When Lightening Strikes Twice

You can’t expect all of the inevitable surprises that life throws your way.

I’m in the process of being diagnosed with a neurological disease that is expressing itself through producing 30-50 seizures a day; that was possibly caused by my cancer. And I gotta say, even though I’ve already been through a battle with a serious illness, experience doesn’t do much to help the situation. I feel overwhelmed, rejected, and a bit screwed by my genes. I feel hopeful- truly I do. But I also feel tired. Fighting when you’re tired is tougher than you’d expect. It’s funny…that’s the hardest part of all this. How tired I am. Part of me wants to say I’m perfectly strong and am looking at the world with a “bring it on!” attitude, but truthfully, I’m looking at the world with more of a, “can I get a nap really quick?” approach. One thing that experience has taught me, however, is that just because your life seems to stop, the rest of the world does not. And just because it feels like you can’t continue or you can’t go on, doesn’t make that an actual option. So this fight feels a little different. Instead of crusading against the evil that is cancer and building a platform from which to preach on my battle, and attempt at encouraging others- this time I bow my head, pick myself up, avoid drawing attention to myself, and just deal with it. I imagine this is typically how it’s done.

I’m holding on to a belief that maybe soon I’ll get a kick in the ass from the universe that tells me to fight with more enthusiasm (look forward to that entry- I’ll be sure to write about it should such an event occur). But first, can I get a nap really quick? 

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Vegan Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins

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These babies are to die for. And you can eat 8 of them with out feeling guilty. Well, maybe you can’t, but I can.
They are so good.

Here are the ingredients.

  • 2 cups Flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 2/3 cup agave nectar
  • 2/3 cup vanilla almond milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups mashed bananas (about 3 large)
  • 2 cups chocolate chips

Mix the dry ingredients. Then mix the wet ingredients and add them to the dry. After that’s all mixed together add the smooshed bananas and the chocolate chips, folding them into the mixture. Bake in a cupcake baking pan at 325 for about 18-22 minutes.

Eat them hot. Go ahead, eat all of them. Because they’re all hot. If for some reason you can’t finish all of them as soon as they come out of the oven then when you’re ready to resume consumption just pop one in the microwave for 9 seconds (10 is too long, 8 is too short) and enjoy that melty vegan chocolatey banana goodness.

 

The Two Millimeteres and Split Second That Changed a Life

You don’t wake up knowing you’re about to embark on a day that will change everything. It’s strange really. Your coffee doesn’t smell different, traffic doesn’t seem to move any faster. Everything feels just as routine as the day before. But the day before wasn’t anything at all like this day. No, this day, you will never forget.

My mom, youngest brother, and myself were going to a movie when my oldest brother called my mom to tell her he was at the hospital for a concussion he’d sustained while making a tackle during the football scrimmage earlier that day. We actually debated for a moment about whether or not we should just go to the movies. I mean, it was just a concussion. We’ve all had them at some point. It’s a pretty standard injury. But for some reason, we all just felt like we needed to be there. It’s surreal now to think that there was ever any doubt in our minds that this was an emergency situation.

I don’t even remember what movie it was we were going to see.

We walked into the emergency room waiting area and he still hadn’t been taken back; which made no sense to me because he looked terrible. His shoulders weren’t even. His face was more pale than I’d ever seen before, and he was covered in sweat. Concussion my ass.

Finally, his name was called. My other brother and I were stuck waiting out in the lobby. We waited and worried. My injured brother, Shane, was getting a MRI examination. During the scan the technicians wasted no time alerting the nearest hospital with a surgeon on duty. They knew what we were dealing with, and tried their best to explain it to us gently. The rest of the night flew by in a blur. Shane was taken by ambulance to the hospital. They told him his C6 and C7 were shattered. They had to go in, remove the remaining bone and replace it with a metal cage. They told him it would be months of physical therapy. They told him it would be one hell of a surgery and long recovery time. They told him he would never play another football game. Before they took him back into the OR I got to talk with him. I kissed his sweaty forehead and let him cry to me about losing his greatest love, football, and how scared he was about surgery. And more so, how scared he was of the real possibility of waking up paralyzed.

Moments later they wheeled him back, and we all waited and cried and talked about what this meant for him, what it would mean for Shane’s future.

After a 7 hour long surgery Shane began to slowly wake up. He was confused, unsure, and had to have the entire story repeated to him while we all watched him relive it. We all gathered around as the doctor asked him to wiggle his toes and we stared at his feet in anticipation as we watched each big toe make a slight, but significant move. I have few memories of moments afterwards. Some extremely difficult, but I believe them too personal to share, as those moments of mourning belong to my brother.

My parents took turns staying at the hospital with him. I stayed every night and every night brought a new development. 5 days later he stood up. And then slowly, he started walking with assistance. I couldn’t be happier to report that now my brother can walk, and run and live a perfectly normal life.

The strength Shane exhibited this past year is the strength I remember through every stress, every hardship. It’s the strength that got me through my breakup, that helped me survive New York City, that gave me the strength to get a full time job and finally get my own place. It’s the strength that builds me everyday. He will never know how much of an impact he’s made on everyone who knows him, and he’ll never know the extent of my admiration for him.

