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Coping with My Fears

It has been a very long time since I wrote in my blog. I should start out by acknowledging this. I told myself that when I had something to write about, I would write again. But I wouldn’t write just to write.

So what have I been doing? I have been living! I stepped away for a bit to find my new happy. My health is currently steady. I am in maintenance mode. I take chemo pills every other day, do labs twice a week, and have chemo in my port once a month. Overall I am doing great. I am alive, and it is crazy that I am.

It’s been almost a year and a half since I experienced a fear I didn’t even know I had. Cancer has been life changing, and in addition, this year has brought on so many other potential fears. To name a few:

  • One of my best friends just left to do his final deployment. Will he come back the same as when he left?
  • My cousin, who suffered from bipolar disorder and was more of a very close friend growing up, unfortunately ended his life. Will his young kids and family be ok?
  • My aunt just found out yesterday that her Brain Cancer is back after 9 years of remission. They won’t know the results for another 10 days.
  • My good friends have a 1 year old daughter that is suffering from AML, will she be ok?
  • In my business, I have an important person/employee leaving our studio, and it’s the busy season quickly approaching. How will I get someone new trained in time?
  • Will I keep bringing in enough money to paying all of my HUGE bills
  • April is venturing into a new job. Will she like it, is it the right move?
  • The photography market is changing and there are a lot of new photographers that keep popping up. Will the value of photography stay where it is?
  • Then there is my own health fears. If someone near me coughs, does that mean they have the flu, and I will catch it? Should I eat here? Is it ok to travel? Will my Cancer ever come back????

Those are just a few on the long list of my own potential fears. Each person I mentioned has their own fears also. The list goes on and on for everyone. We all have a laundry list. If you just focus on the fears, the world can seem pretty bleak. It is stressful and depressing. So how do we fight the fears? How do we maintain our sanity? How do we stay happy in the present?

To fight my own fears, my biggest weapon is faith. I don’t necessarily mean faith from a religious sense, or maybe I do without realizing it… For me, faith is more about trusting in my decisions. Even if the judgements I make are sometimes based on intuition, and not my own experiences, I have to believe they will be correct. As long as I learn and grow from my own choices, I will continue to evolve.

I don’t think it is necessarily healthy to remove all fears. We have them for a reason. Ironically, though, it is typically the fear we create in our minds that causes the majority of our pain and suffering. Once we have the outcome, whether it is good or “bad”, the coping or healing has already begun.

It is sort of like eating good fat or bad fat. Good sugar or bad sugar… There are fears that are necessary and good, as they keep you cautious. But fears of the unknown get in the way of happiness and can be bad. They keep us from taking good risks. These are the fears that need to be conquered.

Over the course of running my business for 16 years and then going through a year and a half of fighting Cancer, I have developed techniques for myself to get through what I consider to be the “bad” fears. I will share some of them in hopes that it can help someone else have a better day :)

  1. The first step is to take a moment and acknowledge the fears. The quicker you can do this the better. By doing this, you don’t get sucked in and overtaken. It is really easy to go into that panic mode. The heart starts racing, the mind wanders, the body tightens up, and now your body is working against you, rather than for you. Just take a moment and stare right at the fear. Acknowledge its existence and then stop for a moment.
  2. Don’t jump too far ahead. That is when most of our fears grow.
  3. I then think about the things that are outside my control, and have faith and trust that it will all work out, as it is supposed to. There just isn’t any purpose worrying about something you have no control over. (I know, easier said than done). If anything works out differently than I had hoped or expected, then I will eventually discover why, and will grow from it.
  4. I then list out what I think is in my control. Once it is listed out, I don’t look at the entire list. I look at the first step on that list and start to execute the tasks. If you look at everything you have to do, it is like putting gas on a fire. Its overwhelming and then allows fears to grow. Just go one step at a time. I try to simplify everything into step 1, step 2… Before jumping 10 steps ahead.
  5. Finally, after I do what I can, I accept and trust the outcome. I did what I could, and what I couldn’t control worked out the way it was supposed to… even if I couldn’t understand why at the time.

All of these techniques are easier said than done. I still have moments of being overtaken by my fear. But I am aware of it, and try to quickly combat it. If we live our lives in fear, I truly believe that we never really lived.

