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On 22 Mar 2016, in

Surprise Illness Inspires Kirksville Man To Lead Others Toward Health

By Jacob Luecke

Jeff Bergman’s life is dedicated to living and working at his fullest potential — and helping others do the same. His background in the arenas of public speaking and human potential has positioned him to inspire individuals and organizations to create a culture of greatness.

It’s more than a job; it’s a way of life. Jeff studies the messages of today’s leading empowerment coaches. He’s filled the walls of his Kirksville home with positive, inspiring messages that continually remind him to push himself forward and find new ways to improve.

With this aggressive attention to self-improvement, perhaps it’s natural that he overlooked something small that almost derailed everything.

It started in 2011, when Jeff was 41. He had noticed what would later be diagnosed as a tumor that metastasized during a six-month period.

“I thought, ‘I’ll let it go,’” he says. “I’ll work through it.’”

Over time, the situation became more difficult to ignore as the symptoms reached a higher level of intensity. However, Jeff continued to avoid seeking medical treatment.

“It was very painful, but I suffered through it,” Jeff says. “I went through about six months like that. I’m not proud about it.”

His worsening condition became impossible to avoid; one day, Jeff collapsed while walking. Finally, he called his doctor.

An ultrasound and CT scan at his local hospital led to Jeff’s diagnosis of testicular cancer. He sought treatment at Boone Hospital Center from David Schlossman, MD, of Missouri Cancer Associates.

A PET scan at Boone Hospital revealed that Jeff was suffering from stage three cancer. The diagnosis was devastating. Jeff was overwhelmed because he knew his apathy toward his symptoms had contributed to this dangerous situation.

“My life immediately turned upside down,” Jeff says. “I researched it on the Internet and I was finding things out that I didn’t want to. I thought I was going to die. I thought, ‘This is it.’”

Despite his years of work at peak performance and personal mastery, he realized the solution to this new crisis could not manifest on its own. He knew he needed help, so he turned his future over to Dr. Schlossman and the care team at Boone Hospital.

Jeff quickly was scheduled for surgery to have the tumor removed and begin the first of three aggressive chemotherapy rounds.

“I remember the first time I went to chemotherapy,” he says. “The thing that I was anticipating most was the first drip. It was like, ‘Here we go.’”

During his treatment, Jeff says he was impressed by everyone he met — from his nurses, to his transporter and the employees at the hospital’s front desk. Everyone treated him with compassion and warmth.

“It made a big, big difference,” he says. “I am a Boone Hospital fanatic.”

He has special praise for Dr. Schlossman’s professionalism, knowledge, and communication style. 

“He is a professional, and I respect that immensely,” Jeff says. “He didn’t coddle me, and I didn’t want to be coddled.”

Chemotherapy worked, and Jeff soon learned he was cancer-free. However, he was about to face a new challenge. 

During one of his chemo sessions, Jeff suddenly noticed his vision was warping, and he couldn’t raise his left hand. Within hours, the situation worsened. He developed a throbbing headache and began seeing black and white spots he likened to the pattern of a cow.

Before long, he was in the emergency department at Boone Hospital Center where he learned he had suffered a stroke. While he was recovering from his stroke, sudden cardiac arrest caused him to develop issues with his heart, and Jeff had to have a pacemaker installed.

Dr. Schlossman says these kinds of complications are very rare and unexpected in a patient Jeff’s age.

“While I was quite concerned, I always thought that careful and thorough management of each of his problems would bring him through to a good recovery,” he says. “The most important steps were listening to Jeff’s description of his symptoms, examining him, running the appropriate tests and following the data where it led us, even when the correct diagnosis was very surprising. With the help of a good neurologist, Dr. Joel Shenker, and a good cardiologist, Dr. David Brown, we were able to provide effective treatments for each of his problems. Jeff also helped himself by having faith we could help him get well and putting in a super effort during his rehabilitation therapy.”

The treatment plan worked and Jeff recovered. His journey toward health also changed the course of his life, for worse and for better. Jeff lost his home and car during his illness. He is also blind in one eye because of the stroke. But through it all, he’s remained determined to turn his experiences into something positive.

In 2014, he launched WellnessTide as a pathway to help individuals and organizations reach full potential through cultural transformation and healthy habits. Jeff uses his personal story as a peak performance coach and empowerment speaker just like those who inspired him while he managed their speaking engagements. He is credentialed as a Corporate Wellness Coach and currently is pursuing certifications in both Health and Stress Management Coaching.

His trademark presentation, “My Perfect Storm,” chronicles his journey as he battled late-stage cancer, stroke and sudden cardiac arrest simultaneously.

Jeff’s aggressive pursuit of optimal health yielded big dividends. He lost 90 pounds at the request of his medical team at Boone Hospital. “My physicians told me to act immediately, adopt a steady pace and enjoy the benefits,” he says.

“This is one of the best things that have ever happened to me because it allowed me to look at life in a whole different way,” Jeff says. “I have more of a purpose now than I did before. My goal is to empower people for longevity and fulfilling their dreams.”

Dr. Schlossman said it’s valuable for patients like Jeff to share their stories.

“Jeff overcame great challenges during his cancer treatment and went on to become a cancer survivor with excellent quality of life,” he says. “His story is an inspiration for other patients, providing hope that they too can overcome great obstacles and return to good health and a happy life.”

Dr. Schlossman said Jeff’s recovery “means everything.

“For most physicians, forming good relationships with their patients and helping patients achieve the best possible outcomes are the most satisfying and fulfilling aspects of medical practice,” he says.

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