Wednesday, May 22, 2013
On the trip I gained a new favorite hobby, self-discovery and stalwart friends. Afterward, someone posted on our group webpage daily and we were already planning for this year’s trip—called “FD2” for those who attended “FD1” the previous year.
There are still weekly posts on the group webpage. And at least half from my Moab FD1 will return for an FD2 adventure, though only a few others will be on my specific FD2 rock-climbing trip in Estes Park, Colorado, this July 28 through August 3. Life has gotten in the way of our continuous high. The amazing Lings is learning to live with her disease, Lil Wayne has too many new family members, and I suspect others have gotten what they needed out of First Descents.
I understand that feeling. Expecting my FD2 to be as magical as my FD1 would be as unfair as expecting The Ugly Truth’s sequel to be as horrid as the original. But I’m not done with First Descents: there’s still too much climbing left in me.
First Descents gets much of its funding from participants paying it forward. In order to provide first-time participants with a free trip, returning adventurers fundraise by starting a “challenge.” Most challenges are runs or bike races. That’s either because participants lack creativity or they have their bone structure intact.
My hipless skeleton prevents me from that type of challenge, so I’ll stick with what I excel at: getting ripped. I’ll be cutting fat from my body through exercise, determination and mostly suffering. Eliminating my fat makes me feel clean, which I’ve come to understand is one of my most powerful drivers. Cancer and poison and other filth don’t belong in me.
My challenge is to slim back down until my abdominal pinch using body fat calipers is 5 millimeters, or roughly 7% body fat. Right now I’m at 10 millimeters. Please consider contributing to First Descents as I suffer to reach this goal. You can contribute on my Team FD page here.
If you’re on the fence about contributing, then read my story or my friend Ripple’s story about how impactful First Descents is on our lives.
Saturday, May 11, 2013
Read this first: Brooklyn's Finest (Part I of II)
The next day we visited Brooklyn Boulders, a rock-climbing gym that my grade school friend, Lance Pinn, founded and owns. In high school Lance was suave with girls, passed advanced classes without trying and seemed born able to read people and business opportunities like I was born able to tolerate Adriamycin. After college and seeing an enormous market for climbing gyms, he and two partners collected the capital for Brooklyn Boulders.
I had emailed Lance two months ago about my 10-year cancer-free anniversary and how I wanted to celebrate at his gym. He immediately made arrangements for us. “What Lance says, goes. Lance is the man,” one of the gym employees told me.
Lance first escorted us to the Fairfield Inn & Suites across the street where he had negotiated for two rooms to be available to him indefinitely. “These guys are going to stop by to shower later this afternoon,” he told the front desk clerks.
Lance brought us to the hotel roof where we looked down on Prospect Park, Park Slope, Barclays Center and the public park across from his gym that Lance helped create as a member of the neighborhood recreational board. “Welcome to my town!” he said.
Lance gave us a tour of his rock-climbing gym, soon to be the largest in the country after a future expansion. His company is building several more, including one in Somerville, Massachusetts, where he returned an hour later. He came to Brooklyn for us.
Lank joined my group to climb, though he didn’t need to take the “Learn the Ropes” course Lance provided us. Lank began climbing in college at Virginia Tech, where I met him through mutual friends. When I rock-climb back home it is always with Lank. If not for having to focus as his belayer, I would gaze as he stretches for holds that he seems to create by mere friction with his rubber sole or finger chalk on the wall.
Lank and I went searching for routes, hoping our three amateur friends learned enough in “Learn the Ropes” not to kill one another while belaying. Given the same route “grade,” Brooklyn Boulders was far more difficult than Sportrock in Alexandria, Virginia, and offered unique routes that employees re-set daily.
My favorite was “Brooklyn Bridge,” the first route I’ve encountered where three walls meet. I experimented with different ways to get above the jut using the jug. One giant jug is all I need—unlike Lank’s grace, I climb using pull-up explosion, which is how I compensate for missing a left pelvis.
Facing the wall, I couldn’t reach the jug above me no matter which way I leaned. Bracing with my left hand on the adjacent wall, I reversed direction and felt for the jug with my right. I wasn’t in position to see it, but on the third try I touched it, latched on and pulled as the fire danced between the fibers of my forearm.
I made a video of my Brooklyn Bridge climb:
Exhausted, my friends and I departed for the hotel to shower and enjoy another of Lance’s gifts:
We completed my remaining requirements of a successful trip with additional friends including Lank's wife, Vina, Fiery and my literary agent; and bratwursts and pints at Radegast Hall & Biergarten.
As the clock ticks further away from my cancer journeys, I am touched that people in my life continue wanting to celebrate my health with me. Like I wrote two weeks ago in The Huffington Post: to many more climbs and celebrations and bratwursts.
