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Blog and Random blog and reviews23 Oct 2014 10:38 am

AOBwebThe 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!

2014 Celebration of Life logo

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!

acscan-logoLast 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!

Blog and family and Random blog11 Oct 2014 12:31 pm

My grandfather is still inspiring me even though he passed away my sophomore year of high school.  A few years ago, we went to the Philippines for my aunt and uncle’s wedding anniversary and grew interested in the things my grandpa did.  My brother and I brought a camera with us and we made our one of our first videos. My cousin Jojo Calora found some old yearbooks from his early years at East High School (now gone) in Minneapolis, Minnesota and from the University of Minnesota where he was a Chemistry Major.  It blows my mind knowing that he was one of the FIRST Filipino exchange students in the United States in the 1920s!  After that, he spent some time in Germany and got his PhD!  This was probably right before World War II and the rise of Nazi Germany!  I still can’t believe he was there!  He returned to the Philippines and was a Professor in Soil Sciences.  Anyways, I wish I knew more about him.  I’m sure that he had a bunch of interesting stories!  I was told that he used to visit us in Michigan when we were babies and toddlers.  The only thing that I remember was that he would always pinch our cheeks.  I hated that… His activity in the midwest probably explains how we ended up in Michigan.  I am so proud to be descended from such an interesting man!  I was surprised to learn that he even has a High School named after him and a lecture hall dedicated to him in the Philippines!  Our dad is a reserved guy, so we never talked about this stuff growing up… kinda cool that we can actually do our own research!

grandpa high school 1922

high school in Minnesota in the 1920s

grandpa college

College in the 1920s at the University of Minnesota

Blog and Random blog and reviews18 Aug 2014 04:34 pm

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.

paintball 14This 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.

connect-4After 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!

Blog and Random blog and reviews01 Jul 2014 09:43 pm

michigan-county-mapSo 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..

2003-mr-olympia-92_20090831_1380869138I 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!

2014 esperity meetingThe 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.

lucha libre1After 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!

Blog and Random blog26 May 2014 04:54 pm

holiday2

Memorial Day Weekend used to have a completely different purpose/meaning for me.  In college, I used to go to my fraternity’s national convention Memorial weekend.  Of course we met to discuss issues of expansion and business, but it was also like a “mini Spring Break.”  The convention always coincided with a sorority’s national convention so there were no shortages of mixers and social events that weekend!  After college, my friends kept the tradition of meeting up Memorial Day weekend alive.  We use to make a concerted effort to meet up and stay in touch.  Many of my friends decided to get married Memorial Weekend thus keeping the Memorial Weekend tradition alive.  We have so many crazy stories from those weekends!  Now that many of my friends are now starting families and becoming respected professionals, the time for reunions/get together are becoming rare.   I’ve also started to appreciate the true meaning of Memorial day: Honor the men and women who gave their lives for the freedoms we enjoy in this country!  Being in San Diego with so many military personnel has made me appreciate the job that they do to defend our way of life.  To actually meet people, in the Military is very humbling.  Sacrificing time away from their family and dedicating their life for a cause larger than themselves is something I truly admire.  When I was younger, I didn’t appreciate the sacrifices these people make to serve their country.  I’ve gotten to meet so many members of the Military and I’ve grown to respect all of them.  Many of my own personal beliefs are very similar to their values.  I have so much respect for their code!   Let’s not forget the reason WHY we have this holiday!  Thank you to all that serve or who have served!

 

Blog and Random blog05 Apr 2014 04:32 pm

On Tuesday last week, I was featured on the front page of the Health section of the San Diego Union-Tribune Newspaper.  The days leading up to the publication reminded me of playing sports in high school and anxiously waiting for the write-up after a good game/match.  It’s funny, because I’m a pretty laid-back guy. I’ve never sought to be the center of attention, but now I’m learning to “embrace” it and become a proud advocate for “post-treatment thrivership”.  Thriving starts with attitude.  Attitude breeds confidence. Whether that confidence is real or an act, it creates a strong sense of UNITY between the individual fighting and his/her supporters.  I have observed it numerous times in the 8 years since my diagnosis.  I call it being a mAss Kicker.  The right attitude in the face of an intimidating obstacle can be a powerful factor in the fight against tumors/cancer.  LET’S KICK MASS TOGETHER!

