Cash Cab-ing Half the Tough Mudder

My first post not (only) about Alison in months

Can’t say things are great where I am. But we’ve had it a lot worse the past year.

So I’ve been able to do a few things for myself, like just read again. It feels weird to have any time to myself.

Speaking of weird, randomly read this page about Reality Show Secrets and realized that the “Cash Cab secret” was my story – well, mine and my buddy, Mas.

See, he was invited to be on a show – we were told – called Show me New York.

Him: Wanna come?
Me: Sure.

The day before, someone called me and asked me about a dozen trivia questions.

Producer: What is the period of violence after the French Revolution called?
Me: The Reign of Terror? (pause) That’s a weird question for a show about the City.
Producer: (laughing) Yes, Reign of Terror. And we just want to measure intelligence. Can you meet the producers in the West Village tomorrow?
Me: What’s the address?

The next day, we met them there and they told us that the taping had been moved to 23rd and Madison and hailed us a cab. After Masa told the driver where we were heading, the driver turned to us and said, “You’re on Cash Cab!”

I immediately exclaimed, “So weird, we’re actually on our way to shoot another television show!”

To which, I’m pretty sure Masa, the host, and all the producers listening in to us collectively rolled their eyes at the same time. This was edited out.

Now, the thing is, I never published that story on the blog, only told my friends – and I’m sure Mas told his friends what and idiot I was – so I’m just curious to know who posted it.

It was almost exactly 10 years ago. At the time of the taping, was still with my ex; we broke up just a month later. Thought my life was over then.

At that moment, didn’t know Alison existed. And Nate wasn’t even a thought. Now they are my whole world.

Funny how life is, yeah?

———-

Speaking of Alison…

My Radical MMA gym buddies Liz, Josh, Donald, Henry, Hassan, Roslyn, and Sawyer, along with Henry, Alesya, and Boreth, are participating in the Half Mudder Long Island 2016 race on July 24th to raise funds for Alison – they’re actually the team that’s raised the fourth largest amount of money.

Honestly cannot say where we would be without the support of so many friends, family, and total strangers. It lets us try to be somehow normal again.

Me: Morning, sunshine! Ready for another day of PT?
Her: (yawning) No…yes?

Donate to Team Alison for the Tough Mudder!
DONTATIONS

Location: still at home, which is a good thing
Mood: conflicted
Music: just want to be, happy again
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Grab your things, I’ve come to take you home

In the hospital again…wait…

Empty Hospital Room

Doctor: I’m discharging her.
Me: Are you sure?

The past year has been a series of horrifying news with a side dish of, “if you act now, here’s some bonus horror.”

  • We go in for stomach pains, find out she has a blood clot and a secondary infection, and she stays in the hospital for 8 days.
  • We go in for a blood transfusion, find out she has pneumonia and dangerously low white blood cells, stay for 10 days. Blood issue is never resolved.
  • We go in for a scalp cut, get a medication which causes her to get a seizure a minute, and she stays in the hospital, essentially for all but five days in May.

So when our doc told us that we had to go in for a fifth surgery, it was rough. Not only would we have to deal with the effects of a fifth surgery, we were certain that there would be some additional misery that would keep us in the hospital twice the expected time.

We checked in on Monday and when they wheeled her away Tuesday morning, I dashed off to my gym for 85 minutes.

When I stepped out, realized that my ringer was off and there were eight missed calls.

They cancelled the surgery.

So on the steps of Penn Station, madly called everyone in the hospital to find out what happened. (As a side note, trying to speak to a human being in a hospital is easier said than done). The surgeon ultimately called me back.

He said that just before starting the surgery, he spoke to Alison and was pleasantly surprised at how responsive she was and how much stronger she looked. So he cancelled the surgery minutes before it was about to happen and told me to come take her home.

I’m not a superstitious man. Still, I’m reluctant to write anything too hopeful. After all, all emotional pain and joy happens in that gap between what you hope and what you actually get.

And yet, I’m slightly more hopeful now. But we can’t stop until the job is done.

Doctor: Yes, 100%. Keep doing what you’re doing and we’ll see her in a month. Take her home, Logan.
Me: I’ll be right there.

DONTATIONS

Location: not in the hospital, thankfully
Mood: hopeful again
Music: My heart going boom boom boom
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Awesome

My wife inspires me

Alison and the kid

Me: How are you feeling?
Her: Tired. But a little better.

The traditional definition of “awesome” is “inspiring great admiration and awe.” It’s something that fills you with awe and humbles you.

