This is Strength

*I came across this amazing story of inspiration and felt like this was a great place to share it. As humans, I believe we all possess an inordinate amount of strength deep within our core. No matter what we go through, we have a choice to be a victim or to use those circumstances to shape who we are and what we truly believe. It’s when we choose the latter, to be open and honest, to take control of the things that try to control you, that we begin to inspire others to do the same thing. I will probably never understand what Monika Korra has been through, but her ability to tell her story transcends empathy. It inspires.*

Monika Korra breaks the silence

SMU cross-country runner survived a brutal rape and tells her story

“Run.”

That’s all she heard the men say. A simple command, something she had done all her life. But at that moment, Monika Korra couldn’t do it. Her body wouldn’t let her. Continue reading “This is Strength”

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 (in 2003), my intention was to capture anomalies such as the horror of finding a plain M&M in a bag full of peanut M&M’s (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. Historically, I was a sloppy writer. I didn’t read many books throughout high school or college. English was the only subject in which I didn’t have the courage to sign up for advanced placement classes. The truth was I didn’t have the attention span to sit through writing a paper or reading a book. I had other things on my mind like sports, a social life, and video games. To date, my book shelf is littered with books marked three quarters of the way through because I couldn’t stay focused enough to finish Continue reading “The Decision to Make a Difference”

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”

Unmasking a History of Non-Compliance (Unedited)

*This is the long, unedited version of yesterday’s blog post for MD Anderson’s Cancerwise blog
(http://www2.mdanderson.org/cancerwise/2012/04/unmasking-a-history-of-non-compliance.html)*

In January of 2006, I was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia. Never could I have imagined that I would be a twenty-five year old living with cancer. I’d soon find out that it wasn’t the leukemia itself that was burdensome, it was the unexpected cost of managing a chronic illness that led me astray. You won’t read that in the doctor’s notes. That’s something I had to learn the hard way.  I wasn’t prepared.

Nobody ever tells you how difficult it will be to manage a chronic illness after you’re first diagnosed. As a naive-to-the-world twenty-five year old I was no exception. “That will be $125,” said the pharmacist. Picking up prescriptions was always a guessing game. I never knew how it worked. In fact, the only thing I knew about insurance was that I was covered. “Ok, that seems like a lot of money,” I replied. “The original cost of the medicine, without insurance, is 3,400,” she responded. “Dollars?” I asked. I handed over my debit card as fast as I could. Continue reading “Unmasking a History of Non-Compliance (Unedited)”

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”

Life Without Internet – A Memoir

If you’re getting this message, please send help. This is day four without the internet. Time Warner says they’ll be out today, but sometime between 12 and 4 pm feels a lot like anytime between alpha and omega, the beginning and the end, childbirth to deathbed.

Note to self: If you’re moving in the next six months, please, by all means, for the sake of everything good and holy, give Time Warner plenty of notice.

Ask any geneticist and they’ll tell you, something about being disconnected from the world prompts the DNA to default into strands of Ted Kaczynski. My hair looks like it’s been combed with the ribs of a fish, I tend to wear aviator sunglasses all day, and the first thing I’ve pulled out of any moving box is a hoodie. I mean, I didn’t even have to spell check his name. DNA. Continue reading “Life Without Internet – A Memoir”

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”

A Brand New Day

If things work out for me, I won’t be back to MD Anderson for another three months. That’s the first marker in a long line of check points I’ll face moving forward. For patients with chronic forms of leukemia, it’s often not a sprint, but a marathon.

With all of the drama of the past couple of months, my visit yesterday was like skipping dinner and walking straight into a Ben & Jerry’s. Ice cream for dinner, I’ll take it every time. There were no biopsies, bad news, or premature revelations. It was simply an appointment to pick up my new trial medication and a follow-up with Dr. Ciurea, my stem cell doctor. Continue reading “A Brand New Day”

Back to Houston

Today is the first day of the rest of your life.

I’ve always thought that was a clever quote, for somebody else.

For years, today has always been an extension of yesterday, which started on Monday, the day that I had to go back to work or school. If I am to be honest, I never saw it as anything more than that. Today that quote defines my heart.

I received an email from Alexa on Tuesday. She told me that insurance has approved the cost of care for the clinical trial drug called Ponatinib. Katie and I are scheduled to go back to Houston today so that I can meet with Dr. Cortes in the morning and begin my new treatment. I’m excited, but snake bitten. Although 75% of patients with CML (who have the t315i mutation) have responded really well to this new drug, I’m fully aware of how unpredictable trial medicine can be. If I ever forget, all I have to do is open my eyes. Continue reading “Back to Houston”