Baby Steps

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.  

It is so true that you really don’t appreciate the little things in life until they are gone.  I really missed just feeling good.  Just feeling energetic and not helpless.  People have even said that I have gained weight (in a good way, they add).  It is true, I have gained more weight that I lost at the beginning of my cancer journey.  Now to get rid of that….well, maybe next week.  I have got to remember a few things about this time right now before my next scan on May 7th.  Here they are:
1.  Don’t rush things, you have been through a lot, take it slow.
2.  Be patient, May 7th is only two weeks away.
3.  Don’t forget.
You know that is the most important point.  Don’t forget.  On Good Friday after I posted my blog, I got up and took a drive to the grocery store.  I let down the windows and even opened the sunroof.  The sun, which I had avoided for so long afraid of migraines, was a welcome warmth on my skin.  I turned on some music (not telling you what….maybe it was One Direction), and just felt alive again.  I felt alive again.  I never want to forget that moment.  Because it was for moments like that one that are what living is all about.  
This is where the real battle begins.  Not in the midst of the trenches where you can easily see what is good and what is evil.  The real battle is in the everyday life.  I can easily slip back into my life before cancer, where I didn’t appreciate every sunset, every cool breeze, every Dole Whip, every laugh, every George Winston song, every hug, every moment with my wife, every breath.  When God used Moses to lead His people out of Egypt and out of slavery, He parted the Red Sea right in front of them and they walked right through and you know what they did on the other side?  They worshipped an idol.  They completely forgot who they should serve and gave it all away to something else.  This is the real battle is living every day serving the right God.  
It is baby steps now.  I am going to slowly get back to where I was physically.  I am going to start walking again and maybe even play a little Ultimate.  But I can’t go back to where I was spiritually.  I have to keep moving forward.  As my baby steps turn into being “me” again, I can’t forget what He has done and I can’t forget to keep looking at what He is doing.
We think sometimes that God is only in the big things, but as I have talked about before on here, God is in the details.  We can’t forget to look for Him in the still, small whisper.  So that is what I have to do, never forget.
“The Lord said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’  Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind.  After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.  And after the fire came a gentle whisper.  When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.  Then a voice said to him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?'”  – 1 Kings 19:11-13
Listen for that voice, never forget what He has done for you, and continue to Journey Strong.
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A Really Good Friday

What a week.  After such a celebration last week you would think that was the final note, the end, the last tale, but alas I was not out of the woods yet.  In fact the chemo has been dragging the cancer out of me this week…..kicking and screaming all the way.  No one ever told me that cancer would be easy to beat nor did they say that it would go off without a hitch.  I just stupidly assumed those things.  This last chemo treatment went in without a fault and I got many congrats and lots of pats on the back, but the thing is that the treatment is only half the journey.  The rest of the journey is what it does to you on the way out.  I was living on the high of being done with my chemo regime.  Friday I taught all day, Saturday I had Keifer’s (really great greek food) with my wife on a beautiful day.  I got to celebrate with my very good friend Adam in preparation for his wedding in a few weeks.  I was really living.  Sunday I knew would be the beginnings of the tough days so I took it slow that morning and then actually made my way to the MS Mu Alpha Theta competition.  I was the needed second sponsor for our trip and our high school brought about 25 kids so I came for moral support mainly.  Truly I sat with the students that were inbetween events or not in other events and tried to just stay chill.  I made it through Sunday without incident and really enjoyed my time with our Mathletes (Mu Alpha Theta is a math organization for high school and junior college students).  

