A brain tumor is not necessarily a "death sentence".
However, it is a life changing occurrence!
Welcome to "They Call Me 'Galvez'". My friends really do. I can be friends with almost anybody! I'm just a regular guy that had a brain tumor and wants to do something positive with it. This web site is dedicated to my unique journey over the last year. I'm a 31 year old physical therapist in beautiful San Diego, California. I was diagnosed with a golf-ball sized brain tumor in September 2005. I had brain surgery a month later to remove it. It took me almost 1 year to fully recover. I've always believed that things happen for a reason. I really feel like all my life experiences helped me to deal with this crushing diagnosis. I have led a very interesting life thus far, but I still have a lot of things I need to do. After the surgery, I was receiving rehab at the hospital where I used to work. The people I used to work side by side with were now treating me as a patient! Please take your time browsing this site to learn more about my wild ride through this unique experience. If you’re a student or brain tumor patient, drop me a line; I'd love to hear from you
September has always been a month full of excitement… the start of school, the start of football season, the baseball pennant race starts to heat up, cool (but not cold) weather, cider mills… so much to get excited about! This year I started September on a plane to Brussels. Check out the pictures and videos from our trip. Blogs should be coming soon from participants! Check mAssKickers.org soon. It was an EPIC trip! mAss Kickers Foundation took 4 post oncology treatment thrivers to Belgium and made some great connections in Europe. We will definitely be returning to Europe!
To close out September, I’ll be traveling to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to look at a PhD program. Just exploring my options, but I’m always up for a new challenge. I’m lecturing at the PT school, then visiting their PhD program. I’m very excited to visit Dr. Claudo Battaglini’s lab and the “Get REAL & HEEL” Exercise/Physical Activity Program for Oncology patients. I’m excited because I’ve never really hung out in the Southern East Coast and I have family and friends around UNC! Should be an exiting end of the month! October is is going to be a very packed month as well! We have our Celebration of Life event on October 16, where survivors formally thank the people who were there for them with toasts! I’ll be giving the final toast of the night and celebrating my 10 years of meningioma brain tumor survivorship, so hopefully many of the people who were there for me can make it so I can formally thank them! SUPPORT US HERE!
I spent the second half of my trip in Dallas, TX. I had two reasons for going to Dallas:
1. I wanted to check out the PhD program at TWU. (I guess I can let the cat out of the bag now. *BTW “let the cat out of the bag” is a weird phrase*) I was always very interested in doing research on the positive effects of exercise/physical activity in post treatment life for survivors. One of my mentors in PT school was looking at the effects of moderate intensity exercise on different parameters in women undergoing radiation therapy for breast cancer. I am doing very well physically after my treatment. I’ve always believed that my physical activity level pre-surgery and my physical activity level after my medical treatments have helped me to overcome potentially debilitating impairments. I feel like I am doing better than anyone expected based on the location of my tumor and my current physical activity level. I am not 100% recovered, but I do realize that things could have been A LOT worse! I emerged from this whole ordeal with a new appreciation for living life to the fullest! Things rarely bother me. The brain tumor ultimately ended my young career as a physical therapist, but I’m slowly accepting the fact that I am now physically disabled. That is still a tough pill to swallow, but it did open the door for me to seize other opportunities to use my knowledge and experiences to benefit those fighting a tumor/cancer diagnosis! I think that research is the best way to directly do this!
2. I was going to Dallas to speak for the first time in the Asian American Professional Community about getting active in the non-profit sector! The National Association of Asian American Professionals (NAAAP) is a non-profit organization that cultivates and empowers Asian & Pacific Islander leaders through professional development, community service, and networking. In college I was very involved in the Filipino-American and Asian-American communities. While I was at the conference, I got meet the leadership of the the NAAAP San Diego chapter. It was interesting being at the conference because lately most of the conferences I attend are either survivorship related or healthcare related. It was refreshing being at a conference surrounded by Asian people. Again, I stuck out like a sore thumb because I was in a scooter, but it is always nice being around people with similar backgrounds!
