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Positivity - From Army Officer, To Cancer Survivor, To Doctor

Surround yourself with positive people, and soon you will find joy, happiness and hope in all situations. - COL (R) Troy Prairie, MD


“It will never work.”


“I really don’t think it’s possible.”


“Never going to happen my friend.”


Or would you rather surround yourself with……


“It can be done.”


“It’s not going to be easy, but we’ll figure it out.”


“Yes Sir, we are on it.”


George Washington at the Delaware, Eisenhower on D-day, or even Patton’s famous 100 mile march to Bastogne signify the power of Positivity. Character is not defined by our actions in times of peace and tranquility; rather, it is the result of our efforts when everything seems hopeless. In the darkest hours, true leaders rise up like a beacon of light and inspire others to follow and succeed.


There is a saying in military medicine that we have to “figure out a way to get to ‘yes’”. When dealing with a Code Blue or soldier Bleeding-Out on a battlefield, no one – but especially the patient – wants to hear why the plan will not work. Adversity is everywhere. Obstacles block all paths forward. There is a story of a medic who found himself on the battlefield with a soldier gasping his last breath of life secondary to a traumatic pneumothorax. Several folks watched helplessly without the proper equipment to decompress the trapped air in the lung. Focusing on what can be done, the veteran medic pulled out his pen, jabbed it through the rib cage, and pulled out the guts of the pen leaving the surrounding tube to relieve the air. Positive thinking -- Life saved!

As a Doctor for many years, I have to impart bad news all too often. Experience has taught me that patients want the truth, and they certainly do not want me to sugar coat it. However, no matter how grim there is always a way to focus on the things we can do. “Here is our plan moving forward”, “this is what we can do to treat the pain”, and “what does your faith say about these times.” Recovery from Stage IV melanoma or ALS is statistically not in our favor – though focusing on what can and should be done with your remaining time is the way a positive thinker moves forward.


Many of the greatest people throughout history understood the importance of being positive. Thomas Edison was once asked by a reporter, "How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?" Edison replied, "I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps."


Abraham Lincoln famously failed countless times in business, politics and life; however, his endless positive nature propelled him to keep trying in the face of endless adversity. In fact, our 16th President was once quoted as saying, “Success is going from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.” Surround yourself with negativity, and soon you will think and act in a hopeless manner. Surround yourself with positive people, and soon you will find joy, happiness and hope in all situations.

Troy Prairie is the epitome of Positivity in life. He kept me (Dave) smiling through four hard years at West Point. Later in life, he successfully battled cancer. Inspired by his physicians, he decided to become a military doctor after already serving his five year commitment in the combat arms. He deployed to Iraq as an Army doctor and served another 20 plus years caring for our men and women in uniform.

Troy understands the definition of Positivity - displaying a positive attitude and “can do” attitude in all circumstances. His honest yet positive words to me while my mom was dying, were the salve I needed at that critical moment in my life. He is one of my best friends and someone everyone can count on to lift them up - in all circumstances!

Colonel (retired) Troy Prairie is a West Point graduate and decorated veteran of the War on Terror. But, what he is most passionate about is his wife, Shannon and the life they have with their four boys. Oh yeah…he’s also a fan of the Minnesota Vikings.



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