(19) My Infantry, Continued…

Now that the memory of my grandmother’s day had slowly faded away, the second most memorable thing I experienced was with my best friend Cliff and a bouncer at a nightclub. Now most people going through chemo and even doctors would probably tell you that a club is the last place you should go when your sick. But what can I say, I was 23 years old and I didn’t want to feel different nor lose that time in my life because of this disease. I wanted to feel normal so bad that I did things I probably should not have done or attempted. But this night Cliff and I decided to give it a go and hit a nightclub in the city.

Cliff came and picked me up from my house and when he saw me he began to laugh. When I asked him what was so funny, he simply replied with, “you look like we are going to the snow and boarding.” I began to laugh with him as I walked over to the mirror to check myself out. So there I was with a beanie, scarf, jacket over a sweater, pants and boots on. All that was missing now where my goggles and I would be ready for the snow and not a club. I couldn’t stop laughing at this point because never in a million years did I ever think I would dress myself like this!  But when you are going through chemo and really sick, the 60-degree weather feels more like 20 degrees, so I went a little over board and overdressed. So after my mother and cliff helped me pick out a nice yet warm outfit, we hopped in the car and took off to the city.

While we were driving cliff kept making sure the temperature in the car was ok and the music wasn’t to loud. I looked at him and said, “I’m not 80, and if anything is wrong I’ll tell you.” He started laughing as did I, but the feeling of a great friend that truly cares is priceless and more than I could ask for. As we pulled up to the parking lot of the club we were going to, he made sure I was up for going in and let me know if at anytime I felt sick, we can go.

So now at this point Cliff and I are waiting in line to get in, and this girl behind us starts up a conversation. Not even one minute into it, she looks at me and says, “you ok? You look really sick or something.” I started laughing and replied with: “ Yeah I’m sick, but it’s ok cancer is not contagious!” Unfortunately, my humor was not that funny, and think she may have taken it the wrong way. But that was myself hiding behind the fact that I was afraid of anyone knowing I was sick or treating me different because of it. After I noticed she was uncomfortable with our interaction I quickly turned around and kept to myself. Now if that weren’t awkward enough my encounter with the bouncer would be a million times worse.

Here is how the interaction with the bouncer went as he called me up to check my ID:

Bouncer: You got an ID?

Me: Yeah it’s right here.

Bouncer: Um, yeah you can go in but you got to take that hat off.

Cliff steps in front of me to talk to the bouncer.

Cliff: Hey man he can’t take that hat off.

Bouncer: What is it glued to his head or something?

Cliff: No he is going through chemo and needs to keep his head warm.

Bouncer: Wow, that a new excuse I haven’t heard yet. Good try. Either you take off your hat or don’t come in at all.

Me: It’s ok Cliff I can handle this.

So at this point I looked at the bouncer and gave him an eye opening experience.

Me: So this is a new excuse for you huh? Well trust me if I could have done my hair that I barely have I would have.

Bouncer: Look its not my problem and don’t have time for people that make excuses.


What I did next was the almost like being a performer on Venice beach with a big audience. So I took off my hat, licked my hand and wiped the top of my head from back to front. I then showed my hand to the bouncer that was now covered in hair, and said, “So do you think this is still an excuse for me trying to where my hat?” The bouncer was lost for words and just looked at me and around at everyone that was watching. Now some would say I went a little overboard, but I felt like this had to be done and he needed to know his attitude was not ok.

After he was able to collect his thought, he said, “I am really sorry and hope you can forgive me for being rude like that.” I quickly told him that it was ok and some people jut don’t have a clue, then I told cliff I wanted to go somewhere else.  Cliff and I started heading back to his car and that’s when I began to break down.

Was I different? Why do people look at me as if I am already dead? But this part of my memory never gets answered because I start to snap out of the vault that hold my memories and back into reality.

So here I am again sitting on my bed, and back in the present time. What’s next in my life? With out hesitation I begin to shuffle through the papers on my desk, and there it is, my bucket list. Now it was time to check another item off on my list!

(18) My Infantry

Looking back on my life and trying to pull out all my positive memories, I find that two very funny and meaningful ones play through out my mind on a constant repeat. The first one being of my grandmothers and I trip to the smoke shop in Sonoma County.

