Here is another entry from my first travel journal in 1995.
May 12, 1995 Well, here goes another entry into my “journal”. Yesterday was kind of boring. My nephew, Paolo, came over to my uncle’s house yesterday morning! After breakfast we played for a while. At around 1PM, we went to the mall in Makati: Quad and Shoemart.
Nako! Maraming tao doon! Mayroon mga magandang dalaga rin! Pumenta tayo sa bookstore at mga clothing stores. Bumili akong mga libro may “Pilipino culture”. Bumita ako tagalog libro.
OK, enough Tagalog. I figured I should practice it a little since I am in the Philippines. I tried getting in touch with my other cousins from the States that were also visiting, Eileen and Janice. They were out until 10PM last night. (This was before email, texting, voicemail!) What’s crazy though is that I went to bed at 9PM!
(I’m noticing that whenever I travel overseas, I got to bed early and wake up early!)
I’m noticing that this entry was a “filler.” Not much to talk about… they do get better (I hope…) here is another entry
May 14, 1995
On Friday, I finally got to meet up with my cousins Eileen and Janice. I went over to their Uncle’s house for dinner, We ended up watching a video of their 25th Wedding Anniversary Celebration. It seems like the Filipino here are a lot like the ones in the States: lots of food, laughing, and loud screams of joy. It was kind of funny looking at everyone’s reaction at seeing themselves on TV. After that, we ended up going to a night club in Makati: CATS. Actually, it was like “Asian Persuasion Thursdays at Nectos” in Ann Arbor, only it wasn’t.
The next day I had to get up early to go to San Pablo. On the way there, we stopped at the Galvez resort: “Balik Bayan”. (I think my Aunt owns another one in San Pablo, “Makiling Breeze”.) When I finally got back to San Pablo, I wanted to do some site seeing. Actually, this entry sucks cause I don’t feel like writing anything now.
HAHAHA! I had to force myself to write stuff down back then. The early stages of something that would eventually lead to a blog. At 19 years old, my main interests were in going out and meeting pretty girls.
The second entry from my journal… It was one long flight to the Philippines!
May 10, 1995 (cont)
Captain’s log, supplemental (I was/am such a geek!) My voyage to the Philippines has just begun. I arrived in Manila at 2100. God, I was so tired when we got to Osaka for our connecting flight to Manila. I was just waiting to get on the plane and fall asleep. When we boarded the plane, we were greeted by the most beautiful flight attendants I have ever seen. They were all Filipina + cute too! Wow, I was in shock! Me, being the “stud” that I am, flashed them a flirty smile in return I got a bunch of giggles. That’s cool, but too bad it didn’t actually happen like that. I always act really stupid around pretty girls! The whole 4 hours I couldn’t sleep, partly because of the gorgeous flight attendants and partly because I was really excited to be back in the land where my parents were raised.
When I stepped off the plane it was so damned hot. It didn’t help that the walk to the baggage claim was like 30 miles away and I was carrying 3 tons of carry-on baggage. The second I noticed was the smell in the air. There is no other smell like it in the world. It’s hard to explain but it’s really “thick” and hard to breath, yet it fills your lungs like a good meal would fill your stomach! I don’t think it was smog, but I’m not completely sure it wasn’t. I’ve breathed smog before in NYC and Paris, but this was different. Oh well, I gots to get some rest!
I have a few more entries I’ll post while on vacation… they get more interesting..
I found this old journal while cleaning out my room. I was going back to the Philippines with my Lola (Grandma.) I was in college and traveling overseas for the first time as an “adult”. This was my first overseas “adventure.”
May 9, 1995
Well, I’m on my way to the Philippines again. The last time I was there was when I was in the 6th grade for my Grandma and Grandpa’s 60th wedding anniversary. I stayed there for only a month. This time around, I’m going back with my Lola (my other grandma.) I guess she’s going back and staying there for good. (She actually moved back to Canada for health reasons.) When I first heard about her plans, I jumped at the opportunity to go back with her! I don’t know… I guess there’s a part of me that’s looking for something back there. Maybe I’m looking for an escape from the “real world” or some sort of cultural enlightenment, or maybe I’m looking for a wife… j/k! Right now I’m on the plane to Osaka (Northwest airlines) God, this is boring. “Jurassic Park” is on, and everyone is asleep. Looking after Lola is so weird because she was the one who always looked after me when I was little. It’s kind of strange how things come full circle in life.
