Talking Hope: His survivorship journey puts a cancer-fighting mindset to work

Talking Hope is brought to you by City of Hope, a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center offering Orange County’s most advanced cancer care. We bring together renowned cancer experts, offering grateful patients and leaders in the cancer community to share vital conversations, personal journeys, and unique insights into the disease that is diagnosed in 1 in 3 people during their lifetime and impacts us all.

Jim Madrid is a grateful patient at City of Hope and a sought-after leadership coach who helps athletes, individuals and organizations perform at their peak and achieve their goals. Cancer challenged him to grow the mindset he teaches to others and put it to work in support of his own healing. It’s a challenge he accepted with enthusiasm, faith and hope. In this episode, Jim Madrid speaks with us about how mindfulness benefits his experience with cancer and how he transformed cancer’s obstacles into opportunities with the support of his family and the expertise of a multidisciplinary team of cancer specialists at City of Hope.

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Speaker 1:
Welcome to Talking Hope, breakthrough conversations about preventing, treating and curing cancer. Brought to you by City of Hope, an NCI Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center. Hope lives here in Orange County.

Darrin Godin:
Hello and welcome to Talking Hope. I'm Darrin Godinand I'm joined today by Jim Madrid. Jim is a grateful patient of City of Hope, and he's also a leadership coach who helps individuals and organizations improve their performance and achieve their goals. Jim, thank you so much for being with us on the podcast today.

Jim Madrid:
Again, I'm always honored when the City of Hope calls on me to kind of share my story and how I'm getting through my journey, and hopefully maybe that can inspire and help to others.

Darrin Godin:
I'm sure it will. And Jim, I hear that you talk a lot about mindset. So I'm wondering, can you go back to the beginning of your journey? I hear you have a story to tell about when you were diagnosed, where mindset really, really was important.

Jim Madrid:
Well, so woke up one morning, coughing up some red stuff, and of course my wife said immediately, 
"We're going to the hospital." Saturday morning, doctor came in and said, "It's stage 4 pancreatic cancer." And it's still a little hard to talk about, and my wife and I just looked at each other, had tears in her eyes, and primarily because my father passed away from pancreatic cancer, six months after he was diagnosed. My uncle, his brother had passed away from pancreatic cancer also, and I have five children. 

And the thing that went through my mind was, is it hereditary and what's for my kids? As we sat there and talked, my wife got on the phone, we called all five kids up, had them on speakerphone and told them what was going on. I have four boys and my daughter, and she's second to the last, and I could hear her cry out, "Oh no."

And as I'm tight with all my kids, super tight with my only daughter, of course, because she's on the screensaver of my phone, so can hear them sniffling. And then my wife said immediately, "Today's about crying. Tomorrow we go to work to support your father to beat this thing." And that kind of turned the switch on for me and then later that day, my daughter came by and it was just her and I in the hospital and we're laying there and she said, "Dad, you need to remember one thing." I go, "What's that honey?" She goes, "You're Jim Madrid."

For the last 30 years I wrote a book. I'm on my second and third book right now just about ready to finish those books. And the name of my book is, Get Over It and Get on with it. So I guess I got to live my words and my wife turned the switch on and my kids and my daughter, they just turned the light on brighter for me and I had a choice to make, Darrin, and that's where mindset came in. And that choice was take it as a death sentence or an opportunity to triumph.

And I took the opportunity to triumph. And I also took later, it's probably midnight when every six hours they're coming in and drawing blood for me. And it was probably right after they drew blood on me and woke me up in midnight on Saturday night. And I don't know, it just hit me. I just thought as many of us are, that are patients and have cancer or whatever kind of disease, a life-threatening one, is that I have this unique opportunity to battle for my life. And that's how I looked at it, Darrin. I looked at it as a battle for my life and I have great faith, so God picked me to battle that as he does with others. And so it went in about mindset. So how am I going to handle it? What's my mindset towards this?