As we get older, there is so much more to fear, with all of our responsibilities, our childrens’ well being, our personal health, paying our bills, and the list goes on and on… But if we can have the faith and acknowledge life as it is, then we can still be very happy. We won’t let our days be consumed with fear. We just have to trust, and know that everything will be ok.

Rachel and Kenneth, you will be ok. Mom and Dad, Shosh and Brian, Brandon, Rachel and I will be ok, with whatever lies in front of us. Marsha and Gene and Rachel, you will get through this. The kids will be ok. Tim and Lynn, Hazel will be ok, you will be ok. Ryan, you will be ok. Cheryl and Nathaniel, Ryan will be ok. Kristin Q, you will be ok. You have gotten through everything life has thrown at you. You will be ok. Megan, if you’re reading this, your mom is more than ok. She is smiling down at you and your family everyday, but especially this Sunday. I know this. I really do know this. Your family will be ok. April, you will be ok. April, I will be ok. Jill, you made a tough decision, but you made one, so you will be ok. My business will be ok. Everyone in it will be ok. Those that are struggling financially, just strive to be the best at what you do, and you will be ok.

Lets all just take a moment to shake off those fears, and trust that we will be ok :) If you feel like it, click on the comment wall and write down one of your current biggest fears. I think we will see how connected we all are. Then let’s see if we can all let those fears go.


Wife for Life!

Over the past year, my amazing wife April has given me endless support and love. She has gone through this entire Cancer journey with me, seen me at my worst, and remained by my side every step of the way. I am happy to say that although I battle with health a bit, I remain in full remission. I thank you for sharing my journey with me so far, and will continue to post updates as life happens.

This time, I wanted to send an update on April as well. Incredibly, over the past year and a half, April has also been able to create a ton of new designs in whatever moments she could find. She now has a strong collection to show for the effort, and we have officially launched her product in our company Arelor, which is online at

Am I plugging the site? Heck yeah. But I really believe in it. I’m sharing this because I truly am a huge fan (of April and her art), and would love for you to check out her hard work. In addition to handmade jewelry and boutique throw pillows, there is a full range of exclusive greeting cards and fine art prints.

April and I want everything we put our energy into to bring happiness to others and ourselves. For the next month, Arelor will be donating a portion of every sale to organizations that work to combat Leukemia & Lymphoma. It’s very important to April (and me) to give back, and to recognize those who devote their lives to making people like me healthier.

I hope that you will check out the website and all of April’s recent work at As well, you’ll see gift certificate options that can still be sent out in time for Valentine’s Day gifts ;)

Thank you for all of your continued love and support!


What Cancer Has Taught Me

In a week and a half, it will be a year since my life was forever changed. On December 26th of last year, I sat in a doctor’s office, thinking I had bronchitis or pneumonia. Instead, I heard: “I’m sorry that I have to tell you this, but you have a large mass in your chest, and it is a rare Cancer.”

This year has easily been my worst year of my life. I have experienced the worst pain that I could have never even imagined, the worst fears, and the worst dreams. I have experienced my body going through hell and back, over and over again.

This year has also been the best year of my life. I have experienced more emotion, thoughts and feelings than ever before. I have gained perspective, learned perseverance, and acquired an understanding of what really matters. I have discovered how to maintain confidence and faith, and how to trust. I have realized what is most valuable to me, and what brings me happiness and peace. I have built tight bonds with my family and friends like never before. I have seen that no matter what bad is going on in the world, overall, humanity is kind and caring and loving.

I have been in “maintenance” for four months now. It hasn’t been easy. In many ways, maintenance has been more difficult than when I was in the hospital. Throughout the past year, I have had Chemo injected in my spine, taken high doses of steroids (not the kind that make you buff), and ingested Chemo pills. The doctors basically have to play around with the quantities of the drugs until I am balanced, and my body has had a very hard time adjusting. I have yet to find that balance.

There are moments where I do feel good. But overall, it has been rough. During the last few months, I have had recurring dizzy spells. These feel like I just spun around in a circle for five minutes and then tried to walk. When I transition from sitting down to standing, or talk energetically for more than 10 minutes, I get dizzy.

