Yesterday was a crazy crossroad in this journey. I had a full-body exam. I had a CAT scan, PET scan, and blood work to determine the success of 8 months of treatment. At 9:00 am, I went into the doctor’s office and sat down. I was there alone (by choice). I wanted to accept my fate, no matter which direction it took, and come to terms with it. I sat there for about 20 minutes. When you are waiting to hear whether you still have Cancer, 20 minutes feels like a lifetime.
If the tests say yes, it means I have a very resilient Cancer that will most likely come back. I will have to try even more drastic treatment methods. It means the odds of needing a transplant are high. Scary stuff.
If the tests say no, the treatment worked. The odds of my Cancer being gone and staying gone are quite high. I will still be facing two more years of treatment, but it will all be outpatient. I will never have to stay in the hospital ever again. I will be able to resume social activity, eat at restaurants, travel, etc. I will still need to be cautious, but will no longer be the fragile bubble boy that I have been.
The doc asked if I was nervous, and I just laughed. I bet you’re waiting for the results. It is nerve-wracking, right? HA.
At 9:00am yesterday, I was told that my CAT scans and PET scans show that I am in COMPLETE REMISSION. There is NO evidence of Cancer. Holy crap. I can’t scream this loud enough…. There is NO evidence of Cancer!!! I took the biggest and happiest breath of my life.
I immediately called my wife and family, and told them the great news. Then I called my son Brandon. “Guess what?,” I asked him. “They looked through my body and can’t find any Cancer.” All he did was laugh and laugh and laugh. I should have recorded it. It was an 11 year old boy, my boy, experiencing pure joy with me. He asked again, “So they don’t see anything?” I said “Nope,” trying to keep from completely losing it… and then he laughed some more and said, “Well, that’s good. Now you can come to my baseball games.”
This is really one of my happiest moments. Yes, I have a long journey ahead. I am at the hospital now, and just had a bunch of painful procedures, including getting Chemo through my spine. I have two years of treatment remaining. I will be taking Chemo pills every day. My body has to keep fighting. But knowing that it is all working, everything hurts a lot less.
I want to thank everyone that has been supporting me. I want to thank everyone for making me feel so loved. Thank you to my family and friends. I really am alive because of all of you. You all gave me so much strength. A major hurdle has been achieved, and I am grateful to have passed through it.
You know the famous saying: “So Aaron, you just beat Cancer, what are you going to do now??” Well… I’m not going to Disneyland. Instead, I’m just going to the taco shop to get a California burrito. That sounds pretty good right about now :)
PS: If you’d like to post a comment, please feel free to visit the comments section on the site. I will make sure to give it a read. Have a happy and healthy day!
Today I am on my 8th day in the hospital. It has been very difficult for me this round. But let’s first start off with the fun stuff.
I had my son Brandon in San Diego for 32 amazing days. He is the best medicine :) Fortunately, we timed everything just right, and I was only in the hospital for six of those days.
When I got out, I felt surprisingly healthy. I went to the beach, swam in a pool, took bike rides, threw a frisbee, and played catch pretty much every day. I also learned Minecraft, thanks to Brandon. I remember trying to teach my parents Mario Bros, and they were clueless. They just couldn’t pick it up. That is how I felt trying to learn his game. I guess each generation will get more and more confused by the games our kids play.
It felt nice to feel pretty normal. When I say ‘pretty normal’, I mean far from normal, but not in any pain. More energy.
Now I’m back in. This round is called 3B. It takes place over two phases. You go in for 4-5 days, and then out for a week. Then back in again. They give you chemo for 36 hours, and then special fluids to rescue you from the chemo effects. Your levels have to get down to .1.
The last round, my levels dropped to the desired range within two days. This round, however, my kidneys have suffered injuries. Basically, they got their kidney butts kicked. So my levels have not been able to recover at the same speed. I’m stuck. It is now Day 8, and I am still here.
I think it is always important to stay as positive as possible. That is the best way to heal. But everyone has a breaking point. I will fully admit that this round broke me a bit. This round, this final round, has been brutal. It is like a tease. You will see pictures of me at the beach and think, “Wow, looks like he is getting better!” And I am. But then, the second I go back on chemo, I go right back to where I was physically. I feel so weak right now, like an old man.
