Believe Big Podcast

62-Daniel Wellington - ULLABETTA, Laugh Often, Live Well

November 07, 2023 Autumn Burns
Believe Big Podcast
62-Daniel Wellington - ULLABETTA, Laugh Often, Live Well
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Daniel Wellington is our guest on today's podcast.  Daniel is currently on an active cancer journey after being diagnosed with stage 4 sarcoma, however he continues to defy the odds and is living and thriving.  

How is he living and thriving?

He shares how his cancer diagnosis caught him by surprise, and that surprise was followed by the fear and reality of having cancer.  Daniel goes on to talk about the books he found helpful as he dove into a self-healing journey of mindfulness and the importance of being present in his daily life, something he had taken for granted previously.  

Daniel's words are insightful and encouraging to anyone dealing with cancer.  He even shares a beautiful story of his daughter, Josie, and how she inadvertently taught him a lesson of laughter and living, and a new word that he continues to use today.

Suggested Resource Links:

Ivelisse Page:

Hi, I'm Ivelisse Page and thanks for listening to the Believe Big podcast, the show where we take a deep dive into your healing with health experts, a integrative practitioners biblical faith leaders, and cancer thrivers from around the globe. Welcome to today's episode on the Believe Big podcast. My name is Ivelisse Page and it's an honor to spend this time with you. Cancer a word that strikes fear into the hearts of many. It's a battle that millions of people around the world face every day affecting not only their physical health, but also challenging them emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. Yet with this harrowing fight, we often discover incredible stories of strength that inspire us all. One of these individuals is here with us today to share his story of resilience. Our friend Daniel Wellington was diagnosed with stage four sarcoma in 2019. A rare form with less than a hundred cases a year with no effective conventional treatment available. They told Daniel he would be incapacitated at the end of four years, and yet he is here today living and thriving. Daniel has been married to his beautiful wife, Joanne, for 13 years, and together they have five children. Welcome Daniel to the show.

Daniel Wellington:

Thank you for having me. Me

Ivelisse Page:

So we always love to start our episode by finding out what our guest's favorite health tip is, and I know you have a few, so can you share one with us?

Daniel Wellington:

The most important one to me is if it's gonna sound a little abstract, but would be to embrace and have fun on a mindfulness journey. All the healing I believe in your mind and in your body starts there. Also I would say more tangible is don't, if you're on a self-healing journey, don't live a life of guilt because it can take over. And also related to guilt, enjoy your guilty pleasures like your chocolate chip cookie. I heard a few episodes ago, I was like, I love that. I like that. Although I wouldn't stop like you do, I, I enjoy it. I thought that was a great point you made.

Ivelisse Page:

Well, I love those tips. Embracing fun, I think that's something that as we get older, we sometimes forget to do and we get so oriented with our day-to-day tasks. And even when you're on a cancering journey, you're so focused on the cancer that we don't take time to sit back and just have fun and do childlike things that we used to do. Run through a sprinkler or draw with chalk on your driveway, put a positive message on there. I read that earlier today and I'm like, I'm gonna do that. So you're just confirmation that I need to embrace more fun and have more childlike fun in my life. So that's a great tip. Can you share with us about how you found out you had cancer and what you experienced?

Daniel Wellington:

Everybody gets surprised, but I was having some chest pains and I went in to go through the whole cardiology thing and everything was wonderful. I was on the treadmill running like crazy, no issues at all. And he said, you're fine, but you might wanna stop downstairs and get a calcium scan of your chest, your heart. I had done that before and I kind of liked that, so I was like, okay, I'll stop down and get it. And it was really easy and I got a call from him. He said, your heart's great, but there's a lot of spots on your lungs, something going on there. And of course, that we were really hopeful for a nasty infection, a fungal type thing or something. And as it turned out, I had and I still have maybe about 80 to a hundred little tumors hanging about there. When they did a biopsy they found out what type of cancer, extraskeletal myxoid chondrosarcoma. And then they realized that it had started somewhere else. And as a deep tissue cancer with men, it usually starts somewhere in the legs or other soft tissue areas. And it started with me and my right hip. So he took out a baseball size tumor outta my right hip. But, that was more just for comfort. They didn't get the clean margins, but it definitely is more comfortable. And, the rest of it is I'm just working to self-heal with the lung issues.

