Tag Archives: adversity

We’re Gonna Play The Sue You, Sue Me Blues

Decorative Scales of Justice in the Courtroom“May it please the Court, and you, ladies and gentleman of the jury.”

I have been robbed of the opportunity to speak those words in court so I have taken the liberty to do so here.  If you practice law, you are well versed with what these words mean, but for those who are not lawyers or did not go to law school, this statement is uttered during the opening of trial.  I visited several attorneys to explore options of filing a medical malpractice case, all to no avail.   The statute of limitations has run but nothing says I can no longer think about it.  The lawyer in me often runs through the elements of negligence when I think about my case and the standard of care that a doctor should be held to.

To be found negligent, a plaintiff must show that: 1) the defendant owed a duty of care; 2) the defendant must breach that duty; 3) the defendant’s actions caused the injury; and 4) the plaintiff must prove actual damages.

Here’s how these requirements apply to my case:

1 and 2. You know the basics of my story: In the summer of 2007, I began experiencing double vision. Nothing precipitated the double vision – there were no warning signs.  No vomiting, no blackouts, no memory loss, no loss of balance – just the mysterious double vision.  At a visit to my optometrist, a routine eye exam was performed and my optometrist told me that “he saw something” when he looked into my eyes.  Puzzled and fearful, I asked what he meant by this and prodded for some insight. Yet, much to my chagrin and against my wishes, he did not delve into the possible causes that would explain this problem.  He simply brought me into his office, sat me down and said that as far as he can see, my optic nerves were inflamed (known as papilledema in the medical world) but there was nothing for me to worry about.   In his opinion, my eyes and optic nerves looked healthy.

Within two weeks of wearing the glasses, the double vision subsided.  Fast forward to the summer of 2008: the double vision returned.  This time around however, those same prism glasses did not correct the problem.  When I returned to the optometrist, he evaluated me and agreed that a new prescription for prism glasses was needed but determined that the reason for this was that “my eyes were eating the prism.”  He conceded that this was odd but not unusual for someone wearing prism glasses and wanted to write a new prescription.  Yet, inflamed optic nerves and papilledema do not just occur overnight.  Each and every year that I went for my annual eye exam, the same battery of tests were performed: I read the letters on the chart, my peripheral vision was checked, a glaucoma test (or the puff-of-air test) was given and my eyes were dilated. Each and every time, my doctor “saw something”, but didn’t investigate further.

It’s reasonable to conclude that my doctor owed me a duty to provide quality care and advise me of potential problems when he informed me that he first noted papilledema and first saw something pressing against my optic nerve in 2007 and he breached this duty when he failed and refused to send me for further evaluations and prescribed prism glasses.

3.  Causation is proven by a showing that the doctor’s actions caused the injury.  After removal of the tumor, my surgeon informed my family and I that, based upon the size of the tumor, it was likely growing inside my head for anywhere from three-to-six years.

In other words, “but for” the doctor’s negligence, the tumor could have been detected earlier.  The procedure to remove the tumor would have been less invasive and the recovery would have been different.

My lawyers agreed that my case satisfied requirements 1 and 2, and potentially even 3.  This brings us to element 4: damages or harm.  This is where my case failed.  Fortunately, I made a “recovery” in the legal sense.  In the opinion of the attorneys, I could not show that I had suffered actual damages.  I was, in all practical ways, cured and healthy.  My prognosis was good, the tumor was benign and removed and I had no permanent debilitating consequences from the delay in diagnosing me.

In my opinion however, this is where the law fails.  And my story is a compelling example of how that is.  My law school career came to a screeching halt and I never recovered in the classroom; as a result of the size of the tumor at the time it was removed, I now have cognitive disabilities which hinder my ability to quickly process information; I developed seizures and will likely remain on seizure medications for the rest of my life.  These are just a few.

Please don’t get me wrong. I don’t want any compensation or monetary damages for pain and suffering.  What’s in the past is in the past.  But what I do want is to ensure that this problem does not occur to anyone else.

