And we had the serious talk that you know what, there is a chance that dad may not make it. So that's why this valuable time of driving, you know, five hours to Indianapolis together, let's let's make sure we get an ice cream, let's make sure that he you know, talk and break down the game and, and talk about it and talk about anything else you want. And and she was the DJ she said Dad, you're listening to my EDM music. So she won that victory. So I learned EDM music. So that's kind of how it went. And what I did learn, though I went to a very valuable lesson is that she disclosed something after when I was more on the upswing. And she came to my wife Lisa and I and she said, Dad, I have to tell you for these last few years, I people have not asked how I'm doing my friends, family members, it's always How's your dad, How's your dad? And I was like, Oh my God. I mean, we're so in the moment. And so on the front lines. We didn't do that. So what we did was end up getting her some help getting her support and getting her some some therapy and being able to make sure that she had the support she was necessary and it was a blind spot for my wife and I we said we were sorry and we're going to fix that and and she's stronger than ever but but but you can't you can't be perfect. So that was one of the lessons that I learned there.

Paul Weigel:

Will you bring up such a big point of we're all dealing with it and it's right in front of us and we're I considered my time while I was going through treatment being like a circus clown of trying tend to keep everything up in the air knowing something was going to fall. But I do remember people just kind of looking at me and saying, how are you? And they would give me that sad look. And we're it was depressing for me to see some of these people talk like that. So I can imagine, as a kid of being, that's almost an extra burden of how is your dad doing? And? And how much did they need to carry forward? That's, that's a huge testament to her not only to get through that, but then to be able to talk about it.

Howard Brown:

Here's a really good lesson, when someone asks you how you're doing. I was like, Well, I just had chemo, I'm living in the bathroom, and how was your day? You know? And the better? The better question is, what do you need? How can I help you? That's a really good question, asking how you're doing. And you know, I'm feeling just absolutely awful. You know,

Paul Weigel:

in his, in his cancer patients, I know, for me, it was really hard to ask for help. And that is one of the changes I've gone through. Now talking more and more of cancer survivors is you absolutely fight like hell. But at the same time, when you need somebody to fight for you, do not be afraid to do it, and do not be embarrassed because people are there. And so if we are building up the normality, where people say, What can I do? How can I help all those things? It really makes it so much better for people who are afraid to do it. Totally. Right. Right.

Howard Brown:

So so the rules that we've learned, right, okay, and we talk in our cancer communities about is one don't isolate, right, because isolation breeds darkness and can breed depression, and you you end up thinking of the worst. And second is, in your time of need. Be selfish? Yes, be selfish, you gotta get through this and call in the cavalry. And if you don't have a Calvary, guys like you, and I will help you build your cavalry. That's absolutely, that's what we do.

Paul Weigel:

And the amount of work that we put in that colon town puts in that status. Men, Man Up To Cancer, there are so many people out there that can be acting as advocates for sure. And support. And all these people have resilience. I mean, the we're involved with this, because we have been resilient, and we're fighting and we're trying to view this as something we can conquer. And I know resilience is so important to you, too. So can you talk a little bit about that?

Howard Brown:

Absolutely. Resilience is a muscle, but it's actually made up of a lot of different components. So there is an emotional resilience, there's a physical resilience, there actually is a financial resilience and relationships, resilience. So those four all actually are muscles that can be weakened or strengthened. Okay. And that's really important to know, because you have to build that and not just the patient, your care partners, and your families all have that going on as well. And the care partner has to be really resilient. Because you know, that's a really important person that's gathering info, making sure your appointments, taking your meds, raising the family, making sure that there's food on the table sometimes. So they take many forms and factors. And so all four of those components, okay, are part of a what I call my resilience code. And they can become a part of your resilience code, whoever's watching and listening as well. And it doesn't just apply to cancer. Why isn't life like came out of the pandemic, in a loneliness state? We're living on Zoom, we're living on our phones, and we're not interacting with people we're not getting a hug, a handshake, working in collaborative teams in person. So all that's very important. So that resilience code applies across your, your your life. We'll

