10 Years


My summer of 2019 is basically one continuous 10th anniversary.

10 years ago this week, I was at a digital storytelling workshop with the Center for Digital Storytelling in Berkeley, CA. That week has informed almost every part of my life since then.

On July 20, 2009 (my “Scanniversary”), I had an MRI meant to rule out a rare brain tumor that instead revealed it. It was benign, but large enough to end my life. The lives of my loved ones suddenly focused entirely on the unexpected lime-sized invader.

August 7, 2009 was my first brain surgery, performed in Phoenix by a neurosurgeon who saved my life. Complications meant 3 more brain surgeries that month. The 7th is the date I have claimed as the beginning of my revised life. A friend told me that on that day she was going to sit in a chair facing Phoenix and think about me. Turns out that I’m going to be with her on August 7th, 2019. I think I’ll ask her to sit with me.

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This is me on August 24, 2009. August 24, 2019 is the penultimate day of the Summer Games, so I’ll celebrate by doing rad shenanigans with friends and strangers, and generally being grateful for the people who helped me get from August 24, 2009 to August 25th, 2009 to today. And the work I’ve put into the last 10 years. And the work that the next 10 years will be. August 2009 is the month when I became disabled, and my recovery will never be finished - not even by August 2029.

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This is me with my cousin Mark on September 14th, 2009. Around that time, I made a promise to myself that ten years from then, I would look back on all of this and be glad that it happened. That my life would be better because of it. In the 10 years since then, my life has overlapped with so many people that have enriched my life in ways I can’t explain. I’ve been to 37 states. I’ve been to Elvis Costello concerts in Los Angeles and Durham, NC. I’ve gotten a Master’s in resilience (like, actually a legit Master’s). I’ve had the honor of helping at least a hundred people make digital stories that are funny, brave, healing.

I’ve even become a high school English teacher. So on September 24th, 2019 (it’s a Saturday), I’ll probably be reading essays and writing lesson plans. Which is amazing considering that on September 24, 2009 the major victory was that (with help) I got out of my hospital bed and sat upright (with pillow and Mark support) on a couch.

If you want to help me celebrate my 10th anniversary on August 7th, would you take a moment and look in the direction of Phoenix, Arizona, and send some kind thoughts to the patients at St. Joe’s Hospital?

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