On top of that, I have headaches. I did wind up having an MRI and fortunately all is clear. But these are not headaches where you say ouch and go about your day – we are talking 10 out of 10, can’t open my eyes or move. The pressure is so intense, with no exit point, that it eventually forces tears out of my eyes. These are all effects of the serious drugs that I’m on.

As a productive person, it is very challenging for me to lay on a couch and listen to the TV. But I have learned that when my body tells me to stop, I have to put on the brakes. It isn’t like working out, where you have to push through. It means stop. Tonight, I admit, I tried to push through. Because I did, I learned humility and what that really means.

I was on the phone with a potential client. I love talking with potential clients. I find a lot of enjoyment in it. After I was on the phone for 30 minutes or so, I knew I had pushed more than I should. I started getting sounds in my ear like when you take a big yawn. I could physically no longer speak and my body was shaking, but was able to quickly mumble to the bride and her parents that I need to call them right back in a few. I then abruptly hung up the phone.

I had to go to the bathroom, but remember… getting up is not a quick process for me. So now I’m spinning, have to pee really bad, and can’t quickly get to the bathroom. I pushed it again, and tried to get to the bathroom anyway. Less than a quarter of the way there, my body gave out on me. I found myself lying on the floor (soft carpet, phew), and unable to get up. I felt like that old commercial where the old lady says: “I’ve fallen and can’t get up.”

This is where humility kicks in. No matter how much perseverance I have, my body told me to stay down. I was trying to hold my bladder, but felt myself starting to lose control. So what happened? Well… I peed on myself. Later, April saw the clothes on the washing machine, where I had put them after I had regained my composure. I had to explain what happened, and couldn’t help but feel embarrassment as a grown man. These are the kinds of challenges that Cancer and treatment have brought me.

This situation was my fault, and was avoidable. I should have been aware of my limits and respected them. But I have grown tired of sitting on a couch. I want so badly to be active.

I feel like I am constantly being tested. The moment I feel good and I think I’m through it, then BAM!, I get hit again. If you saw me day-to-day, you would think there are two of me. There is a guy that looks healthy, seems healthy, is walking on the beach and laughing… Then there is the guy curled up on the couch, just trying to open one eye, and unable to lift his head.

So how do I handle it? How do I keep my sanity through all of this? These are the questions I constantly ask myself whenever I feel like I’m losing control. Should I try not to think and just stay numb, so I get through it? Or should I allow myself to think and feel, no matter the situation?

There is nothing to gain by becoming numb. It’s fine to cry, laugh, be angry, or sad, as long as it is a real feeling. I have to keep expressing myself however my mind feels necessary. I have learned from Cancer that becoming numb is the same thing as being dead. As long as I can feel, then I need to keep feeling and letting it out. That is the key to getting through all of this. I have to keep sharing my story and thoughts with my friends and family, otherwise I am alone.

This journey remains my biggest challenge. You just read what I went through tonight. I am not through it yet – I have 20 more months of treatment ahead of me. I do find myself frustrated. Until shortly before my diagnosis last year, I felt like a healthy active guy. Suddenly I am a 95-year-old man. But I have to go through this with a sense of humility, confidence and faith. I will see tomorrow, and it will be a healthier day.

I have changed my views on hope a bit as well. I think hope is ok now, as long as it is balanced with the acceptance of the way things actually are. I very much hope that I will find health in 2016 and I will accept what my body throws my way. Cancer has taught me to never, EVER take advantage of the fortunes of being healthy. Good health is a treat, a gift. I understand much more now how amazing our bodies are, and that even when they are failing, they are always trying to heal.

We never truly know what tomorrow will bring. No matter what happens, I am here now, and I appreciate every minute of it. Even if it is with just one eye open. As long as I can feel, I am alive.


The Ups, Downs, Pros and Cons of Maintenance

It has been a very interesting couple of months (to say the least) since I last wrote in my blog. With me being in full remission and in maintenance mode, you would think that that it would be all peaches and cream. It really hasn’t been. Maintenance is a cute word for “we’re going to still kick your ass, but now you don’t stay at the hospital.” There of course have been many highlight moments. I will start with those.