Paul Weigel:

I think that's a great point. We're still dealing with the ramifications of COVID Several years later, right in terms of how we interact with people whether I mean, here we are on a podcast and that is awesome. But thank goodness we had a chance to meet in person and establish those relationships even more but but being resilient is is so key, along the lines of being resilient as you're juggling different things Colorectal Cancer Alliance, Kellen Towne, you were at your at the American Society of Clinical Oncology conference this last week and talked with hundreds of people and and doctors and what was that experience like and what are some of the issues that you heard people talking about?

Howard Brown:

So I this is this is important, so ASCO, what you just, you know, pronounced the word I stumbled through? Yes, yeah. The American Society of Clinical Oncologists. It's a mouthful. So it brings together probably 40 to 50,000 people, by the way, about only 25 masks that I saw. There. These are doctors right. These are medical affairs people. These are Pharma. These are advocacy orgs. It is incredible. There are posters, there are developments, the people are showing their pipelines. And when I take this all in, there's a lot of resources being applied to solving this very complex jigsaw puzzle called cancer. And I appreciate that. And it gives me hope. It gives me hope. And after the pandemic, when they actually did the vaccines, they learned a lot from that. And they're pushing forward now. So there are all types of new screening blood tests that are coming out, there are all new types of of things that deal with side effects. They're moving faster than ever before, not fast enough for colorectal cancer, which is, you know, in the US, certainly, the number one killer for men and number two killer for women with 153,000 diagnosis 100,000 People will be in treatment in the US this year, and 53,000 will, their cancer burden will be too great, no good called to heaven. And a higher percentage, minority community, indigenous community, poor community, rural communities will 25% Higher. So we need to reach those people in need as well. So I learned a lot, I shared a lot. And you know what, I realized that the expression that I coined, it's a team sport. I watched it in action. It was a team sport. And it was really, that's the hope I came out of there with although I was exhausted.

Paul Weigel:

I can mention well, you talked about the team sport and because sports and interaction like that has been super great for you. Certainly as you've gone through treatment, and afterward, and you're decent basketball player. And so being active there, you're continuing to be involved with that as well with everything else you're doing.

Howard Brown:

So that goes to the fitness part of that the activity part of it. So I call that and again, you have yours and that was we came together. We're athletes, okay, we're maybe better athletes when we're younger. So calling me a decent basketball player is a very fair remark at age 58. But I'm still out there playing. I played two hours last night before the Boston Celtics beat the Mavericks which I'm a Boston fan, you know, Boston, nice drop of that, by the way. Yeah, I had to slip that in. Thank you. But so here's the deal is that I actually in my book, okay, talk about finding your happy place. And the reason you have to find your happy place and go there as much as possible. I call that your stress free zone. Right? That is really important to go there as much as you can schedule it. And if you have to, on the basketball court, I'm thinking about shooting hoops and talking trash and talking sports, and I'm not thinking about cancer. I'm not thinking about what I have to do next, I let myself free in that moment. Now I also do that hiking. I also do that mountain biking, as well. But I don't care what it is. Is it yoga? Is it meditation? Is it cooking? Is it art? Is it travel? Find that happy place? I know for you, you're doing biking, and swimming and running. And again, I can't even imagine when you're swimming for two miles. If what you're thinking, but

Paul Weigel:

Oh, see, I was gonna say that is my happy I was that is by? Yeah, cuz I just start counting strokes and everything else disappears, because I'm just going 123. So in the say, you're talking trash, I'm just disappearing.

Howard Brown:

I love it. And so once again, that you're not thinking about cancer, right? You're thinking about getting and finishing and what you know, and being in that moment, and that focus helps, and those endorphins rise when you do that. And that's really important. And so activity, stay active, get enough sleep, get enough hydration, those are all still very good diet, those are very important components to so living that, you know, good resilient life.

