( 6 ) New Look

After running around the dodger stadium in my underwear, I started to realize that if you go around caring what people think you are going to be setting yourself up for insecurities and future emotional stress. With this in mind I started watching the fashion world and finding a way I could influence my personality into these outfits available to me. So as I was going along I had met people that gave me a crash course into “way out there” sense of fashion. So seeing that I had all these choices to make and the options presented in front of me, I decided to go for it and change my image that represented my emotional state of mind. This included everything from head to toe. I had shaved my hair into the style of a Mohawk, wore dark gray/black/white V-neck shirts, skinny jeans and had more accessories than Jonny Depp. This was only the clothing choice I had made. I started to get engulfed by LA and ventured into black nail polish, guy liner and expensive hair product.

So now here I am with a complete new image and way of thinking in life. Now it was time to show the world the new me, and what a better way than taking a trip to Las Vegas with my best friend Cliff. While in Vegas I started noticing all the attention I was getting and especially from the ladies. This is when I started the whole, “lets see what pick up line works the best” routine. I must say with some of the lines I used I was surprised that I got more attention than I ever though possible. From all the drinking, VIP access in all the clubs, more girls than I could count, and the countless memories I created and didn’t remember, this was the new Nick Leland re-born. On my way back to LA I looked at Cliff and told him that I finally got my life back and it’s better than ever. I couldn’t wait to get back and open up all these doors in Hollywood and see how far I could run with my new outlook on life and my personal image.

I started going out to nightclubs more and more, talking to random people and making myself known to others. One night out in a nightclub I had befriended a few promoters that were just starting out, and decided that I would help promote with them and party hard. With this transition in progress I started to notice the slow decline in the control over my life. Like the great quote I’m sure everyone knows, “for every action there is a reaction, and for every cause there is an effect.” These quotes can be either heaven or hell depending on the choices we make. For me the arrow was pointing down. It was a specific night that made me take off the blindfold I had been wearing to see what I was doing to myself.

(5) Taking a risk!

As each day comes and goes a new task presents itself in my life. Whether it is from dating, work, friends or family something tends to come up.  As these days pass I start to break back into the dating world and lower my wall to see if there is anyone out there that will love me for who I am and in the end someone I will truly fall in love with.  With friends, I keep the ones I got close to me and am very cautious to the new ones I meet.  My family will always be by my side no matter what decisions I choose to make. With this in mind, I had a new choice to make and risk to possibly taking.

My best friend Cliff was there for me every step of the way when I was going through chemotherapy and always cheered me up when I was down at my lowest. One day after I graduated from the police academy he came up to me and said, “dude, let’s move to Santa Monica for a few months!”  There was this place that he was going to be house sitting and didn’t require us to pay rent. So what the hell I was in! With no thorough thought or contemplation I made the decision and decided to take the spontaneous risk.  When I told my family of my intensions they thought I was making a rational decision without thinking about it, but what did I care I wanted to get away from reality. A couple weeks passed, a few interventions with family members later, I was all packed and driving south.  I remember when I first arrived in Santa Monica I headed straight for the beach to watch the sunset.  There I was with my best friend feeling the warm ocean breeze and thinking to myself this is one thing that makes me proud that I fought.

This was by far the best move I could have made for myself, and the sanity I had left after my sickness. But this was only the first week into my crazy three-month journey to find my true meaning of life.

When I was searching through craigslist one morning I came across a 2-month job opportunity for a non-profit cancer organization. I thought to myself, this is a great opportunity to give back to what help save my life.  Both Cliff and I applied for the position and were quickly asked to join their marketing team. Boy was I in for a surprise for what my job duties were, and especially the outfit I had to wear! The first week wasn’t so bad just had to do foot work around LA and go to local businesses to market the organization.  The real task and challenge ahead for me was the opening game of the LA Dodgers. So seeing that this organization was for cancer below the waist, the run/ walk was going to be for everyone to do the run/walk in his or her underwear. This being the case my next assignment for work was to go around the dodger stadium on opening day in my underwear along with Cliff and another team member. What a day it was, with all the pictures that I am sure that made it to facebook or myspace, and all the comments we received while walking around thousands of people.  Do I regret doing it? Not one bit! In fact, I actually think it helped me get outside the box I had been living in my whole life and just to not have a care what others thought of me.

