Monday, March 31, 2014

Lifting Young Adult Cancer Survivor Baggage

As published on The Huffington Post

Press play on "workout" playlist: energetic pop hits, hard rock and rap, songs from cancer treatment that trigger flashbulb memories. Grab handles on this plate-loaded incline press machine. Take a deep, slow breath. Now, explode.

You're too short for her. No amount of ambition, personality or strength will change her mind. One repetition down.

She thinks you're weak and sick because of your limp. She needs a guy who will beat her in a 5k and you can't run ever again. You even use crutches to walk a few blocks. Two repetitions down.

She thinks you're too open and narcissistic -- writing books and blogs about yourself, displaying your shirtless torso online, discussing improper topics like chemo's humiliating effects. Yeah, she's probably right. Three repetitions down.

She thinks you're too healthy for her -- eating too few fries and too many greens, counting too many calories and body fat millimeters. Yeah, she's definitely right. Four repetitions down.

She thinks you've had too much cancer and you're abnormal and maybe you're even contagious and you would get sick again and wouldn't produce healthy children and wouldn't be around when they grow up. Five repetitions down. Keep reading, here.

Leia Mais…

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Authors Are Rockstars at the Virginia Festival of the Book

2014 Virginia Festival of the BookI am in Charlottesville for the 2014 Virginia Festival of the Book, the largest educational book event on the east coast. My expectations are high, but fair—to be the Ryan Gosling of books for a few days. I'm bringing a pen everywhere for autographs, and wearing my tightest sweater to impress the librarians.

As a fanatic of the NCAA March Madness tournament which begins today, it takes an event like this to remove me from the television even for a couple hours. Even if I do not get hit on by a baby boomer librarian, I am super excited to be a participant in this wonderful festival. If you are in the Charlottesville area then come check it out! In return I promise to buy the first round of wings and beer tomorrow for basketball games. Being in Charlottesville where I went to school for five years and watched hundreds of March Madness games is bringing back awesome memories, and Hamburgers and I will pretend like we are 22 again, just with salad instead of fries and clear liquids instead of pales of Bud Lights or Bud Diesels.

I'll be participating on the Memoirs: Not Your Typical American Stories panel this afternoon at 4 p.m. at the Central JMRL Library, 201 E Market Street. Tomorrow at 5:30 p.m. I'll be at Blue Whale Books, 115 E Main St, for a celebration of young writers. And on Saturday I will be at the Omni Charlottesville signing books ("Twice" and, um, Secrets).

My desire to share my story and books only goes so far—I canceled my RSVP to attend a special author's reception Saturday night because my Virginia Cavaliers are a #1 seed in the tournament and one of the six most likely teams to win the National Championship so I am headed to Raleigh, NC, Saturday afternoon to watch us play in the round of 32 on Sunday, praying that we first win tomorrow and don't become the first #1 seed to ever lose the first game!

Have a great March Madness weekend, my friends, and I'll let you know how that rockstar thing works out.

Leia Mais…

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Mansion Hopping: Cat Style

As soon as I began looking for places to rent as it looked like my house sitting aka Mansion Hopping journey was ending, a single woman, Mashuguna, contacted me desperate for someone to care for her 14-year-old cat, Teddy. She was leaving the country for three weeks, though allowed me to stay with her for two months, so I found myself living with human and feline strangers.

While Mashuguna has been gone, I have worked hard for Teddy. I quickly found that he is a diva. Would he grow to like me? Would I get along with my roommate? Find out in my latest Mansion Hopping video, this one with my cat.

Leia Mais…

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Couch I Chemo'd On

As published on The Huffington Post

getting chemotherapy on couchMom and I return home from clinic at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical Center. Two days are down with three remaining in this chemo cycle, the sixth of 14 over 10 months. Mom throws her bag over her shoulder -- heavy with unopened water bottles; her black book containing labs, treatment protocol and doctors' contact information; and the sandwich I'll try to eat right away before nausea consumes me. Mom unravels my walker, opens my car door, helps me slide out with my leg brace, and carries my IV pump which will deliver medicine to protect my bladder.

My heart rate accelerates as I labor up steps in reverse and on my behind, because it is safer this way. Groggy and depleted, I shuffle into the house towards my favorite spot for the next six hours: the couch.

I have been visiting my aunt and uncle's home in upper northwest Washington, D.C., not far from NIH, for Passover seders and Hanukah parties my whole life. Aunt Flojo gave us a house key when I began treatment. "Stay whenever you want. The key is yours."

The short couch had been yellow and covered in plastic until their kitchen renovation. Then, it was re-upholstered with brown fabric, drenched with a furry beige blanket, and moved to the 12-window nook overlooking the swimming pool.

Barney, the elderly Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier, sees me and hops off the couch. I collapse and Mom takes off my shoes and swivels me and my brace to face the television. Then I lie at the angle that minimizes nausea, my legs outstretched and my toes resting against the opposite side. It's as if the couch was custom-built. I drape the blanket and brush my fingers where it and the couch meet. They are both so soft. I sink down, dreaming of never touching this couch or blanket again. Keep reading, here.

Leia Mais…

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Life and Death of My Make-A-Wish Gift

As published on CancerFightClub

Batmobile or bust, I thought, so when the Make-A-Wish Foundation denied my request for the Batmobile because it went over 10 miles per hour (and not because of its rockets), I declined any wish. Friends convinced me to reconsider. I became a sounding board for their fantasies: sitcom roles, championship sports events, and girls. Dates with divas escalated to strippers and then willing participants. “Tell Make-A-Wish you need her for your cancer… tell them to get another one for me, too,” a friend said.

Time feels different in childhood. Three months later my entire left hip bone would be removed and the muscles would be stapled and taped to other muscles. But with so many epic battles in Madden 2001 with friends and homework assignments remaining before surgery, three months was a lifetime. Though I couldn’t comprehend that life would be different without a left pelvis, maybe my subconscious knew and pushed me towards my wish.

I had always been fascinated with consumer electronics. In middle school I envisioned my bedroom as a gamer and movie buff’s paradise with booming Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound and beanbag chairs. But it was not to be on my 19-inch TV/VCR combo that only had an A/V jack.

When we had become of driving age, my after-school sporting and video gaming friends expanded and we took over my house’s rec room in the afternoons. My parents happily obliged.

Once down the stairs, the rec room opened into a wide space with exercise equipment and a billiards table. To the far left was a long nook with three couches, blankets, a heater, a television and, after my friends and I took over, video games.

The rec room had mostly gone unaltered since I could remember. The thick carpet soothed cold feet and the dim lighting calmed overworked brains. It would always be a haven, beginning from when I could barely climb onto the couch next to my dad during Redskins games. Keep reading, here.

Leia Mais…