Blog and housekeeping and mAss Kickers news and Random blog30 Mar 2014 05:55 am

I HATE stereotypes and preconceived notions. Everyday, I have to deal with these things as both a brain tumor survivor and a person with physical impairments. I thought my professional background as a Doctor of Physical Therapy would prepare me for this, but I still found things very frustrating.  I’ve experienced first hand that there is still a stigma associated with people with disabilities. Early in my recovery, I was confined to a wheel chair and had to rely on people pushing me around if I wanted to go ANYWHERE. It used to drive me CRAZY when I was in my wheelchair and people assumed that I couldn’t understand them.  People would talk directly to whom ever was pushing my wheelchair, completely ignoring me sitting right in front of them!  I became a “second-class person.”   As a “free spirit” and social creature, that drove me nuts!  I was also reduced to an “elementary school kid” since I couldn’t go anywhere unless somebody was willing to take me.  I felt like I was in an adult sized “stroller” whenever I was in the wheelchair.   I realized that once a patient in outpatient rehab goes home after their physical therapy appointment… those impairments are STILL THERE and go home with the patient as well!  It was easy ending the day as a physical therapist.  I would finish up my paperwork and leave my “work mindset” at work.  Taking my post-surgery impairments home with me from a physical therapy appointment, made me realize that rehab is a full time gig.  I couldn’t leave things on my desk to address later.  As a physical therapist, we teach independence/ modified independence for rehab patients.  To experience it first hand has definitely been an eye opening journey. 

It gets frustrating at times not being able to do the things that I used to enjoy doing.  All of my hobbies(surfing/racing) and my career as a doctor of physical therapy were taken aways from me after brain surgery.  A large part of the old me was gone.  I was left with the dilemma, “What do I do now?”   I’ve learned how to adapt to my impairments. My mind /cognition still functions as it always has, but I still get a lot of curious stares from people because I now use a mobility scooter AKA the “mAss Kicker Mobile” to get around.  I’ve learned to ignore those stares, but occasionally I still notice them.  I hope that someday people can look past the scooter and crutches I use for mobility and see the individual WITH those assistive devices.  Those things are now a part of my life, but they don’t define me.  They are hard to ignore, but they are only a part of who I am NOW!  Granted, my goals in life have changed but I’m on a new path is starting to emerge where I can still use my education/experiences to teach others about a living life after a devastating diagnosis.  I’m having A LOT OF FUN discovering new hobbies and interests, but part of me misses the activities that I used to enjoy.

My personal experiences have led me on an exciting new journey around the world! I’ve traveled all over the United States talking about my experiences on both sides of rehabilitation.  Recently, I’ve taken the message of  “post-treatment thrivership” international.  Last year mAss Kickers Foundation, the organization I started, took a group of cancer survivors to the University of Hawaii, Manoa and Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines to speak to college students about life after a tumor/cancer diagnosis.  We also went to Tokyo and met with fellow survivors in Japan.  We’re trying to set up more international talks to spread our message of “post treatment thrivership.”  A strong global community needs to be created to efficiently fight these diseases.  A strategy is starting to form… We’ve started a “How To Kick Mass” educational program for: Healthcare students, healthcare professionals, and for cancer survivors.  The world needs to know and see that there is life after a tumor/cancer diagnosis.  I think that young adult “thrivers” (proactive survivors) are the perfect messengers for this… “All I Ever Wanted to Do” was help people.  It is the reason that I initially chose a career in physical therapy. In the past 8 years I’ve used my physical therapy background to adapt and discover new skills I can use to HELP PEOPLE!  The next few years should be exciting!  Please check out mAss Kickers Foundation a consider a donation to support the further growth of the organization and our programs.  STAY TUNED!  I COULD ALWAYS USE HELP WITH THE NEXT BIG STEP!

