Friday, February 3, 2012

Just because.

Hayyy cancer-b-logosphere... I just wanted to stop by because I realized that about one week ago, I reached my five-year "in remission" anniversary. January 25, 2007, my doctor told me there were no traces of leukemia left in my blood and marrow. Five years later, and the cancer is still gone. The past five years have been more than completely ridiculous by so many different standards, but I am still cancer free.

I am training for my second marathon; I am (mostly) self-sufficient; I am beyond blessed for my health and the life I am living. If nothing else, I am grateful that the past five years have led me to where I am today. Thank you all for sticking with me throughout all of it. I hope you've learned something or at least enjoyed reading my frequently ridiculous posts. I won't go on about everything I've learned; you can read below for all of that. Just know that I am thankful to be alive; I am thankful for the wonderful people in my life; I am thankful for five years. Peace.

P.s., check out my newest adventure! I am Running the Boston Marathon for First Descents!! Donate if you can or feel so inclined, but definitely tell everyone you know. :) Love!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

In Brief!

I know, thrice in just over a month? Crazy. But this is important:

I will officially be running in the 116th Boston Marathon this coming April 16, 2012. I am beyond excited and lucky to be running this historic race with First Descents.

Please, join my efforts and follow my progress:

on Twitter -
on blogger -

Most importantly, I have a new fundraising page... So share this link, and with your help, I know I'll be able to cross that finish line in Copley Square with strength and pride. Here we go!

Monday, November 7, 2011

The difference a month makes

I am returning to the b-log, yet again, with some good news! Last post, I had just found out that my facetumor was back and hanging out in my left sinus cavity. For a few days, I felt sorry for myself; I moped around and questioned why on earth I was dealing with this stupid thing Again. Then, like so many times before, I accepted it and moved on. Last week was my first week off, but for the previous four weeks, I received a weekly infusion of Rituxan - the same drug I received three years ago for the FT. My experiences this time around were different from those three years ago. Most importantly, we caught the tumor early enough that I never started getting any of the meddlesome side effects that happened in 2008. No hearing loss or nerve damage, no drastic appetite and weight loss. I did, however, have a constant sinus infection and an epic cough for the past six months.

Since I started the Rituxan treatments, my sinuses have pretty much cleared up, and my cough has all but Completely Disappeared!. Though there will be side effects from the Ritux, the long and short of all of this is that I feel healthier than I have in an extremely long time (we're talking years, here). From here on out, I will receive the Ritux treatments once a month for the next six months. I will continue with the immunoglobulin therapy for as long as necessary... Though we still have no idea how long that will be.

I can't believe how crazy it feels to wake up every day having slept through the night without coughing, to be able to breathe through Both nostrils, to not have to take any Sudafed or Tylenol, to be so thankful for all of these blessings. For all these reasons and a handful of important ones more, I have set a crazy goal for myself. In April of 2012, I will run a marathon. I am doing this for myself, but more importantly, I am running for First Descents, the non-profit here in Denver that provides kayaking and climbing camps for young adult cancer survivors. I've written on here before about my experiences with FD; my gratitude to and for this group is boundless. My experiences with and the people I've met through FD have quite literally changed the path of my life. I can say with some certainty that I would not be living in Denver if it weren't for FD. More pertinently, I don't think I would have believed in myself enough to either sign up for much less actually train for and finish the Chicago Marathon. Yet all of these things happened, and I am tremendously happy with where my life has gone and continues to go. God, I am So Happy in Denver.

Anyway, an opportunity has arisen for me to give back to First Descents in a crazy, impossible way: I can run a marathon next spring and try and raise $7000 for FD. That money would send seven young adult cancer survivors to a camp of their choosing at no cost to them, would allow seven more people to experience the magic that is First Descents. Running 26.2 miles is a crazy challenge in and of itself, but for me, the real challenge will be finding the motivation to train through the Winter. It is going to get cold and snowy! I moved out of Chicago and while Denver winters are (supposedly) milder, I didn't exactly move to Florida. But like I've written before, First Descents has truly taught me that anything is possible. Including running a marathon; including running when it's dark and seriously cold outside; and definitely including raising $7000 for a cause I believe so strongly in.

