TOUGH TALKS – Resilience Beyond Measure: Jeff Nyce’s Remarkable Journey with Terminal Illnesses

In this episode of Tough Talks, we have back with us a truly remarkable guest, Jeff Nyce, a retired SWAT team commander and a two-time survivor of terminal illnesses. Despite being diagnosed with his third terminal illness ALS also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, Jeff continues to choose to live and embrace a positive mindset as he keeps pushing forward.

Jeff’s story teaches us that Mental Toughness is about creating from all circumstances, even those most would consider tragic. He has overcome the odds twice, and is looking to make it three times now as he continues to choose to live every day.

Due to his physical limitations, we have utilized artificial intelligence to recreate his voice and convey his powerful message. Join us as Jeff shares his insights on the mind-body relationship, the importance of exercise, and the factors that contribute to sustained health in the face of a devastating diagnosis. Prepare to be inspired by Jeff’s incredible resilience and determination.

Get Jeff’s Book: Failure’s Not An Option 

Here is the AI-generated transcript of the whole podcast:

Jeff Nyce: [00:00:00] Life is about choices. I believe that, absent tragedy, we often create our own problems through poor choices. I also believe that, in life, you get what you expect. I expected to survive my first two terminal diseases, even though I was told my life expectancy was two years or less. I’m applying the same to ALS.

When faced with terminal diseases, you have a choice to make. Wait to die, or choose to live.

Most of us

Chris Dorris: never learned how to train our brains, which is why most of us needlessly settle, struggle, and worse, suffer. My name is Chris Dorris, and I want to make brain training mainstream. This is my series, Tough Talks, conversations on mental toughness. I’m interviewing badasses from all walks of life on what mental toughness means to them and their unique approaches to strengthening their minds

Hey everyone, welcome back to tough talks conversations on mental toughness I’m your host Chris Doris and [00:01:00] before we get to our guest introduction today I’m going to take care of our housekeeping items If you are not getting the Daily Dose mental toughness tips in 30 seconds or less delivered to your email inbox every morning at about 6 a.

m. wherever you are on the planet, then let’s go fix that. You can go to ChristopherDorris. com backslash lists where you can actually sign up for my blog posts and notifications of these new podcast episodes. Or if you just want the Daily Dose, you go to ChristopherDorris. com backslash dd. Click and you get all the goodies.

Also, if you haven’t got your copy of my latest book, the book, the, we go with the, you know, like Ohio state university, they call themselves the Ohio state. Well, this is the book of mental toughness mantras, and you can get that on Amazon. So these are 52 powerful phrases that I’ve been using. [00:02:00] Over the last 30 years in my coaching with people helping them create excellence for themselves faster These are these are phrases that we can use to choose to fill our minds with to help us elevate State because the greater our state the greater we are but only always and only at everything so these are phrases that help us rapidly elevate state to accelerate the rate at which we Create our desires and create excellence, which of course we’re designed for.

This is a remarkable Remarkably Unique and special episode. I am extremely proud to be able to share this with you. Our guest today, his name is Jeff Nice. N Y C E. Jeff Nice. Jeff was on the podcast a couple years ago. Jeff is a retired SWAT team commander. He was a commander for 30 years. He conducted [00:03:00] 4, 500…

S. W. A. T. operations, including the, uh, the famous, was it October of 2002, for like over a three week period of time, it was the D. C. Sniper travesty, that he and his team ended. So he’ll talk about that at the very end of this episode. Now, here’s, here’s what’s going on. Jeff, um, was diagnosed, when we interviewed him two years ago, he had been diagnosed with two terminal illnesses, both of which he defeated.

He and I have stayed in very close touch. Jeff is a friend of mine now. And, uh, he has now since been diagnosed with ALS, which is Lou Gehrig’s disease. Terminal illness number… Jeff has, you know, we were planning on having him on, [00:04:00] and, uh, he lost his ability to speak. He literally is not physically capable of speaking anymore.

But he wanted to still contribute, and he reached out and said, I can still, I can write, you know, and I can share my thoughts. And I said, that is beautiful, man. Good on you. Wait, like, this guy’s, he’s like the Energizer buddy times a million. You know, it just doesn’t quit. And he’s gonna talk about that. Now, what happened was, Micah Gullar, who runs my professional life, who I affectionately refer to as Biggie, uh, and he runs all of this, okay, he had an idea.

He said, we could make it better than just a, uh, a text interview. So we can use AI, artificial intelligence, to recreate your voices. So we can write out what it is that we want to say, and then plug it into the software, [00:05:00] that will then mimic our voices. And I gotta tell ya, it’s pretty impressive. It’s obviously not perfect, as you’ll see, but damn, it’s good, you know, and it sounds just like Jeff, and I gotta admit, it sounds just like me.

