random shit i found on the InterWebs.
One year ago today my doctor called me in the afternoon.
I was in bed. He cleared his throat a couple times and then he told me the reason I’d been feeling weak, seeing weird blindingly bright spots in my vision, and had a fever that wouldn’t go away was because my blood was full of ineffective, malformed white blood cells.
I had AML leukemia. If I did nothing, I’d die in a few weeks.
A few hours later, I had a flight to the East Coast booked for early the next morning. I spent the night in a San Francisco hospital getting blood transfusions and antibiotics to allow me to fly.
I landed in NYC, my parents picked me up, and we drove to Yale’s Smilow Cancer Hospital. When they started pumping cell-killing poison into my bloodstream, the hospital became my home and my prison for the next few months.
I cried. I felt sorry for myself. I didn’t believe it was true.
Friends banded together and started drives across the country, then across the globe. I did interview after interview. Newspapers, TV, and radio helped spread the word. Facebook, twitter, and tumblr got people to drives. I couldn’t leave the hospital, and sometimes I was throwing up too much or too weak to talk. We kept going.
We organized online, and my prison became our stem cell drive campaign headquarters.
Friends donated time, money, connections. Strangers sent mail, hundreds of photos, and organized drives. Celebrities made videos. Tens of thousands registered to be stem cell donors. (Matches for others in need continue to come out of those drives.)
The nurses and doctors continued to pump poison into my blood, eliminating cancerous cells and healthy cells alike. They hoped to hold the leukemia at bay until a donor could be found.
A few months later, we found a donor! Friends and strangers had banded together to save my life.
I had my transplant in late January. And then began the year-long recovery process I’m currently in:
15-20 pills a day, on-and-off steroids to combat Graft vs Host Disease, nausea, weakness, muscle atrophy, scopes down my throat, probes up my nose until they hit my throat. Weekly, then bi-monthly blood tests, immunosuppressants - which keep my immune system from attacking my organs, but also make me susceptible to disease. Needles, needles, needles, so many needles, fevers, infections, severe mucositis, so much pain they gave me a button to press to give myself morphine whenever I wanted, anti-nausea drugs that resulted in weeks of lost memories, blood clots, followed by months of blood thinners, teeth issues, corneal damage, a slate of other issues a little too graphic to write about, crazy painful out-of-nowhere hand and leg cramps…
…all bumps along the road.
My counts are up. There’s no sign of recurrence yet. If I’m lucky, there never will be. I feel more normal with each passing week.
I was able to leave the hospital, and then able to leave my parents’ home.
I got to spend the summer in NYC, reconnecting with old friends, and returning to work at Photojojo part-time. I just saw my brother get married, saw a live volcano in Hawaii, saw the sun set above the clouds and the clearest night sky in the world. I visited Portland for the first time, and spent a week in SF working and seeing friends. Now we’re planning a road trip to move back West. We leave in a few weeks… on motorcycles.
A year ago I was on a plane from SF to CT because I was dying.
Today I’m on a plane from SF to CT, and I feel more alive than I have in a very long time.
Photo @ Twin Peaks last week in SF.
(See pics of our adventures by following @superamit on Instagram or follow this Tumblr!)
There is no speed limit in life.
This chart (found here), reminded me of an important lesson I learned in life, which I try to impart on pretty much anyone that comes to me on life/career advice. It’s the idea that there is NO SPEED LIMIT in life.
I originally learned about this concept from an article by Derek Sivers (link below) - but have started to conceptualize it more and more as I reflected on the path I took in my own life.
As social creatures, we tend to think in terms relative to what we know to be true and possible. So naturally, when we come to figuring out how to achieve a goal (e.g. getting the job or career path that we want), we tend to sequence our steps and our lives in the pace and order that think to be “normal.”
What is normal? How did you define normal? Well, you can say that… “most people in my field took 10 years to get their PhD…” — but then my answer is “do you want to be like most people?” Is that all you’re aiming for? “Most People?”
The truth of the matter is — everyone thought the world was flat until it wasn’t. Everyone thought that birds were the only thing in this world that could fly until airplanes started flying. And similarly, no one thought you could get to 18 million users in 16 days until well… someone did it.
The lesson here is that there is no such thing as “normal.” So quit thinking that way. This is one of the VERY RARE occasions in life where you are indeed one unique snowflake.
So quit making excuses and plans that emulate the norm, and start pushing hard to change the norm.
And if you do get pulled over, just answer: “I’m sorry officer, I was just trying to make it rain.”
* Derek Sivers article: link
There’s something about homogeneity that makes me feel ill at ease. For as long as I can remember, my social circles have been akin to UN meetups, with people from everywhere. Quite frankly, I don’t think I could survive inside a group that is too local or too white or too black or too straight or too conservative or even too liberal, etc…
The world abounds with too many exciting people for me to limit my exposure to one type.