Monday would be doomsday.  
Even with all the rest and relaxation I could ask for, the cancer was not ready to say I give up.  Around midday I felt Migraine 1 float into my life.  I sadly took my leave early from the math competition and traveled home to my bed, medicine, cold patch, and sleep.  I spent the next 3 hours sweating, writhing, and taking trips to the bathroom to be sick.  I barely ate that night and went ahead and called in sick for the next day.  In all the excitement, I completely forgot about an important meeting for my graduate project.  When it rains…it pours as they say.
Tuesday, the migraine hit at 8:30 and did not dissapate until mid afternoon.  That is when I got some truly quality sleep.  At this point however, I was exhausted from pain, nausea, and my room was covered in kleenex, ice packs, and pill bottles.  I called in Wednesday sick as well.  This time something different happened….I woke up with the migraine.  Another fun first.  Again the morning was spent on meds and trying to sleep, but at least there was not as much nausea.  Wednesday evening I was feeling much better, but also feeling like I had just been through a blender.  Thursday was my first attempt at going to school all day and it worked.  I took it slow and barely left my seat, but I got most of my classes caught up, but there were at least two scares where I just knew I was about to go down again, but I took precautions and actually made it through completely fine.  
Thursday ended up being a great day, because not only did we get our home professionally cleaned (we have a baby shower here on Saturday), but my dad also came and cut our yard for us.  So not only did I come home feeling like a better, healthier person, my house smelled wonderful and looked fantastic.  Then it was time for the season finale of Parenthood and I got to do my last podcast of the season with my good friend Axel.  Thursday was the turning point and now it is time to have a Good Friday.
I don’t know if you have been able to read all my posts since I started blogging in January, but if you have I think you will have noticed a few things.  First of all I love Jesus, and I truly want you to know that it is because of Him that I have such a “positive” warrior spirit about going through cancer.  It is also because of Him that I live.  He is the one that delivers these ideas for blog posts to me and He is the one who deserves the credit for the “good writing.”  Secondly, The Lord has brought some incredible things to light during my time of chemo.  Other survivors and fellow warriors are contacting me all the time to talk and encourage.  Students, have come to me with questions and concerns because someone in their family was just diagnosed.  I have seen things in me that I definitely need to change and I have been reminded that I have a chance to do that.  Another thing that you might have noticed while reading the blog is the impeccable timing.  I mean some of the greatest posts have come from the cancer being right on time.  How ironic right?  Or maybe it was the treatment?  Or maybe it is just God moving?  Either way there are a few that stand out.  Losing most of my hair, having chemo during the olympics, chemo on my exact birthday, chemo in the middle of my Spring Break, chemo on the same day as the most impactful episode of Parenthood of the season (I’m Still Here), and finally the end of all the suffering right on the day when all our suffering ended: Good Friday.
Impeccable timing God.  Or as Gandalf would say, “A Wizard is never late, He arrives exactly when he means to.”  Not saying that God is a Wizard, I am saying that God has a purpose for everything.  Good Friday is good to us because it is the day that Jesus took our sins on the cross.  He took all of them so that when we stand before God with Christ as our Savior we will be clean.  We will be clean because Christ paid that price.  It is a really, Good Friday.  Not only do I feel great and know that the migraines are behind me, but I also know that Christ took all the sin suffering that I created myself and took that away today too.  He paid it all.  I owe Him everything.  
Celebrate your Good Friday and continue to Journey Strong.

Magical Blogorail – WDW vs. Disneyland – Frontierland


Welcome to those of you joining me from Disney Nouns and those of you just hopping aboard. I am the  Final stop on our Magical Blogorail.

It is truly like comparing Apples and Oranges when you are trying to compare Walt Disney World and Disneyland.  As we close this riding the rails series, I am going to take a look at one of my favorite lands: Frontierland and its counterpart in California, but in all fairness I am adding in Critter Country to my analysis.  

When we look at Frontierland we see the old west and undiscovered wilderness.  Looking at a map of the Magic Kingdom, Frontierland is located in the top left corner of the park.  If we stretch out a map of Disneyland, Frontierland and Critter Country almost take up the exact same space as Frontierland in the Magic Kingdom.  So are they really that different? Yes and no.



