Advice from My Dad: “Be an Ameri-CAN and not an Ameri-CAN’T!”

Advice from My Dad: “Be an Ameri-CAN and not an Ameri-CAN’T!”

By Tim E. Renzelmann

In the last issue of this update I referenced a lesson my dad often espouses: “You are an Ameri-CAN, not an Ameri-CAN’T!” It is a light-hearted but meaningful phrase as it directs our attention and energy on what we CAN do and not what we CAN’T as we figure out a way!

It is a lesson we are given opportunity to learn time and time again. An injury may lead to either short-term or lifelong limitations. A diagnosis and subsequent treatment may result in temporary or permanent side effects. A few more birthdays may gradually reduce your ability to run as fast or jump as high or play with the same strength and agility of prior days. A global pandemic may result in temporary lock-down as well as permanent social changes.

Things will happen that will prevent us from doing what we want to do, what we once did or what we may have hoped to someday do.

The secret to “Being an Ameri-CAN and not an Ameri-CAN’T” seems rather simple. When you come to the realization that there is something you CAN’T DO... simply think of one thing, or better yet two or more things, that you CAN DO (if not in the same way... in a different way)!!!

Here is a list of what I consider to meaningful “Can Do’s” amidst COVID-19! Over the next few updates, I will pick a few and share a few thoughts and, of course, I welcome your comments along the way!


1. Maintain/Develop a Healthy Routine

2. Focus on the Present

3. Nurture Meaningful Relationships

4. Strengthen Social Connections

5. Exercise Your Body

6. Express Gratitude

7. Appreciate Nature

8. Perform Random Acts of Kindness

9. Play, Laugh & Have Fun

10. Learn Something New

11. Find Balanced Variety

12. Finish What You Started


    Whether from COVID-19 or cancer (or a combination of the two)... many of our routines have been disrupted: How we work, how we socialize, how we perform daily tasks like shopping and eating and simply walking down the street! I have found it beneficial to preserve as much of my routine as I can and re-establish new routine(s) to replace those that have been disrupted. Aristotle was credited with suggesting “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Healthy and productive habits and routines must be well thought out, specific to the individual and often involves focusing not on what you want to do or don’t want to do but what is best for you to do!


    I have had to adjust our planned Survive, Thrive & Be Fit activities as a result of COVID-19... but there are still plenty of options. Consider FINISHING the ST&BF Cumulative 5K, 10K, Half Marathon, Marathon Run/Walk or the Cumulative Bike Ride. Join us for ST&BF VIRTUAL Gentle Yoga for Cancer Survivor Sessions. Take part in our upcoming outing to the Christopher Farm & Gardens on Sunday, June 7th and Wednesday, June 17th during which we will take precautions to allow for a safe environment while allowing participation in a variety of activities including the “Survivorship Through the Lens” photo-taking opportunity, an outdoor “Gentle Yoga for Cancer Survivors” session, marked course for the “Steps to Survivorship” Cumulative walk/run... or just wander this wonderfully healing property on your own. Advance registration is required. See attached for details.

    On a personal note, my current exercise routine is focused on running. Admittedly, I have added an extra level of awareness to my own running routine. I choose both times and locations that are less populated, I allow for extra space when running past people I meet along the way and I haven’t run with any of my running buddies since this all began because, in my opinion, it is simply not wise to run side-by-side in a group at this time. But I am a social creature and my connections are important to me.

    I think we can find activities to be enjoyed safely in small groups. I, along with a couple of my “Brat City Training Club” buddies (Odie Brat & Doc Brat) have resurrected an interest in disc golf! It is an activity that is conducive to social distancing. It is outdoors. It is low intensity activity that that does not produce a high “minute ventilation rate” (a.k.a., “huffing and puffing”). And we tee off at sunrise when we are often the only ones out on the course. Perhaps most importantly, we all embrace a thoughtful awareness of the circumstances and respect one another’s individual health, safety and comfort levels.

    There is plenty we CAN’T (and shouldn’t) do as long as COVID-19 is a risk for individuals in our community. There are also things we CAN do while considering what we continue to learn about this virus and keeping the safety of one another as our guiding principle.


    Just minutes before starting one of our VIRTUAL TLC Survivorship Can Be Fun Game Gatherings last week, during which we played our own version of “Card Sharks” (a television gameshow I recall from the late 1970s) I received a notification on my phone about an article titled, “The Power of Games and Play During Times of Crisis.” You can read the article here:

    The article reflects on the many benefits of play beyond simply being a helpful distraction. Playing games can “reactivate” brain circuitry during times of anxiety because the player is “constantly trying to predict positive outcomes to win – whether deciding which word will get you the most points in Scrabble or building your perfect village in Animal Crossing.” And, according to Jane McGonical, game designer, researcher and creator of the mental health app SuperBetter, the “delight and positive anticipation” experienced through play “ignites the dopamine receptors in your brain, making your brain confident in the belief that good things can happen.” She concludes, “It fosters hope!”

    Come join us during June’s VIRTUAL TLC Survivorship Can Be Fun sessions that will include another “Just for the Fun of It” workshop with “Bob the Builder” Hartig. Last month Bob guided us in building a “Vortex Cannon” using everyday materials and that we than used to try and knock over a house of cards.

    As I look forward to what Bob has in store for us in June... I find myself adding to this list of CAN DO things!

    13. Have Something to Look Forward To!


      There are, indeed, many benefits one can glean from a “living in the present moment” philosophy. But when we find ourselves in a less-than-ideal present moment, looking into the future can be helpful. Studies suggest that anticipating a pleasurable situation can offer the discipline and motivation we need to persevere through difficult times.

      Schedule or plan something that is fun and enjoyable; a new hobby, a new skill, a new experience, a new goal. Develop occasional or regular rituals to commemorate positive experiences or accomplishments. Identify and look forward to and celebrate those occasions.

      Okay... one more! And I promise to stop here (at least for now)!

      14. Pay Attention


        If you got this far and are still “paying attention,” good for you! To enter your name in a drawing for a $25 gift card click on the below link and e-mail the 12-letter word related to the feeling Looking forward to something to

        NOTE: Congratulations to Kathy Burch who whose name was picked from about twenty readers who were "paying attention"!!! :-)

        Newsletter Sign-up