Exploring with Holdfast

I've been a photographer for 4 years now, my first camera was a Canon t3. The first thing I did when I got the camera was buy a batter grip to give it a little more weight and some extra shooting time. The second thing I did was take off the camera strap. I didn't like the way it rubbed on my neck. A few months down the road, I purchase the Canon 1D. I loved everything about the camera. The camera came with a neck strap, but if you don't know about the 1D, know this - it's weighs about 4 pounds and possibly more depending on the lens your shooting with. Wearing that around my neck on a regular basis caused nothing but pain for me. 

For two years, I worked strapless. My cameras only at the fate of my grip. People used to cringe in fear when I would shoot in some areas thinking that my camera would fall to it's death! Not too long ago, my wrist started to hurt as I was walking though DC. I was carrying my camera and I had no bag to put it in. So I was just switching hands every few minutes. I hit the internet and started looking for camera straps. I found a sling strap on a website. I ordered it and I was impressed. I was photographer for a pretty large event. It was the first time I had used the strap. About 1 hour into the event, my strap just broke! My camera smashed into the ground along with my heart! That was my last straw with camera straps!

Some friends had suggested wrist straps but I feel that carrying around a 4 lb camera with only the strength of your wrists leads to arthritis. So I hit the search bar once more for a strap that was fashionable and strong enough for me! I came across a photographer who was excited about the delivery of his Holdfast Gear double sided strap. I checked them out. I'm in the midst of a complete image makeover and the products Holdfast makes, spoke directly to my creative soul! I spent about two months stalking their, checking out their straps and bags. I eventually made the jump at being the owner of some good ol' american made leather Holdfast Gear! 

I was so excited to pull into my driveway and see this little piece of photographer heaven sitting outside my house. I opened it up and it was the best thing I've ever opened! I legit haven't taken this strap off since I first put it on. I've been modeling it around town and I've received nothing but comments about how badass this strap looks! It doesn't cut into my shoulders or my neck, both of my cameras feel safe when I'm out exploring the area! 

 

I've done paid ads in the past about brands and gear but this is legit my personal experience with camera straps and the relief I have with my Holdfast Money Maker camera strap. If you live in the DC area, hit me up and I'll show you how great it is! 

Photography provided by Jarrett Hendrix

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Ride

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I just ride. Every night, same routine. I usually dress older than my age so that I don't stand out in the early morning hours. I leave my house at the same time every night. Usually around the time that the use of drugs replaces family dinner. I walk down to the "corner store" to take out enough cash to get me a cab back home. I speak to the same station manager every night. She waves back reluctantly. I walk up the steps to the platform as I hum one of The Fray songs that's been stuck in my head for days. I also remember thinking to myself "It's got damn freezing on this platform" as I await the late night green line train to take me into civilization.  

 

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The same train operator slowly pulled in and made the announcement that this was the last station. I boarded the train, and stand with my back facing the rear so that I could see who would board the same car. I sat patiently waiting for the doors to close. I would listen closely for that slight "click" sound (meaning that the train operator had started the train) because I knew I would be on my way. The doors would close and I'd be off. It was the same trip that I'd taken everyday that year. I would ride four stations and get off and then transfer to another line. I would catch the eye of the same girl every time, I assume she was headed home from a long days work. She was the real reason that I even made the unnecessary transfer. I would stand there in the cold, thinking that maybe one day she would make the first move. My nerves would never allow me to make the first move. Therefore, she's still only the girl I see on the platform every night. 

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My train would quickly arrive and I would board briskly out of shame of not being able to talk to the opposite sex. I would wait until the doors has closed and the train began to move before I would look out the window in her direction. And then I would stare at her as we departed. She would stare back and that was all I needed to justify my pointless transfer. I would ride six stations to the next transfer point just to go back downstairs and see if I beat the original train I was on. Sometimes, I would still be able to see the taillights in the tunnel at the next station, sometimes it would be sitting there. I'm was always drawn to the seat I sat in, wondering if the person who sat there ever wondered about the previous asses that once occupied that seat.  