This round, I have experienced things that I hadn’t really gone through in all the previous rounds, like post-traumatic stress. I have felt anxious, depressed, frustrated, angry, and, negative. These are all words that I would definitely never use to describe me. Actually I am the exact opposite. But you reach a point, (and I believe this exists in every human), where you just can’t take it. You feel defeated. I had moments of this for the first time in my life, and I couldn’t escape it. So yesterday I just embraced it. I cried a bit, then cried some more, and then a little more after that. I couldn’t help it. But after that, I felt a little better.
Now, I believe there are two ways to recover. 99% of the time I am going to keep it positive. I think it ultimately helps the healing process much quicker. But 1% of the time, If I need to, I will allow myself to crawl in a ball and have a little pity party. It mentally released a lot of frustration, and I am feeling better today.
This isn’t easy. It is not the same as feeling tired and waiting to have energy again. There is no feeling like this. Your body just takes a beating. It really is a war.
The good news is that this is my final round of in-patient treatment. Assuming my Pet scan checks out well, I will not have to stay at the hospital anymore. When I go in for chemo, I will be able to leave afterwards. I will also be taking chemo pills/steroids at my own house. It will still be tiring, but there really is no place like home. I wish I could click my heels and be there now. So I am in a waiting game until my numbers improve and my Kidneys repair themselves.
So back to the good news/fantasy. I am hopeful that the doctors clear me to go home tomorrow. I am optimistic that my Pet Scan will be clear, meaning that Cancer can no longer be detected. Then, I begin my two years of maintenance. During this time, I will grow my hair back, start working out more, take a trip with April to see the fall leaves, visit Brandon, work a couple of days a week at the studio, hang out with my new nephew, enjoy my family and friends, throw on the baseball uniform and play first base and bunt, ride my scooter, go to the beach, eat at restaurants, go to the All Star Game, and just enjoy my body getting healthier every day.
I don’t think these are crazy dreams. I look forward to seeing them come true very soon.
I wanted to share this video of my speech from The Love Benefit event on June 2, 2015. The event was dreamed up by my friends and colleagues in the wedding industry, who went all out, and put together an amazing evening. Since I couldn’t be there myself, having come off an intense chemo round, I was asked to prepare a video. I figured I’d surprise everyone and show up instead :) NOTE: I mention in the video modern humans existing 200 years, meant to say 200,000 years.
It has been a while since I wrote on my blog. Call it writer’s block. Or just blocking out writing. Or thinking so much.
At this point, I understand what it takes to get through each new round of chemo. But I am at the beginning of what will be my biggest round. So far, it has been four very intense days. This one will last for 3-4 weeks, and I will remain in the hospital the entire time. I will admit that physically, I am a bit spent.
For example, in the past 48 hrs, I have had: 2 blood transfusions, 2 rounds of chemo, 4 bags of potassium, 2 bags of magnesium, steroids in my eyes, laxatives, Acyclovere, Mepron (which is like paint that you swallow), Lasix (to pee), and a gallon of fluid which made me gain 14 pounds of fluid (I looked like a puffer fish). On top of that, I have shared a room (which is ridiculous). When sharing a room, you don’t sleep, because the other patient’s lights go on and off, and their iv beeps throughout the night. So it has been an adventure. As I write this blog post, I am sitting in a hallway, waiting for my own room. It is 12:15 am.
This process wipes out my body, but I am proud to say it still has not broken my spirit even one percent. I am optimistic. I love the feeling of accomplishing each round. After this, there will be one more intense round next month. Then, assuming all stays on track, I transition to maintenance, which is much easier on the body. About half as intense. The doctors said that my body has handled the treatment very well. They said it has responded quicker than most, so that is good.
I feel strongly that my next chapter will be a happy story of survival, and that I will be looking back on this someday with a new celebration of life and all that it has to offer. I am so motivated to get through this, do amazing things with my life, and make a positive impact on the lives surrounding me.