The Ups:

  • I took an amazing trip with my Dad through the coast of Big Sur.
  • I surprised Brandon by visiting him in Rocklin. I saw him hit a baseball to the wall in center field for a double, swam in the river with his brother and sister and mom, and watched him run a jog-a-thon.
  • I have enjoyed restaurants again with April, and riding my new fat tire bike on the sandy beach of La Jolla.
  • I have been able to play with my hero, Brighton (sister’s baby)
  • I have hair on my head and have enjoyed a second round of puberty!
  • I have gone to the office a few times and enjoy being able to chat with people a little more again.
  • I have seen my family more and have been able to relax
  • I carved a pumpkin for Halloween and got to hang out with friends at the house.
  • I love being able to spend time with April 24-7

The Downs:

  • Getting balanced on the chemo pills and steroids is a big, frustrating challenge. I feel great one day. Then, literally the next day I have a fever, aches, and headaches that feel like a sudden zap to my brain. I can’t get off the couch because it almost feels like I’m short-circuiting. I’m fine one minute… but it is a tease, because then my body crashes.
  • I have had to go to the ER, and spent 6 days in the hospital because of a fever. When I get a fever, it is life threatening because I don’t have the immune system to fight it off. So guess what I get… More drugs.
  • Adjusting to food has been a crazy transition. An example is salad and chicken slices. I loved it in the past. But now, any of the foods I was given in the hostpital are a struggle to eat. They make me nauseous, like trying to eat in a porta-potty. Chemo (although amazing) is the most disgusting feeling mentally. You are putting poison through your body. It just feels gross. So anything connected to it is now gross. Now, certain smells and foods I associate with Chemo are no longer enjoyable.

My biggest challenge has been readjusting to society. When you’re in the hospital, you are thinking about one thing, and that is surviving. But then when you get out, there is a lot more to think about. I now have work, friends, family, and all of these other thoughts on my mind. Even good things can be overwhelming.

People often say, “Congratulations, it must be great to have this behind you. You must be excited to just live a normal life again.” I would have said the exact same thing if the tables were turned. Like I said, being in remission is a good thing. But it is not like a light switch. I can’t just go from normal to Cancer patient and back to normal. I have been so programmed over the last 9 months of things to watch out for that I tippy toe around a bit. Going into a bank is super uncomfortable. Eating at a restaurant where the tables are near each other is strange. Going to a public bathroom, shaking a person’s hand and just being around people is scary. It has gotten easier, but it will take time.

My Predicament:

If I posted all the fun things that I have done since remission started, it would look like I am back to normal. In some ways I am. But it feels like there are two of me, the sick guy and the healthy guy. They are constantly battling each other. The sick guy loves the Chemo because it is like fuel. The healthy guy also likes the treatment because it will ultimately help him defeat the sick guy. But that leaves me, my soul, caught in the middle. I hate them! I can’t wait to be done with them and say goodbye to the sick guy. I’m so ready to work out, travel, explore. I’m ready to have a cold or fever without fearing if I will wake up the next day.

My Discovery:

They say “Live Life to the Fullest.” “Live Every Day Like it is Your Last.” I remember thinking about these two phrases even before I got sick. They didn’t make total sense. I took it literally. Like, if I am to live everyday like it is my last day, then screw work. I’m going to a tropical island and am going snorkeling. But I understand the true meaning of that statement now. It is basically saying don’t take a single day for granted. You can be healthy one minute and the very next day wake up, feel a little funny, go to get a check up and find out you have a rare Cancer. Ok… maybe that is a little dramatic, but that is my story.

Appreciate something every day. Take a moment to realize how special the simplest of things are. When I walk, my feet are numb and tingly. I can’t even feel them. Are yours? My head is in a constant pressure cloud from these drugs. Is yours? Appreciate being healthy, appreciate being able to run, appreciate walking outside, looking at trees, meeting up with friends, etc.

Now we can’t stand around appreciating all day long, every second of the day, or we will be hippies twirling and dancing in a forest somewhere. To me, living every day like it is your last just means to take time out at some point in the day, step back, and smell the roses. Realize not what you wish you had, but appreciate what you do have.