The 2015 Celebration of Life was this past Friday. A group of tumor/cancer survivors created this event five years ago to say thanks to the people that were there for us during the most difficult times in our lives: our family, our friends, and fellow survivors. This year Patti McDonald, Vi Ariola, and I did the toasts. We showed the latest Tumors Suck videos. It is getting harder to get people together because everyone is very involved in a variety of different organizations, most notably: Relay for Life, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Stupid Cancer, and First Descents. We welcome ALL to come and celebrate another year together! The purpose of the “Celebration of Life” is to formally say thanks to the people who were there for us in the most difficult times in our lives! We rarely get to do that. I don’t think I ever officially said “thanks!” to all my supporters. We formally recognized them by honoring them with toasts.
Something strange happened that night… I’ve noticed that I always get choked up whenever my family is there for a presentation! My mom, my dad, and my brother went through so much because of me. It is very humbling. Somehow I got them to write “essays” about their experiences with having a loved one going into surgery! Very surprised they did it! When they aren’t present for a talk, I’m fine. I still can’t believe how strong they were for the situation I put them in! I’ve spoken at numerous universities, hospitals, ceremonies, and events all over the world, but put me in front of the people that were there for me when I was “lost”… I get very emotional. I can’t help it! I was confused, scared, and for the first time in my life not confident. I’ve noticed that I now wear my emotions on my sleeve, which is funny because before surgery, I was a very stoic guy! When I’m excited about something, you can tell. I’m also more apt to have an emotional responses to heart-wrenching stories. I always blame my “allergies” when that happens. The past year was particularly tough losing a couple close friends to brain tumors. It does not get any easier. There is a part of me that realizes how close I was to leaving this world or having severely debilitating side effects. It is very humbling. I strongly believe that my prior and current physical activity level played a very large role in my survivorship and subsequent “thrivership”. I’m VERY interested in WHY my survivor friends who are physically active tend to do better after treatment. I’m very curious. The human body is not supposed to be stationary. I think that there must be some relationship between physical activity/exercise and post oncology treatment quality of life.
Anyways, after a very busy September of traveling, I can finally rest! Actually this week, I’m experimenting with the Google hangout in a classroom setting. I’ve done it a couple times, but I’m still trying to perfect it! Then I can rest! I will try to take some screen shots and post it on facebook! Starting to plan MKF activities for next year!
My first trip to UNC-Chapel Hill was packed! I am very interested in their PhD program in Exercise Physiology with an emphasis on post-oncology treatment exercise/physical activity. I’ve noticed that most of the post treatment “thrivers” that are physically active after treatment are actually doing quite well. I always wondered why. Are they more physically active because they take advantage of what they can do (thrive) OR are they able to thrive as a result of their physical activity? There must be some correlation between “post-treatment thrivership” and physical activity and exercise… I do know that exercise/physical activity has benefits. In Physical Therapy school my research mentor, Dr. Jacqueline Drouin, looked at the Effects of Moderate Intensity Exercise on different parameters in Women Undergoing Radiation Therapy for Breast Cancer. I was initially drawn to her research before my brain tumor diagnosis because sadly my family has been affected by cancer on multiple occasions!
Anyways, I was very fortunate to know a few people in Chapel Hill who could help me navigate the campus. My cousin Nick Galvez (who is also a physical therapist) picked me up from the airport and dropped me off at my friend Dr. Carmina Valle’s place. Carmina is a professor in the UNC School of Social Work. She was gracious enough to let me stay in the guest room of their house close to campus. I had a very busy schedule because the following day: I was going to lecture at the DPT program, then talk to someone about returning to school for a PhD, and then explore the accessibility of the campus in Chapel Hill. On top of that I wanted to meet the members of the North Carolina chapter of the Philippine Nurses Association. The campus reminded me of Ann Arbor with the historic architecture, the rich traditions, the school pride, the rivalries, and the restaurants. It is a great College town! After my meeting I got to meet up with some old friends from First Descents for dinner at this fancy-smancy restaurant in Chapel Hill. It was great to catch up with them! After dinner, they dropped me off for dessert at the house of a member of the Philippine Nurses Association. It was great meeting with them and there is def a sense of family in that community! I def felt like I was at an uncle or auntie’s house!