 

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I would make my way to one of the most northern stations to say hello to one of the friendly station managers. We share laughs for a few minutes and talk about the daily passengers they've inspired stories to be told until the next passenger fumble. Sometimes, I wouldn't have a "next move". It would be like an army general standing over the lit table top working on a plan for deployment.  Sometimes I would just ride the lines, end to end. The destination was never important, just the fact that I was able to allow my mind to wander away from my reality and I can get lost in my passion. You see, trains weren't just a mode of transportation for me. Trains were my only friends for most of my life. It sounds odd reading that aloud to myself but it's the truth. Being out there, riding the trains gave me a peace that nothing else could provide me. I felt wanted. The train operators and stations managers used to be amazed by me. They were amazed that this young man had studied their job over over ten years. 

I would meet all types of people. It's how I became so diverse. I met folks from all different walks of life. Some of the best conversations I had ever had was while underneath the district talking to my fellow passengers who happened to be intoxicated. I loved to listen to them ramble on and on about their failed relationships, setbacks at work, and about how they never get this drunk. I always made up stories to relate so they wouldn't catch on to the fact that they were talking to a mature looking child. I guess I did a good job because they never caught on... or the alcohol may have played a part in helping my disguise.  The night was approaching a quick ending and it was almost time for me to get back to my reality but I could never miss the meet. 

I would go to the Metro Center meet and stand over the platforms counting down until the stations closing. I knew that when I heard that last train come in, I only had a few minutes to make sure I was on board. What the meet? The meet is a coordination that allows any passenger who enters the metro system before the last train to have the ability to get to any station in the system. There are two meets. The Metro Center meet which allows the Red, Orange, and Blue lines to come together, and the L'enfant Plaza meet that allows the Yellow and Green lines to meet. The Metro center meet stays until all of the trains are on the platform. both last red line trains wait upstairs and two orange line trains wait downstairs. Two supervisors stand on the platform. They both give each other a signal and the trains are released. Did you notice something missing? The blue line trains. An out of service train follows the orange line towards Vienna and goes in service at Rosslyn as well as the Silver at East Falls Church. Then another Blue line train goes in service at Stadium Armory. This way, any passenger who enters the system before the last train can get to any station in the system. Was that confusing? Well it wasn't to me! 

Because of my obsession with the system, I felt like the weird owner of a company. I felt as if I looked like the owner of a factory who was standing at the window of his office that overlooked the work floor staring at my pocket watch waiting for the whistle to blow. The type of owner that the workers made up rumors about my wife being buried in the floor of my basement. Was that too much? But that's how it felt. I would catch the same train every night. I was in love with the operator (who had kids my age). She was gorgeous! Light brown skin, long hair, and a body that would make a preacher sin (sorry, I had to). It was the most relaxation I had ever felt. 

I would arrive right back at my starting point. My night was over. It was time for me to head back home and prepare for school the next day. 

The night was over. My job was done. I was still alive. 

I was a teenager during a time where you didn't need a reason to do wrong. Drugs were all around me. They were in my home, they were at my school, they were in the streets. I was already on the verge of being a statistic. Two drug abusing parents, I was homeless, I had a disability that affected my day-to-day. All I needed was to be weak. Luckily, my mother made sure I didn't know what weakness was. I let trains occupy my spare time so that drugs and mayhem didn't. Metro's General Manager heard my story and hired me in 2007. I left and went on to work in the DC Mayor's office and the on to being an emergency dispatcher. Although I now work in EMS, I still miss the trains and I wonder what life would have been like if I had made different decisions. 

 

But what if, right?

Special thanks to Kendal Wade for modeling for this photo essay.  

 

Haunted

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I've been haunted for quite some time now. I don't know why I'm that way but I am. I here things. Things that some shouldn't. Things that make my breathing so slow that you question the function of my lungs. I've heard things for years now. I feel things. I feel things that aren't there. Things that turn my entire body into a rigor state. I feel the presence of nothingness. I know it's there. I feel there but my eyes can't comprehend its presence. I see things. Sudden movements out of the corner of my eye. Figures roaming in the night. Driving in the dark I can almost make out the figure of a head in my backseat. I see things that aren't there. 

What I can't hear is your voice calling my name to come and accompany you. I can't feel the gentle touch of you rubbing my arm when I was feeling sad. What I can't see is your beautiful face. What I no longer have is you. 