Grandma and the Head Shop:

My grandmother had caught wind that I just received my medical marijuana card and thought that none better but to take me “weed” shopping followed by “water pipe” shopping.  Now I know what your thinking! “ Damn wish my grandma was cool like this!” I know that’s what I was thinking, plus the plain fact that she even acknowledged I was going to be smoking weed. So moving on, my grandmother came and picked me up, seeing that I was incapable of driving do to the heavy pain meds I was on that day, and asked me where the “medical grass place” was.  First I couldn’t help but laugh at the fact she called it “grass” and second as if she was trying to conceal her identity. Picture this if you will, she was wearing an enormous hat, with a scarf wrapped around her neck and clothing that covered every inch of her body besides her hands.  She even explained to me that she was just the driver and helping her grandson out, and wanted no credit to helping me get my marijuana. Once we arrived at the cannabis club she parked as far away from the entrance as possible thinking she might get caught or something. As I am getting out of the car she tells me that I should buy many different kinds and see which one works best, and that the ones with the name purple in it, she heard where the good ones. Now at this point I am walking into the club thinking to myself, “ Wow, did my grandma just tell me to get the purple stuff?” Moving forward I purchased my “meds” and we continued on to the smoke shop, which was conveniently located right down the street. We parked and walked in, but as we did I noticed my grandmother surveillance the area as if she was on the lookout, or maybe someone would recognize her.  Once we got inside the conversation we had with the clerk was priceless!

Grandma: Nick come over take a look at this one! It’s made out of a real nice wood.

Me: Grandma, get your mind out of the 60’s! It’s all about glass now.

Grandma: Oh ok… Oh my! These look like crack pipes!

Me: What! Grandma you can’t say that in here.

Clerk: Ma’am we don’t sell crack pipes, they are illegal!

Grandma: Oh I’m sorry.

Me: Maybe you should wait outside, while I get this.

Now at this point I wanted to bust out in laughter, but knew that it was not the right time nor place to do so.  I quickly bought my smoking device, and headed to the car. My grandmother looked at me when I got into the car, and said she was sorry that she embarrassed me. I quickly replied with,” You don’t embarrass me, I think you’re the best grandmother anyone can have.” She began to tear up as she started the car and then drove me home so I could relax.

This day meant the world to me, and not just because I got to legally purchase marijuana, but the plain fact that my grandmother took time out of her day and went against what she believed in to help me out in a time of need. She was always at my side and even took me to my chemo treatment on days my parents could not. She held my hand when I was in pain, watched over me as I slept in the hospital, and made sure that I was taken care of no matter what time of day it was. This woman I call my grandmother is the brightest star in my universe and so lucky to have her be a part of my survivor army!

Now that was a great humorous story and wonderful fun memory, but the next one that plays over and over came at the hands of my best friend cliff and my night out on the town a few weeks into my chemo sessions. This memory was meaningful in the way of what a true friend is, and to see how un-informed the people in the world around me are. So it was a boy’s night out yet again, but this time chemo style!

(17) My “Survivor Army”

They say if you surround yourself by positive and motivating people you will become a better person yourself. I could not agree more and that’s exactly what I did when I was in the fight for my life. This group of family and friends where what I like to call my “Survivor Army”. Now of course the general’s driving this army to victory was my mother, father and step father, because without them I would have never been able to just fully focus on beating this disease. They took care of my job, bills, transportation and the trip to the medical marijuana facilities.

Now lets start with my mother and stepfather. Both are very amazing parents and done so much for me not just when I was sick but as a whole. No matter the time of day I could call them and they would be right next to me in a heart beat. With this I felt like I was not alone in this war, and they assured me that they would fight hand and foot with me until the very end. The hard part for me was seeing my mom so upset and to see her have to care for me after she herself had been through two major back surgeries at this point and time. For her to put up with my sickness and with all the late night porcelain god praying (throwing up in the toilet), I tip my hat to her and am honored to call her my mother. My stepfather really stepped up to the plate not only for my mom but also for the both of us. He truly loves and adores my mother and fills her life with happiness. This I see, which made me want to live more, so I could find the same love in a partner that the two of them share for each other. I truly consider myself very lucky to have him step into both our lives, because he supports most of my decisions and will always be there for me in a time of need.

