Blind Leading the Blind

The other day I was stopped at a stop light. As I sat in my car I watched a blind man walk across the street in front of me. He was by himself and using a cane to guide his way. He did incredibly well crossing the street, but when he got to the other side he started walking into a parking lot. I watched as he walked into the lot, but suddenly, about five feet in, he stopped. He turned around and started walking back the way he came. Feeling around with his cane until he felt the curb, he found his way back onto the sidewalk and then continued on the right path. I can’t explain the feeling of accomplishment that came over me watching this man find his way.

This simple occurrence struck me as a perfect metaphor for life. Sometimes we wander off course, but it’s up to us to find our way back. The further we veer off course, the harder it is to return, but it’s never impossible. We just have to constantly monitor our own lives in order to stay on the right path.

Matthew 7:14
Small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

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Faith in the Face of Adversity

Cancer amputee faith in god healingLately I’ve been thinking a lot about what a difference faith can make in how you deal with difficult circumstances. I think the reason it makes such a difference is because it fundamentally alters your outlook and makes it about something bigger than yourself. If you approach difficulty only thinking about how it is going to alter your life then I can completely understand how you could become very depressed or even angry. But when you approach it from the perspective of how God is using your life to speak to others, even the most trying circumstances can become an opportunity to demonstrate God’s love for us.

Early on in my cancer treatment, 2 nights after my first round of chemo was completed, I remember laying in bed and praying about the ordeal I was embarking upon. I started praying by asking God to heal me from the cancer but for some reason that didn’t feel right. I restarted and asked God to use me as He saw fit. I asked him to use my life in the way that He needed it to be used and to transform me into the man He wanted me to be. I suddenly felt completely at peace about what was to come and had an overwhelming sense that I was going to lose my leg, but that it was going to be ok.

I’m not going to say that things haven’t been hard. They have been. There are times of extreme frustration and pain. But those are temporary and only a small part of the story. God has spared my life and I truly believe that He has done exactly what I prayed for: transformed me into the man He wants me to be.

People have told me that they admire my strength as I have gone through all of this. I always feel embarrassed when people say things like that because they don’t realize that I cheated. I didn’t need strength. I just trusted in the strength of God and accepted whatever He decided was best.

Everyone has pain and difficulty in their lives. If you are a person of faith then I would challenge you to take that difficulty and transform it into a reflection of God’s love. Not only will it help you through the process, but it will help others come to know Him through you in ways that you could never have done otherwise.

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Wheelchair Basketball

wheelchair basketball amputee atlanta shepherd centerThis morning I got up early before work and went down to the Shepherd Center and met with the sports director about their various programs. We discussed a number of things, but the main thing we talked about was wheelchair basketball. He is going to arrange a meeting for me with the captain of the team (a 2-time paralympian) in a couple of weeks and we are going to get together so he can show me the ropes. It’s still a couple of months away from the start of the season, but they are about to start putting their teams together, and I’m excited about the opportunity to play!

Wheelchair basketball is pretty cool. It’s generally run by NCAA rules, but with a few alterations to account for the wheelchairs. The way it works is that once you have the ball, you can only make two touches of your wheels before the ball has to hit the ground. If you touch your wheels a third time, it is traveling. Other than that it’s pretty standard basketball, just while sitting. Here’s a video I found of the Gold Medal round of the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games. It looks like it’s going to be a lot of fun!

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Back in the saddle again

Yesterday a 3 hour prosthetist appointment turned into an all day event and I ended up leaving with a test socket that wasn’t hurting me and high hopes that this is finally going to work! I wore my leg to work today and so far, so good. It is working well, and most importantly, it doesn’t hurt! The end of my leg has been ridiculously sensitive for a long time and I was worried that this would be a much longer process to get me up and walking, but it only took a couple of weeks since we started the process. Not too bad!

I also looked up some stats today because I was curious about the energy expenditure of amputees. The information I found said that above knee amputees use 40-75% more oxygen than someone with two legs. Going uphill on a slope of 10 degrees doubles the energy required. A slope of 20 degrees triples it. Soft or uneven ground can increase energy usage by 40% and even going downhill uses more energy than flat ground because you have to fight to keep yourself from going too fast.

I’m hoping that all this extra energy exertion will result in me losing a little weight! I was warned early on by another AK (above knee) amputee that it is hard for leg amputees to keep weight off their gut. He said you have to work 3 times as hard as everyone else to eliminate that extra fat. It’s funny that he said that because that is literally the only place on my entire body that has the slightest bit of fat right now. My left leg is in phenomenal shape because I hop everywhere and my arms and chest are in great shape from being on crutches. I just need to get my abs in line now. I’m worried that if I let that get out of control then it will limit what I can do on my leg in the future, and I don’t want that to happen!

Regardless, it is great to be walking again and I am excited to see where things go from here!