John Glenn – the first American to orbit the Earth and the fifth person in the history of the world to go to space – would probably say that his wife is awesome.

They’d known each other since they were children and during that time, she had an 85% stuttering disability – meaning that 85% of the times that she tried to speak, she couldn’t.

The person Glenn knew wasn’t the person the world knew and vice versa.

It wasn’t until she was 53 that she could speak normally. Which means that for 53 years, she struggled to do things that we take for granted. I can see why Glenn would consider his companion his hero; that she would keep trying when all seemed hopeless.

53 years is a long time.

So it is with me and Alison. I don’t think I will ever do anything that compares to what she’s been doing to beat this thing. Frankly, I don’t want to.

She’s stronger now than she’s been in seven months. She’s doing things that are awesome in the truest sense of the word: What she does fills me with awe.

Her: I want to stand again.
Me: I think you will. If you keep working as hard as you’ve been, you will.

DONTATIONS

Location: not in the hospital, thankfully
Mood: hopeful
Music: could sit for hours finding new ways to be awed each minute
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Hoping for good changes to come

She’s gaining weight

Desserts in New York City

Me: You know, if you wanted to lose weight after pregnancy, there are better ways than getting cancer.
Her: I’ll keep that in mind for next time.

Spent my first Father’s Day without the kid as he was with his grandparents. It’s fine, because I needed to focus on Alison.

Didn’t tell you about last month because I didn’t wanna just give you bad news after bad news after bad news.

Basically, she was out of the hospital only five days for May. We’ll leave it at that.

Still, in the past two weeks, she’s made more strides towards strength and health than she has in the last two months. Mainly because she’s more consistently clear-headed and understands (a) the gravity of the situation and (b) what she needs to do to fight this thing.

To that end, she’s been eating more and gaining weight. She lost a staggering amount of weight after December. We’re talking close to 35% of her total body weight. But she’s up 15 pounds from her low. And with that additional weight, comes more strength and clarity.

She’s been unable to consistently move her left leg and arm since she lost the weight but now there’s small but clear movement.

We’re hoping it’s the start of good changes to come. We’ll need that strength for when tomorrow comes.

Her: (at 4AM) I’m hungry.
Me: (groggily) I’ll get you something to eat.

DONTATIONS

Location: home, after almost a month in the hospital again
Mood: tired
Music: like a baby fast asleep in this dangerous world
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Dear Nate… 001

Beautiful and terrible things

Me and the kid

Dear Nate;

As I write this, you are almost seven months old. I feel guilty that your Grandma McCarthy has been taking the most care of you because I need to focus on your mama.

But you’re always laughing, so I assume that you’re generally happy and oblivious to the terrible things around us. That’s actually why I’m writing you.

A fellow New Yorker – of which you are a proud member – named Frederick Buechner once said, “Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.”

(I will quote things to you a lot because I think other people say things far more eloquently than your pop can; you’ll have to learn to deal).

What Buechner said is true, with this caveat: The terrible and beautiful are often intertwined.

By all metrics, your mother should have died on December 10th, when you were just a month old. I say this terrible thing as plainly as I can.

But equally plainly, I tell you: Your mother came back an hour from death – crippled and half-blind – because she couldn’t bear being away from us. From you.

She came back with a titanium mesh where her skull once was. So when I tell you that she is made of titanium, I mean that both figuratively and literally.

She fights every day to see you and hopes to hold you again, like she did when you were born. She wants to see you sit, stand, walk, and run.

She wants to see you become you.

You know, on December 10th, you hadn’t yet learned how to laugh or smile? I think she came back to experience that.

Kid, that is love like I’ve never seen before. If that’s not beautiful, I dunno what is.

This letter is late, sorry. I’d meant to write it months ago but life got in the way. You’ll find that the life’s terrible things get in the way of your plans and dreams.

It’s the nature of the world to whittle you down to nothingness. One day it will win. We accept that in our family. But we fight the world every step of the way because we will not go quietly.

We struggle and scuffle until we’re breathless and weak. Life demands struggle.

Our family motto is a pictograph of a blade in a heart – we survive things that would kill other people. We survive.15207350313_c43e87a6b6_c

Know that the terrible things will come. But so will the beautiful things. They go hand-in-hand.

Your mother is the most beautiful thing that has come into my life and she came with this terrible thing. Neither of us knew. I would not change a thing, except maybe bring her to the hospital the day we met to get rid of this damn cancer. And buy more shares of Facebook. (Always invest your money – that’s another letter for another time).