With the adventure of stepping outside my box, came many thoughts and feelings of what to do next to keep pushing myself to explore. Boy did I push and I don’t think I was ready for what was in store.

(4) Start of a Falling Brick

Sitting in my room, I found myself staring at my surreal imaginary brick wall and feeling a single emotional emptiness.  Watching the one brick fall heavily to the ground, I started to feel the crack form bigger and stronger through the middle of my heart.  This was my first time I have ever been heart broken, and truly felt like my best friend turned her back and walked away. Suddenly my mind was moving so fast that I found myself pressing the rewind button in my memory vault.

Senior prom, 2002

One week away from my high school senior prom and still had yet to find a care or a date to go with. I felt as if I did not need to go because I was not really into the whole school thing and also knowing that all my close friends didn’t even go to the same school.  My mother approached me one day when I got home from class and drilled right in, to ask why I would not go. I gave her my reasons and excuses, but she still did not budge.  Listening closely to what she had to say about the importance and the regrets I would have if I did not attend made me change my mind.  At that point I stopped and looked at my mother and said, “shit! It’s less than a week away, how am I going to find a date”.  Little time passes and the idea came up “what about Robyn?”  This was my old neighbor that was a grade behind me and I said sure I will give her a try. Robyn agreed to my offer when I called later that day and the date was set.

Prom night was no fluke but yet fate playing its hand in my life.  I felt like as if I was in a Hollywood movie and as we danced together the fireworks were going off in the background. Every touch by her hand felt like a soft angel’s touch and her eyes pierced right into my heart as if it was cupid’s arrow. Never did I think love at first sight was real, until this night. The event was coming to an end fast, my time was running short, and do I kiss her now or wait for another day? So many crazy emotions racing through my body like a racehorse trying to reach the finish.  The dance was over and we jumped into our limo to drive home. As we started to take off I found Robyn holding my hand and staring deeply at me with a huge smile. Are eyes felt like they were locked together and the car ride was only a few seconds long.  As we step out of the limo and slowly make way towards her door, I told myself to open up and go for the kiss.  We came to a stop, I looked at her and said, “ I was a lucky guy to have gone with such a beautiful girl”, and then I leaned in to kiss her.  For some reason the kiss felt as if it was the first time I had ever done it, and all my self-doubt was gone. We pulled away from each other and said goodnight. As I was walking down the path back to the limo, she called to me and asked if she could see me the next day. Of course I replied with a “definitely”!

This night seems to constantly replay in my subconscious and I am unable to turn it of. I wished this fairy tale night could have turned into a happy ending like a Disney movie, but in the path of my life it does not.  This was the start to a horrible ending.

(3) Changes

This car ride felt like an eternity, and all I kept doing was driving in circles. One hour turned to six, but oddly enough my gas gauge never made its way to empty.  Where was I going and why did I feel so lost?  It wasn’t until then that I finally realized it was not my car physically going in circles but yet my emotional mind.

This is the moment that I was flooded with thought and doubt about my dream of becoming a peace officer. Cancer killed my dream, my passion, and my drive to succeed in life.  These are the many thoughts that popped in my head and lead me through a twisting path of confusion. Though I beat this ugly disease I still felt the effects that took place. I did not want to come to the realization that my journey of becoming a police officer was fading to an end or had to be put on hold for a while.  With this in mind I stopped to tell myself that you never give up and that you are a survivor. This statement is re-visited many times when I have an ounce of doubt or loose track of my path. Everyone needs a quote or saying that can help him or her get back on track to success. Sometimes it is the smallest thing that helps spark the little motivational flames we have within us.

Determined to be successful and to never give up on the second chance I have been given made me put my head down and start charging.  The police academy was not an easy trek, but with my determination came success. Though I was no longer considered as a candidate for any departments, I did not let that get in the way of completion.  During the academy I did not fail one test, was at the top of my class in physical fitness, and had a 94 percent average overall.  The end of the academy was vastly approaching and the finish line was near.