Friday, May 10, 2013
Feeling giddy, I called my new friend, Gümmë, from the train two weeks ago. She was rushing to a meeting while I was approaching New York Penn Station. “My friend owns a rock-climbing gym in Brooklyn, so some friends and I are going this weekend,” I said.
“That sounds fun.”
I didn’t share that we would also be celebrating the 10-year anniversary of my bone marrow transplant. I dislike self-promotion, though sometimes family and friends partake without me having to try hard. My parents sent me on the comfortable Amtrak instead of me paying for the bus, which is what Dirty-D, my first-year roommate at UVA, took from Richmond. “I wasn’t going to balance a computer on my lap for eight hours so I didn’t even bring it. I didn’t want to do work, anyway,” he said, reminding me of the time he drove me to the ER and stayed with me. “Watching TV here with you beats going back to the dorm to study,” he had said.
|I envision President Bush sitting atop Freedom Tower holding a Bin Laden voodoo doll while "God Bless Texas" plays on repeat|
Sonny went on my Birthright Israel trip two years ago. Our Birthright group stayed tight after the trip, but as time went on, the clock ticked more between Facebook posts and gchat conversations. That trend was broken for Sonny and a few other Birthrighters, including Fiery.
My requirements for a successful trip used to be good food, beer and people. My latest addition is culture. The four of us ventured to the Tribeca Film Festival for the premiere of A Single Shot starring Sam Rockwell, William H. Macy and Jeffrey Wright. We arrived an hour early and entered the far shorter line with the sign that read something like Ticketless Morons Who Have a Tiny Chance of Getting In: Wait Here →.
|Sam Rockwell looking fly (the gentleman in the back, not the one consuming most of this photo on the right)|
When all the patrons with tickets entered, our line moved. The attendant counted down from the number of seats left. She stopped the line with a few people ahead of us and then said, “Eight.” The line moved again until she secured the rope. We were the next-to-last to enter. “I’d like to thank my bone marrow for our good fortune,” I said.
The film was intense with limited dialogue and superb acting, especially from Wright, who played a drunk. When the actors entered the stage for questions at the end, Rockwell said, “That was a heavy way to spend your Friday night.”
When someone asked an equally heavy and inappropriate question about gun control given the film’s use of rifles, Wright deflected. “Ask Sam, I was drunk the whole time.”
Keep reading: Brooklyn's Finest (Part II of II)
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
"I suck at being an adult," I said to my bone marrow while we ate our breakfast today: oatmeal prepared on the stove top with ground cinnamon and sliced banana.
"Don't be so hard on yourself," my bone marrow replied. "You're a good host, except when you refuse to buy me push-up bras to impress the boy bone marrows."
Ten years ago today, on April 24, 2003, I received my umbilical cord stem cell transplant to treat myelodysplasia, my second cancer. My bone marrow donor was an anonymous girl, so my blood has two of the same sex chromosome, XX, instead of XY.
I have reared my bone marrow as my child, and my only complaint is that she's a brat. She is also a prodigy, teaching herself advanced calculus when she was four. Usually we bicker, but sometimes we have real conversations. It's complicated.
Her birthday today led to self-reflection. "I try so hard to do what adults are supposed to," I said to her. "Succeed at my job and hobbies, contribute to my 401(k), look out for my friends and family, reach out to people who seek my strength and guidance, and stay healthy. But when I scroll Facebook and all I see are pictures of weddings and dogs and babies..."
"Don't talk about Facebook," Bone Marrow interrupted. "Mark Zuckerberg didn't even respond to my letters asking to allow bone marrow profiles. I'm so pissed about that."
"Sorry, I didn't mean to stir things up. It just seems that is really what adulthood is about, and I know nothing of it. And here I am feeling all mature for buying my first car last week. I'm getting so far behind it is scary." Keep reading, here.
Sunday, April 21, 2013
When Couric informed Palin that an umbilical cord transplant is different than stem cell research and does not involve fetuses, Palin said, “Like I’m going to fall for another one of your tricky questioning tactics.”
On Wednesday, my special annual cancer-free anniversary story will publish on The Huffington Post. And on Friday, I’m headed to New York to celebrate with friends. I will fight Teddy for the couch in Sonny’s studio Brooklyn apartment, and Dirty-D will try to retain his sanity on his seven-hour Greyhound trip from Richmond.
Brooklyn Boulders, a rock-climbing gym founded by my friend, Lance Pinn, is hosting us Saturday for climbing celebration. I expect rock-climbing, which I fell in love with last year, will be a part of all great future celebrations including my wedding and my son’s bris.
To Lance and my other awesome friends and literary agent who will join me in climbing celebration, my fingers are crossed for only minor belaying accidents void of any concussions. To everyone, tune in Wednesday for my 10-year cancer-free anniversary story. And to Palin, unfortunately my bone marrow does not forgive you. But don’t take it personally, she’s just kind of bitchy for a 10-year-old.