Wednesday, February 29, 2012

I Think I Deserve Something Beautiful

"I think I deserve something beautiful.”

I can't say that the instant I heard that I had cancer everything changed immediately. I can't say that all the sudden I had this wonderful insight on what the meaning of life really was. I can't say that everything around me made sense instantly. And I definitely can't say that I have it all figured out. Cancer doesn't create this omniscient, altruistic version of a person. It did the opposite to me. It broke me down into pieces, stripped me of so much of myself that I felt naked. Cancer showed me who Becky was. It told me what she was most afraid of, demonstrated her weaknesses and told me the story of her life. It showed me what Becky wanted and needed to be and made the draining people in her life stand out. Cancer woke me up.

The first thing I did after I found out I had cancer was go home and vomit. That's the very first thing. When the vomiting commenced and the tears stopped, I washed my face, looked at myself in the bathroom mirror and told myself that I had to find a way to quit my job. And I did. My work relationships at the time were shaky to say the least. My values differed greatly from my employer and things weren't working out. I was miserable. Every day. I'm not one for quitting, but cutting all ties to my work relationships at the time was essential to my well being. Cancer gave me the guts.

The second thing I did after I found out I had cancer was tell everyone that I knew. Not only did I call everyone I knew, I posted it on Facebook, I sent an email out to friends and family and I looked for every possible support group or organization that I could find to help me. Some people prefer to deal with a cancer diagnosis privately. I chose not to do that. I was desperate. And scared. Some people jumped in the mix quickly, asking if they could help or if I needed anything. Some people steered clear of me, not knowing what to say and then sent me emails saying that they didn't know what to say. I appreciated their honesty. No matter what a person's approach to my cancer was, they meant well and I knew this. It's a good feeling knowing that even though some relationships don't last I have lots of lifelong friendships that have and always will. Those people stuck by me. I'm so grateful for those relationships. Cancer can't take those away from me.

Here's the difference between my relationships before cancer and my relationships post cancer. Some of my relationships were wonderful chapters in my book of life. Those relationships are now more meaningful. and I enjoy adding pages to those chapters. Other relationships were nothing more than draining drags. Now those relationships no longer exist. I tore those entire chapters out of my book. I cut ties with people. Lots of them. Even people that I had known for my entire life. Today, I try to share my world with anyone that wants to listen and in the process I have developed some incredible, lasting friendships. Have I mentioned how much I love other survivors? The new friendships that I continue to build day by day are healthier than ever and I;m learning and growing with them. That's what happens when you open up your universe. Good people come along. Cancer taught me that.

I don't ever want to be in a position where I'm looking back at my life and wondering how or why I ended up in that very moment. I don't want to look in the rearview mirror and see a bunch of negative influences. I'm always setting new goals and testing my limits as a human being. I want relationships with people that do and believe in the same. I owe that much to myself. I owe that much to my relationship with myself.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Affects of Tumors/Cancer on High School Relationships

Visions of grandeur,
Rolling across state lines,
Midnight fits for exit,
Navy skies, perfect time

Outasight, Catch Me If You CanFurther EP, 2010

Having a brain tumor has created some awkward situations for me in the dating department, but nothing serious. My biggest concerns when dating someone have always been when to introduce the medical aspect of my life and how much to disclose. Luckily, having a tumor/cancer doesn’t pose as much of a deal breaker for high school students in relationships. Generally speaking, high school students don’t really think about tumor/cancer related topics. It’s pretty safe to say that high school students know someone or at least know “someone who knows someone” who is affected by cancer, but most high school students aren’t concerned with cancer because teens with tumors/cancer don’t appear to be very prevalent to the general public.

The most frustrating situation is when it comes to being out at a party or on a date and not being able to "stay up late" or stay out past 10:30-ish pm. If I don’t get enough sleep, it’s fairly likely that I’ll have some sort of a headache or seizure the next day. Most people describe me as “chill,” but from the Keppra I’m more than likely just really tired. It’s not very fun to always have to be the first person to leave, but I try to start my nights earlier, that way when they end earlier they’ve lasted longer.

I find myself rummaging through my backpack or purse looking for a something and pulling out a bottle or bag of pills and having to explain why I carry them around with me on a weekly basis hahah. I usually forget to turn off the 5:30pm Keppra alarm on my phone while in the movies too, which leads to apologizing for leaving my phone on, usually later leading to explaining why I have an alarm set for 5:30pm in the first place. Besides those two common situations and sleep stipulations, I’m lucky to say that my medical history doesn’t impact my dating life that much.

