Friday, November 29, 2013

Grattitude

While living in LA I started doing something upon a friends recommendation.  I noticed I was slowly wearing down living in the city of Angels in the respectively cold Southern California Winter.  Everyday walking to and from the hospital two sometimes three times a day only to arrive back at an empty small and dark apartment which was not the most hospitable environment and full of other cancer fighters- one of which died while I was living there.  They were all exceptionally older than myself and when we encountered one another we would merely silently nod, smile  and acknowledged that we were in the same war waging inside ourselves.  Not a single word was ever spoken to any of my neighbors, but we all had the bond of battling for our lives.  Living in this environment was not a great way to stay mentally healthy, but it also made me face the reality and severity of what I was up against.

One day I went and had lunch with a friend Greyson and ironically at a cafe called Gratitude.  After lunch we were chatting for a while and he gave me a couple books to read (I'll get them back to you or they might show up on your doorstep from Amazon.)  I was telling him how my living situation was not ideal and I was sometimes not interested in much other than sleeping.  This was early on in my treatment and I knew I had a long way to go so I needed to rectify the situation before I let myself get too down.  I had managed to stay so positive through all the nonsense I had gone through the previous 2 and half months and I did not want that to change.  He suggested something that he had started doing and found it helped him appreciate everything in life a little bit more.  His suggestion was to wake up every morning and think of 5 things you are grateful for and if you can't think of 5, think of 4 or 3 or 2 or 1...  It could be anything from the bed you sleep in to the love you share with your family of friends.  I thought about it and it made sense, I had been living in a constant state of negative thoughts when I needed to change my mind into a positive mindset.  So the next day I woke up and the first thing I was grateful for was exactly the thing that was wearing me down.  I was grateful that I had an apartment walking distance to my radiation treatment.  I did not have to commute an hour back and forth everyday and no more traffic!  

From that day forward I started my day with gratitude instead of pessimism.  I would wake everyday and find so many things to be grateful for that sometimes I would be laying in bed for a few minutes before I was done.  Other times I would only think of one or two things.  Most of the time I would think of things from the day before or the coming days ahead.  Some days I would forget, but I try my hardest not to.  The one thing I have always been grateful for was the love of my family, friends and my girlfriend, so everyday that was on my list.  

With the Thanksgiving holiday just passing, it got me thinking more and more.  I saw a lot of people posting about what they are thankful for and for me I have been doing this nearly everyday since the day Greyson recommended I give it a try.  Laying in bed Thanksgiving night I was trying to really think about what I am exceptionally grateful for.  I wanted to figure out what shapes me as a human and why I am who I am.  I am grateful for my mother who helped prepare me for this road and watching her suffer and go through what she did helped mentally prepare me for the chemo days and if it turns south, I already have seen and know what to expect.  I went to South Africa and being there definitely changed my perspective on life and helped to start shaping me to who I am today, I am and will always be grateful for that time spent there and without that experience I know for a fact I would not have been able to deal with my diagnosis the way I am.  I am grateful for a lot of things and this past year has proven to shed a lot of light on my life so what I am most grateful for is Grade IV Astrocytoma aka Glioblastoma Multiforme.

I am utterly and unequivocally grateful for the cancer that is currently trying it's hardest to end my life.  Seems ironic, but without this cancer I would not be the person I am today.  Being diagnosed led me onto this road, a road that is exceptionally frustrating, difficult, sad, depressing, joyous and miraculous.  It has introduced me to some of the most amazing, inspiring and beautiful people I have ever met in my life.  It has guided me to a point where I finally feel like I am doing something that will actually make a small difference in this big world we live in.  I have direction and a lifelong vision of what I want my life to look like.  I am no longer wandering aimlessly in the woods trying to find my way out, I am chopping down the trees and paving my own path all while my best friend slash worst enemy is trying to carry out execution orders on not only myself, but itself in the process.  My cancer helped me find the people in my life who need to be in my life and weeded out the people in my life which needed to vacate.  My cancer has brought me closer to my family and strengthened the relationships with the people I care about and love the most.  Yes, there have been tremendous lows and times where I wish I never had this little monster in my head, but like anything in life that is exceptionally important and powerful it is not easy, but in the long run it makes us better and stronger.   

