Sweatin’ With the Oldies

October 30, 2002|

Sweatin’ With the Oldies

“Up, one, two, three, four, good, now chair squats- one, two, three four…now lift those arms high, reach, reach, reach, reach…”

A few weeks back I came to a conclusion: I wanted to join a support group. I figured I had the free time, the desire to talk and the desire to listen. It would be nice to meet others in the same predicament as myself. Perhaps it could even be a cathartic experience.

So I called the Post Treatment Resource Center at Memorial Sloan Kettering, intent on finding a group. Is there a group for twenty-somethings I could join?’ I asked. ‘Frankly, we can’t let you in it,’ the social worker said, ‘You would scare the other participants. You’ve been though too much. These kids are just getting through their first round of treatment and are having enough trouble. If they see you, their minds could start working, and they would freak out. But we do have another group for you. It’s on Mondays from 3:30 to 5:00. It’s a holistic treatment group- nutrition, physical therapy and all. You’ll love it.’

I was a tad concerned. Who the heck is able to get off work at 3:30 to come to a support group? I soon discovered the answer.

Let’s just say I brought the mean age range of the group down to the seventies. Alas, the median, it is still stuck in the eighties.

That’s not to say the group is not great. I am just the young whippersnapper.

So every Monday afternoon the octogenarians and I pepper a nutritionist with questions. ‘Is the Atkin’s diet healthy?’ ‘Are vitamins necessary?’ ‘What are the best foods for gaining weight?’ ‘What are the best foods for losing weight?’ ‘What are the best foods to ‘cleanse’ the colon?’ ‘What are the best foods to eliminate flatulence?’

Patiently, and with much understanding, Donald, our nutritionist answers all of our questions. It’s an answer, though, filled with a gusto and passion that could only come from a man who has a degree in Nutritional Anthropology. (Yes, such a course of study exists.) Slowly, I am finding myself learning more and more about cuisine, cooking, and calories. The proof? I am eating healthy while gaining weight (2 lbs in two weeks!). I still slather all of meals with Ranch dressing and American cheese singles, but it’s low-fat Ranch and low-fat cheese singles.

Next Donna comes in, ready to pump us up. OK, perhaps pump is too strong a word. Rouse? Stir? Budge? Whatever the word- she comes in with a challenging routine of low-impact aerobics. By the end of the set the group is wheezing, winded and hunched over. Except me. And darn well I shouldn’t be. Why?

a.) I’m 24.

b.) I rollerblade or lift for 45 minutes a day.

c.) I’m 24.

I usually modify the routine by adding weights. Then it gets difficult. ‘No more squats! No more squats!’ I scream from the safe confines of my house, as the neighbors peer in the window wondering what the heck is going on.

Do you know what is most astounding? Of all the participants, I am the one with the most experience with cancer; I have been through the most! I’m 24! The young whippersnapper! I probably scare them too.

I passed two random but significant moments in my life.

Kordell Jr.

For the first time in three years I played a game of touch football while hanging with the boys in Chicago. Promptly, on the first offensive series, I threw an interception. It was the most enjoyable interception I have ever thrown. I can play football again. That alone is revolutionary.


I found a large accumulation of hair in my shower drain. It wasn’t from Davi, my roommate. He is quite closely shorn. We haven’t had any guests in awhile. It must have been from…me? I can clog the drain again. That alone is revolutionary.

ArtCanning.com XP

Frequently I get e-mails from readers which read like this: ‘Art, where is the latest update? You haven’t updated in three weeks…Helloooo!’

So Webmaster Patrick and I recently converged in a melding of the minds during our boys’ weekend in Chicago. Out of that pow-wow, we came up with new ideas to freshen the web site. Look for some new features to appear, especially on the e-mail front. We hope to have a list-serve function that will alert you via e-mail when I have updated the site with a new entry or new pictures. No more frustration at lack of a new update. Are you excited?

Nine Months

No, I’m not pregnant. Rather my nine-month check-up has arrived. On November 11, I have a date scheduled with three different suitresses- Miss PET Scan, Miss CT Scan and Ms. MRI. It’s a big day. I hope to impress them all- hoping to hear from all of them those precious words, ‘all clear.’ A clear scan? I can be healthy again. That alone would be revolutionary- especially to a young whippersnapper like myself.