Find me one person, one attorney that is even a plaintiff’s attorney, who could tell me that this was the right decision.  How do we, as a society, fail to hold a licensed optometrist responsible for failing to diagnose my problem over the many years that I visited his office?

Despite my high tolerance for pain and lack of manifestation of any symptoms, how did the presence of the tumor go undetected for so many years?

So as I already said, my case failed for a lack of recognizable damages.  But how can the law allow such grave deprivations of patient care and allow a doctor to continue his practice?

I struggle with this question every day and wish and pray that this problem does not scare another innocent person to death.

While I can no longer pursue a lawsuit, perhaps my story will someday help to influence a change in how we hold professionals accountable.

Everybody Hurts

If you have been following my blog, you probably get the sense that I am an overall positive person who has overcome some pretty great adversity.   But life hasn’t always been so grand and happy for me.  During my first semester back to law school in 2009, I struggled emotionally and lived in fear of the unknown.

As I was back in Rhode Island, gone was the comfort of being surrounded by my family 24/7.  Gone was the comfort of knowing that Yale was five minutes from my house.  From January 2009 through May 2009, I was scared.  On top of the possible side effects and the new way I was living, I was constantly worried about all of the what-ifs.  Above all else – I had to find a way to be okay with “my new normal.”

Upon arriving back in Rhode Island, my friends offered their support and assistance with anything that I needed.  But what nobody could offer me during these times was the guidance and calming effect that was provided by my doctors, therapists and family.  I took a full course load, which in retrospect I probably should not have done, but I needed to prove to myself that all would be fine and live my usual life and resume my schedule.  What I neglected to realize was that I couldn’t just jump back in – things needed to be readjusted and put into perspective all over again.

Classes proved difficult.  I had trouble managing my time as the readings took a lot longer than they had previously; reading through the legal jargon just to understand the judge’s reasoning behind his/her decision took hours.  I struggled with taking notes about what I had read.  This became a major problem, as my final exam grade was contingent on what I could absorb and comprehend from these readings.  I struggled and wanted to just quit at times.  Nonetheless, I put a smile on my face and carried on.

What nobody knew is what a dark and difficult time this was for me. Even though I was so happy to be back in school working toward earning my degree, I was struggling and was spending more hours in my professors’ office hours each day to go over the materials instead of living the everyday 24 year-old life I was used to.  Was the neuropsychological testing correct – were my cognitive impairments permanent?  Was I going to fail out of law school?  As the semester came to a close, I panicked because finals were approaching and in law school, final grades are based upon one grade – your score on the final exam.

In addition to this stress, my personality was changing.  I was suddenly guarded about who I was as a person and as a law student and became insecure about my knowledge and skills.  When in class, I listened to my peers recite the case with ease and making it look like a walk in the park.  I grew irritable and frustrated with my abilities (or should I say, inabilities).  There were many moments of loneliness and a feeling of helplessness.  Then, there were moments of emptiness.

After a night out at a bar with my friends, we all returned to Ashley’s so the night would continue but I noticed that my friends were happy, loving life and seemingly without a worry in the world.  As I sat there watching, I began to reflect on what had happened to me and what I had been through six months prior.  The magnitude of emotions got to me and I went to an upstairs room, sat on the bed reflected and let my emotions pour out.  Fortunately, Ashley, being my rock and support system, immediately noticed and rushed upstairs behind me.  She did not say anything, nor did she need to.  She tried to be strong for me and to keep me encouraged but little did she know, I saw a tear rolling down her cheek.

My story has had so many ups and downs that are full of laughter, sorrow, inspiration and hope.  But I have never, until just recently, expressed the emotional toll it took.  I don’t know why, but recently I’ve felt the urge to share, in particular because I have been hearing of more and more people undergoing a hardship.  Dealing with a brain tumor, or any illness or disease for that matter is scary and your life gets turned upside down and nobody should have to face it alone.

So while I have shared a lot about the positives of my story, there have also been a lot of emotional times as well and for those of you who are undergoing something similar, you know what I mean.

