Saturday, July 20, 2013

The bittersweet summit.

I have been waiting for this moment for the last 2 months.  I am now halfway through treatment.  I have finished 6 rounds of chemotherapy.  The last 6 months have been the most amazing, dramatic, joyful, sad, happy, peaceful and maturing months of my entire life.  I have experienced and been through more in these past 6 months than some people do in their entire lifetime.  It has been a lot of bad with a million times as much good.  Incredible highs with collapsing and devastating lows.  The longest 6 months of my life.  6 months that have reshaped me for the rest of my life.  6 months that I will never forget.  6 months of pain, and 6 months of joy.  6 months down and 6 months to go.

Yesterday was quite bittersweet.  I had chemo in the morning which marked the halfway point of my treatment and buried an amazing women in the afternoon.  It was a long day to say the least.  The service was beautiful, emotional and the perfect ending to a life lived in happiness and love.  She left behind a loving family and a ton of friends.  I can only imagine how much fun she is having up in heaven now, kinda jealous.   She passed away from cancer.  One of my good friends is not feeling too well right now.  Because of cancer.  We lost an amazing 13 year old idol and hero to millions.  Because of cancer.  There has been tragedy, but there has also been some amazing things to come from all the devastation.  Nobody ever claimed that life was easy, not in the least.  But through all the bad there is so much more good.  That is why we wake up every morning, shower and go to a job we might not like very much.  We stress and worry, we complain and can't seem to get a lot of stuff right.  We see torture and pain all around us, but we carry on.  We do hard labor and mundane tasks to live on this earth.  Each day you pay a price and that price is a day of your life.  But through the punching in and punching out, if you look deep enough past all the crap and all the evil out there, there are millions of moments that make every minute of life worth all the nonsense we have to go through.  There is beauty all around us if we just open our eyes and block out all the crap so see it sometimes.

I started this blog as a way to communicate my progress through a tumor, which then led to my blog through my journey fighting cancer.  I have started to grow a small, but loyal audience and I thank you for following and supporting.  I think a big reason that you all keep up with me is because I am able to take this 'terminal cancer' and turn it into such a positive thing.  It truly changed my life for the better and I am able to joke around about it.  I never take my treatment too seriously and I can laugh about the pain instead of complain about it.  I don't think too many people take this approach and maybe that is the appeal, whatever it is I feel like I am getting too emotional and dramatic now.  I have been going through some tough stuff personally and the treatment has been a rollercoaster and it seems to be coming off in my writing now as well- I think, (don't know for sure because I don't really re-read my blogs, kinda just wing 'em for the most part.)  Spell check makes sure I don't sound illiterate and other than that I'm quite un filtered.

Going forward I want to go back to how I started this blog.  I want to make anyone who reads this laugh.  I want you guys to all be with me through this till the end.  I can check analytics on my blog and everyday on average over 150 people check my blog.  When I post that number is exceptionally higher.  It has been viewed almost 100,000 times in 6 months and  I can not thank everyone enough for simply reading these and checking up to make sure I am still doing well.  You guys are what keep me writing and I hope I am somehow helping you guys as well.

I have been waiting for this 6 month mark for a while now.  After today I will be on the downslope of treatment and in turn, a new 'normal' life.  The next 6 months will also be exceptionally awesome as LKF is already starting to catch some steam.  We are genuinely excited to continue this endeavor for a long time to come, but we will certainly need everyones help!  I love you all and if there is anything I can do for anyone who reads this please ask, and that is not an empty gesture.  If I can help, I will figure out a way to help.

Ryan Coffelt

This quote is dedicated to my father and for anyone who knows him will totally understand.

"People who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do."
Issac Asimov

The day it all started, 20 minutes before my craniotomy.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Signing up for the cancer club.

When you are diagnosed your life changes and pretty quickly.  It's like an onslaught of anxiety, information, depression, acceptance, anger and every other emotion all mixed into a bag and left out to ferment.  The beginning is absolutely terrible, and then you start to find a routine.  You get a support system, you start your treatment and you start to feel comfortable in your new life.  You get used to getting poked by needles about 3 or 4 times a week.  You learn terms that most people couldn't pronounce without assistance, you learn all about blood tests, MRI scans, medical jargon and actually know what they mean.  Taking 75 or so pills A DAY doesn't seem all that bad after doing it for months on end.  You start to accept that for the most part, your life will never be the same.

