health

I Dare You To Dream

By: Danielle Press

Strangers, discomfort, surprise, uncertainty, beauty, magic, discovery.  These have always been the details that make up my dreams.  These are the dreams of a traveler and an adventurer.  When I was younger  I never believed in myself, but I believed in those dreams.  So in 2010 I moved to South Korea.  By chance I met an amazing man  after crossing paths on a side street.  I had the most remarkable experiences, and finally, after spending most of my life in a daze of depression, I started to feel alive.  Surprise, fascination, and cultural misunderstandings became part of my every day life.  I dreamed of becoming a woman far different from the girl I had left behind.  And I did.  After two years in the land of Kimchi and Soju, two years battling habit and nurturing growth, my boyfriend and I went backpacking for 4 1/2 months through seven countries in Southeast Asia.  With the exception of the absence of family and friends, this was the happiest I had ever been.  This was the realization of years of daydreaming and yearning.  After what felt like a lifetime of darkness, I had finally created light.

 

Upon returning state side I spent some much needed quality time with those I loved.  I knew it was to be short lived.  I knew my happiness.  I had found it.  I wasn’t going to let go of it.  It was time for Jeff and I to get on another plane and experience something new.  This time our country of choice was Taiwan.  A lush country with sea turtles the size of VW Bugs just off the shore line.  Where the formidable scent of fermented Stinky Tofu could be smelt a mile away and where people zip around on scooters with one or more children, or dogs, between their legs.  

 

All was going accordingly.  We had a job.  We had a flight.  We had contacts and friends ready to welcome us with open arms and side street dumplings.  We had plans.  However, after years of traveling, and my ultimate decision to continue traveling, I found there were consequences.  A biproduct of my lifestyle was, and still is, the worry my parents have to live with, being on the other side of the world.  They regularly fear the unknown and the danger that could find me abroad.  But nothing ever happened.  It wasn't until I was in my own city, close to my family, that the uncertainty of life caught up to me.  A boat propeller nearly took my life, and with it, my dreams; my dreams which had finally moved from whispers to screams.

 

Two days later I finally woke up in an ICU, intubated, terrified, and paralyzed from the knee down on my left leg. I had survived, but would my dreams? My dreams had always been to travel and live abroad.  I had manifested and lived this dream. But now it had to evolve.  It evolved in conjunction with my new reality. I needed to dream big in order to battle my way out of this nightmare.  Cautious optimism.  Careful, quiet dreams.  Starting as a whisper within my private heart, afraid of realities response if I spoke it out loud.  So I again started to dream of Taiwan.  This time I wasn't alone, I had Jeff to dream with me. This blossomed into dreams of once again traveling.  To define it as merely traveling does not yield justice to what I really craved.  I wanted to live with purpose, love, awe, and gratitude everyday.  To a certain extent the dreams sounded the same as the ones prior to the accident, but the person speaking them had changed. My world was different and so was I.  Now my dreams had a companion, a compromise- paralysis. I wanted to live life the same as before, but  now I had to work for  independence and mobility, things often taken for granted. I wanted to experience everything, quiet literally, on my own two feet.

 

No one thought I would ever make it to Taiwan.  At times I wasn't sure if I I would ever make it anywhere, let alone as far as the other side of the world.  No more backpacking, no more dirty hostels, strangers who become family, a constantly shifting landscape, or locals whose kindness and smiles transcend the lingual gap.  No more adventure.  

 

26 years old.  Was this going to be my story?  “She survived the boat accident, but she stopped living.”  Would I allow paralysis and fear to keep me stagnant and stationary? While I was fortunate to escape total paralysis, and while I will forever be grateful that the paralysis is confined to only my left leg, it did and still  does posses many challenges.

 

Fast forward, rewind, pause, and play.  Now I am 28 years old and I just completed one year living in Taiwan with my boyfriend. My life is a constant whirlwind of new places, new people, new challenges, and new wonder. I am continuously realizing my dream. Yet, nearly three years after the accident, my dreams have once again evolved.  This time it has evolved in consort with my recovery rather than my prognosis.  I want to run.  I want to run more than a quick walk.  I want to run without pain.  I want to run for more than a couple hundred meters at a time.  I have had many reoccurring dreams of a post accident life, where I am running.  I mean full out, long strides, propelling my self forward.  I am still injured and still paralyzed but I am a new version of myself. A version of myself whose body responds to the demands asked of it. The dreams that have played over and over in my mind during sleep have inspired me to dream awake. They weren’t sure if I would walk.  Now I do. I am not sure if I can run.  But I will try, I will dream.

