Wednesday, October 19, 2016

My Newest and Grandest Challenge

I am taking on cancer one mile biking at a time. You should follow along and support!
"Cancer changes lives... and so do we!" - Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adult's Motto
#key2keys2017 #1500miles

My Newest and Grandest Challenge

I am taking on cancer one mile biking at a time. You should follow along and support!
"Cancer changes lives... and so do we!" - Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adult's Motto

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Amazing Photojournal Idea: Leading Around the World on Imgur

Documenting trips around the world is one of my biggest passions. Combining writing and photography can make a big difference. One constant that I like to have in all of my photography is people. I enjoy capturing what makes all of the places around the world so special. And that is mostly the people. Yes, landscape, skyscapes, and all other -scapes are incredible and I love photographing them, but the ones that resonate just a bit more emotion to me are photos with people within the frame. This imgur album titled "leading around the world" is something I stumbled upon and I love it.

The theme is not people -- but rather a person. This is a loved one that's wanderlust, nomadic, adventurous, fun and wanting to share the experience -- quite literally, hand and hand. Having someone to share the magnificent wonders of travel, test your limits and patience in unfamiliar territories, and challenge you daily as you expand your comfort zones is not only a treasure to a globetrotter, but it is a rarity. I connected closely to this user, makemisteaks', album. I brings back incredible memories of traveling with a companion and forever having those experiences together, like a tattoo seared into your memory. We tried to do a running photo series while traveling, but instead of hands holding, we used our loving little stuffed panda bear as our featured motif through the China landscapes.

This "leading" album is beautifully made (unlike the half-hearted attempt we made in China), and although the HDR quality can be a bit distracting, it is necessary to see all of the subtle features and details of every single photograph. Look closely at every photo and see recurring themes and what things change (fingernail polish, braclets, hairstyle, background and colors). All of these things go "hand-and-hand" with the feeling of each photo, almost as if you could tell what the expression on the woman's face is in every photo.
Truly a fascinating album and genuine idea to do a point-of-view album that encompasses travel photography and nostalgic memories for those within the photo and those just viewing it.
Love this one... reminds me of a tree near the temple I lived at in Bangkok.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Sri Lanka Deserves Travel Recognition

Here's a quick piece I just submitted to Lonely Planet's Best in Travel 2013 about one of my all-time favorite places in the world, Sri Lanka:

"The often forgotten country at the heart of the Indian Ocean has undeniable character and culture. The well-known tsunami that was the caused due to a massive earthquake off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia in 2004 struck the coastlines of dozens of countries, causing massive damage and killing up to a quarter million people. Though not as well publicized around the world as other countries and their disaster response, one of the hardest hit countries from the tsunami was Sri Lanka, sitting directly in the path of the waves’ destruction. The small island with much of its civilization directly on its beautiful coastline was completely destroyed. In one moment, nearly 2,000 people were killed by the first onslaught of waves crashing in-land and killing almost every passenger on the busy train line Queen of the Sea. The destruction resulted in the greatest loss of life in railroad history.

Five years after the tsunami took over 35,000 Sinhalese lives, I had the fortune to visit this incredibly breath-taking country. With its rich history hailing from Portuguese, Dutch and British heritage combined with their strongly independent culture, it's easy to see what makes Sri Lanka so attractive to a history buff. But it has so much more than century-old history and ancient roots. Just months before I arrived to the capitol of Colombo, Sri Lanka's modern-day history was continuing to be dramatically shaped as the civil war between the government in power and the Tamil Tigers finally ended after 26 years. Faced with years of struggle and violence, topped with unfathomable natural destruction to an already poor economy, Sri Lanka looked to be doomed with the cards it was dealt. But the tear-drop shaped nation just off the southern Indian coast persevered. The country's strong values in family and community rebuilt the nation from the ground up. With a healthy government and growing economy, the once overlooked country is getting standing on its own again.

The country’s culture and community make up its remarkable character. It's traditional food of fishes, chutneys, curries and an array of rich flavors paired with its relaxed atmosphere brings a speed of smoothness similar to its coconut sambol. With its deep roots to Buddhist, Hinduism, Christianity and Islam, the country begs for a faith-driven traveler to see its many sides and tranquility around each corner from Kandy to Colombo. The Sri Lankan people are some of the kindest, most generous, and prideful individuals. Even though faced through centuries of adversity, the culture and customs of such a small country remains strong and true, even though often lost in the mix of the more popular travel destinations like India, Thailand and Indonesia. Sri Lanka is a travelers' ultimate trip for great activities such as hiking or beach going, as well as catching a cricket match on any street corner. It has tremendous value to foreign travelers looking for something a bit off the beaten path and with a cultural background unlike any of its neighboring countries.
Of all my travels, I have still to this day found a country that comes remotely close to Sri Lanka’s beauty, endurance, spirituality, and overall charm."

Friday, July 27, 2012

Why I Run: Olympic Torches and Motivation

With the 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremonies kicking off today, I felt it would be best to give a little insight into my connection with the Olympics but also on what I have done in my ten years following that special moment on that cold winter morning of 2001.
The best way for me to describe how everything connects in my life is to provide you with the back-story to this letter, which I originally wrote to the Philadelphia Enquirer on "Why I Am Running The Broad Street Run" for their potential publication following the race back in May. (My story did not get selected, but another beautiful story of struggle and accomplishment did.) But I have many friends, family and strangers ask me the same question about running organized races like 5ks, 10 milers and half-marathons (not onto full marathons yet): "Why do you do it?," "Why pay to run long distances?," "Is there some sort of special acknowledgement for completely these runs or simply bragging rights on Facebook?" These are real questions people have asked me and so I feel there is no better way to explain than through my story.
So in honor of the beautiful Olympic Games underway, the spirit of competition, athletic endurance and fitness, and lifelong struggle, I ask for you to read my letter on Why I Run. Afterwards, if you feel motivated enough to make a small donation to the Team Fight organization, the information about the foundation I run for is linked below!