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Mediports and Banana Pudding

What do mediports and banana pudding have in common? They are the top two search engine queries that drive traffic to my blog! I can understand the mediport being one of the top searches. And actually, if you go on google images and type in “mediport” the first image that shows up links you to my blog (
Talk about some great accidental SEO!

banana pudding recipe pictureBut I am surprised that banana pudding brings in so many people. To play to my audience however, I will go with it, and give more info on our delicious banana pudding. This is the absolute best banana pudding recipe. Nothing else comes close. The only thing you should change on this recipe is to double the custard. The custard is the best part and when it gets into the nilla wafers and turns them into a delicious mush, you will be glad you did!

Here is the banana pudding recipe:

3/4 cup sugar, divided
1/3 cup flour
dash salt
3 eggs, separated
2 cups milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla
45 NILLA Wafers, divided
5 bananas, sliced

 1/2 cup sugar, flour and salt in top of double boiler. Blend in 3 egg yolks and milk. Cook, uncovered, over boiling water 10 to 12 min. or until thickened, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla.

 12 wafers for garnish. Spread small amount of custard onto bottom of 1-1/2-qt. baking dish. Cover with layers of 1/3each of the remaining wafers, bananas and remaining custard. Repeat layers 2 times.

 egg whites on high speed of mixer until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in remaining sugar until stiff peaks form. Spread over custard, sealing well to edge of dish.

 15 to 20 min. or until lightly browned. Cool slightly. Top with reserved wafers just before serving.
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I prefer my banana pudding cold out of the fridge. It’s hard not to eat it right after it is done, but there are few things on this planet I like more than cold banana pudding made with this recipe. As I said before, nothing else can compare!

leg amputee prosthesis fitting process cancer survivor synovial sarcomaIn other news, I am in the process of getting a new socket made and have walked around this week for the first time in 9 months! I can’t believe it’s been that long! I’m excited to finally get back on my prosthesis and hope to be back on it full time soon. The convenience of not constantly having your hands full of crutches can not be overly emphasized. It is a different world on a prosthesis and I hope to be taking advantage again soon!

To the left is a picture showing part of the process we go through when fitting a socket. After we get a good fit, we attach my CLeg to the bottom of the test socket and then I am off and walking!

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Ashley and I just got back from a 10 day trip down to Exuma, an island where my cousins live in the Bahamas, and man did we have a great time! Exuma is one of the last undeveloped islands in the Bahamas, and has a lot of charm for that fact. There is definitely not a lot to do there except hang out on the water, so if that isn’t your idea of a good time, then you should probably look elsewhere! I took this picture at a beach down on Little Exuma. Doesn’t get much prettier than that.

The water is the beautiful Caribbean blue and the aquatic animals are everywhere. The first afternoon we were there we were just kind of messing around and snorkeling around the area where our cousins keep their boat. Ashley stopped to adjust her mask and then all of a sudden let out a scream! I turned and there was a sea turtle quickly swimming away. It had come too close and given her a good scrape across the arm with the hook on the end of it’s flipper! We counted six sea turtles that hung around this dock area, and even got a picture of one biting my crutches! So cool.

I was also able to cross one of the items off my list since we went spear fishing several times. Spear fishing was a whole lot of fun. I like to refer to it as snorkeling with a deadly purpose. You use what is basically an underwater sling shot to shoot a spear through the fish. It is kind of hard to get close to the fish, but very rewarding when you get one!

Joel also took me out fishing for Tuna one night and we had an incredible time. We got into a school and followed it for miles, ending up with 7 black fin tuna in the boat. This is a picture Joel took of me holding up a few at the end.

As fun as fishing for tuna is, eating the freshest tuna I’ve ever had might have been even better! Joel filleted one of the fish for me when we got back and I had it for dinner that night and finished the rest for lunch the next day. It was seriously like velvet and melted in my mouth. I think Ashley might have gotten sick of hearing me talk about how amazing it was! Haha

We had an amazing time down there and definitely enjoyed getting out of the office for a while. Now that we’re back, I’ve started the process of working with my prosthetist again, so hopefully I’ll be able to start wearing a leg soon.

While it is hard to be back, at least we have the Fourth of July next week and will be able to get back to the beach for a few days then!

(Here is a picture of the deliciousness that was the fresh tuna!)

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10 Tips for Surviving Cancer Treatment

Being diagnosed with cancer can turn your world upside down. Most questions about cancer treatment are answered in sterile, clinical reports. Hopefully this post will help anyone starting cancer treatment to organize their thoughts and prepare for a successful response. If anyone reads this and has some additional tips, please feel free to leave them in the comments!