On day 2, Carmina gave me a driving tour of the UNC-Chapel Hill campus before she went to work. It definitely reminded me of Ann Arbor! Later that morning, I had the opportunity to attend a presentation at the School of Social Work by Dr. Ted Trimble, Director of the Center of Global Health at the US National Cancer Institute. It was very interesting to see that internationally there are many cancers associated with obesity. Diet and exercise play such a large role in overall health and well being. I personally am addicted to SUGAR, but at least I’m more aware of it when I eat. I’m doing better limiting my sugar intake, but the Western Diet is so high in sugar. Seriously, start reading labels… notice that there is no “Recommended Daily Allowance” for sugar! That’s kinda weird… I started out by eliminating carbonated drinks and limiting my cookie/dessert intake, but I’m still trying to figure out how to decrease my overall sugar intake. I have noticed that almost every processed food has some form of sugar in it! Even the “heathy ones”! Later in the day, I got to meet with and check out Dr. Claudio Battaglini‘s lab. He is really cool guy looking at the role of exercise post oncology treatment. I was very impressed with all the equipment in his lab. I am familiar with much of it, but I do realize that I need to get more lab time. I’ve been out of academia for over 10 years!
Anyways, here are pictures from Day 1 and Day 2. It was cool because you walk everywhere at UNC, and all the buses were free to ride! I am really concerned about returning to school because I haven’t been in school in over 10 years! I figured that my passion for “post treatment oncology thrivership” will only help to drive my goal of getting involved with oncology exercise research. I was VERY impressed with UNC. The only knock on UNC was the weather, but I’m comparing it to near perfect weather in San Diego. It was cooler temperature-wise and raining, but a welcome change of scenery. Except for the the weather, it was a great trip and has me thinking… I was concerned about the accessibility of the campus. I will definitely visit the disabled student office the next time I come to Chapel Hill! I was pleasantly surprised, but I would have to look at manual chair option + wijit. I’m not 100% confident that the mAss Kicker Mobile could navigate the bus system and drastic changes in weather. Rain is one thing, but hurricanes/snow is a whole different beast. This trip definitely got me thinking…
In a couple weeks, we are having the Celebration of Life. I will be a 10-year survivor on Oct 25. I’m inviting all the people who were there for me in the beginning to say “thanks” for helping me get through the first few years. But more importantly I wanna personally say “thanks” to the people who helped create the “post-brain tumor version of myself!” It will be a very emotional night for me. If you can’t make to the event, please support me here so mAss Kickers Foundation can continue international outreach!
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.
The last few weeks have been crazy. I’m doing a lot of new things A few weeks ago, I took the train up to Los Angeles to attend a UCLA Brain Tumor Research event, 15th Anniversary 2014 “Art of the Brain” Gala. I actually enjoy taking the train to LA because it’s relaxing and you don’t have to worry about traffic. The seats are comfortable and it’s a relatively stress free trip! I don’t know why people don’t take the train more often. As someone who doesn’t like sitting in traffic, the train is a great alternative to the stress associated with traffic and the cost of gas in California! When I got to LA I decided to go on another adventure there! Public transportation. I’m becoming familiar with it in San Diego, but Los Angeles is a whole different beast. I took the bus to UCLA, which was fine with me because I had time to kill before the event! It was like a tour of my old stomping ground when I briefly lived in Los Angeles after undergrad. The bus passed through: Beverly Hills, Hollywood, West Hollywoood, and finally Westwood. When I finally got to the event, I met up with a friend, changed out of my t-shirt and jeans, then scooted around to expore the event venue. I was very impressed with the turnout and amount of donors/vendors associated with the one night event. The event showcased some photographs and paintings created by brain tumors survivors, and a had pretty cool musical performance. There was a really unique string instrument there that stretched from the floor to the ceiling! Very unique and pretty cool. It was the first formal Gala that I have ever attended. There were so many people there… It was ~$300 a plate with so many event sponsors! The highlight of the night for me was meeting more brain tumor survivors. These people understand what it like to live with the after effects of a brain tumor. There is an automatic kinship that is formed immediately when meeting people who “understand”. Traumatic experiences have a tendency to bring people together. I have noticed that the “kinship” among survivors is very powerful. After going through so much alone, it is extremely comforting to connect with people who understand! I felt to same bond when I want up to LA for my first brain tumor event in Hollywood. My buddy let me crash on his couch after the event and took me to the train station the next morning. It was quite a fun trip!