I'm not only haunted. I'm heartbroken. But the brokenness of my heart outshines the haunt of my soul.

Rosetta

Days 7 and 8 on the trip of a lifetime!

Hey guys! So sorry no journal entry yesterday, we're in a very small town near Glacier, Montana and Sprint is unknown here. We departed St. Paul Wednesday night for a 25 hour train ride to Whitefish, Montana. We spent an entire day on the train listening to creatives like Jed Jenkins, Adrienne Pitts, and Mickela Mallozzi. It was a great learning and bonding opportunity for us. Plus, we had all missed hanging on the train. 

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We arrived to the hotel pretty late and we had a quick run of show for our trip to Glacier the next day. I didn't pack a coat and it was expected to be in the 30's the next morning. So, one of the town locals offered to take me the almost 20 miles to Wal-Mart so that I could grab a coat and some boots. I was a little nervous during the ride but the silence was broken when we both started singing George Straight's Cheyenne.  

At 5:45, we loaded up two buses and headed to Glacier National Park. I was unsure what to expect when we got there but let me just say  OH MY GOD. I had never seen a real mountain before and my mind was blown. We spent time at the lake shooting portraits and taking long exposures. It was so amazing. 

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I'm not gonna lie, I feel asleep on the bus after this because I was exhausted. Haha. But I was able to grab a couple of more shots before passing out for 6 hours while everyone explored the park.  :-( 

 

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The sunset while we were in a hot tub and then we all enjoyed a lovely Italian dinner. They say karaoke and line dancing is in our future for the evening... Oh yes.  

 

Thanks again for following along and please free to send me notes of encouragement. Kind of need it. 

Day 6 - #PassportExpress

Today wasn't the best day for me. I lost my mother about a year ago. It was the hardest event of my life and the deepest pain I had ever felt.  This trip is the first time I've been away from the people who love me back home. 

 

I feel alone. I feel unwanted kind of. Not that my fellow passengers are doing anything to make me feel this way. I just do. Today, I was able meet several people who are also on the autism spectrum. I was able to sit down and talk with them about growing up with autism. Those were 4 of the sweetest souls had ever met. I felt the closest connection with TJ and Madison. TJ has an amazing knowledge of public safety and rail vehicles. TJ struggles with people taking advantage of him- something that I also struggle with, and Madison finds obstacles in maintaining a healthy adult relationship. Meeting them was one of the best moments of this trip. 

 

The day wasn't a very full day. We had our usual family meal times but Today was an opportunity to kind of branch away from the group and be on your own.  

 

We just rolled out of Minnesota and we're about to be on this bad boy for 25 hours. - most will be without cellphone service. So I'll update you guys as soon as we're back in civilization.  

On the 5th day of Passport, my true love gave to meeee....

Full disclosure. I'm intoxicated while writing this entry! let's start off by talking about how amazing Today was! I was able to interact more with people who I was, at first, intimidated by. We started our day off at the Hill Reference Library in downtown St. Paul, Minneapolis. It was my first time in such a large Library. It was absolutely breathtaking. I'll only share one photo from inside the library and I encourage all of you to check out the hashtag #PassportExpress on Instagram for the other amazing images taken by my peers. 

 

A portrait of love with Sera and Phil.  

A portrait of love with Sera and Phil.  

After the library tour, we made our way downtown for coffee and sightseeing. If you know me, you know I hate walking. So this part will be short. Lol.  

Exploring the city.  

Exploring the city.  

Exploring the city.... Still

Exploring the city.... Still

We then had a quick lunch with the entire group before packing into a coach bus and making our way to Minnehaha Falls. This was my first time at a waterfall since I was a child with my mother in Rock Creek Park. It was majestic. My friends climbed the rocks and jumped off... Made for a pretty great photo. We hung out there for about an hour before making our way to Dairy Queen for some ice cream! Yum! We took our sweets to go and hopped on our bus back to town for our instameet! 

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The instameet lasted about an hour around the area near the James J. Hill house and ended at a little neat restaurant named Nina's. We are laughed and are some more. Our final destination of the night was at a little bar a few blocks from the hotel where I wrote the words you're reading now. There's some cool ladies who just left the Ed Sheeran concert and I'm gonna go drink with them. 