My Story – Part IV

Art’s Story IV version 1.18.03

The Fall

I don’t know if I could count the hours I spent at Starbucks with my laptop plotting to write about the next saga in my life, or as I entitle them, Art’s Life. Every week I would sit down, gazing at the computer screen, trying to come up with something of substance. I had plenty of material. I was always getting into some mis-adventure filled with a learning point or two. It was the timing, though, that was the issue. I never felt comfortable writing a definitive work that would always be within arm’s link on the web site till I answered one question; would I be healthy or not? Would my next tests and scans be clear or would the cancer have returned again? Fearful of being overconfident but also fearful of being under confident, I waited.

Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t sitting on my hands all fall waiting for something to happen. The fall was good to me. After languishing all summer underweight with strange ailments and hurts, September arrived with optimism. My latest scans, in the month of August, were clear. I personally was insistent that something was wrong, based on aches and pains lurking around my body. But I was wrong. Nothing. Remission.

I was able to return to a normal routine. I started gaining weight and putting back on the muscle I had lost over the past two years. I was able to play tag football and basketball again. I didn’t have to go to the hospital but once a month. I wasn’t tired all the time. My hair returned dark, curly and unruly- a pleasant surprise. I felt great. More remarkably I felt healthy for the first time in years. Like all young men, I was starting to feel that air again, the air of invincibility. I was returning to myself.

Most notably I started to concretely plan for my future. That may seem strange to you, given that most people plan job changes, weddings, and vacations months, even years, in advance. I had always taken such thinking for granted in the past. For the past two years though, I had lived on a month (and sometime week-by-week) calendar, where at an instant anything and everything could change. For once I was able to think about returning to work, finding a career and moving forward, looking to the future.

After many years of contemplating it, I applied to Seminary and was later accepted. Given my talents, gifts, interests and passions- I knew what I wanted to do with my life. Excitedly, I was looking forward to starting school in June 2003. Before then, I was going to move home to Ohio, save money, intern at a church, work a little and take distance-learning classes to get a jump on school. It was exciting, so exciting. No longer, when I asked what do I do, would I have to tell someone ‘Ah yeah, I’m a disability retiree…’

So when my scans in November came up, I wasn’t nervous at all. Why would I? I felt great. Everyone, including myself, was expecting great news. A few nights before the tests and scans, though, one of my closest friends asked the question that to this day still haunts me. ‘What happens if they’re not clear? What happens if it shows the cancers back?’ I hadn’t thought of that. No way. I was feeling too good. I was feeling healthy. I didn’t have an answer.

The scans returned with a strange result. I knew something was up when the PET Scan showed activity. It wasn’t till a few days later when I felt something brewing in my body. Literally overnight, a few lymph nodes popped up in my groin area. They didn’t stop growing. The pain increased as the nodes pressed against muscles in my legs. I knew it. The cancer was back. And I wasn’t prepared. It was the Fall. It was a fall.

‘I Don’t Know’

It’s a freezing cold day here in Youngstown. As I glance out the window of the Barnes and Noble, sipping my bitterly strong mocha I reflect over the past six weeks and see a blur, of pain and painkillers, of darkness and depression, of confusion and acceptance.

I was pretty much devastated when I learned of the relapse. Why, when everything was starting to go so right, did I have my legs kicked from under me? It felt like a kick in the teeth from God. It was like a betrayal from my best bud. I had been through relapses before, but this one- this was (and is) it. I’m out of options. I can’t do any more chemotherapy or transplants. Very few therapies exist for someone in my situation, especially because I have Hodgkin’s Disease, one of the most treatable of the cancers. Because of its treatability, few new treatments exist for patients who relapse. The situation, my situation, had become that much more serious. Pick the sports analogy of your choice- it’s the bottom of the ninth, it’s the fourth quarter, it’s the last lap…time was and is running short and something, someone has got to come through in the clutch. It’s time.

Because of such a situation, I have had to wrestle with life’s toughest questions. It hasn’t been easy and even now I am constantly plagued.

  • Am I allowed to be down and depressed?
  • What really is faith?
  • What really is optimism?
  • How do I, Art, practically live, keeping an eye toward the future, yet knowing death is potentially looming overhead?
  • How do you deal with people in my predicament? How do I approach relationships and friendships? What do I say? What do you say?
  • How can there be a good God- given how my situation has played out on a mirco-level, and how the events of the world have played out on a macro-level?