My father and I have had our ups and downs, but I truly believe that once I became sick and needed him, our relationship grew ten fold. He was so involved in my recovery and never hesitated to offer a helping hand in any way sort or kind. I remember one night at 3am; I called him and said I was hungry. Now during chemotherapy you are not always hungry, so when that urge hits you need to act on it, because you don’t know when that will happen again. So with this in mind, he came and picked me up and took me to McDonalds. We were driving around for a good 30 minutes trying to find a 24hr one. Even though to some this might not sound like a big deal, but this is truly when I felt like my dad and I had that relationship that would forever be unbreakable. If this was not enough, that night he asked me what I wanted that could help me through all of this, and I looked at him and said, “I could really go for a pug”.  Long story short within the next few weeks I had my very own pug puppy and named him Mr. Bentley. This dog never left my side from the moment I first laid eyes on him until this very present day. He kept me company on the days I was alone by myself, and put a smile on my face when I needed to be cheered up. I could not thank my father more for what he has done and given to me throughout this fight and my life.

All of these great memories of my parents played a big part in my survival, and most of all my drive to succeed in life. I always emphasize to others around me that parents are so much more than family, but yet they are your backbone and driving force into the success of one’s life.  Now my parents were the general’s in my army, so what about my infantry? Could never have asked for a better group of friends and family members to go into battle with. The story’s we created when I was sick are absolutely priceless and need to be shared.


(16) Drop dead Fred!

Music was filling the air, girls dancing all around me and I was a cancer survivor with a new mission in life. Even though I was changing myself inside and out, I forgot that others would not change around me. So here I am walking around this nightclub with my friends enjoying the night, when I get this sudden grab to my right shoulder. I turn around, and there Fred is with a big shit-eating grin on his face and the smell of cheap vodka as he opened his mouth to talk to me. At first I was expecting him to say something like “I haven’t seen you in a long time”, or “dang speed bump, you have grown”. This guy thought making fun of me was cool amongst our old friends, which is why I’m no longer friend’s with this person.  But I think I would have much rather him make fun of me than the comment he was about to make. Conversation went a little like this:

Fred: Speed bump…

Me: Oh hey Fred how you been?

Fred: Wow I’m really surprised!

Me: Surprised about what?

Fred: That you’re still alive! Thought the cancer would have killed you by now.

Me: Wow Fred, can tell you…

Before I could even get out another word, two of my very close friends pulled me back and stepped right in front of Fred’s face.  I was in complete shock that someone could say something like that, and also the fact at what had happened prior to this night with Karen. All I know is that at this moment I felt like I was in slow motion walking toward the back of the building, while behind me there was loud arguing going on followed by punches thrown by my friends. This all seemed surreal to me, like a scene out of a blockbuster movie. I found myself sitting in a chair crouched down with my hands on my head and a few tears slowly rolling down my cheeks.

Now some would say, why is this guy crying at a nightclub? But I don’t think anyone that has not gone through what I have could understand that feeling of emptiness that had just been brought upon me. The fact that someone could be so heartless and say something of this nature to a person that fought very hard for his life.

Like an angel from heaven, this woman sat in front of me and gently put her hands on my knees. I looked up and made eye contact, and had no idea who she was. She calmly said, “Forget about that guy! Remember all of the positive people and memories in your life that helped you beat this disease and forget about the rude and negative insensitive ones. If you need someone to talk to I will gladly step outside and talk with you.” At this point I thought to myself that this woman was an absolute sweetheart, and that there are people out there that really do care.

So what positive memories and people did I have that helped me beat this disease and live to see another day? As soon as I got home and into my room, I found myself hitting the rewind button once again, but this time it was a pleasant trip down memory lane.

(15) What Ego?

After becoming a cancer survivor, I thought to myself that nothing else in my future could ever crush me nor come close to what I had gone through. So many times when I was sick did I think to myself, “yeah this is the lowest point in my life, and I don’t think I can take another hit.” But I had come to realize that at this stage in my life, if you keep worrying about what possible bad things could happen to you in the future, that you would live the rest of your life in fear and caution. Thankfully I took this into my next encounter with girl number two on the apology list to put a little bit of padding on my heart.

