Good afternoon everyone! I hope and pray today brings you happiness and joy. I hope if you are going through some difficult times right now, be sure to not just look forward for the infamous light at the end of the tunnel. Avoid tunnel vision and take a second to look around you. It will be dark at times, but God will always place a window, a sunlight, a crack filled with light to give you a glimpse that you are not alone; that it is not always dark and sad no matter the circumstance. You may still have to dredge forward, but there are always signs if you know where to look that life is indeed good, pure, and full of love. Take a moment to appreciate the good, while learning from life’s lessons because they often go hand in hand.
April 4 is an anniversary I wish to forget but it is forever etched in my mind. One year ago on April 3 late in the evening of March 3, we received a phone call that would change our lives forever. One year ago, I had to call my doctor again because I did not remember one word he said. All I remember was crying and holding Andrea. One year. It seems like an eternity looking back.
It took me 5 days to let you all know. My first status on Facebook after finding out was “Why? Why me? I may never know the answer. I’ve never been more scared in my life.” I remember it like it was yesterday. One year ago. On the same date one year later, this was my status “Good afternoon! Today starts Round XIII of chemotherapy. It is a weekly regimen and the round numbers will quickly increase. I will do them in 8 week segments with a re-staging scan after each segment. Being off of chemo for the last 2.5 months has been amazing. My numbers are amazing, my health is remarkable, and my energy is enough to get me through each day! It is very nerve racking being off of chemo, but has been a very welcomed break. We had many days of enjoying life the way we used. I can work through pain. I can tolerate it, but I do not like being low on energy. Our water heater went out and Landon vomited all very bed in NYC. Landon being sick caused us to come home a day early. However, it was amazing experiencing these problems. THIS is life. This is the stuff you expect with owing a house and sick children. For us, we felt normal and in control. We felt as if our lives made sense again. To not get upset at these issues was truly a life experience, and it felt GREAT!” What a difference a year of living makes.
This morning, as I was lying in bed thinking of this, I looked over my shoulder. I saw my wife and oldest son sleeping, peacefully, without a worry it seemed. I then heard Logan in the monitor talking his baby talk up in his crib; just the happiest little baby. Without hesitation, I began to cry. However, these tears were MUCH different than the tears I shed one year ago. These were tears of joy; tears of happiness and praise to God for giving me this time. It was a long, very hard year, but I am still here, and I was able to wake up next to them. I am able to write you today with the latest scan saying I am cancer free. It’s nothing short of a miracle. I do not know if any of you took the time to research angiosarcoma, but the odds are forever against me. However, today, for this moment, God has given me a cancer free body. I have so much to be thankful for.
And for today, I turn 31. The year of turning 30 is forever behind me. In the past, I have always been quick to judge my year of 30. I have always said it was the worst year of my life. This was incredibly selfish and inconsiderate of me, in all honesty, to rush into such a blanket statement because of a disease and not reflect as I so often try to do on a daily basis. I say that and this disease has won before the long fight has even begun. Even I need to practice what I preach sometimes, and this hit me like a ton of bricks. And so I did; I thought about this past year of my life in its entirety. I thought about what its true defining moments were. Looking back, it has been one of the best years of my life. I can say this with absolute certainty, and, of course, I will explain myself.
First and foremost, it has brought Andrea, the boys, and me closer to God. With any troubles in life, and, I will say this once, especially cancer, one of the hardest forks in the road is the initial questions of “why me” and “why us”. They are dangerous questions, but inevitable to be brought up. It is one of the toughest forks on this journey, but there is NO wrong road to take; none whatsoever. Whether you are a believer or not, Christian or Muslim, you choose what is best for your circumstance knowing it is the best way to make you happy. I beg of you, do not fault a fellow human being for differing views, ever. It is the worst form of judgment you can portray. It was hard to come to terms with these questions. It was very difficult to not blame God. However, I then realized it was not His fault, nor was it my fault. Its life, and a decision that my faith explains happened many years ago. It is God who is carrying us through it as He promised. It isn’t always easy, or bearable, but there is a point every time when I am about to give up that something remarkable and glorious happens to give me enough strength for myself and my family, and it can only be explained by my faith in God. I do not believe in coincidences. Please do not misconstrue what I have learned in my life either. I consider myself highly educated, especially in the sciences, but I choose to have science and God coexist, not try to tear each other apart. What God cannot reveal, and science cannot explain, is where my faith bridges the gaps. However, what I have learned through all of my courses is the many miracles that He has allowed us as humans to peer into. It is nothing short of amazing and humbling. The human body alone is an amazing piece of machinery; truly remarkable.