I’ve thought long and hard. I’ve talked and question. I’ve researched and read (I’m such a geek). What have I found out? What did I discover? I don’t know. The more I find answers to the above questions the more questions that appear from those answers. Like a wet bar of soap which I think I have a hold on, the tighter I hold onto my pre-conceived answers, the farther the soap flies out of my hands. Whoever the sage was, he was right- the older I do get, the less do I know. I have written at one time or another on some of these and other topics. My answers have changed for some. Others they have stayed the same. Regardless, I most of the time don’t know the answer, or don’t know the full answer. (I’ve put up further links in elaboration of some of these topics on the previous web page…)


I’m not a psychologist nor do I have the necessary resources to write a great treatise on sadness, depression, and despair or faith and optimism. I will write this though, I think it is utterly natural and OK, to an extent. Emotions go in cycles and it’s OK to have a down day.

The frustrating thing is that most people don’t want to read that from me. They want inspiration for their day; they want optimism from me in my updates. Look, I don’t get fired up about too many things, but this gets my butt a-boiling.

Nothing drives me more nuts than hypocrites and fakes. We all know them. Everything is always great, no matter the circumstance. They could have a knife wound in their chest and all would be well. Puh-lease. I want to shake such people and say ‘BE REAL!’ Such people are one-dimensional in my mind, cartoon characters, afraid of what people will think. That’s not me and I will never portray that. If I’m down and I write about it, then so be it.

It reassures and helps me when I know people are struggling with their emotions and their situations. It reminds me that we are all in the same boat- we all have issues to deals with and therefore we can all be there for each other in those times. I find many more people try to create this aura of invincibility that they want people to be impressed with. Personally, I much prefer the company of someone I identify with than someone I idolize.

Faith and Optimism

As for faith and optimism, I am finding more and more that there is much much more involved in actually having true faith and true optimism. I find most people are blindly faithful and blindly optimistic. What does that mean? I find most people choose to ignore the whole of a situation. In doing so, they don’t understand the odds, the gritty realism of the situation. They’re not actually optimistic, they’re naive!

What is real faith and optimism? It’s believing despite knowing the full situation, the full odds, the complete story. It’s much tougher than I ever thought. I don’t know how to move up the optimism ladder. I’m working on it myself. I don’t know how to completely increase my faith. I wish there was an instruction manual.


How do I live ultimately for the present, but with an eye toward a future that may never happen? I don’t know. It’s an incredibly difficult balance that I have definitely not mastered. But, in the midst of talking about this with a friend, he said, ‘Ideally, shouldn’t we all live like that though?’


A friend e-mailed last week, confused as what to say to me and therefore she just stopped all communication with me. I replied, ‘I don’t know how to react to you. I don’t know what you are feeling toward me, so don’t worry.’

Good God?

I don’t know completely, but I can’t help but think of the phone call I received today. An elderly neighbor, Mrs. Suhy, called looking for my mom. When she found it was me and heard my voice she almost started to cry. I hadn’t talked to her in two years. She exclaimed how she prays for me everyday and that she knows God is with me. She then tells me of her sister. ‘My sister oh she loved you. She was in her eighties and couldn’t leave the house. She would pester me every single day, asking, ‘How’s Art doing? How’s Art doing?’ And every night she would watch Mass on TV and take part, offering the Mass up for you. (by now she was crying) She died in August…’

Who was I to deserve this? I had never even met her sister. Goodness. I couldn’t help but think that if someone on earth can love me that much, and never have even met me, how much more would a God, who intimately knows me, love and care for me and therefore know what’s best for me. And if He knows what’s best for me, He ultimately has in mind that my good.

Yeah. I get anxious and distraught. Why does it seem like God is inactive, as thousands of you are praying out there? Why doesn’t He do anything? I don’t know, but I know He’s good.


I don’t know. ? I don’t know what will become of Frederick Arthur Canning III. I do know, though, that all I have is today and that I need to constantly remind myself to appreciate it. I’m not good at it; I’ll admit it. You think I would be by now, especially after all I’ve been though. But I’m human. I forget. And that’s why I need you. That’s why we need to each other- to remind ourselves of what’s important in life. Bono sang it best:

‘And love is not the easy thing

The only baggage you can bring…

And love is not the easy thing….