You’ve Got A Friend In Me

In the past week, I’ve done some thinking.  Okay, that’s a lie – I’ve done a lot of thinking.  Mostly about that bright spot on my MRI and what it could possibly mean.  Is it tumor activity or is it radiation necrosis?  Only time will tell so until December, I must let it go and move forward with my life.

And as I move forward and try to put my ordeal in my past, I have become involved with the Connecticut Brain Tumor Alliance (CTBTA).  As you saw in my last post (The Path of Hope), I am now a part of the CTBTA.  This past year, I reached out to the organization because I wanted to help, wanted to share my story and do what I can to better the lives of those who are suffering today.   A brain tumor can be debilitating but nobody should have to suffer through the ups and downs alone.  What’s more is that with the collective efforts of enough people passionate for this cause, together we join forces to raise awareness and to find the cure.IMG_0711

Sure, I went to law school and earned my law degree.  But my battle with my brain tumor has left me unable to pass the bar exam and for reasons that I previously discussed and now dealing with the bright spot in my brain, I would not even contemplate trying again.  More importantly though, working within the brain tumor community to provide support and provide fundraising efforts to finding the cure is my passion.  As a result, the sting of defeat four years after graduating and still being unable to practice law has been tamed and honestly, I am okay with how my cards have been dealt.

I am constantly being told that I am always smiling, always pleasant.  Even on those days where everything goes wrong and I just want to scream, I take a step back and reflect on how fortunate I am.  When you go through a life event such as what I went through, or any person with a life-threatening illness for that matter goes through, you realize how great life truly is.  For me, I realized this years ago and finally chose the CTBTA as the organization that I would involve myself with to share my life experiences and enjoy the same semblance of happiness with fellow brain tumor survivors.

Not only did the diagnosis scare me.  It also made me more aware of life and how we should live.  It made me smarter.  It made me brighter. Literally and physically.

Roller Coaster Ride

So the first Friday in October came and went – yes, results day.

Before I get to my results, I would like to congratulate all those who passed the Connecticut bar exam.  Enjoy this time and your day being sworn-in as a member of the bar!

As for me?  The day did not go as I would have scripted it to.  I was supposed to be rejoicing and celebrating with you.  Yet, for reasons unknown at this point in time, my fight shall continue on.

Quite simply, yesterday’s results were inconclusive.  In comparison to my scans taken in March, what appeared on yesterday’s MRI was noted as something to watch. Last December, when I went in for the gamma knife surgery, the area where treatment was being applied was clearly visible and clearly tumor.  The growth was blasted with a high dose of radiation and at my follow-up MRI this past March, my surgeon gave me a thumbs up; all signs pointed to the conclusion that the procedure had killed off the tumor cells and any remaining cells would soon wither away.

Yesterday, I had the chance to see for myself the three images – the MRI from last December, the MRI from March and then the MRI from yesterday.  He placed all three of them on the screen for us to see.  March compared to December was significantly smaller and indicative that the treatment was working.  The scans from yesterday showed that the treatment site was still the same size as in March – but with one notable difference.  Brightness.

Brightness on an MRI is indicative of tumor activity.  But brightness can also indicate “radiation necrosis”.  Radiation necrosis is an accumulation of dead tissue and dead cells killed off by the radiation.  My medical team was going to review the results with the radiologist for his opinion.  Aside from that however, I’ll continue to monitor myself for headaches, dizziness, forgetfulness, eyesight problems, vomiting and nausea.  Yet, because of the location of where the tumor originally was, I do not experience any of these symptoms nor have I ever until the very last-minute in 2008 at which time the tumor was likely 3-6 years old.

So where do I go from here?  I’ll wait some more.  I am being rescanned in December and we’ll again review those results and develop a plan if needed.  If it is radiation necrosis, there would be nothing that I need to do.  However, if results indicate that this is tumor activity, further treatment and even surgery could be an option.

This is the story of my life it seems.   But I am resilient and a fighter.  I have never complained or felt sorry for myself and have always maintained a smile on my face through it all and I will continue to do so.  For the next two months, I will do my best to not obsess over this, but being human, that is easier said than done.  However, thanks to great family and my medical staff, I’m in good hands and will once again come out on top.  Maybe I’ll even have my own swearing-in ceremony as a member of a survivor/relentless fighter association!