** Disclaimer — Every cancer treatment is different, these tips are just based on my experience. **

Hope Lodge NYC Room

1. Find a doctor that you truly like and trust.
This is the person to whom you are entrusting your life. Ask around. Get references and credentials from other doctors. Find out what their reputation is and go to the best doctor you can afford. Don’t play around with your life! If the doctor is in another state, don’t think they are automatically out of reach. Look into services like the Hope Lodge, which provides free lodging for cancer patients with the greatest need. There are numerous resources out there for people who are starting cancer treatment, so make sure you are doing everything you can right at the start to ensure that your treatment is a success.

2. Don’t settle for a mediocre nurse.
Every cancer treatment is different, but in my treatment we did daily blood draws and interacted with my nurse 5 days a week. The first nurse we were assigned was rude and rough. We reported her and got switched to a nurse that was very caring, responsive to requests and made sure we knew what was happening, when and why. We were all in it together and it made the entire process run much more smoothly. This is a person you are going to interact with every day for several months, so don’t settle!

3. Be open.
One of the things I did when I was diagnosed with cancer was start this blog. The reason was to keep everyone in my family informed about what was going on. Trust me, that is more useful than you think. It is much easier to post updates in one place and allow people to post comments than to be constantly bombarded with emails and phone calls and have to respond and update everyone over and over again. Another unexpected benefit of keeping this blog is that it spread to family friends and church groups and provided an ever widening support network that helped make this process much easier. Every note you get gives you a little boost when you are feeling the effects of chemo and radiation, so don’t be scared to be open about what is going on and allow people to be supportive. You’ll be surprised how much it can help.

4. Don’t try to do it alone.
First of all, you can’t. Period. You are going to have to have someone who can give you full time care. You need someone who can help you manage the rest of your life as you undergo chemotherapy. Like it or not, your full time job needs to be beating cancer. You need someone who can help you deal with insurance companies, keep doctors bills organized and paid, and even help you with meals. I was fortunate to be able to have my parents move to NYC with me when I was diagnosed with cancer. I know I couldn’t have done this without them and know exactly how lucky I am to have had their support and help every step of the way. (Even when they dragged me to the hospital when I didn’t want to go because I was neutropenic!) You just need someone helping you out and keeping things on track.


5. Take your anti-nausea pills as scheduled!

Zofran, Reglan and Ativan

Even if you are feeling ok, don’t break the rigorous schedule of anti-nausea pills. Chemo is basically poison that is being dumped into your body on a constant basis. Without the rigorous pill schedule you are on your body will start reacting to the poison by making you throw up to get it out of your system. Once you start throwing up you will keep throwing up until your body thinks it has gotten rid of the poison. Best not to start that process! I had 3 levels of nausea meds that I would take. The first was Zofran. I took this every day at morning and night. It provided a blanket protection. If I was still feeling sick 20 minutes after taking the Zofran, or at any point throughout the day I would take a Reglan. If I was still feeling sick 20 minutes after the Reglan then I would take Ativan. I would try to wait and see if that made me feel better, eat some saltine crackers, drink water and hope for the best. Some days nothing is going to help, but even then, having these meds built up in your system will help you be infinitely better than if you had slacked off!

6. When receiving radiation, use the cream they give you!
I will admit, I wasn’t as on top of this as I should have been and it really came back to burn me. When you are receiving radiation treatment, they will give you this thick zinc cream and tell you to apply it to the area that is being treated. Radiation feels like nothing and your skin won’t react right away. It doesn’t seem like you need the cream. And then you slack off and all of a sudden your leg is burnt to a crisp and blistering! Trust me, use the cream right from the start and your radiation treatment will be much smoother than mine!

7. Eat well while you can.
Chemo affects your taste buds in a weird way. Everything you eat starts tasting like cardboard even though the smells from hot food can seem so intense that they make you feel like you are going to throw up. When I had just finished my first 9-day round of chemo I was sitting in the kitchen at the Hope Lodge eating pizza. There was a guy in there who looked at me and said “You must have just started huh? Enjoy it while you can!” He was eating clear broth as he explained to me how the tomato sauce aggravated his mouth sores and was just flat out hard for his stomach to handle. Everyone deals with food differently, so you’ll just have to experiment and see what foods work for you, but be ready for things to start tasting bland. It’s just part of the territory.

8. Don’t pay attention to statistics.
I liked how one of my doctors put it. I asked him what percentage chance I had of my tumor recurring. He said he didn’t like to give numbers like that because for you it is either 0% or 100%. Every person is different and every case is different. Stay positive and do everything you can do to get rid of the cancer in your body. Don’t take half measures. Do what needs to be done with the goal of only having to do it once!

