Tag Archives: friends

Someone Saved My Life Tonight

Since the day of my diagnosis, I have faced my share of adversity and many ups and downs.  Along with my family and friends, one of the few constants however, has been my neurosurgeon and good friend, Dr. P.   From the fateful day I met him in 2008, he always provided a sense of assurance and confidence that I desperately needed.  Earlier this week, when the news became public that he will be retiring after a remarkable 44-year career, I was filled with sadness and joy.

Over the past twelve years, he has evolved as “my doctor” to someone I am proud to call a friend.  I put my life in his hands (literally) five times.  And fortunately, each occasion was a success and I recovered as a stronger, more confident individual.  He instilled confidence in me and is the reason I am sitting here today.  I have never shared this with him, but going through this ordeal and seeing the true hero that he is inspired me and over time, I grew so passionate about the cause.  However, thanks to law school loans that I’ll be paying back forever, medical school was out of the question, but I wanted to do my part to help others through this, so I dove head first and began volunteering for the CTBTA, followed by serving as Board President and now as their Executive Director.

I have the distinct privilege of working with an amazing group of survivors, caregivers and those who are equally as passionate about this disease as I, who all share a common goal of finding the cure and supporting the brain tumor community.  So, although I am not a doctor, I am the next best thing, in that I am using my experiences in a meaningful way and being in touch with the medical professionals who are treating brain tumors and working collaboratively to advance treatment options and find the cure.   I have had the chance to fund research projects, tour the labs and OR’s and listen to some remarkable presentations.

So, while I will miss him, I am assured that the worst is behind me and know that I have forever to go, all thanks to him.  His colleagues at Yale New Haven Hospital/Smilow Cancer Hospital have big shoes to fill and a void to fill in the hearts of many.

Dr. P., I wish you nothing but joy and happiness in this next chapter of your life.  I am eternally grateful for you and hope you realize the profound impact you made on my life.  On behalf of my family, I cannot thank you enough for saving my life and giving me the opportunity to pay it forward and now help others on this journey.

Congratulations on your well-deserved retirement!

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With the Christmas season now upon us and in full swing, we’re all asking each other “what do you want for Christmas?”  Let’s see – clothes, some books, an iPad?  Maybe a watch or some jewelry?  However, for me, this Christmas and holiday season feels differently.   I feel blessed every day that I wake up and go to work – just grateful to be alive and knowing how fortunate I am compared to those who aren’t as lucky as myself.

It was this time last year that I learned of the regrowth of my tumor and I prepared for yet another surgery.  This year, I am in good health, happy and grateful to be here enjoying life.  Sure, I am in stores shopping and watching as the rest of society furiously runs into stores hunting for that one special gift or the best bargain they can find.  But shouldn’t we all take a minute and remember what the “true” meaning of the holiday is?  I think so.  As Linus said to Charlie Brown:CharlieBrownChristmas

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.  And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill towards men.  That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”  

I can relate to good ole’ Charlie Brown.  As I have gotten older and with all that I have gone through, I can appreciate the true meaning of the holiday.  Yesterday, Ashley and I went to see “A Wonderful Life” at the Goodspeed Opera House.  You know the story…a man down on his luck financially contemplates suicide until an angel shows him the value of his simple, yet fulfilling life.

It’s a relatable tale, as each of us I’m sure can remember a time when we felt a little desperate, like George Bailey.  While the beginning of this year was difficult with undergoing surgery, and then with the lives of two young fellow brain tumor patients taken too soon, I’ve been trying to take in every moment of this holiday season.  I live a quiet, fairly simple life…but walking around a beautiful quaint town with my wife on an unseasonably warm December day, going to see a show and enjoying a phenomenal dinner made me feel so grateful for this life.  The little things most certainly are the big things, and it almost feels doubly so at the holidays.