Thank you so much to everyone who has been following this b-log for the past nearly five years. (Has it truly been almost five years? holy crap.) Your support and comments and e-mails and even just the knowledge that I have friends and family and strangers in the world have cheered me through some dark times and a tremendous amount of uncertainty. Once again, I am asking for your support. If you can and would like to donate, that would be Awesome, but you can also tell your friends about this venture! You can Definitely tell your friends and any survivors you know about First Descents! Or come to an event in Denver that I'll be putting on in the next few months! Or you can just send me positive vibes because I'll need those more than anything. The link to my fundraising page is below, and I'll have a handful of updates as I receive them, especially in regards to what marathon I'll be running.

Again, thank you for reading, for checking in. Life is Great; the future is full of potential and I can't wait to see what happens. I hope you are doing well and enjoying fall and have something awesome to look forward to tomorrow. Happy Tuesday, sad toad. I'll see you at the finish line. Peace.

My FD page:

Thursday, September 29, 2011

A most unusual case

Right now, doctors across the country are examining scans, slides, tissue samples, cell counts, and countless lab results in an effort to determine what exactly might possibly be going on with my B-cells. Three years ago, I developed a B-cell proliferation (a facetumor) in my right naso-pharynx, a result of nearly 24 months of chemo and in response to the presence of the Epstein-Barr virus. Three years later, and the facetumor has returned but there is no EBV or any other viral activity to explain its reappearance. This tumor is a super-anomaly because there are no B-cells anywhere else in my blood. The drugs I received three years ago to Destroy the Facetumor! did such a good job that they essentially wiped out all of my B-cells as well as my body's ability to regenerate those cells. To recap: my secondary immune system was annihilated three years ago. No more B-cells. Three years later, and somehow (?!) an excess of B-cells have glommed into a mass in my Left sinus cavity. Literally, it is exactly three years later.

Perhaps a life-recap is in order here. The last time I posted here was nearly Seven months ago. Wow. Wow, really, is all I can say. Amazingly, I moved to Denver on April 31, 2011. For two months, I lived in an apartment far away from everything. I was moderately happy because I was finally living on my own, but it wasn't what I wanted. Then, on July 1, 2011, I moved into an apartment in the heart of downtown Denver. It's huge, beautiful, all-wood floors, and exactly where I want to be right now. My roommate, who I found via Craigslist, has turned out to be one of the most interesting and awesome people I've ever met. We are simple people: we have a futon and two mismatched tables in our apartment, complemented by a vintage 1950s record player. That's it. It is home.

I transferred to a Starbucks in Denver, and while it is slowly and inexorably eating away at my soul, I know I am blessed to even have a job right now. I have been sending out lots of job applications, but so far, no bites. Underemployment has created a tightness in my chest, a sickening and occasionally lack of oxygen to my brain. But then I remind myself that, good God, I am Alive right now. I shouldn't be alive. Five years ago, my body was shutting down; my marrow had turned against me and was slowly leaching the life right out of me.

Five years later, here I am, alive and (moderately) well in Denver. I've run a marathon; this past weekend I climbed a 13,700 ft. mountain. The entire way to the top, as I was gasping for air and trying to keep up with my hiking buddy, I kept thinking, "I cannot believe I'm here right now. I can't believe I am asking this of myself, this physical activity, and I am powering through and almost at the summit." All of this was so long coming - happiness with life. And yet, it is all tempered by the reality that I still have to deal with facetumors and immunotherapy and PET scans.