The Waiting Is The Hardest Part

I had trouble falling asleep last night because I was thinking.  Yes, thinking about tomorrow’s test and results and thus I have decided to write about it.

For some, tomorrow is just another ordinary day.  Maybe you’re going to work or to school.  Maybe you’re going for a job interview.

Oh right.  Maybe you’re waiting for the Connecticut bar exam results to be released…

If you are, I understand the anxiety that you are feeling – I’m anxious for tomorrow too.  As I previously mentioned, three times since 2009, twice on the first Friday in October and once on the first Friday in May, I have experienced great angst.  To the hopeful bar applicants, tomorrow, I will similarly face angst with you.  As I discussed in past entries, I tried and tried and tried to pass the bar exam, all to no avail.  Bar exam results day has been the lowest point of my three times already.

If you took the exam, you’re likely wracking your brain to remember what you wrote on the essays or whether you correctly answered any of the MBE questions.  It’s an anxious feeling.  With this test, there are so many things depending upon the results and you have to wait three months for the results.  You will undoubtedly refresh the website multiple times eagerly awaiting to see that the results have been posted.  When you look, your heart will fall into your stomach and you can only hope that you see your name on the list.

Well, applicants, you’re not alone.

You see, tomorrow I will go in for a test and receive my results.  Right there and then.  However, for once, I’m boasting.  Unlike the myriad of emotions that bar applicants are likely currently experiencing, I am extremely confident that I will get good news at tomorrow’s six-month MRI.

Nevertheless, despite the news that tomorrow brings us all, we need to stay strong and remain confident in our abilities and who we are as people.  If you’re awaiting tomorrows results, keep in mind that you have come this far – you are on the precipice of accomplishing a great achievement and are hours away from working long and tireless hours.  As for me, I am hours away from taking another step toward putting my years of battling the monster in my head behind me.  So no matter what, rest assured that when that list of names is publicized tomorrow for the whole world to see, know that you will not see this:

Screen shot 2014-09-30 at 8.09.14 PM
An image of my brain taken June 27, 2008. The tumor filled the ventricular system and displaced the septum pellucidum, extended back toward the body of the lateral ventricle and was hemorrhagic.

Eager; nervous; excited; anxious.  Those four words best describe how I feel.  I’m sure you do too.  I am confident that tomorrow, we will quickly forget that we feel this way.  Until then, we can only wait though.  I look forward to seeing social media blow up with your exciting news.  I’ll be on social media tomorrow with my results, even if they are not what I hope for.

There is only one difference between you and me tomorrow.  If you pass, you will forever be done with tests.  Me?  I’ll be ecstatic, but it is still the early stages of lifelong test anxiety.

If I Had A $1,000,000

Let me just get this out there – having a brain tumor is life-changing. No, I don’t mean in terms of how I look at life now.  Rather, I am talking about the unintended consequences that we don’t think about when we are faced with this type of situation unless we are in it.

From what I’ve been told, recovery after brain surgery can vary from: having a quick and seamless recovery, to being in the fight of your life like I faced or you may never recover and remain in a diminished capacity.  And if that’s not enough to think about, the cost and toll of living as a brain tumor survivor can wear you down pretty easily.  Let’s talk about cost…

As kids, we are told that if we do well in school and pursue our dreams, we’ll make lots of money and live a happy life.  But what our teachers did not tell us as innocent students in elementary school is that sometimes, life throws us twists that come out of left field and blind side us – and leave us scrambling for solutions on how to solve them.  Growing up, I at least assumed that nothing could stop me if I did well in school and graduated college, let alone graduating law school.  After all, we work to make money to pay for all of life’s wants and needs.  Until you are admitted to the hospital, that is, and your money can no longer be spent on your wants.

When I returned home from a wonderful vacation in Nantucket two weeks ago, my wallet was thin.  Yet, it was well spent.  However, within the first few hours that I was home, the mailman delivered another bill for my MRI this past March that I currently pay on a payment plan and CVS called because my Keppra is ready to be picked up.  This leads me to my rant – the absurd costs of health care and health insurance.

