Revealing Sufficiency Amidst Hardships

During the past couple of days, I’ve had the opportunity to catch up with coworkers who likely visualized me on a death bed at MD Anderson. As difficult as it is (from a repetitive standpoint) to share the details of the past four months, the connection with others who’ve experienced similar trials, or are close to someone who has, makes it all worth it.

Yesterday, I talked to man in his mid-forties who shared a recently diagnosed heart condition. He walks with his wife every day, and was lucky enough to be diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat before it became fatal.

Like me, he is grateful. This is what I mean when I talk about my leukemia being a blessing. I’m thankful to have been inspired and grateful for another opportunity to encourage. Continue reading “Revealing Sufficiency Amidst Hardships”

TED Talks: The Power of Vulnerability – Brene Brown

I had a long talk with Katie yesterday about the writing process and the elusive struggle to align the cross hairs that make a blog post effective, meaningful and worthwhile. Writing is much more than putting something down on paper. Let me rephrase, good writing is much more than putting something down on paper. It’s hard work. My best blog posts exhaust my mind and leave me feeling like I couldn’t possibly etch out one more sentence. Afterward, there’s always the juxtaposition of reading what I’ve written and knowing I could have made it a lot more four-dimensional, tangible, relatable, fluid, more everything. Continue reading “TED Talks: The Power of Vulnerability – Brene Brown”

Significant Life Events: Rejection

When you look back at the life you’ve lived, it’s occasionally interesting to think of the three, four, five, etc., significant events you’ve experienced which have shaped your ideals, thoughts, esteem, and changed the trajectory of your beliefs or actions. All of these circumstances have been meaningful enough to set you on a path you might not have otherwise encountered. In this series of posts, I’ll embark on an interesting experiment to recall and recapture the feelings associated with some of the most significant life events that have either directly or indirectly shaped my worldview and the life I live today. My hope is that, through this, you’ll begin to rehash those significant moments in your own life and realize the impact those moments still have, further prompting you to explore the insight of your interactions with yourself and others.

“A single event can awaken within us a stranger totally unknown to us. To live is to be slowly born.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

MY FIRST SIGNIFICANT MEMORY OF REJECTION

When I was young, around the age of nine, I enjoyed going to the Boys and Girls club. Because I was often sidetracked by other activities during the school year, I didn’t get to go as often as I’d liked. The summer break, however, provided unlimited opportunities to explore untapped reservoirs of possibility. In other words, I had all the time in the world to do what I wanted to do.

A natural obstacle to the land of immeasurable fun proved to be the limited number of kids I knew who were members of this minimally exclusive club. As a result, my attendance to the Boys and Girls club was better defined as infrequent and sporadic. Every time I was invited, or had the opportunity to spend an afternoon up there with a friend, I would jump at the chance to go. Continue reading “Significant Life Events: Rejection”

Breaking Through the Element of Fear

Early in my career as a human, I would secretly celebrate being under the roller coaster height limit. I used to be afraid of them.

“I’d love to go, but see Goofy’s arm? I’m under that. I’ll wait.”

Wait, I did.

The violent, furious sounds of a roller coaster declaring its sharp turns was enough for me to step back and realize that my desire to be thrilled was outweighed by the fear of something going terribly wrong. I just knew I’d be the one stuck looking down at a tiny city on the descending side of the coaster’s steepest peak. For me, it was thrilling enough to wait at the exit and greet my family as they walked down the ramp. Continue reading “Breaking Through the Element of Fear”

How an Unanswered Prayer Can Reveal Our Capacity to Love

When I was little, I remember crawling under the covers of my bed, closing my eyes and with the heavy burdens of life as an six-year-old child, speaking to God.

“Dear God, can you drop a lot of toys on my roof?”

My mom taught me about prayer. She told me I could talk to God, ask Him for anything. All I had to do was believe. Wow, I thought, I’d finally have all of the transformers I wanted.

It was dusk out, the sun faint on the horizon. Moments prior, daylight savings walked into my bedroom and introduced itself as a childhood enemy,

“Hi, I’m daylight. When you’re put to bed tonight, you’ll wonder what kind of trick your parents are trying to play on you. You’ll grow confused as to why you had to come inside, eat and take a bath early. And you’ll likely cry. No, you will cry. I bid you adieu.”

