The post that was never meant to be-

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I know most of you visit Art & Business of Motion to read about our little world of television branding. I hope you will indulge me a step away from that for a moment, as today is a significant milestone in my life. Though some (friends, colleagues, clients) know parts of this story, not many knew the totality of the situation. Today- I would like to share a little bit of it with you.

About 5 years ago, on a beautiful (and not particularly noteworthy) Thursday afternoon, I was having lunch at my favourite little Korean with my friend Sharon. After about 10 minutes of catching up, she made mention of a slight lump on the left side of my neck. After telling her it was probably nothing (and that I was too busy to get it checked out) she convinced me otherwise. After a week of somehow fitting in multiple checkups, a biopsy, CT-scan and lots of bloodwork into my overcrowded schedule, I was asked back to the doctor.

I was expecting at worst some sort of freaky condition, a byproduct of a cruel travel schedule that I had been charting between LA and New York. “It’s cancerous”. “It’s cancer”. “You have cancer”. I don’t remember exactly what order everything was said, but I remembered the next part clearly: “You’ll need to start chemo & radiation Monday, and you will be unable to take care of yourself for about a year”. “Oh and you’ll need a feeding tube, we’ll get that put in on Friday“.

So there you have it. On Monday I was living in a bubble, and by Friday I was to have a tube hanging from the left side of abdomen. I was diagnosed with a very rare form, Nasopharangeal Cancer- it was hiding in the middle of my head, right in the back of my left nasal canal. My treatment was explained, 6 rounds of bonecrushing chemotherapy, concurrent with 35 rounds of daily targeted IMRT radiation to the head. I made a few calls, including one to my boss- I would be quitting the job, the career, the life that I loved- to fight this thing.

The first two months were pretty unremarkable. I was kicking ass. Then the “treatment” really ramped up-. I have been a fiercely independent person my entire life, anyone who knows me can attest to this. In month three, I was bald, weak, and confined to a bed. As a fit young man, I was unable to walk on my own and had to eat via feeding tube as the entirely of my mouth was bloodied and swollen. I didn’t eat food or drink liquids orally for about 6+ months.

I was admitted to Cedars Sinai multiple times with pneumonia, and on Thanksgiving I was rushed to the emergency room with severe complications. They have this nifty pain threshold range “Tell me how much pain you’re in, 1-10”. I was usually floating around an 8. Thankfully, I was on a synthesized heroin for pain as well as anti-pain patches that work like nicotine patches, and oral morphine droplets, strawberry flavoured (I kid not).

They weren’t sure if I was going to make it that night. (I certainly wasn’t planning on giving up.) After an extended stay in intensive care, I was let out to finish the rest of my (horrific) treatment. A few months later, I had the two tubes removed from my body, one from my left arm, one from my abdomen. I finished treatment in the early spring, and we all hoped for the very best, well everyone else did. I had a more realistic view of my future. I would be prepared for the news, good or bad. I had lost a lot of friends along the way, and I was certainly not going to sugarcoat my own future.

So on March 28, 2007, exactly 4 years ago today, I was called back into that same fateful white office. “You’re in remission”. The doctors proceeded to go into the ifs, ands, and buts of it all, but I really wasn’t listening. I started thinking about all the beautiful foods I would soon be eating (scrambled eggs, sushi, and clam chowder- glorious clam chowder). I wasn’t able to walk on my own yet, but I began imagining being able to drive a car again. The human condition is so incredible that way- it refuses to extinguish itself. I spent the next several months in rehabilitation. And as many of you know, from there I made the move to London where I am now settled, a whole new life, more than I could have ever wished for on that fateful Thursday.

Life has returned to some sense of normality, but I’m not the same man. The work I do has a whole new meaning to me, both personally and professionally. I appreciate every moment, and don’t remember the last time I was this happy. And today- I have a particularly extra bit to be happy about. Thank you for letting me share it with you.

There are so many people to thank. For fear of missing anyone, I will just send out a sincere thank you and my eternal gratitude to each and every person that got me through it. -Denny

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15 Comments

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15 responses to “The post that was never meant to be-

  1. and we are very glad you made it through as well Denny! The worlds of clam chowder chefs and TV branding would not be the same without you. Well done for sticking it out – it was very brave of you.