The only baggage you can bring

Is all that you can’t leave behind…’

My Story – Part III

Art’s Story Part III

I had had a remarkable past few months come Winter 2001. On January 20, a small gathering of family friends to help support some of the costs of my dealings with cancer morphed into a full size benefit gala, filled with hundreds of volunteers and thousands of participants, all coming to support me. To this day, people in Youngstown still talk about “The Benefit.” It was more than a benefit; it was reunion, from what I hear (I wasn’t even there!) that could never ever again be recreated. For Christmas, I received a quilt fashioned with squares designed by friends, family and co-workers from across the country. This very Web site grew to from friends and family to cult status. If I didn’t have someone’s picture on it who I knew, I was accosted. If I didn’t do an update when I promised, I was barraged with emails. The site had become a beast. A good beast.

February 2001. I was living at home in Ohio recovering from my stem cell transplant when I knew something was up. I’ve lived with Hodgkin’s Disease for a year now. I knew it well, like an old friend. I woke up one morning and had this pain in my upper back. It was a strange pain, not easily describable. Simply I could feel something wrong in my spine and it was causing the radiating feeling around the area. It was then I understood that the stem cell transplant hadn’t worked.

I didn’t necessarily want to admit it. Who would? As the weeks progressed new pains flared in my left leg and lower back. I hoped, we all hoped, it was a ruptured disk or some lower back problem. Then on April 7th, I felt it. I was waiting at the check out counter for the cashier to return my credit card when I casually ran my fingers up my jaw line and felt the lump at the end of the bone. That was no ordinary lump. That was a lymph node. The cancer was officially back, no doubt.

Knowing the cancer had returned and accepting that the cancer had returned were two entirely different things. Emotionally, it took time to accept. After all of that sickness, hospitalization, pain, frustration, we still had not killed it. On top of that, why? Why couldn’t I get on with my life? Why couldn’t I beat this thing? Why would I have to do all this over again? For weeks I wrestled with those questions trying to make sense of it all. I couldn’t; it simply was too much. I was miserable. I was in pain (and when I wasn’t, I was a zombie from the painkillers). I was depressed.

Now, I knew what I had to do. I had to make that choice- that difficult choice that I had made twice before. I had to accept the hand that had been dealt to me and use it to continue to play in the game of life.

So one day, after sleeping the whole Sunday before, I did. I consciously made the decision to move on and suck it up. From then on, I just deal with it. It’s part of my life. Sometimes, I even forget I have it. I have become so accustomed to pain and taking pills that I take them for granted. It’s part of life…for me.



I keep coming back to the theme of choice, but it so important. In every situation that appears in life, we have a choice to make. Echoing my strong belief is Professor Dumbledore, famed good wizard in the Harry Potter series. After Harry discovers that he and the evil Lord Vordemort share many of the same powers, Dumbledore exhorts Harry “It is our choices, Harry, that show who we truly are, far more than our abilities.” (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, page 333) The more I live, the more I see that this is true. We decide how to use the talents we are given. We decide how hard we work. We decide who are friends are. We decide what to make of our lives. We decide how to handle adversity. No matter what the psychological community says, it is not our parents’ fault. It is our fault. Our choices ultimately come down to us.


Having moved back home, I have had the opportunity to meet many new people. In the process, they know nothing about my situation or me. Typically people are on their best behavior around me, but new people, they don’t know any better. So anyway, I internally chuckle when I hear people lamenting to the point of death about the cold they are so desperately battling or that pesky wart that will not go away or not being able to play softball because of the hangnail on their toe or that person who is making their life miserable. I laugh for two reasons. 1. That used to be me. 2. Their problems are so miniscule compared to mine that they would be embarrassed if they knew whom they were talking to. That doesn’t mean that I don’t identify and empathize with them. It just means that my perspective on health and on life is so different that the little things that used to bother me don’t. Who cares if the newspaper is an hour late? Will getting upset over it do any good?

One of the amazing transformations that occurred before my very eyes was that of the city of New York. On September 10, New Yorkers were swearing at the subway for being late, cursing the deli man for putting too much mustard on the corn beef on rye, and complaining over the faltering NASDAQ. On September 11, New Yorkers were thankful for just being alive. For the whole next week (and I imagine still to this day), New York was as quiet and friendly as small town, Ohio. People were somber and respectful. Everyone was helping each other. Groups that hated each other one minute were comforting each other the next. Why? Perspective, perspective, perspective.