Well my fingers were crossed last week for my numbers to go up, and the next day they did! I have been in the hospital since Tuesday and was finally able to receive the Chemo that I need. I call this round the Pee Pee round. It is a nonstop pee fest. They give me a chemo that requires a ton of hydration, so that it doesn’t crystallize in my stomach. So I received chemo for thirty-six straight hours and then fluids to help rescue me from the chemo.
With this, it means that about every 40 minutes or so I have to pee. But not the normal version. It goes instantly from zero to, wow I have been sitting in a car for 3 hours and have to go really bad. This gets pretty tiring as I have to go day and night. So I am tired from that, as well as the effects of the chemo.
The goal is clear all of the chemo out. From a numbers perspective I have to get the methotrexate levels (chemo) down to .1. Yesterday I was at 7.0. So there is still a hill to climb to get there, before they release me from the hospital.
Overall I feel ok. I am really bloated from all of the fluids, so I have a nice puffy face, like a puffer fish. But it is better than my old look, like Skeletor, when I was way too thin.
The last two and a half weeks have been all about learning patience. You would think that having a break from chemo would be very nice, but it is frustrating. My chemotherapy has been delayed two and a half weeks now. I am just waiting for my numbers to go up.
Even though my mind is sharp, my body is exhausted. There is no mental effort required on this one. It is all physical. I am at the mercy of my body waking up.
In order to have treatment, my bone marrow platelets have to be at 50,000. Instead, my platelets have been hibernating at around 24,000 – 40,000. A transfusion would get me to the desired numbers. However, with this round of chemo, it is very important for my safety that my body makes natural platelets. So chemo is on hold.
This has definitely been a test of my patience. It is a bit nerve wracking. I feel like I’m in a trap. If I have chemo when my numbers are low, it is very dangerous. But with an aggressive cancer, it is not good to delay too long either.
In a weird way you find comfort in having chemo. You know you’re at least moving forward, and fighting for something. But the last chemo also kicked my butt a bit. I have experienced some nerve damage in my body, and my legs and feet are always very numb. I walk with a sort of wobble these days. Like when you are in a car for eight hours, and then get out to stretch at a gas station. The main difference is that that this feeling doesn’t go away.
The doc said this kind of nerve damage is usually reversible over time. I of course naturally focused on the word usually. Ha.
Every other day, I go to the hospital and get the same news. The numbers are still not where they need to be. I actually have hair growing back on my head. Naturally, you start wondering what else could also be growing back.
I am trying to take my own past advise. Focus on what is in my control and accept what isn’t. It is a tough discipline to maintain, but I do my very best. I try as hard as I can to stay focused on that philosophy. It is very important that I only have small bad moments, and not bad days.
I will fully admit that I felt a bit grumpy a couple days ago. It lasted more than a moment. I got a bit angry at Cancer, and found myself just yearning for normalcy. I found myself just wanting to go to a Padres game, maybe grab a beer and sushi before the game with my friends. But it isn’t possible. So I had to have a serious conversation with myself to get out of that phase of impossibility.
I feel better now, and have my head on straight. But again, I find myself sitting at the hospital, waiting for the results of my next blood withdrawal. This process is much more than just about dealing with pain. It is about handling reality. It is about being patient.
While writing this, I just received my results… I am now at 46,000, up from 40,000. So 4,000 to go and I will start my chemo again. Fingers crossed it will be there by Tuesday :)
I think it is in my nature to constantly compare. I see other people’s achievements and want to achieve more. I want to be the BEST! I feel we’re all wired that way. I don’t think anyone wants to be ordinary. But what is the best?
We all put timelines on when things should happen. For example: getting married by a certain age, staying married, owning a house, having kids, having a career path, reaching a certain weight or fitness level. etc… We create pressures on ourselves based on what we believe society expects of us. If we don’t follow the process, then we are failing. We are unhappy.
Goals are good to have for sure. But the second we start trying to live someone else’s story, we truly suffer. We aren’t meant to have the same story. I have lost sight of this many times over the years. The desire to achieve and over achieve has propelled me in many ways in my career and life, but has also caused me a lot of unnecessary stress. That is my doing. I have a natural tendency to show off, and let others see how great and happy everything is. I have let my ego get in the way at times.