 

Hope you're day was good too!  

Day 4 aboard the #PassportExpress!

Today was our last day in Chicago. I was so heartbroken that our time in that amazing city had to end. After a wonderful breakfast with Mat, Jeffrey, and Jill, we were off to explore the Art Institute of Chicago before they opened their doors to the public. While gearing up to head to the institute, I received a text from one of the best Chicago photographers, Andrew Thomas Clifton. I invited him to join our group on this private tour and it was awesome! The institute has such a great design and is full of natural light! We roamed the empire exhibits for about an hour and a half before hitting the streets.  

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After leaving the Institue, Mat, Andrew, Jeffrey, and I took a scenic route back to the hotel to prepare to depart. When we first arrived, Julia from Amtrak's social media team invited me to tour the Operations Control Center for Amtrak's Chicago operation. Mat and I checked out early and headed to Chicago's Union Station for our behind the scenes tour! When we arrived, we met with Greg who oversees the dispatch center. He gave us a tour of their "floor" and "war room". We talked a little train and tracks with him before heading up to get a peak of the grand hall from the non-public balcony. Unfortunately, photos were not allowed during this tour but it was pretty freaking amazing.  

 

We then boarded the train enroute for St. Paul. Aboard the train, we were able to hear from Dr. Jon Freeman and Pei Ketron. Dr. Freeman spoke about impressions and judging a book by its cover and Pei talked about Instagram and "selling out". Listening to Pei speak was probably one of the best moments of life. Haha. After our seminars, it was time for dinner. Mat, Danielle, Kyle and I enjoyed steak and salmon aboard Amtrak's finest diner car! When we arrived in St. Paul, we dropped our stuff off and headed to he GreatWaters brewing company for drinks and laughs! 

 Here are some photos taken during our train trip from Chicago to St. Paul. 

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Until next time my good friends!  

Day three aboard the #PassportExpress!

Words cannot explain how amazing Today truly was! We started off at 5:45 for sunrise from SkyDeck Chicago, and can I say it was freaking amazing! During our tour, I took a moment and sat on the floor and focused on how blessed I am to have been selected for this journey. I've been on the verge of tears today because of how blessed I feel to be here.  

Here are a few photos from our trip to the SkyDeck! 

 

 

After we left SkyDeck, we headed back to the hotel to recharge before making our way to the Passion Passport Chicago Instameet. I couldn't believe how many amazing and talented creatives showed up! We then embarked on a two mile walk through the city. During the walk, I was able to meet up with my unforgiving lover... harsh light. We ended up at a nice little spot called the SoHo House. While there, I met up with a young man named Mike Brandt. Mike and I spoke for a while about portrait and street photography and I was amazed by his love for photography. I was even more amazed when Mike told me he was only 16 and only has been shooting for 2 months. Mike is a supporter of a portrait account I created, Make portraits not war. It was my absolute pleasure to meet Mike and to have my portrait taken by him. 

After a few drinks and some of the best chicken nuggets I've ever tasted, we were off to tour the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art. I feel like when it comes to empty museums, the photos should do all of the talking. Note: Only sharing a couple (gotta build suspense for the others. :-) )

 

We spent about 45 minutes exploring the empty halls of the Chicago MCA before walking over to the Hancock building to see the sunset from 360Chicago.  The General Manager personally welcomed us with champagne. Talk about feeling special, right? We spent a good portion of the evening taking in the sunset, and enjoying each other's company. This was one of the experiences that I'll never forget! 

A toast to Chicago!   

A toast to Chicago! 

 

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My roomie Mat, taking in the sunset.  

My roomie Mat, taking in the sunset.  

After SkyDeck, we were told to head back to the hotel and details would be there about what our "surprise" was for the evening. Around 8:30, we received a message with a room number. All I can say about the surprise is... TURN UP! 

Portrait of me by Mike Brandt! So amazing.  

Portrait of me by Mike Brandt! So amazing.  

Until next time!  

