The ticket that changed my life
Jeff Dauler (front) works out with his teammates and Dr. Sanjay Gupta on the Atlanta Hawks practice court.
February 13th, 2012
02:18 PM ET

The ticket that changed my life

Editor's Note: Jeff Dauler, a radio host from Atlanta, Georgia, is one of seven CNN viewers selected to be a part of the Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge program.  Each athlete receives all the tools necessary to train for and compete in the Nautica Malibu Triathlon this September, alongside Dr. Sanjay Gupta.  The seven athletes met up two weeks ago in Atlanta for the official kickoff of the program.

It was a day or two after kick-off weekend, and I finally had a few minutes to tidy up my house. The week or two prior were the types of weeks where everything falls into the "I'll get to it next week" category, so there was a fair amount of clutter to tackle.

I started at my desk and began opening mail, sorting receipts, filing paperwork, discarding trash. I came across the ticket to the Atlanta Hawks game that I attended with my new CNN Fit Nation triathlon family, and I quickly tossed it into the wastebasket beneath my desk.

I've been working in radio almost two decades. I've attended enough concerts, events, and games to fill multiple photo albums with used tickets. I don't keep them.

But a short time later, I dug this crumpled ticket out and flattened it between my hands. When I held it, it didn't feel the same as all the others.

This was different, this one was earned. It was so much more than admission to Philips Arena for a professional NBA game. It wasn't handed to me as a requirement or perk of my job, it was a reward for committing to race in a triathlon and to improve my life. It was the payment for the hour I spent with my teammates, coaches and Dr. Gupta on the Hawks practice court that afternoon clumsily running basketball drills.

It was compensation for the soreness I had in places I won't identify here, even though I was wearing padded bike shorts.

As I traced the edges of the ticket with my fingers and thought back over the past 48 hours, I was overcome with a flood of appreciation. I began to really understand the decision that I made to complete the triathlon and the impact it will have on my health.

I started thinking about the listeners of my radio show and followers of my journey at CNN.com and appreciated not only their messages of support, but also the positive influence I am having on many of them. I looked at the floor, where I had arranged all the gear given to us by CNN and was overwhelmed at all they were doing to insure our success.

I thought of my teammates, my new family.

I thought of the pure joy and excitement Nancy had for the entire Hawks experience - the practice and the game. How happy she was just to be in that moment and how she couldn't wait to share it with her son. She commented to me at one point about being in such a dark place last spring, and such a great, bright place right now. They were just words that night, but in reflection, they have been cause for me to appreciate my own bright spots, especially in comparison to the darker times.

I remembered Rick, who discovered hummus while he was in Atlanta and was so excited to see it on the menu at lunch. When was the last time I took something as simple as a taste, and really felt happiness at being able to enjoy it?

Food has been a social experience for me, mainly. But it's more than that. It smell and texture and relaxation and new adventures. What other simple things am I dismissing by just doing that I can more completely enjoy?

I looked down at my healthy limbs and thought of Denise, who could do that just a few years ago but lost one of her legs while doing something she loved. I take my body for granted, because no disease or accident will harm me, right?

All of us are just a moment away from a from a body that doesn't operate properly. Because most never have to deal with that reality, we take it for granted. I put my hands on both of my legs and said a silent prayer of thanks, and I also made a promise to continue to do all I could to improve my health to guard against and prepare for disease or illness.

I thought of my close friends and family, and how vital their support has been as I began this triathlon journey. As I reflected on the past couple years of my life and all the changes, I realized they've been through all that with me, often getting nothing in return.

But they were and are at my side, and I am so completely comforted by that. Suddenly, I hold them in a new regard. I think about each and every person individually, and why they are so important to me. I take a moment and treasure the relationship I have with every one of them, and vow to never overlook their importance.

I had expectations going into kick-off weekend. I knew I would be making friends, trying different things, physically pushing myself. 

I thought I would walk away with a list of exercises and foods and memories with new people. I was prepared for all that. But I never even considered such an overwhelming adjustment in my self.

My texture has changed. I see differently, I touch differently. I feel differently. It's as though I am living my life now through my heart or soul, and not just in my mind. I can't adequately describe it, and I wish every person can find it. Look for it ... it's hidden right in front of you.

I've taped that Hawks ticket to my bathroom mirror. It serves as a reminder every single morning that every moment - good and bad - is a gift to be thankful for.

This journey is changing me in ways that I could never even imagine. It's making me a different person, and I can't wait to see what's next.

soundoff (37 Responses)
  1. PJ

    Congratulations on your journey!

    February 13, 2012 at 15:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Mr. Turdstool

    It's the Golden Ticket, Charlie! The Golden Ticket!

    Now, gimmie it, or I will naw at your toes! Numnumnumnumnum!

    Bwhahahahahaha! The South is avenged!

    February 13, 2012 at 15:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Rick Morris

    Jeff, I'm so fortunate to have met you and am truly grateful you are part of the team. I look forward to seeing you in May with the rest of us soon to be triathletes. CNN is truly an outstanding organization and have some the most professional people I've ever witnessed. We are the lucky 7, no doubt about it... Oh, and I love humus!

    February 13, 2012 at 16:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Cecil

    Fat people are funny – they do an hour of exercise, then think they deserve a medal.