Ivelisse Page:

So did you have any other symptoms with what you were experiencing at the time?

Daniel Wellington:

I think I remember like in my hip, just a pain, a throbbing pain where the tumor was, but that's a weird thing about being in your fifties. You don't know whether it's just something in your fifties or if you have a legitimate pain. So I probably wouldn't have done anything about it, and it was kind of a long route to get to.

Ivelisse Page:

Yeah. I hear that. Jimmy wakes up sometimes and he is like, man, my back's hurting a little bit more today. And he lifts and he runs and he is super active, but, he's like, I'm not taking that. He says I'm 56 and I'm gonna keep going and work to be pain free. So, but yeah, so I can understand that being at the age that we are that that's not something that we would see was out of the ordinary. And so after hearing that it was cancer and that it was rare and that there weren't any conventional treatments, really, how did you process that?

Daniel Wellington:

Oh gosh, probably just a normal way. Lots of fear. Lot of surprise. All normal stuff. And then I'm fairly pragmatic, so actually, I can't take full credit. My sister-in-law, Maria, suggested a book and it was Dr. Kelly Turner's book, Radical Remission. And that was my starting into research and thank God I started there because what an easy read and what a way to gain some hope and get some ideas. And what it did is just open up a fountain of other books and other reading from very technical stuff like Jane McLellan or, Nasha Winters to more spiritual stuff like Michael Singer and other people that you kind of write in that way. So after a period of worry and fear and the other people around me kind of worried and being fearful, then we kind of leaned into it and decided to go to work on trying to self-heal. So that's the journey I live on today.

Ivelisse Page:

Well, thank goodness for those books. I mean, they are incredible resources and for those who don't know, Dr. Turner's book, Radical Remission or Radical Hope, she interviewed over a thousand patients who had a less than 25% chance of survival and are still here today. And she realized that there were now 10 key factors that attributed to each of them healing. We actually did a podcast with her earlier in the year. If anyone wants to check it out or we can put them in the notes for people to listen to the link. But it's fascinating to hear all the ways that people have healed and we're told that their chances of survival weren't great. Can you share with us some of the things that you incorporated into your healing journey after reading those and investigating other options?

Daniel Wellington:

Yes, I can share a lot. I do want to start and go back to the beginning, to the tip because a little piece that might have been lost is embrace and have fun on a mindfulness practice. And the mindfulness part you talk about it a lot it's no surprise to you. It is a surprise to me because I'm a very average guy. I didn't grow up in a faith-based environment. Hard work and rolling up my sleeves and just pounding the hell out of every nail that I could find was really how I lived my life. But the mindfulness piece was the part that I had seen you know, in college and in work activities and things like, wow, this is really interesting but I never really made it part of my life. And it wasn't until I read Dr. Turner's book and it was like, of the nine now it's 10, I was like, whoa. Most of these things are not scientific things. First of all, they're really easy so somebody like me can understand it. And two, the part about the mindfulness part and about being positive was something that I really enjoyed. And I still enjoy and I'm still going deeper and deeper with it cuz I do think that is the key to all the healing. And, it started off with some meditations, Hey, this is really nice, and it got me calm. And then what I started to realize is that I could start to see the practical, and that was I could finally figure out how to be here right now. And my daughter Josie taught me a little bit more about that, and we might talk about that later. But, when I think about the skill of being present, people think it's, sometimes it's a little bit heady or maybe it's not in the arena. Again, if you're hearing it from me, then you know it can be done by you. But the beautiful part about it is I realized that I spent a lot of time thinking about the past, and the past could have been like five minutes ago, and some kind of traffic rage incident, me being mad. It could have been 20 years ago, being mad at my mom. It could have been anything in those moments. And if you have only so many energy units a day and you're spending time thinking about the past, and now as Michael Singer talks about it in The Untethered Soul, the pendulum swings the other way, and now you're into the future. And you're worrying about, okay, what's gonna happen on that next scan? How's my blood work gonna come back? Also, is my kid gonna graduate from college? How are they feeling about this cancer stuff? And you start worrying about all that. And it really can be a full-time job, at least with me, and spending all that time in the past, and the present. But when the pendulum is in the middle, then you're present and then you start to really see, with the joy of presentness and being here and what it gives you and what you can see and what's laid on your doorstep that you're like, gosh, how did I miss this? How did I miss this all this time? And so, then the messages and the gifts present themselves and I still have a long way to go. I shouldn't even act like, compared to some other people that you've interviewed, I can't even act like I'm an expert at it. But I am really digging getting into this. This is so cool. I'm on the right path and that I believe that this is the key to my physical healing.

