Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Keep on Dreamin'

When it comes to life and all the things you wish it entailed, dreaming is believing and believing is achieving! Having aspirations in life to work towards, goals to conquer, and fears to overcome is undoubtedly one of the most important things in leading a strong minded and positively happy life!

You, yourself are your biggest distraction. There are always going to be obstacles in your path, there will always be excuses to be made, life's karmic effect will surely happen at least twice; but the thing that will beat you down the most is your own negative thinking. The world that we live in today is filled with negativity that is constantly being thrown in your face. Newspapers, TV, radio; some form of negative media is almost always being absorbed by your body. And whether you choose to believe it or not it takes its toll on you, secretly seeping into your brain attacking your joy receptors. Positivity, after all, is your best friend!

As a child everyone dreams of what they want to be when they grow up. Of course not many of us actually follow through and become cowboys or Disney princess's but we had the right idea. We all had that imaginary job or person who we envisioned to become that made us happy. Simply happy! We weren't worried about money or bills, social acceptance or approval. And that's what we all need to remember! Yeah, we do all grow up and the real world that is all about money and time smacks us in the face but that shouldn't take away from our happiness. For those of us who had our imaginary dreaming days cut short by the real world of a chronic illness (or anything else for that matter) we to quickly learned that life is not all peaches and cream. There is a large group of people that never had the chance to experience growing up or go through the stepping stones to building dreams and how to achieve them. That's why I think it is all the more important for those people to not let their dreams wither away.

So if life has dealt you a folding hand and your dreams haves dwindled, at least save them from shriveling up and dying. Revitalize your dreams by pursuing them as a passion or hobby if nothing more. Yeah if your dream was to become an astronaut or pterodactyl you may find difficulty in taking that up on an amateur level. But don't let negativity push you away from what you love. If nothing more you can get a season pass to the planetarium or prehistoric museum. And if you can't quite make those dreams come true just yet, keep fueling them with love and positivity and hopefully one day soon your dreams will come true.

Your dreams are yours and yours alone! So if you don't keep hold of them in hopes of achievement then who will?

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Stepping Back Through The Looking Glass

Would you go back to the other side? 

If you were given the opportunity to step through a looking glass, going back to a time before you fell ill and erasing your life as you now know it, would you take the leap?
Would you take the chance to start over and live your life again without the pain and suffering you have endured without any knowing of what your life would have become? 

When your memories of being happy and healthy are things of the past and a chronic illness has devoured a significant part of your life being presented with the chance to wish it all away and start anew would be an almost irresistible offer. Being able to live the life you always imagined and becoming the person you always wanted to be with no reminders of the tragedies you have had to endure would be a blissful way to live. Having all your possible wants and desires come into fruition and not knowing any other way of life would be as if all your wishes upon falling stars and birthday candles had come true. 

Take a moment to think though...
Would you be willing to lose what you have learned throughout your life’s trials and tribulations? All the lessons you have been taught would not be remembered nor the wisdom or patience you have gained throughout your illness. Would overlooking all the negative in your life be worth disregarding all the good too? 

If the opportunity was given to me to step back through my own looking glass, and my life as it is now would be forgotten, I am not sure I would accept the offer. Even though my life has been one of difficulties and challenges and I would love for it to be simpler and more vivacious, I would not want to jeopardize the understanding of life I have come to obtain nor the amazing people that have been placed in my life because of my illness. I firmly believe my life was given to me to endure for a purpose. I may not know that purpose now, perhaps I never will, but I accept it for what it is and try to see the good that has come from the bad. I like to think that because of what I have had to go through that I have become a kinder hearted person that tries not to judge people so quickly and to understand others more deeply. 

Aside from all the pain, suffering and unexpected directions your life has taken you, haven’t you gained some things from your illness? Considering this is real life and we are unable to take a step back in time through a looking glass to a new beginning we must take time to remember the positive things in our lives, whether those lives are of good health or bad. So take a look in the mirror at yourself and your life as a whole and truly see what you have to be thankful for. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

525,600 minutes- One Year Ago

July 3rd, 2013 3:00 am
A year ago today at this time, before the sun had rose and the moon still stood high in the sky I laid on a comfortably worn in couch watching a movie in Spanish. As the night owl that I was (and still am), sleep was no place close as I tried to follow the movie, a task made even more difficult by the dizziness I was having from new pills swirling through my blood stream. What would be taking place in a mere 4 hours or less was not a pressing thought in my mind.