Right before I moved out here, I met with a GI doctor in Chicago who determined that my intestinal issues were most likely a result of low immunoglobulin levels (those pesky B-cells). She wanted me to start receiving immunotherapy right away, but I was actually moving to Denver the very day after I saw her. After a week or two out here, I found a doctor who could administer the IV immunoglobulins, although he is technically a pediatric oncologist. After shocking yet another doctor with my labs and low blood counts and persistence at living, I began receiving IV IgG, the immunoglobulin therapy. My intestinal issues resolved themselves pretty much immediately, and my sinus infections gradually went away. I ran with ten others in a relay race covering 200 miles of Colorado. I spent a gnarly weekend photographing the shenanigans and racing of some crazy single-speed mountain bikers.

I found out the facetumor came back, and I just learned today that my doctor here has been in touch with my doctor back in Boston. Neither has ever seen anything like me before. My doctor here said they'll probably want to write something about my case at some point. Because what if this happens to someone else? I'm setting a precedent here. No one knows why this happened, and no one knows what is going to happen in the upcoming months and years of my life. Possibly, I will never regain my ability to grow my own B-cells, and I'll have to be on immunotherapy for the rest of my life. As of now, they will be giving me the same drug I received three years ago to kill the tumor, only now I'll be on a seven-month protocol as opposed to just the four weeks it took before.

Honestly, this is all just one more stupid thing. Others are in a much worse situation than I am. Every single day, I thank the universe or God or whomever for putting me here, for letting me be here today. Life is Incredible! I love everything so much, and I have so much to be grateful for. So, facetumor, you're going to be a pain for a while, but once again, all we can do is power through.

There's my update. I didn't really want to ever have to update this blawg again, but I feel like this is important. Truly, mine is a most unusual case. I am baffling doctors! Hopefully, someone will one day benefit from my going through this. As it is, I'm turning 25 in three days (October 2!). I didn't think I'd ever get to this point, but here we are. Thanks for stopping in. Enjoy your lives today! Find something to look forward to. I'm looking forward to this weekend, maybe some hiking, and definitely some spending time with good friends. Peace.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Dear Cancer: Suck it.

My intestines are screwed up. My right inner ear is permanently blocked by scar tissue. My fingers, toes and heels (?) occasionally go numb. Hospital bills, clinic bills, doctors' bills, insurance woes, prescriptions, probiotics, 6-monthly PET scans, an oncologist who is ignoring my phone calls - yeah, you're all still a part of my life. Frustration, anger, insecurity - yes, you too are all still in my life.

But JOY. Hope, excitement, red blood cells taken for granted once more, oxygen, depth, laugh lines, experience, growth, possibility - you Are my life. Fresh fruits and vegetables, way too much caffeine, oh yeah and Running? Oh yeah, running. I no longer just run to the bathroom because the drugs have decided to empty out my stomach (again). I run miles and miles because I can and it's awesome. New, strong friendships with kindred souls, people who understand what I have gone through and with whom I can share the uncertainties of survival. Survival - not of the fittest in the most physical sense, but of the fittest in the sense that We Want To Live. Cancer, in the words of one Cee-Lo Green, F**K You.

I wrote in my previous post that I am ready to move on with my life. After a few disappointing job rejections, I took a week or two to feel sorry for myself, and then I made a decision. I am moving to Denver. In 7 weeks. I have a roommate and apartment lined up, but no job yet. Whatever. I am beyond excited to get going, and now is the time for me to go. I won't miss Chicago; I certainly won't miss these suburbs. There are too many possibilities ahead, too many opportunities for so many crazy adventures out West. So here I go!

I pray that I won't have too much more to add to this here b-log. I love the b-log. It was truly one of the best things for me and hopefully for others during my whole cancer experience. But it too is part of that world which I am mostly moved beyond. Thank you all so much who have followed my words and progression and growth and pain and everything in between. If I need to, I'll update bits and pieces on here, so don't delete this just yet. But nothing too long, nothing too crazy. If you are interested, I have a bit more of a self-indulgent, somewhat running-related blog going that I may segue into my "new life" blog, so feel free to check it out: It isn't meant to be serious, so don't take it too seriously.