Recently, I have made a lot of effort to push all of that aside, in order to find my own true happiness.
I don’t have many regrets in my life. But a part of me wishes I could go back to my old self in my early 20’s and just tell that guy to chill out a bit. To embrace exactly where I am at, rather than constantly living for the future. I have found that if you can trust your story, the good and the bad, you can be much happier in the moment.
When I was single, I spent so much time worrying about whether I would ever find the right person. So many conversations with friends. “Why not me, I’m a good guy. All the good ones are taken…” I would look at other people that were in love and would feel sad that I didn’t have that. I could have spent so much more time enjoying all the joy that can come from being single. But I was blinded by my fear of not having a sure answer. I jumped into relationships that maybe I knew weren’t right so that I could follow society’s protocol. I could have just trusted that my story would unfold as it was supposed to. I would have been much happier.
When I was super skinny (still am), I would look at other super fit people and wish that I could be like them, even though their body frame was completely different from mine. But I am not meant to be them. I was born me, and now I embrace it. I appreciate being me and respect the body I was given. It has kept me alive. I have all the friends I need, and I have a great wife and family. So I own it a bit more.
When I was twenty-six, I would see all of these super successful business people. They were way ahead of me financially, or in their business, and I put so much pressure on myself. I would tell myself that “I have to be at a certain point by the time I am thirty, or it won’t be impressive anymore.” I had this need to show off, to wow people with my early accomplishments. That was my definition of happiness: be the best at everything, and do it all first.
I was definitely wrong in this thinking. Guess what? Nobody cared. It was just me putting unnecessary pressure on myself.
I don’t know if our story is already written. I would like to think that I am continually writing mine, and helping it evolve. I trust that my Cancer is just part of my story. That is has purpose. That with all the pain that comes with it, and all the unknowns, it will be the best thing that has happened to me. I have learned to really embrace whatever my story may be.
I am not waiting for my Cancer to be gone in order to find my happiness. I am not comparing myself to healthy people, or wishing I could be them. This is my story, and I’m living happy today. My brain works, my eyes work, my fingers work. I am grateful for that. Now, I don’t look at what I wish I had. I appreciate what I actually have. That brings me a lot of peace.
There will always be someone “ahead” of us. Someone that has achieved more, or is younger or wealthier, or hotter and more fit. But I no longer compare. I no longer care about proving anything to anyone. My goals of happiness have changed. I now look at each day in a much simpler way. I just want to be me. I want to see what makes me happy on a daily basis. My goals are now more focused on what I personally want to achieve, versus what others have achieved in comparison.
I think it is important to ignore the timeline of when goals are achieved. The important thing is whether you achieve them. Turn off the “has to happen by this time” clock. Remove the urgency and live in the moment. Good things always happen even, from bad things. We have to make all of our decisions on what we feel is best. We can’t worry about what others will think. That is wasted time.
I am now living my life story daily. I am so excited to see what is ahead!
With all that I have gone through these past four months, and all the time I have to think these days, I can’t help but think about my mortality. I think about the world, how it is structured, how I got here on earth, and how earth got here. I think about the universe and my place in it.
As a kid, I would ask myself big questions constantly. How did stars get here? Who made earth? Who made the guy that made earth? Where did it all start? I would talk to my friends about it for hours, pondering all of these big questions until my brain literally hurt. I just couldn’t comprehend it. Still can’t completely.
None of us truly know all of the answers. We may think we do, from the beliefs that our parents have passed down, or what we have learned in our Temples, Churches, Mosques, or Monasteries. But at the end of the day, I feel that none of us are absolutely certain of everything. That is ok. I have learned that it is ok have unanswered questions. Some things in life aren’t meant to have definitive answers.
Unfortunately, rather than embracing the unknown, we often choose to fear it. But if we knew the answers to everything, then we wouldn’t have faith. Faith is especially important to me now. It pushes us forward, and should bring us all closer together.
I realize I run a very sensitive, slippery slope when speaking about religion because people do have such strong faiths and convictions. I want to express very clearly that I am all for religion and people embracing their beliefs. Whatever avenue ultimately makes you a more complete, caring, and honorable person is the way to go. Since this is my blog with my thoughts, I want to make sure that I don’t filter my own internal beliefs, which come really from my heart.