Ivelisse Page:

Yeah, I agree with you a hundred percent. And I think that we don't even realize our world is so focused on the physical side of healing, and as her book shares that only three out of the 10 are physical aspects of your healing. The rest are social support and emotional support and meditation and prayer and things like that. So yeah, we don't realize that we may unintentionally be stressed or harboring resentment or other things in our lives that is preventing us from healing and allowing our body to be rest and and repair mode, and to be at peace and be in the present and enjoy the moment. So I agree that is such a huge value to add in any journey and in our lives today. One of the things that I really enjoy listening to, I have a prayer time in the morning, but before I start, I listen to John Eldridge has an app called The Pause App, and there's one called 30 Days to A Resilient Life, and it goes through prompts and meditations on the emotions and then on mental capacity and strength and physical. So it goes through that throughout the month, 10 minutes in the morning, 10 minutes a night. And it is so peaceful and it really sets you in a place where you can be in the present to hear from God and the messages that are for you in that day. So I love that you shared that. And I would love to know, I'm gonna skip ahead cuz you touched on it and I really wanna make sure that we hear about that on this podcast and it's your word that your daughter shared with you and taught you. And

it's called ULLABETTA say that

Ivelisse Page:

for me cuz I'm sure I'm not saying it correctly, but share with us what that is and what it means and what she taught you through that.

Daniel Wellington:

Well, thank you for giving me the chance to talk about that. I don't think it can be sound. I don't think it can be pronounced wrong. There is a story with it and I think it's worth sharing. So in the early stages of my cancer diagnosis I was kind of cycling through the emotions and like most adults and I have young children, you're doing what you can to shield your kids from that. In the early stages, you're like, how do I keep this almost a secret and be the dad that I always am and then be doing this on the side? Of course, once I got further into my education, I realized that hey, being open and talking about these things is the best way, but I wasn't there yet and I was really kind of struggling. The scans were showing growth and on one particular day, I think it was June, and I was putting the kids down saying prayers and I was really hot to get downstairs and watch some tv, so I didn't have to think about anything else. Everybody has the trash TV that will always take you away from your thoughts and I'm no exception. So, I'm heading down the stairs and all of a sudden I hear my Josephine, Josie giggling, she's eight. Giggling in our household that's common, thank God. But, I get to the bottom of the steps. I'm a little bit irritated and I'm thinking to myself, hey, Josie go back to sleep, baby, it's time to sleep. And get down to the kitchen. I'm still hearing her giggling, right? And now I'm interested, what's going on. So, half irritated, half interested. I head upstairs and Josie's kind of tucked up under the blankets and she's giggling. And a little bit uncontrollably. And I say to her, I say, okay, Josie, it's time for bed. It's time to kind of get it together. And I start going through the process of tucking her in. And she just keeps laughing. I said, well, look, Josie, at this point in time, you gotta kind of share what's going on? Here I am, I'm struggling cuz I want to get downstairs. I wanna mope in front of the tv, I wanna think about my scan. Think about all the terrible dark holes you can dive into. And here's this little girl, eight year old girl, just my daughter, my flesh and blood, just looking at me and giggling and having fun. And here's me saying, okay, I can do this or I can go downstairs and do this other thing that I have planned. And and she keeps giggling and I finally ask her, I say, Hey, Josie, What is the word? I said, what is it you're laughing about? She goes, I invented a word. And she was saying it through deep laughter. She was like, giggling. And I'm starting to laugh a little bit, and now it's a little bit uncontrolled. And I'm like, I'll speed it up here a little bit. I'm gonna spend the whole podcast on this. But I said to her, I said, well, well, what is it? What is that word? And she said, it's ULLABETTA. And we just both started laughing. I mean, it was a funny word. And we just kind of started falling about the place giggling. And then we just sat there for a while and we just kept laughing and it was like one of those belly laughs. So I had gone from being kind of depressed, a little disappointed and sad to like, now I'm belly laughing, and I'm like, how the heck did this transformation take place? And so, we're laughing, we're talking, and I said, well, Josie, where did they come from? and she said something like, she says that, she said this. I didn't hear it, but she said, I think it might have been a stitch, cuz at the time she was stitching those things that you give to your parents and then you put, frame them, put'em on the wall. And, we just kept laughing and laughing. I said, maybe it means that we should laugh often. And, so we coined that and I tucked her in. I went downstairs and it became super obvious to me that a transformation had taken place. That my daughter had challenged me in that moment to say, look, you can be here right now and enjoy this beautiful moment with me and laugh and be here and present and get a belly laugh. I mean, how often do we get those? When it happened, I thought to myself, when was the last time I had one of those? And I can't think of when the last time was beforehand. And I really believe that as I sat there on the couch and I went back downstairs, TV off and processed it, that I felt like some kind of intervention, something had happened. It's still very emotional to me, but I feel like something's worked through her to say, hey, look, you got this thing. Be here and now. Be here for these young guys. Be here for your family and don't surrender to things that you can't control anyhow or that you can try to control. And that changed a lot. And then ULLABETTA, later on as the weeks went by, I said, well, maybe it means to laugh often and live well. And to me, when I think of laughing often, it's not like, can I get a belly off laugh when I'm talking to Ivelisse? It's not that. It's like, am I leaning in to joy and laughter and faith and hope and gratitude and love, or am I consciously leaning into painful things? So that's laugh often. And on the live well side it, It's not live adventurously, like jump out of an airplane or climb a mountain. I've done a lot of things like that. It's more like, am I people, places, things, events? Am I checking in and making sure that I'm not giving myself the things that can be hurtful to me? Of course, nutrition and exercise and all these other things I put in that bucket. So every day when I'm doing my mindfulness practice and I'm checking in and every night, I'm checking in ULLABETTA. Am I laughing often? Am I living well? And is that something that remains a priority in my life? So that's the ULLABETTA story.