It was no wonder I let imagination, the friendlier of the two, walk in and occupy the room soon after. Continue reading “How an Unanswered Prayer Can Reveal Our Capacity to Love”

The Decision to Make a Difference

I have five blogs in draft form. I could publish them today, but for the past week I’ve wrestled with which direction I want to take my blog.

When I originally sought to step out and maintain my own website (wayyy back in 2003), my intention was to share anomalies like the horror of finding a plain M&M in a bag full of peanut M&Ms (which has since faded away into eternal obscurity).

I loved the creativity of capturing funny or observational humor for posterity without having to get on stage and tell jokes in front of actual living, breathing people staring back at me.

Although many of my friends enjoyed reading my posts, I didn’t harbor any ambition to pursue writing as a career. I was a sloppy writer.

And then there was CML.

When I was diagnosed with CML in January of 2006, I made a conscious decision to move forward with my life. I wanted to do what I had to do to overcome cancer and get back to my prior reality.

As I’ve documented, I struggled with seeing my treatment to completion, which was awfully consistent with the other avenues of my own disinterest.

When I began writing about my journey, I did so because I knew it would bring out the natural curiosity of those who may have struggled with many other of life’s difficulties.

I wanted to be honest, open, truthful about the path God had placed me on while similarly communicating an illness that many others, including myself, didn’t fully understand. I set out to encourage, provide hope, and bring to life a four-dimensional world few people ever get to see.

Throughout the process, I started paying attention. I payed attention to the things surrounding me, processed feelings more intentionally, and became more mindful of what I was writing down.

If it took me hours to finish a single post, I finished it. And then I read it over and over again (despite loathing the proofreading process). I became a better writer and communicator, but I was still eagerly anticipating a return to a life I once knew.

The Crossroads

The response has been overwhelming. I’ve received a lot of positive feedback from those who’ve taken the time to read my blog.

Many have written and encouraged me to continue telling my story, while others have shared their own.

It’s been a blessing to have friends share the impact my story has had on their lives or the lives of someone they know. At a very small level, my goal of expressing the most vulnerable time of my life has been accomplished. I set out to be an encourager and people returned encouraged.

Now that the dust of a tumultuous season has settled, I’ve struggled with what to write about.

I’m an introvert at heart. Opening up my world isn’t easy. Stepping away from the climax of cancer treatment has left room to second guess my intent to keep talking about an experience that has brought indirect and direct attention to my story.

I’m sensitive to the possible misinterpretations one might have of thinking that I by the extension of my blog, is self-indulgent, or that I want this to be about me. It’s not, and it never has been.

When people tell me they’ve read my blog, I ask if my words are translating the way I want it to. It’s difficult to write about the struggles of things I can’t control.

There’s a fine line between an attempt to communicate the life I’m living and throwing together a novel of self-pity.

Outside of my blog, I’m at a point where I need to start thinking of ways for life to get back to normal. I’ve been blessed with the time-off of work I’ve needed for appointments, trips to Houston, and to manage the ups and downs of life within a clinical trial.

I’ll go back to work and school soon, and will need to carve out an unknown path littered with doctor’s appointments and lab visits. I’ve had to make a decision about whether it would beneficial for me to continue to think, read, and write about cancer or if I should focus on a life outside of it all.

Living a New Reality

For six years, I’ve walked the thin line of leukemia. There have been some ups, downs, but most of my experience has resided somewhere in the middle.

I’ve fought for six years against a “new reality.” I wanted to return to a life free of cancer, far from the unpredictable, safe in the arms of an all-forgiving youth.

Like Babe Ruth in the fifth inning of game 3 of the 1932 World Series, I wanted to point to center field and call my shot; I wanted to be somebody who merely talked about having overcome cancer instead of living it.

Two months ago, when I learned the minor vision impairment in my right eye was likely permanent, I realized I wasn’t Babe Ruth. The effects of fighting a physical battle within my body had produced its first casualty, and all I had to do was open my eyes to understand a new reality. Even if I want to return to a carefree world, the affliction of a protocol called DCC-2036 has left its mark.