Is it a defeatist mindset or is it an opportunity to triumph? And that's the way I took a look at it. And when I got home, and that's the thing I want to share with everybody is that it's the environment too. I've talked to a lot of cancer patients. I've had, "Hey, I've got a friend. They all know what I do. They all know what I'm going through. They know how I've approached this. Hey, I have a friend, she or he's got whatever, would you talk to them?" And yes, and I tell people, "Look, I'm no saint, I'm nothing special." It's just the way I'm going to approach this and this is how I approached it, may not work for you. But if anything that how I'm approaching this and the system that I'm using is very similar that I also work with professional athletes and NBA, NFL and collegiate teams.

And it's the same way I look at that. And that is we don't go in and goal set to win the championship. That's a given. And so what are the things we're going to crush during the season and measure to get us to the championship and then reset those goals and to win the championship? And did that process this last season with local high school and we went with the boys' soccer team and we ended up being number one in the country with that process. And that encouraged me even more because I had to put that process in place for me. And that process was spiritually, holistically, nutritionally and faith and support, love. And four weeks, almost five weeks later after we put that process into place, it came back to me and said, "We don't know what's going on here, but it's not pancreatic cancer."

I went, "What?" They go, "Well, there's a mass in your pancreas, but it's lung cancer and liver, lung, pancreas and sacrum. And Dr. Lim up at Duarte, I love that guy, I mean everybody should get him if you've got anything like that. So he calls us up and Darcy, my wife and I are on the speakerphone. He says, "Good news, it's not pancreatic cancer, no chemo, it's lung cancer. So yay me." So my wife says, "Well, what do we do?" And he says, "Darcy, feed him and get him on a golf course." So we're about ready to tee off here in just a little while in the golf course. So I'm just following doctor's orders, Darrin, and I've given that process to a few other people and I'll be doggone if it's not working for them. And what I do is I take that spiritually and we break it down to one to two word descriptions of all the things spiritually that I and my family and my friends around me ...

And you'd be amazed as to what goes on in that world, holistically, all those things. I mean, I carry with me, I teach my athletes to play with three goals in their pocket when they play for the game. And these are mine. And you can tell it's about time I get a new one, but on a three by five card. And I got to tell you spiritually, I won't go into great detail, but God doesn't care where or when you pray. So it's 3:30 in the morning and I'm doing my business and I got in there and I'm praying bold prayers, "Lord, just get me a strong and beautiful pink, fully functional lung, fully functional pancreas and fully functional liver." Crawl back into bed my wife goes, "Oh my goodness, Jim." I go, "what?" She woke up, she goes, "I just had the craziest dream."

And I said, "what's that?" And she said, "We somehow, I don't know how, but we were looking at your lung and your pancreas and your liver and they were pink and they were beautiful and they were working magnificently." I went, "Okay." I was too tired to tell her what happened in the other room. I told her that in the morning and we just hugged each other and things like that just happened to appear all the time. I had tell you another one, I have a football player at Washington State University and start work with him last year. So this all happened in April of 22 and then in September of 22, I got this football player and I start working with him. And when they played USC, he got us tickets and I got to meet his father and I was told that he had lost his mother that January of 22 to breast cancer.

And I met his father and his younger brother and the dad asked me a little bit, I told him I was sorry for his loss. And the following week I got this box in the mail and Darcy and I, we opened it up and it looked like a statue of St. Francis with the brown robe and it had a couple of chips out of it. So the little white piece was showing underneath the brown and Darcy and I go, "Well." And we start looking for maybe there's some pieces. And there was a letter in the inside and it was from the player's father and he said, "Thank you for your work with my son and how you've helped him. And you may notice that this is a statue of St. Peregrine." I'm Catholic, I never knew this. St. Peregrine is a patron saint of cancer.

And he said, "This was by Heather." His wife ... "This was by Heather's side all through her journey and we know she would like you to have it." And that sits in my office right behind my desk and it was pretty special. And just things like that continue to happen. He went on to have a phenomenal year and he dedicated everything, all his accomplishments to his mother that year. Holistically, it's just positive self-talk. It's easy to say, Darrin, but hard to really put in to practice because as I'm sure every one of us are, that are stricken with this terrible disease, it's hard to control those thoughts.

Darrin Godin:
How do you do that, Jim?