“Live Life to the Fullest” to me means to cut out as much BS as possible. Get through all the bullshit that exists out there, and find what is real and meaningful in your heart. Believe me, I don’t want to ever go back to intensive Chemo in the hospital again. But the one thing that I have discovered and appreciate is how real it was. My disease was 100% real. My battle is 100% real. There was only one thing to think about and that was to survive. No BS. It was honest and didn’t beat around the bush. Now that I am in this “maintenance” mode, I see all the BS much more clearly than in the past. It sticks out like a sore thumb.

I want every decision that I make to be a good one, because it will ultimately make me feel more fulfilled as a human. I only want to associate myself with people that enhance and make my life better. I see how much we do for show. I would say we were born into the fakest generation yet. It is all about the glitz, all about living a facade. It’s a fake-it-till-you-make-it mentality. We don’t really talk to each other and don’t really listen either. Now this isn’t the case for everyone, but overall, it is what I see. I see it in business. People have 50,000 Instagram followers, yet when a picture is posted they have only 83 likes. How is this possible? Well, because they pay people on to add a bunch of fake friends. That is social media.

People also become “friends” with other business people, but it isn’t because they like or care about the other person. It is because they can gain from them. So there is a fake friendship established there as well. I have discovered a few of those since I have been sick. A few people I thought were friends, I didn’t hear from once, throughout my journey, at a time I didn’t have anything to offer them. This has been a big discovery. On a positive note, I also learned who my real friends are.

My main point is that “Live Life to the Fullest” isn’t about just buying a house, making connections, showing off how great you are, etc. It is discovering what truly makes you happy, who truly enhances your life (surrounding yourself with genuine people) and where you want to dedicate your precious time.

I find myself anxious to get my health back on track. I look forward to all that is ahead. I look forward to feeling more balanced mentally and physically. It continues to be a big challenge. In many ways I feel like I have come back from war. But it is all within my own body. It is strange to love your body but also be so afraid of it. I look forward to my own continued discovery of what gives my life the most meaning, and how I can make other peoples’ lives better.


It is a Happy Birthday!

Well, it seems like today is the perfect day to write in my blog. It’s my birthday!!! Eight months ago, who knew if I would have a birthday to celebrate? I am proud to say that I am here, and plan on enjoying many more birthdays. What a crazy journey. Life really is nuts, but I sure do love it!

I survived the big round 2C, and am currently in the first of two rounds of 3B. Each round has been everything that was promised – difficult, painful, exhausting, and very humbling. Four days ago, when I finished taking chemo pills, I was laying on a couch with zero energy. My stomach was all screwed up and I felt weak.

I am constantly stunned by the body’s ability to recover. The next day, the Chemo cleared my system, and poofŠ – I felt great. I went to the beach, took my son to the batting cages, swam in a pool, and was even allowed to order Thai food (my numbers were good enough). When you havent had much variety for eight months, Thai food is especially amazing.

On August 14th, I go back into the hospital. I will be staying in there for maybe five days. When I get out, it will be about a week of feeling no bueno. After that, I get a PET scan and CAT scan. Assuming that everything is clear of Cancer, I will have officially finished all of the intense rounds. I will no longer have to stay in the hospital for any extended period of time. I can’t believe it! I am so thrilled to have gotten through these past eight months.

After that, I will begin “maintenance.” This exciting word translates to still receiving chemo, but going home at the end of the day. After the first few months, the dosage will be WAY less intense than it has been. I will regrow hair, and will even able to build muscle again. So I have a lot to look forward to on the health side of things.

So is this a Happy Birthday? Heck yeah it is! I have amazing friends and family, and my health is on the up and up :) Thank you to all who love and care for me. It has helped me get through this most challenging battle of my life. I love you all.

The very best birthday present that I could ever ask for is to go donate blood. I never understood how important blood donation was. But it is the simplest way to become a hero. You can leave the experience knowing that you literally just saved a person’s life. I have had at least thirty blood transfusions now. That means I owe my life to at least thirty different people.

If you do choose to donate, please don’t put it in my name, to be reserved for me. It is best to keep it random, so that it matches the blood type of the person in need.

P.S.: If you ever want to comment on any posts, the comment wall is the best place to do so. I read and appreciate every single comment. Here is the link. Thanks!