Disney World

Disneyland

Lets look at attractions first. The most obvious overlap is found in the major attraction of the land: Big Thunder Mountain.  Both parks feature this runaway train ride, although the location is slightly different.  Also, Disneyland’s version has just received some major upgrades and will be worth a ride even if you are a veteran park goer.  There are other similar attractions, but the differences become more evident the deeper we go.  Next lets look at Tom Sawyer’s Island.  Both parks feature this great escape from the hustle and bustle of the “main land.”  But only around seven years ago did the islands truly become different from each other.  In Florida, Tom Sawyer still rules the island and most of the theme relates back to the classic Mark Twain novel.  In California, however, Tom Sawyer has been replaced with Captain Jack and the rest of the Pirates crew.  Now dubbed Pirates Lair, Tom Sawyer’s Island even has the bone cage from Dead Man’s Chest that you can run through while exploring.  Around the island, Disney World gives you two transportation options to cruise the Rivers of America: Liberty Square Riverboat and Kneelboats to Tom Sawyer’s Island.   The Liberty Square Riverboat is located in Liberty Square, but it is a very close sibling to the Mark Twain Riverboat, the Disneyland counterpart.  Disneyland offers some unique experiences to ride the Rivers.  You can hop aboard the Sailing Ship Columbia or take an athletic ride in the Davy Crockett Explorer Canoes.  Both of these options are completely Disneyland and you cannot find a copy in Florida.  As we move towards the back of Disneyland, we enter Critter Country, a place that for this article we are considering still in Frontierland.  In Critter Country we find Splash Mountain, an all time favorite.  Although the Splash Mountain in Florida is an almost exact replica of the original in Disneyland, the main difference is the ride vehicle.  In Florida you ride side by side, while in California you get to enjoy sitting in a row front to back.  Odd how this layout is swapped for Space Mountain, but that is another land.  
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Splash Mountain
Now we get to the elephant in the room, or should I say bear in the room.  At Disneyland Critter Country was created originally as Bear Country to hold the Country Bear Jamboree.  At Disney World the Country Bears still reside in Frontierland.  At Disneyland though, you cannot see the Country Bears anymore.  All you can see now is Winnie the Pooh.  Now I must admit that the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh outdoor loading area and queue is interesting, but I am sure there is a big group of devoted fans that miss Henry, Liverlips, and all the others.  

When it comes to dining the biggest similarity would have to be the saloons.  At Disneyland you have the Golden Horseshoe and at Disney World the Diamond Horseshoe, but neither really live up to their former glory days.  The other big dining option in Disney World would be Pecos Bill’s Tall Tale Inn and Cafe with a great fixins bar that almost makes a meal in itself.  At Disneyland you have Big Thunder Ranch and the Hungry Bear Restaurant.  I think the most unique location is Big Thunder Ranch, where the atmosphere changes with the seasons.  This area really reminds me of Fort Wilderness at Disney World only it is in the park and not at a resort.  

Kiosks and shopping change so much, but everyone knows the staple of Frontierland would be to grab a Turkey Leg and watch the parade walk through.  Some of the best images at a Magic Kingdom type park is Frontierland at sunset.  The landscapes and music all combine for great pictures and a relaxing walk.  At night Disney World has little to offer different from what is offered in the daytime, but in Disneyland the Rivers of America come alive with Fantasmic!  I know that veterans of Disney World have a hard time swallowing the view of Fantasmic! on the Rivers of America, but it is a truly magical experience.  The Disneyland version of Fantasmic! offers a few different scenes, my favorite being the Peter Pan scene that utilizes the Sailing Ship Columbia.  Also the Maleficent dragon is pretty incredible. 

Now, while both Frontierlands and Critter Country share the same spirit, there are so many unique twists and turns along the lands that you need to visit each and see for yourself.  

Thank you for joining Magical Blogorail Blue this month.  We will be back on May 15th with an all new theme.  Keep checking in with our blogs in between loops to keep up to date with our Disney news, photos, and stories.  If you are looking for more Disney magic, you can make your way over to The Magical Blogorail website (http://www.magicalblogorail.com/)to see all our members and their blogs, as well as all our previous loops.

I’m Still Here

Disclaimer:  If you watch Parenthood and did not see the episode from tonight 4/10/14 I WILL spoil it for you if you read on.  That is all.

Today is a day that I typically dread.  It’s chemo day.  But today was last chemo day.  So naturally I was pumped.  Don’t get me wrong, I am still pumped to be done.  Since last week I got to spend a great weekend at Lake Bruin, LA with some great friends for some much needed down time.  This week has been super busy at school and I really haven’t had much time to think on the magnitude of this trip to the chemo dock.

Carly surprised me by being at the house when I got off work early today for chemo.  This was a surprise because this morning I did not know who was going to take me and sit with me today and Carly did.  It is truly a blessing to have your spouse so on board and supportive of you no matter what. Also today was the last day for me to get Chick-fil-a before chemo.  I almost could not finish my meal due to the nerves.  They have gotten worse the last three treatments.  I dread nausea and the metallic taste that comes in my mouth for the week after chemo.  I had my Mississippi State Game Day t-shirt on and I truly was ready for it to be over with.  After my last visit to the lab ladies where they take my blood it was again the waiting game.  Finally we were led back to a room to begin.  I felt sick already.