    That's why they are fat.

    February 13, 2012 at 16:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tearlag

      Blowing out someone's candle, does not make yours burn brighter.

      February 14, 2012 at 11:28 | Report abuse |
    • Chase

      haha, it's true

      February 16, 2012 at 14:22 | Report abuse |
    • Hannah


      February 21, 2012 at 12:34 | Report abuse |
    • Sara

      You are a sad human. Get out of your mom's basement and go do something that will make you feel good about yourself instead of beating up others.

      February 21, 2012 at 20:26 | Report abuse |
  5. Nancy Klinger

    Jeff, thanks for this amazing blog. I am so looking forward to taking this journey my our new family.

    February 13, 2012 at 17:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. ilana

    awesome blog, Jeff !!!

    February 13, 2012 at 17:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Tonia Powell Baird

    Jeff, I am so proud of you! Thanks for letting us go along for the ride. What an inspiration you are!

    February 13, 2012 at 21:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Kay

    Omg jeff is this really you???? Best of luck and congratuulations!

    February 14, 2012 at 07:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Kay

    Shut up cecil. Anyone can lose weight but you will always be a jerk.

    February 14, 2012 at 07:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. This is you

    I read the whole story from beginning to end... and I am still uncertain of what that was about. Usually when something is written and given to the world to read on CNN it is clear what is being written about, this isn't. What the hell are you talking about?!?!?!

    February 14, 2012 at 13:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • September

      the rest of us got it ARE YOU STUPID OR SOMETHING LOL........

      February 14, 2012 at 18:14 | Report abuse |
    • HELLO??

      How can you NOT get what this is about? I clearly got it and even teary eyed! Especially if you listen to him on the radio it gives it stronger meaning! You can read and hear the spiritual growth he has taken in! Very impressed!

      February 24, 2012 at 12:14 | Report abuse |
  11. Tommy

    The post was very thoughtful – and very true. Six months ago I took the simple things for granted – walking down the steps – playing with my three young children and even the simple act a turning over in bed – but being struck with ALS has changed all of the life I've known. Yes – ALS is a life sentence that happens to people without warning – to seemingly healthy people – and it makes the simple hard and ultimately ends life. I share this as I look back and really know what I'm greatful for in life – family – friends and faith. So thanks for your post and you are right – take a moment and thank God for what we can do today – I know I am thankful I can still hug my kids and tell my family how much I love them – I will not always be able to do these thing as ALS will stop me from doing any of these things. So please be grateful for what you have today and don't waste your time – your tomorrow's are not for sure under your control. Thanks for your thoughtful post.

    February 14, 2012 at 20:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. USA


    February 15, 2012 at 06:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Christina Bell

    So PROUD of you Jeff!!!! And thank you for allowing us to experience this journey with you! Keep up the Awesome work!

    February 15, 2012 at 16:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Nichole

    Jeff, thanks for putting your emotions out on the table and sharing them with us (complete strangers, listeners to Q100). May your journey continue to be an eye opening, mind-blowing experience. Here's to wishing you much success in the months ahead, to your new life and new you!!!

    February 15, 2012 at 17:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Celia

    I read your article about your upcoming challenge with the Fit Nation Triathlon. My daughter, Alison., works for the Atlanta Hawks in the P.R. department. She forwarded the article to me in California. I wish you the very best on your journey to better health. Alison inspires me every day to consistently exercise and strive for a healthier lifestyle. She walks the walk. Good Luck!

    February 15, 2012 at 23:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Atlanta Hawks Tickets

    Jeff thanks for sharing some nice article about the nation health concerns. I wish you all the best for your all the endeavors.

    February 16, 2012 at 06:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Danielle

    I am super proud of you Jeff! We love you in Atlanta. There will always be some riffraff commenting on these posts but you mean something to me and all my friends that have listened to you on the Bert Show. Very proud of you and glad to hear your progress.

    February 21, 2012 at 21:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Kimberley

    Amazing and very well thought out article. I like reading not just the clinical information, but the thoughts and emotions you go through, as well. A lot of us facing life changes wonder if others think or feel the way we do or if we are in it alone. I am loving this validation! Thanks!! And I wish you continued success.

    February 21, 2012 at 21:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Juanse

    Gotta love the freedom to own guns!!! This isn't lalotty the Land of the Free but it's got its advantages. It's just a shame too many people screw up advantages like by blowing people away with guns. If anyone's anti-gun they also ought to be anti-baseball bat 'cause those kill people, too. So do cars. And box cutters... if anyone's anti-gun they sure as heck ought to be anti-car 'cause that can be used as a weapon and ought to also be anti-box cutter 'cause even worse than using a car to murder someone a box cutter can be used to help turn a jetliner into a missile.yes, yes, we surely ought to ban cars and baseball bats and box cutters in this America, just as guns ought to be banned. they can all be used as a weapon to kill from one person to almost 3,000. Let's take away our freedom to own shoes with shoelaces which can be used to strangle a person. I am hereby calling on all Senators to see this through. In fact, why don't we all lock ourselves up in our own personal jails with no physical interaction at all because afterall, one's hands can be used as a deadly weapon, too.

    April 8, 2012 at 14:24 | Report abuse | Reply
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About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.