Of course, inflection’s a little bit weird, and timing is weird, spacing of words, and, you know, this and that. Putting the wrong, putting the, the wrong emphasis on the wrong syllable, for example. But that adds a little bit of entertainment value. Plus we took some liberties. Actually, recommended by Jeff himself.

It was Jeff’s idea to put in some, you know, a little few, like, you know, comic relief clips where he’s, um, you know, being humble and self deprecating in a really light hearted and beautiful way. This took weeks and weeks and weeks to create because the technology’s new and we’re just learning it. And a lot of back and forth between Jeff and I and, and Biggie, uh, via email to, you know, to, to hammer out what is it that we really wanted to communicate and how to get it as close to perfect as [00:06:00] we could.

And we’ve done a pretty, we, I’m saying we, they have done a phenomenal job, least effort by far on this guy’s part. Uh, so I, I want to acknowledge, uh, Biggie for the, for the creative genius and for the level, the amount of time that you’ve put into this. And I. I totally want to acknowledge the most inspiring attitude ever on Jeff’s part, brother.

You are truly, every time I talk to you, I am positively inspired. And as I just listened to this, this episode again, before recording this intro, I’m moved brother to the core. I appreciate it. Love you, man. I’m so glad I know you. And thanks for, you know,

you thank, thank you for bringing your level of commitment and service to my [00:07:00] tough talks tribe and to me. Appreciate you, man. All right, let’s share the episode. So you’ve been diagnosed with a third terminal illness and You’ve beaten the previous two. You’re in an excellent position to elaborate on the mind and body relationship.

You also mentioned to me that you have done an enormous amount of research on ALS. What have you learned and how are you applying

Jeff Nyce: it? Your nerves die off. The muscles no longer function. I found a study that showed lifting weights and exercise can sometimes cause surviving nerves to reroute to nearby muscles and allow non functioning muscles to regain function.

For this reason, I train my entire body and lift five days a week. It appears to be working. I also saw online there are three FDA approved drugs for ALS and they only extend your life by three months and come with multiple negative side effects. I already have numerous negative side effects from 11 straight years of chemotherapy, including neuropathy in my hands and feet.

My thought is, why experience [00:08:00] more negative side effects to only extend my life by three months? One of those meds also uses the supplement Tuca in conjunction with its medication. Tuca is a bile salt and slows the loss of nerves with ALS. I was already taking Tugka along doxycycline to keep my cardiac amyloidosis in remission.

My previous dose was 750 milligrams a day with no negative side effects over 10 years. I have now upped it to 1000 milligrams twice a day specific to my ALS treatment. It is important to be a self advocate to help yourself. Another huge lesson learned is about exercise, which as I explained earlier, slows the progression of muscle loss with ALS.

What are some

Chris Dorris: other positively Influencing variables that contribute to sustained health when you’ve got a diagnosis

Jeff Nyce: like this. My wife is amazing. Words cannot convey her incredible support. Think of this. Two months after we were engaged in 2012, I was diagnosed with two terminal diseases, yet she still married me in 2014 with the knowledge our lifestyle would be [00:09:00] vastly restrictive because of my medical condition.

And this past January I was diagnosed with the third terminal disease, ALS. She does more things daily to help me than I can list, and she provides great comfort as my level of activity has become much more restricted. Also, I feel that, uh, if you believe in a higher power, it helps give you strength and can reinforce your mindset in tough times.

My higher power is the Lord Jesus Christ. One of my favorite

Chris Dorris: definitions of mental toughness is the ability to create from all circumstances, and that includes circumstances that most people would consider to be tragic. The probability of being diagnosed three times with a terminal illness must be minuscule.

How are you able to respond to that with such conviction and discipline, as podcast, for

Jeff Nyce: example? So when I first saw Dr. Gagne, I said, please determine this quickly. If I have ALS. If I do, don’t be afraid to tell me as we can’t change the truth. My thought was, if I did have ALS, sooner I knew, the sooner I [00:10:00] could plan life thereafter.

When Dr. Ghani confirmed my ALS diagnosis, I was not surprised. I took a deep breath and said to myself, It is now time to expand my survival plan as I have confirmation. I try to function like Spock on Star Trek and operate off logic instead of emotion. Logic gives you strength of mind. History is complete with turning points, Lieutenant.

Faith. Faith? That the universe will unfold. But is that logical? Surely we must. Logic. Logic. Logic. It is the beginning of wisdom, Valeris. Not the end. When told I had ALS, I looked at it as an opportunity. Someone must be the first to survive, so why not me? I’ve always believed that the greater the odds, the greater the opportunity.