9. Be considerate of others.
As noted earlier, you are going to need help during this process and, believe it or not, this is just as hard on the people who care about you as it is on you. Possibly harder. When you get in the routine of cancer treatment your days are going to be kept very busy. It is easy for you to put your head down and go from appointment to appointment and get things done. This activity, while all geared around your cancer treatment, has a strange way of keeping your mind occupied, which helps you keep it together. Meanwhile your loved ones are doing a lot of sitting around and worrying. This lack of activity and mental engagement has a way of amplifying things and adding stress. Be aware of the strain on them and realize that everything isn’t just about you. This is a stressful time for everyone involved, and you need to be considerate of those in your life who love and care about you.


Me and my sister out at Rockefeller Center in between chemo rounds

10. Don’t stop living!
Just because you are dealing with cancer doesn’t mean you should stop living! In between each round of chemo you have about 2 weeks where you let your body recover and prepare for the next round. Take advantage of these times! When we were in New York we would go to plays, try new restaurants, walk around Central Park or any number of things. The important thing is to take things a day at a time and enjoy life to the utmost. Don’t let cancer end your life before you are done living. Take advantage of every moment and live your life to the absolute fullest. You’ll be glad you did.


This post is merely meant to be informational for people about to start their journey through cancer treatment. As I said at the start, every type of cancer is different and every type of cancer treatment is different. These were things I noticed going through rounds of chemo involving Ifosfamide and a combination of adriamycin/cysplatin. I also had 25 days of radiation in the middle of my chemo treatment. If you have any different experiences or tips for people who are about to start dealing with cancer, please leave a comment!

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Back in the saddle — soon

My super awesome socket collection

As awesome as it is to be exclusively on crutches every day (not that awesome) I am ready to get back in my prosthesis. My leg still hurts a bit, but I feel like it is at a point that it will be ok in a prosthesis. So yesterday I decided to try to get back into my old prosthesis. The only problem was, the socket was way too small. Since I have been out of a socket for a long time, my leg has gotten a good deal larger.

So I back tracked and pulled out the next to last socket I had, attached it to the cleg and tried again. Still too small. I ended up going back through every socket I’ve had made, and all of them are too small for me now. It looks like we are starting over at square one. Oh well, if that’s what I have to do, that’s what I have to do! I want to get walking again as soon as possible and can’t wait to be back on my feet!

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The Masters

Despite my initial reluctance to rent the scooter for getting around Augusta National, it ended up being great! I actually forgot the keys on Thursday and had to use my crutches, so we stayed up around the entrance by number 1 and the number 9 green. Even just walking those hills up there made me appreciate the scooter more when I had it the next day. We took off after the final group came through #9 on Thursday since we had 3 more days out there and might as well wait until we had the scooter to go down to the bottom half of the course.

The Handy Sticker came in useful as it always does, but it was especially awesome at Augusta. Normally you have to park a decent ways away and walk up a big hill, but with the handicap sticker we were able to get right up next to the entrance. Even better than the location though was how easy it was to get out! Parked down in the normal lots traffic locks you in for a good hour+ after each round. We never had any traffic leaving the handicap lot though!

The final awesome benefit of being handicapped at the Masters is that they have some great handicap sections blocked off for people on scooters. On friday we sat at Amen Corner, and then on Saturday and Sunday we sat on hole 15. The section at 15 was absolutely incredible. We were against the ropes, right next to the green. Here is a picture I took when I looked back over the TV footage. My brother Jack is the one on the right side of the screen in the bucket hat, front and center on TV as the leaders came through!

As always we had an absolutely incredible time down there. It is such a fun event, made even more fun by being able to spend it with our family. Sunday is always so bittersweet because the action is so intense that you can’t wait to see what happens next, but you also know that it is quickly coming to an end and you have to wait another year to do it again!

And if you missed the double eagle, you should go to the Masters website and check it out. I’ve never heard a roar like that at the Masters before and doubt I ever will again, until someone else does it anyway!

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Personal Perception

Personal perception is a funny thing. We all take a certain amount of pride in our appearance and anything that affects that can really throw people off. I was stopped by someone a couple of months ago when I was grocery shopping. I was on my crutches and he called me over and asked me how long I had been an amputee. I told him it had been just under a year and he said he had been an amputee for 7 years now. He had also lost his leg to cancer and he told me about how hard the adjustment had been for him. To this day he has still not worn shorts with his prosthesis.

This is something I can relate to in a relative way. I have pretty much only worn shorts with my prosthesis, because I don’t really care and I think the technology is cool. But when my bone spur and neuroma popped up, I didn’t want to go out or be seen on my crutches. Stupid right? For whatever reason, I didn’t care if people knew I was an amputee and on a prosthesis, but being an amputee on crutches really felt embarrassing to me all of a sudden.

I think it was because it felt like I was back tracking. I was pushing myself hard and was proud of my progress, and now, due to issues beyond my control I was slammed back to reality and put in check. It was a blow to my ego as much as anything and it was hard to admit that I couldn’t just push right through this like I had done with everything else.