For me, I found direction and purpose, others aren't always so lucky and often others let their prognosis and diagnosis overwhelm them and give up.  What I am also finding, is that I have met some of the most amazing people through this journey.  People who are in the same fight as me and some of which are not doing so well.  I started the Little Kings Foundation wanting to help people that were in my shoes not thinking about the fact that the people I am going to be helping will for the most part be in the hardest time of their lives.  I have made friends with people that to be honest, will not make it another year.  I have seen children going through the worst treatments imaginable, chemos that make mine look like a frosty beverage on a hot summers day.  I have grown to love my fellow warriors, and signing up for this life, I am going to watch a lot of them die.  I still don't know how I feel about this and I have heard of 'survivors guilt,' (not that I am a survivor yet, still wayyyyyy too early to be certain about anything) but I don't know if thats what I feel.  I know my purpose is to be alive and help so I don't feel bad for being alive, it's more the fact that I have to watch some of the most amazing people I have ever met die and can not help them.  This is what angers me more than anything.

When I was first diagnosed I started looking at random blogs, Instagram hashtags, and countless other peer outlets for young adult cancer fighters.  I couldn't tell you how, but I somehow stumbled across an account of the sweetest and most beautiful young lady; her smile was astounding for her current situation and all of her pictures were full of life and energy.  I started following her and reading more about her and it turns out she has been fighting cancer for a few years now (She is now 16).  I then went to the Stupid Cancer's OMG young adult cancer summit in Las Vegas and I saw her.  I never said anything to her and I never even made eye contact, the only time I saw her was in passing down one of the large corridors at the Palms Casino.  She was walking with her chin held so high, that was the first thing I noticed about her.  She was so confident and she seemed like she didn't have a care in the world even though she was fighting just like the rest of us.  She was wearing these combat boots that made her look even more bad-ass!  She moved me in that one instant and I can still remember her mom with her halfway grown out ribbon shaved on the side of her head in support of her sick child.  The both of them were fierce and unwavering.

We left that summit and I grew more interested in her and kept up with her more and more.  She never knew I existed until very recently when she took a turn in a not so good direction.  Treatment was working and then it decided to suddenly stop working and actually speed up the tumor growth.  This caused a tumor on the bottom of her lung to grow to a pretty large hot dog looking tumor causing her pain.  The cancer has not been easy on her and it is being very tricky to say the least.  Lauren or Lola is now taking the time she has whether it's 5 years or 80 years to do what any 16 year old girls wants to do.  Little Kings Foundation along with a number of other amazing and inspiring people are doing everything we can do get all of Lola's wants taken care of. 

Lola came down for the first part of her 'bucket list' trip last week on Tuesday, July 9th.  She flew into OC Airport and went straight down to Santa Margarita for the first meeting with Tamara, another person who was met at OMG in Las Vegas.  I had a close and amazing friend Kelsey come up from San Diego to do her makeup professionally.  After getting her makeup done we set out to Tustin to meet and hang out with the amazing tattoo artist Dan Smith, owner and artist at Captured Tattoo in Tustin known from Kat Von D's show LA Ink and lead singer for the band The Dear and Departed among other ventures.  We spent a good amount of time chatting and learning about the tattoo world with Dan.  After an amazing visit at by far one of the nicest tattoo shops I have ever been inside of, we went to dinner at Rutabegorz across the street.  We finished the day a little earlier than we hoped, but she had a long few days ahead of her so we didn't mind.

The following days were spent with other kind people (all of whom were met and befriended at OMG) doing countless amazing things.  She had a massage on the beach, she did yoga on the beach.  She went out in LA and spent the night in Beverly Hills.  She lived a normal life and how a 16 year old should spend her time, not caring.  She was able to forget what she is facing everyday of her life, and for the past 3 years!  She laughed and glowed with energy a mere 2 minutes after she was vomiting in the bathroom like someone who had 20 or so too many shots.  It didn't matter because she lived in the moment and the happiness she spread made everyone around her that much brighter.  Lola went home a day early, not because she was filling sicker, but she wanted to rest for a couple days before she heads to New York for the second half of her fun filled adventure which will take place this week!

