Tag Archives: support

There Is A Light That Never Goes Out

The brain tumor community lost another warrior last week, Martin Syndomin.  I will always remember my first CTBTA walk meeting last year.  Along with Directors, volunteers, Ashley and I, there was Martin – I felt an immediate connection with him.  He was a young brain tumor survivor who worked in finance in New York City, but his passion was volunteering for the Connecticut Brain Tumor Alliance.  With the first ever Path of Hope last year, he was instrumental in assisting with the financials, registration site and site visits, among others.  But what stood out to me was his passion for just being there and lending an ear to myself and other new volunteers.  I remember him giving my wife and I the biggest hug after that first meeting – the most genuine and sincere “It’s so nice to meet you” I’ve ever experienced.  Martin, you will be sorely missed but your fight will carry on.  I can promise you that I will continue my pledge to help find the cure and develop new treatments in the fight against this terrible disease.

When we suffer the loss of someone, we often express our grief by saying our “hearts are heavy”.   It’s certainly an accurate description, however after Martin’s loss, I felt a little differently.  My heart is heavy, but it’s full.  Full of realization and fight.  Full of renewed energy to live a life others so valiantly lost.

There is a lot of current promise out there to make me feel like this is not some lofty, far-fetched hope.  I look at the work of the CTBTA; I look at the National Brain Tumor Society and the American Brain Tumor Association; I look at the work and promising research being conducted at the hospitals around Connecticut.  Great things are happening and it should leave brain tumor and brain cancer patients feeling hopeful.  Together, this all makes me believe that finding the cure is certainly within reach in the not too distant future.

And while as a community we are working to reach this goal, there is something we can all do a little better.  Appreciate.  Enjoy.  Smile.  Laugh.  Of course it’s not all perfect.  So when life hurts, cry.  Cry the ugly cry if you have to.  Don’t hold back on anything.

There’s no judge or jury needed.  I’m often guilty of zeroing in on nonsense, guilty of not truly living.

So, for me, for Martin, for everyone, I ask one thing.

Experience.

You and Me

As a brain tumor survivor, I feel lucky and blessed to be alive.  I have been fortunate enough to return to work, getting to go out with friends and family and live my life worry free (for the most part).  But what I sometimes neglect to reflect upon is the stress and burdens placed on my primary caretaker, namely my loving and caring wife, Ashley.

ashley_chris_406I appreciate and recognize the struggles that she experienced, as well as the hardships that she will continue to endure as my primary caregiver.  While I am not in her shoes, it is only natural to worry.  And everyday, Ashley and I each find difficulty in managing our lives and finding happiness with all that we have going on such as finding success in our jobs, financial pressures, affording a quality of life with the rising costs of healthcare and simply juggling the added stresses of everyday life.  All of this sounds like a recipe for mental exhaustion.   Whether she experiences these stresses, I do not know as she has never told me, but I would not blame her for needing an outlet of her own.

Her and I both know that, for the rest of my life, I will have to continue to get yearly MRIs and be alert for changes to my cognitive functions.  Just because my tumor was removed and I am now “cured” in clinical terms does not guarantee success.  As I alluded to, a brain tumor diagnosis is a chronic issue.  Additionally, as previously stated, I am on anti-seizure medicine and likely will be for the rest of my life, but hearing her ask “Do you have any idea what it’s like for me to worry that every time you get in the car, you’ll have a seizure and I won’t be there to grab the wheel?”  destroys me.  However, the unfortunate truth is that I had a brain tumor and am on epileptic medications does not mean that I stop living; rather, I must and will carry on.  And for her, this means that she will unfortunately need to be burdened by these unintended consequences.

Just this past January, she took time off from her job to be with me as I recovered from surgery.  The comfort of knowing that she was here, in the house to guide and assist me in the recovery process was healing in and of itself.  Hearing her voice throughout the day was so comforting and kept me at ease.  From “I just can’t believe how good you look!” to “I’m so proud of you, you’re really doing great!” was music to my ears.  Always having her genuinely concerned was such a gratifying feeling, but I have come to expect nothing less from her.