Blog and Random blog15 Mar 2014 09:44 am

I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching lately.  Not because anything was wrong.  I’ve have just felt like something has been missing.  One of things that I’ve started doing is exploring my spirituality.  I feel very fortunate to be able to do all the things I’m able to do.  I figured out how to get around (mAss Kicker Mobile/ public transportation), how to fill my days (mAss Kickers Foundation), but most importantly I found new hobbies/activities (reading, writing, making videos) that I can appreciate.  I do realize that things could have been A LOT more difficult based on the location and size of my brain tumor!  I’ve been going back to catholic church for mass since the beginning of the year.  I was finding that for years I’d go to mass and go through the motions for 50 minutes without understanding the reasons.  Recently, I’ve taken a different approach finding the connections between the readings.  It made things a lot more interesting for me trying to figure out the connections between the first reading, Second reading, and the Gospel.  I will not categorize myself as a religious zealot or a robotic scientist.  However, I do realize that there needs to be a balance between science and faith.  You can’t reason faith.  Faith is not tangible or even quantifiable.  Either you have faith or you don’t.  On the other hand, you will have a hard time disproving traditional scientific laws.  I think my attitude falls safely between “religious zealot” and “scientific robot.”  I’ve had many informal conversations with friends discussing this.  Each side in the argument of religion vs science has no definitively correct answer.  I’m neutral.  I can accept the fact that the beliefs in each faction are extremely different, but I like to take pieces from both perspectives.  I see the value in both.  My mind sees the value in science, yet my heart cannot ignore the benefits of faith.  After going through so much the past few years in my personal rehabilitation/recovery, I have realized that along with my scientific/healthcare background…FAITH has help me accomplish much.  Nobody told me a definitive prognosis after major surgery and months/years of rehabilitation.  I had to turn to my faith (for many it is divinity or God) that I will get back on my feet (literally).  In my case, it was Catholicism.   It is not my place to say one religion is better than the other.  As long as “FAITH in something” is present, the soul should have some sort of  guidance ultimately leading to a common moral order. Holy wars that have been fought for generations have always focused on the differences in beliefs.  Why not focus on the similarities in those beliefs?  Are the beliefs really that extreme?  I’m looking forward to exploring other faiths.  If only there was more time in the day…

Blog and movies and Random blog and reviews02 Mar 2014 11:06 pm

Movies are a great escape from everyday life.  It is easier for me to get lost in a good movie vs a good TV series because I don’t have the patience to wait every week for each cliff hanger.  I like reading books, but it takes me awhile to feel engaged in a good book.  Movies are convenient little vacations for my imagination.  I only have to invest a couple of hours into a good movie story vs days or weeks with a good television show or book. I’m a slow reader because I like to absorb every detail in every word/sentence a writer creates.  I really started watching movies with my brother over the summer breaks on VHS.  Before we really got involved with sports, we used to watch a lot of movies… The Rocky movies, the original Star Wars Trilogy, Top Gun, the original Karate Kid, and corny comedies like Top Secret were played everyday.  Movies tend to hold my attention because the good ones always have awesome soundtracks that enhance the story.  That lead to the creation of the Reversal Blook Soundtrack and the Awakening Blook Soundtrack.  I’ve found that early on movies were a great means of entertainment!  Luckily, I currently live really close to three movie theaters!  This week I went to the Ultra Star theaters twice on work nights to see The LEGO movie and a Kung-Fu movie through the Pacific Arts Movement, Journey to the West.

The LEGO movie appears on the surface to be a kid movie, but there were plenty of witty jokes and references that adults would actually appreciate.  There were many references to common everyday items given diabolical names with the emphasis on the wrong syllable to make them sound like elaborate evil villain weapons.  Pretty creative.  I met up with a San Diego movie club for the first time.  They go pretty much every week to catch the latest shows at “cheap movie night”.  Luckily it is only 2 trolley stations away, so I think I will be going there more frequently.