I’ve realized that in order to make an impact, I need to step out of my comfort zone and actively make things happen. Ever since PT school, I have been intrigued by research. I’m looking to get more involved in the research process. While I’m sure that I don’t fit the mold of a typical PhD student, I feel like I could bring a unique perspective to any program that I apply. I just got my DPT loans forgiven, so I can take on more debt and start researching programs more seriously. I’m got a couple more programs in my sights, but it is still a feeling out process because this could be the next 3 or 4 years of my life. Anyways, it was great visiting old friends in Dallas… their four-year-old son was keeping everyone on their toes! He was cracking me up because seeing my friends as parents made me realize how much “growing up” I still need to do! It didn’t hit me earlier because after all the weddings, babies start popping out. Babies don’t talk or do much independently, so they are like “pets”. But when they start talking about their thoughts and emotions, they become people. However, you have to be careful what you say around them because they absorb everything! I am amazed at how quickly a TV show can calm them down! Most of my friends from grad school and undergrad have young kids now. I can’t wait till they get older so I can tell them embarrassing stories about their parents!
This trip to Dallas was a great way to reconnect with my roots and a preview the potential of a new professional path. I’m still fully committed to mAss Kickers Foundation, but I’m definitely going to need more help running it now! Next month mAss Kickers Foundation is teaming up with the European organization, Esperity to connect four American post-oncology treatment thrivers with European survivors. None of us have been to Belgium, so this will be a totally new experience for all of us. Stay tuned! Some cool stuff is about to go down! I’m never bored. I think I may have Attention Deficit Disorder. 😛
The past 2 weeks have been packed! I went home for the 2015 TUMORS SUCK! Paintball Benefit in Pinckney, MI. There were more kids this year and all the paintball teams do a great job making sure everyone has a good time. Under the leadership of Angel Bureau, Andy Wlodyga, and the “Mitten Men” the event has grown even bigger. It is always great to see people unite for a great cause! For parents, it’s a unique way to PLAY with you kids/family. The speed of the paintballs was turned down and the age limit was dropped to 6 years old to make the event more friendly to the “newbies” and more become more family oriented! It was great to see quite a few parents playing with their kids this year! It is definitely a unique way to do a family fun event! This year there were 2 paintball “tanks” where survivors could go out onto the field and shoot their paintball guns at people without return fire… “FEAR THE TANK”. It was great seeing families having fun doing something unique together! I give props to the all the moms and dads that played paintball with their kids! HAHAHA! Parents are always cleaning up after their kids. It’s not often that parents get to have fun getting messy WITH their kids! It definitely was cool seeing the kids having fun for a good cause! We are creating a new generation of mAss Kickers who enjoy supporting our unique activities. The Paintball Benefit gets bigger and more fun every year! We always look forward to welcoming new people to the event! Everyone does 5Ks or Event Galas to promote their causes. While we think that it is great, we wanted to do something unique and fun for everyone. Andy is one of my closest friends from growing up and when he found out that I was battling a brain tumor, he wanted to create a unique event to support the young organization I had created, mAss Kickers Foundation. He brought in his significant other, Angel Bureau to organize the event logistics. They do a great job every year recruiting players, volunteers, securing sponsors, and raising funds for mAss Kickers Foundation! We even created a website specifically for the the event in the hopes of expanding the event to other venues in different states. We are very excited about the potential for growth! IT IS A VERY UNIQUE AND FUN EVENT FOR EVERYONE!
After the paintball event, I traveled to Dallas, TX to participate in the National Association of Asian American Professionals. It was only the second time I’ve attended one of their events. In college, I was very involved with the Filipino-American and Asian American communities. I’m looking forward to getting re-involved to address oncology disparities in the Filipino-American and Asian American populations. Stay tuned for Part 2 of this post from Dallas!
The past few months, I’ve been getting EXTREMELY busy! This is not a bad thing, but it doesn’t leave me much time to relax and do the things I enjoy. I’m finding that my hours are extremely odd, I typically wake up at 6AM, take a 1-2 hour siesta around 3PM, and go to bed around 11 or if i’m feeling like a “rebel” 12AM. Since I don’t have the energy to do anything for 8 hours straight anymore, I have to manage my time very cautiously! To keep my sanity, I’ve found that going to the movies is a great escape. I never would have thought going to the movies by myself would be something that I enjoy doing, but I find it relaxing being surrounded by strangers enjoying something together. It’s kinda reminds me of enjoying a big sporting event. I remember going to my first University of Michigan football game at “The Big House” as a kid in Ann Arbor. I remember being in awe of 110,000 screaming fans cheering on “my” Wolverines. I was hooked! There is really nothing like it! On a smaller scale, I really enjoy that same crowd atmosphere when watching a good movie. That’s why I really enjoy going to opening weekend blockbuster movies. It is kinda ironic that “an escape” for me is getting lost in a group of people enjoying a large event! Experiencing something for the first time with a large group of people is extremely exciting for me. I like going by myself because I like to unwind and just get lost in the story. I typically like going to animated movies or action movies because they don’t require much thinking. I don’t like horror or romance movies because I don’t like being jumpy, and romantic movies I find “cheezy”… In a way, I haven’t really grown up because the things that entertained me at 10 years old still entertain me now! I guess that mentality keeps me “young at heart”. hee hee hee…
Had an AWESOME time at ComicCon! I haven’t been inside the convention center since 2010, but I still went downtown to experience the festivities on Friday and Saturday! This popped in my head as I rode the trolley home surrounded by costumed freaks and geeks… In college, I took a couple classes in Classical Mythology… Greek Mythology and Roman Mythology. We read the classics like Homer’s The Odessey, Homer’s The Illiad, and Virgil’s The Aeneid. After a weekend at ComicCon, it dawned on me that modern comic books have themes that are very similar to Classical Mythology. You have:
heroes and villans;
heroes with super powers that need to commit “trials” to save people;
“ordinary people” who step up and become extraordinary heroes (the hero’s journey).
