Built “Geek”

So we’ve run into a little hiccup with my recovery. The other night I had what I’m hoping was an Asthma attack (it may sound odd to say that, but you’ll see why in a second). When I was young (around like 4th grade) I noticed that I had trouble breathing during a little league game and after going to the doctor my parents and I discovered that I had “infection induced” Asthma. I was prescribed an inhaler and although I knew that meant I’d get to be like Mikey from “The Goonies” (my favorite movie then and now), I wasn’t very excited about having to carry one around, especially since I had just discovered that girls didn’t actually have cooties (and that the stigma of an inhaler could hurt my chances of kissing one of them on the playground). Plus at the time I considered myself a bit of a jock (or sporto…to quote Ferris Bueller) so my whole identity was wrapped up in my ability to play sports and I couldn’t let word spread about this “problem” or my whole world would collapse, you dig? (oh…the melodrama of elementary school). I did a pretty good job keeping it hidden from my classmates and I only had one real Asthma attack during that time and it was at home (far away from the “gossip monsters” known as 4th grade girls). The problem did eventually go away and I didn’t think about it again until I was going to film school in Vancouver, B.C. and noticed a deep nagging cough as I would walk to campus every day. I eventually went to a local clinic (I found Canadian healthcare to be both pleasant and efficient by the way) and sure enough, Asthma had reared it’s ugly head again, and just like a liquid metal T-1000 it had morphed into this cough. I was also once again prescribed an inhaler but I was much more comfortable in my skin by then to let it bother me (plus, I was in film school. Everyone had inhalers).

March of the Inhalers

History continued to repeat itself as the Asthma again went away, and I never thought about it until the other night when I found myself struggling to breathe and with everything going on, anything out of the ordinary (or “the new normal” I should say…right?) causes my caregivers (Amy, RuthMom, StaceMom, and “Girl” our kitty) and I to panic. The concern for us always is if I’m experiencing something weird, that it may be caused by the brain trauma (breathing problems would definitely not be good if that were the case). But as the struggling continued I was brought back to that moment 20 years ago when I suffered my one and only Asthma attack and realized that that was what I was most likely experiencing. Thanks to a humidifier (and to CVS for being open at 11 pm), some Vicks Vaporub, and one of my caregivers (I wont say who) accidentally passing gas (loudly…which caused me to laugh hysterically and in doing so, gave me lots of oxygen) I was able to breathe normal again and fall asleep. Yesterday, before radiation, I met with my doctors and told them what happened and they were pretty sure that the problem is most likely “structural” meaning that it’s probably something like Asthma as opposed to any issues with the brain. They do however want to do a few tests to be 100% sure, so prayers for that would be mucho appreciated. Having Asthma forcing itself into my life again has been a good reminder for me to not forget that I’m actually “built geek” or predisposed to geekiness, meaning that even though I don’t think anyone (myself included) would consider me a “geek” (obviously because I’m confident, handsome, athletic, extremely social, and somewhat fashionable…duh), I am actually the palest person you’ll ever meet, used to take an inhaler, had sinus infections through out my entire teenage years, have weird allergies, played lots of RPGs, video games, have read many comic books (graphic novels), was in drama/chess club, likes to hang out at Frys Electronics (but hate how untrained the staff is), read text books for fun, built my own computer when I was 17, am a walking/talking Internet Movie Database, and have a strong affinity for Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Star Trek (as well as numerous other Sci-Fi/fantasy franchises).

The Geek. My not so secret identity.

I know that “Geek” has become “Chic” and that many people call my peers and I, the “geek generation”, so it doesn’t quite have the same stigma it once had, but the point I’m trying to make, I suppose, is that I see it all as a metaphor for the importance of humility (accurate perception of yourself) in the midst of a storm like this, and that no matter how strong (which I do see myself being as well) I know I need to be to beat this thing, there’s no way I can do it alone. I need the continued prayer, support, and encouragement of all of you (and of course the grace, mercy, and healing power of God) and the more pragmatic hands on support of my caregivers, doctors, family and friends here in LA to get through it. In the midst of all this, I’ll confess that there have certainly been moments when I feel alone (even though I know I’m not) and have taken it out on those that I love most, but as my brother Josh reminded me the other day, there is a beautiful example of what to remember in those dark moments in (ironically) the “geek bible” (Lord of the Rings), when Sam and Frodo finally reach Mount Doom. Frodo has barely the stamina (nor the will) to finish his mission of destroying the ring. As Sam holds Frodo in his arms, he first tries to remind him of all the sights, sounds, and smells of the Shire (so Frodo won’t lose sight of where he came from) but as Frodo continues to struggle (for breath), Sam then tells him that he may not be able to carry his burden (the ring…or in my case the cancer) but he “certainly can carry him”. He then valiantly picks Frodo up, placing him on his shoulders, and does exactly that, carries him slowly up the rough and rugged terrain to the fiery pit of Mount Doom, where the burden is finally destroyed. I guess what I’m also learning is that even in the most fragile point in my life as long as I continue to surrender and acknowledge my shortcomings, this will turn into my biggest triumph even if that means letting people carry me up (parts) of the mountain. Also, “carrying” can come in lots of forms (including someone you love accidentally passing gas…loudly).

Blessed with many “carriers”,

Alex

Frodo Lives!!!

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