Paul Weigel:

And that those are key messages, regardless of if you have had cancer or not, right. I mean, and as you said, this is for everybody. But I know that I've talked to a ton of people, I hate to say, current patients who say, Oh, I'm not sure if I'm supposed to be exercising, oh, I'm too tired to be doing it. And that is just unacceptable. We really need to have people being strong doing everything they can you were you were doing athletic things while you were going through treatment as you could. And so as I and if you don't, your body is just getting weaker and weaker.

Howard Brown:

Exactly. Shout out to the colorectal coalition, because they have a slogan, get your rear end gear and gear, get going, get Walk, walk the dog do something. You go out on a sailboat and get fresh air go to the beach, you know, go to the mountains, you got to do. Yeah, right moving.

Paul Weigel:

So along those lines about getting moving and taking on this responsibility. One of the things in your book that you've talked about is I am the why. And and I can imagine that some of that interacts here too.

Howard Brown:

All right, so everyone's talking about finding your why. Okay, well, we as patients and caregivers, we are the why to the entire healthcare system. Why are they in business, their business to go Add us. I call it one more day, one more week, one more month. One more year, we you know, we're looking in small bites when you're when you get diagnosed with cancer as to maybe your life is being shortened. And that's that hourglass is going pretty quickly. So quickly. I am the why. But Paul, you are the why my wife, the caregiver, you know, your daughter's the Y. And when you're talking about coming from ASCO where billions and billions, maybe trillions of dollars are being spent on cancer cure and cancer prevention, and then survivorship, which I think needs even more focus, because living with cancer as you can be 18 million to 30 million living with cancer and your lives are not exactly back on track. 100% You still got things to deal with. But that's the why. And so when I speak out there, I say I'm your why. Okay, you want to find a why it's us, the patients and the caregivers and the families that are going through this. It's very simple. It's right in front of your face, right now are wiser, our personnel wise, our daughter's right, and my family and all that. So we also have wise, but you got it sometimes pointed out to people that you're looking at a wire right here. You're looking at a wire right there, Paul. So that's that's what I speak about in my book. And in my talks when I'm speaking on stage.

Paul Weigel:

Very cool. And along the same lines, you've also developed this incredible series of podcasts. I know I'm super excited, you're here, but you're shining brightly podcasts has just grown exponentially in the in certainly in the last six months.

Howard Brown:

It has in the last six months. I started in February of 23. And I wanted to have a platform to be able to talk about topics now. I did not want this my podcast to be cancer specific. I've had many cancer guests, but I wanted to talk to people and I call them night heroes to talk about human resolve. You've overcome something What have you learned? And then how are you helping others with that and share some inspiration? This world needs inspiration right now. Okay, it needs inspiration. Its there can be dark times that we ebb and flow through this life. And particularly I'm concerned with the amount of hate that's going on, people are choosing actions and words to hate. And I am just the opposite i Let's choose words of kindness and words of gratitude towards healing, right and joy, bring more joy to my life, not more hate. So I do and the podcast has just really taken off. It's a under 30 minute show every Wednesday, you will be featured this Wednesday, June 12. As as we've actually shared the Father's Day issues with us. And maybe we get a double whammy and get two more beautifully said Yes, more hearts, I think so that's the goal, right? It's a beautiful thing. And so I love meeting people, I love learning what they've overcome the lessons learned and how they're helping others and inspiring others. And so I'm having a blast doing the show. And I'm so glad that it's making an impact and touching people's lives. And that's really the point of this, right? That's the point of why we're wrote a book and why we speak on stage and why we actually have a podcast.

Paul Weigel:

It's changing lives. It's making people's lives better every single day. 100% agree with that? I hope so too. So with all the different things you're doing. I mean, we're talking about the book, what's the next chapter in your life? What are you envisioning, as you continue to move ahead? So, a long time to come?