Ivelisse Page:

So beautiful. honestly, and we all need to laugh more in it. And what you said reminded me something of what my spiritual director just shared with me yesterday and, she said connecting with everyday things and having that be enough. Sometimes in life we're looking forward to that next vacation with our family or the holidays or whatever it may be. Oh, I can't wait till five o'clock. I get outta work and can be home. And that really stood out to me and say, okay, connecting with everyday things and having that be enough is what you were talking about living well. And I just love that.

Daniel Wellington:

You hit the nail on the head. That's being present, right? Every day means that you're here right now. And, it's like the other day, Josie, I put her to bed and I circled back around her room and she said, I wrote three poems. I said, well, you're supposed to be in bed. Why? Why'd you write three poems? She goes, I just felt like doing it. And she'll do that. It's uncommon for her to turn her to light and get inspired and do something. I really believe that she's empathic. And I said, well, I can't wait to hear those poems tomorrow. And she goes, now you need to listen to'em now. And so she sat there and I was like, now is the time. Right? Every day beautiful things that you can check in to and not give into other things that don't serve you.

Ivelisse Page:

I love that. You shared some great lessons that cancer has taught you at the Believe Big dinner this past spring, and I wanted to share, you mentioned one or two of them, but I would love to share a few others and have you expand on them. The first one that you said is to be positive and hopeful, and how does one practically do that? How do you practically do that?