Girl #2 (Karen)

Coming off a great encounter with the previous girl, I thought to myself that this was easy and should have done it sooner. So with this in mind I had tracked down girl #2’s phone number and gave her a ring. This conversation went from nice to down right evil in 3.5 seconds. Phone conversation went a little like this:

Karen: Hello?

Nick: Hi Karen, it’s Nick

Karen: Nick who?

Nick: Nick Leland!

Karen: OH WOW! What the fuck do you want you big pile of shit? Come to tell me how much of a loser I am? Or have I found anyone yet to put up with my bullshit? Is this why you called? Some nerve you have!

Nick: Karen I just wanted to apologize for my past behavior and actions. I never meant to…

Karen: I could give two fucks about your apologies. You can’t patch up what has already been done by you. So fuck off and loose this number!

The click of the phone hanging up felt like a bullet piercing right through the middle of my soul. I started thinking to myself; “wow, what the hell did I do and say to this girl that got her so pissed off that even time or my apologies couldn’t help?” This phone conversation made me feel like the biggest pile of shit, and really set me back emotionally.  Now of course, this I believe is the pain that Karen wanted to inflict on me emotionally, and boy did it work.

After this conversation sank into my head for a few hours, I started to go into analysis mode and try to figure out why exactly this played out the way it did. No matter how many times I replayed the conversation in my head, I came up with the same conclusion. Which simply was that I was a complete jerk, and said very hurtful things to push women away that started getting close to my heart.  I did not want to end up beaten and broken hearted again, so I became a very ugly man when it came to relationships. Never again would I let another girl do what Robyn (evil ex) did to me emotionally. But this was no way to live a second chance life, especially after knowing that life comes and goes fast.

While finding the strength to keep pushing on in this journey of redemption, I discovered that this person I used to be no longer existed and that I was the new and improved Nick trying to make a positive change in my life. I was done with letting the shadows of my ex loom above my head and keep me from finding happiness in a future partner, and that it was not her I was running from but yet myself.

With this conversation on my mind, I found myself in a little bit of a slump and according to my friends, I needed a night out with the boys to shake it off and show the world the new Nick. What a great idea this turned into and the night out with the boy’s was a much-needed outing, of course until we ran into a guy name Fred. The things he said to me, and the hole he burned into my heart was the last thing I expected that night. But as they say expect the unexpected right?

(14) Do Work!

With all of these questions flooding my mind, I tried to figure out the best place for me to go in order to answer them and work on myself. After a few weeks of consideration I decided it was best for me to move back to Northern California where my family was and start fresh. Becoming a new and improved me was not going to be easy and knew that the support of my family was going to be needed.  Once I was certain of the move home, I called my mother and said I was moving back in. At first she was a little shocked that I was coming home, but at the same time understood what I needed to do for myself emotionally.  But with this new change came new responsibility and acceptance of my faults. So with this in mind, the first thing on my list to do before heading back north was to seek out the women I had hurt and apologize to them personally. What a bumpy few weeks I was in for, not knowing what reactions I might get or the plain fact that I might not even be able to say anything at all.

Girl #1 (Sharon):

I felt as if this was going to be the hardest girl to apologize to, as I knew from her friends that if she ever see’s me again, “I would get a swift kick to the junk.”  Now this might not sound like a good opportunity to go and talk to her, but I had to do it in order to close this chapter in both my life and hers.  I tried calling her numerous times and left at least 10 voice messages asking her to hear me out and let me apologize for my behavior.  Finally after a week I got some notification from her, but it was not what I had in mind nor expected. There was a note on my door that she had left for me to read. This is what the note said:

Dear Nick,

I appreciate the fact that you want to see me and apologize for the actions you took towards me. For starters, how does it feel when you want to get a hold of someone so bad just to say sorry or anything for that matter, and you don’t get any response? Because that is how you left me! I was really hurt and never thought someone like you that has been through a big life changing event would be so dark and down right rude.

I will meet you, but only if you truly mean everything you say and are honest. If you are planning on telling me bits and pieces, then save your breath and my time.

I will be at the coffee shop in Barnes and Nobles at 3:30pm on Friday. See you there if you’re serious!