As six o’clock rolled around the sky still stood dark as did my mind to the understanding of the movie I had watched earlier. As my mother attentively got ready I finished packing my bag for my hospital stay. I could easily sense the nervousness in my mother’s demeanor masked with sleepiness while she rushed for us to leave on time. I looked around the apartment once more making sure I had everything I would need. As my mother opened the door to the dawning sky I put on my sunglasses.

We arrived at the hospital a short ten minutes later, the air cool and crisp; very refreshing from the one hundred plus temperatures we had been encountering every time we ventured outdoors. At the registration area there were a few people scattered around the waiting room, once my name was called we went into the office. A lady presented me with the paper work to sign and even as I was faced with signing “yes” to this whole ordeal no fear had yet engulfed me. 

My mother and I were then led to the surgery holding area. As I said goodbye to the warmth and comfort of my own clothes and garbed myself in the hospital gown a strange sense of familiarity came to mind. This was a process I was used to. Moments later a woman entered my curtained cubicle speaking very quickly asking me why my hair wasn’t braided and ordering me to put on my fashionable hospital socks while she strapped numerous bracelets to my arm. Then a younger girl, around my age cautiously approached me, introducing herself, stating that she was a medical student, asking if she could observe my surgery. I paused for a brief moment and replied to her with an enthusiastic yes. My reason for agreeing was because if I had the chance to watch another person have their skull sawed on and their brain prodded I would definitely want someone to give me permission (I know, I was and still am weird like that).

A few minutes and a handshake from my surgeon later I was being taken back to the operating room as my mother told me goodbye and “Sleep good”. It wasn’t until that moment that it actually hit me that I was having brain surgery! And yet still I wasn’t nervous, a calmness and excitement to be able to get some sleep consumed me. The anesthesiologist introduced himself as the drugs began to flow. He made small talk by asking me where I was from and that he was familiar with the area of the South I was from and that he enjoyed the beaches. 

I vaguely remember being wheeled to what was either the recovery room or ICU and the surgeon asking me how I felt, my reply being a thumbs up. When I awoke, what my brain perceived as only a few hours later, which in truth was about eight or nine, I was in my ICU room. My mother asked me the routine “how do you feel?” question but I remember that my first significant concern was “Are they giving me pain meds?” I knew they must have despite my telling them not to because I felt incredibly nauseated. When the nurse came in I asked this again and she said yes; even though I didn’t push the button on my pain pump, every 15 minutes a small amount was administered. I demanded she stop it and unhook me from the pump, she looked very confused that I was refusing pain meds. Moments later I vomited and I think she understood a little more clearly why I don’t take pain meds. One; they don’t help the pain at ALL and two; they make me sick, really really sick! Then I had to refuse the additional Vicodin every four hours. Who knew how difficult it would be to refuse taking pain medication? A matter made even more difficult when you have to try to explain to people that yes you are in pain but that the medication only makes matters worse. 

The next morning the assistant surgeon came in to check on me. She pulled the bandage off the back of my head to check the incision. Oh Holy Headache Batman! It hurt! I’m fairly certain that was the worst part of the whole ordeal. She took a picture of the back of my head so I could see and I was shocked. The scar was much larger than I imagined; 5.5-6 inches long and 27 staples in total. Not to mention the new reverse mohawk I was then sporting. 

My incision the day after surgery.

The rest of my three day stay in the ICU was as pleasant as it could have been. If it weren’t for the fact that the doctors were, concerned for lack of a better word, that I wasn’t sleeping or eating I honestly would have been ok to go home the day after surgery. Little did they know, or believed when I told them that that was completely ‘normal’ for me. Yeah I was in pain, yes I indeed did feel like my brain had been used as playdoh (at least what portion of my head didn’t feel like a cement block) but the pain was not much worse than my everyday, 24/7 chronic pain. I was more bummed about having to stay in the hospital for the fourth of July, missing any attempt to see fireworks.

When I was released from the hospital my mother and I gladly ventured back to our home away from home in the West and  the comfortably worn in couch was once again my companion for two weeks to allow my body time to rest, heal, and to have my staples taken out before heading back South. 