There is definitely a structure to each hero’s journey and the heroic archetypes. I realized that there are so many similarities between modern heroes and the ancient heroes. Check out these similarities…
Superman: Hercules, invincible but with one weakness (cutting his hair=kryptonite)
Batman, Spiderman: Odesseus, tragedy breeds a call to action,
Superman, Luke Skywalker: Perseus, orphaned son with special powers
Alfred Pennyworth (Batman), Aunt May (Spiderman), Obi-wan Kenobi (Star Wars): The wiseguide
X-Men: “imperfect” greek demi-gods with special powers
Harvard Classics Professor Gregory Nagy explains it by saying, “It’s not that they were ‘believed’ . . . Rather, myths about heroes were accepted as valid narratives about moral truths”. In a way, comic books recreate these myths, but for different reasons. In the “Golden Age” of comic books (late 1930’s to 1950s), the superheroarchetype was created, and many famous characters debuted, including: Superman, Batman, Captain America, Wonder Woman, and Captain Marvel. The world needed heroes to look up to for World War II.
In the Silver Age of comics, from 1956 to 1970, the popularity and circulation of comic books about superheroes declined following World War II. Comic books about horror, crime and romance took larger shares of the market. In contrast to previous eras, Silver Age characters were “flawed and self-doubting”. Characters such as Spider-Man, the X-Men and the Hulk popped up during a time period of social upheaval and the rise of a youth counterculture in the 60’s. Comic book readers of the Silver Age were more scientifically-inclined than previous generations. Thus, comic books of the Silver Age explained superhero phenomenons and origins through science, as opposed to the Golden Age, which commonly relied on magic or mysticism.
The Bronze Age of comics 1970-1985 was characterized by more mature and modern comic books. More ethnically diverse characters were also created such as Marvel‘s Luke Cage (who was the first black superhero to star in his own comic book in 1972, followed a year later by Black Panther in Jungle Action), Storm, Blade, DC‘s Green Lantern John Stewart, Bronze Tiger, Black Lightning,Vixen, Cyborg and Monica Rambeau. Characters such as Luke Cage, Mantis, Misty Knight, Shang-Chi, and Iron Fist have been seen by some as an attempt by Marvel Comics to cash in on the 1970s crazes for Kung Fu movies. In the 70s, there were also a lot of super hero Team ups / Cross overs. I remember getting my first comics books in this period. My parents actually let me subscribe to comic books via mail. I’ll never forget the first comic book I got in the mail… The Amazing Spider-Man #238 where the Hobgoblin first appeared! Part of me thinks it was a ploy for me and my brother to check the mail daily because as a kid, you very rarely receive anything in the mail box. When we got mail it was exciting! It worked because it got me reading and appreciating good stories.
In the Modern Age of Comics (from the mid-1980s to present) we are seeing more of these stories in Pop Culture (popular culture) because the “hero’s journey” is constantly repeated yet still an entertaining escape from reality! The super hero has evolved from socially moral god-like characters in the 1930s to the modern anti-hero with particular character flaws. Regardless, they have become a major source of entertainment in Hollywood because everyone can relate to them. It’s no coincidence that many of the big summer block buster movies are comic book related… Spider Man, the Avengers, Batman, Superman… all with great super hero stories. These stories are filed with classical mythology concepts. These modern mythology themes makes me wonder how people in the future will look at our 20th Century Pop Culture and our “Modern Mythology”.
There is so much that can be learned by understanding origins of things… On the surface these comic book stories appear to be for kids, but in actuality they represent evolution of centuries of classic mythology. I found this great article online that discusses this deeper.