#PassportExpress Day 2 (1st Autism Actually Speaks portrait)

Last night was my first night sleeping on a train and it was AMAZING! I had breakfast with three very talented passengers (Mat, Garrett, and Christian). During breakfast, I shared a secret about why I'm not following the other passengers in Instagram right away. I told them that I want to learn the person first before I learn their work. Perfect example- the first night's dinner. I say across from Garrett. I remember listening to him tell his story about packing up a 67 impala and heading west and I'm thinking "holy crap! He's my hero."  Later that night, I went and finally laid eyes on his Instagram feed and I was absolutely blown away by how talented he is! I want to feel that way with everyone because he made me appreciate his presence more. 

 

After breakfast, we got to hear the amazing Jeffrey talk about community and how it relates to real life. He spoke about different Instagram communities across the country and their charteristics. Listening to Jeffrey explain  how many communities we actually enter and exit on average day was pretty freaking eye opening. 

 

After we were all settled in,  I headed out to take on my own project! Today, I was able to take the first portrait in my "Autism Actually Speaks" project (in collaboration with Autism Speaks). I was able to meet up with Nicholas and his family at the Alder Planiterium. Nicholas is a non verbal 17 year old on the autism spectrum who obviously has a heart of gold! I was able to spend time with Nicholas and his older sister Isabella and watching how much they love each other really warmed my soul! 

 

Here are some of my favorite photos from the day, including one of Nicholas and his sister.  

 

Roaming around Wicker Park

Roaming around Wicker Park

Portrait of Jeffrey

Portrait of Jeffrey

Isabella and Nicholas enjoying a fun moment!  

Isabella and Nicholas enjoying a fun moment!  

#PassportExpress Day 1

 

 

Day 1 was a complete success! It started off a little rough because my mind was on my mother and how I wish I could share my excitement with her. It started off a little rough because I was in an unfamiliar crowd and although the faces seemed friendly, I was very uncomfomfortible. After getting to know my fellow passengers, my fear subsided. My roommate is an amazing photographer and person based out of New York and knowing that I could turn to him really helped during the times where I began to feel anxious. 

 

The first presentation was by Michael George, a talented photographer based out of Brooklyn. He spoke about a couple of projects he had recently completed and about being featured by NatGeo (which is an amazing honor). After his presentation, I spoke with him and my friend Jeffrey about the autism project and they really helped me clear some of the fog that was blocking my creative process.  

 

Currently, we're about 8 hours into our 17ish hour train ride to Chicago! I can't wait to share tomorrow with you guys! Oh - and I took a portrait of Christian Watson (@1924US) that's gonna kickass!  

 

Until tomororw!  

The set up of the #PassportExpress was absolutely amazing! Also - that's my roommate, Mat!  

The set up of the #PassportExpress was absolutely amazing! Also - that's my roommate, Mat!  

Awesome light while waiting on the #PassportExpress to take off!  

Awesome light while waiting on the #PassportExpress to take off!  

The conversation between creatives aboard the #PassportExpress make the trip all worth it!  

The conversation between creatives aboard the #PassportExpress make the trip all worth it!  

The views aren't that bad either!  

The views aren't that bad either!  

Relationship Status: In a relationship with Autism

Being an adult is already difficult. When you throw in autism, ADHD, depression, and balancing a healthy relationship; It becomes almost unbearable! I entered my first real relationship when I was about 21 years old. I didn't tell her about my autism until about 2 years in. I was afraid that she wouldn't understand. Although it was new and unfamiliar, I was excited because there was someone else there to love me and accept me as is. 

 

Eventually, we moved in together. That's when things turned for the worse. I wish there had been a warning sign for her beforehand on just what she was signing up for. While we were together, I was able to learn so much about myself and about autism. Some of the key issues are listed below. 

 

 

 

"Can you just pay attention to me" - 

 

Most times, I just didn't want to do anything. I didn't want to talk. I didn't want to cuddle, I didn't want her around to be honest. It had nothing to do with her, but I just wanted to be alone. I have a huge fasciation with trains and I have a simulation game on my computer. There were times where I would play that game for hours on end. She would get upset and make comments such as "Is your shift almost over" or "How long before you're off work". She didn't understand that removing myself from the world around me and putting myself in this game, helped me reset all of the anxiety I had felt throughout the day. 