For an MRI, my insurance company bills the hospital $4,900.  Yes, you read that correctly – approximately $5,000. I for one am extremely grateful that MRI machines exist.  But for the forty-five minutes, sometimes an hour, that I am in there, I find it hard to believe that that machine actually requires $4,900 to run, notwithstanding the plethora of MRI machines on site.  And I understand that the machine produces images but they are all viewable on a computer.

The next item on the bill: the cost billed by the technicians to read that MRI – $450.00.

Then there’s an associated cost for my doctor’s visit.  A measly $245.00.  For me, and I’d imagine others in my position, the doctor’s visit is the most important part of the entire process.  I get to hear progress from my own doctor’s mouth and view the images so that I can see the news for myself.

As for surgery, well I hope you’re sitting down because I don’t want to be the cause of any unintended fainting spells.  You’ll recall that I had gamma knife surgery last December.  The total amount billed from that one-day procedure alone was $92,000.  That’s for one day.  For my extended stay in July 2008 when I had the tumor removed and the surgery for the subdural hematoma, the hospital billed the insurance company $297,000.00.

Okay, so once the tumor was removed and my head was mended back together, I needed to rehab and did so at Gaylord Hospital.  For each day that I was there, our insurance was billed $2,600.00.  This was for my therapists, pens and paper, flash cards, alphabet charts, balancing beams and workout equipment.

The scary bottom line is this: If I didn’t have health insurance at the time, I would not be here because the procedure would not have been performed.  I am grateful for health insurance, however it continues to remain a problem for so many Americans today.

Fortunately, I am offered health insurance through my employer but for someone like me, even the insurance plan is costly.  For my co-pay to kick in this past year, I had to put up the first $4,000 of medical expenses.   When I called to make my payment on my account last week, I was informed that my “other” balance was going to be sent to collections soon if I did not pay the entire sum or apply to pay the balance on a payment plan.  After all said and done, this “other” balance was my procedure in 2012.  At the time my procedure was performed, I had not yet hit my deductible, so my portion of coverage was in excess of $2,000.  Add that to my 2013 balance and my total responsibility is $2,530.67.  Well, I guess my payment plan was just extended.

Some people go to work to provide for a family, pay their mortgage and have nice things.  What you cannot plan for is your health – you can only hope that you stay healthy each year.  If you don’t, not only will your personal world spin around, but your financial health will too.  Who is not going to try their best to afford to pay for their life?  And while I know hospitals are running businesses too, quite frankly, the extent of the costs seem somewhat criminal.

I Fought The Law But The Law Won

So today is July 2, 2014.  “Why is that significant?”, you ask?  Well, today marks six years since my first craniotomy to remove the tumor.  Not a day goes by where I don’t think about that day, or the endless possibilities that leave me asking “what if?”  The night before that operation, I prayed that that night would not be my final night on this earth.  But here I am – tougher than ever.  At first, the one-year, two-year marks were somber reminders of what I had gone through – the travesty and fright that my family and I were faced with.  But now, they are cause for a celebration, or a “Brainaversary” as I like to call it.  Last year, for my fifth-year Brainaversary, Ashley baked me a brain cake.  imageHopefully, I’ll have another one waiting for me at home today!  Regardless, I wish to thank my family, friends, medical team and support group from therapy and school for their tireless support in my battle.  Without you, I would never be here today.  To think how far I’ve come in six short years (but what has also felt like an eternity at moments) is astounding.

Without more, I can’t leave you hanging so I’m going to get back to the story.  After all, my intent in writing this blog is not to gain sympathy votes but rather to inspire and connect with other warriors out there.

Back on March 11th, I wrote about waiting.  Reverting back to 2011, I was in a waiting period for the bar exam results to be revealed.  I’m not sure what was worse – taking the bar or waiting for results.

The exam lived up to all of the hype.  “Grueling” is the word I would use to exemplify the entire process.