Why me?

I am currently in the hospital, having the big dreaded Round C. Oooooohhhhh. This is the round where they take you down to zero and then bring you back up. The round where if a side effect can happen, it does happen. The round where everything gross and uncomfortable surfaces before you feel better.

So far…. all the rumors have unfortunately proven true. Two days ago, my neutropenic level (immune system) officially dropped to 0.00. This means NO immune system. When your body can’t fight anything off, things start to get weird. In comes the crazy painful mouth sores, upset stomach, four blood transfusions, one platelet transfusion, fever, chest X-rays, infection, seven bags of antibiotics over ten days, total dehydration, itchiest rash everywhere, a numb left foot, and a completely f-d up GI track (stomach pain).

I also had extremely low blood pressure, which apparently causes me to have brain loopiness. This loopy feeling almost earned me a trip to the ICU (I secretly think it stands for Induced Coma Unit). Fortunately, three or four doctors assessed me, and I was able to prove that my brain was working well enough. If it had dropped just one more point, it would be no bueno for my brain, and they would have had to do some intense stuff. Scary stuff. They had actually called down to ICU, and then cancelled it.

Wouldn’t this be a perfect “Why Me” moment? Yes it would. But NOOOOOOOOO!!!!

Tonight is the 4th of July. April (who is amazing) was not only willing to be with me tonight, but had counted on it. I insisted she go out and have fun for the two of us. She has been with me every day, and I plan on being here in the hospital tomorrow. So I would not accept otherwise, and asked that she go have a drink with her friends. One for her, and one for me. It makes me happy that she ended up going. Now, when I see her tomorrow, we will have something fun to talk about besides Cancer.

So tonight, if I just paint the reality for a moment, I am totally alone in a hospital, on the 4th of July, hooked up to an IV. I just peed in a urinal, I have ointment being applied to my body for the rash, and I had a really crappy meal. I have been walking around literally in circles in a hallway for the last forty-five minutes.

Wouldn’t this be a perfect “Why Me” moment? Yes it would. But NOOOOOOOOO!!!!

Why am I sharing these wonderfully sad stories? To look for sympathy? So people will think I’m brave or something? To depress all of you? NOOOOOOOOO!!!! (sorry for all caps, I thought it would add to the drama).

So why share? Well… two purposes. The first is to serve as a reminder to everyone, including my future self, to appreciate every moment that we are healthy. Soak it up! Appreciate everything you have. Take full advantage of it. Don’t get stuck. Go take a drive, move your body, climb a rock, skip, jump up and down, watch a sunset, throw a frisbee, do jumping jacks, go swim, do it while you can. Even if it is for only 15 minutes, take advantage of being healthy every single day. Don’t say you don’t have time, because at some point there really won’t be a time. I will NEVER take health for granted again.

The second is that sometimes we all can feel very alone. Tonight, on the 4th of July, I am technically alone. But mentally, I made the decision that I am not. I have my brain. Inside my brain are a lifetime of memories with so many people that I love. I know that sounds cheesy, but my thoughts really helped me have a peaceful night tonight.

If you were to view me through a glass window, you would have seen a guy walking around a hallway in circles, holding an IV pole. But mentally, as I walked, I relived great moments in my life. I remembered 4th of Julys that I spent with my parents. I pictured myself sitting in a car at a church parking lot, overlooking the bay, and waiting for the fireworks to start. I thought about when I was with my sister and friends, riding our bikes in PB. My sister looked back at me, and when she looked forward again, she flew over a car. Like a ninja, she didn’t even spill a drop of “soda” that she was holding in a red cup. I thought about being in a small dingy boat behind Sea World, with fireworks right over my head, and how powerful that was.

Tonight I wasn’t alone at all. I had the love and stories from all of you to keep me strong. I was technically “alone” but I was laughing and having a great time. All while walking circles around a hospital hallway.

Not always, but most of the time, we choose our misery or our happiness. I believe it is a choice. The instant I feel too much compassion for myself, I’m toast. I can’t let myself go into “why me” land, or else the Cancer wins. No matter what hits me, I have to stand up again.