After I was on my crutches for a week or so I no longer cared about being on crutches. It became my new normal and just what I did. Today I have found myself in yet another similar situation though. We are going to the Masters this week and I am renting a mobility scooter in order to get around the course. Really!?? A mobility scooter??? When did I turn 80?

I have tried to tell myself that I could just use my crutches and be fine. And I still think I probably could for the most part. But the course is extremely hilly and without a guaranteed place to sit when you get where you want to go, your one leg can get really tired really quick, not to mention your arms. This really is the best way to do it, but for whatever stupid reason it is embarrassing to me to drive this thing around.

I think all of this comes back to personal perception. I’m not worried about anyone looking at me and saying “Oh, look at that guy!” — I’m used to being looked at. I think these feelings are caused by how I view myself as capable to do anything I want, and regressing in my use of these different items feels like I am moving backwards when I am still so motivated to push forwards! I know some of these things take time, and it’s probably good character building blah, blah, blah, but I am more anxious than ever to get back on my leg and start pushing myself again!

I also want to get back on my leg because I have a very busy summer coming up! The highlight of which is a week and a half trip down to Exuma (in the Bahamas) this June to visit my cousins. June is right in the heart of the Blue Marlin season and I am really tempted to try and land one of those things! That and possibly get scuba certified. Just for fun. We’ll see!

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One year later

Today is the one year anniversary of my amputation, but more importantly, it is the one year anniversary of being cancer free!

This past year has gone by incredibly fast. It seems like so long ago when I was going in for my amputation, so much has happened since then! After my amputation I had one more round of chemo, learned how to use a prosthesis, returned home to Atlanta, returned to work, revamped my golf game around my new leg, and acted in a national television commercial before my leg pain started and put me back on my crutches.

A lot has happened this year, but here on the anniversary I find myself laid up in bed again, recovering from another surgery on my leg. Ah, familiar territory!

I had surgery this past Monday to try to alleviate the pain in my leg. The doctor ended up sawing off a bone spur that had developed rather than cutting the nerve like we thought he was going to do, so we’ll see if this alleviates the pain or not once the pain from the procedure calms down some. If not, we’re just going to have to go back in again! Good times, good times. Haha.

But enough about that… God has been incredibly good to us all throughout this past year and has manifested Himself in so many ways. I couldn’t be more thankful for everyone’s support as I have adjusted to this new way of living and I have no doubt that this would have been near impossible to try to do on my own.

All in all this has been an amazing year, and I can’t wait to get back on my leg again and keep pushing to see what else is possible!

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Final Words

jarret wade says:
Sounds good man, we’ve been pretty mild as far as the temps go up here. We wont see snow (if we see any) until late Jan/Feb. Glad you’re out and about bro.

This is the last I heard from Jaret. He died Saturday. I can’t claim to have known him, yet he and I spoke quite a bit. We talked about God and faith and what this life ultimately meant. Mortality and health. Topics that people our age don’t tend to discuss.

I heard that Jarret died on Saturday and have had a hard time getting my mind on much else. I’ve spent several days Googling his name and thinking about our conversations. Death is so final, and yet it seems like such a minute step.

For some reason I feel such a sense of peace when I think of Jarret. When I was done with my treatment I remember emailing with him and he was saying how I had things so much worse than he did. I said he was crazy. He disagreed because I had just lost my leg and he couldn’t imagine going through something like that. I guess we all see the struggles of others as something worse than what we are dealing with ourselves.

My conversations with Jarret have been a blessing in my life. He told me that the messages I conveyed to him were God-sent, but he never realized what his conversations meant to me. I pray for Jarret’s family and girlfriend.

I don’t pray for Jarret because I know exactly where he is.


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As I logged in to update my blog just now, I saw that this is my 101st post. So much has happened since this blog started, it is hard to believe it was just barely over a year ago. This time last year, I was finishing up my radiation and was just about to start my 3rd round of chemo. I spent those days in a constant state of exhaustion and we celebrated New Years Eve in our apartment on 56th and 2nd. I was so worn down from the chemo that I couldn’t even keep my head up to look through the camera and take pictures of the fireworks.

I am so thankful for my family and their support through all of this. They have helped me so much and encouraged me throughout everything. Today is just one more example of that. This morning when I woke up, the first thing I heard was LeeAnne yelling upstairs asking me if I wanted to go horseback riding. One thing I love about being in the south is having great weather over our holidays! I always hear people say they want it to be cold on Christmas, but I couldn’t feel more opposed to that sentiment. I like to be able to get outside and enjoy the days I have off from work! So today we went riding.

LeeAnne has been riding for a long time, and she is very good. This was the first time I have sat on a horse since I rode one of my aunt’s horses when I was a kid. It was a lot of fun! I can see why LeeAnne likes it so much. You are out in beautiful country, running around the hills with these incredible animals. It was a great way to spend the afternoon to say the least!