Jim Madrid:
Well, first off, I get up every morning and thank God I'm standing up and I can get out of bed and I'm breathing air. My father-in-law used to, I go, "Hey, how you doing?" He go, "Hey, I'm standing up and taking air. Thank you, God." I went, "Okay, good." That works for me every morning. But when it does sneak in, and I did, I had the other morning, I'm in radiation right now. I've got 10 days of radiation. And just thinking about that, I asked, "When do I get to get off this medication?" And they said, "You're going to be on that till we come up with a cure for cancer." And my attitude's always been, then fine, I'll cure it.

But it kind of hit me and comet came and I see it, this reoccurring thing and that scares me. I think it goes away and then it comes back and you've heard all the stories. And I think my strong faith and my mindset that there is so much ... Another good mentor of mine is Father Robert Spitzer, and I would recommend everybody get his book, Finding True Happiness. And Father Bob is the most learned man I know, he is here in Orange County, he's got his PhD in quantum physics and he's a CPA. I mean, this guy is incredible.

And I had a call with him yesterday morning and he said, "Jim, your question should never be whether, whether this is going to come back, whether you're going to die from this, it should be, how. How can I prevent this coming back? How can I continue to do what I do?" And he goes, "With your mental state, Jim, the new medicine that's coming out and just all the new things that are coming out to help us and to cure cancer." My father passed away in 2008 from it, and that weekend I was in the hospital. I just thought there's been a lot of advancement in cancer treatment and curing since 2008, a lot.

So I've had Dr. Massarelli at Duarte as my oncologist, again from Dr. Lim to Dr. Massarelli, she's incredible. I mean, everybody said, when other people that have gone through this journey with either a family member or themselves, they go, "Jim, you know, need to meet a bunch of them because you'll find the right doctor that you're comfortable with." And I'm half Italian, half Spanish. Her name is Dr. Massarelli, are you kidding me? She's from Naples, Italy. And I think we talk more about pasta and wine than we do about my condition. But she is so comforting and I mean, I got her cell phone, she gave me her cell phone, and I said this at the beam-signing ceremony. I keep saying, "Who does that?" City of Hope does that.

Darrin Godin:
Well, Jim, we so appreciate your advocacy for us, but I want to bring you back to maybe, can you boil it down to three things for those who are listening. You have such a great energy about you and it's such a great mindset. And I just wonder for those who are listening that maybe don't have the same support system around them that you do, what would be three things you would tell someone to really put their mindset in the right direction to fight the way that you are and you and your family are?

Jim Madrid:
Great question Darrin, thanks. My father, he was the ultimate optimist. And I think that's obviously where I get it. And I am an optimist, but I call myself a realistic optimist. And my father, I know he didn't coin it, but used to always tell us this, all of us growing up, "Expect the best, but be prepared for the worst, not the other way around." I don't think it's going to happen, but hopefully it will. That's what I call a realistic pessimist. I don't see a chance that I can beat this thing, but hey, maybe I will. And with that attitude, mine's the other way, is I know I'm going to beat this thing. And it's authentic. It's not lip service. You have to believe it. You have to believe it. We all were born with a set of habits, attitudes, beliefs are developed, these habits, attitudes, beliefs and expectations.

And whether you were growing up in an optimistic environment or not, there is a way. Positive self-talk. When it started to seep in that Saturday night too, I was in that hospital, Sunday night, I was in the hospital by myself, of course, and I started to go down, what if I die? What's going to happen to my wife? What's going to happen to my kids? And thank God I was in a room by myself, Darrin, because I yelled out in the room, "Stop it. That's BS." And I didn't use the initials, Darrin. I said, "That's BS. That's not going to happen to me, so just stop it." And I had to do that. And when it starts to creep in like that, I have to go that. And then I go right to prayer and then I go right to, my body can heal itself.

I have a clean, healthy, pink, fully functional ... And when I'm in there getting that radiation treatment, like this morning, it goes down my left side, starts right here, my lung area, goes right down the side. I don't feel a thing. And it comes back up. And while I was doing that, I'm thinking, I'm in a Ironman movie that it's going right through me and it's just crushing the Dickens out of that tumor in there and it's doing it. And Dr. Lee, my radiologist, he said, "Well, from future CT scans, it's going to look like some scar tissue where the inflammation was from the tumor." And I thought, "No, it's not from that. It's from my laser that's just going in there and killing it." And that's why it's going to have a little scar tissue. Now, I'm okay with that. So I just think visualization.