It is a battle for sure. It is impossible to not get knocked down. But misery should be a moment, not a lifestyle. By applying the right strategies and techniques within our minds, we all have the ability to get through anything in our lives. What really helps me during this time is to replay all the amazing adventures and stories that I have had in my life.

Tonight, in my mind, I choose to not be alone or sick. Instead, I choose to be happy and healthy. Happy 4th of July!


Happy Birthday April

Sometimes on Facebook, I see someone write something like “I have the worlds bestest hubby, he just wrote me this message.” Then they share what I feel should be a private message. It kind of feels a bit like the person writing it is just gloating. Or I will see something like, “look what my wife did for me,” and the husband shares something that I feel should be shared amongst two people, not the world. Or the couple puts waaaaay too many lovey, dovey pictures of themselves online, and it makes me kind of feel awkward. It just can feel a bit corny, and I never really liked it.

We can all get a little annoying sometimes because we are so in love. Whether it is 5 million pictures of our spouse, baby, dog, cat, or even food that we ate that day at a restaurant. I realize now that it is just love they are sharing.

Today, I have decided to break all of my opinions and rules of public love. I think it is ok to show off what we love so much. I am going to do exactly what they all do because I now want to brag a lot about my wife! If it gets too mushy, please feel free to skim or move on.

Today is April’s 30th birthday. It is a very different birthday for both of us. A 30th birthday should be full of joy and happiness, celebrating the past, and the future ahead. But I had 4 rounds of chemo yesterday and am just hopeful that I will have the energy to celebrate with her. So there is an elephant in the room. It’s different than we would have expected. I know how hard this is for April, as she wants to celebrate, but also wants me feeling good.

The reality is that I don’t like looking in the mirror at all these days. In my mind I am strong, fit and decent looking (not winning any awards, but doin’ alright). But then I look in those funny mirrors and it isn’t pretty. I no longer have eyelashes and my eyebrows are almost gone. Not going to lie, it looks a little creepy. I am pale, and skinny. I really don’t recognize myself. It looks like I’m in a movie and they digitized me to make me look all Cancery. Like Benjamin Button effects. I can hide it pretty well with a hat, normal clothes, my glasses, jeans, etc but, (sorry to paint a visual) without all of that cover up, I look sick.

What I now understand about April is that her love really does see through everything. She must be using her heart, because she looks at me as if I am Brad Pitt (the early years). She makes me feel attractive. I feel all the affection that I have ever had and more. Simply put, April loves me unconditionally. We hear that all the time that love is unconditional, but I really understand that now.

Everyone tells me how great I am doing. I want everyone to know that, in huge part, it is because of my wife. She is my strength. Her love (as well as others, of course) is why I am alive. It is how I keep it together, and why I remain optimistic.

It is a lot of work for her when I am sick. Physically and mentally. It’s having to cook food every day rather than eating out on occasion, doing all the shopping for everything because I can’t be in public places, setting up the entire house, cleaning, laundry, coming to watch tv with me, driving me to and from the hospital, and hanging out for hours each day when I am admitted. She does all of this for me because she is amazing. She does it without complaint. She just keeps loving me. What makes April so special is her love reservoir. I don’t think it ever runs out. In fact I think it just refills itself everyday. WARNING: next paragraphs is where it gets a little mushy.

April, I owe you my life. You are the most amazing woman that I know. You are talented, loving, smart and hot. Yes, I am bragging. I am so appreciative to have you April in my life and I want the entire world to know that we are that gross, way too in love couple. We get through every hurdle together. As Jerry Maguire would say, “you complete me.”

I thank David and Gayla for making and raising such an amazing person. I thank God that I have such an amazing person by my side. I am the luckiest man on the face of the earth (A Lou Gehrig quote).

April, I wish you an amazing birthday. My promise to you is to celebrate at least another 30 birthdays with you. Actually, that’s no fun. Let’s go for another 60 together ;) You have a heart of gold. Thank you for being my best friend. Thank you for being my support. I love you forever. You are my soul mate. Arneg (our inside word, not a typo).

Love, Aaron


Tonight I’m Nineteen Again

A couple nights ago, I sat down for dinner, and began to feel nauseous. I couldn’t eat my food. My family was looking at me with their normal concern. I excused myself from the table, took some nausea medicine, and decided to lie down for thirty minutes so the medicine could kick in.