I wrote a guest blog for the Children’s Brain Tumor Foundation earlier this month that gives advice geared towards the high school/college aged dating thrivers out there..check it out!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

How has cancer positively or negatively affected your relationships?

I’m glad February is the shortest month of the year.  February is associated with my least favorite Hallmark Holiday, Valentine’s Day.  Before my brain tumor diagnosis, I was a pretty active guy.  You would rarely catch me at home, however, I was more into “hanging out” with girls rather than “dating.”  I never liked labels.  I had just gotten out of a 7-year relationship when I moved to San Diego, and I was in a new and exciting city as a young professional fresh out of physical therapy school. I’ll admit I was having a lot of fun!  When I got diagnosed, all my close friends and family were back home in Michigan.  I made plenty of friends when I moved out to San Diego, but the friends that stood by me during my recovery were something else.  They became my San Diego family.  For that, I’ll forever be grateful!  I decided to stay in San Diego because most of my friends in Ann Arbor, MI were gone.  I would have had to move back home with my parents if I didn't have insurance, but I decided that I should stay in San Diego to take advantage of all the rehab opportunities here in San Diego.  My parents decided to split time to be with me in San Diego and Michigan, which ultimately lead to their divorce.  The tension in their relationship had been building for years. Their decision to get a divorce was shocking but not surprising.  I’m still very close with both parents, and I don’t hold ill will towards either of them.  I’m glad they finally did it for both their sakes. For my brother and me, the divorce was much easier to handle as adults rather than kids.  I sincerely hope they are both happier now!

As for my current relationship status, I have no time to date.  My priorities are:
  •   My personal rehab
  •   mAss Kickers Foundation
  •   Traveling
  •   My hobbies: sports, reading/writing, movies/videos
  •    My family’s/friend’s well being
  •  My Spirituality 
  •  Hanging out/relaxing

This doesn’t leave much room for an active dating life.  HAHAHA!  Couple the above priorities with post treatment fatigue issues = no dating scene for me!  Relationships are just another thing that I don’t want to waste my energy worrying about.  I don’t have the energy to deal with added drama in my life because my plate is already full!  I’m not sure other survivors/thrivers feel the same.  It will be interesting to read everyone’s thoughts.  I’m curious to get their take on relationships. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

"You will begin to touch heaven, Jonathan, in the moment that you touch perfect speed. And that isn’t flying a thousand miles an hour, or a million, or flying at the speed of light. Because any number is a limit, and perfection doesn’t have limits. Perfect speed, my son, is being there.”
- Richard Bach (Jonathan Livingston Seagull)

I never stuck with a New Year's resolution. Never. And I don't think any of my resolutions have ever been authentic. At least not until 2011.

2011 was different. Completely different. That ball dropped and I knew the year ahead of me would take on a whole new meaning. I made several promises to myself and I planned on keeping each and every one of them. I deserved it.

On January 29, 2012, I fulfilled my biggest promise and it was amazing to say the very least. I crossed the finish line of the ING Miami marathon a little after noon. Outside, I smiled while mentally I crossed an item off of my bucket list. I do not have the right words to describe the feelings that moved with me across that finish line, but they left me in awe.

Miles 1-5 greeted me with a cloudy and imperfect, but incredible sunset. Mile 10.5 surrounded me with a sea of people: runners, spectators and costumed characters. Mile 20 beat the crap out of me. It was the most difficult for me by far. Mile 24 gave me a boost and I ran my best splits for the next two miles. Mile 26 was living. Speed did not matter. Neither did anything else in the world at the time. Not even cancer. Nothing else mattered. What mattered was that I was here. In this moment. Running. And finishing. Being here was perfect.

I never had the confidence to even try to complete a full marathon until a year ago. I'm glad that changed. At some points, it hurt like hell and all I wanted to do was stop. But I kept going. I remember the humidity settling onto my skin at mile 2 and how sticky it was. And I remember the sudden sense of good energy that seeped into my soul toward the end of the race as I realized that I was finishing. It was one of those rare life moments when good, hard work meets accomplishment and inspiration. Not only was it indescribable, it was unforgettable.

Are you Ready to be a mAss Kicker?

We think ALL Tumors Suck! We believe a stronger community needs to be formed to more efficiently fight these diseases. JOIN THE MASS KICKERS ARMY! Content here will be provided by real people who have been affected by tumors/cancer. Any one can be a "mAss Kicker". When facing a new intimidating diagnosis it is easy to loose confidence. We've found that the "Right ATTITUDE" will help get you through a difficult time! Are you ready to be a "mAss Kicker?"