As equally as important to me on this journey is how I got to really know my wife and who she is. Life moves fast, and we begin to get into routines of everyday life trying to balance kids, work, the house, etc. It happens to us all, but we have the ability to slow it down, albeit for a short moment, but enough time to rekindle the love and care that you didn’t even know was missing. Fortunately, this journey slows things down all on its own without warning. It gives a person the opportunity to really get to know who you have chosen to spend your life with, and it is truly amazing. I pray a circumstance like ours does not have to happen in order to truly find the love and deepest affection for those people again in your life. For me, I learned I am married to an angel. I am married to the strongest person I have ever met. In the past, before all of this, I always considered myself the rock and foundation of this family. I do not stress under pressure, and I can handle high-adrenaline situations. This was selfish and very prideful of me. It could not have been further from the truth. My wife, my beautiful and intelligent wife, has been the strong foundation all of this time. She is just quiet and reserved about it, but make no mistake, she has the emotional and psychological endurance to withstand so much in life. She has the care, intellect and love to carry us through anything. She juggles work, the house, the kids, me, the dog, and explaining our journey to everyone that asks us. She runs on sleepless nights, and exhausting days, only to get up and do it with a smile again the next day; day in and day out, time and time again without hesitation. She is my cure. Recently, God was kind enough to give me a very short glimpse of what she has been through over these last few years. The whole family was sick, including Andrea. For the first time, she was couch ridden. Fortunately, God gave me this lesson while I was doing well. However, it was for only 3 days. After 3 days, I could not bare seeing her like that. I could not emotionally cope with her being sick. She has done this for 12 months and still going. She bounced back quickly, but it revealed to me, even for a short time, what she must be feeling. It was eye-opening. I love you Andrea!
Next, my reflections on my amazing, adoring, and loving family. You have all shown each other and me what we are capable of. It goes without saying the most goes to my mother, my Aunt Jodi, and my mother-in-law Willetta. What you have done, continue to do, and all the different ways you have made this journey virtually stress-free outside of treatments is nothing short of a miracle. You travel with me everywhere. You ask the questions I cannot. You never skip a beat and you are always there for me. It is an emotional journey. One that we do not share the negative aspects because it is a situation only we can truly comprehend as far as the emotional rollercoaster. I’ll be honest and upfront, we are not always nice to each other. We say hurtful things; we argue; we fight. We have a lot going on, but it is healthy for it to come out. However, and most importantly, we grow together with love, and we all deeply understand what the other is feeling. I use the term feeling very loosely because it is an enormous conglomerate of emotions ALL THE TIME. We move forward and learn, but we are there for each other at all times. My love for them runs so deep with such passion and admiration that there isn’t a day goes by I don’t thank God for them. Please realize my family is enormous, and I have become closer to every single one of them. I talk to my grandparents more, and it’s not just about the weather. My brothers, sisters, and I are closer than we have ever been. My aunts, uncles, and cousins are such an inspiration to me with each of their unique and wonderful lives. And my father, I love him so much and have grown so close to him once again. This journey has brought me more love and life than I could have ever imagined. In large part, it is through my family I can live each and every day to the fullest extent possible. They are, without a doubt, the most amazing group of individuals with such amazing talent in so many areas. I am proud of all of you for how you lead your lives, how learn from mistakes, and how we are always there for each other. I love you, more than you will ever know.
This next reflection on life is one encompassing so much. It has so many categories and subcategories that just over a year ago I had no idea it existed or was even attainable in everyday life. You have all proved me wrong, and I am speaking of our amazing group of friends; support group; “extended” family; whatever you call it, you are the glue that holds this whole journey together. The numbers astound me every day; the sheer amount of love and prayers are undeserving and very humbling. You have carried us through the toughest times of our lives, and continue to do so. I have piles, literally piles, of cards, printed messages, FB messages, texts, and notes that are never ending, uplifting, and inspiring. You have kept us out of an enormous medical and personal debt, for which we are forever grateful. To date, you have taken the many hours, sleepless nights, time away from family, countless days of dedication to hold 21 fundraising events throughout the year. TWENTY-ONE!!! And more are being planned. You have helped me spread our journey to all corners of the Earth. You have helped me get 6 articles in numerous print circulations about us and our life. You helped me raise 25,000 for Cycle for Survival in just 2 months! And we are now on our way to a very successful Angiosarcoma Awareness 5K in Troy on May 4. How does one even put words to something so amazing, so astonishing, and so incredibly thoughtful? How do you put thank you into so many different and unique words and have them each try to portray even the slightest bit of what I am truly feeling towards you? I cannot. It’s not possible. All I can do is live up to your inspiration in my life; make sure I pay it forward; and make sure I live each and every day with the gratitude and joy of that day because nothing is guaranteed in life, but you can make the best of any situation. I have seen it happen despite enormous odds and setbacks, not only from myself, but from others fighting the great fight.
