ABOUT ME: MY TRANSFORMATION
Updated: Nov 19, 2021
“We should raise money for brain cancer research“ my 17 year old son Joe, said to me within an hour of leaving the Cleveland Clinic two days after a nine hour brain surgery. He ended up there after a concussion while participating in a soccer match in his junior year at Western Reserve Academy in Hudson Ohio. An emergency room visit the day before discovered a large aggressive mass in a dangerous location of his brain. He instantly morphed from “an all American boy”, perfect loving son, and a future well needed contributor to society to a patient with a terminal condition. Life changed drastically for both of us on that October day in 2013. Fortunately, his surgery resulted in a quick recovery where he maintained his motor skills. But over the following two and-a half years that he survived, headaches, nausea, grand-mal seizures, and way too many healthcare treatments and appointments became the norm. During the long car rides for second opinions, radiation and chemo therapy treatments, as well as time that we spent together in nature, I learned a lot from my son and this journey we took together. His bravery, altruism and a willingness to share his thoughts with others gradually initiated a transformation in my life. Our time together in nature became a type of therapy for both of us.
Mostly because of our age difference and his past love of challenging sporting activities, some of our outdoor adventures pushed me to my limit. He loved mountain biking, especially the daring and dangerous downhill courses becoming more popular at ski resorts. I felt obligated to stay close to him in case another fairly frequent seizure occurred. My wife and I did not stop him from pursuing adventure. I’ll never forget the one day he stopped in the trail ahead of me waiting for me to catch up as I trailed quite a distance behind him with white knuckles in cramping in my leg muscles. When I pulled up alongside him, he looked at me with that big corny smile of his and said “come on old man, try listening to the birds singing, that will keep you relaxed. He sensed my nervousness on the dangerous downhill trail and slowed down his pace, frequently stopping and waiting for me. I realizing this young man with terminal brain cancer was helping me on a tough adventure taught me a lesson. Helping others is therapeutic.
It took him less than a week to convince me to start a foundation, Blast Glioblastoma, and that went on to raise 1.5 million dollars for brain cancer research. this gave us both an opportunity to meet patients and families going through a similar ordeal and doing something to try to help them. Neither of us wanted to be in this “club“ but the benefits of contributing to the scientific community offered some comfort.
“Are you sure you are OK being so open with your challenges“ I said to Joe after he told his story on a YouTube video the evening he was discharged from the hospital after his surgery. My wife and I were unsure of how to tell family, loved ones and friends about the dismal diagnosis. But Joe made that easy by doing the first of his 20 or so YouTube videos that first evening home. These reached quite a large following and many of those that were touched responded to Joe. From watching him bravely get in front of the camera, the value of compassion through sharing personal ways of dealing with adversity, made me a better person, husband and physician.
These and many other experiences with my son during his challenging journey began the transformation deep inside me that even today motivates me to try to help others. The benefits I received from time outdoors has stimulated my desire to make a difference. So began my journey with sharing my passion that nature can heal us and we can help nature heal.