I will love your mother until the day I die. You as well.

In any case, son: Here is the world. The price you pay to be here is to endure the terrible. So we pay our fare and we take our seat, come what may.

Don’t be afraid, Nate. Because you are our son and there is titanium in your blood.

Love,

Pop

DONTATIONS

Location: home, after almost a month in the hospital again
Mood: tired
Music: it was then that I knew only a full house gonna make it through
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60 Minutes Killing Cancer Polio vaccine isn’t an option

Going for the superlative

Spain cookie
TL;DR

Dr. Friedman: The polio vaccine isn’t an option for Alison. Not now. Not in the future.
Me: Thank you, doctor. We’ll continue doing what we’re doing then. I’ll save her, somehow.

———-
Years ago, when Alison and I just started dating:

Me: (struggling with the tip on a check) I’m a clear exception to the stereotype that all Asians are good at math.
Her: (laughing and taking the check) I actually won the Unified Math competition in my school as a kid.
Me: You beat out the Chinese? I don’t believe it.
Her: It’s true.

One of the things I love about Alison is that she never settled for second best. If she did something, she went full bore.

She didn’t just work in a non-profit, she actually flew out to Africa and Asia on the reg to help out.

She didn’t just study Spanish, she got a certificate in fluency and lived in Spain for while.

I could go on.

Unfortunately, this is also true of her cancer. She not only has what is considered the worst type of cancer – a brain cancer – she has a glioblastoma, the deadliest form of brain cancer.

And she not only has a GBM, she has the rarest type, one that passes the corpus collsum. And she not only has the rarest type of the deadliest type, she has the most difficult one to cure, the butterfly glioma.

It’s the one time I wish she didn’t go for the superlative.

When this all first happened, pulled out every favor ever owed to me that had any chance of helping us.

To this end, someone got me in touch with Dr. Henry Friedman, the doctor on the 60 Minutes show Killing Cancer and I spoke to him about potentially getting her the vaccine.

He told me then – and we spoke again two days ago – that because Alison has a butterfly glioma, she would never be able to participate in the vaccine now, or in the foreseeable future.

Obviously, this isn’t what I wanted to hear. But I accept the world as it is, not as I hope it be. But it doesn’t mean I’ll stop looking for a cure.

I just want all of you (very kind and well-meaning) readers to know that it’s not an option and will never be.

Our search continues.

DONTATIONS

Location: home today, dunno for how long
Mood: scared
Music: I don’t mind. Without you it’s a waste of time
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You’re the hubs

One bite at a time

bed
There’s an old joke that goes:

Q: How do you eat an elephant?
A: One bite at a time.

Think that if I went back in time and saw all that she would have to go through, I woulda crumbled on the spot.

And yet, the dull drip of constant crises in our lives is almost routine now.

Last week was her first Mother’s Day and as well as her birthday.

She spent her birthday by her lonesome getting cut open yet again as we went to the emergency room for the sixth time.

That issue she had in April roared back in a spectacular way – blame myself for trying to keep her from staying yet another spell in the hospital. Perhaps if we just did it then, we wouldn’t be here now.

Wonder if I’m making any good/rational decisions at all. Constantly second guessing myself. There are moments where I wonder if I’ll make it with my sanity – or her’s – intact.

Me: Do you know who I am? Do you know where we are?
Her: (shakes head)

But what else is there to do but go on? And she does, somehow. A bite at a time.

Like I said, there are moments when I cannot believe we will do anything but crash.

But even in those darkest moments, when I sit by her bed and think all hope’s lost, she still manages to pick me up and make me think that we can get in front of this thing somehow. That we’ll make it.

Me: Do you know who I am? Do you know where we are?
Her: Yeah, you’re the hubs. (looking around) I can’t believe we’re here again.

DONTATIONS

Location: the hospital, yet again. No river to be seen.
Mood: crushed
Music: I think I’m ruined. Didn’t anybody, didn’t anybody tell you?
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My favorite things

May be ok

The kid

For those long time readers of my blog, you know my favorite drink at home is aged rum – on the rocks with a slice of orange, to be specific.

And when I’m out and about, find it hard to resist a daiquiri or an old fashioned with rye.

My favorite foods are chiligyros, and dumplings. In no particular order.

My favorite place in the world is the pier at Riverside Park. My favorite thing to wear is my yellow leather jacket. My favorite things to do are wrassling, fencing, and cooking. In no particular order.