2 days later, I went back to Ultra Star Theater and saw Journey to The West, which was a featured movie of the Pacific Arts Movement.  The theater was packed!  There is definitely a community of Asian Film fans in San Diego.  I’m definitely going to be exploring the San Diego movie scene more frequently!   I’ll admit that I’ve always been a big fan of animation, science fiction, and fantasy.  If I wasn’t into sports growing up, I probably would have been considered a nerd. As a kid, my family really encouraged me to like science so I never really got to explore my creative side.  Sports was a huge part of my adolescence.  Naturally, physical therapy, a profession that combined “the science of healing and the art of caring”, was the perfect profession for me. I always liked creating stuff, so when my career was impeded by my physical disabilities, my creative side came to the forefront.  In hindsight, I was drawn to the profession of physical therapy because I could be creative in how we addressed the impairments in patients.  After assessing each patient’s impairments the physical therapists help patients create plans of care/goals to address those impairments. That was always the fun part of physical therapy for me… co-creating the plan of care with patients and working together to meet those goals!

Anyways, I watched the Academy Awards tonight so I’ll def have to catch 12 Years A Slave and Dallas Buyer’s Club.  Movies are becoming a new hobby.  I wonder how you get involved in the production of them…

 

Blog and Random blog08 Feb 2014 03:25 pm

Music has the magical ability to transport you to a different place, time, or situation.  A couple months ago I found a bunch of old cassette tapes in my room back in Michigan.  I was dying to listen to a few of my old mix tapes that I made in the late 80s and early 90s.  Before iTunes, Napster, and CDs… I used to record songs off the radio from the show, Rick D’s Top 40.   I even found a few of the first cassettes albums I bought!  My friend let me borrow her cassette player to figure out what songs were in my old collection of cassettes.  I was really into hair bands and pop music growing up because I had easy access to those genres through the radio.  Before my rock-n-roll phase, I remember singing Barry Manilow songs and “Tiny Bubbles” with my dad on guitar as a toddler.  I’m pretty sure we lost those “recording sessions”(at least I hope they are lost.)  When I got to junior high, I realized that those songs weren’t going to be cool with my friends… HAHAHA!  My interests shifted to the music my friends thought were cool.  The Beastie Boys, Michael Jackson, Aerosmith, Guns N’ Roses, and Def Leppard were huge influences on me.  When I got older, our family got our first video camera.  I used to tape my brother and cousins lip syncing songs… usually these lip syncs ended up me filming them jumping off stuff with cool background music.   Anyways, I borrowed my friend’s cassette player to find out what songs were on those old cassette tapes.  What I found took me back to an innocent and curious time.  I was transformed into the quiet and awkward pre-pubescent version of myself who was still trying to figure things out!  These were a few of the songs:

Hee hee… those songs brought me back to a simpler time where my only worries were: getting good grades, winning the football game at recess, and learning as much as I could about EVERYTHING!  People always assumed I was a quiet guy, but in reality I think I was just being extra “observant” about everything.  I recently found the Goldbergs on TV.  That show cracks me up because it embodies my awkward years in the 80’s.  Of course the 90’s, 2000’s, and 2010’s were also “awkward” in their own ways, but I’ve learned to embrace the awkwardness.

Freaks and Geeks was a short-lived TV “dramady” about high schoolers from the early 80s trying to fit in.  Some big names in movies came out of that show: Judd Apatow, James Franco, Seth Rogan, and Jason Segel are a few.  Although it only lasted one season, it is definitely one of my favorite shows because I could relate to the coming of age “awkwardness” of it!

“Awkwardness” in new situations make for some great stories!  ;P  STAY TUNED because I’m still getting into a lot of NEW awkward situations as a “Kick mAss” brain tumor thriver… These songs from my past reminded me that I can get through any situation no matter how uncomfortable it is.  The old cassettes from my “wonder years” took me back to my first round of awkward years.  Combining music with an experience always enhances a memory.

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