This is my personal blog page, where I will try to fill you in on anything that I am doing or any ideas that I have to share with others.
I just wanted to quickly wish everyone happy and safe holidays and I hope you year has been fantastic!
Well I just spent 5 days in Estes Park and already miss it. I feel like I was born to love in the mountains. I have uploaded some photos and added them to my landscape and misc galleries. Unfortunately for me, I'm very sad to report that my laptop monitor died sometime on the trip out to colorado. I had to buy a VGA cable from RadioShack in Estes and hook it up to the tv at the cabin to use my computer. Thank god for both of those things. I have a new one on the way from amazon, and I'm excited. I'm posting this from my iPhone so please excuse any typos, it's pretty awkward to update my website this way.
I want to wish you all a happy new year and thank you for visiting my site!
It's been 6 years since I've been to the Rocky Mountains. In that time I have become much more passionate about photography and have been wanting to revisit what I consider to be the most beautiful area in North America. The weather is giving us a proper send off here in St. Louis, with snow accumulations expected of around a foot, right at the time our flight leaves on the 26th.
As a photographer, this trip couldn't have come at a better time because I find myself lost for inspiration and getting rather bored with the same bland subjects to photograph in this area. Look for (I hope at least) hundreds of photos popping up on my website in the coming weeks. I hope to take enough to keep me busy processing for a while.
Hope you all have a Merry Christmas and happy holidays and the next update to this website will be the snow covered Rockies in Estes Park.
I'm going to take a complete departure from photography to write about something much more serious and important to me. I have never shared the story of how I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, went through a major surgery, and survived something that is a certain death sentence.
The message I want to get across is inspiration, to share hope with anyone who has been, or will be diagnosed with this, or any other form of cancer. I also want to propose an idea to help people who are living with pancreatic cancer as well as hopefully find a cure for this malevolent disease.
December 2008: Normally I hate my bad memory; it's ridiculous how I struggle to remember. I guess it's promising though, that I struggled to remember when this whole thing all started. It was the end of 2008, I was 20 years old. I lived a pretty normal life for a 20 year old, I was in college, I ate pizza at least 5 nights a week, I stayed up way too late even when I had to wake up early the next day, I rode BMX and was on my bike every single day no matter what. I was in really good shape, I had never had huge muscle mass or anything like that, but my cardio was incredible.
Things were going pretty good for me, but I was just getting tired of having to deal with acne on a daily basis. I finally ended up getting a prescription for Accutane. Accutane is allegedly such a dangerous drug (oh so dangerous...) so legally, I had to go through monthly blood tests just to ensure the drug didn't damage my liver. I didn't really care, it seemed worth it to me, so I agreed. Before I left the doctor's office that day, they drew blood and wanted to find a baseline for me. The numbers just came back way too high, but they gave me the prescription anyway and decided to check again in a month.
A month went by, and another blood test showed that my liver count was way too high. Oh, I guess that makes this January 2009:
Early on, the doctors thought other factors, like diet, effected the numbers. As the months wore on though, and the numbers kept coming back high consistently, concerns were raised that I could have some sort of liver disease.
I really doubted that was even possible, I didn't show a single sign of liver disease, but agreed to have an ultrasound anyway just to take a look.
May/June 2009: After months of abnormal blood tests, my doctors ordered an ultrasound on my liver. I never expected what they would find hiding inside my body. Luckily for me, my liver was perfectly fine; it was what they found inside my pancreas that horrified me and my family.
I guess it's not unusual for anyone who is told that they have a tumor in their body to search for some sort of explanation that doesn’t include cancer. Believe me, I did, I thought, well maybe its benign. I told myself, well, tumors can just be fat right? Nothing to be worried about…
A couple of weeks after my ultrasound, I had an MRI just to confirm that there was indeed a tumor in my pancreas. The results were the same as the MRI and the next step was biopsy.
At this point, I still doubted it was cancer, I mean, I just felt way too healthy to have cancer.
July 2009: Time for the moment of truth. I had my biopsy performed at Missouri Baptist hospital to finally determine what I was dealing with.
About a week later, in which I was limited to a 20 gram of fat per day diet (something I thought would be impossible for a 20 year old to pull off) I got the phone call.
It actually didn’t happen like that. I didn’t even get a phone call. I was fishing on our dock, where I had no cell signal at all, but could still receive voicemail. My phone vibrated while I had my lure in the water and I checked it. ‘Missed call – 1 Voicemail.’ Well, I knew exactly who that phone call was from; I didn’t even want to listen to it. I don’t even think I reeled my line in; I just played the voicemail with my doctor telling me that I need to call him immediately.
