Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Year In Review

December 31, 2013

Tonight when the clock strikes midnight 2013 will be no more. This is the time of the year where most people reflect on the year that was and begin to prepare for the year that will be. I am no different than the rest. As I replay 2013 in my mind, it is obvious that this was one of the most special years of my life. Here are some of the highlights:

January - Ann and I flew to Chicago for our initial evaluation with Dr. Burt. What an experience that was!!! If you have not read my blog on the "O'Hare Experience" please do so.

February - My insurance company approved my stem cell transplant. O' Happy Day!!!

March - This was not a good month for me. I was admitted into the Ohio State University Medical Center for 10 days while I was receiving plasmapheresis. Let's just say I was not a very good patient. I just wanted to be in Chicago, but financially Ann and I needed to wait until the summer. Oh, I also cannot forget that my youngest daughter, Torin, turned 7. She is growing up so fast.

April & May - I simply remember these months being 2 of the longest months of my life. My body was deteriorating and I was counting down the days to leave for Chicago.

June - This was truly the beginning because June was the month my stem cells were harvested. In addition, Ann, Taylor, Torin, and myself spent practically the entire month together in a cramped efficiency apartment on the shores of Lake Michigan. In between doctor visits we ventured all over the city trying to make memories that would last a life time. Ann and I wanted to share this time with our daughters because we really had no idea what to expect after the stem cell transplant.

July - July 16, 2013 was my stem cell transplant. July 9th, Ann had to push me in my wheelchair into the hospital and by the end of July I was using a walker or a cane to get around. Simply amazing.

August - Ann, Mom, and I returned from Chicago. It was so great to be home surrounded by my friends and family.

September, October, and November - These were the months that I tried to focus I my recovery. I remember I took a pretty nasty fall and sprained my foot. It should also be noted that in October my oldest daughter, Taylor, turned 10 years old. Those 3 months just flew by.

December - I started getting antsy this month. I had been feeling good for over a month and needed to test myself. I decided I would try to go back to work. Well, let's just say it did not go as planned and I am no longer employed. You win some and you lose some. My final parting shot to 2013 was my blood drive which we received 51 units of blood.

2013 will always be one of the greatest years of my life. I want to thank all of you who have walked with me on this journey. It is only fitting to leave you with one of my favorite Bible verses as we ring in the new year: "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11).

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Mind Is Willing, But The Body Is Not

December 22, 2013

Last week my youngest daughter made her blogging debut with "My dad is working again." This week I am writing to inform you that Torin's dad is no longer working. The demands of working full time are more than my body is ready to handle. Over the past few days my feet had begun swelling and becoming very painful. Last night I was in so much pain that I could not stand for the sheets to be touching my feet. I am pretty sure I bit off more than I could chew. I also was reminded by my dear friend Benoy that I need to follow my advice of  "listening to my body." Don't you love it when your words of wisdom come back and slap you in the face?

Tonight as I update my progress, I cannot help but be a little disappointed. I deeply wanted to return to the work force and hit the ground running. I have a desire to contribute financially to my family. This is the example that my father has instilled in me. He is a hard working man who goes years on end without missing a day of work. Throughout my life I have watched him repeatedly battle through blizzards, floods, and illness to punch his time card at the factory. I watched him return home in the summers drenched in sweat because of his factory's excessive heat. He did all this to ensure that my sister and I were well taken care of. It is from my father that I have  drive to work.

I know that timing is everything. I know I need to be patient because I am still fairly early in my recovery. Even though I know these things, it stills does not take away my desire to provide for my family.

For much of my marriage, Ann has had to carry a heavy load. She has never complained. I thank God daily that I have been blessed with such a wonderful wife. There were many times in our relationship where she could have easily walked away and I would have not blamed her in the slightest.  She is my soul-mate. Watching her work so hard to provide for our family humbles me. I desperately want to ease some of her burdens. By not being able to work and help Ann, I feel as though I failed.

Now, failure is a funny thing. Failure is not something I am good at accepting. When someone says, "Failure is not an option." I tend to agree. The reason I do not accept failure is because failure can only truly occur when you give up, throw in the towel, and stop trying. That is not the case for me. Yes, I lost the first round of a fifteen round fight. Failing does not make me a failure. Failure makes me human. How can we ever know what we can accomplish if we never push ourselves to failure? Failure is what creates greatness. Many of the comforts we have today were created by the failures of another.

To illustrate my point I would like to take a look at Christopher Reeve.
superman, dana reeve, christopher reeveThe man who played Superman becoming a quadriplegic was more than ironic - it was tragic. He never learned to be happy about his situation - who could? But, he did learn to live with it.