So many people were surprised by my willingness to succeed and the plain fact that I have been doing so well after re-starting the academy only three weeks past my last chemotherapy treatment. My doctor thought I was pushing the line a bit early but believed in my determination. My parents were scared that I was not fully recovered and would soon fall to emotional stress, but supported me in my decision. Only one person stayed persistent and questioned my reason of why I still kept pushing though I knew there was no golden egg at the end of the road. All the nasty comments and remarks that were tossed my way, not to mention the past that still lingered. This person had to go, cut off from my life and heart, though I thought she was going to be there forever and always. My heart was breaking at this turning point in my life and now this was another brick falling from my wall.

(2) What do I do now?

So many questions answered in the brief sentence of a doctor, but one still remains. What do I do now? Though this was a journey of uncertainty, I came out victorious and feel like a new person. With this victory came a price, not just of money, but yet a physical and emotional price. I’ll take you back a few years and tell you why this plays a big part into my lingering question.

Throughout high school I was always active in after school sports that included soccer, wrestling, and my favorite golf. I always did very well and had the support system of an army while playing all these sports. By the end of my senior year I fell in love with the game of golf and became very serious about the sport. After high school I pursued my passion for the game and ended up turning pro to chase the PGA tour dream. I was very active and took great care of my body and mind. After chasing this dream it started to get more distant from becoming reality, so I searched for the next best thing on my “career to do” list. This was to become a California peace officer.

Becoming a California peace officer was a big challenge and a bit harder than I expected, but I knew that mentally and physically I could do it with ease. Long story short I enrolled in the Police Academy and dived right in.  I was at the top of my class, not only in academics but physical fitness too. Many different departments were in my sight and excited to have me join the force upon graduation.

Fast forward to the present day.

With this as my past before cancer, I knew I was in for an uphill climb to recover mentally and physically from my battle with the disease.  Just three weeks later after my last chemotherapy session, I was back in the academy with the heart of a lion and the will to succeed. This is how I was going to answer my, “what do I do now” question, by showing that if I have the drive to succeed I can do what ever I set my mind to.

The police academy was a tough but a very possible road to travel down after my battle with cancer. I worked every last ounce of energy in my body that I had until the day was over and I was on my way home. As each day went by I started to realize a change in a lot of things, not only in myself, but in the career I was after. After a few weeks passed I was driving home one day and remember saying out loud to myself, ” not again”, shortly followed by tears. Change once again was in my inevitable future!

(1) Eye of the survivor

Welcome to my day one!

I awaken in the morning to the sound of my alarm.  I sit up, touch my feet to the cold hardwood floor and run my hands across my bald head and asked myself, is today the day I start my new life?  As I go through my daily routine of preparing for my day, I have so many thoughts and emotions running wild throughout my mind.  The sound of my mothers voice pierces my ears asking if I was ready to go, and I remember vividly telling myself “not yet”. Though this was not a direct answer to the question being asked by my mother, but yet I took it as a life asking question. Hop into the car start driving towards fate, I sat in a dead gaze ahead thinking of all the possible things the doctor will say to me and how I would react. Nothing in my life could prepare me for this one moment, this one time when my fate was going to be determined in the words of a doctor.

Sitting in room four in dead silence, I could hear the nurses running around and having there conversation, every breath my mother and father took and the sound of my heart beating. Five minutes pass and then the sound of the doctor’s heavy footsteps vastly approach my room. The knock on the door felt like a million ants crawling on my body. Was I ready to hear what the doctor had to say, better yet was my family ready?  The door opens and he peeks his head in to say “hello”, by this point everything is in slow motion and each second felt like a minute. The doctor started off with typical “how do you feel” questions, in which my answers were brief and to the point in search for what I wanted to hear the doctor say. As I sat filled with endless questions, my doctor look straight into my eyes and said “welcome to day one of your new adventure”.

Looking left and right in amazment, I felt the arms of both parents wrap around me as if it was the first time they had seen me in 20 years. To me this was the day I could finally call myself a survivor. If this is so, then why now do I have this lingering question in my head. What do I do now?