It IS Brain Surgery...
Do You Have a Favorite Number?
I"m not sure what my favorite number is...sometimes I think I default to 7, other times I love 9, over the past year I have been all about 3...but today is different! Today is different b/c today my favorite number is 11! I'm sure I can think of several meaningful "11's" in my life right now but the most important 11 that is on my mind right now is that...last night I started chemo cycle #11 which means the last cycle (#12) is right around the corner! Can I get a HELL YES from the interwebs!!!!
Last week's labs cleared me to start cycle 11 and in the words of so many friends and actors "It's on!"...I'm so damn excited! During the past 14 months there have been a few key milestones that I have used as focus points for my journey. The short term was being able to go home after surgery, then starting the chemo/radiation therapy (that was a big ole bag of nerves), of course the next was my last radiation therapy (do you remember that mask? if not check out "I Am Going To Have a High-Tech Head on the left). When I started the 1st of 12 monthly chemo cycles I remember saying "1 down, 11 to go" and celebrating that the sooner I started the sooner I would finish. I even remember thinking that "...wow, it will be great to be at cycle #11 and be able to see the finish line!"
Well friends...I can see the finish line and now have only 9 more nights of chemo therapy over the next 5 weeks...I'm close!
There has also been one "long term" vision, which is Labor Day 2015! Labor Day 2015 has always been the vision in my mind of being at least 3 months out of all chemo drugs and feeling great, feeling the most like Justin and most importantly a new, improved, healthier, happier, more peaceful Justin! Thanks to Vanderbilt this new improved version of myself can still walk, talk, laugh and enjoy the hell out of life...albeit with the bonus that I remember more of it b/c it is all happening without my friends bourbon and red wine! haha...WHO CARES...I'm alive and feeling great and don't miss it at all!
I made myself sit down and write this morning after I did a video journal last night. This is a big week for me...seriously...a big week! There isn't anything monumental happening that I know about other than being in a great headspace, feeling great, waking up after the first night of chemo, doing a little exercise and about to head out to my favorite little coffee shop in town Edgehill Cafe (it's the people that make it great for me). All of that said, feel free to invite me to dinner or introduce me to your amazing, single girlfriend or hell, I will even except random gift cards! :) Seriously, just send some positive and peaceful energy my way, celebrate with me and do something nice for a friend today...that will be awesome!
This week is big because in the marathon of cancer treatment and life I have been on for 14 months, at times I have felt worn down emotionally and physically. Seriously...sometimes balancing the pressure of treatment, life, work, friends, family, etc. has been a lot to handle. Through all of my lower moments, I am thankful to find inspiration in the feeling that we all falter and have down moments, we all need to improve and continue on our own journey towards peace, happiness, prosperity and more peace! This human failure that I see in myself inspires me greatly! I have been conditioned to be a positive thinker my whole life and throughout this journey have found that no matter how conditioned I am, at times I let my mind get the best of me and succumb to the anxiety and emotions of the moment! That's ok...it really is....we have to keep working at this, we have to keep centering ourselves and know that we are capable of manifesting the life we want to live!
We are all beautifully, imperfect humans and let's celebrate that...even if it's momentarily right now....say thank you in your mind! :)
I hope we all have great weeks that take us closer to our goals!
Have an awesome day!
What a Year!!
First we should catch up...Happy Thanksgiving, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year! I know it has been WAY too long since my last post and for all of you that have been asking me, my family and my friends how I have been doing...the answer is that life is beautiful!
Now, by me telling you "life is beautiful" doesn't mean the past couple of months have been a breeze, pain-free, totally easy or any other phrase that makes you think it was all "rainbows and sunshine!" BUT...every single day that I wake up, I feel thankful to be alive, thankful to be surrounded by so much love and flat out LUCKY! No matter how much stress I may feel or how rough the chemo makes me feel, I can always find an opportunity to be thankful, to step back, take a breath (or several) and find a thankful place in my heart! This is huge for me b/c at times, these small moments of stress, tension, possibly feeling overwhelmed, etc. seem MUCH bigger than they really are and being able to take a step back has been a big thing for me. Sometimes it takes a real conversation with my family or friends and sometimes it just takes getting some rest (sometimes I can be a butt when I'm tired and don't feel well..."keeping it 100")! Regardless of what it takes or what causes these moments of tension, it's beautiful gift to be able to take these steps back. I truly believe that this isn't a cancer thing and that we all have these moments in our lives where we need to take a step back, count to 10, take a few deep breathes, etc....here's to finding what helps you keep it all in perspective and find peace in these moments!
Most importantly, my health is continuing to improve! All of my MRI's have been looking good, my labs have been completely normal and I am about to start month 9 of 12 of my chemo regimen. I can see the light at the end of tunnel and it feels so damn good! The good thing is that the monthly chemo dose is consistent...and the bad thing is that it is consistent. What I mean is that so far, the monthly side effects from chemo have not gotten worse which is the good news. The bad thing is that it still makes me feel like I am getting the flu every month. I thought of a good response to the question I always get "How is chemo going?" and my response is "It is going really well inside my body, which means that I don't always feel well!" I know in my heart that my body is responding perfectly to treatment and that I will live a really long life. This gut feeling makes the 10 days per month that I don't feel well completely worth it! I often say "this is a short-term pain for a long-term gain!"
When I turned 36 in December I landed on two wishes for my new year and those are great health and love and my #1 goal this year is to find amazing ways to leverage my experiences to help other people! From the moment I knew I had a brain tumor, I knew this was going to be about growth. I immediately knew it was about helping other people and later learned that the first and most important step was going to be helping myself! My life is certainly not "fully helped" (to use my own weird analogy) but that's ok...wouldn't it be boring to be perfect today? I mean, really...what would we have to work on for the rest of our lives?
I always knew that this whole cancer thing was going to create more opportunities to help other people and until recently I was holding back planning my steps as my focus was solely on healing first and documenting the journey second. As the calendar turned to 2015, I opened up my realm to my #1 goal and began to start putting my mind on it! Regardless of whether or not I end up being a best selling author, top-rated speaker, entertainment executive or move home to Birmingham to work in the furniture business with my dad (sorry dad, this isn't something I am considering but just used as an example haha) I know that what brings me the most joy in my heart is helping other people be more awesome than they think they can be. To take this a step further, it makes me feel indescribable joy to show people how the power of positivity can completely transform our lives. We have to know that this can prepare us to handle life's speed bumps in a healthy way and when life happens and we are unprepared, that there are tools that can help us navigate these bumps in a healthy way (regardless of how we are conditioned when life happens). I have mentioned several of these ideas and tool sets throughout the past year and look forward to exploring this realm more as I learn more and pass this on to all of you! Whether this is over coffee, lunch, a book, on a stage or sitting in my living room; I love these types of conversation and can't wait to keep on chewing on these types of universal topics with you all!
As the 1 year anniversary of my seizure approaches (2/3/15), I find myself having another opportunity to reflect (insert my mind immediately saying "haven't you reflected enough?" haha). The first thing I want to say again is THANK YOU! No really, THANK YOU! No matter who you are, how many times we have spoken or hung out during the past year or hell, whether we have even met in "real life" or not...you have helped me and I wouldn't be here without you! The support that you have all shown me continues to blow me away and helped make the past 12 months so much easier! My first "I love you" goes to my family b/c they have been my rock and on those days when I was feeling low (like last Wednesday after work), they are always there to Skype or talk and let me know they love me and that everything will be ok! Next you know I have to thank Jill, my bosses assistant who walked by my office at the exact moment I had the seizure and is responsible for me being at Vanderbilt within an hour of a big seizure..and I believe being alive today! My friends have been so amazing and I won't begin to name them b/c you wouldn't want read this long list of amazing people (and I would certainly forget a ton of people)...but you know who you are and I appreciate you! The one household I do want to think is the Handley household who so graciously hosted me for three weeks after surgery (b/c I couldn't be alone), made sure I took my meds at the right time (seriously had to take so many meds) and were there to support me when I found out I had brain cancer in what I call the "kick in the nuts appointment" with my oncologist after surgery (to review the pathology report). I would be remiss without thanking the Handley's dogs too b/c wow...I needed that love too and they knew I needed their furry dog-love. My doctors know how thankful I am and Vanderbilt in general knows that they have a supporter, fundraiser and champion for life...this hospital and everyone there are amazing and the level of care I have received is second to none! I also want to send a general thank you to the Music Row community that wrapped their arms around me in so many ways. From an "Uber Fund" to help while I couldn't drive, to t-shirts on the Round-a-Bout statues to the countless messages, emails, visits, etc...this community made me feel so amazingly loved...thank you! One day while talking about opportunities that were presented to me outside of Nashville, Mr. Bob Oermann stressed that I can't leave Nashville and that no matter what, when I needed it, that this community would be there for me! I think we were really talking about professional opportunities but WOW was he right...this community has taken care of me and I am forever grateful! Thanks Bob!