At the beginning of October, mAss Kickers Foundation hosted the annual Celebration of Life ceremony to honor the people that helped us get through everything: our family, our friends, and our fellow survivors. We honored those special people with toasts given by survivors. Here are the videos from the past three years!
The event is literally a Celebration of Life organized and run by survivors. We have met so many cool people at the event. It is a potluck so everyone that attends feels invested in the celebration! We just figured that THE PEOPLE THAT WERE THERE FOR US DESERVE RECOGNITION!
Last week I had the opportunity to go the San Diego, ACS CAN RESEARCH BREAKFAST at Scripps Memorial Hospital. I was attracted to this event because it highlights the promotion of science and research in the fight against tumors/cancer. One of the reasons I did not get involved with the American Cancer Society was because I felt that a lot of their energy was spent on fund raising events. I was very happy to see their commitment to research and advocacy. I’m very attracted to the research side in the fight against ALL forms of tumors/cancer. I do have some knowledge of the research process. I do realize that I’m not qualified to do research myself, but I fully support the organizations and individuals that do.
Things are still keeping me busy. I’m going to Korea next week to speak at a US Military Rehabilitation Conference then meeting up with some American cancer survivors in Singapore to do a presentation about a proactive lifestyle after a tumor/cancer diagnosis. Stay tuned!
It’s been a while since my last post. So much has happened! I went back to Michigan for our Annual Paintball Benefit, my bro came back with me to SD so I got to do some touristy stuff in San Diego, and my fall traveling schedule is finally starting to solidify.
This was the 6th year we’ve had the TUMORS SUCK Paintball Benefit and it is still continuing to grow. This year there were more kids and survivors. Check out the pictures! The “tween” survivor population is starting to come out for the event! We also had a volunteer cameraman from my old high school in Ann Arbor who recorded interviews for us. I was very happy to see more high school athletes from my old high school at the event this year. Hopefully more will come next year to support this event. We also had more survivors and staff attend from the University of Michigan Mott Children’s Hospital Pediatric Oncology Unit. It was cool to see the “gruff” paintballers giving back, teaching kids how to play, and ultimately playing with the survivors. These diseases affect everyone so it is great to see people team up to help each other. The Tumors Suck Paintball Benefit has become a fun event for die hard paintball players to share the fun in paintball with kids and tumor/cancer survivors who want to do something different and enjoy themselves. Each survivor was assigned a “body guard” who’s job is to protect them while completing each game scenario’s mission. It makes it fun for both parties and builds a bond between the survivor and the “body guard!. It is truly unique event that brings people together for a unique and fun time! At lunch, there is always a big raffle where paintball gear and gift certificates are given away! There is always so much given away! The smiles on everyone’s dirty faces at the end of the day only builds the excitement for the next TUMORS SUCK Paintball Benefit. We have plans to expand next year.