Lola is an inspiration to me.  She puts me in check when I think my life seems a little crappy.  Lola is the ultimate fighter who takes on her goliath opponent with a smile and a wink.  Things don't always go her way, but she won't back down.  Like all of us in the crappy unchosen war for life, we know what the end game can be.  We do not try and hide the fact that one road leads to an unwanted early 'exit stage left' and the other door leads to a life well lived.  Our theater's are much more dramatic than most our ages and we carry on.  Lola spreads joy and amazing energy and she does this by having peace with herself first and foremost.  There is no time for weeping while we are still alive.  Feeling sorry for ourselves gets us nowhere quickly so why waste the time we have here doing it?  If it is another year or another 80 years, Lola has already inspired more people in her short 16 years than many do in an entire lifetime; and who knows who those people will one day inspire through Lola's actions.  I only hope that I help people the way that Lauren helps me.

Lola always reminds me of one of my all time favorite quotes,
"To live is the rarest thing in the world.  Most people exist, that is all"
 -Oscar Wilde

Follow Lola on her journey as she slays cancer on Instagram @lola_scott1 and Love Like Lola

Ryan Coffelt

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Remembering Debbie.

Visiting with Debbie a a couple days before she passed away I was brought back to my little one bedroom apartment where I took care of my mom for so long.  Seeing her lay in her bed all but in a coma with all same noises and the smell of sanitizers and medicines brought back a flood of memories.  All kinds of memories; good, bad, emotional and happy and sad.  Debbie was sick for a long time.  She fought like a true warrior and no matter how many of her vital organs decided to stop working, her heart was so strong that it refused to stop pumping the fluid of life through her veins.  Even after she said her last word, she laid there for a over a week motionless except for the few involuntary twitches brought on by neuropathy, tumors, medicine and who knows what else.  She remained strong until the end, as well as beautiful as the day I met her over 22 years ago.  If her head was not shaved she would have simply looked like she was sleeping.  She did not lose color, she did not lose her positive energy and she did not lose her spirit, even though she never said a word, she was a strong presence.

I met Debbie over 22 years ago and she quickly became one of my '5 moms.'  We all grew up in the same neighborhood in Anaheim and our families evolved into the closest group of friends you could imagine.  For about 10 years between the kids in the families and the adults being just as close of friends, we were with each other nearly everyday in one way or another.  As we aged and went to different schools, the kids didn't see each other as much, but the original parental groups stayed just as close.  My father has spent nearly every weekend of the past 22 years with that group of friends in one way or another.  Camping trips, river trips and family vacations galore; Debbie was always the one who maintained herself when most of the group couldn't put down their beers down even after they probably should have.  She was the logical thinker who talked the group out of numerous things that no doubt would have led to possible imprisonment or fines.  The calm little butterfly with a heart of gold.  

In my mind it is hard to understand the bond that they had with each other.  I have a very small group of exceptionally close friends, most of which I met in high school and the others my childhood friends.  It seems odd that our families did not meet until my parents were well into their 30's with established jobs and pre-existing friends, but none the less when we all met it was almost as if we became one large family over night.  

Debbie was always the quieter one.  She was the calm little flower that kept the peace in those times where friendly tempers flared or when things got a little rough.  She was the backbone that kept her husband and children together through all the stuff they had to go through.  Jessica has always been her pride and Little Mike has always been her joy.  Her husband and her have been inseparably in love since their youth and nothing could tear them apart.  Debbie fought till her last breath to try stay a little longer just so she could feel her families presence.  She was so close to seeing her first grandchild that it is tragic, but through her children's and husbands memories she will live on in all of her grandchildren's lives.  She will not be forgotten anytime soon.  She was one of the most genuine and humble people I have met and was always willing to do whatever she could do to help people.   

Even when she was in the middle of her treatment fighting breast cancer, she always supported me through my cancer.  She had such a huge heart that when the doctor told her she's not going to do as well as they had hoped, she was worried about me, not herself but who would take care and help me?  She was and is like a mother to me, to all of us.  Debbie unknowingly adopted 10 more children when she moved to Anaheim.  We all love her just as much today as we did the day we met her.  Now you get to watch all of us grow old from afar and one day we will meet again.  

Now go party with my Mom and Uncle Charlie until the rest of us get up there and save us a seat!

Ryan Coffelt

Cancer really sucks.

"Seeing death as the end of life is like seeing the horizon as the end of the ocean."
  David Searls