As I lay down, I started to feel sorry for myself, but quickly decided that was a waste of time. I put on Pandora instead, and played the Greg Laswell station. As the songs played, I went down memory lane. Chapters started again opening up in my head that had been closed for so long.

I started thinking about how different life was for me at nineteen. I was amazed at all the details that rushed back into my brain. I suddenly remembered who I was at that time, and how I felt and thought. I missed that guy a bit.

Nineteen was a time before having a kid, experiencing love, having a “real job,” becoming an adult, and having huge responsibilities. I’m not saying it was a better time of life. It isn’t a time where I say to myself, “man, I wish it was then instead of now.” I love my family, my job and my life. It isn’t about that at all. It is just a time of life that has been hidden in my mind for a long time. Years have rolled by and it has sat temporarily forgotten.

At nineteen, I was in Junior College, working at 1-Hour Moto Foto in Pacific Beach. That was pretty much it. I wasn’t yet thinking of marriage or children. I wasn’t building a corporation yet. I didn’t have people that depended on me. I had virtually no responsibilities other than paying my rent: $375 a month for my half. I was sharing a one-bedroom place with a friend of mine, and each week we would trade off possession of the only bed. The other person would sleep on the couch, which we bought at the swap meet for twenty dollars (yes it was gross).

At the time, I had goals, but they didn’t define me so much. I really was living life and enjoying it. During that time, it was all about my friendships. Every weekend was spent with friends, just enjoying each other’s company. We would have bonfires on Fiesta Island, and hang out at each other’s crappy apartments, where everything was second hand. We would go to Java Joe’s (coffee shop in OB) to listen to music, and I would play chess with Wolpoff (my best buddy).

About once a month, we would head down to Puerto Nuevo in Mexico. We would first go to this boat-shaped restaurant overlooking a cliff, and indulge in guacamole and chips while drinking a bucket of Cerveza. We would then go to a place called Lobster Camp, and enjoy the ocean views while eating lobster for under ten bucks.

Back at my apartment, friends would basically just show up. If nothing else was going on, we would go to the beach or barbecue. Plans would somehow form.

That summer, I decided it would be fun to take off to Japan. So I saved up enough for a flight and some entertainment and just left. In Japan, I traveled all over the place for a couple months by myself. There was very little preparation. I left my Moto Foto job, and said “see you in a couple months.” It was that easy.

I realize and understand that life has to change. The reality is that we have more responsibilities now. We have families to look after, and bills to pay. We have retirement to plan for, and kids’ college to save for. At nineteen, I didn’t really know what “being and adult” meant.

When I graduated college in 2000, I changed in a good way, and maybe also not the best way. I completely abandoned all balance. I dove into my company. For the next 10-plus years I worked 100-hour weeks. I was on a mission.

Now, just hearing that I worked 100-hour weeks and understanding what that meant are two very different things. Six to seven days a week, I worked from when I woke up until 2:00 am. It didn’t feel like work because I truly loved it. I still love it. But time and life moved fast. I didn’t see friends as much, and those relationships didn’t stay as strong. I didn’t see my family as much. I became one-dimensional.

When I was doing something other than my work, I was there but not always present. I was thinking about my next project or what I had to accomplish. The good part of this is that I got a lot done. Maybe that is what it takes to get to the next level. But it has now been fifteen years since I started True, and feels like it happened in a blink.

When I have beaten and survived this Cancer, my goal is to have balance and be present. I really want to bring back some elements of the nineteen-year version of myself. I was fun and carefree. I want to maintain and grow my friendships. I don’t want to live for my work. I want to work to live. I want my company to support my family and would love to see it continue to grow organically. But I want to enjoy the people around me much more.

I want to leave my responsibilities a little more, and just play a bit. I want to not just focus on getting somewhere, but be exactly where I’m at. I want to continue taking time to reflect.

I used to have the philosophy that looking back was a waste of time. I believed that the past was in the past for a reason, and concentrated on moving forward. I have changed my mind on this philosophy. Reflecting keeps you in touch with your core, and helps you move forward in the right direction. Looking back helps you remember who you were, and helps you understand what makes you truly happy.