I love the idea behind religion. I am all for it. It is a way to find that peace. It helps our minds get a grasp on all of these unknowns that we can’t quite put a finger on. Religion provides us with the concept that there is more than just this life on earth. It reassures us that we will be in a nice place in the afterlife, if this life is followed correctly. Religion also provides us with a moral guideline while living this current life. So this is all a very good thing. Only good should come from this.
We have a human need to share our faith and belief with others. We may even feel that our religion is the correct one, making every other faith and belief the wrong way to go. But where we get in trouble is when we can’t accept that someone else may think different. What happens here? War. So many wars, because we can’t accept the fact that we are not all supposed to be the same.
Let’s say for a moment that we all share one God, a single creator of all of us. Then why are we not all the same color, with the same personalities, and the same religion? Wouldn’t that have been so much easier? The answer is yes. It would be much easier. But the world would never evolve. It would be so boring. There would be no challenges, or growth or change. We are supposed to be different, to think different, to challenge each other with all that we don’t know. We should be embracing that. We should be loving each other for that.
Different is how we ultimately evolve as a society, rather than doing the same thing over and over. Different makes us think more. Different is where invention and re-invention comes from. Instead, our fear of different gets in the way too often. We can’t seem to handle the fact that others believe in something other than what we believe in. If we are to truly to have eternal bliss in this life and the next, the first step would be to understand that the world is not meant to be one look and one belief. If it was meant to be that way, it would have been structured that way from the start of our civilization.
I believe that we shouldn’t live this life in fear of the next one. I believe that the answer is very simple. If we are honest and loving, respectful to each other, and loyal, then we will all be just fine in this life and beyond. We need to embrace each other and love each other for how unique and different we all really are, while also understanding just how similar we are.
When we post something online, our natural instinct is to show off. It is all about portraying just how happy we are, and how great everything is. But we often hide the truth from each other. We only show our perfect smiles and our amazing moments, which are often completely staged. Facebook, Instagram, and all other forms of social media often paint an untrue picture of what is going on in our daily lives.
I’ll admit that I am on all of those sites daily. I enjoy them. But I also try to look at them with realistic eyes. I have grown to realize from my own experience that you don’t really know what is going on in someone’s life unless you speak directly with them. Or unless they happen to have a blog, and they write down their every thought ;)
The old saying is that a picture is worth a thousand words… This still holds true. But my new quote of the day is that “behind a picture could be a thousand lies.” What is really going on? How does this person really feel? If we want to provide happiness for ourselves and others, we have to get around those perfect photographs and videos. We have to really start sharing more with each other.
Here is a great example. This is a picture of me, my dad, and Brandon all playing catch on the beach. In truth it actually was awesome! I was able to play catch with my son. For those that know my journey leading up to this moment, the picture is worth a thousand words for sure. At one point, just a couple of months ago, I didn’t know if I would ever have this opportunity again. It was a very special moment.
I could post this photo on Facebook, and say something simple like, “Just enjoying another perfect day in San Diego, playing catch with my son.” Anyone who didn’t know the history leading up to this photo would take the smiles at face value. Maybe a friend would skim through Facebook and would say to themselves, “Oh that’s cute, looks like he is living the SD life.” Then they would quickly move on to the next post.
In reality, there is so much that you don’t see in the picture. My feet were pretty numb from all chemo just a few days before. It was really hard to run, but I wanted to have what felt like a normal day for Brandon. I had a ton of emotion knowing I wouldn’t be able to play catch with my son again for another three months (he lives in Sacramento now). My point is that there is a lot more story here than just three guys smiling.
If we really care about one another, we have to keep sharing the truth. We have to keep asking each other what’s really going on. We have to keep interacting. We have to find a better way of connecting than social media, which moves so fast that it becomes disposable. We have to slow down and start talking again.
So my fun challenge of the day is to find someone that was an actual friend at one time, but somehow became just a social media friend over the past few years. Find the person that you check in on often, but maybe only through Facebook. Give them a ring. (It can’t be me that you call. That doesn’t count).
Behind every perfect smile could be a whole other story.