I believe there are two ways that we learn in life. The first is by practice and/or repetition (i.e. learning a new language, writing out the words over and over). The second is by a major life experience or test (i.e. when you were a little tyke, your mom said don’t touch the hot stove. You did and burned yourself. Consequently you never touched the hot stove again). Some of us have gained our perspective on life by that major life experience. Others have learned through simple practice. What will it take for you to have a new perspective on life?

Who is Ultimately In Charge?

I love reading the story of Lance Armstrong. He battles cancer. He beats it. He trains hard. He wins three straight Tour de France cycle races. But I do have a slight beef with his story. All of the pundits say, ìHis strong competitive spirit, his persevering spirit and his unrelenting will allowed him to beat cancer… Is that correct though? I don’t believe so. I know plenty of people who are as competitive, as persevering, and as unrelenting as Lance Armstrong who died from cancer. Why didn’t they survive? Were they not strong enough? Am I not strong enough? Am I not competitive enough? It’s hard for me to believe that. God is in charge. You can differ with me on the statement all you want, but it is what I believe. He heals who He wants, when he wants. He calls home who he wants, when He wants. For me, only He knows what will happen, and I am content with that. I will still be optimistic, I will still enjoy life, but I will also know who’s ultimately in charge.


My Story : Part II

It has been a desire of mine to make this website for two years now, but I have put it off, put it off, put it off…. then finally it took a lot of inspiration and a little disease to break out of the procrastination cycle.

You may have come here because I hounded you to visit my site ( in my best radio voice, “…check out www.artcanning.com for all the latest info…”), or because a friend told you to see the site, or because you did a search for Hodgkin’s disease and this came up, or you did a search for hot single Wharton graduates and…you get my point.

First, to give a little background information, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma on February 16, 2000. I then did 12 weeks of Stanford V chemotherapy at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP), timing it exactly so that I graduated the same weekend I received my last treatment. On June 13, 2000, I started radiation treatment on my chest and neck at University Hospital (UH) in Cleveland. That treatment took about five weeks. After a three-week recovery period, I started work in New York City at Goldman, Sachs and Co. as an analyst in the firm wide training and development group.

A little less than two months later I had my first check-up at HUP, where it was discovered that the cancer had returned. I have a few more tests to take at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) here in New York City and from there the doctors will have a better idea of treatment for this next battle in the war. Most likely it will be more chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant.

A lot of my friends and family have had a tough time digesting this next round of treatment. I thought, just as everybody else, that I would be done. The chemotherapy was very intense the first time, the radiation was incredibly hard, and if anything survived, we would be amazed. But some cancer cells survived and have since spread. I have received a lot of calls and e-mails lamenting the fairness of this all, why would God put me through this again and just some general feeling of injustice.

I have a couple answers for all of this, and they are not easy to want to believe. (This not only applies to my current situation, but it applies to every situation that you and I are in.)

First, I believe in God. Not just any God, but the One who came down to earth, lived the perfect life, died the perfect death despite, beat death and rules completely up in heaven. Believing this, understanding that God died for me and for the sins of the earth, I am assured of meeting Him someday in the most glorious of places. You can totally not believe this. It is up to you and you alone, and only you will be able to know if you really believe and live it. You can totally not believe this. For me, though, I would rather have this Guy on my side, then not have Him on my side. I would love to put an atheist in my place for a day and see how long he or she survives on his or her own.

Second, I don’t believe that God makes mistakes, or absentmindedly forgets about certain people on earth like the argument presented in the popular book When bad things happen to good people by Rabbi Kushner. If God has the power to create everything and is omnipotent, I don’t think anything will escape his sight. Instead I think that all that happens in life happens for reason. Many times it is easy to see the short term hurt, suffering, heartache and pain in the world without looking at the long term good. I could give plenty of examples, but I’ll let you explore the Web site to find’em in my own life and in the other’s lives. I love the quote I had up here before from Dr. James Montgomery Boice,

“If does something in your life, would you change it? If you’d change it, you’d make it worse. It wouldn’t be as good. So that’s the way we want to accept it and move forward, and who knows what God will do?”.

Third, we have a choice.

1. We can sit here and look at the short-term situation, complaining about having to go through these hard times again, brooding around and being depressed.


2. We can take what God gives us and live it, finding the hope and joy that comes out of these situations.
Trust me, the easiest thing to do is to go straight to number 1. I have, I’ll admit it. Nothing devastated me more than hearing on July 4th that I would have to do 5 extra sessions of radiation, and in effect would miss my first day of work. I didn’t speak the entire day I was so upset. I realized now how wasteful that day was and how it further brought down my psyche.

