Endurance Cartel Podcast

Endurance Cartel

#005 – SWAT Negotiator & Cancer Fighter – Terry Tucker on Mental Endurance

Cancer Fighter Terry Tucker

Terry Tucker is a sought-after motivational speaker, former SWAT negotiator and cancer fighter who believes in the power of a good story to inspire people to live their uncommon and extraordinary lives to the fullest.

After a cruel diagnosis of cancer that robbed him of his left leg, Terry started his true story of endurance. In 2019, he created the “Motivational Check” website, and a membership program meant to help others face and work through their fears.

Later on, in 2020, Terry wrote “Sustainable Excellence: Ten Principles To Leading Your Uncommon And Extraordinary Life”. This book is meant to answer the three basic questions that can lead people to live their best life: “What is excellence, how do you achieve it, and most importantly, how do you sustain it?”

Join Javier Pineda in this new episode of The Endurance Cartel, and listen to Terry as he shares some unique experiences from his time in the Cincinnati police department as a SWAT Negotiator, what inspired him to become a motivational speaker and use his story to empower others and how his love for his family became the incentive in his fight for life. 

Growing up in a loving family with a predestined passion for basketball

When you grow up in Chicago, basketball inherently becomes part of your life. 

With schools rich in history related to basketball and fabulous teams that have their origin in this city, there’s no denying that in Chicago, basketball is not just a sport, but a legacy.

So for Terry, who grew up in the South area of Chicago, basketball was truly a family affair.

“I’m six-eight, I’ve got a brother, six-seven, a brother six-six, and my dad was six-five. But our five-foot-eight-inch mother was the boss. And, I always joke that if you sat behind our family in church, growing up, there’s not a prayer’s chance you were going to see anything that was going on.” 

During those happy childhood years, Terry learned the true meaning of family.

“I really think my parents showed us the value and the importance of family. We were always there to support and care for each other and love each other. And I really feel incredibly fortunate to have the kind of upbringing that I’ve had.”

Dreaming of enrolling in law enforcement and his father’s opposition

When Terry first expressed his interest in going into law enforcement he met with his father’s disapproval. And that wasn’t much of a surprise, considering that his grandfather, a Chicago police officer, was killed in the line of duty when Terry’s father was just an infant.

“My father was absolutely not! You’re gonna go to college, you’re gonna major in business, you’re gonna get out, get a great job, you know, get married, have 2.4 kids and live happily ever after.”

And despite feeling that that was his true passion and purpose in life, Terry respected his father’s wishes and put his dreams on hold.

“So I had a choice. When I graduated from college, my father was dying of cancer and I could have said, sorry dad, I’m gonna go blaze my own trail and do my own thing or out of love and respect for you, I will do what you want me to do. And so if you look at my resume, my first two jobs are in, basically the corporate life. I sort of joke I did what every good son did. I waited till my father passed away, followed my dreams, and got into law enforcement.”

Joining Cincinnati police department as a SWAT negotiator

After many attempts to live the life his father had envisioned for him, Terry decided to finally start building the life that he wanted. 

When his daughter was born, he relocated his family to Cincinnati. There, he joined the Cincinnati Police Department as a Hostage SWAT negotiator.

“SWAT is usually divided into two groups,” says Terry. “One is the tactical team and those are the men and women with all the neat toys and the guns and all that kind of stuff. Then there are the negotiators. And if the negotiators do, their job right, then all the people on the tactical side don’t get to use all their toys and things like that.” 

As a SWAT negotiator, he had to possess the ability to listen and empathize with people from all walks of life. 

“The overarching theme in SWAT for us as negotiators was trust. We had to develop trust with this individual who we knew nothing about.”

I never lost my cool, but there were times when certain people were trying to push your buttons. One time we were negotiating with a 15-year-old boy who had barricaded himself in a house, with a gun. And we had done everything we could think of to get this kid out, and he would not budge. We started brainstorming what can we do. What haven’t we done? And somebody said: He’s 15 years old, he’s a kid. Let’s scare him! We decided to have the tactical team break a window and throw in a flash-bang device, which basically produces a very loud sound and a very bright light. Within 10 minutes, he was out.”

In the end, the decision to end a situation was in the hands of the person he was negotiating with.

“90% of the time we got the people out. 10% of the time, they chose to end their life. While that was always tragic, I don’t mean to sound cruel about this, but I never lost any sleep over it. I knew I did the very best I could to get the person out.”

Terry’s cancer fighter story

In 2012 a diagnosis of cancer started what was going to become Terry’s story as a cancer fighter.

“I spent five years on a drug (Interferon) that gave me severe flu-like symptoms. And that was not a cure for my cancer. That was just to buy time to give me more opportunities for additional therapies to be developed.”

In 2018, Terry lost his left foot. In 2020, right in the middle of the pandemic, he was dealt another blow. The tumour fractured his left tibia, and Terry had to have his left leg amputated above the knee.

“At that point in my life, winning the day for me meant winning five minutes. Sometimes winning the day meant getting out of bed and getting to the couch where I was gonna spend the rest of the day.”

“There was a time when I was in the emergency room. I had a blood clot in my lung and fluid around the sack of my heart. I felt like I was having a heart attack. And I remember looking at my wife and saying, please, just let me go. Just let me die. How selfish was that of me at that point in my life?”

“You would fight harder for the people you love than you would fight for yourself”

If there is one thing that Terry learned is that your family’s love gives you the strength to battle everything. And in his journey as a cancer fighter, his family was the incentive that kept him going.

“I remember when I had my leg amputated, my doctor wanted to start me on chemotherapy. I looked at him and I was like, is it gonna save my life? He was like, hmm, probably not, but it might buy you some more time. And I said, you know, if the outcome’s gonna be the same, I don’t think I want to do this.”

While talking to his wife and daughter, he realised that his life was not only his own. His family who cared for him every step of the way was not ready for him to give up.

” My daughter, she’s like, we need to have a family meeting. I’m like, a family meeting? There’s just the three of us. It’s not like we got a board here or something like that, you know? “

So we end up sitting around the kitchen table and individually talking about how we felt about me having chemotherapy. And then my daughter’s like, all right, let’s take a vote. How many people want dad to have chemotherapy? And my wife and daughter raised their hands. I’m like, wait a minute, am I getting outvoted for something I don’t want to do?

And I remembered when I was in the police academy, our defensive tactics instructor used to have us bring a photograph of the people we love most to class. And as we were learning to defend ourselves, we were to look at that photograph because he reasoned, you will fight harder for the people you love than you will fight for yourself.”

Becoming a motivational speaker and writing his first book

So he continued to fight. And most importantly, he found the courage to share his story and empower others to face their fears.

“It was actually people that were saying to me, you should tell your story,” says Terry about the reason behind his decision to become a motivational speaker.

In 2019, he created the “Motivational Check” website. Later on, in 2020 he wrote “Sustainable Excellence: Ten Principles To Leading Your Uncommon And Extraordinary Life”. Both were Terry’s way of helping others discover and live their uncommon and extraordinary purpose.

“Cancer can’t touch my mind, it can’t touch my heart, and it can’t touch my soul,” says Terry. “I don’t work on my body as much. It’s much more difficult for me, especially with my continued treatments and stuff like that. But I do work on my mind. I do work on my heart and I do work on my soul. Every single day. And I do that by doing things that are difficult. I recommend that anybody that’s listening to us do one thing every day. It doesn’t have to be a big thing. But a thing that scares you, that makes you nervous and that is potentially embarrassing. Because if you do those small things every day, when the big disasters in life hit you, and they hit all of us, you’ll be so much more resilient to handle those things.”

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