There are several amazing organizations that have stepped up to help me this year and I can't wait to be able to help them help more people in the future. MusiCares and Meals2Heal are two organizations that you can support right now...or wait until I ask you myself. I also want to think "the best class ever" from Leadership Music (you rock)!
Check them out here:
So friends, it's been one helluva year and I can't wait to see what the next year brings for all of us! I"m not exactly sure where my path will lead me but I know that I will always have a home in Nashville and can't wait to continue walking this path with you all! Even on this gloomy Nashville Sunday, I can tell you that the future is bright friends!
Thank you for helping open my heart and for helping me learn to feel and give love like never before!
PS: I told you that I have been doing video journals throughout the past year! I have about 60 so far and I like to film all sorts of different moments. As a taste of the types of videos I have and as a reminder, here is where my mind is every time I go to sleep, wake up, take chemo and think about my life!
Ups and Downs...Life is Good!
So it's Thursday afternoon, I was about to procrastinate this blog post again and won't let that happen again today!
I'm feeling great today! I finished the fourth round of chemo 12 days ago and per the normal, monthly cycle, I am feeling MUCH better. 4 down, 8 to go...I've got this! My last MRI and labs were great and I'm on track to start month 5 in two weeks. So...short story is, it's all working and my body is responding perfectly to treatment!
The chemo continues to be...well...chemo! What I mean is that it continues to make me feel fatigued, loose my appetite, feel some nausea and just overall feel "meh" (meh=a technical/medical word of course) :) It is very much a cycle and the side effects seem to peak around day 8 of the monthly treatment cycle. It's manageable and like I've said many times....beats being dead! :) no really! haha!
The simple status...I'm doing really well, enjoying the journey and honoring the highs and lows!
The past few weeks have been a little more emotional for some reason! I mean, look...I know in general what the reasons are, but it hasn't been just one thing on my mind; more so just a heaviness. After 8 months of the ups and downs mentally and physically, the idea of a marathon came to my mind and I am right in the middle of it with 8 months of treatment to go!
My faith in an amazing end result has never been stronger but emotionally and physically I found myself needing to dig a little deeper than normal and really work to keep my mind focused. It's all a process, and I honor that...some days lately have just been a little tougher than others!
The good news...there is always good news...I'm glad I can be honest with myself and work through it! I'm thankful for my family and friends who help me talk through all of this and listen with open hearts...they make those days much easier! Hell, it comes and goes and most of the time life is absolutely awesome and I forget that I even have cancer. what does cancer feel like anyway? My cancer doesn't hurt me, sometimes it scares me but it doesn't hurt me! Drugs are the gifts that make you pay for their joy...I think it's a worthy trade of course, but you know you are taking them and nothings free! So yeah, the drugs are a short term pain, for a long term gain and I'm cool with that!
I've been talking to a lot of my friends about natural ways to promote perfect health and also help my body fight cancer! I LOVE this! Ultimately, we are what we eat and eating well is key. In addition to eating well, there are so many things we can be doing and that I will share as I get more into them. My rule has been that I run everything by my oncologist and he loves questions! After taking a list of great ideas to him recently, his feelings were that he knows that the chemo I am taking is very effective against the type of cancer I have; it is the current best practice! What he doesn't know is how effective it is in combination with several other things (the natural health ideas/suppliments/etc.). His suggestion is that for the next 8 months, I keep it to my warm lemon water daily, essential oils and also a whey protein supplement that was suggested b/c this boosts my glutathione. The glutathione has something to do with my immune system and there are actually clinical trials going on at Vanderbilt exploring this idea but currently only on the more serious brain tumors. PS: I'm ok with the type of brain tumor I had vs. being eligible for that trial and wish them well!
All of this said, after I am done with chemo I can throw every healthy idea against the wall, eat really well and be healthier than ever before! Score! It's all a balance and this is true for my treatment and defeat of cancer too!
I hope life is continuing to be great for all of you...thanks for reading!
Keeping This Party Going...
Happy Sunday friends! It is an overcast day here in Nashville, perfect for Sunday chilling with the French press and Spotify playlists! Big news of the day...I didn't let myself procrastinate this blog post any longer...yup....it's obviously been longer than I expected! Ooops! hahaha! I would like to tell you a story about this one big, exciting, romantic, thrilling, growth filled, up and down experience...but...thankfully, that's the way I would describe every day of my life over the past month and a half since my last post! Life continues to be absolutely AMAZING! (sorry for the all caps...hopefully I made my point) :)
Most importantly, my health continues to move in the right direction as my body responds perfectly to treatment, my lab results are great, I'm pretty sure my MRI from two weeks ago was great b/c I haven't heard anything from Vanderbilt, but my oncologist will confirm that on the 8th when I see him (I already know...but it IS nice to get confirmation from him) :) I just finished month 3 of 12 of the final round of chemo. In case you forgot, this consists of taking chemo pills at home before bed, 5 nights in a row per month and then taking 3 weeks off....AND....repeat 12 times! So...round 2 was better than round 1 and round 3 was better than round 2! You like my trend here don't cha'? ME TOO! The monthly cycle is pretty predictable at this point and by today (almost one week out of treatment) I feel pretty good and that trend will continue daily until it's time for the next chemo dose...and repeat! It's the ebb and flow of treatment that is certainly inline with the ebb and flow of the universe...just as this whole experience has been! In the flow 100%!
Don't get me wrong, I still find myself getting a little anxious before treatment...I even video myself starting treatment each month to document these emotions...I think it is very interesting to observe this about myself and grow through it. In addition to a little anxiety when it's time to take chemo, the nausea isn't quite "fun" yet but it's manageable. I added the use of some essential oils which seem to have helped the Zophran in the fight to settle out my stomach! So...for any of my friends that may have been worried that my positive attitude and seemingly superhuman ability to not have a bad day while going through cancer treatment was a cover for buried emotions, etc. I promise I'm being real! :) Brain surgery and cancer treatments, no matter how successful, haven't been all roses...but who cares...I'm alive baby! :)
All of this said....I can't stress how amazing I feel in general, how amazing life is and how this whole thing continues to be overwhelmingly positive, exciting and honestly fires me UP!!!
Last week was my 7th week back to work at SESAC full-time, and it's going really well! I love being active, using my brain, being around people and let's face it, being involved in successful projects is always exciting and we have plenty of those at SESAC right now! Thankfully, SESAC continues to be an amazing supporter of mine. I've said it many times in this blog, but it's worth repeating that the love of people around me, including my SESAC family has been such a key factor in my quick recovery and success in treatment! I am very thankful!
Throughout the past 7 months, I've been spending a lot of time journaling and documenting this journey in a more private way than this blog, and all of this may see some light of day, later down the road (or not which is great too). One of the great things about having this outlet to just let it all out....speak my mind...write it down....say it loud...etc....has been some "ah ha" moments that pop up! Sometimes I think "this could be a chapter in my book", "...or maybe a talking point in a lecture.."...who knows my friends! I do know that when I just opened my journal, the page that jumped out was about the idea of "Actionable Inspiration" from 8/10/14 (one of those "ah ha" moments I mentioned). Lately I've been thinking about "actionable inspiration", as it relates to ways to inspire people and do it in a way that leaves them feeling ready to take action, ready to take that step, forgive that friend or relative, face your chronic illness, or a long list of the things we all think about wanting to do more of, be better at, find peace with, etc. At this point in my life, for me, it's about sharing my story honestly to other people, not judging them for their step on their path and loving them more. But what about you? How can you inspire more people? How can you start?
The trick is that none of us have to have a brain tumor and brain cancer to be inspired and awakened and most importantly ready to inspire others...for me, this brain stuff just happened to be where my path lead me. How can we teach other people to see this, ultimately love more, let go and release more so that we mindfully plant and feed the seeds of peace, prosperity and healing? I will continue to share my story in an honest, open way b/c this not only helps inspire others but it also helps me work through the deep emotions that have come with the past 7 months. So what about you? What can you do right now to give you more peace about something? Who can you send a quiet "I love you" to? If nothing comes to mind, that's ok...just opening up to it is an amazing first start. You could try saying one of these in your head in the moments before drifting off to sleep, or first thing in the morning or when you say your daily prayers: "I bring peace to my life and everyone in it", "Through my daily life, I inspire other people to be their best", "I radiate love and peace" and while you are at it maybe this one "I have perfect health" b/c let's face it...we all want that! :)
If nothing else, please know that If You Can Think It, You Can Have It! :)
I really appreciate everyone's continued support and love. I also want to thank the fine folks at Populr.me (this blog company) who are going to help me get my blog together...you know...may get all fancy with a template and some graphical stylings....my designer friends...I may be calling you for some advise! :)
Here's to a new week full of peace, love and lots of great times!
Back to Work Baby!
Today was my another big day in the life....I went back to work today for the first time in 5 months...seriously!!! It felt great to get active and return to the office. I am very thankful that I had the opportunity to take time to rest and heal after surgery and during treatment but I was ready to do something and it felt good to work today! Since my last post, I took the first of 12 chemo treatments which wasn't a huge ball of fun...but also not the worst thing in the world! I took the chemo 5 nights in a row, right before I went to bed in addition to twice daily Zophran, which is an anti-nausea medicine. The Zophran hasn't quite gotten rid of anything but it does help some. In general, I have had a pit in my stomach for the past 3 weeks and as I sit here, I haven't taken chemo for 16 days, I still feel "meh" in my stomach from the chemo. BUT...it's also not the worst thing in the world and I'm lucky to have the "good" kind of chemo that doesn't have the worst of the worst side effects. SO...I'll be glad when we push through all of the treatments and am very thankful that I am alive to have access to this medicine...but damn, I'll be glad to be done(I should be done by May 2015)!!
Alright...I pulled another half post b/c today is now Wednesday, 7/16/14 and I wrote the portion above yesterday, 7/15/14. What can I say, I was focused on blogging, started to blog and my Facebook messenger kept "dinging"...so I chatted with friends...then friends came over...and you see how I never got back around to the blog! :)
So today was day 2 back at work and it was good. My boss Bill was in today and so we had a good opportunity to chat about things (we both had lists for each other haha), get a game plan on a few immediate projects and talk about a few bigger picture thoughts! We work really well together and it did my mind good to think again and I think especially so with someone as smart as Bill who I have known for a long time. Don't get me wrong, I have done a whole bunch of thinking over the past 5 months but it's a different vibe for me to be thinking about work again and it was feeling good. My mind is definitely ready to rock and now I'm just going to work on the body part as I navigate the remaining 11 more treatments! Get ready, b/c if you keep reading this blog, I'm sure you are going to get some count down action as I tackle the treatments! Whoop Whoop...11 more! hahaha!!
Over the past several months, one surprise gift was having the opportunity to spend time with so many of the amazing people that fill my life...in many cases it was just a normal hang with friends I see often, in some cases it was with friends that I never seemed to see often enough and I have also met a ton of great people going through all of this! Thanks to having a brain tumor, I got to strengthen so many relationships in my life...sounds kinda funny to say that, and I am seriously laughing out loud when I say that but it's true...thanks to this experience I got to reach out and touch my network of people in a big way. Thankfully I believe we have all grown in some way through this and it's been awesome to experience this with all of you...here's to continuing that awesomeness! On one Thursday morning in June, I sat down with my friend Tim at Crema to catch up on life, which is thankfully going really well for both of us so the vibe was awesome! At one point the conversation moved to the things we always want to get done for ourselves and many times throughout our lives, we did not get done...b/c we didn't make time for them. I told him about my attempts to do things for myself daily and that I had probably only been doing these things 2-3 days per week. These were my things I wasn't making time for...and I had a ton of time to make for it while being on medical leave...that was impactful for me. Tim told me about his daily checklist that he physically has on his wall. Tim wakes up every morning and physically checks off his daily list b/c he takes time for himself every day...that's awesome! I left our hang so completely inspired to steal this idea (shamelessly of course) and made my own list of daily goals. I call it "Justin's Daily Kickstart" and my list is: Meditate, Exercise, Take a mindful and thankful moment, Think about and feel my goals, Eat a healthy breakfast, Read at least 5 pages, Journal entry (blog, journal, video journal), write 1 "thank you" note! I have been waking up early enough to do this and it is awesome. I'm certainly not perfect with my 5 times per week but who cares...I'm close and it's feeling great! I thought this was important to share b/c 1. you may want to try something like that and 2. b/c it's another example of life giving you what you need and the fact that you never know where you will be inspired and where you can inspire others!
I've had a surprising, very small handful of requests for a few pictures so I thought I would share a few from recent shenanigans. Thanks for reading and for all of your support!
Talk to you again soon!
Seriously...I'm back! Yes, I am back in regards to finally writing another blog post (thanks for those of you that have been asking about one) but what I really mean is that I (as in Justin, the author, J-Lev, etc. etc.) is back! Now there are several metaphors I can and will draw to being "back" but most importantly I feel that my body has made tremendous progress on the physical journey recovering from surgery and the intensive daily chemotherapy and radiation therapy! I feel better at this very moment, than I have felt all year long! My last treatment day was 5/16/14 and the past several weeks have been a welcome rest from what I see as the most negatively intense part of this journey. By the middle of May, I was pretty worn down and although my mind was positive, strong and confident in the end result; my body was feeling tired and it would have been very easy to focus on how weak I felt and how nauseous I felt! So that we still know we are keeping things real, the 6.5 weeks of treatment definitely were not a blast, it definitely made me feel pretty rough at times...but you know what....it wasn't THAT bad and I made it through with a smile on my face! :) I truly believe this is a continuing result of the positive energy I was surrounded by and that I was working to generate in my core...and likely part of the larger spiritual journey I have been on for years! PLUS...have I mentioned that I seriously have some of the best doctors and medical staff in the world! (We are lucky in Nashville)
So, to get you updated medically, I saw my Oncologist and Radiologist last week after an early morning MRI and blood work. First of all, cheers to me for not passing out again when they set up the IV for the MRI! woo hoo! :) The MRI was no big deal at all after 6.5 weeks of that radiation mask and I almost fell asleep in the MRI twice! The doctors all thought the MRIs and my lab work looked great and said this is exactly how they expected me to progress (really really well)! The main point of the meeting was to talk about the next phase of my medical journey and that is the 12 month regimen of chemotherapy which has me taking Temodar pills (chemo) 5 days in a row per month. I will start this in late June and continue through May 2015 and I am expecting this to go very well! It will be twice the daily dose that I was taking before but ONLY for 5 days in row and I can take it right before I go to sleep to hopefully sleep through the peak of any potential side effects! The short story is that I'm kicking ass and between right now and May 2015 I have to be at Vanderbilt 6 times (every other month) for an MRI and to see my Oncologist and the other 6 months have to make arrangements to have lab work done the week before I start chemo (that they mail to me) :) I asked them when I can return to work and the general consensus was to wait for the first month of chemotherapy to get in my system and then also out of the my system the following weeks, etc. and go from there. With all of this said, I see myself being able to return to work by mid-July which will be awesome!
There you have it...I'm back physically, medically kicking ass and will soon be back to work...I love this! I am also getting back out socially which is feeling great! A large part of my balance in life is really about being around people, getting to know them, developing relationships with them and growing together! I am so excited to be getting back out in a social setting to enjoy my friends, meet new ones and really just enjoy more people! I may not drink alcohol any more but I am all about some Sprite and darts at 1:30 AM with friends and although I don't drink in smokey karaoke bars by my house, I can still drink water and sing the hell 'outta some Sammy Kershaw...or hell, I'd even show off how "Fancy" I was (Iggy Azalea)...my friend Britt will definitely approve! :) My point is that I am feeling like getting out more and more and have been doing just that, and it feels amazing!
As much as I want to tell you about how "back" I am, I think the most meaningful part of this journey is what isn't coming back with me...what is part of my "old normal"...the things I am working to grow through, soak up and really deal with...those things that only myself really know I think about and notice about myself...little things that I believe will help me be a better person and cultivate stronger and more meaningful relationships! Know that this self examination has been under way for some time and through this, and combined with my daily mediations and conversations with myself and friends; life is getting better by the moment! :)
"I love my new normal", "I don't want my old life back", "my life is forever changed in amazing ways, and I am just beginning to experience this growth...and will continue to for the rest of my life", "I am looking at the same amazing life, rooted in the same core of positivity and love only now, through a new lens, a new perspective that has opened up a glorious new world, that was there the entire time", "the peace and connectedness I feel now, feels better than anything I have ever experienced...the feeling of walking the exact divinely guided path I am intended to walk...the feeling that everything in my life has prepared me for this moment...it is beautiful".
The quotes above are all things I say, talk about and think about often. This is how I feel and what makes me feel amazing! For so many years of my life, I have been motivated to get somewhere, something or someone...this is even as I was coaching other people and even working to coach myself about how we as humans should embrace every moment like it could be our last, while living to be healthy for the future! I now feel a desire to maintain a feeling vs. achieve a status or job! This feeling of freedom, the feeling of connectedness and synchronicity, the feeling of love and centeredness...the feeling that my life is right where it is supposed to be, poised to do anything, go anywhere and touch the universe!! This my friends is one of the products of me spending much of the past 4 months alone in my home! This is what my "new normal" is centered in! Yes, I have the best family and so many amazing friends and they have all been an amazing support! But the majority of my time has been alone which is just how it was supposed to be...to provide this opportunity to center, to take it all in, to heal and to be sitting here today feeling more connected to the divine than I have ever been! The more that I surrender to this feeling and release myself to the journey, the better it feels, the more connected/synchronistic experiences appear and the more at peace I feel. I see it as a big snowball of increased consciousness and love that is building in me, around me with my friends and family and really as a community! I have found that most of my insecurities have come as a result of my own judgement of other people and I don't want to judge others nor feel the way it makes me feel. Being judgmental isn't healthy for me,even though I always thought that my parrarellel "loving person" qualities would over power my judgements, they ultimately haven't and don't. I am a work in progress and this is one area that I will be very mindful of going forward. Just being able to type these words feels so much lighter and makes me smile!
So yes friends, I am back! I'd like to call it new and improved and on the path of continuous improvement...aren't we all? The answer is yes...with a "but"...that's because we have to be open to experience it, to be open to it, to embrace it at all cost, to feel through it and to be open to trust it! Once we do, things begin to be easier and more peaceful, life gets deeper in "the pocket"! It feels awesome! I believe this feeling is infectious, energizing and within all of our respective powers to achieve!
Here's to continuing to grow together and feeling that feeling that makes each of us feel more alive than we could have imagined!
The End of An Era
Hi friends! It's another beautiful day in the neighborhood here on 2nd avenue! (It is Thursday afternoon, 5/15/14) Ok...in full disclosure, it is a little partly cloudy with more rain on the way...but the vibe in my condo is about as happy as I have been since the night before this whole thing started partying with my neighbors at a Super Bowl Party! I'm happy because my 6.5 week, intense radiation/chemo treatments are less than 24 hours away from being finished!! YES! :) And from a bigger view perspective, the past 3.5 months have been pretty intense from 2/3/14 on. I certainly have more treatment to go over the next 13-14 months but it is fair to say that the first 3.5 months will be the most negatively intense of this entire experience, and hopefully for the rest of my life! The past 3.5 months have taken us from a seemingly normal Monday to the ER after a big seizure at the office, to a perfect brain surgery (craniotomy if you care to know the real name), to cancer diagnosis and the big chunk of intense treatments to make sure it doesn't come back for a long time. I went from worrying about my parent's health and thinking about ways to help our whole family be healthier to personally looking death in the eye while I anticipated dealing with a surgery and whatever post-surgery news (pathology of my tumor, etc.) would bring and it was something that at times, seemed more than I could handle! But you know what? It was never more than I could handle...ever! No matter how scared I was, no matter how anxious I felt at times, no matter how emotional I felt...and no matter how many moments I questioned if I was about to freak out, it was never more than I could handle! Hell, yesterday on the radiation table I was anxious for some reason and it was my 30th treatment. I don't try to judge it at this point and just try to observe the ebb and flow of my emotions. Yesterday, I seriously counted my breath and thought "this is helping me live a long and healthy life" and then envisioned myself having lunch and laughing afterwards! My point is that the past 3.5 months have been amazingly intense...absolutely amazingly intense and so overwhelmingly positive. They have also provided moments of worry, anxiety and loneliness and when I reflect on the 3.5 months as a whole I see that I was provided such amazing opportunities to grow and learn about myself, my family, my friends and the amazing community around me! I feel so lucky that I have had this opportunity to have a perspective reset on my life...the future is very exciting! :)
I have always been in awe of Nashville's heart. Yeah we love our tourism, our healthcare and our music industry...but we really love our friends and our fellow Nashvillians and we take care of each other!! I am thankful that I have had the opportunity to be on the giving side of Nashville's amazing nonprofit community for many years but this was my first experience to be on the receiving end of that community love and it blew me away! Seriously, when I first started feeling the love flow into me before surgery I was speechless...it was overwhelming from an emotional place! Thank you! I always knew that giving back, helping and teaching people and touching the universe were things that made me joyful but to say I have an increased passion for this now is quite the understatement! ;) Just as I started to feel like thinking about something other than myself and my day, new opportunities to give back started flooding my realm so look out...I'm fired up to turn my life experiences into as many opportunities to do great things as I can!
Alright friends, I'm back...and it's Friday, my last day of radiation and my last day taking chemo for a month!!! Wooo Hooo! I thought I would share my current view that I am always so thankful for! It is a beautiful day in Nashville today with a little chill in the air, great tunes coming through my speakers, I just FaceTime'd with my mom and good friend Brit (who is sitting on the beach...jealous) and I am about to get a 90 minute massage!! Oh, and did I mention it is the last time I get to be held down on a table by a tight fitting mask? hahaha! :) After treatment I am going to let the awesome ladies at the salon help me figure out what to do with my hair now that I can get it cut. The real question is do I grow it out to cover the soul patch up front (my little bald spot) or cut it pretty short and rock the easy, buzz all summer? Decisions, decisions...but really....who cares, it's only hair!!! I am alive and am wrapping up the first 3.5 months of this amazing journey and starting the next phase which is a month of rest to let my body recover and heal! Ah....
Another reason I love my view of Nashville is because I get to see growth all around me and have been able to watch our city grow up over the past 12 years from my little sliver of town on 2nd Avenue! I can't help but think of metaphors like growing up with the town over as many years and also about our cities bright future ahead because I know my future is very bright too! Through this entire experience I have remained WAY more excited about the future than I was scared and most of my nerves and anxiety were about the unknown, the tomorrow, the start of treatment, THE MASK, etc! :) As I look out over a beautiful growing Nashville I am happy to be able to see myself growing with it. I have certainly grown with it over the past 14 years of living in Middle TN, and over the past 12 years of owning a little piece of it and wow...I have certainly been able to see myself grow over the past 3.5 months! I think it really started (or I started remembering it) when the 5 doctors came into my ER room to tell me I had a brain tumor. I remember having an immediate sense of peace rush over my body and I proceeded to tell the doctors about how I was going to turn this into the most amazingly positive experience of my life and help so many people through this experience. It was this sense of peace, that I immediately felt, that has stayed with me at my core -no matter how anxious I felt in the moment-and I continue to visualize myself at peace in the future! I believe this was and is a direct result of the seeds of positivity that my parents planted in me at a young age and that I nurtured and fell in love with as I became an adult! I have such vivid memories of my dad tucking me in at night and saying "repeat after me boychick...through the power of my subconscious mind, I ward off all evil, I have perfect health...!" Thanks Mom and Dad! :)
Well, I just realized that it is 9:00 and I need to get my day going! I hope you all have an awesome day and weekend! Thank you all for the support and love you have shown my family and me during the past 3.5 months! I love you and look forward to seeing you all soon!
My Body is Responding Perfectly!
Hello from Nashville on a beautiful May morning on 2nd Avenue! It has been another great couple of weeks in my world and the treatment is still getting easier every day! Today will be my 26th radiation treatment which means I will have 7 more after today! Today starts what they are calling the "boost" and I have no idea what that means other than my "treatment" will change a little bit and maybe a stronger treatment in a smaller space...I think I remember hearing something about that! I will fill you in! What I do know is that I get to spend a few extra minutes in my mask today which will be fun... :) Seriously, it has gotten much more relaxed for me during treatment and although I won't miss having to wear the mask in the future, I can totally handle the remaining treatments with me, my breathe and usually some country music (one of my friends there loves the song Hot Mess by Tyler Farr and plays it often and I'll admit, it has grown on me...doesn't hurt that she proclaims that it is her "theme song"!)
My Chemo is still doing it's thing and I will enjoy a break from this too, although as you know, I will be taking it 5 days per month for the next 12 months (likely June-June I think). The chemo doesn't hit my stomach as hard as it did at first but I certainly can tell I take it as it makes me just not feel great...that said, it is time for me to take it now...one second! Well alright, that was easy...and yes, I still do my vocal intentions every day...I even recorded a few of them to document it in living color!
Many people have asked me how I have been feeling and the best way I can describe it is that "I am feeling about 80% BUT am 100% ALIVE!" The radiation started to make me feel a little fatigued a couple weeks ago and that has grown over time, like the doctors said it would. It doesn't make me immobile but it certainly makes me want a nap...for example, yesterday I took two naps during the day so that I could have some energy for yoga! Yes, yoga...I finally practiced since all of this started thanks to my neighbor Betsy who has a zen yoga studio in her condo! It was great to stretch, breathe and move together and I can't way to do it again! Back to the treatment, the radiation is almost done and that is the real story because, whatever I am feeling, I can make it through next Friday easily! With the combination of chemo and the fatigue from the radiation I have not been that active compared to what my mind wants to do but per my doctors, I am more active than most patients and doing really well! They are encouraging me to stay active and balance the desire to push through the fatigue with resting...basically, listen to your body and give it what it needs!
My growing love affair with having my blood taken (laugh) is really getting much better as I become more comfortable with something that I will have to do pretty often for the rest of my life. I celebrated not passing out the past two times...seriously! hahaha! I get blood work done every two weeks because they watch certain levels very closely to make sure my body is responding perfectly to treatment, and if need be, make changes! I am happy to report that my first two blood work results came back "perfect" and my doctors couldn't be happier about it! My body is truly responding "perfectly" to treatment...awesome! As part of the perfect response, I am also loosing a little hair in the spots where the radiation is directed, which the doctors said was possible! There is one spot in the front, middle of my head (yup) and one on the left side of my head. All of my hair will grow back 100% and now we get to play a game I like to call "What color and texture will my hair grow back?"...stay tuned for updates here! :) I quickly named the front my "soul patch" and the other my "soul side" but those names haven't stuck yet and I welcome suggestions. What if I got a blonde, curly soul patch right in the front...whoa!!! hahaha!
I have some more good news for all of us to celebrate too. My great friend Jacoby, who we mention at the bottom of this page has been looking for a kidney donor b/c she is in serious need of a new kidney and SHE FOUND ONE!!!! Her awesome cousin Mills is donating one of his kidneys and they have a surgery scheduled for the week after next! Please send some positive energy and prayers to both of them and the hospital staff, and envision a "perfect procedure" for them! This is also happening at Vanderbilt which is part of why I have such a sense of peace about this procedure...it will be great! Our friends have set up an opportunity to help Jacoby and her cousin with some of the financial needs that come with being out of work, surgery, medicine, etc. If you are in a position to help or know others that may be, please check this out. At the very least, send out some love please! :)
Well, it is about time for Romero to show up to hang for a second and then take me to treatment so I will stop this one here! I have much more to share with you and will get another blog up sometime soon! I hope things are going well in your world!
Have a great day!
I Am Going To Have a High-Tech Head
OK...in full disclosure...I started this blog on Thursday, April 17th 2014 and fully intended to finish that day...but I didn't! Today is Monday, April 21st 2014 and there is no sexy, adventurous story that I can tell you about why I didn't finish this post. The simple, true story is that I haven't really felt like it and wasn't feeling 100% towards the end of last week and over the weekend! I haven't been feeling horrible and what I am feeling is totally manageable but I definitely wasn't feeling great! My nausea is pretty well under control with the meds. At this point, it is more just a sense of not feeling like myself, at times a little tired and just "meh"! I have been thinking about wanting to finish this post and keep pushing myself to be active, etc. and after a good night's sleep last night, I am feeling great today! It is almost time to take my daily dose of chemo and go rock out radiation treatment #14 shortly! This week is full of appointments at Vanderbilt and spending time with friends which sounds like a great week to me! I saw all four of my doctors last week and they are all pleased with how I am healing and handling the treatment! My surgeon saw me for the first time since being in the hospital two months ago and it was great to see him and be able to deliver the "Super J" t-shirts to him and Tracy. They rock!
So...back to the radiation treatment! How about that mask? It's pretty intense looking isn't it? Like I mentioned, I wear that mask to keep my head in the same place so that they can get the radiation exactly where they want it...apparently within a millimeter...so cool! I lay down on a little table, get situated with some pads under my knees and ankles (the table is not made for tall people) :) and prepare to have the mask put on me and connected to the table! Thanks to someone that works at Sony that had treatment or some Sony connection, there is a stack of Sony Nashville artist CD's that I listen to which helps me relax...yep, I said it...pop country helping me relax! :) hahaha! Once they get me lined up perfectly, they take a few "positioning x-rays" to make sure I am lined up and then the treatment starts. The machine moves around my head and stops at five different positions to shoot radiation based on the best way to target the right spots and stay away from critical parts of my brain...thanks team, I appreciate that! :). I haven't counted with any exact measurements but my guess is that I am on the table for about 10-15 minutes and in radiation a total of about a minute every day! Treatment is certainly getting easier every day and with that said, at times I still take it back to counting my breathe when I am on the table! This practice helps me and is something I continue to expand on in my daily meditations (that are really going well and I'm really enjoying the practice). Being an observer vs. a judger/fixer/etc. is helping me have a greater sense of peace and I welcome it! I am still using the Head Space site/app. This daily practice is working! :)
Here are a few more pictures of the radiation process starting with just the table and machine, the therapist connecting the mask, me in the mask connected to the table, lining me up and the awesome team that administers the radiation and helps me every day! These four women have been just as amazing as everyone else at Vanderbilt and make me feel very comfortable. Part of what makes my treatment get easier every day is my growing relationship, and thus my comfort with these four women! Many things are changing as a result of this journey, and I am excited about that but me being a people person and thriving off personal relationships rings more true than ever! :)
I don't think I ever contemplated knowing about technology like this but damn, I am really glad it exists! One of the therapists said something like "We are hiding out down here in the basement (of the building) and are the folks nobody ever wants to know about...but when they find out about us, they are really glad that we are here!" I couldn't say it better myself b/c I am so thankful that they are here and that I continue to have access to such amazing medical care! When I have had low moments over the past couple of weeks having a sense of gratitude has really helped me! Thinking about how thankful I am to be alive to experience these feelings and emotions and being thankful that I have the ability to go through these high-tech treatments that are going to ensure that I live a very long and healthy life! This is amazing and well worth a few weeks of not quite feeling 100%!!
Here's to all of us having a great week full of amazing people and experiences!
1 Down, 32 To Go!
That's right folks, 1 down and 32 to go! My treatment started today and I am glad to be on the other side of my "day 1". Now, this is not b/c today was physically painful in any way and certainly not because the Vanderbilt staff were anything other than their consistent level of amazingness-seriously, I am continuously impressed by this hospital! I am glad to be on the other side for a few reasons...first of all, I was nervous and a little anxious about starting treatment. I am also glad that we have started treatment b/c the sooner we start...THE SOONER WE FINISH!! :) As far as my health is concerned, the doctors have told me that the ideal window to start this radiation/chemo combination is 4-6 weeks from surgery and 4/3/14 is 6 weeks from surgery-great timing, score 1 for the home team! :)
I said that today wasn't physically painful but I had been anticipating today's start of treatment and that naturally caused a little bit of anxiety with an overwhelming sense of "Come on, let's get this going and kick ass!" This anxiety was not at all about the long-term future but more about the upcoming treatment and the unknown. I have been meditating daily, being very positive and yet when I laid down on the table today I was nervous. Fear not friends, I know this is totally normal and if I wasn't a little nervous/anxious something would be wrong with me...dare I say, "harboring/burrying some emotions"! :) Seriously though, I breathed through my anxiety by focusing on my breathe and actually counting it. I learned this method in the daily meditations I have been doing every morning. I am sure I will talk more about this once I learn more but, basically, once you are relaxed, 1st observe your breathe as it is normally. The next step is to count every inhale and exhale...inhale (1), exhale (2), etc. etc. until you get to 10 and then repeat. To be honest, I jumped right to the counting today on the table b/c I was nervous! :) haha...sometimes I have to laugh at myself! The moral of this story is that once again, I felt anxiety, came close to being overwhelmed (while I was on the table) and took it back to the breathe...it works!
Starting this next phase which my dad labeled today as "Phase 3" is exciting! We are starting the part of this story that will ensure this cancer doesn't come back and a phase that will certainly continue to teach me more about myself, my amazing friends and family and likely some more medical terms...I have learned a TON over the past 8.5 weeks! My doctor and nurse friends tell me they are impressed with my new medical terminology...I say I just want to know what is going on with my body! I can't help but love data...especially when my health is involved! :) Having the chemotherapy pills in my possession for the past 3-4 weeks has felt kinda weird...maybe weird isn't the right word but for lack of a better word, we will use it! It has been the ever constant reminder of the next phase of this journey and also of where I am in my life....basically a consistent "it's real" hanging around! You know me well enough by now to know that I take it for what it is and totally own where I am in the experience...just an interesting observation that I have had lately. When I took the first dose I remember the nervous and excited feelings as I held them in my hands and used it as a good time to set a positive intention and focus on emerging healthier and happier than ever! :) But just so we know we are keeping it real, I was nervous...or maybe just anxious...hell, or both...but either way...it was a big moment in my life and this journey!
(Continued the following day)-----I'm not sure what I felt, when I felt it and what caused it but I didn't feel 100% all day yesterday! I never really felt horrible but I think that the combination of the emotions, meds and just the anticipation of that day had EVERYTHING to do with it! Today (Day 2) is already feeling good and I am looking forward to a great day today! It doesn't take much for me to reflect on just how lucky I am to be sitting here (and that you are reading this:)) and I find myself reflecting on this all the time! Working to max out life has always been a part of my life and thankfully I have amazing friends around me that work to do the same...birds of a feather flocking together I suppose! When we all lost our dear friend and brother Alan last June it shook us and then when we found out our friend Jacoby needed a kidney it shook us again and then when this story started it shook us again...and sadly when a friend of ours took his own life last Sunday it shook us again! I know that everyone will grow from these life experiences in personal ways and that is awesome! The only thing I would want to put on a billboard or put out there as a key theme that I focus on, is to work to live the life that you truly love, that makes you happy and fulfilled and to just keep things positive! :)
Thanks again for all of your support and love and for reading this blog! I finally got around to redirecting my domain world so in the future you can always go to www.justinlevenson.com (or subscribe to get email notifications). Going forward, I may even get crazy and try to get some help with art or some graphics...look out friends!
Here's to a great day!
The Next Phase of this Amazing Journey
I am so happy to report that I am writing this blog post from my condo and it feels so damn good to be home! After being away from home for 4.5 weeks, just being in my home, surrounded by my things, smelling my smell and sleeping in my bed is doing amazing things for me! I can’t say enough great things about my friends who hosted me but damn, it feels good to be home! :)
I have been thinking a lot about this blog post b/c it is an important one…ok, ok…the salesman in me wants you to believe that every post is important (and they are all an important part of my journey) but today’s post will explain the next phase of this amazing journey I am on!
Here is how I have been telling some of my friends…
1. My doctors tell me that I am going to live a long and healthy life and that it will likely be 60 years before my tumor tries to grow back (the type of tumor I had likes to come back).
2. I have a very rare form of brain tumor with two specific genetic mutations that put me in the minority of the minority…but this is A GOOD THING (I will explain later in this blog)
3. I do have brain cancer!
4. My doctors tell me that I am going to live a long and healthy life and that it will likely be 60 years before my tumor tries to grow back (the type of tumor I had likes to come back). I put this in again so you would trust me! :)
5. My surgeon removed the entire tumor and they consider it a “perfect resection”…this is amazing news!
6. I am going to start a 15-month treatment program that is all about PREVENTATIVE MAINTENANCE so that the tumor doesn’t come back. The reason that we are doing this is b/c the doctors know that there is still cell growth in my brain that you can’t see on an MRI or with your eye and thus treatment.
OK…take a deep breathe…or three….seriously…I am in a great place with this and am going to live a really long and healthy life and kick cancer’s ass…I promise! :)
Alrighty then….that was a lot of information…trust me, I know…I have been working to wrap my head around it (haha) for the past two weeks and wanted to wait for the right moment to tell you about this! Before we go on…take another deep breathe…it really helps!
The next phase of my journey or as we will call it, “treatment” will likely begin on April 2nd and will last for the better part of 15 months. The first phase of treatment will be a 6.5 week radiation and chemotherapy regimen that will involve taking chemotherapy pills every day and going to Vanderbilt every day (Monday-Friday) for radiation. The doctors have stressed that most patients do not have bad side effects from these two treatments and they fully expect me to “sail through” treatment! There is chance that I will have some nausea from the chemotherapy and possibly a cumulative fatigue from the radiation…this is where the phrase “my body responds perfectly to treatment comes in!” That being said, I fully expect to be feeling great! :) After this 6.5 week treatment, I will take 1 month off and will then begin a 12 month chemotherapy regimen taking pills for one week, then three weeks off…repeated for 12 months! During the entire treatment process, I will be monitored closely and will hopefully be able to return to work once we all feel comfortable that I can and that my body is responding perfectly!:)
So let’s talk about some details for a second...it gets really technical really quickly so bare with me! ;)
I have learned that 1% of the world’s cancer population has brain cancer and out of that 1% I am a minority b/c of the two genetic mutations that my cells have…more specifically, that my cancer/tumor cells have. I will talk more about these mutations as I learn more but for now I know about one of them and that is called the “codeleted 1P19Q.” What this means is that the remaining tumor cells that are in my body do not fight back against treatment…this is amazing news! One of the amazing things about our bodies is that we fight off infection, foreign invaders, germs, etc. and most of the time this is exactly what we want our bodies to do….but apparently not when we are treating cancer! I say this b/c having a codeleted 1P19Q means that my tumor cells do not fight back against the radiation and chemotherapy…again, this is a very good thing! My doctors told me that 10 years ago they didn’t know about this mutation and that they only found it b/c they noticed that a segment of patients in some clinical trials/studies/etc. were living WAY longer than most patients and in many cases longer than the trials tracked patients. Learning about this made me feel really great, b/c I know that amazing people are constantly working on improving medical care and we can all rest easy knowing that this continues today.
OK…so now what?
Well, for me I am continuing to settle back into my home, resting, relaxing, writing in my journal, meditating daily and taking in every ounce of this experience that I have been blessed with! I am also going to be doing another MRI Thursday b/c my doctors told me that when they started to plan out my radiation treatment they were very pleasantly surprised to see that there was BIG difference between the CT scan I did last week and the MRI I had the morning after surgery. The difference is b/c I am healing really well and the “cavity” in my brain (where the tumor was) has gotten much smaller (b/c it is healing so well) which means less area to treat with radiation and as result less risk to me…this also means I get to do another MRI! Once I am finished with the MRI, my doctors and their team will get back to the business of planning my radiation treatment and I should be able to start this next Wednesday (4/2/14)!
I want you all to know that I am in a good place with this and that I continue to be WAY more excited about the future than I am nervous! I continue to feel so lucky to be able to go through this experience and am so thankful for the love and support that all of you continue to give me…whether that is your sweet notes and cards, meals, rides, hugs, phone calls, etc…I am thankful that you are all in my life and truly appreciate you! I know that hearing the news that your friend has cancer can be scary…hell, when I first heard about this it was hard to keep my breathe. The important thing that I want you all to know is that I will beat this, I am in a great place with all of this and the future is very very bright! So now, one more time….take a deep breathe…ahhhh…that feels good!
Thanks again for all of your support!
Healing Perfectly in the Suburbs!
Hello everyone...I hope life is amazing in your world!
It has been another great week of resting, recovering, healing and enjoying life in the burbs...the title of this blog post says it all! My doctors all tell me that I am continuing to heal very well and that they are blown away by the pace of my recovery and that my positive attitude remains as strong as ever-this is where I say "I told you I was going to kick this in the ass and turn it into the most positive experience of my life"! :) My doctors have stressed that having a positive attitude and healthy diet are as helpful for my healing than anything they do at the hospital! The power of positivity is real and I am living proof..I can't help but be positive and I beleive that it is a direct result of how my parents raised me by planting and nurturing the seeds of positvity in me from a very young age! To take this thought a step further, my parents gave me a book called The Power of Your Subconsious Mind when I moved to Tennessee on July 5th, 2000. They told me that they had raised me with this book's principles and encouraged me to read it and let it enrich my life! Anyone that knows me well knows that this book has been a huge part of my life and I will talk more about this topic later on the blog. I got my stitches removed last Wednesday which made my head feel better imediately and the actual incision is healing really well! I still have some swelling in my forehead which the doctors say is normal and will go away soon. This is great news b/c I think I look like a weird Haloween costume with a water balloon on my forehead...pretty weird to look at (ok and funny) but not a health concern at all. When I was discharged from the hospital I was taking a TON of medicine but I am happy to report that as of Sunday I was only taking my anti-seizure medicine and Tylenol for the pain which is a HUGE win and yesterday I only needed to take two doses of Tylenol-this is another sign of my improving health! I am focusing on "emerging from surgery healthier, happier and more empowered to do great things" and "my body is healing perfectly" so if you are looking for things to focus on for me, those are two great phrases to send out to the universe! Thank you in advance! :)
It has now been 5 weeks since this adventure began and it has certainly been a fast-paced, whirlwhind of a journey! Over the past 5 weeks, there have certainly been plenty of ups and downs, plenty of happy times, a solid dose of anxiety and nerves and some low points...but I am still so much more excited about the future than nervous and feel so lucky to be able to go through this experience. To say my life is forever changed is an understatement and I am just starting to understand this new life that I have been given and understand that I may never fully understand this gift(which is totally ok). What I do understand today is that I am lucky to be alive and am loving the way the world looks from where I am sitting. Speaking of lucky, I am also lucky to have all of you in my life...seriously, you are amazing! I have been overwhelmed by your continued love, support, prayers, positive vibes, meals, sweet baked goods (although, it is almost pool time so I probably need to cut down on those hahaha). I look forward to thanking you all in person and if you ever need it, being able to support you through any chalenges that life throws your way!
I hope to be able to return to my home soon which will be great...but also a little sad b/c I have really enjoyed staying with my friends in Franklin! These two amazing people welcomed me into their home and have been awesome friends and hosts! It has also been great to be somewhat "off the grid" which has helped me rest, recover and thus be feeling really great and better every day! With that said, I can't wait to see more of my friends, sleep in my own bed and be in my little zen'd out corner of the universe! My suggestion to all of you is to tell your friends and family you love them today...tell them how much they mean to you...forgive them for the silly things we get pissed about (I am guilty of this too..trust me)...and when you think of them (like right now), send them a quiet "I love you"! This is powerful stuff...powerful energy and emotions...trust me, it feels great! :)
As a little FYI, you may not have been notified about my last blog post so, if you haven't read that, scroll down and check it out! This happened b/c my trial subscription of this blog site Populr had expired and as a result, all of my followers were not notified. The good news is that the amazing people at Populr helped me out and going forward, you will all be notified when I post a new blog-this is also a reminder to subscribe to the blog so you get notified! :) I also want to encourage you all to check out Populr for your own blogging and website needs b/c this team of people are great!
I hope you all have a great rest of the week!
So You Really Meant "Rest"?
Ok, Ok...so I thought I knew what "rest" meant...but I didn't...and my body let me know it!
A lot of amazing things have happened since my last blog, I've learned a lot and by far the most important lesson of the past 10 days is that when Vanderbilt doctors tell me to rest and do nothing for a minimum of two weeks they really mean it. To be more specific, their definition of rest is much different than just resting my normal, music industry, go fast and hard lifestyle and really means that I need to sit on my tail, binge on HBO Go, Netflix and Xfinity OnDemand and do nothing-this "doing nothing" may be the hardest part about the post-surgery experience thus far! This is where I insert the voice of my neurosurgery nurse saying "I told you so" (you were right Tracy)! When I chill, my body feels better..and some days, going to lunch in Coolsprings was enough to make me want to crawl back to bed!
The good news, is that life is amazing and with every passing second, my body is healing and I am feeling better! I have also been constantly reminded that I don't look like I had brain surgery and apparently have surprised my friends and family with how good I have looked...I think everyone (including me) thought I would look a lot worse than I do. With the exception of a "sexy", "awesome", "gnarly", "sweet" head wound (that is healing amazingly well), a sweet half-head shave, some forehead swelling and a slight black, left eye...you really can't tell that I had surgery! So what this means is that when I wear the awesome hats my friends are making for me (thank you), nobody knows I just had a pretty damn intense surgery! Speaking of the actual surgery experience, I can't say enough amazing things about my team at Vanderbilt. It started with the ambulance staff, the ER staff, the oncology staff, the nuerosurgery staff, the pathologists, operating room staff, ICU staff, nurses, etc. etc. etc....everyone has blown me away with their extreme level of professionalism, attention to detail, bed-side manner, positive attitudes, kindness and just overall being amazing human beings! I feel lucky, blessed beyond belief and I am so EXCITED about the future.
The days leading up to surgery were intense my friends...VERY intense! I don't know that I have ever experienced more anxiety in my adult life and my surgeon, Dr. Weaver (a total bad ass btw) was absolutely correct when he told my parents and me that the two weeks between my first appointment with him and surgery would be the hardest part of this entire experience! I have always been an introspective person; someone who enjoys diving into my thoughts and emotions, analyzing them as I look for opportunities to grow and expand and these two weeks pushed me to new levels. At times, I questioned whether it was too much for me...so I dug deeper, cried a little, focused on some breathing, thought positive thoughts and things got better! Growth my friends...amazing, sometimes stressful...but always amazing growth! I've heard it said many ways but the thought that you will never be in a situation that you can't fully handle is appropriate here. I always strive to be positive, am passionate about encouraging others to be positive and still had a few moments of the most intense anxiety and stress that I have ever experienced that made being "positive" a challenge...BUT I MADE IT THROUGH....WOOOO HOOOOO! :) Further here, this means that you can too (we will get more into that on another day!)
The morning of surgery was tense for me and I can't even imagine what it was like for my family and friends...with one exception! I know that for some of my friends, it was chilly and pretty sleepless b/c they arranged to have the "Super J" t-shirts hung on the Music Row Roundabout statues and many were there cheering for me as we drove by at 5:00 AM! WOW!!! THANK YOU!!! Once I got to the hospital, my part was pretty easy...get in some surgery clothes, run some tests, say some "I Love You's" and then the anesteisiologist gave me "a couple martinis" and I was out like a light! Five hours later, I was flirting with the ICU nurses, realizing I still had movement in the lower half of my body (this was one of the risks of surgery based on where the tumor was) and on my way to what everyone at Vanderbilt tells me is one of the most amazing post-op recoveries they have ever seen! The first night in ICU was tons of fun...no really...TONS! I had to wake up every hour for neuro-checks, medicine, a 1:00 AM MRI and those beds...those SUPER comfortable beds! :) But, hell...I was alive, doing "amazingly well" and on track to be known as a "rockstar" on the Neuro-ICU floor! Life was and is good...so very good! :) The next big milestone was the fact that about 24 hours after surgery, I was moved to the normal neuro floor which means I did so well, that I got to skip the "step down" floor and could have more visitors, could eat whatever I wanted to and could sleep in 4 hour blocks...the sleep was likely the biggest win for me b/c I was tired! OK...being able to see more friends and family was a huge win too...so awesome...but the sleep, the sweet sleep was needed! This also meant that my parents could go have a nice dinner, a couple cocktails, a full night's sleep and relax while knowing I was doing well after a "perfect" surgery!
By Saturday morning I was told I was being discharged and less than 48 hours after having brain surgery I was getting into my car and driving down 21st Avenue! That's right...less than 48 hours after surgery I was at my "home away from home" in Franklin, settling in with friends, taking a few more deep breaths and resting...or at least starting to learn what "resting" really means!!
Thanks for the continued love, support, messages, calls and meals...I am humbled to have so many amazing people in my life and look forward to thanking you all in the months to come! Stay tuned b/c I promise to keep this blog active as I move into the next phases of this journey!
Much love! Justin
It's Not You...It's Me! :)
No really...I'm being serious! For the first time in my life, that phrase makes sense!
As you know, my week was pretty intense...amazingly intense actually! My week was full of emotions at a new depth for me and as I sit here watching the sun set over Nashville I feel pretty damn good about it! The one thing I don't feel great about is that I am missing a gathering at Tavern in my honor where that building is full of so many amazing people that came together to tell me how much they love me! Please know that I LOVE YOU TOO and that I wished I could make it! After the week I had and the week ahead of me now, I really felt that the best thing for me to do was to focus on relaxing, being low key and breathing! :)
HOWEVER...I see a couple of opportunities for awesome here that I want to quickly explore with you...
1. This means that you all MUST come to a post-recovery celebration of life (and that we will likely be able to use the excuse "to celebrate life" from here forward...sounds FUN!)
2. Tavern is full of amazing people from very different corners of Nashville and I bet there is something started tonight...a romance, a business, a charity...hell...maybe a little bit of all three!
3. The GM may or may not have promised free unsweetened tea for life (for me) in exchange for all of the liquor and beer sales from tonight so please drink up...and cheers one or two for me! :)
Seriously friends, thank you very much! The past two weeks has been an intense opportunity to see rapid change in myself, take a look at death, feel more love than ever before and much more that I am forever thankful for! On the medical front, I had my first appointment with my oncologist today and that was great! This will be my main doctor moving forward after I fully recover from surgery! I was told that he thinks I have one of the most rare types of brain tumor and that it is also one of the "best" types of brain tumors to have (pathology will confirm)! It is interesting to be at peace knowing that I have the best kind of brain tumor I could have...WHOA...what a difference a couple weeks can make on your point of view! Life is good friends....life is certainly good!
Thanks for the continued prayers and positive energy!
And then things got real...
Well you probably all knew it was going to happen...be honest...exactly...and you were right!
One of the fascinating things I am observing in myself through the first 10 days of this experience is the change of emotions that I am feeling! I was VERY comfortable with the logical part of this exercise like the percentages, the steps and process etc. I am even more comfortable and confident in the part of this story that helps me turn this into the most amazingly positive story in the world in service to other people! But...this is the first time in my life that I have felt what seemed like uncontrollable anxiety...as in just not being able to "bottle it up", "manage it", "feel it and move on", etc. etc. etc. For the first time I am able to relate to people in my life that have felt anxiety that seems beyond their (our) own control in a whole new way!
But this isn't a sad story...AT ALL...first of all b/c I am alive to feel this (which is amazing) and b/c I am learning how to breathe through it!! I have practiced yoga on and off through the years but 5 short minutes of breathing...and bringing my mind back to breathing have really helped my day!
In full disclosure, I emailed my doctor's nurse to ask if they would write a prescription for an anti-anxiety drug and my mom and sister will testify about what a shock and change of course that is for me! But guess what...I can't have any for good medical reasons...you know...back to the whole letting go, trusting Vanderbilt thing!
This is where it got good for me today...I was directed to this great site by a friend of mine...
...and did the short breathing meditation! Wow!! What a difference a few purposeful breaths can make! I am really looking forward to diving into this website and more meditations in the coming days as I continue to prepare my body for a healthy, successful surgery! Hell, this will just help me sleep better too...plus my stomach called and would like me to untie the knots! :)
Thanks for all of the continued prayers, positive vibes, emails, texts, calls, FB messages, etc! You have all continued to blow me away and I am forever thankful for you!
Cheers (with water)!
Letting Go...and Letting Love In!
Ok so I was not prepared for this love...hell, I don't even know if I ever contemplated this much love existing for me...and all I know to say is thank you, I love you too and I am opening myself up to receive as much of this love and support as I can! :)
From the time I posted my first blog entry Friday, my phone has not stopped ringing, dinging and beeping and every sound is the sound of you, my amazing family and friends, telling me that you love me and are thinking and praying good thoughts for me! I have been meaning to write again but just haven't been able to wrap words around how great you have made me feel! It has been completely mind-blowing to hear from so many of you and I hope you all know how much I absolutely appreciate you!
My weekend was pretty great! It was full of amazing people, relaxing self-reflection and some tasty food...seriously; Silo was amazing Saturday night and brunch at Pinewood Social was awesome!
I went back to work today and it was so great to see my work family! I was surprised with super hero balloons, a beautiful card and a cake with my Superman picture on it...awesome!! The outpouring of love that is continuing to flow to me is overwhelming in the most amazing way and I just can't say thank you enough!
I am feeling pretty great with the exception of my sore tongue and the anti-seizure medication they have me on, which just makes me feel a little out of it sometimes but hey, if I need it, I need it! I think this "letting go" is one of the most amazing things about this experience thus far and is really helping to keep a sense of peace in my life! I know I am in excellent hands at Vanderbilt, I have an amazing family and huge circles of friends and I know that I will come through this experience healthier, happier and more at peace than I have ever been before! I am focusing on letting go, staying absolutely positive and letting the love of my family and friends lift me up! It is amazing!
Thank you all for the continued positive vibes, prayers and whatever other positive energies you can send my way!
I Love you ALL!
Well friends, the title says it all...well, almost!!
Let me start by telling all of you that I love you very much and appreciate how you have all enriched my life for the past 35+ years! Now let me catch you up on my week...it's been an interesting one for sure!
Monday started out the way most days start...some turkey bacon, a couple organic eggs, black coffee and weekly reports and emails at work. The last memory I have is at 12:06 PM CST when I read an email (and possibly sent one). The next memory I have is sitting in my office floor surrounded by paramedics. I was taken to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in a glamorous ambulance, where I was tested to determine what happened to me. After a CT scan came back "irregular" I had an MRI which showed a large tumor in the left frontal lobe of my brain! I seemed to have a seizure at work! This tumor has apparently been there for quite some time which may explain why my head is so damn big...haha...kidding! :) But seriously, I can rarely find a hat that fits and I think I'd look pretty good in a hat! hahaha!
So....what now? First things first, the doctor believes that this has a 90% chance of NOT being cancer which is AMAZING!! Speaking of my doctor, he is a rockstar who specializes in what I have...which I btw, I forget the official name right now but I'll share later! I have a surgery scheduled for 2/20/14 to remove all of the tumor...that's right folks...brain surgery! I am amazed at the peace I feel right now as I type those words..."brain surgery"...something that is arguably the most intense experience of my life thus far is in front of me and I am at a peace b/c I have ZERO control over anything but my attitude! I have always tried to live as positive of a life as I could and today I am thankful that there is no option but to be positive! The support and love from my family and friends has been the most amazing thing this week and I can't say thank you enough...well actually...I may get an opportunity to say thank you a lot b/c I can't drive a car for 6 months...fun stuff 'eh? :)
So... I started this blog (actually Romero started it for me...thanks Jon) and I am going to use this to keep everyone updated on things and hell, my family and close friends have pushed me to start writing for years so maybe this is what will finally get me going...I like the way it feels so far! I hope to go back to work next Monday and get back to "normal" as soon as I can! Speaking of work, I am so thankful to work for an amazing company like SESAC with the amazing family i work with. I am so lucky that this happened at work, where I am surrounded by people that love me and whom I love dearly! I have a day full of appointments on the 18th and then surgery on the 20th so in less than two weeks I will be recovering and 2 months from now I will be going in for the first post-op check up so things will move pretty quickly.
Please stay tuned to this blog and know that I love you, I am thankful for all of you and I look forward to many many more amazing times, celebrating life together!