Nothing could have prepared me for the moment I walked into the room and was handed the exam booklet.  Prior to that though, I was taken into the room where I would spend the next 4.5 hours.  After booting up my laptop and waiting at the prompt screen to type in the word “Start” to bring me to the first blank sheet of paper for my response, I waited some more while further instructions were read. At least some states, including Connecticut, now allow examinees to complete the essay portion using exam software that you must download and pay a license for.  Ahh yes, more money.

The overwhelming feeling of sitting with the Bar Examiner who gave the instructions to applicants with disabilities made it all become real.  All examinees must sign an oath and are then escorted into their hotel room where you are instructed to start your laptop and log in to the software.  Finally, I was handed the first six essays.  I took a deep breath, collected myself and then focused my attention on the task at hand.  While applicants can begin with any number they want, I started with number one and away I went.  The first six questions were pretty much what I expected and though I could have written for days, I did not have the stamina or time to do so.  Before I knew it, time was up and I had completed the morning session of day one – 1/4 of the bar exam was complete.  Given that the break was only an hour, and at the advice of past applicants, I brought my lunch.  I was able to find a private, quiet seat outside where I ate – all while being completely exhausted and wondering how the hell I was going to go back in there and write for 4.5 more hours.  But I had to, and I did.  The six questions administered after lunch were even harder, but maybe that’s because I was drained from the energy expended on the first six and the work-up that I put into this day.  Nonetheless, the questions all called for responses that I knew, except for one but it’s okay, I made some stuff up and explained my reasons for what I was saying.  Before I knew it, time was called and day one was over.

Day two of the bar exam is known as the Multistate Bar Exam (the “MBE”).  You know…those really long multiple choice questions that I described in part one of this post.  After the morning session and 100 questions, I was mentally and physically exhausted.  I had no energy left.  On my lunch break, I wanted to just put my head down and take a nap. I was so close now though – I would fight hard until the end, just as I had done in getting to this point and putting myself in a position to be sitting at the desk taking the exam.  Yet, questions 101-200 were more of the same: oddly worded questions, many filled with old, ancient law that required you to have a brain like a sponge.  Thanks BarBri for the charts telling me that these types of questions were only tested a very small percentage of the time.

However, the clock continued to wind down and the 6:00 hour approached.  Finally, with a few seconds to spare, I had bubbled in my final marking on the scantron sheet.  Jubilation!  I had just completed the bar exam.  Where were all of the people who said that I would never return to law school, let alone graduate or sit for the bar?  What about the medical report that stated I should forget about going back to law school and was likely to remain at the capacity of a second-grader?  When I got home, I had a celebratory dinner with my family who was there for me every step of the way.  I had nothing else to do but to sit and wait for results.

In the months that followed, I replayed questions over in my head again and again.  Fortunately, I returned to work at law firm in Connecticut where I was keeping busy in the asbestos defense practice.

October 7, 2011 was a bright and sunny morning.  This was the day the Connecticut bar exam results were to be released.  In Connecticut, the committee simply posts on its website the names of those examinees who passed the exam and are recommended for admission to the bar.  So everyone and anyone can get onto a computer and look – not the fairest or best way for nervous examinees.  Nonetheless, I was confident this morning.  More than two months removed from taking it, I truly felt that I had passed and was about to burst into tears of joy.

After refreshing the page time and time again, the list of names appeared.  The names were presented in alphabetical order by the applicant’s last name.  Slowly, I scrolled though until I came to the C’s – there were lots of them.  I looked away from the screen, collected myself and then refocused my eyes on the screen.  I went one by one and low and behold, my name was not on the list.  I tried again and again, thinking perhaps I overlooked it in anticipation of the excitement.  But reality set in and my name was not on the list.

As a result of working for a law firm and all the attorneys having gone through the process, they knew that the results were also posted.  Before I even had the time to process what had happened, I received email after email offering condolences.  I needed to talk to my family; to Ashley – I could not handle the moment.  Within minutes, I received an email from the office administrator offering me the rest of the day off if I wished to leave and be with my support group at home.