However, my spirits were high.  I constantly updated my facebook and twitter accounts with the final treatment festivities.  Festivities being sitting in a chair getting poison pumped into my bloodstream.  I did however do something unique.  Not only was today the final chemo treatment for me, but it is also Disney’s It’s a Small World’s 50th anniversary celebration.  Last Friday my students and I uploaded a video of us all singing the theme from It’s a Small World to help benefit Unicef.  Our video was epic.  So of course during chemo I watch one of the men that wrote It’s a Small World, Richard Sherman, live in front of the ride in Disneyland answering questions about the song and the ride.  This ride of course gets a song stuck in your head and you will all probably hate me for mentioning it.  But that’s where our connections begin in this blog post.

It’s a world of laughter, a world of tears
It’s a world of hopes and a world of fears
There’s so much that we share
That it’s time we’re aware
It’s a Small World after all  – Richard and Robert Sherman

Readers it truly is a small world.  A great big, beautiful small world.  Over the past 18 weeks I have battled through 8 chemo treatments.  It  has been one of the most terrible experiences of my life, if not the worst.  And yet it has been one of the greatest things that has ever happened to me.  Cancer sucks mainly because it is like the white witch from Narnia.  It comes in all shapes and sizes.  It can be aggressive and angry or it can be slow and sneaky.  No matter which way it comes at you, it disrupts and dismantles.  Through my diagnosis, I have met so many others with similar, easier, and harder diagnosis.  I have met amazing people who have lived through worse treatments than me, and I have seen others who have passed since I started treatment.  The thing is that any one of those people could have been me and I could have been any of them.

Tonight’s episode of Parenthood was incredible.  I told my wife (who currently has to wake up at 3:15) that I needed her to be with me to watch it tonight (which meant staying up til 10:00).  She graciously did.  The reason is that I had seen in passing that a character would be returning to the show for an episode.  That character was Gwen.  Gwen was Christina’s (one of the main characters) friend throughout her bought with breast cancer last season.  Gwen is constantly showing up on the show having a relapse of cancer.  This episode was incredibly tough, because Gwen passes away in the episode.  Christina immediately wants to know why.  Why does she get to live and be a mom, wife, daughter, sister, etc. and Gwen does not.  Why?  It’s such a hard question.  In the end Gwen gives a gift to Christina of money to help open a new charter school for exceptional children.  Carly and I sat on the bed and wept, because that could be me.  That could be me.  I will never stop getting checked for cancer for the rest of my life.  Also that could be my friends, family, or strangers that I will never know.  That could be them.  The weight of this disease is incredible……no wonder it makes you so strong.

Wednesday nights I have had the opportunity to lead a bible study on the book of Romans for the past few months.  Of course I have skipped a few nights because of chemo side effects, but for the most part I am there.  This week we studied Romans 9, which I found tough to teach from.  But, there was a verse that I want to talk about now.

“But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’  Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?”  – Rom 9:20-21

As a sinner, I deserve death, but Christ gives life.  I want to tell God all the time, “I know what’s best for me.  Here is a list of the things you should make happen.”  But see God, the potter took a lump of clay.  The same lump of clay that he used to make everyone else, yes even you.  He took that clay and made something out of it.  He could make a special vase used for special occasions or he could use an everyday cup that gets worn out from daily use.  Both these items fulfill a purpose for His glory and we as the clay have a hard time seeing that purpose from the beginning.  I have no idea why some die from cancer and some live.  I have no idea why I’m still here, but I know who does.  Readers many of you have known me since I was a born, maybe you were even there when I came into the world.  Many of you might have cancer just like me.  Most of you know someone with it.  I want you to remember that we are all from the same clay and the same creator.  We were molded for a certain purpose and put in this small world.  You are still here for a reason.  Right now I am the piece of clay that writes what the Potter tells me to each Thursday night.  I will continue to do that until He tells me it is time to go back on the shelf.

At the end of my chemo today, a few amazing things happened.  The nurses brought me a Purple Heart Certificate to celebrate that I had finished my regimen of chemo.  Now I have a Purple Heart like my grandfather does.  Although Papaw (Jimmy Clayton) got his from the Battle of the Bulge and another off the coast of France.  So completely different, but then I heard the Andy Griffith show theme and remembered Mayberry.  I remembered that right now he is there with no diabetes and he is there with my other grandfather Papaw Knot (Benoit Yelverton) who passed from this cancer disease before I met him.  I know that right now they could be swapping stories of war because one was in Europe and the other in the Pacific.  I just know they are both in Mayberry.

