Are You Just One Thing?

By: Shira Boyle

My dad was a doctor; an oncologist, to be more specific. An oncologist known around the world who was asked to speak at conferences in many countries, at many different conventions and summits.  He helped to create one of the most famous cancer fighting drugs currently in existence.  He saved hundreds, if not thousands, of lives during his career. He sacrificed a lot in his personal life to get there.  Most of my time growing up, my dad left the house by 7 in the morning and would return close to ten at night.  He worked weekends and holidays.  He almost always made it on family trips.  But, sometimes, he only joined us for a few days out of the week or two-week long trips we would take.

At some point in his late 40’s/early 50’s, my siblings and I began entering serious long-term relationships, and my dad hit his mid-life crisis.  Did he go buy a sports car?  Did he have an affair?  Did he dye his hair blonde and get plastic surgery?  No, he started working out. He started running and lifting weights.  He ran his first marathon and decided to keep pushing.  By the age of 60, my dad had completed three Iron Man competitions. Working out meant leaving work earlier to spend hours running, hours learning how to swim free-style, hours biking on weekends.  My dad was never out of shape, but he became a 60-year-old with muscles and a six-pack; a 60-year-old who didn’t look anywhere near 60.

Why? Of all the things my dad could have chosen to do, why become an Iron Man?  You know what his response was to those he was closest to?  “I don’t want my grandkids to someday think of me as ‘just a doctor.’” Just a doctor. He was never just a doctor – he was our dad.  He was the one who took us all over Europe, drove cross country with us twice, spent countless hours all over Israel with us, took us whitewater rafting several times, took us to countless shows on Broadway, etc.  How in the world did he think he would ever be remembered as “just a doctor?”

His need to always be more – a better doctor, a better researcher, a professor, a better dad, an Iron Man – will always be my inspiration.  I wasn’t just a teacher.  I’m not just a marketing support specialist.  I’m a mom, a sister, a friend, and many people’s support system, but I still want to be more.  I want to push myself to run more, and longer distances.  I want to complete a marathon in each month someday.  I want to raise a happy, well-adjusted daughter, and, no matter my career, I want to excel.

My dad died less than six months after completing his last Iron Man. It was an incredibly tragic accident. At his funeral and memorial services, several of his patients and coworkers stepped forward to share not only what a great doctor he was, but what an inspiration he was; he pushed patients to heal and do more with their lives (go to school, finish school, have children, get their dream jobs, etc). Even to them he was never “just a doctor,” but, though he had inspired so many, he died thinking that being an Iron Man was what he needed to do so that his grandkids wouldn’t remember him as “just a doctor.” I wish we had taken the time before he died to tell him how much more he was, but more so, I hope that his drive to always be better remains an inspiration not just to his family but to those with which he interacted regularly. 

If you happen to think of Meir, I hope that you will think of what he would have pushed you to do – the goals he would have pushed you to achieve.  Don’t think of his tragic end.  Don’t think of what could have been.  Think of what CAN BE for you instead.

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