  2. Incredibly personal, touching, and a great reminder of the importance of perspective in our lives. Touched that you would share your story with us.

  3. Inspiring read.
    Glad it turned out fine for you and you feel strong about yourself and the future. I can only imagine how hard it must be to go through such a situation.
    Wishing you all the best, and your passion really shows.

  4. I still remember the first day we met in Silver Spring, can that already be over 10 years ago?

    You’ve come so far my friend. You have always been a joy to work with, but more than that, a paragon of a person. It was really brave of you to share this so publicly- so many of us have been touched by cancer, what a beautiful thing to see good people come out the other side.

  5. Mary

    From a lurker who had no idea. Thanks for the morning dose of perspective. And congratulations on living out your true passion. 😉

  6. Alex

    Thank you Denny for all the work you are doing!
    You have made me think about life… my everyday life…

  7. Collin

    This brought me to tears, because I was diagnosed with testicular cancer during my last semester of getting my bachelor in media arts and science. I can totally relate to the feeling of never being happier and being able to appreciate every moment, and you had it much worse than me. I only had to do a month of radiation to my abdomen, however months before that I did have tubes in my arms and abdomen for a ruptured appendix, so I can relate again. Congratulations on being in remission, you and I both, and I appreciated the break from the normal posts on this blog– and wow that was unexpected! Thanks.

  8. Hi Denny, I dunno you personally but before I found your website, this website is exactly what I want to create with all the content about channel branding. You never know how happy I am when I found your web (ya probably coz i do not need to set up one lol). But knowing what you have gone through, I really feel you are such a great person that devoted so much time on the thing you love. And it also reminded me to search for what i love in my life as well. Thx for everything you did! I really appreciate your effort! Would love to meet u in some occasions since I m studying in London at the moment, going back to Hong Kong in this Sept. I will keep promoting what u hv done for this fantastic website! Cheers!

  9. A UNIFIED INTEGRATED CONSISTENT EXPERIENCE OF LIFE
    Thank you for taking us there and bringing us here. It is a very touching personal story and it’s also a very profound and provoking contemplation. How do we live our lives? How do we balance our passion for life, in every aspect (not only at work)? Do we have a full life? How much of it is meaningful? Are there things that could make a big difference?
    THERE’S BIG FAT PINK ELEPHANT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROOM.
    Knowing that life is going to end without notice, will I be satisfied with my life when that moment arrives?
    SUGGESTION BOX: IDEAS FOR MAKING OUR “ART & BUSINESS” LIVES MORE MEANINGFUL?
    1. I find the notion of compartmentalizing very neurotic, unhealthy and absurd. Why have a business me and a real me? One me is more than enough. Trust (any of) me.
    2. The business pick up scene? bad during and headache after. “So where you from” “”Is that Mario from Spain? “Oh you from Sky? I did some work for Fox” I’m embarrassed to say, those are MY lines!
    Then there’s the 5-minute dating game between clients-agencies which I find much more direct and beneficial (at least it’s only 5 minutes and you talk business and only you get called if they like you).
    Is “dating” personal or business? I guess it’s bisexual or unified.
    3. I want my co-worker, client, or vendor to be free to be as happy the happiest day of his life, not because he is having a great day, but because he is in love with his lover, as pulls an ipad and shares a whole slideshow in the elevator.
    I’m sure you can think of many more….
    Thanks Danny again for inspiring me to contemplate

  10. What a brave and beautiful post. Thanks for a lot for making me cry in the office! This is particularly moving and comforting for me right now- thank you for sharing Denny!

  11. JeNgFX

    Hello Danny,

    Thanks you for sharing such a touching personal part of your journey through life makes me realize how important simple things are and that life is fragile and we should embrace every second, every moment.

    Thanks again and Congratulations on being in remission!
    best wishes
    -JeNg

  12. Noah S Scott

    I just discovered this blog and have been reading through several months of your archive in appreciation of your content. I just wanted to say thanks for not being another amalgamator of tutorials, showreels and speechless video walls. But mainly I wanted to say thanks for giving me context in the way that you write. Keep it up, these spaces are hard to come by.

  13. Rina

    I wish the best for you, Denny. I love the blog here and I really hope that everything is okay.

  14. prema

    thanks so much for sharing this denny. your website just became even more valuable to me in a totally unexpected way.

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