 

"Oh just try it, you'll like it" - 

 

The biggest thing she had to adjust to was my diet. Since childhood, I've only eaten the same items. My diet basically consists of burgers, pizza, chicken, and macaroni and cheese. I don't eat foods that have seeds or bones, I don't eat foods that have odd smells, I don't eat anything new. The hardest thing is trying to convince people that it's more complicated than "Try this, you'll like it". It took time to adjust but we both had to make comprises. She agreed to cook the foods I liked but only if she could incorporate new foods into my diet. It started with boneless baked chicken and macaroni and cheese. Eventually, she would add in broccoli, rice, corn, etc. Eventually she put a big spin on things and made parmesan chicken. It took some getting used to but at the end of the day, I tried more new foods in my 24th year than my entire life. Another downfall with my diet is because of it being so poor, I suffer from a lot of digestive issues like most individuals with autism. 

 

"I'm not mad at you, I just had a bad day" - 

 

We both made fatal relationship mistakes when it came to our attitudes. Whenever I would have a bad day, I would shut down and not want to deal with anyone, I just wanted to sleep (which I could do for an extended amount of hours). So if I had a bad day at work, I would take it out on her. Which in turn she would get defensive and upset. Because I didn't realize how I was coming off, I would shut down because I felt as if she was mad at me. So the bad day plus her being upset led to a complete shut down of my communication. She was very outspoken and she very rarely didn't speak what was on her mind. So whenever she had an issue, she would verbalize it. Often, her facial expressions weren't pleasant so I would become anxious because I felt that she was upset or unhappy because of me which mad me feel that I didn't make her happy  with made me very sad. 

 

"Just stay on the phone with me" - 

 

Another common problem is adjusting to social settings. Something as simple as walking into a grocery store is an obstacle. One of the things she had to adjust to was just for me to call her and stay on the phone while in the store. Stores are full of strange people and my mind is always telling me I'm the center of attention even though I'm not. She would allow me to call her and just blabber about anything that came through my mind, she didn't even have to reply sometimes, just listen. Being on the phone with someone who I knew understood what was happening took my mind off of where I was and the people around me and I focused on knowing she was on the other end of the phone. It's small, but her understanding that issue, made a world of difference. 

 

"Falling Fast" - 

 

One thing I've never understood about myself is the fact that I fall in love extremely quick. I've never understood why. To date, I've told every girl I've ever been involved with that I've fallen in love with them. I researched romance and how it relates to autism and I've found that persons on the spectrum have a difficult time understanding love. If this is relevant to me, it makes me feel so much better about myself because I've always felt as if I love but I don't receive it back in return. But it leads to more worries as well. If I don't fully understand what love is how do I know how to love or what love really is and if someone really loves me. 

 

I'm still learning how to love in my opinion. Everyday, I'm presented with something new, something interesting. Being autistic has given me the chance to see life through a different perspective than most. I hope my next blog post will explain how amazing it is to be autistic and married! 

The roughest

This will be short....

 

Today has been one of the roughest days in a while. Mom is losing alot of different abilities. She no longer understands exactly whats going on around her, she stares off into space alot while you're speaking, she's not fully alert. 

 

It hurts to see this and it hurts to go through this. But as my mother has always told me, everyhing is in God's hands...

Today

Today was a very difficult day. Mom is slowly declining and it's painful to watch. I had a very odd moment with her just a second ago. She was feeling anxious so I was going to giver a pill to calm her nerves. I placed the pill in the palm of her hand and she took her and and put it to her mouth. She put her fingertips at her mouth as if she had pinched the pill from her fingers. The pill then fell from her hand. I told her to allow me to give her the pill again. She looked at me and yelled that it was in her mouth and if I gave her another one, that she would choke. She was afraid. She didn't know what was going on. That alone, broke my heart. 

She's been asking over and over again all day "What happened" referring to her sudden decline Today. She told me she was afraid....

 

Today, I don't know what to do....I'm afraid too. 

The mind is a....

The mind is one of the brutal attacks cancer commits during it's path of destruction. I wasn't prepared for that attack. I find my mother confused more and more recently. She sometimes asks the same questions repeatedly, forgets the days, looks for things right in front of her but can't find them, and some other personal things that one should struggle with. 