Love you bub

.shane BHINC

Sometimes God Calms the Storm

Sometimes He let’s the storm rage and calms His child.

My dad and I have gone running together since I was in 7th grade. I was clinically obese when I was in middle school and after a year of torment from my peers I was absolutely determined  to lose the weight. So, I started running. Obviously, chugging nearly 200 pounds around on a 5 foot frame wasn’t easy, and it didn’t happen very fast. But my dad stuck my side, walked when I needed to walk, ran a little faster than I did -just fast enough to push me, but not discourage me- and talked with me the entire 2 mile trek. By my freshmen year of high school we’d upped our runs to 4-8 miles and  were competing in 5 and 10k’s…where I actually WON a race. We ran all the time and would use the opportunities to talk..a lot. Sometimes we’d have heart to hearts, but more often than not it was just enough time to catch each other up (or if I was in trouble for something then I was just enough time for a lecture).

When I had my first surgery I felt mostly unaffected. But when the surgeon called back that night and said we needed to come back the very next day for an emergency surgery, things changed. I woke up from the second surgery and immediately realized I couldn’t swallow. I just kept choking. I had to adjust the way I held my head so that I could at least semi-regain that ability. I also fell into this weird depression. My grandmother offered to get me something to eat and I yelled at her. 1)because I probably wouldn’t be able to swallow it. And 2) the doctors had already put me on a strict diet to prepare me for the upcoming treatments. Regardless, it was totally out of character, and out of line.  The news of me having cancer was barely 24 hours old. I had no idea what to expect, what to do, where to begin, or how to accept it.

Two days of back to back anesthesia can wreak havoc on a person. I had to stay in the hospital a little longer to help get my body back to normal. After a triumphant walk from my bed to the hall way-an astounding 10 steps that brought my parents,surgeon, nurse, and myself to tears-I was released from the hospital.I was ordered to rest for two weeks.

After the morphine wore off, I did not adjust well to the news of my diagnosis. I was mad. I was confused. I was scared. The only thing I wanted to do was run. I was one week shy of my potential release from resting, one week away from my follow-up visit with the surgeon, one week was all I had to wait. One week was too long. I begged my dad to let me go running. Of course, he said no. But being the only person in my family to ever have cancer, and even the only person my family personally knew who had cancer, they couldn’t relate to what I was going through, and they were a little more likely to be more lenient. They just wanted me to be happy. I cried and insisted he let me go, but that he could come with me, just in case.

We went running. Not a quarter-mile into it I fell from exhaustion. My dad broke my fall and held me while I sobbed. I felt like I didn’t even know who I was anymore. Running was supposed to be my release. Running was supposed to be OUR thing. Now cancer had taken even that.

We didn’t run together again until a couple of years later. It started off much like it did when I was in middle school. I was slow. I had to stop and walk. But my dad was still with me stride for stride. To be honest, I think he was (and still does) bracing himself for another fall, just in case.

The World May Be Broken

But Hope is not crazy.

The doctor was talking too fast, in a language that was too unfamiliar. “We’re sorry it’s just…so much worse than we thought.”

Two weeks prior to those 6 life changing words I was getting a routine physical for what would be my senior year of cheerleading. It was just like any other normal physical- except that it wasn’t. They found a large, suspicious growth on my neck. This lead to a whirlwind of tests that ultimately resulted in two emergency surgeries, and a cancer diagnosis.

One week following my second surgery we went back to meet with my surgeon and specialist. We were expecting pretty much a “we got it all, now be on your merry way” kind of talk. But what we got was completely unexpected. Before the surgery we were told that I had a slow-growing cancer. I’d had the tumor for two years and it appeared to have grown to about the size of small orange (no biggie!). During surgery it turned out to be the size of a softball and it extended all the way to the back of my neck (ok…medium biggie). The cancer had also entered all of my lymph nodes and surrounding capillaries. This meant I was vulnerable to the disease spreading exponentially (biggie.). They told me I couldn’t make it. They told me my days were numbered. They told my parents to prepare for the worst. My strong Father, Sergeant McDonald, crumbled into my lap. He sobbed and sobbed. My mom stopped functioning. I’ve never seen someone so distraught. I on the other hand, was a stone. I didn’t cry (until a few days later when I finally got a chance to be alone and cry with out my parents seeing me fall apart. My calm, I felt, was the only thing holding them together.) but I made myself a promise. I would get out of this. I would survive this mess. And I would, starting right then and there, live the best life possible for myself. My local doctors quickly transferred me to M.D. Anderson, the best cancer treatment facility in the world. There I underwent a round of unsuccessful treatments and a third surgery, after which they told me that unfortunately, I’d never be cancer free.

They explained to us that the cancer was just too invasive, and with treatment not being an option I was only left with surgeries, that no matter how numerous, were not able to get all of the cancer cells. However, this did not mean quit. I could be healthy. I could live a normal life (for the most part). I could fulfill my dreams. I would just do all of these things while simultaneously battling cancer.

Enter this mantra: The world may be broken, but hope is not crazy.

I still believe in that promise I made myself. I still believe I have a hope worth holding on to. Not every day is easy. I have plenty of stories to show you that. But step by step, day by day, I get a little closer to realizing that promise. This blog is one of those steps.

Image credits to John Green from tumblr