I’m actually going to be in town this year for the World Famous San Diego Comic Con! I went downtown last year for the festivities, but I haven’t been inside the actual convention center since 2010… going downtown is always fun because there are a lot of people in costumes dressed up for people watching, there is something going on, and of course FREE PROMOTIONAL STUFF! It’s like Halloween in warm weather. I went to my first Comic Convention in Michigan back in the 90s actually, a friend dragged me to a Star Trek convention too. I didn’t wear a costume though… I won’t get dressed up for anything unless I have too. In high school, I was the typical jock. I played sports every season, but I was secretly obsessed with science fiction and comic books. Over the years, I’ve learned to embrace my geekiness! You can try to hide it or learn to embrace it. I’m proud to be different.
Oh man… there will be so many costumed characters in San Diego next weekend! It will fun people watching! Last year I got a kick out of this guy playing the “Ocarana of Time” from the Legend of Zelda outside the Gaslamp trolley stop. I wasted so much time playing this video game! I don’t know what was worse: me playing for hours in the living room OR my roommates watching me play for hours and giving me STRATEGIC advice… HAHAHA! Anyways… Been laying the ground work for a VERY BUSY Sept, Oct, and Nov… Stay Tuned! Some BIG NEWS is coming!
This summer I hit the 40 mark! Hard to believe because I still consider myself a kid at heart! People always think I’m younger because I can be pretty immature. It has been a crazy ride! My 20s were all about finding out who I am. I became comfortable with my inner geek and discovered my Asian American and Filipino American Pride. My 30s were about discovering what I’m capable of. A couple years after I earned a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree, EVERYTHING was taken away and I had to find the new me. I was re-born as a young “brain tumor thriver” after a shocking period of uncertainty. Things could have “ended” much sooner, but I feel very blessed to have made it this far! A brush with your mortality puts things in perspective. I definitely appreciate things more. I’m more laid back now, however my passion in fighting ALL forms of tumors/cancers is only getting stronger. I think my 4th decade of life is full of potential! I’m still learning to adapt my skills and experiences into my new passion for life. I appreciate what I have, but there is much work to be done in combating these diseases. There are so many different professional paths to choose. The options are only limited by my imagination. One thing is certain, I will continue expressing my feelings about tumors/cancer and educating others about a proactive lifestyle after a tumor/cancer diagnosis! PEOPLE NEED TO KNOW THAT THERE IS LIFE AFTER A TUMOR/CANCER DIAGNOSIS!
mAss Kickers Foundation has some big plans in the works internationally! We are teaming with Esperity, an international oncology social media platform, on a very unique event. This will be very cool!
La Mesa, California USA – On June 6, 2015 Nine teams that consisted of physical therapy students, physical therapists, health care professionals, cancer survivors, and community members gathered at Helix High School Sports Fields for a unique event to support mAss Kickers Foundation’s 2015 Charity Kickball Tournament. Teams competed for the coveted Championship P.I.M.P. (Pugilistic Individual Mass-Kickn’ with Pride) Chalices. Check out some of the picture!
The event was created to support mAss Kickers Foundation’s “How to Kick mAss” International Thrivership Program. Internationally, cancer survivorship is not as prominent as it is in the United States. mAss Kickers Foundation’s goal is to educate the future healthcare professionals, current healthcare professionals, and patients to dispel the negative stigma that cancer is a death sentence.
mAss Kickers Foundation firmly believes that the global stigma of a tumor/cancer diagnosis as a death sentence needs to be addressed and that tumor/cancer thrivers can be both a symbol and voice of hope in dispelling the myth that cancer is a death sentence. Over the past two years, we have taken survivors to: Tokyo, Japan; Manila, Philippines; Seoul, South Korea; and Singapore, Singapore to meet other survivors in different countries AND lecture to health professionals/oncology researchers about the survivor experience. Plans are in the works to take survivors to meet other survivors and present in Brussels, Belgium later in 2015.
Please consider a tax-deductible donation and support your favorite Kickball Team or Kickball Player to support our plans to educate the WORLD about a proactive life after a tumor/cancer diagnosis. We are looking forward to visiting another continent! No other organization is doing this yet! Be a part of something new and exciting! Any thing will help! We are almost to our goal!
They Call Me Galvez
He was diagnosed with a Brain Tumor. He is a physical therapist that became a patient. He became someone he's always tried to help. He's published 2 books, started an organization, started a business. What is he up to now?
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