As I learned throughout the years, there is a silver lining to all of this, and that is that I now that I will have her by my side as a source of comfort and support, and this simple fact makes me feel a thousand times better.

This is just the start for us.  Last year, we added our pride and joy Coddington to our family.

IMG_0913He could be the most energetic and playful dog I have ever encountered and brings just another smile to our faces (except when he chews holes into the couch), and I cannot wait to see what the future holds in store for us.

While I sincerely hope that the worst is now behind me, I cannot be certain but at least I can find comfort in knowing that if something were to again occur, I have the best caretaker ever right here with me.  In 2008, a few days after my second surgery for the hematoma, my parents brought me my phone so that I can read the abundance of messages from family and friends.  Yet, there was one email that stuck out to me, and that was from Ashley.

The email was simple, yet full of love and compassion.  She offered me the hope, spirit and drive needed to get better and recover.  If words could talk, these would be yelling.  Though I hated the fact that I could only lay in my bed while she visited, she saw something different.  I was not expecting to see the words “proud” and “brave” after our visit, but I did.  I was filled with joy when i read down further and saw that she wrote she’d like to come visit again soon, so long as I was okay with it.  To have the girl that I loved tell me after seeing me in such a grave state tell me to keep smiling and that she loves me made me the happiest guy ever.  From that moment on, I knew that I needed to get better and continue improving.  I was so disappointed that this had happened to me and I was lying in a hospital bed not knowing when I would have the opportunity, but I was determined.

Seven years later, I can say that I did it.  I am through the worst, but know that none of this would have been possible but for your support, guidance, friendship and love.  This is our story.

“You and me together, we could do anything, Baby
You and me together yeah, yeah
Two of us together, we could do anything, baby
You and me together yeah, yeah
Two of us together yeah, yeah
Two of us together, we could do anything, baby”

When You’re On A Holiday, You Can’t Find The Words To Say

Last week, Ashley and I were away on vacation and I had one goal in mind – to relax and forget about the everyday grind for a while.  Out of the gates, 2015 was fast and furious with the surgery for my regrowth, to returning to work everyday with an occasional “day off” for my followup doctors’ appointments.  It was definitely time.

We had kicked around some ideas of where to go, but we settled on the El Conquistador in Puerto Rico.  The resort is located in Fajardo, about 45 minutes outside of the bustling city of San Juan.  As you head up the driveway to the property, you are surrounded by sprawling acres of golf courses, tennis courts, palm trees and other natural vegetation.  Then suddenly, the resort appears right before your eyes.  Growing up, I have had the luxury of traveling to some great destinations over the years, and this one ranks up there with the greats.

Aside from being a phenomenal vacation, the trip also provided me with time to reflect on the past.  We left on July 2nd, which happened to be my seven-year “brainaversary”.  In comparison, these two days could not have been any more different.  This July 2nd, I was elated and jubilant; then, I was uneasy and wracked with emotions.  Two days later, on July 4th, Ashley and I watched a magnificent firework display from the balcony of the lobby with other guests of the resort.  And as I stood there watching IMG_3427the fireworks going off over the water, I had a flashback to July 4, 2008 while laying in my hospital bed watching the firework over the New Haven harbor.  I remembering enjoying that night, feeling happy with the prognosis I was given and the great strides I was making in my recovery, yet it was still difficult as a hospital was the last place I wanted to be that night.  The feeling I had this year is hard to describe, but there was a definite sense of joy and relief as I watched the fireworks right before my eyes over the waters of the Caribbean.  This was where I wanted to be and to have come so far made me proud.

Two days later, Ashley and I hopped on onto the first ferry over to Palomino Island, a private island owned by the resort.  Guests ride the high speed ferry from the marina to the island and within 15 minutes, you step off into another world. There was a definite calming sense from being one of the few people on an island in the middle of the ocean so early in the morning, but we wanted to pick the best spot we can find.  When we found our spot on the beach,IMG_1798 I took it all in; I found myself reflecting once again.  But I learned a few years ago that you need to realize that it is okay to reflect and actually process what you went through, so I did.  I went back to July 6, 2008.