Fourth, is life fair? My goodness no. A lot of folks have said, “Art, it is so unfair! You got a great job, you are by yourself in New York….why did this have to happen to you again?” Life certainly isn’t fair. But the reason I see it not being fair is because I actually get to do this again! I know you are probably saying, “Uh, Art, are your painkillers clouding your thinking? Have you been smoking that Advil? How is it not fair in your advantage?”

It totally is not fair, here’s why. Why should I get this experience? Why should I get this opportunity to fully understand and know who I am? Why did I get this chance to grow and mature faster than any 22-year-old? Why did I get this chance to see the awesomeness of my support system of friends and family? Why did I get this chance to see how important people really are, especially compared to work and studying?

I got a chance to read over my journal from the beginning of the year and found on January 9th this passage that I had written:

“…while reading the story of Joseph (in Genesis), I realize that many of God’s leaders go through an intense period of difficulty and uncertainty, only to eventually come out on top. Have I gone through that? I feel like I have somewhat. But in the same token I want to go through that, so that I can be that kind of man of God…Lord if I need more to increase my faith- bring it on!”

I got what I wanted, not exactly how or what I expected, but I got it. I am just excited to see what’s going to happen in the future. I feel like I am being prepared for something bigger, and this, well, this is a first step on an amazing journey.

And that’s how you can view your life too. You may have cancer too. You may have just gotten kicked out of college. You may have just broken up with your girlfriend/boyfriend. You may have a family member going through tough times. You may have lost your job…

Whatever the case, you can take the easy road and resort to 1. OR you can take the hard road and resort to 2. If you choose 2., believe that it truly can be the first step on an amazing journey.

My Story – Part I

OK, I was your typical Whartonite. I had my cell phone in one hand, my palm pilot in the other, zipping through Steiny-D on any given day. I had my schedule filled every night with cohort meetings and group projects; I had my power lunches and dinners to enhance my contacts. I did the whole recruiting process, and lined myself up for a nice comfy job at an investment bank. I am your typical Whartonite – production-oriented; looking toward the future and invincible…but then comes the 14th floor.

It was a blustery day in the middle of February when the doctors at the student health clinic made an emergency appointment for me to venture up to the 14th floor of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. A week earlier I had been diagnosed with a kidney stone and four days later I was back in the hospital with a set of lymph nodes running from my shoulder to the back of my neck that protruded out like a miniature set of the Alps.

I got off the elevator at the 14th floor and was hit by a tremendous thud. My heart had just dropped as I looked at the sign in front of me- “Penn Cancer Center.” “I was invincible Art,” I said to myself, “I can’t have cancer.” Sure enough, a week later after an emergency biopsy and a few tests I had discovered I had Hodgkin’s Disease Stage IV- otherwise known as cancer of lymph nodes highly developed.

Since then I endured the rigors of a 12-week (once a week) intensive chemotherapy treatment during the school year and 5 weeks (5 days a week) of radiation therapy after graduating. All invincibility and independence was quashed under the grueling demands of the treatment. During chemo I lost feeling in my fingertips, lost the ability to taste, lost my hair, gained 15 pounds and suffered from severe fatigue, in addition to the many other symptoms. Radiation wasn’t much better. Actually, it was much worse. The radiation burned sores in my throat and stomach, as I ended up losing 25 pounds from it being too painful to eat. The radiation also burnt my hair and skin and I also suffered severe nausea. Any feelings of invincibility quickly left. Nothing makes a man more humble than spending the day with his head hanging over the seat of commode.

But through this all God was there. Despite the intense pain, the sleepless nights, the days of just wanting to die, God was there. His peace and assurance went beyond anything I can humanly describe with words. He let me see the blessing through it all. That is how I saw it and still see it. I was given so many opportunities to see God use others and myself that I am still in awe at how He operates. I have felt such humility to have been chosen to go through the whole experience.