“In the morning, I need twenty minutes to cry. To wake up and make that shift, you know, and to just say, 'This really sucks,' to really allow yourself the feeling of loss. It still needs to be acknowledged.” - Christopher Reeve

Then, he'd say, "And now...forward!"

He had to take a moment everyday to acknowledge where he was, what the reality of the situation was. But, he didn't allow that to stop him. He traveled widely doing public speaking on behalf of people with spinal injuries, tirelessly raised money for his own and other foundations, and even became a movie director. He took what he had and tried to help others in the best way he could.

Solomon told us, "A righteous man may fall seven times, and rise up again" (Proverbs 24:16). And Psalms 145:14 reminds us, "The Lord upholdeth all that fall, and raiseth up all those that be bowed down" (NKJ). Failures happen. They cannot be avoided. It is how we let our failures and setbacks affect us that truly matters.

In conclusion, I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. Thank you all so much for following my journey and providing so much love and support.  

Monday, December 16, 2013

My dad is working again

My dad is healthy and is working again!He is a car salesman in Athens.He hasn't sold a car yet but he wants to.He has been working without his cane!He is walking alot faster now.I hope he doesn't over do it.He got yelled at once but that didn't stop him.He leaves about the time we do.I don't think that he would be able to work and do these things if he didn't have the stem cell transplant.I bet he will be alot better by Christmas.Merry Christmas to all!


Monday, December 9, 2013

Miracles Do Happen

December 9, 2013

This past week I watched a video of a woman walking. I know this may sound boring and many of you reading this are probably thinking, "OK...I do that everyday. So what?" The beauty of this video is that the woman had been wheelchair bound for 5 years. She was completely paralyzed for several months in 2009. Now, 2 months post stem cell transplant she is up and walking with assistant. What a miracle for her and her family!

For me, I am nearing 5 months post transplant and I am happy to report that I am no longer using a cane. I am up walking on my own, climbing stairs, and driving. This past weekend I put all three of my new skills to the test by attending a high school football state championship game.

This was not an ordinary high school football game. This was a game in which a nearby school's football team was playing. It was a school that I had coached against, and lost to many times. I had been a distant observer of this group of young men since many of them were in 7th grade. With all the excitement surrounding our communities Ann, Taylor, and I loaded up the van and made the 2 hour journey north to the site of the game. Tori decided that she is not enough of a football fan to sit out in the freezing cold. So she opted for the warm comforts of Grandma's house.

When we finally arrived at the game all the skills I had alluded to earlier were quickly put to the test. I would drive our vehicle from the hotel to the stadium. After we parked we would trek what seemed like 42 and a half miles. Then once we entered the stadium there was the daunting task of traversing the bleachers to find our seats. I accomplished these feats with only minor issues. Mainly the fact that I am out of shape and carrying about 90 pounds more than I was 2 years ago.

Sitting in the stands and feeling the energy of the crowd I could not help but think how fitting this moment was. There I was watching a high school team from our area playing in a championship game and I began to reflect on how special this moment was. Not to steal any thunder from the young men on the field, but I began to feel like both our journeys paralleled one another.

Here we have some of the poorest school districts in the state of Ohio. It is understandable if we are unable to have success because we are at such a disadvantage. It is OK to feel sorry for yourself and people will understand the excuses. (I AM BEING SARCASTIC, or am I?). The young men of the Trimble Tomcats rose above the norm. They wanted more. They embodied a hard nose blue-collared mentality that is often hard to find in adults let alone teenagers. Football is a metaphor for life and these young men taught many of us adults a valuable lesson.

All the meanwhile, it kind of hit me. These young men already understand what took me about 30 years to figure out. We are not a product of our situation. We do not need to settle for less. We can rise above. We can succeed. However, we cannot do it alone. We need a team. We need support. We need to surround ourselves with people who will pick us up when we fall.

The game did not go the way many of us wanted. Isn't that true for life? As I watched the team jump up onto the podium and hoist the runners-up trophy toward the sky a few players wiped the tears from their face. I do not believe these were tears of sadness, but tears of happiness. Tears that come when you have given your all. Tears that come when you know you have achieved greatness.

Miracles do happen if you pay attention. I have been reminded of that again this week. I cannot explain how I am walking without a cane, climbing stairs, and driving. How can it be that a woman is up and walking after spending nearly 5 chairs wheelchair bound? Finally, how can a group of teenagers playing a game teach so many of us the importance of teamwork?

"You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples." (Psalms 77:14, NIV).