Throughout the past seven years, this was the scariest day for everyone involved.  Ashley had been at the hospital with me on July 5th for a visit and we were all smiles.  Though I was unable to communicate with her at that time, I was so happy to have her by my side, spending time with me.  Not less than 12 hours later though, I was being rushed into the OR for emergency surgery.  I had done a complete 180 and was manifesting symptoms similar to a stroke.  The right side of my body had gone lifeless.  Would I make it out alive?  Would I have permanent side effects that would leave me a in a vegetative state?

Flash forward to the present day, I looked over to my left and there was Ashley, right by my side again.  I am so fortunate for her.  And as I stared at the aqua blue water, it was hard to believe that I had come this far.  I experienced a rush of gratitude to be so blessed to experience all that this beautiful life has to offer.  The beginning of the year proved that life isn’t always easy, but whether I’m preparing for surgery or floating in the Caribbean, isn’t it amazing to just be here?   To be fully functioning and experiencing each moment makes it all worth it.

Father and Son

As Father’s Day approaches, I decided to change things up a bit and celebrate my dad in the best way I know how – and that is to dedicate this post to him.  You may recall A Man’s Best Friend.  That post, written by my dad, reflects on my first surgery and the turmoil my family faced during that time.  Now, I return the favor and share some happier memories.

For those of you who have the privilege of knowing him, you likely think that his favorite thing is food.  I’m not going to lie, he enjoys it.  After all, he has taken the snack food industry by storm and has done some remarkable things with various companies.  However, I can tell you, as his son and growing up under his roof, that his favorite things are his wife, kids and grandson, trusty dog Chip, son-in-law, daughter-in-law and extended family.  A true family man.

There are countless memories that I can share with you, but there is one memory which I will always treasure and I know that he agrees.

The year was 1999 and the UConn men’s basketball team had just advanced to its first ever Final Four.  I was just a freshman in high school, but already had my sights set on UConn as my college of choice.  My dad is an avid fan as well and enjoys watching the games, so when UConn secured its ticket to the final four, the decision was easy – off to Tampa Bay we would go.

Going into the weekend, I remember being so confident and optimistic of the team’s chances.  I knew in my heart that they would return to Connecticut as champions.  My dad was hopeful, but not as confident.

In the national semifinals that Saturday, UConn defeated Ohio State and Duke beat Michigan State.  The final game of the season was set – UConn would play Duke for the National Championship.

On Sunday, excitement, anticipation and worry sank in.  There was a buzz around Tampa Bay, basically crowning Duke as the champions.  UConn entered the game as 9.5 point underdogs – that was quite the spread for a championship game.  After all, this was UConn’s first ever final four appearance and Duke played the 1999 season like a seasoned professional.  Regardless of the odds though, I was probably the only person who actually believed they would win.  As my dad was saying “I hope they win and think they have a shot, but they need to play their best game of the season and I think they are capable, so we’ll see.”

My dad and I spent that day talking about basketball and acting as if we were analysts.  The atmosphere was electric – on the beach, there were artists drawing the two school’s logos in the sand; television and media coverage everywhere you looked; pep bands playing the school’s fight songs; and just an overall great feeling.  As the time continued to pass and the sun set, Monday was shaping up to be a pretty special day.

When the game began, there was an overwhelming sense in the crowd, other than by UConn fans, that this game would be a blowout win for Duke.  I had Duke fans to my immediate left and we exchanged cheers and excitement throughout the game.  At halftime, UConn trailed by 2 points and nerves were settling in.  But they kept pace and as my dad said to me “it’ll come down to the final minute and whoever has the ball last will win this game.”  Sure enough, it did.