Daniel Wellington:

Oh, wow. I think I'm a great person to ask because I'm not naturally positive and hopeful. So that's what I mean about the gifts of cancer, right? You get cancer and if you give yourself to it, I don't look at it as I'm fighting cancer. I really don't subscribe to that. I believe that cancer is a gift to me, and that it's teaching me how to thrive. So you're like, how do you become positive? Well, if you're like me where you're a natural cynic and, skeptical about things, then it starts with just training your mind to be mindful and to be present. And when you do that, and when I do that, and the ULLABETTA thing where I give myself to people, places and things that are kind of sucking energy from me, and I'm consciously making choices to lean toward the many beautiful, positive things around me, which there are. It's just the choice, the conscious choice to do that. And I, yes, it's the reading, yes, it's Josie teaching me that, Hey dad, you're here. It can be now. And so it's this immense learning curve that I'm on. It's when you were like, Hey, Daniel, can you come speak for this event? And I'm like, okay, I can do that. I hope I can be of value. Can you speak on this podcast? Well, yeah. Can I be of value? Can I make an impact? Can I be of service? Then I'm like, okay, well maybe I can, and that's an immense positive to me. And no matter what the road looks like, that's what it's about right now in my life. And I wasn't always like that. It can be very transformative. And of course you read thousands of books about people that go through that and I'm just in the very beginnings of that process and still just diving even headfirst more into it, just to make sure I can be somebody like, like my wife, who's always positive about everything. I'm like, how can you be that positive about everything? And instead of challenging her on that, I'm like, instead she becomes the study, she becomes the person I can emulate and be like, okay, how can I be more like you?

Ivelisse Page:

That's awesome. I love that. And you also share, and we talk about this a lot too, but I'd love to get your perspective. You said that you are your best advocate. Share about that.

Daniel Wellington:

Well, okay, so, wow, that's a deep question and worth talking about. So, if you have some form of cancer that's conventionally treatable there's still people like in my age and mentality, small town guy that might just give themselves to people wearing white coats, that are very educated and very smart. And obviously in your case, I, I know a little bit about it. They don't have all the answers. You had to start creating your own answers and your own research. But, if you're accustomed like me to walking in and expecting that this person across the room has all the answers, well, they don't. Now, if you move to the, hey, we don't really have any answer for you, but we want you to stop in every few months so we can let you know that we still don't have any answers for you. We'd be happy to see you and spend time with you. But the truth of the matter is there's so, so much more and you cover much of it, in the material that you cover in the podcast. They don't give you all those answers. They don't volunteer all that information. And if you're not willing to ask all of those questions and get them so you have a very human relationship with your practitioners, whether they're in the alternative healing arena or in conventional care. You're probably not as far as you need to go in your healing. And so being your own advocate in a, I don't know, in a respectful kind of inquisitive, but driven type way is not only a way to just get answers, but it's also a way to tell your physicians that I am paying attention. I used to tell a joke when I used to visit the cancer boards. I went to Mayo and Dana-Farber and all these other ones, and I, you'd have these guys there and there's the per capita education sitting at that table blows your mind away. And I'm like, okay, the best thing I could do is create a joke and get'em all laughing and being human. And then I know they're gonna treat me like a little bit of a human. Now that's very shallow thinking, I know that they look at me as a human and they, they want me to get well, but the truth of the matter is I try to make it very human so that they do pay attention as well. So, that's a long way of answering your question. One thing I can say in my life if I is that I've never been one to sit back and allow somebody to determine my fate, even when they are the designated expert in the room.

Ivelisse Page:

Yep. You know yourself best, right? Yeah. We need to listen to the wisdom of our doctors. Yes. But you knew yourself best. And I think you mentioned, in some of your notes, you had shared that you are the CEO of your body and the stakes are too high to be a passive observer. And that's so true. You also shared, allow for and forgive yourself for imperfection on your journey.

Daniel Wellington:

Oh my gosh, Ivelisse. This has been one of the toughest parts for me, because when you're on a complete self-healing journey, and not that anybody wants to have a giant section of their, intestines taken out or any of that type of stuff, but there is nothing else, and then there becomes not just one hole to dive into. You can go down the pathways with Jane McClellan or you can go on the terrain with Nasha and then there's plenty of other things like go to Belgium and get special treatment. The fact is as I go through my day-to-day regimen, I'm not gonna be perfect. I'm not a perfect human being. I never have been perfect. But I do beat myself up with guilt all the time because I start to think to myself, oh my gosh, if I, if my keto level isn't it, 2.56, by the time I'm 3:00 PM rolls around, then holy moly, the cancer's gonna overtake me. And it's that kind of thinking that can suck the life outta me. And that's just what my experience is. So I, I have some guilty pleasures. I, I like to take an Uber whenever I can cuz I hate driving and I drink Fiji water only. And I bought an ice maker that I make Fiji Ice Cube. So that's my guilty pleasure. But I'm trying to do everything I can to offset the idea that maybe I didn't hit the sauna five times a week, or maybe when I came outta the sauna and I was sweating that I didn't rigorously scrub as much as I should have. I mean, No one has to tell you this stuff, I mean, I feel I want to pitch it back to you and say Ivelisse, what was your experience?