Anytime a doctor uses the word “immediately”, it’s rarely to share anything but bad news with you. I don’t remember if I called him back from the dock or went back to the house, my stupid phone made a hobby of not receiving calls but allowing me to make calls from the same location.
One month before my 21st birthday, I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. An especially rare neuroendocrine tumor. Basically I was both incredibly unfortunate while being the luckiest person alive. The great thing about my form of cancer is that it is very slow growing and at the stage it was discovered, was considered to be dangerous but not life threatening.
To take a bit of inspiration from Clint Eastwood, it’s a hell of a thing, finding out you have cancer.
I want to lie and say I was scared, I want to tell you that I cried about it, but honestly I didn’t. I’m not trying to act like a tough guy either, I guess it just didn’t sink in. My doctors only increased my feelings. I was recommended to Dr. David Linehan at Washington University/ Barnes Jewish hospital, one of the best surgeons at one of the top rated hospitals in the country.
August 2009: I met with Dr. Linehan for the first time just a couple of weeks before my 21st birthday. I don’t know how being told you need a major surgery actually made me feel better, but it did. He just acted like, well no big deal, we’re going to cut this, this, and this out and everything will be back to normal.
I was totally on board and could tell he was the right man for the job. The only thing I asked was, if it was possible, to put my surgery off until the first of September so that I could at least enjoy my 21st birthday a little bit. He had no problem with that and my surgery date was set.
I seriously don’t know how, but I just couldn’t help but not care whatsoever that this was happening to me. I just had this calmness about it; it almost scares me thinking about it now. To me, I felt like, yeah I have cancer, but I’m going to kill it, not the other way around.
My 21st birthday was pretty quiet compared to a lot of people’s 21st birthday, but then again, I don’t know anyone else who got totally plastered on their 21st who also knowingly had pancreatic cancer. We went to the Cardinal’s game and then to the casino afterwards. I went back home, watched a movie, and went to sleep. 15 days to my surgery.
I still had some pre surgery tests to go through first, but passed all of them easily. My school granted me a quarter off, 3 months to recover from the surgery.
August 31st 2009: Spent my last night before my operation at home, watched about 6 hours of Top Gear on BBC. I didn’t sleep at all that night, not because I was scared, but, and I’m not kidding, this was my mentality: Well, I can just sleep in the operating room. Pretty good plan actually.
September 1st 2009: Day of my surgery. Left my house around 4 am to get there on time. The hospital wasn’t even open yet, we had to sit there and wait to get checked in. After a couple of hours in the waiting room, I was called back to get ready for surgery. This included changing into scrubs, getting IV’s put in (those are always fun) and lying in the hospital bed for the next 5 or so hours waiting. The wait was especially long because of an emergency surgery that had to be performed before mine.
Finally around 12 pm, the doctors came in to wheel me into the OR. My parents hugged me one last time and we departed down the hallway. The last thing I remember is just staring up at the ceiling, watching the fluorescent lights pass by. I’m not sure if the anesthesia knocked me out or if I just fell asleep from being awake for over 24 hours.
Either way, I was in there for 8 hours. I just vaguely remember being wheeled out past my family and into the intensive care ward.
I, like many pancreatic cancer patients had the Whipple Procedure, a pretty major surgery where part of your stomach (about 40%) of mine, pancreas, small intestine, entire gallbladder, and some lymph nodes were removed.
This resulted in 26 staples across my stomach in a boomerang shape, about 12 inches wide. Somehow, I was awake a couple of hours later and even watched the entire replay of the Cardinal’s game from earlier in the day.
The next day I was walking, even though walking scared me even more than the surgery itself. I just visualized my intestines pouring out of that huge hole on my stomach, but that wasn’t the case.
I spent a week in the hospital, which is short for patients who have this operation performed. The hardest part was not eating anything for that entire week, not even being able to drink water. I lost about 15 pounds in 7 days.
The doctors told me I could go home if I felt good enough, and trust me, I was not staying there a second longer than I had to.
After you haven’t had anything, and I mean anything, in your stomach for a week, you have expectations of not being able to hold food down. This is especially true when your stomach is about half as big as it once was. However, I just couldn’t hold any food down at all.
Another week went by and I could barely even eat toast and crackers. We decided something had to be wrong and went back to the hospital. Guess what, something serious was in fact wrong.
Now this is just a tip to anyone who experiences this same problem. Get to the hospital ASAP. I’m not joking either, you’ll understand me when they jam that NJ tube up your nose and then down your throat to pump out your stomach, not fun.
So another 3 or 4 days go by, no food, no water, can’t even move my head. Test after test to find out what was wrong. I even had the unique experience of drinking that liquid that shows up on x-rays and watch, live, as it went down my throat and into my stomach, it was actually pretty cool. The liquid just sat there in my stomach, so the technicians told me to think of my favorite food to help increase digestion.