I don’t know all the answers Readers, in fact I know very few of them.  All I know is that there are lessons here for all of us.  We are all so similar to each other.  Love one another.  I also know that I’m still here for a purpose.  And I will continue to serve the one that knows that purpose.  Love God.

“Somewhere down the road, they’ll be answers to the questions
Somewhere down the road, though we cannot see it now
Somewhere down the road, you will find mighty arms reaching for you
And they will hold the answers at the end of the road.” – Amy Grant

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” – Rom 8:28

As Ernest Hemingway said, “no tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.”  I assure you I have cried my share on this post.

I am still here, it’s a small world after all, and there is a reason.  I love you all Readers. Journey strong.

Not what you think

First off let me say this has been a great week….comparatively.  We tried some anti-anxiety medicine to calm down my heart rate and nerves and stop the onslaught of migraines.  This worked.  Also, I took it easy.  I didn’t do much to write about.  Also a gift from our now good friend Patty, has done wonders as well.  She sent me a few boxes of Migraine patches that work sort of like ice packs, aromatherapy, and Dr. Scholls for your head.  At the first tick of a headache, I put one of these cool patches on my head and there is almost instant relief.  Definitely a blessing.  I say that I took it slow this week and I am being honest.  The weather was so beautiful this week and we really wanted to get out and take a walk.  I had the start of a migraine by the time we were around the block.  Home we went and we stopped it before it started.   So needless to say, Chemo has made me pretty pitiful when it comes to athletic activity.  

Another new discovery this week was the bath.  Carly told me I really should try to take a hot bath to relax.  I was skeptical at first, but after I spent half an hour soaking in our jacuzzi tub with the lights out and acoustic guitar pandora playing, I was sold.  I have taken more baths this week than I have in the past 20 years.  Now for us to just put in the hot tub out back…..(or install a Prefects bathroom, that would be even better minus Moaning Myrtle).  
So with this new regimen of medicine, patches, baths, and other sorts I have had a pretty good week.  Those around me have probably had more fun watching me deal with the medicine.  It has made me a pretty goofy person for most of the week.  I already make jokes, but now I am singing and laughing as well.  It’s pretty comical.  But I would much rather be goofy than wiped out from a migraine any day.  So if you catch me singing songs from Footloose or Disney show tunes today, you know why.  
As I have been this different person for the past couple of months I have seen a constant need to change.  Christ calls us each day to leave our selfish desires behind and follow Him.  I am the biggest person at fault for this.  Although Cancer has truly shown me how easily a body is broken down, it has also shown me how easily a will can be.  My words might help others and people might read this blog and think that I have it altogether.  That I have a perfect relationship with Christ, that I make good decisions at every cross roads, that I am never evil minded towards others, that I study the bible and know it front to back, and so on and so on.  I am here to tell you that all that is false.  I am not what you think.
This week I have been a different person due to my goofy side effects.  Daily I am a different person due to how close I am to Christ.  It is posts like these that bring up Brennan Manning and The Ragamuffin Gospel.  I am a beat up and burnt out follower.  The journey is tough and honestly I can’t do it.  Again don’t believe that I am a Saint or some perfect person, no I am the worst.  I am the lowest of low.  So where do I go from here.  Where do I go from knee deep in sin and selfishness.
“But God demonstrates His love like this, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” -Rom 5:8
“My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.” – Brennan Manning
I am reminded of something that a friend told me in college.  Before you sin, Satan reminds you of God’s forgiveness.  After you sin, Satan reminds you of God’s wrath.  What a trick, we are fooled by.  We think we are too dirty, too wrong, too ugly, too broken, too beyond gone, too lost, too mad, too doubtful, too scared, and too much work for God.  We are wrong.  He wants us.
He says come to me those who are hurting, those who are weary, those who long for love.  He says come just like you are, bring all that dirt with you.  I’ll clean you.  
No, God is not what you think either.  He is so much more than any of us can think.  And He wants you with all that comes with it.  What a joy divine.
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Rom 8:38-39