This was further reaffirmed by former Navy SEAL and SWAT teammate, Rob Ulesny, who said, never rest on our achievements. We are only as good as our next operation. [00:11:00] I agree. My next operation is conquer ALS. Life is worth all the extra effort. I’ve always been an overachiever. I believe that through effort, we can all do things far beyond the realm of what you think is possible.

Sure, there may be people more talented and skilled than you. I saw that for myself quickly when I joined SWAT. Oh, that’s good. That’s a mental

Chris Dorris: toughness gold nugget right there, Jeff. Let’s slow that down a bit. Can you elaborate on how effort and mindset can surpass talent and skill in achieving

Jeff Nyce: success?

Sure. A former SWAT teammate, Steve Filio, gave me a shirt with words he believes are reflective of my mindset. Steve did everything right on a tactical operation. But was tragically shot on a raid in the late 1990s. After being shot, he never screamed, cried, or complained. He was a true professional and a role model for all present.

There was a career ending injury and he left the department. We recently reconnected after. 20 years in his support for me with ALS has been overwhelming. He said he sent me a shirt because the [00:12:00] phrases reminded him of my mindset. The front of the shirt said, keep moving forward and the backseat crawling is acceptable.

Falling is acceptable. Puking is acceptable. Crying is acceptable. Pain is acceptable. Quitting is not. Steve Overlook, one thing himself exhibited every single one of those factors after being shot. Despite a current injury, he moved forward in a positive way. He never quit. He got a new job and is living a good life.

It is important to maintain a positive attitude when faced with negative circumstances. Patience is a virtue. It certainly helps with mindset. I count my blessings and focus on the positive aspects of my life. I’m lucky because I did not get my first terminal diseases until my early 50s and my third age, 65.

I have a pension after 33 years of service. In contrast, think of our military personnel with catastrophic injuries in their early 20s, missing multiple limbs and other devastating injuries. They must endure this far more many years than my medical issues. I am motivated by incredible support from family, [00:13:00] friends, and teammates.

When I think of all the other places I could have been born, I feel very fortunate I was born and live in the greatest country on this earth.

Chris Dorris: One of my favorite mantras is move towards and I was reminded of it when you described the front of that shirt saying keep moving forward. Jeff, why would you say it is useful for folks to always push forward regardless of past achievements?

Jeff Nyce: You make a great point asking the question that way. When attacking huge, overwhelming challenges in your life, don’t ever back down. Think back in your life of your greatest achievements. Often it took tremendous effort far beyond what you thought you were capable of, yet you won and could take great pride in those achievements.

This is reinforced by my belief, never maintain the status quo. Always push forward on all fronts in a positive manner and good things will happen. Think back in your life ten years ago, how many of your positive achievements would not have occurred if you were satisfied with the status quo. Now, this may not apply if you’re 90 years old, but certainly 50 and below.

I’ll reference myself here at 65 years old and with AELS, [00:14:00] you know, I fully intend to seize the moment to push forward on all fronts in a positive fashion and obtain victory. Life is an obstacle course, no worries, just attack one obstacle at a time. If you focus on the total picture. It can be overwhelming.

But when you run an obstacle course, you must focus on that one obstacle immediately in front of you, attack aggressively, and then regroup while going to the next obstacle. So the recipe is simple. Move through one obstacle at a time, attack aggressively, and continue to regroup until you complete the course.

I love that. I love

Chris Dorris: simple. You know me, Jeff. I like to keep things as simple as possible. What are some obstacles you are tackling that are specific to LS and how are you attacking them

Jeff Nyce: aggressively? My first obstacle with a l s is loss of speech. My words are no longer understandable, so I tell everyone to think of me as Adam Sandler In the movie, the Water Boy Mama says that alligators are honorary ’cause they got all them teeth, but no toothbrush,

If you feel the need to laugh [00:15:00] when I try to speak, please do so. I would laugh with you because I love that movie. I try to make it. comical, rather than disappointing. Remember the time Bobby Boucher

on the Bobby Boucher showed up at halftime and the Mud Dogs won the Bourbon Bowl, do ya? I went to a speech therapist and she suspected I would ultimately lose my voice completely. She set me up with a rep who provides numerous communication devices to enhance your ability to communicate. I’m sure these devices help numerous ALS patients greatly.

But I’m a technical moron and very slow at typing. The limiting factor for me is that by the time I type something, I’m far behind the conversation. My most common interactions are going to the gym, grocery store, gas, and dinner with friends. I found it is more practical for me to simply carry my phone in my pocket instead of lugging around a laptop type device, I text the message on the phone and present it.