I learned a lot of lessons through it all. One important one was the value of people. Without my family and friends in Crusade, showing the love of Christ to me, I don’t think it would have been such a blessed experience. Nothing will stay with me longer than the times when my Crusade friends showed how important and necessary people are. I’ll never forget walking into the waiting room right before my biopsy and seeing three of my Crusade brothers waiting for me in the waiting room at 6am. Then there were the overwhelming phone calls, emails and care packages I received from Crusaders. Just about every week of my chemotherapy treatments at least one Crusade member would come to keep me company and help harass the nurses. This summer when I was in extreme amounts of pain and needed a sympathetic ear, it never failed that a Crusader would call or email me to see how I was doing. Those things helped to literally keep me alive when I felt I couldn’t keep on going.

I had always prided myself on being independent and focused on getting the work done. But through this I learned the value of relationships and people. My studying, my reading, even my administrative work for Crusade, it wasn’t there for me when I was getting ready for surgery, my Crusade brothers were. So I have softened tremendously. I will always be a Whartonite. I still have the cell phone and palm pilot. I am now working on Wall Street. But my life has changed. That cell and palm are now used to order and call my brothers and sisters and see how they are doing. I am not perfect at it, but I am continuing to learn how to put people first, just like others did for me. And all it took for me was a trip to the 14th floor.


October 15, 2002|


It’s been two days since my spontaneous adventure to Boston. I’d been there since Wednesday, attempting to turn a not so insignificant corner in my life. For the first time in two years, I am making tangible plans for my future. So that’s why I was there, at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. After a long, challenging and strenuous journey, I have arrived at a crossroad, a fork in the road. What now do I do with my life?

I didn’t think I’d actually make the trip to South Hamilton, Massachusetts. At least not this soon. I signed up for the prospective student program a month ago, never intending to actually make the trip. Somehow a number of quirky events fell into place and I found myself the day before I had to arrive contemplating the logistics of the trip. All of sudden I was on the Mass Pike gazing at the changing colors of the leaves. What was I doing?

For most people, this would have been a simple road trip- an exploratory expedition complete with free food, free lodging and a chance to see a New England Autumn. For me it was much more. It was admission. I was allowing myself to concretely contemplate my future. I was giving myself permission to peer into what could be a viable vocation for my life. If. A big “If.” If the health holds up.

I used to have a five-year plan for my life. It was organized to the most minute detail, down to the year I would get married (despite having zero prospects on the horizon). Don’t you love us Type-A ESTJs! Thankfully, and I do mean thankfully, cancer snatched such foolishness away. Instead I was forced to concentrate on the day and how I would best make use of the twenty-four hours given to me. Now, though, as things are looking bright, I need to start looking to the future, in addition to still living completely for the day. It’s an optimistic approach, certainly, but a cautiously optimistic approach. It’s a big step, a dang big step. For anyone emerging out of crisis mode in life, to start focusing on the future, goodness, it’s quite scary and nerve-racking. But wow, is it exciting. It’s admitting something. It’s admitting you have a future. It’s sticking your foot out to take that first step. The next journey is about to begin.

I am not sure what’s going to happen and I’m certainly not sure of which road to take. Threats of the cancer and threats of the peripheral side effects (soreness, infections, colon issues, etc) abound. But I view them as bags to carry along the journey. They don\’t deter my first step. My step is my own.

Do I want to go into the ministry? I don’t know. I know my talents. I know my strengths. I know my weaknesses. I know my interests. I know what makes me come alive. I know what energizes me. Where that leads me remains to be seen, but I know myself.

As for what happened, I had an absolutely fantastic time. I was really impressed by the school, the students and the faculty. I enjoyed Boston, despite getting lost numerous times while driving downtown. Streets- they just end and pick up a block later. Some one-way streets reverse, becoming one-way streets in the opposite direction. I thought I was smoking crack. And there was a Dunkin’ Donuts on every corner. Every corner! In Philly you have your Wa-Wa. In New York City you have your Starbucks. In Boston you have your Dunkin’ Donuts.

Thank you for your calls and e-mails, your support and your encouragement, your prayers and thoughts. I hope you are as excited for the future as I am, whether it includes hoagies, cafÈ lattes, or Munchkins. I admit, I personally, can’t wait.

For those Youngstowners…

October 2, 2002|

For those Youngstowners…

My dad is helping out another family who have a daughter with leukemia from Youngstown. Kayla Hankey, 12 years old, is having a bone marrow transplant in Cincinnati for recurring leukemia. To help raise money for the procedure and other incidentals, the family is holding a fundraising dinner. Here are the details:

Date: October 20 from 1:00 to 4:00

Place: St. Patrick’s Church 3667 North Main St. Hubbard, Ohio

Cost: $5.00

Contact: Fred Canning at 330-792-5215 for information or to purchase tickets.