In my last post, I talked about being the voice of reason. I want to elaborate on that. You have to be their mind. My mother was a strong, independent woman who didn't need anyone. One of the hardest things for me to comprehend was that being with her now was almost like being with a young child. 

This post is short and random but the mind is such a complex thing and you have to remember that if your loved one is older, that cancer and chemo will break them down. They'll be times where they will ask or do something that you wouldn't expect but you have to remember what's going on inside them. 

 

The mind is a role that you will take on. Be prepared. 

You're not alone

Hey,

Yea, I'm talking to you! The one with the loved one battling cancer. It's going to be okay. Days will be dark before the rays shine through the storm clouds. Everything that happens will have pain equal to being stabbed in the chest. The first attack however, will be the most painful. You won't know what to do. You will feel sad, lost, depressed, confused, anger, and hopeless. The normal first reaction is to cry. It's okay to cry. Crying is something I found myself doing very often. You'll cry on some bad days, you'll cry on some good days, you'll even cry on days that are completely irrelevant to the day you're in presently. We're human. We are blessed to be able to feel our emotions. 

The road to recovery was harder to walk down than I expected. I thought I was a mature and responsible man when we began the recovery process but I was wrong. Being my mothers caregiver taught me so much about myself. It forced me to mature to a level. You have to almost become the brain of your loved one. Time to wake up, time to eat, time to get dressed, time to take your meds, time for chemo, time to take your meds, time to take your meds, and my personal favorite- time to take your meds. You not only have to take care of yourself but you have to be the voice of reason. 

I pray that your destination differs from mine. My path ended with the words that no cancer patient wants to hear. "There is nothing else we can do". Those 7 words will eat your heart out, spit it out, and do a tribal dance on it. 

I can't be angry at anyone because 63 years ago, The Lord knew exactly what was in store for my mother. I can't get upset at his plan. During this time of hospice, I've had the opportunity to take care of my mother almost the same as she did me. I can feel myself growing as man because of this. Remember, I said I can't be angry but I didn't say I couldn't be sad. 

You're just like me. You're not in this alone. You and millions of others are going through the exact same thing. You can spend your time cry and wondering why it wasn't caught sooner, or you can hit the ground running and explore clinical trails, high rated cancer research centers, and don't limit yourself to hospitals in your area. 

Live everyday as if it's the last. Don't spend your days regretting what you didn't do, spend them writing the memories you're going to look back and laugh at. 

Dear Mother

Dear Mother, 

I love you. I love so much that I feel the pain of the cancer just as much as you. I am who I am because of you is a line that I've said many times before. I want you to better understand what that means. Throughout my life, I've had many reasons placed at my feet to give up but watching you, I've learned strength. I've watched our stuff thrown on the street multiple times. I remember you telling me one day before school to make sure I had everything packed that I wanted because we we're going to have a home by the time school was dismissed. I remember coming home that evening and seeing our stuff in a pile next to the dumpsters and the neighborhood kids going through it and playing with our stuff... throwing, breaking, taking our stuff. The stuff that once filled our happy home. I remember watching you stand in front  of the 7-11 asking strangers for money just so you and I could eat that night. You struggled, you fought, you pushed your pride to the limit. 

It doesn't take a man to raise a boy. It takes someone who cares and can love them like no other. You taught me what you knew. Golf and tennis over football and basketball. Who cares if I'm a little bit more sensitive than others or that I don't mind showing my emotions. That's who you raised me to be and if anyone has a problem with how you did, then that's a person who I don't need in my life. I'm proud of the man you made me to be. 

I said earlier that I love you so much that I can feel the pain of this cancer. We're going through this together. My life has been turned upside down and I'm learning to live my life differently. I'm learning to live my life with cancer present. Cancer isn't a disease that affects one person, it affects everyone involved. It breaks my heart to see you like this. The woman who I watched defeat every odd against her, be taken down by cancer. 

You fought for me, all of my life. It's my turn. I will always be there for you. I will fight when you are weak. 

Through everything, thank you for being the most amazing woman and mother in the world. 

Love, 

Your son