8/15/2015 – Laughter

I’ve managed to turn my life into a skeleton race: 80 mph, headfirst, no brakes. I started my weekend by showing my new six-bedroom Georgian-style home that I bought and renovated in 60 days to a prospective tenant.  Perhaps I should explain.

I decided to buy a house on my 32nd birthday. A week later, I saw a house and called the realtor. 30 days later, I closed on the house and hired contractors to renovate it. Three weeks and several thousands of dollars after that, I moved in, posted an ad for the five remaining bedrooms and hoped for the best.

After the first showing, I rushed to a personal training session with my swim coach, then back to the house to meet three more prospective tenants.  By the end of the day, 2.5 months after I decided to become a home-owner, I had renovated and furnished a 2700 square foot house and filled all five spare rooms with tenants.

As if being a landlord and training for the Olympics with a full-time job at the American Cancer Society wasn’t exhausting enough, I took on a part-time job as a Kaplan LSAT instructor to pay the massive credit card bill from renovating the house. When I finally managed to make it into the office of the American Cancer Society this week, my boss raised her eyebrows in mock surprise and said, “Haven’t seen you in a while!”

Why the madness? The likelihood of Nigeria sponsoring me is slim. By becoming a landlord, I’ll  generate a positive cash flow that I can use to cover my training costs. (The price tag of private training sessions leaves me more sore than the workout itself.) By the end of the year, I should be able to drop the part-time job and focus on swimming. The gamble is that I won’t drown in debt or simply drop from sheer exhaustion first.

Despite the mental and physical strain, this circus act that passes for my life is a luxury. I’m struggling for my own dream, using a gift of life from an anonymous donor. Like a man at a buffet who doesn’t know where his next meal is coming from, I’m trying to cram as much life down as possible, because I know that tomorrow isn’t guaranteed.

The price of living too richly is occasional indigestion. If I fail, I’ll know that I gave it everything I had. If I succeed… well, I think I’ll laugh for a very long time! But I have to try.

5/27/15 – A Glimpse of Greatness

I started training with the varsity swim team at Georgia Tech this week. My birthday was three days ago. I celebrated by making a list of ten things I wanted to achieve during this year of my life. At the top of the list is qualifying for the 2016 Summer Olympics in swimming.

Easier said than done, but there are moments when it seems very achievable. This afternoon, for example, I went to the pool for my second swim practice of the day. My left shoulder had been aching for a week, so I’d gone to see an orthopedist after the morning swim practice. He recommended physical therapy and prescribed some anti-inflammatory and pain-killing medications.

My shoulder ached so much that I really didn’t expect to do much in the afternoon practice – splash around a bit, maybe do some kick sets. That all changed when the coach announced that we were doing a 200 meter fast swim as part of a longer set. First, I should explain that the varsity team is divided into two groups: sprint and distance. I should have been in the sprint group, but I somehow ended up in the distance lane. The thought of swimming 200 meters fast didn’t appeal to me, so I was relieved when the coach told me that I could skip it.

But then something inside me started to get curious. What if I tried? Could I keep up with these fit college kids? I doubted it, but my curiosity kept growing. To my surprise, a moment later I heard my own voice timidly ask: “Coach, mind if I do the 200 fast with the team?” Her eyebrows raised, then she nodded.

On my left was a girl, to my right were two boys. Mentally I decided to try to keep up with the girl. The boys, I thought, would be too fast. About 20 seconds later, the group pushed off and the race was on.  I did three quick underwater dolphin kicks. Suddenly, my doubts and timidity evaporated. I was racing. For the first time in years, I felt like I was bobbing on the water like a cork, instead of floundering like a barge. My hips rotated rhythmically, powering my arms through the water. At the 50 meter mark, I was a body length ahead of the girl and keeping up with the boys.

At the 75 meter mark, I realized, I can beat them. I knew it, from the bottom of my heart. Gone was the ache in my shoulder. I was beyond pain, beyond fatigue, beyond doubts. Then I made the mistake of glancing at the timing board as I flipped. I was a full 15 seconds ahead of my pace. The shock of how fast I was going snapped me out of the trance. Suddenly I could feel everything – my lungs heaving, my legs burning. My arms felt like they were weighted with sleeves of lead. The boys pulled away. By the 150, the girl had caught up. I finished dead last, but still a full 15 seconds faster than I had planned. Not bad for my first week.

I’ve got a long way to go, but that taste of speed left me hungry for more.

Celebrating six years into my new life!


Six years ago this month, I was diagnosed with two aggressive cancers and given months to live without a stem cell transplant. I made a bucket list of things I wanted to do before I died, and decided to finally LIVE, instead of postponing my life. Today, I’m cancer-free, living the life of my dreams, and working towards a world with less cancer. To all my friends and loved ones, here’s a toast to life!

March 2, 2012

Tired and sore after a weightlifting session with my personal trainer. In two days we’re going to start running outside. Endurance sprints. Superficially those two words make me want to turn off the lights, hide under a blanket, and pretend no one’s home. Deep down, though, I know I’m ready for the challenge.