Even if I do not make it to 30 like the other 90%+ that don't last 2 years, I know in my heart that I have done some good with the time I had.  I lived selfless and truly wanted to make a difference and up until December of last year I don't know if I can honestly say that I have lived that way everyday.  There were times, but for the most part I was more concerned about Ryan and less concerned about others.  Thanksgiving is one day when we take time to be grateful, allow me to recommend the advice that was given to me and start making everyday a day to be grateful.

FTGF,
Ryan
xo

"I respect my enemy, I want to understand him and I am envious of his complexity.  My enemy is my only fear and in that fear there is love.  When I truly understand my enemy, in that moment I will destroy him."

This is a semi-original quote and anyone who is familiar with the book 'Enders Game' will know where I was inspired.

       Just a FEW of the so many people I am GRATEFUL to have in my life.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

...and I thought it would get easier.

I always had this idea in my head of fighting like hell, winning my fight with cancer, moving on with my life and living happily ever after.  I guess I wasn't being too realistic with myself since my mentality from day one has been "Prepare for the worst, hope for the best."  Even before I abruptly ended all my treatments I realized that I needed to start working again.  My treatment dosages were being gradually reduced and other than the first morning after my chemo I was basically fully functional again.  I built up some debt that wasn't doing anything but getting higher and staying at home all alone everyday was getting really old.  After I stopped all Western treatments there was no doubt in my mind any longer, if I didn't find ways to stay busy I think I might lose my mind.

I remained an employee of my previous employer and planned on returning back there upon completion of my treatment, but situations changed and I was no longer able to return.  This was not the news I wanted to hear, but I have had to deal with much harder hurdles in my life and finding another job shouldn't be too difficult, or so I thought.

My job and financial situation is a very minor problem in life, I still am cancer free and my most recent MRI done last Thursday was all clear!  Great news!  December 17th will be one year cancer free!  The thing I forgot to factor in was all the stress that comes with being "in remission."  I used quotes for that word since I still am far from being considered in a remissive state (9 years to exact).  So if you see me, lets just not talk about it cause I really don't want to jinx it :)

My new life now consists of worry and stress nearly everyday.  Everything is now a symptom in my head and every headache I have I am immediately convinced that the cancer is back.  Anytime I lose track of my thoughts or forget something, it's for sure the cancer.  Every weird sensation I feel is immediately something terrible.  I feel almost like I am now living my life 2 months at a time waiting for that "all clear" from my doctor so I can breathe again.  The worst is the week or two leading up to my MRI when it basically consumes me.  I know this will get easier and this past MRI was by far the worst since it was the first MRI post treatment.  Don't let me sound like a Debbie Downer, I am so grateful to still be cancer free facing the worst form of brain cancer there is.  I am already in a very small population of humans to go a year without this crap returning.  I am thankful for everyday and every hour I have, but the mental games are wearing.

When I was in treatment I had my routine and I knew what, where and how I was fighting my battle.  I was never nervous or stressed, I was determined and driven with focus and determination.  I had a vision and I was determined to do everything in my power to survive and now I am back kind of just floating.  Now I kind of seem out of rhythm.  Trying to find a job and getting rejected for positions that frankly I know I am over qualified for is really frustrating, but at this point in my life my job title is the least of my worries.  I guess the rejection is the hardest part knowing my capabilities.  This is just another stress on top of everything else along with the the rejection which is more of a mental bruise.

I still wonder what is harder, life during treatment of life after.
As of now, my answer is the latter.

I am pretty sure this was one of my bad posts, but I said in the beginning over a year ago I am sharing everything, the good, the bad and the ugly.  I know tomorrow I will wake up and I will continue my battle, I just needed to vent a little and I guess this is now my public journal so I apologize if I got a little emo.

On a positive note, I want to thank everyone so much who has donated to my continuing medical expenses fund.  I am utterly blown away by seeing how many people support, love and care for me, especially those I have never met.  You guys inspire me to continue with this crap hand I was dealt and without your continued support I would literally be drowning in debt.  I hate that I have to ask, but I hope I can give you all a little bit of courage to face life a little easier, if not a t-shirt will have to suffice!  The shirts are all but done and being printed up within the next week or so and I have something in the works for anyone who is facing a GBM themselves, as I know I have a few GBM fighters following me as well!  If you have a GBM, please email me or leave a comment with your e-mail.  Stay strong and never stop!

For anyone who wants to donate:  Ryan's medical expenses.

FTGF,
xo
Ryan

"One day at a time."

This Chi Chi Rodriguez fail at a trick golf shot should make you laugh, I sure did.