I intend to get a text to speech app that will enhance that ability. [00:16:00] I also carry pen and paper. One thing I find very helpful is that when I know I’m going to have an interaction with someone ahead of time, I print a document with relevant info and any questions I have. For example, I do this for every doctor’s visit and then still make sure to have phone, paper, and pen with me.

Except all of this is my new norm. Can’t speak, but can’t quit. There’s something else a bit comical, at least to me. It’s common for spouses to have different opinions on something. Imagine being technical moron I am, and having a very slow argument with your wife, where she’s forced to patiently wait for me to finish disagreeing with her.

I don’t know how she puts up with me. I love you, girl! Oh

Chris Dorris: man, Jeff, that is remarkable. Can’t speak, won’t quit. Jeff, the guy who can’t speak anymore, but will write even though he types slow. Jeff, the guy who will also agree to let my guy, Biggie, use AI to allow him to speak again here on this podcast.

Remarkable. Are there any other symptoms or obstacles you’re [00:17:00] currently climbing over right

Jeff Nyce: now? Definitely. Swallowing is much more difficult. It takes me longer to chew and eat meals. Some foods are easier to eat than others. I’m constantly adapting and eating those foods that are easiest to eat. One positive thing is that I have a blender and mix up some healthy double chocolate protein powder, ice cubes, water, fruit, vegetables, etc.

Smoothies are very easy to consume. I was told if I could no longer eat food I may need a feeding tube in my stomach. I feel confident I can overcome that with smoothies. If need be. I also purchased the EMS T150, which is an expiratory muscle strength trainer. It’s used as a result of stronger breathing, coughing, swallowing, and voice strength for people with a variety of diseases to include ALS.

It has proven very helpful.

Chris Dorris: Wow. Jeff, that’s some seriously aggressive adaptation to, or attacking of, unique and challenging food and eating obstacles. Have you always had such discipline

Jeff Nyce: with your diet? I started eating healthy in my early 20s, so I would have one cheat day a week. Eat anything I want.

Now, if [00:18:00] every day has been a cheat day for someone, maybe start with every other day being a cheat day. Each week, three, four cheat days and strict days. Like anything you do, the more you do it, the better you will get. Over time, two things will happen. Your mindset will become stronger and you will develop a taste for some of the foods on your strict days.

Progressively over time, your strict days will replace your cheat days. Diet takes no effort. It is simply a choice. Yes, I eat that. No, I don’t eat that. Yes. I drink that. No, I don’t drink that. There are hundreds of diets out there. So the question is, what do I eat? Basic rules, low sugar, low fat, moderate to high protein.

Protein prevents loss of muscle mass and can help add muscle mass of weight training. Another benefit of protein is that it elevates your metabolism by 30 percent while carbohydrates and fats do not. That is nice right there.

Chris Dorris: Uh, simple diet plan. Anyone can follow whether they’re sick or not. You said diet takes no effort that it is simply a choice.

Now that is some solid mental toughness. When you say choice, I hear [00:19:00] decision as in you decide what to eat and what not to eat. Just like I tell my coaching clients that we all get to decide what to think and what not to think. So where do you get it from? Where does your

Jeff Nyce: mental toughness come from?

Mental toughness comes from within but can be reinforced by others. This was recently reaffirmed by Captain Brian Dillman at a gathering of current and retired tactical officers. He gave a lengthy speech reaffirming the significance of a strong mindset necessary to survive the terminal diseases I have been affected with.

He also reinforced the significance of being an overachiever in all aspects of life, including SWAT for success. His words were and still are motivational and inspirational. Life is about choices. I believe that absent tragedy, we often create our own problems through poor choices. I also believe that In life, you get what you expect.

I expected to survive my first two terminal diseases, even though I was told my life expectancy was two years or less, I’m applying the same to ALS. When faced with terminal diseases, you have a choice to make, [00:20:00] wait to die or choose to live. And I choose to live.

Chris Dorris: Okay. Jeff, you’ve lived a life of incredible discipline and great decision making.

Surely you must have made some bad decisions or choices along the way. Can you give us an

Jeff Nyce: example of one? Ha ha ha. Sure. Okay. So when I was 15, a buddy of mine and I were in a wooded area near the apartments we lived in. We had a bucket filled with water balloons. As cars drove down the single lane road in front of us, we’d nail them.

A white station wagon came along and I hit it in a splash, right on the hood. I didn’t know it, but it was an unmarked Montgomery County Police, K 9 unit. Evening was just beginning, suddenly at the base of the woodland about 25 yards to our left, I see two police officers approaching with flashlights. My friend and I start to run and one of the officers called out, Stop, or I will release my dog.

