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What Troy "Really" Taught Me

My Personal Tribute To Troy Fenton (October 8, 1974 - September 20, 2013)

Troy Fenton, now of blessed memory, was friend, teacher, and inspiration to me. To countless others as well, including his beloved family: kids, Tammy and Matt; heroic wife, Janet (who resolutely stood by him every day, through every challenge, and every heartache of his relentless, painful illness); his parents, siblings, and other members of his extended family. But, as Janet once said of Troy, “He never met any person who was not a friend or like family."

Troy passed away exactly 2 years ago, at age 38, of multiple myeloma, a form of leukemia that is rare in young people, and for which medical science still has no cure-- a fact of which Troy was well aware.

Troy dealt with this disease, its brutal treatments, and its never-ending complications thereof for almost a decade. His stoicism, faith, and optimism were truly wondrous to behold.

Troy was my friend, teacher, and sensai from mid 2007 (when I first met him, shortly after I had moved to Burlington) until a few weeks before his death in 2013. (By that time, I had been a Springfield, IL, resident for four years; but I still made frequent trips to B-Town to take lessons from Troy. Always well-worth the drives.)

There were frequent interruptions in the sessions due to Troy’s illness, but I was an attentive student who made good progress. Given my personal schedule, I was on-track to gain black belt status some time in 2014— something that would have been quite meaningful to me, as Troy’s MMA system of Jeet Kune Do (“Way of the intercepting fist”) was intellectually and physically detailed and rigorous. No level attained or degree received from Troy was ever a rubber-stamp one. With Troy, you learned and earned, no matter how long it took.

As all students of Troy will attest, Troy was a superior practitioner and teacher of all MMA’s myriad elements. Every one who paid attention to Troy learned a lot of MMA. I certainly did. And that alone would have been quite enough. But there was something even more significant that Troy taught me.

There were during these six years that I knew Troy as both friend and teacher some elements of my life that were troubling to me. I often felt sorry for myself, as I daily ruminated on my mis-steps and losses. Then, literally on the day that Troy passed on to “The World To Come,” I had the revelation that it was not just MMA that Troy had taught me. The real lessons were the “ways” he, himself, had handled his own painful struggles that I now summarize in these words:

"Never complain. Never say 'woe is me' or 'why me!' Just face square-up to the difficult situation at hand and deal with it, as often as is necessary.”

In other words, “Be Like Troy!"

That’s it! THAT’s what Troy really taught me. Much more than just MMA. Once I processed this revelation, I immediately “got over” my self-flagellations and ruminations. These have not really bothered me since then. These do pop up often enough, perhaps even on most days. But I deal with them by the use of my special mantra: “Be Like Troy!” “Be like Troy!” is an inspiration that reduces them back to abstractions that are no longer very troublesome.

So, on his second anniversary of death, let’s remember this beautiful and remarkable man. May all of us “Be like Troy!”

Until sooner Eli Goodman, MD

September 13, 2015

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