One year ago…today (Instead of…I am)

Posted in Uncategorized by Sean Holton on July 24, 2010

July 24, 2010: Today I rode my Triumph home

Today is the first anniversary of the discovery of my brain tumor. I am very fortunate that this GBM tumor was detected and treated when it was, because otherwise my chances of being around to write this post today would have been pretty slim. So I’m celebrating my one year of survival.                

I marked the occasion by riding my Triumph Scrambler to the Downtown Orlando YMCA and having a friendly passerby snap a picture of me in the parking lot. It was in that very parking lot that my motorcycle sat abandoned for most of the day on Friday, July 24, 2009 after I passed out during my morning workout and was hauled away in an ambulance. Regular readers of this blog know the rest of the story.                  

As today ticked by, hour by hour, I made up a fun new game that I’ll call “Instead of…I am…” I relied mostly on my recollections of that day a year ago but I also referred to my medical records to help me reconstruct where I was and what I was doing at each horrible hour and miserable moment a year ago today. Then I gleefully compared it to what I was doing at that time today.                  

 Here’s how the game went:                  

10:30 a.m.:  “Instead of (slumping over in a chair and falling to the floor in a public place after having a seizure), I am (sitting  upright on my sofa happily eating a bowl of fruit and watching the penultimate stage of the Tour de France).”                  

11:30 a.m.: “Instead of (being parked on a gurney in a hallway outside the crowded ORMC emergency room), I am (taking my dogs Chopper and Kaley out for a fun romp in the backyard).”                   

Noon: “Instead of (giving an ER nurse my complete family medical history), I am (firing up the Scrambler in the garage and heading out to meet a friend for lunch after making my quick stop at the Y and mailing a card to my nephew, who will be at summer camp next week).”                  

12:30 p.m.: “Instead of (tossing and turning on that uncomfortable gurney while wondering how long it will be before I’ll be bumped into at least a curtained, semi-private alcove in the ER), I am (ordering an Italian Chopped Salad at the  Crispers restaurant in Winter Park Village).”                  

1:30 p.m.: “Instead of (getting a CT scan of my head following a chest X-ray, as per standard procedure for seizure patients), I am (zooming back home on my Triumph to beat a midsummer rainstorm).”            

2:30 p.m: “Instead of (being told by an attending ER physician that the CT scan had detected a mass in my right temporal lobe that looked like a malignant brain tumor), I am (taking a snooze on the couch and thinking about what I’ll make for dinner tonight).”            

4:00 p.m.: “Instead of (working my way through a frantic round of calls to my brothers, sisters and friends from all over the country to let them know that I’ll be having brain surgery in two days), I am (sitting down to write this blog post).”             

And so on. I won’t subject you to more. But the game can go on indefinitely, and anyone can play. You don’t have to have a brain tumor. Just pick any really crappy day from your life (it doesn’t even have to be an anniversary date) and line it up side by side with the really wonderful day that I hope you are having today. As you can see from my July 24, 2010 activity list, the definition of a “really wonderful day” does not have to be limited to a day of great excitement or memorable accomplishment. It can be a day filled with the routine and the mundane. The only requirement is that you be alive.  And if in addition to being very alive you are very happy, you win. Just like I did today.           

Happy July 24, everyone.             


15 Responses

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  1. Patsi said, on July 24, 2010 at 7:01 pm

    So thankful you caught this when you did, Sean. A Grammy-nominated singer friend of mine who was on Capitol Records, was at the hospital visiting his wife, when one of he doctors told him he thought something might be wrong. They found a brain tumor, operated, and over a decade later, John is still doing great, touring, making records. Had it not been for the fact that his wife was hospitalized I don’t think his condition would have been caught in time.

  2. Kathryn Quigley said, on July 24, 2010 at 7:40 pm

    Yes, this year is MUCH better than last year!
    I am wondering how the ER doc gave you the news. In TV shows, that is always such a dramatic moment. But I bet it was much more mundane. Even ordinary for the doc. Or did he at least look a tad concerned for you?
    On an unrelated note, yea to Crispers in Winter Park!!!

  3. Beth said, on July 24, 2010 at 7:57 pm

    What a great entry — I love it! I think I will do the same thing on November 17, 2010 which is the anniversary of my lovely GBM diagnosis — temporal, as well. No seizures, just unable to express anything more complicated than saying “I don’t know” or just not talking at all . . . It’ll be fun, I think to remember what I was doing on that day and what I will be doing — obviously, I very optimistic!! So, enjoy your day (or what is left of it) it is only 5:00 p.m. here and it doesn’t get dark until really late and then about 1 hour later, it’s getting light again. I love this place!

  4. Lisa said, on July 24, 2010 at 8:21 pm

    as odd as it sounds, but you know how i mean it — happy anniversary, sean!

  5. April said, on July 24, 2010 at 8:46 pm

    Thanks for the uplift, Sean. We’re all so happy to see your posts!

  6. Jana said, on July 24, 2010 at 9:08 pm

    What an encouraging post. We should all live each day as you do now.

  7. Lisa C. said, on July 24, 2010 at 9:27 pm

    You’re doing so great. And your July 24, 2010, sounds just about perfect.

  8. RebelliousRenee said, on July 25, 2010 at 8:06 am

    looking good on that bike there buddy!
    hope you have many more happy anniversaries….
    now breathe deeply…. slowly let it out… you’re right… it’s great to be alive…

  9. Jamie said, on July 25, 2010 at 9:40 am

    Thank you for sharing your “Instead of” day and may you continue to have many, many more.

  10. Wendy Spirduso said, on July 25, 2010 at 10:11 am

    Sean — Thank you. Your post reminded me of what’s important and special about today. You are wise teacher and your journey has helped so many. Believe me. Happy Anniversary. Wendy

  11. Ann Hellmuth said, on July 25, 2010 at 10:35 am


    What an inspired posting. Read it to Justus. We are keeping a book on all his meetings etc. so in a year we should be able to make a happy comparison as well. thanks for being there for us. You are the best of friends.


  12. Maggie said, on July 25, 2010 at 3:48 pm

    Sean, I am a friend of Kathy’s who reads your blog and I must say, you have it going on, thank you for the lift. m

  13. Craig Crawford said, on July 26, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    I love the blog but now I’m ready for the book, mister. Sean Holton’s “Cancer and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.” Get to work!

  14. Tim Holton said, on July 26, 2010 at 10:16 pm

    Time to get back on the little bike buddy. Yes, its an unbelievable blessing to be alive and for us to have u in still in our lives. Lets have a celebration every 7-24 for the next 20 or so years ,ok.
    Love ya my brother.Stay blest.

  15. Guitar Dad said, on August 6, 2010 at 11:41 pm

    Your remarkable outlook is an inspiration, a wake-up call to anyone with the audacity to take an ordinary day’s miraculous moments for granted. Thanks for the awakening.

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