6.29.2008

Blegh!


I am dreading getting up in the morning to head to Emory for a Remicade treatment.

Sitting in a chair with an IV in my arm for more than three hours is definitely not my definition of fun.

I always feel better when it is finished though, that is one positive!

I also get plenty of reading done while I am there. Second positive!

6.25.2008

Golf


I am going to play golf today for the first time since my transplant. It is going to be ugly!

I went to the driving range a couple of times but this will be the first time back on the course. Wish me luck!

I am hoping to shoot under 1200 and lose less than a box of balls! Hopefully I will not end up like this guy losing a bag of clubs as well!

I am excited about getting back on the links, but I will always believe that golf is not a game for people who are supercompetitive like myself.

Update: Not going to put my score down here......just know that it wasn't pretty but I did meet the goal I set above. At least I didn't throw my clubs or choke anyone!

6.24.2008

Ramblings about my life

I am only 27 years old, but I feel like I am much older in life experiences. Some who read this may laugh at that statement because I am only 27 years old. How much can you really learn in only 27 years? In those few years I have been healthy, I have been sick, I have faced my own death, dealt with the death of someone close to me (thankfully only one), lost friends, gained others, pushed people away, and pulled some close, been in places and done things that I am not proud of, as well as things that made me proud of myself. Within all of that, I had to grow up pretty fast.

I am in no way building myself up to have gone through more than the next person. We all deal with our own troubles and heartaches that come our way. I know there are people out there who could make my life sound like a walk in the park. Nonetheless, this is my blog and I feel like I have something to say.

I am a Christian. I am not perfect. Anyone who has spent a lot of time around me, or maybe just a little, will know that I am far from perfect. My goal each day is to live a life that I will be proud of when I am old. I try to live a life so that the people around me will be proud to call me their friend.

Some people may look at my life as boring. I do not drink, nor do I smoke. I try my best to hold my tongue. I teach Sunday School and a Bible study at my small, country church. My faith is the most important things in my life. To people on the outside looking at my life, I probably have very little to offer. People may wonder, "How can that life be fun or exciting?" or "There is no way I could handle being with someone who lives that type of life."

As for me, I enjoy my life. Ask any of my friends and they will tell you that I can go to a concert and have fun and act like an idiot with the best of them. I can go to a bar and hang out with friends or enjoy a Braves game in Atlanta. My life is as exciting and as fun as the next person's life.

I have been blessed with a second chance at life. By the generosity of someone else, I have been given the opportunity to live my life to the fullest. I truly enjoy each minute that I have with those that I love. I may get upset from time to time and not show it. I am human. Things bother me; things get to me. I open my mouth when I should keep it closed. I have to make choices about my life and there are times that I should let others make choices about theirs without my input. I just hate to see people that I love poison themselves with things that bring short-lived happiness.

I do not drink or smoke because I am scared of what might happen to me. I am a walking miracle. I do not want to have to go through the hell of a liver disease again for a few hours of fun. I have fun at a concert because I can hear and enjoy the music that God has given me a second chance to hear. I can dance because He has given me the strength to get out of bed. I can sing because he has given me a voice to use. I am constantly thanking God for the opportunities that He has given me in my life. I thank God for the people he has given me to share these moments of happiness.

There are times when people think that I am judging them because I am concerned about them. I know what a liver disease feels like. I have seen people battle lung cancer and emphysema first hand. I have lost one and almost lost another on different occasions to those terrible conditions. It breaks my heart to see the people that I love and care about putting things in their body that lead to disease and pain. I have witnessed the pain that alcoholism and addiction brought to my loved ones. I am in no way judging others for the things that they do; because with very little searching, you could find plenty to return the favor.

I have lost friends and people that I care about to this issue. There are times that I have asked myself, "Is it worth it to even mention this?" Each time I say, "Yes!" My fear is that people will walk away from this post and say, "Josh is judging me because I drink." I hope that by reading this those I love will see that I have no problem with a glass of wine with dinner or before bed. I have no problem with a couple of beers at a concert or other social gathering. I fear for those that I love because I have seen others destroy their lives with excess.

As for me, I have been given a second chance at life and I do not want to use this chance to destroy the gift that has been given to me. I enjoy my life and I feel that I have plenty to offer anyone who wants to be my friend. I love recklessly, and will do anything for a friend in need. None of us are really that different. Just as Collin Raye said in one song,

I laugh, I love, I hope, I try
I hurt, I need, I fear, I cry
And I know you do the same things, too
So we're really not that different, me and you

I love the people around me more than I could ever show them. I hope that my loved ones do not let silly things keep them from being around me and having the fun that we are meant to have together. Do not view my life as boring, I enjoy my life and I love my life.

6.20.2008

Update on Grandpa

My grandpa went to the doctor yesterday to meet with the doctor about options for treating his prostate cancer. He came home in much better spirits because the doctor's said that they caught it very early. The doctors suggested he start radiation soon. I believe they are going to implant something in his prostate within the next week or so that will treat what they need to be treated. Keep him in your prayers.

6.19.2008

Something to fall back on.