I take that Tagrisso pill and when I take it, I sit for 10 minutes and it's like it's released millions of PAC-MAN in there just chomping away anything. No matter where it's at in my body, if there's a cancer cell in there, it's taking it. And then I sit and breathe and exhale and I just sit and inhale and through my nose and I'm taking it in this beautiful celestial great air, and it's destroying it, and then I'm exhaling through my mouth. And mindfulness, look into yoga nidra, N-I-D-R-A. It's a total body scan. It's about a 25-minute body scan. I would highly recommend that to people. I think mindfulness, I do 30 minutes in the morning, 30 minutes at night, every day. And I use that yoga nidra and again, my faith. I think that if you could look into those things, I recommend it because it's worked for me and be that realistic optimist.

Darrin Godin:
Now, thank you.

Jim Madrid:
Expect good things.

Darrin Godin:
Thank you for sharing that, Jim. I think that's really, really helpful. All of those things. And I think you certainly seem to have mastered many of those things. And even the way you share about, it's just so encouraging. And I'm sure those who are listening are encouraged by that.

Jim Madrid:
And it's tough. And it's tough. It's easier said than done, Darrin. So I guess the other thing is perseverance.

Darrin Godin:
Yeah, it's developed, right? It's developed like a muscle. You've got to keep at it, right? Yep.

Jim Madrid:
Right.

Darrin Godin:
So what are your plans moving forward? What's next for Jim Madrid?

Jim Madrid:
Finishing those books, I got a whole new story to tell, and why I started it, but I know why. And the purpose behind it. I started a company a few years back and for youth sports and through the window of sports, we can give these kids this education, not motivation, but education in the area of positive psychology and cognitive psychology. And if we could do that through the window of sports because of my relationships and my results that I've got with professional sports, I'll be doing a one day with all the head coaches at Cal State Fullerton and other colleges. And I pray for me because something really cool is on the works. And that is an opportunity. I'm waiting to hear back. It's in discussion to be an adjunct professor at Texas Christian University, probably next year. Yeah.

Darrin Godin:
Awesome.

Jim Madrid:
So I'm pretty excited about that. And the class is the fundamentals of mental fitness for a successful college career. I just think these kids have suffered so much anxiety, depression, loneliness, coming out of the pandemic and our society today. I just want to make a positive impact in the culture of youth sports and these kids going away from their parents for the first time.
Darrin Godin:
Oh, that's awesome, Jim. So we ask every guest this question and I'm really excited to hear your answer. So what is hope to you, Jim?

Jim Madrid:
What is hope to me, City of Hope or just hope?

Darrin Godin:
Hope. The concept of hope. What does that really mean to you?

Jim Madrid:
Again, I go back to, I expect the best and I'm prepared for the worst. And hope to me, gives me the inspiration, gives me my mindset, it gives me my motivation, it gives me the self-discipline. And without hope, you're just lost. And I think it's like Alice in Wonderland, when she came to the fork in the road and she asked the Cheshire cat, which road to take? And the cat said, "where are you going?" She said, "Well, I don't know." And the cat said, "Well, it doesn't matter what road you take." With hope, you know what road to take.

Darrin Godin:
Awesome. Thank you so much, Jim. On behalf of all of us at City of Hope, it's an honor to be walking this journey with you. We thank you again for your advocacy for us, and of course all of the kind things you say, but we're really honored to be walking with you and serving you and your family in this.

Jim Madrid:
Thank you very much.

Darrin Godin:
We hope you have a great time out there in the desert as well. And thanks for joining us on the podcast today. We really appreciate it.

Jim Madrid:
Darrin, keep up the good work. Thank you very much, and God bless you.

Darrin Godin:
Thanks, Jim.

Speaker 1:
Thank you all for listening to Talking Hope, where breakthrough conversations about preventing, treating and curing cancer have been brought to you by City of Hope an NCI Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center. This is the hope you've been waiting for. For more information, visit cityofhope.org/oc or make an appointment at any of City of Hope's five Orange County locations, including City of Hope Orange County Lennar Foundation Cancer Center, the most advanced cancer treatment center in Orange County. Call (877) 541-4673.