LeeAnne’s instructor is named Bob and he is a great guy. He told me that he had been thinking about how he was going to have me get on and off the horse since my mom called him the other day. He said he had an idea, but really we’d just play it by ear and see how things seemed to go. I laughed and said that that is pretty much how I live these days. I couldn’t tell you how I am going to do most things before I do them, I just get out there and give it a shot!

He had me get in the bed of his truck and led the horse up next to me. I just stepped up to the edge and threw my right leg (what little there is of it…) over the horse. Very easily done! The horse he had me ride was named Pepper and he joked that it was LeeAnne’s favorite. Pepper is the gentlest horse they have out there, and is clearly not up to LeeAnne’s style of riding. Bob explained that LeeAnne likes to ride hard, and Pepper just isn’t enough horse for her.

He led the way around the property and Pepper, being the easily ridden horse that she is, just followed Bob wherever he went and at whatever speed he chose to go. All I really had to do was steer and avoid running into trees, but it was a lot of fun! At the end we went back and LeeAnne did a couple of runs around the barrels. As I said, she is very good and it was fun watching her ride. She also took all of the pictures I have included in this post. I LOVE the one at the top. Definitely the shot of the day!

It was definitely a great way to spend the 3rd day after Christmas! My parents are currently downstairs preparing a big steak dinner for us, so I’m going to wrap this up and go hang out with the family. I hope everyone is enjoying the end of the year as much as I am!

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Be Bold

I came across this video today of Michael Buble and a kid that he brings up on stage. His reaction is absolutely priceless.

What a bold request by the kids mom. It just shows how bold actions can result in amazing things!

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Earlier this week my aunt told me that a friend of hers is a teacher and would like me to come speak to her students about courage. Surprised by the request, I told her that I wouldn’t know what to say on the subject. Then at church on Sunday several people came up to me and said that they had followed my blog and admired the courage I showed this past year. I thanked them, and again, was surprised that courage was the trait they picked out. It got me thinking about courage and wondering why that is what they saw.

It occurred to me that what they saw as courage, I saw as faith. Faith that God was using me for a greater purpose and molding me into the man I am ultimately supposed to be.

I remember laying in bed praying that first night in the Hope Lodge. I had just finished my first round of chemo and my hair was starting to fall out. I remember asking God to use me as He saw fit and accepting that that may involve sacrificing my leg. As soon as I said that and truly felt it in my heart, a tremendous sense of peace came over me. The entire situation was suddenly turned on its head as I thanked God for this life and all the many gifts he has provided, including this challenge He just laid in front of me. It was no longer about me, it was about how God was going to use me for His ultimate glory.

With this understanding, I don’t know that a public school would necessarily want me to come and talk about courage. It has never been about courage. It’s about faith.

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The Zombie Apocalypse

In the interest of keeping this up to date, I figured now was a good time to discuss my burgeoning movie career! Totally joking, obviously, but I was in a Bing commercial associated with AMC’s TV show The Walking Dead this past September.

For those of you who don’t know, The Walking Dead is a show about the zombie apocalypse. After my amputation I made a joke about how The Walking Dead was filmed in Atlanta and they could probably use an amputee as an extra at some point. Long story short, I sent in my information to their casting director and got a call back about a week later asking if I could do a commercial. I did, had a lot of fun, and here is the result!

We were able to get a few pictures as well…

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2 Steps Forward, 1 Very Painful Step Back

Today I had 2 injections into the nerve next to my L3 and L4 vertebrae. My leg still hurts.

About a month and a half ago I was walking in my socket and all of a sudden felt like someone had stabbed me in the front of my leg. It was all I could do to stop from yelling and hobble into my seat at the restaurant. I was very ginger on it going home and took it off as soon as I could. I didn’t wear it for the remainder of the weekend, thinking some time out of the socket (prosthesis) would make it better.

Monday comes around. I wake up, get ready for work and put on my leg. I walk around a bit to test it out and everything is fine. I pick up some mail I want to sort through and shift my weight over onto my prosthesis and it happens again, but much worse this time. It feels like there is a knife lodged in my leg. I yell and fall back onto my bed and rip off the prosthesis, but the pain doesn’t stop. I fight through it and rip off the liner, and the pain lessens somewhat. I lay on the bed shaking for about 10 minutes before I can manage to get up and get to the bathroom to grab some of the pain pills I have left over. It took about a week before I was comfortable moving around again.

We have figured out that my nerves are trying to grow back. The problem is, there is nowhere for them to grow! So now they just start to grow around themselves and end up making a ball of nerves that send out severe pain signals with the slightest bit of pressure. When I contract the muscle in that leg, it squeezes those nerve bundles and makes me want to yell.

Needless to say, I have been using crutches for over a month now and my list has unfortunately been put on hold.