I can remember it like yesterday: with nine seconds left, UConn was up 75-74 and Trajan Langdan of Duke was driving to the basket and was whistled for traveling.  At the other end, the inbound went to Khalid El-Amin.   He was immediately fouled and stood at the free throw line to shoot two free throws – he hit the first and the second, which left Duke about 5 seconds to get down the floor and tie the game.  In what felt like the longest five seconds of my life, I nervously watched as Duke rushed down the court and with seconds to spare, Trajan Langdan approached the three point arch and then tripped and failed to get a shot off.   With that, the final buzzer sounded and UConn had done it!  As El-Amin shouted into the camera “we shocked the world!”  IMG_1714UConn was the national champion, ending Duke’s 32-game win streak.

The Trop turned into pandamonium.  The Duke fans were stunned and the UConn fans were jubilant.  The excitement of that game never wore off and brought my dad and I closer as father and son.  We talked about it for days and months, and still do.

For my thirtieth birthday, he handed me this card, along with a wrapped box:
FullSizeRender(2)

In 1999, my dad received one of the championship rings that the team received for his support of the university and I had always admired it.  Inside of the wrapped box was a UConn themed jewelry box which plays the UConn fight song and the ring.  I wear it on special occasions only, and when I do, I am instantly brought back to that weekend.  Those memories will will live with me forever, also.

That weekend is the epitome of who my father is.  The rock of our family and the person that my family and I can always turn to for support.  When my mother was diagnosed with cancer, he asked God for a sign and a maple leaf fell into his hand; when I was brought back to Yale in the midst of my misery for neurospychological testing, he again asked for a sign that I would get through this and the ladybug appeared and stayed with him for hours.  He will do anything for his family and children and I know that I speak for my family when I say how lucky we are.

When I think back on those results of the neuropsych tests, I find similarities to the 1999 Final Four weekend.  Just as he was uncertain, but hopeful that UConn would win, when we learned the results of my testing and contemplated the shunt surgery, he was again cautious, yet optimistic.   In both cases, he certainly could not have expected the miracle that occurred.  Yet, he and the ladybug assured my family and I that I would show improvement.  He knew I had a fighting chance that I could regain my cognitive functions, but was not making any guarantees as to when. Talk about “shocking the world”!

Happy Father’s Day, Dad!  Thanks for everything!

Love,
Chris

April Showers Bring May Flowers

I know I’m a few days late, but it’s May and May is Brain Tumor Awareness Month!  For the patients, survivors, caregivers, friends and families, this is our month to be heard, raise awareness and bring a much needed voice to the brain tumor community.

There are some great campaigns taking place during the month and lots of awesome people who are dedicated to raising awareness.  Maybe you’ve heard of various sporting teams wearing “grey” uniforms to show their pride, or perhaps have been involved in or seen flyers for walks being held this month?  These are both wonderful opportunities for the much deserved and appreciated recognition.  I’ve also seen friends on social media posting pictures of themselves in a different grey outfit each day – very cool!  It’s these simple things that bring a smile to my face to know that this cause is so well cared for and there are many individuals and businesses out there trying to make a difference.  Even my dog got in on the party showing off his #beaniesforbraincancer! IMG_1629

All of this got me thinking – what can I do to show my pride and make a statement?  And then it came to me.

As I was sitting in the chair getting my haircut with my barber doing his final touches, I told him it looked good, but asked him if he would buzz the top too.  “Are you sure?” he asked.  I replied, “yes, I’m positive.  It’s brain tumor awareness month and this is my way of showing pride and support.”  As he began buzzing it, a voice piped up from another shaved-head person: “Sorry, but why did you decide to buzz it after getting rid of the old style?”  I explained to him, and the rest of people waiting for the barber that May is brain tumor awareness month and as a survivor, I wanted to do something to show my pride and support.  Looking in the mirror, I saw nods of approval and smiles, and then I was asked whether I would consider one of the barber’s already-shaved head as support of my effort.  I have no shame and I’m not embarrassed to show the world my scars – my battle wounds.  DSC_0402Fortunately, losing my hair is one thing I’ll likely never have to worry about – thanks Mom.

So what are you willing to do for the rest of this month to show your support?  You can wear the grey CTBTA bracelet or purchase Broca’s Area CD to help raise money for the CTBTA.  There are so many ways to get involved and help out, many of which would not require you to leave your couch.  Come on and join the party, you know you want to!