After Reading this letter, I started questioning myself. Do I really mean it? Am I being selfish, or am I doing it for both of us?  Once I answered these questions, I came to the conclusion that it was for both her and I. My pride and ego had to go, and raw emotion had to surface in order to fix what I had damaged.

Friday had come and the car ride to see her had to have been the most nervous, anxiety filled car ride I had ever taken. Once I arrived to Barnes and Nobles, I walked slowly towards the coffee shop, feeling every single heartbeat that had boomed and echoed throughout my chest.  There she was sitting nervously at a table by the window looking outside. Was she anxious or upset? This question was racing through my mind as I stopped dead in my tracks towards her. She turned her head in my direction, made eye contact and now it was time for me to make the move that started my road to redemption.

I arrived at the table, greeted her with a very nervous hello and smile, not knowing what really should have been said in this kind of situation.  I sat down across from her and as I did, I felt her eyes locked on me the whole time.  The time came to break the ice and get the conversation started, so I began with a “thanks for meeting me” and “hope we can have a meaningful and heart felt talk”.  After that, most of the conversation consisted of me listening to her and responding to any questions she had for me.  At the end of our conversation I apologized for all the mean things I had said and done. I knew that words did not mean much without action behind them, but at the time it was all that I could offer including my friendship if she chose to accept it.  The time had come to say goodbye and she looked at me and said, “I appreciate and accept your apology. You are a good man, but have issues you need to accept and work on. I will be your friend and be there for you in a time of need. Hopefully you will find the answers you seek and become a better man.”

This meant so much to me at this point in my life and was hoping that the next few girls that I had to contact would be this understanding.  If only I could have seen the future and prepared myself for the next encounter, because boy was I in for a ego and heart crushing ride!

(12) The Unexpected

The night had come for me to meet my ex for drinks at a local bar. I remember all the thoughts and ideas running through my head as I drove to meet her. What was the first thing I wanted to say to her? Should I be nice or cold hearted? Do I let her talk and just listen? All of these questions flew out the door once I saw her waiting outside. When I walked up to her, she leaned in for a hug and I gave her a half ass hug back, not expecting to do that of course.  We both walked in silent and found a table to sit down at.  What an awkward feeling this was, sitting starring at each other in silence seeing who was going to talk first.

As I was getting ready to open my mouth and rip into her, she quickly started talking. First thing that came out of her mouth was, “Nick, I’m so sorry I said the nasty comments to you when you needed me the most!” After she had said this I was no longer mad, but now wanted to hear what she had to say and try to accept her apology. But of course I gave her too much credit in the beginning like usual, because very shortly after her first comment, she followed up with excuses for her actions and pointed out the things I did wrong. Now at this point I was no longer going to accept her apology and started to brainstorm how I could get even with her after all of the bad things she had done to me over our five-year relationship. I recall asking her one question later on into the night, and the answer I received completely triggered a person inside of me I never knew I had nor wanted to be.

The question I had asked her was this; “You said you cheated on me. So, how many times and with how many people? I wont get mad, because we are not together, but want to know for closure.” Her answer came after a few minutes of thinking and finally she said this; “Well if you want me to be honest, I would say with about eight different guys and who knows how many times with each one.”

Sitting across from her, I looked at her as if nothing was wrong and just smiled. Underneath my smiles was so much hatred and anger that I have never felt before. I never thought she could crush me anymore, but obviously that was not the case. Now in my head I started to brainstorm what I could do that night to make her feel all the hurt she has caused in my life. I had the perfect plan and as the night went on it unfolded perfectly!

As the night grew late we both had a few drinks and I asked her if she wanted to go dancing at a club.  She accepted and we headed out for more drinks, followed by a lot of close dancing. Throughout the night I showed her what she was missing, and how much fun I could be if we were still together. Felt like she was playing right into my trap that I had set.  When the club was closing I looked to her and asked her what she wanted to do, and she replied with, “let’s go back to your place.” So as you would have already guessed, that’s exactly where we went. Kissing, touching and so-called “sparks” where flying, but I don’t think she really had any idea of what was going on inside my head. The night drew to an end and we laid there in my bed looking at each other.  She ended up falling asleep, and I rolled over with a big smile on my face knowing that the next morning she was in for a rude awakening.