Lastly, my new found passion of helping others against this disease is one I am most excited about for the future. I have been blessed with a body and health that seems to always bounce back in full force. God has given me a vessel of a body which can withstand a lot and allow me to live despite the medical and surgical treatments. A miracle does not even begin to describe it. With that said, I often ask and inform you all, with my gratitude, that I am always here for you and if I can ever do anything please let me know. You always reply with sincerity and an emotional plea to just keep fighting. I will. I can promise you that to the very end whenever that may be. However, that is not enough for me. I want to make sure you all know your generosity, love, help, prayers, and care are not in vain and do not go unnoticed. It is imperative for you to realize all of YOUR hard work and inspiration is what fuels my own drive to do as much as I can for the greater of society. I must do more and pay it forward. I must help out where I can, who I can. My family, my sons need to look back at the wonders of this world and the people that are in it, and realize it is a place worth living in and fighting for. They need to know we are in this together, and we will prevail. You have shown me the way and how to do this for them; for me; for my wife and family; and for all of you. Your lives, stories, pictures, and generosity are beautiful and unique. You have all shown me how to live without fear and in pure joy. I love you, with all that I am.
What a year. What an amazing, accomplished, miraculous, inspiring and uplifting year. I have cancer, but it most certainly does not have me. It does not control my life. I was able to experience the most amazing things with the most amazing people against the most devastating odds. Our beautiful Logan was born as healthy as can be. I watch every single day my boys grow together in love and kindness, but in their own unique and amazing ways. I witness the miracle that is my wife handle life with the greatest of ease and a strength that is stronger than anything I have ever seen. Through the generosity of Andrea’s work, we have spent a total of 4 months straight at home together, day in and day out. I have learned to love my family more than I could have ever imagined. I was able to stand up in my best friend’s wedding and watch him marry his soul mate amidst some of the most difficult chemotherapy. We attended a life-changing cancer retreat through Bluebird that has forever changed my passion to help others and advocate for the well-being of my fellow human. I have grown close to many people of this awful disease. Unfortunately, I have had to watch two pass away from it. However, I was able to meet their families in their celebrations of life. Although it was like looking at the face of death for me, it made us stronger and my passion brighter. It made me realize that their fights, and all those that fight angiosarcoma, are not in vain. Their memories will live through me, through all of us who will not stop until something is done. Lastly, I have reconnected, spent time with, cried, laughed, loved, and lived with so many blasts from the past and so many new friends. It is with great pleasure and excitement all of you who have joined this journey that I have known for so very long. It is amazing how much time has passed and yet, when we meet, it feels like just yesterday. I am blessed. I am happy. And most importantly, as of my last scan, I am disease free!
In closing, I hope you know what your lives mean to me. I hope and pray you have some idea of the amount of help in which you have so selflessly provided has made our lives so much better, bearable and livable! Some of you, or most of you, may not know that I resort to music to calm me and take stress away. I am a fan of most genres, but none like classical music (the likings of George Winston, Jim Brickman, Beethoven, Mozart, Kenny G, musical scores, etc.). They take me to a place where nothing else matters. They put my mind at ease and help restore faith and love. They allow me to smile and just melt away into the beauties of life. I say this all because I want to share one of my most favorite songs from one of my favorite musicals I have ever seen: Rent.
I encourage you to listen to Seasons of Love from this musical. I cry every time I hear this song; it just has a strong and powerful message. How is it, looking back, that you measure a year in the life of you? How to you judge how things are going? Despite the hardships, it will work out. 525,600 minutes in a year; 525,600 moments of joy………I love you all. Have a blessed and amazing day!