We All Need Somebody To Lean On

Tomorrow is the beginning of a new chapter.  Along with other brain tumor survivors, caregivers and the CTBTA, we are having our first Patient and Caregiver Outreach meeting.  This is my moment, my opportunity to give back and aid those in need.

As I was browsing the web earlier, I read about Ethan Couch, an 11-year old who had a dream.  As some background, when he was 9 years old, Ethan’s mother began to notice irregular behaviors from her son such as trembling, having sore feet, poor balance and struggling to put on his pants and tie his shoes.  Tests showed that Ethan had a brain tumor which was blocking his body’s ability to circulate spinal fluid, causing hydrocephalus.  I know this feeling all too well and my heart sank for Ethan.  Unfortunately, his tumor was inoperable and doctors are unable to do anything other than monitor him on a regular basis.  But Ethan had a wish – to attend the Masters this week.masters-flag

This story is truly heartwarming and special and I hope you all can find the time to read it: http://espn.go.com/golf/masters15/story/_/id/12638216/masters-wish-comes-true

Streelman got it right.  Like him, I want to open the door for someone else and give them the hope and fight they need.  Now is my opportunity for giving back and using what happened to me in my quest to help others.

Like A Bridge Over Troubled Water

Time and time again, we hear “your health is all you have in life and without it, you’re nothing.”  If you’re like me, you immediately think of your physical health.

Yet, perhaps often overlooked is the other side – a person’s psychological health.  The emphasis is rarely placed on mental well being, unfortunately.  Psychological ailments are typically met with criticism and stigmatization.  For fear of being labeled “crazy”, mental illness is hidden and pushed aside.  According to the most recent National Institute of Mental Health survey, 18.6% of the United States population is currently suffering from a mental, behavioral or emotional disorder.  Let us not forget that this number is likely skewed – how many people are truly admitting to experiencing a psychological disorder on a survey?   The prevalence of psychological disorders is staggering.

Ashley earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology so she continuously nags me about some psychological condition which she has claimed I have had since my first craniotomy.  The simple fact is that any surgery can be a traumatic experience.  In her view, and the view with which I now share, major brain surgery at 24 years old, followed by a near deadly infection, followed by months of rehabilitation with the cognitive ability of a 2nd grader due to hydrocephalus, radiation and then a recurrence has definitely caused me trauma.

Yes, I survived. Yes, I am tumor free, or at least I hope.  I have my health and life.  But as Ashley has reminded me over and over, I have never given myself a minute to mourn my loss.  And contrary to what I say (the ever-stubborn man response of “I’m fine”), perhaps there was a true loss.

In the span of less than 24 hours in 2008, I had an MRI, received the devastating news that I had a large tumor in my brain and was brought in for emergency surgery.  When my initial surgery and physical recovery was over, I immediately went back to work and then school.  There was no opportunity to process the news and mourn.  Ever since, I have spent the last 7 years of my life with a brain tumor on the back of his mind (no pun intended).  I lost the carefree days of my twenties. I lost the ability to complete law school with my peers and to pass the bar exam.  I take 3,000 milligrams of medicine per day to prevent seizures and face constant medical bills with rising costs in health insurance.  I’m only 31.

So while I am a happy and self-proclaimed blessed person, Ashley refuses to let me tell her “I’m fine” because as she tells me, she sure as hell would not be.  Yeah, I’ve had my hardships and have successfully dealt with them one by one, but when I put myself in her shoes, I can understand where she’s coming from.  She has witnessed the heartbreak when I didn’t find my name on the list of successful applicants on the bar exam list three times, the frustration in my eyes when I forget something I should not have and the aggravation that I grow fatigued easier now than I ever did before.