Thanks guys, now you have me thinking about a bacon pizza from Imo’s, and I’m starving! So, nothing happened, I think I ended up throwing that stuff up too. Finally, they put a scope into my stomach with a little camera on it to look around.
Turns out the spot where the reattached my stomach and small intestine was swollen shut from scare tissue and nothing was going through. The inflated it with a small balloon at the end of the scope. When I woke up, I had no tube down my throat, I was wide awake, that honestly might have been the best I have ever felt in my entire life.
A couple days went by, still in the hospital, down about 30 pounds now, but that day I ate the most delicious plate of hospital food in human history. It was probably really gross, but I would have eaten the bed sheets at that point.
I came back out of the hospital, after about another week and felt almost normal again. I had to go back again for a day or two, but only because I was stupid and ate too much too fast.
Finally, I was home, comfortable, pigging out on food, there was no NHL lockout, life was good. Interestingly enough, it was when I was home, alone, not being able to go anywhere, unable to work, couldn’t even lift a gallon of milk, where the reality of the situation hit me in the face like a chunk of ice on a frigid winter day.
We all take everyday things for granted. Taking a shower, driving, going to the grocery store, going to school or work, putting up with stupid people. Take it from me though, all of those things beats sitting around the house, feeling like you are surrounded by a cloud because you can’t do anything for yourself. It’s a hopeless feeling really; it’s indescribable until you’ve experienced it. That was by far the most difficult thing about having cancer. It was in fact, by far, the hardest thing I have ever gone through in my entire life. I hope I never have to face anything like that again.
The surgery was easy. Leading up the surgery, I didn’t have any concern. But somehow I just felt so helpless and worthless being unable to just function in a normal manner. I knew it would get better in time, but those days were very long and very sad.
It took about a month before I could drive again, but eventually got back behind the wheel. I doubt anyone alive was happier at that moment that I was. Just being able to leave the house alone whenever I wanted to, listening to Pink Floyd, it was amazing.
Two months later I returned to classes regularly until Christmas break. It felt good to be back in a normal routine again. I was actually happy to go back and space out in class again.
October 2012: Somehow, I am still cancer free, 3 years and a month after my doctors and I evicted that cancer from my body. I was very fortunate, infinitely lucky. This “dangerous” drug, Accutane somehow saved my life in a way. I get yearly scans now to keep an eye on things to ensure it doesn’t come back. I take pancreatic enzymes with every meal I eat and still have some issues with digestion. Overall though, I am pretty healthy again.
Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer deaths. I didn’t have a conventional form of pancreatic cancer, I didn’t have to go through chemotherapy or radiation treatment, but it changed my life forever.
I wanted to share my story with anyone who was willing to read to prove that not only can cancer affect anyone but it can also be treated. If you have cancer, don’t give up, because you can always improve your situation. Even if it just means having a positive attitude, that could make the difference between survival and death.
Not only is it possible to destroy cancer, but it’s also possible to live a normal and happy life afterwards. Beating cancer isn’t easy, in fact, it’s extremely difficult. It takes tremendous mental strength to overcome.
November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. I want to celebrate 3 years of being cancer free by offering 50% of every cent that I earn from this website and donate it to pancreatic cancer research.
I don’t really care if it’s $100 or $100,000, I just want to help others who are sick from the same disease that I was lucky enough to survive. I survived the fourth deadliest cancer. Not many people can claim that. I’d like to believe it was some sort of sign, there has to be some reason I am still alive and well today. My passion for photography is deep, it is something I truly love. If I can use it in any way, whatsoever, to help other people who are fighting the odds to survive; I feel like maybe I did something small to earn my second chance at life.
Thank you so much for reading, I apologize for the length, but I wanted to include as much as possible.Also, sorry for grammatical or spelling errors, they happen sometimes with me.
Please check back before November 1st for more information on my plans to help raise money for pancreatic cancer patients. Share this with friends and family as well if you don't mind, I want to donate as much as possible to this cause.
If you would rather directly donate money to pancreatic cancer research, please visit: www.pancan.org to make a donation or to get more information about pancreatic cancer.
Well I for one am ecstatic about the changing of the seasons this year. Besides having no NHL season due to the lockout, it's so nice to welcome in the month of October with a shot I have been thinking about for a little while now. This sorghum field and barn are located right at the edge of Waterloo, Illinois. Hopefully this is just a taste of what is to come for the autumn season. Click HERE to view it better.
Just a reminder, any order over $35 receives 15% off by simply entering the coupon code "15off" during checkout. Thanks for visiting and get your hoodies and apple cider ready to go!