I awoke the next morning to her next to me with a smile on her face, and a look that shouted what an amazing night. She said good morning, followed by “I want to talk to you about something.” Once I heard that, I sat up immediately, and told her, “I was all ears. “ She started with, “What happened last night was not planned, but as it all happened I found myself falling for you all over again! Do you think maybe we can try again?” I quickly started laughing and tried to gather my thoughts. What I was about to say to her I’m sure was something no woman would ever want to hear from a guy she loved. So as I pulled myself together, I replied with what I thought at the time was the best stab at her heart. “Oh, I’m sorry that you thought it was a magical reconnecting night for us. But how does it feel to love or want somebody that doesn’t want to give you the same respect back!”

After I had blurted out that statement she quickly went from smiles to confusion. She got up yelled some obscenities at me, slapped me across the face and stormed out of my house. Once the front door slammed shut, I began to ask myself a couple of questions. Did she really deserve that? Was I an asshole for the game I just played? What and who did I become last night? Did she open the door to someone inside me that has been dying to get out?


All these questions flooded my head but one stuck out as if it needed to be recognized! Obviously there was something brewing inside of me that needed to be unleashed, and she did just that. The next few months, I became this guy that women emotionally would fear and never want to experience.

(11) Missed the Tsunami Warning!

Two nights after the show wipeout had aired, I remember the phone ringing in a different room and I rushed to go answer it. When I got to my phone I looked at the caller ID and it said restricted. Now normally I don’t pick up restricted phone calls, but with the TV show just airing, I thought maybe it was family.  Boy could I have been further from that when I answered the call.  I answered and a woman’s voice comes across. “Nick! Oh my god I just saw you on TV. Bet your ego is even bigger now!” This voice was none other than my ex girlfriends voice. Not only did I not want to talk to her, but yet felt myself going straight into a flashback of what had happened the week before chemotherapy.


March 2007

Feeling empty inside and alone in a cold house by myself, I needed to reach out to someone who my heart belonged to. My so-called girlfriend at the time was know where to be found and would not answer any of my phone calls or text messages. I needed her to be there for me and give me strength to fight through love and compassion.  When I finally got a hold of her later that night, I found out that she was right down the street from me at her girlfriends house.  I asked her why she wouldn’t call me back to at least acknowledge my existence and show me some empathy at least for what I was about to go through.  She straight up told me this: “The world isn’t always about you Nick! I have friends and they need me more than you right now.” I was absolutely crushed when I heard this! I hung up the phone and began to break down yelling out curse words at anyone that crossed my path. At that time I wanted nothing else but to die and be done with it.

My mother came home to find me curled up in a ball crying and shaking. She starting freaking out thinking I was sick and needed to go to the hospital.  I told her to calm down, then started to explain what events had unfolded during the day with my girlfriend.  She was totally shocked with the way my girlfriend was treating me and making me feel in this desperate time of need. My mother had become my counselor for the next few hours, and of course as I settle down my girlfriend decides to make an appearance.

My doorbell rang and my step dad answered the door. Immediately I heard arguing and the voice of my girlfriend pierced my ears. My step dad told her in a nice way to take a hike, but of course being me I chased after her.  Running to the front door I called her name begging her to stop and talk to me. She did just that, but with a very mean look.  I asked her why she was being so rude and what I did wrong to deserve this treatment.  She said, “I don’t want this drama in my life, and it would be better if I just cut you out of it.” Again I started to cry, but she showed no mercy on my heart. She continued with,” My friends are waiting for me and if you don’t mind I have better things to do!”  After I heard that I completely snapped and began to yell at her, saying whatever came into my mind. Once I was done venting she decided to take a very low blow and say something that would affect me for the rest of my life. “I hope the cancer fucking kills you! So I don’t have to deal with your shit anymore.” Shocked that I just heard those words come out of her mouth, I stood their jaw dropped with every ounce of breath taken from my body. At this time, my neighbor came to my defense that had been listening in on the conversation from her front patio. She came rushing over telling me to go inside the house and then quickly screaming at my now ex girlfriend to leave and never show her face again. As I walked inside I heard voices arguing away outside, but I started to tune out and slowly closed my bedroom door. The battle for my life just got that much harder at this point, and felt like I needed a miracle. I crawled into my bed, starred at the ceiling and cried myself to sleep.