Overall, despite the pain, fatigue, and having my head hacked open I really enjoyed the month I got to live in Colorado (even though it didn't snow). Most importantly I was so happy to know that my brain was fixed (or at least part of it). Even though I didn’t see drastic improvements right away or that even today I’m not magically healed, small improvements were made! And the most important factor to me, the reason I had the surgery, was that I now know that the problem isn’t getting worse and that I prevented myself from having to endure potentially further debilitating symptoms. The past year was one of ups and downs but in the long run I believe it has been much more positive thanks to the brain surgery! 

July 3rd, 2013, today on my one year anniversary I would like to once more thank everyone who from the kindness of their hearts donated to the fundraiser that allowed me to have the surgery!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Life Is A Puzzle

The meaning of life is an enigmatic thought that can be examined and questioned until the end of time. Life can be broken down into textbook understandings and yet still leave thinkers in a reverie daze. When looking at life through a looking glass in a metaphoric way we can much more clearly see how everything in life, every decision we make has meaning in our lives. 

 Life is a puzzle with millions of pieces that intricately fit together to form a picture that hasn’t even been created. Every moment of our lives, every challenge we overcome, and every diagnoses we may receive is one piece closer to completing our life’s puzzle. 

When we are born we are simply a pile of puzzle pieces. As we grow and experience life pieces start to link together and a small glimpse of the overall picture may be seen. Even when we are putting our puzzles together there are those difficult places that take longer to find the missing pieces. Those moments are the struggles we will face in life. We will have hard times, perhaps we are diagnosed with an illness, but even a diagnosis is a missing piece found. Once we have that one piece in place the picture will become a little clearer and other pieces will more easily connect. All the puzzle pieces that we will have to acquire may not be the prettiest or easiest to find but everyone is essential! We can’t skip steps or try to make shortcuts when solving a puzzle; it simple won’t turn out right. That is exactly how our lives are! Some puzzle pieces may look perfect and we are so overjoyed when we finally find them and despite trying to squish them into place, they just won’t work. As the picture becomes more complete the pieces will start to fall into place more quickly. We just have to keep trying, piece after piece until we figure it out.

And when your puzzle is nearly complete or if you are just starting out, if you feel like you still have missing pieces that’s ok. I have accepted that I will always have a missing piece to my puzzle, a certain unknown factor in my life and that is just fine with me.

No matter how many pieces are missing to the puzzle the picture will always be beautiful!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Gaming For A Cure

 Wouldn’t it be great if merely playing video games could cure Cancer, AIDS, or even Lyme Disease?
That is exactly what the University of Washington’s Center for Game Science and the Department of Biochemistry had in mind. Adrien Treuille, an avid game inventor lent his expertise to Rhiju Das, a biochemist that needed help solving protein puzzles to help cure diseases. Treuille’s and Das’ intellectual collaboration created the ever growing in popularity online game, ‘Foldit’. 

Where computers were not the elite problem solvers for protein folding Treuille used crowd sourcing to recruit gamers to find the answers they needed. The player’s ability to predict possible patterns in the proteins was something that no computer had yet accomplished. The games goal is to optimize protein prediction and eventually use protein folding strategies that the players discovered to create protein prediction software. Another advantage and anticipated goal of the game is figuring out the structures of infectious bacteria proteins and creating new proteins that may be able to kill virus and other harmful proteins. 

Could this video game be the answer to finding cures for the most plaguing diseases? It may not rid the world of all its sickness and problems but the game has already had success in the science lab. The Mason-Pfizer monkey virus had stumped scientist for 15 years and the Foldit community figured out the protein structure in just 10 days. So I think there is hope to be had here. 

Want to play? But science isn’t your forte? Don’t worry; you don’t have to be a science nerd in order to get the game. Think of it as the Rubik Cube with the addiction rate of Angry Birds! Newbie players have beginner puzzles to solve that show you the rules and how to optimize your score. Once you have mastered that level you will be hooked and anxious to twist and turn the more complex proteins.
So if your mom yells at you for playing video games or you feel ashamed for using video games to procrastinate just play Foldit then you can declare you aren’t simply playing video games, you could be curing Cancer... and hopefully one day Lyme Disease! 

CLICK here to play Foldit: