It was the week of Thanksgiving 2013 when I finally went to get a check up on my health. Over the few months prior I had dropped 25 lbs and developed a few odd symptoms. One was that I had a major cough for about a month. The other was a little more grotesque. At night I was sweating. Not like I had a bad dream about falling and woke up sweating, but my back was completely soaked every morning. Not only that, the sweat smelled terrible. I felt like I was leaking acid through my pores every night. Continue reading
First off two facts:
Perspective is a topic that I often write about, but this blog post is very unique seeing as my perspective right now is looking out a 767 aircraft at 10,000 feet. I remember my first flight when I was in the eigth grade and how scared I was. I was terrified at the beginning for the flight. Lifting off was such a new feeling and experience. I was traveling with my National Junior Honor Society classmates to visit Washington D.C. It was such a memorable trip and I will never forget rising above the clouds and seeing the view of Mississippi falling away below as we rose into the air. I think back to my senior trip flying to Seattle, Washington and soaring above the Rocky Mountains. What a unique way to look at the peaks and valleys. I remember flying to Hong Kong during college and how I could not even look outside because I was stuck in-between a fellow college traveler and a small Asian man, who helped me with my Sudoku puzzle as we flew overnight. Now I am flying with my wife to California for a trip of a lifetime and it is such a unique perspective because cancer is behind us.
“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” – Matthew 24:42-44
“Always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have.” – 1 Peter 3:15
Thursday I arrived back from almost a week at a summer camp with our youth. Every summer for the past 7 or 8 years we have taken our kids to the same place: Lake Forest Ranch. Many churches around the area take their students to Centrifuge camps or other conference type locations. Lake Forest Ranch is a Christian summer camp that focuses on one-on-one ministry. Also they minister to the leaders at the same time. Lake Forest Ranch is located in between Louisville, MS and Macon, MS. Lake Forest Ranch or LFR has been ministering to youth for over 50 years.
“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” – Neil Gaiman
“When life gets rough, I like to hold on to my dream, of relaxing in the summer sun, just lettin’ off steam.” – Olaf “In Summer”
It’s the end of May and of course that is the time that everyone starts to think about graduation. This is a time where dreams come true for students and teachers alike. For high school students, we see them leave away from a familiar place that for the most part they can’t wait to get behind them. For college students, we see new adults finally enter into the real world armed with knowledge, experiences, and hopefully a job. Tomorrow is the last day that I will have my current seniors in class before graduation. It is bitter sweet. I am sad to see this group go, but also very happy to see where they go from here. Graduation is one of those events that anyone dislikes attending unless he or she is involved. Graduations are long, the room is usually crowded and hot, there is always a speaker that talks too much, and you are really only there to see one person walk across a stage, which takes a total of 20 seconds. But this saturday I will attend a graduation. My graduation. One that has been literally years in the making.
I have loved Mississippi State University since I was able to think. Some of my first experiences as a child were attending MSU baseball games at Dudy Noble Field. My first stroller was maroon. My family drove a large maroon and grey van with a license plate that said, “MSU VAN.” The only cups that I drink out of at home are MSU stadium cups. I have one whole stack of maroon t-shirts in my chest of drawers. I have multiple cowbells. My dog owns a maroon jersey. Have I painted a picture yet?
But this love of MSU is way more than this last paragraph. My grandfather grew up at MSU, where his dad taught in the poultry department. He lived in Old Main, the large men’s dormitory on campus. My parents met at MSU at the Cobb Institute of Archeology. My sister met her husband there, while playing ultimate frisbee. My family has season football tickets next to our dear friends the Akins, who also go to church with us. Every year during Super Bulldog Weekend we meet up with our friends the Cliftons, who have been fellow Bulldog fans and friends for years.
MSU was a place where I bonded with my family over football tailgating, basketball victories, bowl game trips, and baseball afternoons. I have watched seasons of football where we could barely come out with a win. I have seen years where our basketball team could hardly be stopped. I have sat through pouring rain just to watch us lose the Egg Bowl. I have seen us keep that golden Egg only a week before I found out that I had cancer.
The funny part about this story is that I am not a MSU graduate. I have never taken a class on campus. I could not tell you where to go if you were a freshman and needed to know where all the chemistry classes were. But part of that will change Saturday. I started taking online classes for a Masters in Business in the summer of 2011. Now in Spring of 2014 I will graduate from the Distance MBA program at MSU with a 4.0 GPA. I took my capstone class through the midst of chemotherapy treatment. I cannot tell you how happy I am that this is finally happening. I am going to sit at graduation just like the rest of the graduates that actually took classes on campus, but I promise you, I will love that moment more.
A few things that I have learned besides finance, management, and marketing from MSU:
1. The rules of football, basketball, and baseball. Taught by: Joel Yelverton – my dad. Lessons were learned in the stands or at home watching away games. He taught me how to look beyond the game and see the intricacies of each sport, developing in me a true love of the game.
2. How to show great sportsmanship. Taught by: Cheryl Yelverton – my mom. Lessons were learned while watching my mom take wins with respect and loses with equal dignity. She has never yelled at an opposing fan and when those Arkansas fans pig sooey in her face, she just walks on by. That is a good fan. She congratulates the winners and does not flaunt the victories.
3. How to always be positive. Taught by: Terry Akin – my friend. Lessons were learned during terrible football, basketball, and baseball seasons. Terry is the son of our friends the Akins, who I mentioned earlier. He had down syndrome, but that surely never slowed him down. He was and still is the biggest MSU fan I have ever known. Every terrible season of football we would look down the row to Terry and he would just make a motion with his hands like shooting a basketball or swinging a bat. He was saying, “don’t worry we have another sport coming up, this season may be over and done, but just let’s wait and see what’s next.” We all miss him.
4. How to keep calm in the midst of a highly intense game. Taught by: Griffin Sullivan – my brother. Lessons were learned during overtime periods. Griffin joined our family in 2012 when he married my sister Becca. The Yelvertons are not known for watching a MSU sporting even quietly. Griffin joined our family and showed us how to remain calm, even when yelling at the television, field, Blue, etc. seems like the only answer.
5. That MSU is more than sports, it’s family. Taught by: Becca Yelverton – my sister. Lessons were learned watching my sister interact with her friends made during her years at MSU. Becca graduated from MSU in 2012, but the friends and connections she made there are still going on today. It was through her college experience that I saw MSU as a place where students grow not only in academics, but also in connecting with the people around you.
So basically this has been a love letter to Mississippi State, but it is also a big thought about education. Here is what I mean:
“Education is not about obscure facts and little test scores. Education is about the overall effect of years of slow absorption of concepts, philosophies, and approaches to problem solving. The whole process is so grand, all encompassing that it really can’t be threatened by the occasional late night no-hitter.” – George Feeny
So go out there and enjoy life. Have fun. And also learn a little bit too.
Journey Strong and Hail State!
“David said to the Philistine, ‘You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.'”
What a fantastic week. I really can’t say I have had a better week than this week. This week has definitely been the best week of 2014 and maybe 2013 too. Why? Well because every single day more and more of the past 18 weeks of chemo drugs have drifted from my blood stream. Every day I feel better and better. The numbness in my toes and fingertips has subsided to almost nothing. The metallic mouth is almost non-existent. No sign of a migraine. It truly is a dream come true and an answered prayer. Just a little relief has been incredible.