While it is far from ideal, things are still going well. I am very fortunate to have Ashley who helps me out more than I could ever explain. When you are on crutches, your hands are constantly occupied, so doing little things like grocery shopping, or even swiffering the floor is impossible, unless you do it hopping. I am an expert hopper, but it is pretty exhausting for long stretches.

Over Thanksgiving one of my crutches broke, so I hopped everywhere for 2 full days. Hopping down the pier and onto the boat was the longest distance I tried, but it is always worth it to get out on the water and fish!

We had an incredible Thanksgiving and had a lot of family around which was very fun. It was great to have a week up there and the weather could not have been more amazing! The picture above is of the sunset we had on Saturday night after Thanksgiving. I took it from our deck, with my iPhone. Incredible!

But back to the leg… I have been taking a lot of pills to try and stop the nerve pain, but they aren’t working. I also started using a patch a neurologist gave me which doesn’t even come close to touching the pain. Today I went in to see a pain specialist. He said that we could try to set up a time in the next couple of days that I could come back and have this procedure done where they inject numbing medication and steroids directly into the nerve at my L3 and L4 vertebrae. It is supposed to block the pain signals being sent from the end of my right leg. He said I couldn’t do it today because you can’t eat for 6 hours prior to the procedure. Fortunately I hadn’t had breakfast, so I talked them into going ahead and doing it right then and there!

They numb your back deeper and deeper until they can get the final needles for the injections next to your vertebrae, where the nerve is. It was kind of uncomfortable when the needle scrapes across your bone, but fortunately you can watch the whole thing on the little screen right in front of you! It was actually pretty cool. You can literally see the needle advancing next to your spine. I almost asked the tech to go grab my cell phone so I could take a picture, but decided that might be a bit much while I was sitting there with two needles stuck into my nerve!

Everything went very smoothly, but the “numbing medicine” they gave me didn’t do a thing. Hopefully the steroids will do their job when they kick in in a few days. I have an appointment for another injection next Friday, before I go to Dalls for Christmas. I really hope I can have this pain under control and get back on my prosthesis by then!

I’m going to be more diligent about keeping up my blog. Not much has been happening lately because I have been laid up with this pain. I just work a lot and try not to move much when I get home. I definitely find myself thinking about where we were last year. So much has happened in the past year, it is hard to believe!

I hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving and finds themselves as blessed as I have been with such incredible family and friends!

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Cancer is an interesting thing. It takes you on a journey into the depths of who you are and really makes you look at what is important in life. I am fortunate to have the support system I have, because there is no doubt in my mind that things would have been much more difficult without the love and assistance of everyone who stepped up in any and every way during this time.

I was also fortunate to come into contact with quite a few people who were going through similar experiences with cancer treatment. One of those people is a guy named Jarret. We’ve never met, but he got in touch with me after his girlfriend stumbled across my blog. He had brain cancer, not a sarcoma, but our treatment times lined up and we both had some high-dose treatments that really put the C in Chemo! We have stayed in touch throughout the process and I am glad we did.

We both went in for our 3 month followup scans in August. Mine came back clean. His didn’t. We have regularly emailed throughout this process, and I cannot express how sad I was to hear his news. His doctor has given him 6 months to live. I am praying for Jarret every day and would encourage anyone who reads this to do the same. In his last email he told me that he still believes in miracles, and I do too.

Keep Jarret in your prayers, and feel free to follow along with his journey on his blog:

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Come on Irene

The past few weeks have been pretty busy. I got my new socket, and it worked well at first. However, my leg has continued to shrink to the point that I am currently sitting in my prosthetist’s office, having just re-cast for another new socket! I was excited about this socket when I got it because I can FINALLY wear normal shorts and tuck my shirt in. Before this, my socket was so big that I could only wear mesh shorts and tshirts. The socket is also much shorter than my last one, so the knee center was raised to the point that it is about even with my other knee. This is nice because the socket doesn’t stick out below the end of my shorts, as you can see in the picture.

It appears to be much more natural, and my gait is much better in this socket, but this past week it has been killing me because my leg has continued shrinking so much. This limb shrinking is typical for new amputees and a part of the process, but man is it a pain to deal with!

Unfortunately my phantom pains have remained pretty strong, making it hard to get to sleep at night. People have told me that they go away, normally when you start using your prosthesis regularly, but mine have yet to let up. Maybe I am just using my prosthesis sooner than others, I don’t know.

I realize that most people probably don’t exactly know what I mean when I keep talking about my socket. The socket is the part of the prosthesis that your leg goes into. In the picture, you can see my full prosthesis. The top part that is highlighted in yellow is the socket. The bottom part that is highlighted in green is the C-Leg, which is the “knee.” You want the socket to be as tight around your leg as it can possibly be, so that it is practically part of your leg. The problem we are having is because my leg keeps getting smaller and smaller. Within 2 weeks of having a new socket, it is entirely too large and it becomes very painful to walk with as a result. I just talked with a guy who was 3 years out from his amputation and he said it took his leg about a year to stop shrinking like this so he could actually get into a full time socket. That is what I have heard, and is another reason I like the List, because it just shows how much harder it is to accomplish this stuff here at the start!