She has begged me to go and speak with a trained professional or support group to truly open up and express my feelings.  ptsd-brain-e1392825630316Those who know me, you know that I am stubborn and have not done so – at least not yet.  I credit my stubbornness for one good thing though, and that is beating my brain tumor.  Ashley has always maintained that I can talk to her about it if and when I am upset, but cautions me that I would benefit more from speaking with a trained professional or survivor’s group.  She is unsure she can ever truly understand what I went through and the internal struggles I face.  Whether she is right or not, I don’t know but I’m at least keeping the option open.

My new work with the Connecticut Brain Tumor Alliance has helped, though – there is no doubt in my mind, or Ashley’s.  She tells me she’s seen the way his eyes light up when I talk with other brain tumor survivors.  And it’s true.  While I love talking to her about everyday life, there is something special about talking with fellow brain tumor survivors for support and guidance.  It is the best therapy.

This week, I’m meeting with the Executive Director and a fellow brain tumor survivor to brainstorm about creating a patient-outreach platform where survivors can connect one-on-one with someone in need.  When I woke up in the hospital at 24 years of age, I was lost.  Just two months earlier, I had just completed my first year of law school and there I was, laying in a hospital bed trying to write my name and recite the alphabet.  My family was by my side and I am forever grateful, but it also would have been comforting to have someone who could share some insight with me.

I’ve come full circle – I have become the person that I needed seven years ago and hope I can now help someone else out there.  Nobody should have to go through this experience alone.  Everyone needs somebody to talk with and vent to, and I want to be that person.  I’m not a medical expert, but I have lived through this and am confident that I can be a great resource for those who are in a similar position to that which I was in.  I know it’s only a drop in the bucket, but I hope I can help level out the psychological versus physical health playing field.

A Bottle Of White, A Bottle of Red, Perhaps A Bottle Of Rosé Instead?

I’ve talked a lot about the value of support groups and the impact that friends can have on your recovery along the way, but what I have yet to do, until now, is to provide some insight on my new group of friends and support – the people that make up the Connecticut Brain Tumor Alliance (CTBTA).logoAs some background, the CTBTA was founded in 2006 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.  The organization has raised over $1.5 million for brain tumor research, “Patient Assistance Funds” for families in financial need and specialized medical equipment for improvement treatments.

As a non-profit organization, the CTBTA is dedicated to offering support and compassion to those affected by brain tumors.  Each member of the Board has a very personal connection to brain tumors as we are all survivors or caregivers.  As a group, our mission is to “to raise awareness of brain tumors, provide hope and support for others affected by brain tumors and raise money to support and advocate for cutting-edge research for better treatments and a cure.

Proudly, I am one of 13 Board members and together we collaborate to better the lives of those afflicted with a brain tumor.  As the new guy in the organization, I cannot profess that I know everything there is to know, but I have witnessed the dedication of every board member in their efforts to hold events designed to promote awareness and raise funds to research the cure.  And as a non-profit, we work to raise money and donate proceeds raised during  our events in support of various organizations with one goal in mind – to find the cure.  The CTBTA has proudly supported various entities including the Yale Brain Tumor Center, Hartford Hospital, Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center, the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, Voices Against Brain Cancer and Weill Cornell Medical College.  What an honor to be a part of something so rewarding.

Though the diagnosis of a brain tumor or brain cancer is certainly scary, as an organization, we certainly know how to make it fun.  Throughout the course of the year, the CTBTA holds numerous events including a golf tournament, a trivia challenge, the Path of Hope (a 5K walk held at Hammonassett Beach State Park), Laughter on the Brain and the Wines of March to be held on March 14th from 7:00-10:00pm at the Mark Twain House.  The link includes all the details that you need to know, but to wet your appetite, Cassidy Hill Vineyard of Coventry is providing the wine and Shebeen Brewing Company of Wolcott is providing the beer!

We do so many great things, but what makes the CTBTA stand out in the world of non-profits is our personal connection to the cause and commitment to bettering the lives of those in need.

You can learn more about our organization at http://www.ctbta.org/.

Let The Music Do The Talking

With everything now behind me, I can now look forward to everything else in store for 2015.  And today, I wish to share with you the early details for our second annual Playing for the Cure: Brainstormin’ benefit concert for brain tumor research.