There are things in our lives that happen that we don't understand. I know that my life has not turned out anything like I had planned when I graduated from high school. I was going to go to college and get a degree in biology. Then go on to medical school, work my way through, and eventually be a rich doctor.

In elementary school when someone asked me what I was going to be when I grew up, I was quick to tell them that I was going to be a professional football player and I was going to play for the San Francisco 49ers. Dad would tell me that is a good goal to have and that I should work hard to reach that goal. I am sure he was laughing inside.

One day riding somewhere with Dad, he asked me that same question, and I gave him the same answer. His response changed on that day. He told me to never stop pushing toward my dreams, but always have something to fall back on. "You need a safety net, son, just in case something happens." That was good advice that I'm sure he didn't even realize was so important at the time.

Jump ahead a few years to my first year of college. The first year went fairly smooth, but at the beginning of 2000, my gallbladder shut down one night and my life changed. I was rushed into surgery and later found out that I had a liver disease. This disease would one day require me to have a liver transplant to live. Talk about a shock at 19 years old.

That prompted me to change my career path from medical school to becoming a teacher. I knew that I liked sports and that one day I would like to coach, so teaching seemed like a good fit at least until the transplant. Once I got into the courses, I realized that I liked teaching as much as I liked coaching. Now I am almost finished with my master's degree in education.

That is one instance of me having something to fall back on and taking Dad's advice. I never plan on giving up on my dreams but sometimes life sends you down a different path. I am still looking to fulfill those dreams of becoming a professional in business. I have thought about going back to school to pursue another degree. I am not sure what path my life will follow, but I want to have plenty of options when the time for change comes.

It seems that every time I get comfortable somewhere, life throws me a curve ball and I have to adjust. Adjusting is hard and very few of us like change, but it is something that we all have to deal with from time to time.

I have been given a second chance at life, and I want to use it to love those around me like I have never loved them before. I want people to see that there is more to this life than just working and buying things that make us happy for a few days. One thing that I want to do recklessly, without something to fall back on, is love the people around me. I don't want anyone to wonder if I loved them, I want them to know that I did.

6.18.2008

Last Two Classes


I have two classes left before I complete my master's in education. Both of these classes are going to be conducted online which is something that I have never before tackled. I have only looked at the content within those classes, but I already see that there are some ups and downs in completing this type of class. One great thing is that I will not have to drive back and forth to campus for classes a couple of times a week which will save me money since gas is hovering around $4.00 a gallon. The only major downside to the classes is that they are conducted online which means I will have to find some self-control and work on my classes instead of scouring the internet! Both of the classes have a syllabus that seems pretty intense with a lot of reading, responding, commenting, and journaling. I am excited about finishing these two classes and getting the pay raise that comes along with more education.

6.17.2008

The dreaded "C" word

IS FOR.................


I just found out that my grandpa (my dad's dad) has prostate cancer. We are not sure of the severity of it at this point though I assume they caught it pretty early. He is going to see the oncologist tomorrow to figure out a course of battle.
My grandpa, like myself, has numerous health issues already. He has already had cancer two times, both of those being lung cancer. He told me a few years ago that he started smoking cigarettes when he was eight years old. He grew up in the deep, dark hills of North Carolina where they grew tobacco to sell in Winston-Salem.
Grandpa (we call him Papaw) has had a rough road having a bypass surgery for one of the veins (or artery, not sure) in his leg. This was probably the worst surgery because they cut him from his sternum to below his belly button and down each leg to place some sort of "T" mechanism to let blood flow through or around a blocked artery. I can't remember all of the details at the moment.
A couple of years later, Grandpa started coughing up blood so he went to the doctor. There we found out that he had lung cancer from all of those years of smoking. He had a little over 50% of his right lung taken out in that surgery. A few years later he started coughing up blood again. After another trip to the doctor and some more blood work, it was discovered that the cancer had returned in his left lung. They took out about 25% of his left lung in that surgery. He still has trouble breathing and over the past couple of years has started developing a touch of emphysema that has really affected his breathing. Lately I have noticed that he is breathing very hard even walking from his house to my parent's house which is just across the street.
I talked to him for just a minute before I left mom and dad's and he seemed pretty shaken up. I am trying to muster up the courage to go back over there to talk to him. In the few minutes I did talk to him he said that he was pretty scared. The doctors have told him since his last surgery that he probably isn't strong enough to do any kind of chemotherapy. We do not know the options that are available but hopefully the doctors will give us some hope.
Cancer is a scary word for me being a transplant recipient who is on immunosuppressants. Each time I go to the doctor they tell me that there is virtually no patient with a higher risk for colon cancer than one with Ulcerative Colitis and a liver transplant caused by PSC. That word is constantly on the fringes of my mind and occasionally on the forefront. The one positive about my position is that, like Papaw, they are constantly on the look for a change in anything so it should be caught early. Hopefully the regular checkups for Papaw will prove to be beneficial and leave him some options about what he wants to do.
When I left over there he said to be praying for him and I will definitely follow through on my promise to him. I am asking those of you that read this to be praying for him too. Even when we can't change things, and the doctor's have given up hope, our prayer's can still make a difference.