Howard Brown:

Yes, let's hope so. So I'm still in surveillance. So next week, I go visit my oncology team. I going into it very positive mindset and energy saying that everything's going to be fine. I believe in my heart that it will be, but I will do my blood counts. And I will do a scan of chest, pelvis and abdomen. And I hope to see those magical three letters and Edie no evidence of disease at this time. And that will push me closer to a five year time point, which they potentially can call remission in September. And so that's the first step. The second step is that I want to keep on keeping on with my speaking the podcast, keep promoting the book, I'm in a bunch of collaborative books as well that are coming out. And my wife and I are more empty nesters. We're in a different spot right now. My daughter is launch. She's a TV reporter in Missoula, Montana. She just won an Emmy for a climate change story on Flathead Lake. I'm so proud of that. And you got to celebrate those times. But Howard, unfortunately, I'm looking at ways to bring in income so we're consulting projects with more speaking gigs, paid speaking gigs, put the paid there. And then also, you know, is there is there a job in my future at 58 years old? I sure hope so. So that's what I'm going to do. And this will be a little bit of a public announcement is that my wife and I are going to take a few months in California this winter. And so I will be back and forth between California and get out of the you know, the tough Michigan winter. And that's going to be a new experience for us as well. I'm sure I'll meet tons of new people. And we were in California when we met in LA in Santa Monica Pacific Palisades, and then I moved up to Silicon Valley. We're going to make a return visit to Dana Point California halfway between LA and San Diego Laguna Beach. And oh, yeah,

Paul Weigel:

I've been there and actually was relatively near there when I was doing a recording with Mike Riley and my book last week. So it's just beautiful spot. So

Howard Brown:

So that's next up for?

Paul Weigel:

Well, it's funny, you're talking about leaving in the winter to get away. And me live living here in Arizona, and I'm already working on trying to figure out my schedule for next week and how I can get out of the heat. So it's, it's we're at different worlds different times.

Howard Brown:

The sun 100 114 this summer will thank God for air conditioning.

Paul Weigel:

That's the only way we can keep going here. So well. I want to be super sensitive to your time. Um, one of the things that you've done in your shining brightly podcast, is you talk about an inspirational message and that you have something that you would like your I was gonna say clients or patients, but we're not clients or patients. We're guests, right. So what message would you like to share with my audience? It's a similar audience to yours. And I'm trying to bring in different people with different experiences. So what message would you say? So

Howard Brown:

I'm gonna put on my glasses because I want to shine brightly for you. Okay, shine brightly, shining brightly, because I'm in awe of the of your fatherhood and how you've built your book and how you actually can complete a damn triathlon. It's amazing, I really, I have to tell you, it's a big honor. Because that's an amazing thing that you can do and the human but push that human body in the mindset to complete that. So I just will say this, we all have the chance to choose to shine brightly every day, I hope you will for yourself, okay, there's the not be, you know, be selfish, shine brightly for yourself just a little each day, then go shine brightly for others, in your neighborhood, in your communities, in your message in your actions, and the world will become a better place. And that's that's a small ask, I hope for everyone.

Paul Weigel:

That is a heck of a testament and a great message. Where can people find more about you, Howard and everything that's going on in your world?

Howard Brown:

Come find me at shining brightly.com the book The speaking, the podcast, and more importantly, our advocacy. You know, in the cancer world, I also do a lot in the Babson College entrepreneurship world and in the interfaith world, too. I have a couple of different lanes, but come find me at shining brightly.com I'll interact with you. Come learn more. Come talk to me about speaking gigs. Be glad to get to know you. Shining

Paul Weigel:

brightly.com Remember that everybody? I know I've gotten there. I've learned a lot and I encourage you to as well. Cool. All right. Howard Brown, author and cancer whisperer. Thank you for your time today. I'm

Howard Brown:

so honored to be here. Thank you have a Happy Father's Day.

Paul Weigel:

Happy Father's Day to you




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