The feeling of defeat stung for a little while.  But I had overcome so much that I knew I would be back to try again.  When I received my actual results from the Bar Examining Committee, I saw the score that I earned and the score needed to pass.  Without revealing the number, I knew I had to go for it again; I’d be a fool not to.

In the ensuing months, I geared up for the February 2012 exam and worked with a tutor to master the methods to take the exam.  One of the things that I learned from my score is that it was not a lack of knowing the information, but rather, there exists a defect in my ability to communicate my mastery of the subjects in my brain into the multiple choice answers that were provided after each question.  I’ll tell you this much – my essay scores were well above-average.  Given ample time and opportunity to explain my reasoning and analysis in reaching a conclusion, I have no trouble.  But when I am presented with a long and complex problem with four possible answers, all of which could arguably be correct, I have trouble.  I worked tirelessly to master the technique of reading and analyzing within the strict time constraints presented on the bar exam.

Now, for those unfamiliar with the process, only your scores on the multistate bar examination can be used on subsequent examinations but your essay scores cannot.  So my strong essay scores would go to waste.  I had no choice but to study and prepare for the entire exam again.  I took a leave of absence from work and locked myself in a room and library for the winter months.  The tutor provided me with some suggestions on how to approach the questions and additional tips to narrow the possible answer choices down to two.  From there though, it was a matter of processing the right answers from the wrong answers.  The bar exam does not test how smart you are.  Rather, it is a test of endurance to see if you can arrive at the “best” legal conclusion to a problem in a short period of time.  After two days and six hours, you will have handled two-hundred-and-twelve legal matters and counseled that many clients.

When time was called for the final time, I felt once again that I had done it.  Fast-forwarding to May 11th – results day.  Like a nervous wreck, I checked and checked the website until the list had been published.  I looked for my name, but again, my name did not appear. Upon seeing my results, I was astounded to find that my multiple-choice score had improved but my essay scores had dipped.  Go figure.  As a result, I was right where I was the first time.  There was no fluctuation in my score.

Well, the old saying is that the third time is the charm so I decided to try again.  I took some time off in between administrations of the exam to give myself a mental break and gear up for the studying and preparation.  I also had to find a way to pay for my life so I waited until July 2013 to retake the exam.  In addition to the financial situation, I figured that some time would be the best thing for me.  I still had all of my books to prepare and after much research and reviews, I opted to purchase flash cards to help me ingrain the material in my brain to allow me to quickly recall and spit out the material when I was presented with a problem on the exam.  After another leave of absence from work and countless hours of my life devoted to studying, the two days arrived.  I was again escorted into my private room where I would spend the next two days killing the rest of my good brain cells to pass the test.  But in what felt like a snap of the fingers, it was over and I was on my way home.

At the time that I registered to take the exam, I did not think to look when the bar exam results were going to be posted.  Yes, they actually tell you the dates the results will be released for the next three years that the bar exam is administered.  So I tell you this because on October 4, 2013, bar exam results were released – and I was on my honeymoon in Italy.  I dreaded the moment, but had to look – after all, I told Ashley that if I passed, I’d buy her a Louis Vuitton.  Plus, I just had a feeling that my luck was about to turn.  I had been through hell the past five years but had just married the girl that I loved and was with her eating everything in sight and drinking the best wine on earth.  So despite the data plan that I was paying for, I did it all through my phone.  And when I checked, I felt the same semblance of defeat I had grown accustomed to.  My name was not on the list.

For some who have been down this road, all hope might be lost.  But for me, I have so much to live for and strive for.  At the current time, I have decided to hold off on retaking the exam as my scores have not improved and at the recent advice of my surgeon who looked me in the eyes and said: “Chris – you will never be measured by your performance on an exam, but rather your testament in overcoming the odds to live and the only advice I can give you is to follow your heart.  You will succeed in whatever it is you want to do.”

That was all that I needed to hear.  I knew in my heart that right now, passing the exam was not meant to be, for reasons outside of my control.

The law may have won this time.  But at the end of the day, I’m alive and well.  I have my whole life to live and an exam cannot and will not define me.