Lindsey, one of my best friends, has a grandpa who needs your prayers as well. He is having a hard time. I am not sure of the details but I know he has been in the hospital for at least a week. Mom and I saw Sally, Lindsey's mom yesterday at lunch and she said that he is in serious need of prayers as well. I am sure there are a million others that need our prayers too.

6.03.2008

Back from the beach!


I had a great time this weekend in Folly Beach. We got back on Sunday evening around 10:30. It took us about 6 hours to get home. The trip included a stop for some late-night breakfast at the Cracker Barrel which probably cost us an hour. I would recommend the vintage little beach town to anyone. Not a great place if you want to do some clubbing (although Charleston is only about 10 minutes away, not sure about the club scene there!), but for a relaxing weekend in a small town atmosphere it is a great place.

Everything there is within walking distance. We arrived on Friday about 3:00, parked the car, and didn't get back into a vehicle until it was time to leave. I ate, shopped, walked on the pier and went to the beach without one time cranking up the car. I honestly don't think I have been that relaxed and calm in a long time. I am starting to really miss it now that I am back home and bills and the yard are screaming at me. Sometimes it is the small things (or seem small) that you need to get away from like driving or having a computer handy all the time.

I had so much fun and finally got to do (or attempt) one thing that I have been wanting to do for a long, long time. Evelyn and I went into a surf shop on Saturday morning after breakfast. We were looking at some of the surfboards and admiring their artwork and ignoring their price tags when I looked up and saw a sign that said "Surfboard Rentals". The first thing that went through my mind was the jet ski prices that were $45 for 30 minutes. I walked over to the sign that was sort of obscured by some surfboards and saw that you could rent one for $5 an hour or $25 dollars a day (24 hours). I told Evelyn that you could rent them for $25 dollars a day. After some discussion in the store we left without getting one saying that if the weather was good tomorrow we would come get one.

I am not really big on making a public fool of myself and neither is Evelyn, but she was definitely more receptive to going back right away and getting one. The more I looked at the crowd of people on the beach the larger the knot became in my stomach about getting the surfboard. Not to mention that the night before we were on the pier and saw a kid catch a 3 or 4 foot shark (no lie!) and lose it when the shark wrapped itself around one of the pilings and snapped the line. So with the shark fear and the public humiliation fear in the forefront of my mind I said, "Let's go get the board and we will do it later tonight once the crowd dies down then we can get up in the morning and try it again."

After 30 minutes, we were walking back to the condo with a surfboard on my back and carpal tunnel syndrome in Evelyn's wrist from signing her life away and promising to pay $470 if the board broke. We were both thinking $470 dollars is a little steep for a very uncool looking, 3 feet wide and 40 feet long board that looked like it had already been bitten by a shark or two. Needless to say, the board sat on the deck and inside the condo for the rest of that evening because one thing you have to do on vacation is EAT!


We promised that we would get up first thing in the morning, watch the sunrise, then hit the water to try our hand at surfing. We followed through on our promise and got up the next morning and headed out. We stood there at the shore with the board between us giving each other one last "You sure about this?" look and decided who was going first. (I said "You want to go first?" She said, "I don't care, you can go if you want." Which really means, "I had really rather you go and break your neck or get eaten by a shark first, but I will be ready to call 911 once as soon as I can put away the camera and run back to the room to get my phone.") I grabbed the board walked out to about waist deep water, threw the board down, jumped on, and started paddling out into the waves.

After nearly being decapitated by 3 or 4 waves and swallowing 3 1/2 gallons of seawater, I finally got out to where the waves started forming. I spun the board around toward the shore, looked back for a good wave to catch, saw it, and started paddling. I had a terrible realization that I was too far forward on the board when I saw the nose of the board under water, but it was too late. I was already caught up by the wave and flipped, not rolled, but butt slapping the back of my head flipped. Next thing I remember was flailing in the ocean trying to figure out which way was the shore and where I could find some oxygen. I finally got my bearings, stood up in waist deep water, looked around to see who might have saw me, grabbed my board, smiled, and headed out again.

What a rush! So much fun and I crashed!

The video of the crash.... look closely!
video
After a few (cough cough....hundred) more tries that were slightly more graceful than the previous one I was finally able to get the feel of where I needed to be on the board and how I needed to catch a wave. Too bad I was so tired I could barely paddle let alone push myself up to my feet. I was able to catch a few on my knees and one time I was able to stand up and ride the very end of the wave. So exhilarating and I can't wait to try it again!
Later that evening, we tried again at a park at the end of the island but the waves were not breaking in a way that you could really catch a wave and stand up through it but we still tried and had a blast doing it!

Surfing is something that I will definitely try again and $25 is a cheap investment for so much fun! You can watch surfers in action at Folly Beach too on their Surf Cams!

By the way, Evelyn has started a blog as well and she gives her account of the surfing experience as well. This is a vacation that will be talked about for a while by both of us I believe. There was a lot of excitement packed into a couple of days at the beach.