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Handling Disappointment? Apply The Stockdale Paradox

Posted by Douglas A Wick on Sun, Apr 8, 2012

Those of you who read A Lesson from Good To Great Stockdale Paradox – 3rd Biopsy Results know the results from my third biopsy were not what I’d hoped.  Thursday evening late I got more bad news about the results from my fourth biopsy.  What the doctors had hoped would happen, the good blood cells would return faster and denser than the leukemia did not occur.  In fact the mass in my bone marrow increased to 20%, however the Leukemia cells (blast) increased from 71% of the cells to 82%. 

Face the brutal facts!

After two failed chemotherapy inductions the success rate for recovery decreases dramatically.  In addition the longer my blood counts stay low the possibility of incurring an infection, virus or other disease in addition to the Leukemia increases as well.  That is one of the most difficult challenges with treating Leukemia patients:  Related infections due to low blood counts. 

On Friday Dr. Silverman returned after conferring with her associates to suggest what she felt would be the best treatment options at this point.  Her recommendation is another round of chemotherapy (ten days) with a drug called Dacogen. 

When I asked Dr Silverman the likelihood of success this time she gave me more startling news.  Success with my form of cancer is only about 15-20% with this drug.  

Why go forward with so little chance of success?  The truth is I’m really out of other good options.

The Leukemia I have is Mono Somy 7, stockdale paradox resized 600which means the blast (Leukemia cells) only have one # 7 chromosome.  All chromosomes have two pairs, but for some reason this does not.  That’s what makes it so difficult to treat and why it is apparently resistant to the chemotherapy that has been used previously. 

Leukemia patients fall into three categories I was told at the start of my diagnosis:  Those with a good chance of recovery, those with a moderate chance of recovery and those due to genetics who have a poor chance of recovery.   You can guess which group I fall in.

Those are my brutal facts.

It’s not the best news I’ve ever received. 

IF there is good news it’s how I’ve handled the treatment so far.  I’m healthy, or at least I feel like I’m healthy.  Frankly if it weren’t for what the doctors were telling me and the numbers on my wall that show my blood counts I assure you I feel I could walk out of my hospital room today and never look back.  Since Monday I’ve felt that good.  The doctors are encouraged that I can handle the treatments and much more.

The Stockdale Paradox!

Remember the Stockdale Paradox, Stockdale Paradox You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

I’m faced with a 15-20% chance that the chemotherapy I will endure the next ten days will put my Leukemia into remission so I can advance to bone marrow transplant.  Should I advance to bone marrow transplant there will be obstacles and challenges there as well including more chemotherapy. 

Still I have faith.  In fact I have confidence.  I have a plan.  It’s based on the Strategic Discipline principles we teach at Positioning Systems to our clients and it’s founded in the Rockefeller Habits Principles from Verne Harnish’s Mastering the Rockefeller Habits.

If you like sports you’ve probably heard, “statistics are for losers.”  My oldest son Dan pointed me to a blog by a sports writer who had Acute Myeloid Leukemia who wrote this blog When Statistics Are Not Helpful which sums up my similar feelings about this whole odds thing.  

Why do I have such faith?  I hope to offer you my first-hand experience in what I felt was a more difficult challenge that I faced in my early 40’s.  My hope is to provide that in this month’s newsletter.   For my next blog I’m working with a client who is entertaining investing $20K to discover their Inside Advantage.  We’ll explore Bob Bloom’s book The Inside Advantage and why I believe because of my clients One Thing for 2012 and the value of Strategy this is absolutely the best investment they can make in their business right now. 

Topics: Acute Myeloid Luekemia, Strategic Discipline, One Thing, Mastering the Rockefeller Habits, The Inside Advantage, strategy, Stockdale Paradox, Mono Somy 7

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Doug Wick, President

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The Strategic Discipline Blog focuses on midsize business owners with a ravenous appetite to improve his or her leadership skills and business results.

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