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My passion and motivation for living my best life stem from the discovery of a genetic predisposition to accumulating tumors – a realization that sparked my investigative journey into researching the health, performance, and longevity of the human brain.
Having survived multiple brain tumors and the devastating sadness of losing a brother to suicide, I have devoted my life to inspiring others to take control of their health and life.
Providing tools for mental strength, health, manifestation, business, and nutrition, my story illustrates how challenges come in every shape and size, but I emphasize that happy and successful people use the same mental tools to get them there, regardless of their past or current tribulations.
The Early Signs of Brain Tumor
Early in 2009, I started showing the typical symptoms of a brain tumor:
This was about a year prior to my original diagnosis, and it was actually an accident when we found it.
The next two diagnoses (2012 and 2017) showed no symptoms, and those brain tumors were only found while monitoring the progress of surgery to remove the original brain tumor.
I was 21 years old when I was diagnosed with the first brain tumor. I had hit my head training and got an MRI to look for traumatic brain injury (TBI). That’s when the report revealed that the original brain tumor was taking up a good portion of the left side of my brain.
The next step was a consultation with my surgeon at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and then surgery.
It all happened less than 2 weeks from the diagnosis. My surgeon, Dr. Allan Friedman, actually moved some patients around in the schedule to get me in sooner due to the severity and size of the tumor I had in my skull.
The Probable Causes
After the first and second diagnosis and surgery/treatment, the doctors said a multitude of reasons could have caused it:
- X-rays for braces and injuries growing up
- Living by the power lines and the radiation from them
- Head injuries
- Poor diet and lifestyle
After the third diagnosis, the medical team believed the cause was a genetic disorder called neurofibromatosis. (2)
For the first brain tumor, I underwent open cranial surgery to remove the mass.
Two years later, two tumors grew back in the front and rear of my brain, and I was told they were due to the original tumor wrapping around my artery and optic nerve.
Out of fear of hitting either of those and leaving me blind, paralyzed, or bled out, the doctors didn’t get all the tissue to avoid harming either area.
I was told it was just residual cell growth and was recommended radiation, but I didn’t like the sound of it. So, I did some research and found Gamma Knife radiosurgery. It basically zapped the two tumors, and they shrunk for 4 years or so before stabilizing since. (3)
Because of Gamma Knife, I didn’t need any medication or surgery and was back home that day and riding in a week after.
The third diagnosis, which discovered two new tumors on the opposite side of the other two from the original surgery, came a total of 7 years after the cranial surgery in 2010. This is when I really learned about it being so-called “genetic” and the concept of “epigenetics.”
Thanks to Dr. David Perlmutter, in his book Grain Brain, I learned about epigenetics and how ketones (from a low-carb/high-fat diet) and a state of ketosis can signal genes in various beneficial ways, such as regulating inflammation, providing the brain “alternative” energy, and reducing free-radical and oxidative stress. (4)
This memory led me to implement a ketogenic diet and begin testing my blood for blood ketones known as beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB).
From doing so for a year with no medication, surgery, or treatments, the tumors showed no progression the year after my third brain tumor diagnosis. This was in 2018 and again in 2019.
I have looked into this more and have talked with more doctors about it. This is why I focus on regulating my blood glucose levels in a manner that produces blood ketones and supplement with exogenous (external form) ketones.
The Emotional and Mental Struggle During Treatment
I felt stressed, for sure. But I also felt optimistic and faithful that I was going to be well. I had a top surgeon (Dr. Allan Friedman) who assured me I was in good hands, a supportive family, and a friends’ network.
Moreover, my focus was on my future vision rather than what I didn’t want to happen, which elevated my energy and thoughts. I had to let go of control and fear and surrender my life to faith in the unknown of the situation as well as to the surgeon.
The Biggest Challenge Throughout the Treatment
The biggest challenge throughout the treatment was after I recovered and started riding. Shortly after the diagnosis and before the surgery, my mindset shifted to “this is what I gotta do, and I will treat it like any other injury I have had.”
That part was easier because, the way I saw it, fear had no room in the situation any longer because I either had the surgery to have a chance at living or declined the surgery and waited until my death arrived.
When you’re faced with black or white odds and choices to preserve your life, a sense of courage and faith, you never knew you had takes over, especially when you’re so passionate about something.
The challenge came when I began riding again and getting the thoughts hitting my head out of my mind, along with the body and space awareness learning process.
I wasn’t 100% mentally back to myself with my riding for the better part of a year or so, I’d say. As soon as that resolved itself, I was back to myself again, but on a higher level, and my riding began to really excel as well as my mindset and how I showed up in life.
My Motivation to Keep Fighting
I would describe my whole journey as enlightening and empowering. It has taught me that I have more strength, courage, and creativity than I ever fathomed beforehand. This goes for my personal and professional life.
Had it not been for the original brain tumor diagnosis, I may have never taken this route of self-awareness and self-discovery to learn how to optimize my choices in my state of being (thoughts, actions, and feelings) and perspective of the world.
Had it not been for this, I may have never devoted my life to my clear purpose – to inspire new perspectives and inspiration that allow others to empower themselves and create their lives by conscious design.
The thing that has kept me pushing forward was the future vision for my life I held within my mind. Even up to the last moments before brain surgery, I kept my focus and intentions on getting back to BMX bike riding, the dream I had made come true as my career and what inspired me to push past any pain and adversity in my life.
Even today, I focus on what it is I want my life to be like, in any aspect I can think of. Whenever I get overwhelmed, experience fears or stress, or face any challenge, I focus on what I want and what I am experiencing.
I believe that is key to success in any area of life – focus yields result. But we have to understand ourselves unconsciously and consciously, why we focus our efforts on the things we do, and why we have resistance to areas, we want to change.
Once we become more and more self-aware, we can become inspired by our future rather than live by our past or current memories, feelings, and/or experiences.
The Lessons I Learnt Along the Way
For those struggling to fight a brain tumor, it’s important to believe that your minds’ strength can profoundly affect the outcome of your choices. I chose to believe in the percentage of my recovery that I was presented with and shift all of my focus and energy to life after surgery.
Rather than asking and thinking, “what happens if I don’t wake up?” I chose to focus on the thought of “what will life be like when I do wake up, and what will I do differently?”
I know how devastating such a diagnosis and battle can be, but with my experience, the belief in myself and my focus, along with other stories to look to for inspiration, are what helped motivate me and elevate my level of energy and belief in my success.
I refer to these inspiring people as “virtual mentors.” Lance Armstrong was that person for me when I was 21 and facing a life or death surgery to remove a massive brain tumor.
I have now dedicated my life to becoming a source of “virtual mentoring” and inspiration to others after learning and experiencing what has helped me get past what others see as devastating and near impossible.
I believe I will appeal to those that take their health for granted by providing a perspective through the lens of my life and what can happen if you do or don’t prioritize your health.
My outer appearance as a professional athlete in “good shape” provides some truth that health is internal and that we can’t solely rely on outer appearances to determine if we are “healthy” or not.
I was also only 21 years old when I was diagnosed and faced with a life-or-death surgery to attempt to preserve my life. That is where I believe I can shift others’ perspectives as I don’t have a weight loss journey. Rather, I have a story of an internal battle for my health.
It’s my mission to share this perspective so that anyone in any type of physical shape can begin to understand that health begins within and may or may not manifest externally.