After the Paintball Benefit, my brother came back with me to San Diego. Too funny because our collective maturity level drops whenever we are together. We have always been very competitive. Coaches use to pit us against each other all the time to get the best out of both of us! I have a Connect Four set in my place. My brother found it, so naturally I was challenged. We ended up playing a best of 7 series everyday. All I can say is that “Big Brother” officially won in a 4 day sweep. I swear that our collective maturity level drops to junior high level when left alone. Smack talk, put-downs, and bodily noises fill the air whenever we get together. I’ll admit that he has the advantage in the face-slapping department due to my ataxia but my advantage is that I wake up early. Payback will be harsh… We did do some cool stuff tho while he was here. We found a really good empanada place in Pacific Beach! I hadn’t been to Pacific Beach (a college town/beach neighborhood) in a while. So much empanada variety at Papa Luna’s! Will definitely have to go back and try the other ones. I didn’t even know dessert empanadas existed! “Fat Eric” approves. We also went to the USS Midway museum. We grew up watching Top Gun on the VCR during summer breaks, so we were both pretty excited to check it out! The last time we went to a museum this happened. I’m a geek, but put me in a museum and I turn into a HUGE dork who has to know everything! HAHAHA! Starting to confirm my travel schedule for the fall! Looks like I’ll be in Austin, San Francisco, and Michigan for sure. Should have confirmation on a couple international trips soon! Pretty exciting stuff in the works! Can’t wait to announce it! Stay tuned!
So much has happened since my last post! As a child, the month of June not only meant the end of school year, but also the beginning of summer and a bunch of fun activities. Earlier this month, I went back to Michigan for one of my best friend’s 40th birthday! We are all evolving! A few years ago, everyone was getting married and buying houses. Now, kids are started to pop up and priorities are changing. It is so crazy that we are now older than our parents were when they immigrated to the United States to start a new life! It was so cool going back home to Michigan and not having to worry about an event or a speaking engagement. I got to see many of my friends from undergrad at the birthday party. I also got together with some of my friends from grad school for a barbecue! I also got to meet up with some of my mentors from grad school! It was so great catching up with everyone and taking a short break from everything..
I returned to San Diego for our Second Kickball Tournament. This year teams included: Local PT/PTA programs, a team of survivors and their loved ones, a team of PTs, and the defending champs! It is really turning into a fun event! This year, we let the family members of survivors play so a bunch of little kids made some great plays playing with their parents! Pretty cool seeing families play together! Things went very well. We see a lot of potential for expansion! It was great seeing future healthcare professional interacting with the families affected by tumors/cancer. We are making plans to recreate this event with other PT/PTA programs in different states!
The week after the kickball tournament, I had the opportunity meet with the Founders of the Belgium Based website, Esperity. They are early in their development, but they share with MKF a strong interest in clinical trial recruitment. They realize that common cancers like breast or prostate cancer get the most research funding and get the most subjects recruited for research studies because of their prevalence. If we can combine resources globally on clinical research studies for the less prevalent tumor/cancer types, this could address the need for the recruitment of rare tumor/cancer subjects. EVERYONE BENEFITS! Instead of looking in one region, lets search the world for eligible research subjects. It makes sense to me. Collaboration is key, but people need to understand the benefits of participating in clinical research. It was great to hear their vision and add my input! I’m still not sure how an international “IRB” would manage this, but it is an interesting concept. We’ll definitely have to keep an eye out of them.
After our meeting, I wanted to relax, so I stopped by Lucha Libre Taco Shop. As a kid, I was really into pro-wrestling. I am proud to say that I was going crazy at Wrestlemania 3 at the Pontiac Silverdome when Hulk Hogan slammed Andre the Giant. When I heard about a luchador (masked pro-wrestlers) themed taco shop in San Diego I had to check it out! Nacho Libre was one of the silliest movies I had ever seen, but it awakened my inner-child! The 11 year-old version of myself would not have been disappointed by Lucha Libre Taco Shop. The place was covered with luchador memoriabilia and bright colors that screamed “NOTICE ME!” Of course, the food was incredible! Their California Burrito was rated as one the top 10 in San Diego by San Diego Surfers. The place literally had a line out the door! The menu did not disappoint! If I like something, I tend to order it again. The California Burrito has been my “Go-To” order for years. I’m just now starting to explore San Diego Mexican food outside of my first love, the California Burrito. I will definitely have to return and try something different…
Anyways, still have a lot on my plate… gearing up for our paintball benefit in MI in August… stay tuned!