I love you all, whether I know you or not. Thank you for reading. Good luck with everything you are doing. Good luck with your lives. I hope you can find the motivation to push through whatever hardships you've got. I hope you can realize that, my God, life is amazing. Ugh, there is so much awesome all around us. It is overwhelming and mostly beyond description. I'm off to go live my life as a stronger person for having so much more than merely survived cancer. Now it is your turn. Good luck!


Saturday, January 29, 2011

Feeding my unseen tumors

Sugar has been scientifically proven to feed cancer cells. Tumors grow; nasty little cancer buggies get all amped up and continue their relentless organ/blood/bone/brain/breast/lymph domination. Yet here I sit, literally pouring Nerds down my throat. So much, then, for that.

But this post isn't about my sugar fixation. This post is about sickness and health. Four years ago, on January 25, 2007, my doctor phoned me at home with the news that I was officially in complete remission. Woah. Four years is the time it takes (generally) a person to start and finish high school. Four years to start and finish their undergraduate college degree. A person will change and grow unimaginably in four years, especially when that person is under 25 and their brains and personalities and priorities are still developing. I am not even close to the same person I was four years ago.

This is also a post about time. One year and 7 months ago, I graduated from Boston University. My life had been barreling up to that point, cancer time-out included. Graduating from college is an idea; it is not a tangible thing. It is an expectation that leaves little room for life's realities. Realities like the class of 2009 graduated in the worst job market for college grads (ever, I think). My personal reality that cancer screwed with my body and my head and left my nascent life-plans in pieces all around me. So I graduated and that was it for me. I had reached an impasse, and, really, all I wanted to do was sit on a rock and watch the sunset. I had no job and no desire to jump into some crazy adult life where my cancer might as well have never happened and welcome to the workforce and the rest of your boring life... Couldn't do it.

I spent 2010 working, yes, but working at Starbucks, living at home. I dated someone for 5 months, my first "boyfriend" since I was a college freshman. I trained for and finished a marathon. I went to two different First Descents camps. I got drunk with my brother in Milwaukee a few times; I didn't go to enough concerts. I did NOT get a cold pretty much the entire year, although my health was tempered by omnipresent gut issues. I made friends with a handful of people who have changed my life for the better, shown me the depth of possibilities for existence. On some levels, near the end of the year, I almost felt that 2010 was a waste of a year: no real job, still living at home. On further reflection though, I realized that I was not ready - not ready to start a job, move on, move my life along its path.

2010 was for growing. All the running; all the sleeping; the guy; working at Starbucks; First Descents: none of it would have been possible had this not been the year it was. Had I not lived at home, I probably wouldn't have run the Chicago Marathon. Had I not had all the FD experiences, I wouldn't have come to the same terms with myself and my cancer. It is all ultimately good, but now it is time to get moving. These past three weeks, I have been battling a cold/sinus infection, my first in really almost a year. It made me realize again just how Grateful I am for my health. Four years later and for whatever reason, I am one of the lucky ones. I'm still not sure what I'm supposed to do, but I have a job interview on Monday. I have an 18-mile race to run in two months. I look great; I feel amazing. Last year was hard, but I do believe it was necessary for me to decompress after college, figure out what cancer means in my life.

So, 2011, what are you going to throw at me? What opportunities will I create for myself? Cancer has had a tremendous influence on who I am turning out to be as a person, but now it is mostly just another piece of my puzzle. Just another thing that won't keep me from consuming highly refined sugars... Today I am thankful to be alive, and this year will be a great adventure that I am more than ready for. Peace.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Awesome survivors doing cool stuff:

THIS looks absolutely amazing. I love the concept, and I follow this young woman's blog. She is just beyond so cool and so strong, and she is easily another one of the people I admire most - even having never met her or talked to her or anything. Doesn't matter. Power and ferocity are universal.