Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Workplace giving and Community Shares are rooted in the concept that we are stronger together than we are alone. I want to share a story with you about how I embraced that idea and how my renewed understanding of what community means changed the course of my life very literally.
At 4pm on Thursday, January 22, 2009 I suffered a seizure while driving northbound on I-25 on my way home from work to Fort Collins. I don't remember much about the incident, just the flashing lights and gridlocked traffic as the firemen pulled me out of the driver's seat. The 8 other vanpoolers who were accompanying me that day walked away unharmed and their quick wits and sharp reactions are the reason I'm still here.
The situation would continue to escalate after I was immediately taken to North Suburban Medical Center and told that I had a brain tumor. For the next few months a dark cloud of uncertain urgency descended over my family. It was the most difficult period of my life. I have climbed mountains all over the world and been in scary spots before but at 29 years old, and in the best shape of my life, this particular challenge was one I never saw coming.
I think that for anyone who faces great uncertainty there is the moment when you ask yourself, "How am I going to get through this?"
And at that moment of doubt support started to pour in from places I never expected. The Community Shares family came to the rescue. My coworkers rallied around me with t-shirts, buttons, and inspiration to form the J Karma Army. Karma is the spiritual belief that by giving back to others we can become stronger, better people.
Mindy Davidson from Project Angel Heart personally drove a care package to me and my wife in Fort Collins so we wouldn't have to worry about cooking. Members sent cards, called, and offered support in every imaginable way. Two miniature dachshunds were welcomed into our home in the spring and we smiled and laughed for the first time in months.
No single person could provide enough strength to get me through that experience, but together we became mighty. Looking into the eye of that storm I realized for the first time in my life how much stronger we become when we join together instead of going it alone. I am and have always been fiercely independent. My favorite saying as a young child was, "You're not the boss of my body." My parents remind me of this with a chuckle and a wink.
It is both humbling and inspiring to me that I needed to be on the receiving end to understand just how valuable giving truly is.
It's been twenty-one months since my experience began. I have completed a round of chemo, my wife and I are expecting our first baby, and I have returned to climbing and photographing the grandness of Colorado's mountains. My work at Community Shares is a daily reminder that life can change at any moment. I've seen what it is to give and receive when you need it most.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Garrett is a friend of mine and the J Karma Army wishes him well in his battle.
Friday, January 22, 2010
I'm not very good about posting updates. Please feel free to connect one on one at any time. Today is the one year anniversary of the seizure that started this whole process. I smacked into the left side barrier onf the 1-25 express lanes at about 4:30pm on Jan. 22, 2009. Luckily I was with seasoned road warriors who took care of the situation and saved the day.
I didn't think that today would be such a big deal to me but it is. I remember how I felt seeing the paramedics pull me out of the van. I remember not knowing what was happening. I remember gridlocked traffic and flashing lights. I remember the ER doc telling me he thought I had a brain tumor. I remember talking to Becky on the phone and the subsequent conversations. with people I love.
I've been through 10 rounds of chemo at this point and it is still really hard to define exactly where we are at, but we've made progress and we're moving forward one day at a time. There are good days ahead and bad days ahead but we'll get through it together. I face the same level of certainty as everyone else. You wake up one morning and things get turned upside down so try your best to live gratefully.
I hope to get out for some vacations this year with my wife, family, and my good friends. I'd like to think that we deserve it. I can't express the feelings of gratitude I have in my heart for everyone who reads this blog and who wishes me and my family well. My faith has grown stronger and your prayers and well wishes DO make a big difference. Never underestimate the power of your words or your thoughts.
I want to mention my wife. I couldn't do this without her and she has to be the one who deals with "cranky chemo Jason." Nobody else has to see that side of me luckily. I still feel really loved and she takes good care of me. There is no luckier person and I seriously mean that.
I also want to mention those who have been given a bad hand and are dealing with it. I want to tell John, John, Garrett, and your families how much I admire you and that I'll continue to pray for you all.
Times are tough right now for a lot of people. The country of Haiti has been devastated and thousands of people have had their lives completely changed. I don't have a specific charity in mind because I think you should give to the organizations you believe in, but please consider doing a little something for those people.
Become a better person today and watch the world around you get better too. Thanks for everything.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
I love Tina Fey.
Thanks to the great group of people who gave me Netflicks as a gift. It is a tremendous gift and has distracted me from almost everything!