Speaking of the List, I broke 90 on the golf course again, a week after I did it the first time. This time I shot an 85. It didn’t come down to the finish like it did the first time either. I worked on my driver a lot and finally got it pretty consistent, which always helps! That was the last round I’ve played. I went out and hit once in this new socket, but have started thinking about some of the other items on my list now… like surfing.

At my company we have something that are called “Summer Fridays.” It is basically an extra vacation day that you have to use during a specified month or else it just goes away. You have 3 days total, one for June, one for July and one for August. I have waited until the very end of the month, but am using mine tomorrow so that I don’t just throw it away. I was really hoping to be able to go up to Wrightsville Beach and try to surf, but Irene is putting a serious damper on my plans! I’m still really tempted to go since I have the 3 day weekend, but I just don’t know. I think it will most likely be a last minute decision that I make at around 6:00 tonight when I get home from ProCare (my prosthetist office). I keep updating the Weather Channel website with their projected path, and was happy to see that Wrightsville is now out of the “Extreme Danger” zone, having been downgraded to a comfortable “High Danger” rating. This gives me entirely too much hope that the idea of heading up there isn’t completely crazy. This screen shot shows Wilmington (which is just inland from Wrightsville Beach) in relation to Irene’s projected path. I hovered over it so you could see the projected wind speed for that area if you click on the picture to see the full-size image.

While I remain hopeful that my surfing plans might still be possible, I have been watching videos of this Filipino surfer who is also missing a leg. This is how I imagine I will be after an hour or two in the water.

Realistically, I’ll probably just wait and go up next weekend, over Labor Day.

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The Handy Sticker

On Monday I had my first followup scan of my lungs and the results came back completely clear! Every three months we will do a CT Scan of my lungs to make sure that the cancer has not returned and metastasized (spread). Sarcomas tend to jump to the lungs when they return, so that is where we watch. Needless to say, this was great news!

This is the second scan that I have found to be a little bit nerve racking. The first one was around Christmas. We had done 2 rounds of chemo and yet my leg hadn’t shown any difference in size. Dr. Rosen said he’d never seen anything like it and rushed me in to get a PET Scan. It turned out that the space was just filling with fluid as we killed the tumor, but waiting on the results put us all a little on edge to say the least! This time was a bit nerve racking because they had noted a spot in my right lung when we took my last scan, at the end of my treatment. Dr. Rosen said he was confident that it was just a convergence of blood vessels, but that the followup scan would tell us for sure. I wasn’t beside myself with worry, but I definitely said a few prayers before going in!

Once again, we are fortunate to have such a great doctor in Dr. Lacayo. The nurse that took my scan told me that it would probably take two days for my doctor to call me with the results. Emilio called me 3 hours later. Great news, although they did find a 4mm kidney stone! Dr. Lacayo said that he thinks it was probably caused by the chemo and the various drugs that they have had me on. We are going to talk to a urologist and hopefully we can take care of it surgically… I’ve heard bad things about passing a stone that large!

One of the things I have actually enjoyed since losing my leg has been the handicap sticker. Our family calls it the “Handy” sticker. Granted, I need it because my leg hurts bad enough that walking long distances is very painful, but I love getting great parking, and now I have a reserved spot everywhere I go!

The funny part about this is that when I am driving I don’t look like I have anything wrong since you can only see from my chest up. As a result, I get stared down by people as I pull into my spot. Yesterday I went to Publix (the main grocery store here in Georgia) and pulled into the handicap spot up by the door. There were four people about my age walking out of the store. As I pulled in I saw one of them say something and they all looked over and started staring at me. They craned around and glared at me until I stepped out of the car and they saw my leg. They quickly turned around and continued walking to their car, but not before I had a good laugh! This happens a good bit, but that time was especially obvious.

This same situation has happened to my aunt Joan before. She has very bad arthritis and has had a handicap card for as long as I can remember. One time someone came up to her and yelled at her for using a handicap spot because they didn’t think she looked like she had anything wrong her. Sometimes it is best for people to just mind their own business. Just because someone’s handicap isn’t readily apparent doesn’t mean they don’t have something wrong!

On another topic, I am getting my new socket on Friday! I have spent the past two Fridays in my prosthetist’s office working on it, and I am excited to finally have it done! Last week we worked from 9am until 7:30pm. It is a suction socket and the test socket seems to be MUCH more comfortable than my current socket. I have high hopes that it will make a big difference. Hopefully this will allow me to start exercising and pushing myself harder too, without the pain that I currently deal with. I guess we’ll see on Friday!

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