Ivelisse Page:

We felt that, and I think, I feel like my husband felt it more than I did because he felt so responsible. Like, if we don't do this right, like I'm not, you're not gonna be here with me. And that terrified him. And I think sometimes the cancer diagnosis is worse for the caregiver than the patient themselves. And for me, I had a peace because I knew that whether I lived or die, I won. Right? If I lived and I wanted to live and I wanted to be here for my kids, I would enjoy life. And if I died, I knew that ultimately, this is not my home and I know that God and those before me are waiting for me in Heaven and it's just gonna be a glorious day there. But when we were evaluating all the things that we had to do each day, and he was the same way. Like, do we do this? Do we not do this? And it really was sitting at our kitchen table and he finally had this moment and he said, you know what, Ivelisse, we could do everything right and you could still die. We could do everything wrong and you could live. Ultimately, your life is in God's hands and do we trust him no matter how this turns out? And I'm telling you, it was like a huge weight was lifted off both of our shoulders because we were gonna be wise in our decisions and do what we could, but leave the rest of God to say, okay, open this door, shut that door, and relieve that stress and anxiety of making sure we had to do this and do that. And I think that was the best thing that he ever said to me. And it relieved it. And our mantra became, I trust you God, no matter how this turns out. And that was our biggest lesson going through that.

Daniel Wellington:

Thank you for sharing that.

Ivelisse Page:

Yeah. So in closing, I would love for you to share, knowing what you know now, if you could go back in time, is there anything that you would advise someone who's starting their journey or in their middle of their journey, like yourself, that you would encourage them? What words would you encourage them with today?

Daniel Wellington:

Okay, so if you're getting anything out of me talking today, then I would encourage them to say that I'm average and that if I can do it, then anyone can do it. The second thing that I would say is that I really highly underrated stress and the impact of stress psychologically and physically, and also early trauma stress. I thrived off of it. I thought stress was the thing. Before I sold my company, you know, did transactions all over the world, flying all over the place. I was very self-important and all that stuff. And I didn't realize how much that I was laying on myself. And then that all leads to the last part in that is an active mindfulness practice, it is a very easy thing to get involved in, and the benefits just keep pouring out and there's zero wrong way to do it. So it's almost like the return on investment is so quick and so immediate that if you just give yourself a little bit of time. And why? What's the direct tie in to cancer? The direct tie in to cancer is that we need to be present to make our best decisions. Decisions about our care, away from our dark emotions, away from the fears that we live with, and it gives you the chance to see things that are right in front of you that are very beautiful and enjoy those things. Even in the best case scenario we don't know what tomorrow brings, nothing's promised. So, I'm a neophyte. I keep saying that, but I'm so glad that I'm dialed into it now that I can be here with somebody like you and leave here and go play soccer and coach my boy and have fun and enjoy that. And whatever happens, it's gonna happen. But I'm gonna live my life all the way. ULLABETTA.

Ivelisse Page:

I love it. ULLABETTA, laugh often, live well. Thank you Daniel for being with us today. It's been an honor.

Daniel Wellington:

Oh man. It's been great. Thanks so much, Ivelisse.

If you enjoyed this episode and you'd like to help support our podcast, please subscribe and share it with others. Be sure to visit believebig.org to access the show notes and discover our bonus content. Thanks again and keep Believing Big!

What is your favorite health tip?
Can you share how you found out you have cancer and what you initially experienced?
What were your symptoms at the time?
How did you process the news of your diagnosis?
What practices did you incorporate into your healing after reading and researching?
The story of ULLABETTA
How do you practically stay positive and hopeful?
Daniel shares how he is his own best advocate.
Daniel gives advice and encouragement to other cancer patients.