"Why I Run"
I've never been one to accept rejection lightly. I don't like to be told what I can and cannot do. And when I was 13 years old, I was told I wasn't allowed to do much with my future (whether it be long-term or near-future). I was told I had Hodgkin's disease Lymphoma , a common form of cancer among teenagers affecting the Lymphatic system. Likelihood of surviving the disease was high. I received chemotherapy and radiation as I finished up elementary school and entered into high school. I was declared "cured" after six months of treatment. Just after a few months of my regular check ups, the cancer had come back with much more severity, spreading throughout my body.
An overhaul of treatment ideas came forth and extensive amounts of chemotherapy did not do its job once again. A last resort treatment was to receive a stem-cell transplant. I harvested (froze) my own stem-cells for three months before undergoing the highest dosage of chemotherapy possible, with the hopes to wipe out the spreading cancerous cells. As a result of such powerful chemotherapy that was meant to kill any fast growing cells in my body, the treatment would completely wipe out my immune system. Without white blood cells to protect my body from harmful diseases or the common cold, I had to remain in isolation within the hospital in Boston, MA for 6 weeks to allow for my immune system to recover and grow, similiar to an infant's. I didn't eat for 17 days, I was getting sick every hour, I lost a frightening amount of weight, all while being two hours from my family and friends back home in NH. With the limited amount of people allowed to visit me due to harmful germs (even the simpliest infection or cold could have killed me if I contracted it), I had allowed my mind to dream of breaking free from the hospital and wandering the world, free of tubes, IVs, nausea, and desperately concerned looks from my family as I was on the brink. Finally, my immune system begin to recover. I left the hospital only to be confined to my house for 4 months in strict isolation. I had no physical interaction with family members. I couldn't go to school, I just had a tutor who visited and worked with me (from a distance). Being locked down in a house is not something a person like myself can handle. It was incredibly challenging physically, mentally, and emotionally, but was just a drop in the bucket compared to what I had lived through to get there.
A break happened around Christmas time of nearly my third year of fighting the disease. I was selected to run one-tenth of a mile, carrying the Olympic torch on its way to Salt Lake City. The honor was huge and my chance to get out of the house to get a little exercise had finally come.
At 4:30am, in 10 degree weather, an hour from my house in New Hampshire, my personal torch received the famous flame that has been passed from carrier to carrier for centuries. The moment will forever live in my memory as my short stretch to carry the flame began. For the first time in my life I got the thrill of running for a crowd. My one-tenth of a mile was filled on both sides of the road with my closest family and friends bearing the brutally cold weather and cheering me on. This was my first real exercise in more than 8 months, as my health was far too weak and my restrictions were overly-precautious when it came to any exercise. But while carrying that flame, it wasn't apparent that my body was recovering from its most devastating battle yet. I was so filled with adrenaline and happiness holding the glowing torch in my hand that I began sprinting and high stepping my way up the road before being told to slow down and embrace the moment.
I passed the flame to the next carrier, my parents greated me at the end with hugs and my dad said, "You looked like you could run a marathon with how excited and how much energy you had!" And it felt like I could have.
That was my first taste of organized running. It was quite a grandiose stage to enter in on. But sadly, after finally regaining a healthy, strong immune system and being completely cleared of any cancerous cells in my body, I still had obstacles to face in the future. My doctors gave me warnings of all the things I should not -- and could not -- do with my second lease on life. Of the laundry list of things my body -- specifically my heart -- could not handle, three stuck out in my mind the most; no scuba-diving, no high altitude climbing, no long endurance training/running.
Challenge accepted. Nine years after being diagnosed, while living in Thailand, I climbed to the top of Mount Kinabalu in Borneo, one of the tallest mountains in Southeast Asia. The two day trek stretched my lungs and heart to the limit with its 4,095 meters (13,435 feet) above sea level elevation. After surviving that climb, I got the hunger.
To honor my ten year anniversary of my diagnosis, I climbed for four days to the base camp of the tenth tallest mountain in the world, Nepal's Mount Annapurna in the Himalayas, at 4,130 meters (13,549 ft) above sea level. I reached the peak April 8th, 2010, just three days before my decade anniversary of challenge and celebration.
Just eight months after that, I began training for my first half marathon. On October 12, 2011 I checked off another "cannot do" on my doctor's list, by finishing the Baltimore Half Marathon in just over two hours.
This year's Baltimore Half Marathon (10/12/13) will be my fourth half marathon completed since then. But with each measurement of distance, I always think of my proudest 1/10 of a mile back in 2001 with torch in my hand.
I plan to continue running longer distanced runs in the future, with hopes to complete that marathon my father told me I looked so prepared for during my sickest days.
Checking off these challenges on my list has been something I've prided myself on and have built my life post-cancer around. So when I think about why I'm running any race, I just think back to all of the times I wasn't able to jump out of my hospital bed and just run. That image encourages me everyday and every mile.

To donate towards my cause for Team Fight, please go to my personal page here and help me reach my fundraising goal for this year's Baltimore Half Marathon.
Thank you to everyone's donations, encouragement, help, and support!