Courage Is The Key To Overcome Fear With Thomas Exler

Editor’s Note: Thomas Exler, the president of the Association for the Bladder Exstrophy Community (ABC) , also is the chairman and founder of Courage to Shine, an organization created to provide information for others, like Exler, who have found ways to overcome their problems and become successful people. As Exler explains, “I was lucky to find role modelswho showed me that nothing’s impossible for people like me. But not everyone has the opportunity to meet others who have led highly visible, successful and rewarding lives in spite of their disabilities. That’s why we created Courage to Shine – to introduce individuals to other people with similar challenges and to provide a forum and a webpage where individuals can find role models who have demonstrated that there are no limits for people with physical challenges.” Part 1 of a 5-part series.

Thomas Exler believes that it takes courage to overcome fears and doubts.

Thomas Exler believes that it takes courage to overcome fears and doubts.

I’m often asked, “Why is a support group so important for an individual who has a physical challenge to overcome?” The only way to get courage is to face your fears and overcome them. The benefits of courage are success, happiness and bravery. Most people run away from fear. Successful people run to fear and do the things they fear the most and overcome the challenges that most people see as impossible. Support groups like Courage to Shine enable people with challenges to see that they’re not alone. The group also allows people to meet others with the same conditions, so they can learn and help each other to overcome their problems.

I was lucky to grow up with a support group, the Children’s Tri-State Ostomy Association, for children with ostomy, intestinal or urinary diversions, that my mother, along with my surgeon, created. I had a urostomy at age 4, due to being born with a condition called bladder exstrophy, where the bladder is malformed and turned inside out. The skin of the lower abdominal wall that normally covers the bladder also doesn’t form properly and is separated, thus exposing the inside of the bladder to the external world. Because of that support group, I grew up knowing many individuals who had far worse medical conditions than I did. As I watched these people overcome their disabilities, they gave me the courage and the strength to overcome my own problems.

 I never had to ask the question, “Am I the only person who has this problem?” I never said to myself, “I’m alone, and no one understands what I’m going through.” When we face medical challenges, oftentimes we think that no one else in the world truly understands the condition or the problems related to the conditions we face. However, there are others who do – we just have to find each other. I never realized until later in life how important that support group was for me, and how many lessons I learned from all the people in the group.

As I became aware that there were other people in the community who had physical challenges, I began to work in camps for other people with these same challenges. Then later, I formed my own support group for young adults who faced many of the same issues that I had. I learned that the character trait of courage had the biggest impact on changing the lives of people with medical disabilities. Courage, an attitude or a character trait that has to come from within the person, is the ability to face the things we’re afraid of and uncomfortable with, so that the fear no longer can hold us back.

Surrounding yourself with others who can relate to your disability will help you become stronger and more courageous.

Surrounding yourself with others who can relate to your disability will help you become stronger and more courageous.

If you don’t find or learn how to use courage to overcome obstacles, you’ll never reach your goals in life, no matter whether you’re medically challenged or not. As individuals, we all encounter a wall of fear anytime we try to do something meaningful in our lives. You have to decide you’re going to get over that wall of fear by either pole vaulting it, climbing it, digging a tunnel under it, going around it or crashing through it, to reach your goal. The more walls of fear you overcome, the easier the next wall is to get through. The walls of fear in our lives are excuses like, “What if so and so happens,” “I don’t know what’s going to happen,” “I may get hurt,” “People say I can’t do it,” “What will people think,” and “What if I can’t do it?” These fears create the walls that keep us from living successfully. Fear is the one factor that can hold people back, and it’s the opposite of courage.

However, fear can be a positive instead of a negative. If you understand that fear can be a motivator, you can learn that fear will enable you to do things you’ve never thought you can do. Fear of failure is often what causes people to succeed. Overcoming the fear of rejection may cause people with medical challenges to be popular. Fear either cripples or enables the individual, and the good news is that we get to choose the effect that we let fear have on us. One of the easiest ways to overcome fear is to meet, read about and/or listen to someone who has overcome the same fear we’re facing.

The purpose of Courage to Shine is to help individuals, who think they’re alone, and that no one understands them or the fears they face, to see that other people like them have done great things and accomplished phenomenal feats. I’ve never faced some fears that other people have, because I’ve always had a support group that’s taught me how to face my fears. When we began to look for a name for the group we were forming, Courage to Shine seemed to be the words that best expressed what we hoped to communicate through our organization. Our logo has mountains on it, because we all have mountains of adversity that we have to overcome. Oftentimes we only see the mountains, without realizing we’ll also see the brilliant, shining sun on the other side once we climb to the top.

Courage to Shine's logo shows that everyone has obstacles or "mountains" we must climb.

Courage to Shine's logo shows that everyone has obstacles or "mountains" to climb.

Next: Who Has Found The Courage To Shine  

About the Author: For the last 12 years, John E. Phillips of Vestavia, Alabama, has been a professional blogger for major companies, corporations and tourism associations throughout the nation. During his 24 years as Outdoor Editor for “The Birmingham Post-Herald” newspaper, he published more than 7,000 newspaper columns and sold more than 100,000 of his photos to newspapers, magazines and internet sites. He also hosted a radio show that was syndicated at 27 radio stations; created, wrote and sold a syndicated newspaper column that ran in 38 newspapers for more than a decade; and wrote and sold more than 30 books. Learn more at

About UroMed Catheters
Headquartered in Suwanee, GA [a suburb of Atlanta], UroMed is one of the nation’s leading providers of single-use catheters, urological and disposable medical supplies, including intermittent catheters, closed system catheters, condom catheters, pediatric catheters and continence care products. UroMed is nationally accredited for Medicare reimbursement and most state Medicaid plans, and partners with private health insurance providers and health plans to provide patients with single-use catheters, catheter kits and incontinence products. UroMed also has seven staffed regional offices located in Boston, MA; Columbia, SC; Jacksonville, FL; Dallas, TX; Carlsbad, CA; Knoxville, TN; Richmond, VA; and Baton Rouge, LA; enabling next-day delivery after a customer’s initial medical supply order. For more information, please visit or call 1-800-841-1233.

5 Responses to Courage Is The Key To Overcome Fear With Thomas Exler

  1. wartica says:

    Good luck on your journey; those first steps are always the hardest but once you get going, anything is possible. Great post and I look forward to sharing more with you:))

  2. Misty Blue says:

    Way to go, Tom! 🙂

  3. Bill Rossi says:

    Blessings to you Tom. As you know, I “was” the only one. I was alone and few people ever knew that I was born with such a thing as “epispadias”. Til I met you and some other people at the HEA conference in October of 2010, I had never met anyone else with this birth defect. Being over 60 years of age now, what an extraordinary burden it has been to carry this alone and to myself. I’ll do all I can to support you and “The Courage To Shine” efforts to support those who have endured congenital birth defects so they will never have to go it alone like I did all these years.

  4. Reblogged this on Courage to Shine™ and commented:
    From UroMed Hometown Heroes – Originally posted on January 25, 2012

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