Attack of the Killer Colon

Ain’t no way I’m going back. Ain’t no way. I swore to myself that they would have to a.) find me, b.) fight me, c.) tranquilize me, and d.) drag me back. There was no way I was going to return to Sloan Kettering, or any hospital as an inpatient.

It’s funny how we eat our own words, isn’t it?

So here I was, Thursday morning, doubled over in pain. The abdominal cramps were becoming too excruciating to bear. I tossed and turned all Wednesday night. I had to relent. Even I, who have become somewhat indifferent to pain, realized I had to surrender. To the hospital I drove.

After waiting what seemed to be an eternity (‘Memorial Slow Kettering’), I was admitted to the 11th floor. The emergency CT Scan had showed the cause of the intense cramps and unending bloody diarrhea- an inflamed colon, otherwise known as colitis.

No one was sure of the origin of the colitis. There were the usual suspects: infection, bacteria, fungi, graft v. host disease. Thankfully I recovered quickly with bowel rest and antibiotics.

I didn’t really mention my admittance to anyone. It wasn’t because I was depressed, despondent or didn’t want to talk. Moreso, I have just gotten uncomfortable calling people out of the blue and saying, ‘Hi! How are you doing? Me? I’m OK. Back in the hospital…’ It’s just plain awkward. So I don’t advertise.

As for my broken vow, well, I realized over the weekend that it was just plain stupid. It’s shortsighted and thoughtless. Given my circumstances, of course there will be times when I’ll have to be admitted again. It’s my choice of how I respond to the situation. Hard lesson, but absolutely necessary.

Other than my latest colon adventure, things have been rapidly improving. I gained 10 lbs. last month and slashed my pulse by 20 beats per minute. And my immune system? Almost back to a normal level.

I (heart) My Thesaurus

To occupy my summer, unbeknownst to some, I have been working feverishly to write a book. My afternoons typically were spent at Starbucks reading and writing- desperately trying to learn the craft. My nights were crammed with late night forays on the web, researching publishers, agents, writing workshops, classes, and potential competitors. My OCD-ness (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) about the whole project peaked a few Tuesdays ago when my friend Courtney walked into Starbucks, sat across from me, and exclaimed, ‘You’re studying the Thesarus!?!’ I wasn’t really. I was making flashcards. ‘Quiescence.’ ‘Cajole.’ ‘Salubrious.’

Recently, after exhausting my work on the Internet, my pocket Thesaurus, and ‘Publishing for Dummies,’ it hit me; I’m not ready to write a book. It’s not from a lack of skills, material, or free time. It’s a matter of timing. The wounds- still too fresh. My adventure- nowhere near over. My perspective- changing daily. So why rush? The type A voice in my head is going bananas. ‘What are you waiting for? Do it! Write now, right now!!!’ The type B voice repeats over and over, ‘Be a patient patient. Be a patient patient….’ Could I be, daresay, maturing? Eeeeek!


Finally, I’m learning to love my neighborhood. It is quite the unique area. Last week, while I was watching the premiere of ‘Ed, ‘ I heard what sounded like rapidly discharging firecrackers. ‘Bangbangbangbangbang! Bang!’ But those ain’t no firecrackers. Those were gunshots. Living on the border of the ‘hood teaches a man the difference. A few minutes later the street was swarming with cops. In a newspaper the next day was an article detailing the shooting. Homie, some G got capped wit’ a gat. (Translation: Somebody was shot.) Not only was he shot, though, he survived and drove himself to a hospital down the street. Who gets shot in the head and survives, let alone is able to drive? Craziness. Just another Brooklyn shooting.

When I got home last night, there were safety cones lining the street in front of my house. What’s going on? This morning I walked outside to find giant trailers and semis parked where the cones once stood. Coolly strolling down the street, away from the ‘hood, I saw bright lights, cameras and a cluster of director’s chairs. Finally my curiosity bubbled over and I asked a random guy, ‘What’s going on?’ ‘Shooting the latest Mariah Carey video. She’s gone though, left Saturday. This is the last day of shooting.’ Dejected I moseyed home. A giant poster of Mariah once adorned my wall, back in the day. Mariah Carey was in my neighborhood and I was stuck in the hospital with colitis. And my chance at being in a music video, dashed. Craziness. Just another Brooklyn shooting.