And up until five months ago, my favorite time of day was 10PM, when I went to bed and chatted with my favorite girl about our respective days.

But for the past five months, my favorite time of day has been 7:30 at night.

Because that’s when I would take a shower in my blue bathroom. And with the running water and an exhaust fan that sounds like a wind turbine, I could lean against the shower wall and weep without my wife or little boy knowing.

For the first two months, it was every night I wasn’t in the hospital. Every goddamn night.

As the weeks wore on, it wasn’t every night, but it was still probably most nights.

But as of last week, my favorite time of day is the morning, when I take Alison out to the living room and she sees the baby and smiles.

And he smiles back at her and laughs. My two favorite people in the world.

For just a moment, I think that everything may be ok.

I wish and wish and wish…

 

DONTATIONS

Location: ever at home
Mood: hopeful
Music: On silver stars, I wish and wish and wish
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She’s still in the game

Still in the fight

Chad Hernandez
Whenever I’m gone from this blog for a while these days, you can assume it’s because something crazy is happening and I’m too busy to update. This past week was no exception.

We had to go to the hospital on Sunday – which happened to be my birthday – yet again, for both an MRI as well as a new issue that cropped up. After a good deal of negotiations back-and-forth, I managed to avoid our being admitted to the ER for a sixth time. We ended up making it home at 8PM that night.

But then we had some good(ish) news. Her MRI reading came back late – really late – the following day. No new growth. So, while that’s not the outstanding news of shrinkage, it’s far, far better than growth. And what’s more, this is no growth while she’s essentially not had any treatment since January 25th.

Perhaps the best thing is that the old Alison has been making more and more appearances at home. She smiles at the baby and at us, watches TV from time-to-time, and engages us in normal conversation.

Her: (looking at baby) There’s my sweet boy.
Me: He’s getting big – he wears 6-9 month old outfits at 5 months. All he wants to do is eat.
Her: (laughing) Well, he is your son.

It’s the most hopeful we’ve been in a while.

Because of all the turmoil, I’ve not been to the gym but I still regularly speak to my coach there. He was one of the first people I mentioned this to because of all the fundraising he and the gym has done. And because he’s a source of great comfort for me.

Me: Finally, some good news. It’s not great news but it’s definitely not bad/horrific news. We were certain that, after three months of her being in and out of the hospital, it would be bad. Even her doc prepped us for that.
Him: I’m so happy for you. Still in the game with a fighting chance. That’s all you need.

She’s still in the game. We’re still in the fight.


DONTATIONS

Location: on a sunny street in Manhattan
Mood: cautiously hopeful
Music: If you can hold on, hold on
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My So-Called Thermonuclear Life

The other destructive elements of my life

World War II bomber in NYC
When the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, over 129,000 people were killed in moments.

I’ve met lots of people throughout the years that think that the technology of mass destruction stopped in 1945; that when we talk of nuclear weapons, we’re talking about the types of weapons that we used in World War II – 70 years ago. Unfortunately, that’s so terrifyingly far from the truth that it’s laughable. The bombs that killed those 129,000 people are now just tiny cogs in current thermonuclear weapons.

In fact, current thermonuclear bombs use the atomic bomb technology as just a trigger. See that image there where it says “fission bomb?” That’s an atomic bomb within a thermonuclear bomb.

Thermonuclear bomb

Think of a flintlock pistol; the atomic bomb would be equal to that tiny spark that the flint makes versus the bullet.

The situation with Alison is a thermonuclear bomb in my life. Yet I have two other things that are happening in my life that, individually, would be atomic bombs.

Each one of these three things has changed the course of my life forever. Each of these things would take up the entirety of this blog if not for Alison’s situation.

The thing is, this blog has always been my story. Always tried to respect the wishes of people that didn’t want to be part of it. So I can’t tell you the other two stories that take up the other 2/3s of my time, energy, and emotion.

You probably wouldn’t believe me if I told you anyway. Because I’m not sure I believe it.

And I just received some soul-destroying atomic news about one of the other stories this week.

Me: Did it…did it go well?
Her: (long pause) No. The doctor said there was nothing he could do.
Me: So what now?
Her: We wait. (sighing) And hope.
Me: That’s all I do these days.
Her: Don’t break. Your son needs you.
Me: He’s the only reason I don’t break.

Boom.

DONTATIONS

Location: a very dark place
Mood: destroyed
Music: life is hard. It’s misery from the start. It’s dull and slow and painful.
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