I’ve shared all of this with Katie. I’ve shared my fleeting desire to get involved with the world of cancer one minute, while fighting the reservation and fear of embracing a new reality the next.

Much like a student walking onto an intimidating, exclusive college campus for the second or third time, I’ve been reluctant to stay long enough to find my voice.

She’s reminded me of the natural tools and abilities I’ve been given to make a difference in the world of somebody who’s experiencing an equally challenging period of their lives. She says I’m too humble, and that I don’t give myself enough credit for the way I make people feel.

She’s right.

Then it hit me. If I stop sharing my story, my fears will come true. If I allow myself the opportunity to use my story, mishaps, strengths, and gifts God has given me for the cause of cancer, then I may impact, or even save, at least one person’s life.

To care about other people is to press on and press in, to get involved and impact lives. The best thing I can do is embrace a movement to empower, encourage, and give hope to those living with cancer or any of life’s challenges. Instead of using my energy to outrun my circumstances, I want to embrace all that has led me to where I am today.

So that’s what I will do. I’ve realized the books marked three quarters of the way to the end are the ones I still have to finish. My story just so happens to be one of them.

I’m going to continue to write about all kinds of things, but cancer will still be one of them. I never intended for this to be a cancer blog, I just wanted to share my personal experiences.

Now, my vision is to make it a blog of hope, humor, and inspiration. If my story happens to be a part of making that happen, then it was never really about me to begin with.

“2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4)

“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” (James 1:2-4 MSG)

Just Write

One of the perils of being human is the unrelinquished desire to occupy your mind with everything other than what you want to accomplish. For the past five days, it was my turn to sit on my barren balcony and stare at a blinking cursor on my brightly lit screen. I’ve tried to write a new blog post for some time now, but the thought of putting ideas to paper has been daunting. Instead, I’ve been preoccupied by neighbors reluctant walks to their cars as they leave their garages in the morning, the zombie-like approach employees of the tall office building next door commit as they arrive to work, and the community garbage collector who drives around to pick up organized bags of resident trash. Anything, but work. Continue reading “Just Write”

Experiencing Freedom in Resistance

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield:

Before I got to North Carolina I worked in the oilfields around Buras, Louisiana. I lived in a bunkhouse with a bunch of other transient geeks. One guy had picked up a paperback about meditation in a bookstore in New Orleans; he was teaching me how to do it. I used to go out to this dock after work and see if I could get into it. One night this came:

I was sitting cross-legged when an eagle came and landed on my shoulders. The eagle merged with me and took off flying, so that my head became its head and my arms its wings. It felt completely authentic. I could feel the air under my wings, as solid as water feels hen you row it with an oar. It was substantial. You could push off against it. So this was how birds flew! I realized that it was impossible for a bird to fall out of the sky.; all it would have to do was extend its wings; the solid air would hold it up with the same power we feel when we stick our hand out the window of a moving car. I was pretty impressed with this movie that was playing in my head but I still had no idea what it meant. I asked the eagle, Hey, what am I supposed to be learning from this? A voice answered (silently): You’re supposed to learn that things that you think are nothing, as weightless as air, are actually powerful substantial forces, as real and as solid as earth.

I understood. The eagle was telling me that dreams, visions, meditations such as this very one – things that I had till now disdained as fantasy and illusion – were as real and as solid as anything in life.

Last night, this passage came alive to me. Continue reading “Experiencing Freedom in Resistance”

Moving Day

If a big part of life are the moments in between idleness and comfort, then it’s safe to say the past few months for Katie and me has made us thrill-seekers. Professional thrill-seekers at that. If we’re asked to perform any more transitions then we’ll have to rent out a building next to David Copperfield and start selling tickets to make airplanes disappear (I’m looking into it).

Yesterday was moving day. If I forget, the debilitating muscle soreness will quickly bring me back to reality. I feel as though my muscles have been reading Chicken Soup for the Inactive Soul the past few months. I mean really, thanks for nothing. When my neighbors see me, they’ll probably wonder how in the world I aged so fast. Yesterday, I was a semi-vibrant young adult, today my Yoda is two tennis balls on the bottom of a walker to guide my steps and an oxygen tank to nourish my lungs. Continue reading “Moving Day”