My mission and goal is simple – I want to spread the word on brain tumors to educate with the hope that my story gives hope to those who are awaiting treatment or currently recovering.  I hope that through this blog, our concert, through The Cusano Family Fund to Benefit Brain Tumor Research (a non-profit corporation which I am working to establish for the benefit of the Yale Brain Tumor Center), and through my work with the CTBTA, awareness will be brought to this very important cause and money will be raised to assist doctors and researchers in finding the cure.

So, mark your calendars for Saturday, September 19th!  My family and I are pleased that The Ballroom at the OuterSpace in Hamden, CT will again be hosting the event and hope to surpass what we did last year.  We hope that you will come enjoy the music of Broca’s Area and other great acts with one common goal in mind: raising money to aid in finding the cure.  Details regarding the event time are still being worked out and will be announced as soon as it is known.  Rest assured though that there will be great lineup of acts and of course, food, drinks and raffles.

My brother Stephen formed Broca’s Area with his classmates at the Hartt School of Music and they have some great things happening right now.  On March 26, 2015, there will be a CD release party at Black Eyed Sally’s in Hartford beginning at 9:00PM.  The album contains five original compositions, all of which I’ve had the privilege of hearing and each song is better than the previous.  

With you, together we are making a difference in the lives of those who are living with a brain tumor and the survivors.  But as a family, we wanted to do more.  So for every CD that Broca’s Area sells, a royalty will be paid to the CT Brain Tumor Alliance (the “CTBTA”).  The CTBTA’s mission is “to raise awareness of brain tumors, provide hope and support for others affected by brain tumors and raise money to support and advocate for cutting-edge research for better treatments and a cure.”  Please come to Black Eyed Sally’s to support the cause and help in this fight!

I am very pleased in witnessing how my family has rallied around my battle – for being able to take something so terrible and turning it into something positive.  Some people tell me that I am inspiration, but if not for my family and the care that I received along the way, none of this would be possible.

Thank You For Being A Friend

“In sickness and in health.”  Little did I know, a year-and-a-half later, the impact that this phrase would have on my life.  As I headed back to work this morning, I was emotional – overcome with emotion that I had been nursed back to health and able to resume living my life as I had previously.   I am grateful beyond words for all of my caregivers, but especially Ashley.  Over the past month, you have shown me the true meaning of love and what marriage is all about and I could not ask for anything more.   Thank you for all of your support, guidance and encouragement – I love you!

“3 Soldiers Attacked with a Knife in France”, “100 Bodies Found in Police Station”, and “Taking Selfies Likely Caused Plane Crash”; three real-life news headlines from this evening.  If it bleeds, it leads and if you pay too much attention to the ever-present media, the world can seem like a dark and dangerous place.  In today’s world, it’s easy to fall prey to a negative outlook.

When Chris’ surgeon walked in the room to advise us that he would need yet another brain surgery, my heart sank.  While it could always be worse, my anxious self jumped to the worst possible headlines: “Chris Unable to Speak or Function After Brain Surgery” or  “Surgeon Finds Cancerous Tumor Cells After All”.  As humans, we try to remain positive when life throws obstacles in our way.  As caretakers for someone suffering from an illness, we attempt to remain strong, but it’s difficult to not feel defeated or consider the what-ifs.

Despite all the negativity, anxiousness and downright scares that Chris’ new surgery brought, one positive theme emerged: human kindness.  The minute people found out the news, I was overwhelmed with hugs and true concern in the eyes of family, friends and co-workers.  Dinners were prepared for us, visits were made, care packages and cards with inspiring quotes were sent.  photo 1(2)During the surgery, at my most vulnerable, I received countless messages sending love, encouragement and all the luck I could accept.  I was simply uplifted.

While I believe it is important to stay strong and tough on your own, it’s in others’ compassion that we find strength when we need it most.  As a person who needed to be someone else’s rock, it was you that helped me persevere.

photo 2(1)So thank you – all of you – for reminding me to ignore the headlines and to remember that good in the world truly does exist.