No matter how overwhelming and dark life can seem at times, there is good all around us.  Sometimes it takes an angel to drive that point home.  I have a couple new angels this year.  I hope that somewhere in the distance I will hear the faint ringing of a bell and that those angels are gaining their wings, because they’ve most certainly left their impact.  As Leonard Cohen sang: “Hallelujah, Hallelujah.”

So while I don’t expect anyone to stop running around the mall to find that perfect gift, not even myself, I ask that you just take a few moments during your holiday season to count all of your blessings, no matter how big or small.

Take Me Out To The Ballgame

With a grueling, tiresome summer full of nonstop hurdles and battles, it was time for some fun.  As an avid Yankees fan and it being the final season in the Stadium, I had to get to one last game before the Yanks moved to the new Stadium.  On August 17th, my law school friends Ashley, Joe and Matt made the drive down to Connecticut to pick me up to see the Kansas City Royals take on the Yankees.  Though it was difficult for me to have to face the world in the state that I was in, words could not describe how elated I felt when I saw them actually get out of the car and approaching my front door.  They all knew I was still unable to communicate as a 24-year-old should be able to, but they didn’t let that seem to bother them. 

The whole day was reminiscent of how things used to be – joking, laughing and just having fun in each other’s company.  I honestly cannot remember a whole lot about the game or the afternoon, but I savored every moment of it.  The grass had never looked so green, the organ never sounded so great and the buzz in the air was akin to being at a playoff game.  Yet, not everything was as cheery as it may sound. 

As I sat there watching the game, I could not help but to think about what to talk to my friends about, if anything at all.  We suddenly had nothing in common anymore, but I mustered up the courage and attempted to make small talk.  From what I can remember and by their facial expressions, I was doing okay.  Yet, there is one “conversation” that I, nor Ashley, will ever forget. 

The guys had gotten up to go to the concession stands and there we were – just Ashley and I.   The last time the two of us had been alone together prior to that moment was also in New York City.  To set the scene, the month after school had ended and about three weeks before being diagnosed, I took Ashley to New York City to see Jersey Boys on Broadway and then out for a great dinner.  The entire day was full of laugher and fun and I knew at that moment that things were going to work out between us.  I think we both saw a side of each other that made us realize we complimented one another.  Being in classes together during our first year, we always focused on our studies and we were both afraid to take things any further in fear of losing our close circle of friends.  In the words of Frankie Valli: “Oh what a night, why’d it take so long to see the light?  Seemed so wrong, but now it seems so right.” 

Here I was, finding myself alone with her again – a moment I feared I would never have again upon receiving the diagnosis.  Me being the avid fan that I was, and it being her first time at the Stadium, I figured it would be nice to tell her some things about the Yankees and the Stadium.  With the thought in mind, I pointed down at Monument Park and she followed my pointing finger.  “What?” she said.  In my mind, I was saying “that there is Monument Park!  Do you see the all of the numbers?  Well, those are all of the retired numbers!  And those monuments, those are for Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Mickey Mantle!”  She looked at me and said, “I’m sorry, what are you showing me?  Are you pointing to the Snoopy billboard?  Ohhh, the American Flag?!”  Apparently, I was not making any sense when I spoke so I shook my head no, and with that, stopped talking.  I felt terrible because I knew that she was upset that she could not understand me and I was disappointed in myself for being unable to communicate with the girl I was falling for. 

That was just how things were going for me lately.  While I was still enjoying myself being at the game and was so grateful that I had great friends that drove down to take me there and spend their afternoon with me, I was so disappointed in my progress, or lack thereof.  I dwelled on that moment the rest of the game, the drive home and that evening. 

My closest friends from law school were going back to Rhode Island to resume classes and I was staying behind.  Goodbyes have never been too difficult for me, but that one was particularly rough as the realization of what a long road ahead I still had ahead of me.  How would I ever get back to my old self and is that even a realistic question for me to be asking anymore?  Is this who I will be forever?  My life was halted and I also felt like I was hindering my family and friends who wanted nothing more than to see me flourish and wake up as my old self. 

On the positive side of things, at least the Yankees won, 15-6.