I've now gone through 5 rounds of chemo. I have tolerated it with mixed results but mostly positive. I have learned that there is a big difference between 300 and 400mg for me and have fully realized the importance of staying emotionally and psycologically resilient during treatment. I tolerate the 300 with almost no side effects. 400 really puts me on my back but I can deal with it. It is a lot like being altitude sick for those of you who have experienced this. I feel like I could puke at any moment and my head spins with nausea. But I can deal with.
"I can deal with it." That is what I kept telling myself and I really can physically deal with a lot. But mentally it started to drag me down. I started to dread taking my pills and at one point I looked down at the seven or eight pills in my hand and understood how people can say "fuck it, I'm not doing this anymore."
I took the pills but that was a major warning sign and I talked to the oncologist about it. we dropped my dosage and have been trying to find a more "custom" level. I am afforded the luxury of a marathon rather than a sprint and I have to treat it that way. Keeping my mind healthy is really important.
You can't go too far too fast. There is a natural progression which has to play out. By knowing my limits I can be aggressive over the course of the whole fight and not just single battles.
We took an MRI in June and there was no noticeable change to the tumor. This is good. The first step is to stop it from growing. we'll take another scan here in a few weeks to see if we've damaged it any. I'll keep you posted.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
I went through my second round of chemo a couple of weeks ago and it was a far cry from the first round. Lots of puking, lots of not feeling too great, a seizure, and a loss of confidence. No good at all.
It is at times like this when I am the most amazed by the people around me. They bring me back and help me focus on the next step - not the previous one. They help "unfunk" me. One needs a lot of unfunking when constant adversity is knocking. The J Karma Army International Spokesperson (who was recently featured here and here.) helped put me in touch with his friend Matt Fioretti. Fabrizio (JKA International Spokesperson - see the sidebar) is a great story teller and he used to tell me about how he lost touch with his good friend Matt and how he received a call from Matt's family one day asking him to come out as they weren't sure how long Matt was going to make it. Fabrizio went out, Matt got better, and the two of them are again close friends.
Matt has been a climber and guide for many years and he shares stories about the fight against cancer in a way which I can relate to. Matt went through 28 rounds of chemo, full body radiation and a bone marrow transplant before sending his illness out the door. This guy is harder to kill than Steven Seagal! Check Matt's story our here.
About the time I was beginning chemo I received an email from Matt out of thin air. He wasted no time and immediately went into his experience. He told me how he changed the name of his chemo to "flower juice." He told me about how this little psychological reframe completely changed the conotation of his treatment.
The new movie X-men Origins: Wolverine came out about the time I started my first round of chemo. Wolverine is the character who is famous for three blades which come out of his fists.
When I opened my bottle of chemotherapy pills I noticed that they had three little black stripes and they reminded me of the movie.
(They actually have two but two is basically three, right? Small details.)
Anyway, now when I take my chemo I pretend that I'm sending Wolverine in to kill my cancer. This is not to be confused with sending Hugh Jackman in to kill my cancer - somehow I think he'd be less effective (although he is immensely talented.) Anyone who can sing that well in public is pretty much amazing to me, but I digress.
Sending X-Men in to help might seem sort of silly but it works, and that's all that I'm interested in. Adverse times require a good attitude. Wolverine and I will be ready for round three.
Monday, June 8, 2009
Jonny Copp, Micah Dash, and Wade Johnson failed to show up for their flight home from China on the 3rd of June. This set off an all too familiar chain of events which eventually lead to finding them on the slopes of Mt Edgar amongst avalanche debris. You can find the story here.
Jonny, I will miss you friend. You touched so many people and made me better every time our paths crossed. You seemed to transcend this life even when you were alive and there is no doubt in my mind that you have transcended to that even greater place. I will see you again someday.
Monday, May 11, 2009
I am through with my first cycle of chemo. I tolerated it well but would be lying if I said I wasn't pretty tired. Woke up this morning and almost fell over I was so tired. I'm talking about sleepy, worn down tired too, and not physical weakness. I'm luckily not there yet, and don't want to complain too loudly as many have it much worse than I. I'm just adapting to a new schedule and way of things which all revolve around this illness.
Don't know what it is like where you live but we're in the middle of spring here in FC. It is really nice. Leaves are coming out, plants are coming up, and I'm thinking about all of the Colorado destinations I hope to get to this year. I love Colorado and will try to share some photographs in the blog as we get into summer and fall. Hope you are well!
Karma Army Call to Action:
Hey, I need the youtube clip of Earl's Karma Army. I can't find it, and this whole blog is based on that clip. Help!