Snap back to reality..

Obviously I was shocked to hear from her, but how ironic for her to call after I was aired on TV. But even after the years had passed, she sounded and acted the same as the last time I talk to her. But seeing that I was in a totally new mind frame and up for giving second chances, I agreed to meet her for drinks later on in the week. Was this a good move? What was about to happen at our little meeting was not expected nor did I ever think would ever happen.

(7) Off with the blindfold!

Hollywood was like the candy store I had never been to with so many different rooms and candies to taste. I didn’t know were to start or how to go about paving my path through this new adventure I was embarking on. All of the people I met and the things they invited me to whether it be parties, clubs or events, I could not get enough of what I was experiencing.

The night that I lost sight of what I was doing in my life might come as a bit of a shock to few, but others might have known this was coming.

The phone rang from a recent person that I had befriended to come out to this house party in the valley. Of course with out any hesitation or thought I accepted the invite and began to get ready. Not knowing what this party was about or the people that were there, all I knew is that this was just another epic night I would be able to put in the books of my spontaneous adventures.  I was picked up around ten o’clock at night and headed towards this house party with a road soda in hand, the music blaring and the car filled with friends. As we got to the house I was already a bit buzzed and couldn’t wait to get in there and meet a bunch of new people, but boy I was not ready for the people I was about to meet.  Walking into the house and making my way to the backyard through all these people, I started to notice that this was not just your average house party people go to just to have a drink and social gathering, but yet a porn industry party. I glanced into the backyard and saw numerous naked women and men partying it up, swimming in the pool and a few having sex on a patio lawn chair. This is when I started thinking to myself what the heck am I doing and what did I get myself into. With this entire situation going on around me, I thought the best way to mask the problem was to drink my way into an un-memorable state of mind. Drink after drink the problems I had with being there began to vanish and the fun started to kick in. Conversations I got involved in were strange topics and things I had never talked about publicly before. Like sex positions, fantasies and other topics that I just sat there with a blank face wondering where these people had come from, or things in the past to make them who they are today. Most of the conversations were pointless and down right sick, but I really had no idea and kept laughing and joking along with everyone so I wouldn’t be “that guy” at a party. I finally excused myself from the conversation to go and use the restroom, but mainly to just get away and take a breather. As I got to the restroom door I opened it and was shocked once I opened the door. There was a couple in the bathroom having sex, but not your typical love making because at the same time they were doing this they were also tattooing each other! This is the point when I finally stopped to think about what I was doing and why I was here at this party. The night carried on and I still proceeded to drink more. Girls and more girls were giving me all this attention and I ate it all up.  At the end of the night I had a few new numbers and more invitations to future parties. My memory was very spotty that night as I went to bed trying to remember all the things I talked about and did while I was there.

The next morning I woke up with a massive hangover and a voicemail from my mom asking me to call here as soon as possible, along with a few from my close friends. So hearing all these urgent voicemails, I knew that either something happened to someone or I did something wrong. First person on my list to call was a close friend of mine and boy did I get an ear full, from what the hell am I doing to, did you know pictures are up on the internet of myself doing things that were not looked upon as being the person everyone thought I was. So I immediately went to the Internet and hopped on MySpace to see what my buddy was talking about, and when I saw the first picture of myself posted my heart dropped to the ground. There were pictures of me making out with girls, watching people having sex, to people doing drugs.  My memory started to come back really fast and these pictures filled in the blurry blanks from the night before. This was by far the lowest point I had reached since becoming a survivor, and knew that this was not the right path I should be traveling down. I was given a second chance at life and here I was wasting it doing dumb as shit like this. Not only did I feel like I had been letting myself down but most importantly my family.

The phone call home to my mom was not easy for me, as now I knew why it was so urgent for me to call home. I remember the first words that came out of my mom’s mouth, “what the hell are you thinking! You are smarter than this”.  After a short conversation that felt like an eternity long, I hung up the phone and was packing a bag to head home for the weekend. This little weekend trip that I was taking home was going to be a little bit of a break from my high-speed life in Los Angeles, or so I thought. I wasn’t going home to a warm welcome but yet an Intervention.

( 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?