We saw the dog and immediately stopped and were taken into custody. The only time in my life I was arrested and placed into handcuffs. We were charged with throwing missiles at motorized vehicles. I plead guilty in juvenile [00:21:00] court. Ironically, nine years later, I became a Montgomery County police officer.

Chris Dorris: Ha ha If that is one of your worst decisions, then it’s no wonder why you became such an epic hero.

Jeff Nyce: Thanks, Chris. As you know, I like to say, learn from your mistakes, make the right choice. I was arrested as a juvenile by Montgomery County police. I learned from that mistake and 30 years later, I’m arresting the snipers as a Montgomery County police officer.

That’s right. You were involved in the

Chris Dorris: takedown of the Beltway snipers. That was some scary stuff. Can you take us through those final moments?

Jeff Nyce: Sure. First, let me start by saying for your audience that these guys are a perfect example of what I said earlier. Absent tragedy, people often create their own worst problems.

The D. C. snipers, Malvo and Mohamed, shot 13 people in the Washington metropolitan area over a three week period in October of 2002, killing 10. Six of those killed were in Montgomery County, Maryland. In [00:22:00] total, the snipers killed 17 people and wounded 10 others in a 10 month span. I was part of the six man tactical assault team that captured the snipers.

The snipers were in a blue Chevy Caprice at a rest stop off Interstate 70 near Myersville, Maryland in the early morning hours of October 24th, 2002. I came out of the woods behind them as the cars backed into a parking spot. My role is a designated shooter. I posted on the left side behind the trunk.

Covering the left interior of the vehicle, First Sergeant Keith Runk, Maryland State Police, posted on the right side, behind the trunk, covering the right interior of the vehicle. Keith and I were designated shooters, while FBI hostage rescue team handled the breach and extraction of both suspects. The hostage rescue team breached and extracted Malvo, who had fallen asleep behind the driver’s wheel.

Then suddenly, Muhammad popped up and appeared directly in front of me in the back seat, with no weapon in hand, and was extracted and taken into custody.

Chris Dorris: Jeff, were there any specific lessons about mental toughness that [00:23:00] you learned from the takedown?

Jeff Nyce: Absolutely. I was asked numerous times by citizens why I didn’t shoot the bastards.

I told them that, unlike Malibu and Mohammed, we were all men of conscience. Lesson learned. Do it right and you’ll never lose sleep at night. It reaffirms mental toughness at the highest level. No doubt, Jeff. No doubt.

Chris Dorris: Wow. Seriously, thank you for sharing with us, for sharing with me, Jeff. What a wild episode I could never have imagined when I first started podcasting, when I started Tough Talks.

A retired SWAT commander, AI, ALS, Dr. Spock, Adam Sandler, water balloons, and even snipers. Just amazing. Like you. Thanks

Jeff Nyce: again, Jeff. Thank you, Chris. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to speak again, using AI. To share my thoughts on mindset and mental toughness.

Chris Dorris: That’s just great. So so so damn great on so many levels So one more time jeff nice.

I want to acknowledge you big time for your uh [00:24:00] commitment to staying with and not quitting never quitting and you know during what most people would consider to be just You know the worst of travesties and adversities. You’re still powering through man figuring out ways To create and serve. So you are a true hero, brother.

You are a true hero. I’m so proud to call you a friend. And I want to acknowledge your wife, Jane, as well for her commitment and her love and support, you know, to you. And one more time, I also want to acknowledge Micah Guller, a. k. a. Biggie, for the level of effort for the creative genius, without which we wouldn’t have been able to, you know, create this by using A.

I. So thanks for your all the effort. Oh, by the way, this is a copy. I didn’t mention this in the intro, but this is a copy of Jeff’s book. Failure is not an option, and you can get that on [00:25:00] Amazon. All right, folks. Thanks for tuning in. And until next time, create miracles.

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  1. D. McSwain says:

    Outstanding friend, colleague, and person! Jeff’s strength of character will move you beyond status quo. He is a model of consistency and an example of excellence.

    • The Mental Toughness Coach says:

      Agreed! His spirit and resilience will move you to the core! I am blessed to know him and to be able to share his magnificence with the Tough Talks Tribe!

  2. Keith Runk says:

    I have the honor and privilege of not only having the opportunity to be a friend of Jeff’s but to have trained and work side by side with him. He is an amazing individual with an unmatched attitude of winning and beating the odds. He strives where most would give up. God bless him as he fights this battle that I know he will beat.

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