 

As children we believed in life’s possibilities.  We’d be told of our dreams improbabilities but always insisted on their certainties. As adults we only allow ourselves to dream big when our eyes are closed, our reason is turned off, and our hearts are free. We don't dream with intention anymore. We don't believe our dreams can fall in context with realities demands or life’s prognoses.  So, we must fight. We must fight against a dreamless existence. We must fight for our ultimate happiness. We must let our dreams change, evolve, reshape, fall apart, and regroup.

 

One month after the accident I became the first person in the world to receive an experimental nerve surgery.   Since that fateful day in September when the accident happened, that day in the hospital when I was first asked if I would consider this opportunity, that day in the ER when they weren’t sure if the Schwann cells had been contaminated with bacteria, my prognosis has changed.  I can now achieve the motion of planter flexion.  It is not with the same strength, and it is only slight, but it is a movement that can help me fulfill my dream to run.  I am working tirelessly to see this through, so now I dare you to dream.  I dare you to transform yourself into your own dreamcatcher, your own dream chaser.  Realize your dreams and cultivate them. Dreams are not constructed to fit one size. They are not confined to one type or one style.  Dreams are fluid, they are ever changing.  They can start small and grow big.  They can start tall and then consolidate through focus.  They start as a bud, and only with the elements, the internal elements of love, strength, dedication, and patience, can they bloom.  We must not write off dreams as unattainable moments which reside only  in our quiet minds.  We must dream awake.  So again, I DARE you to dream.  I dare you to say these dreams out loud, to tell people about them, to express them and nurture them.  The second they leave your heart and come out your mouth they are possible.  I dare you to turn your whispered dreams into demanding screams.

 

 


 

 

 

 

Plant Based Cures

Plant Based Cures

Article Published in The Daily Herald. by: Danielle Peterson

D. Anthony Evans watched children pulling their IVs up and down hospital hallways with smiles on their faces. He shared hospital rooms, stories and advice with those who were less than half his age. He saw children, just starting their lives, fighting for them.

Right then he decided to pursue a mission. As long as he could, he would be living proof to pediatric cancer patients that there is a chance of life after sickness if they just hold on and stay positive.

Evans, of Schaumburg, understands what they are doing through, because he was one of them. Now 38, and living with terminal cancer, he is a spokesman for the nonprofit Fresh Start For Our Youth, and will host a fundraiser May 25 at Wrigley Field, during the 1:20 p.m. Cubs vs. Nationals game.

Each tax-deductible ticket sells for $300. It includes all-you-can-eat food, unlimited beer, private indoor and outdoor seating in the Private Corporate Banquet Suite, and a VIP parking pass. To buy tickets, contact Evans at evansdejuan@gmail.com or visit www.fs4oy.org.

The event will raise funds to help feed pediatric cancer patients organic, plant-based meals and to sponsor at-risk youth in need of rehabilitation at out-of-state residential facilities.

Evans stresses the importance of a plant-based diet for pediatric cancer patients, especially children who live in Chicago's most impoverished areas.

"When a child is released from the hospital, they suffer from a condition called neutropenia, where your body doesn't produce enough white blood cells anymore," Evans said. "Unlike other regular cancer patients, (impoverished kids') foods come from a gas station, McDonald's or KFC, and when you are fighting cancer the only way to repair white blood cells is through earth-grounded food.

"You can't rebuild an immune system with synthetic or processed foods."

The plant-based meals are provided by the Meals that Heal program, part of the Fresh Start for Our Youth Foundation. The program's goal is to sponsor plant-based, immune system-building meals for as many pediatric cancer patients as possible.

Evans also stresses the importance of removing young patients from their environment and helping them secure treatment in out-of-state residential treatment centers for a new surrounding and fresh start.

"If there was an organization like Fresh Start For Our Youth (when he was young), I feel like I would have had a better start instead of getting into trouble with gangs like I did," he says.

In 1985, the 8-year-old Evans was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis. When he was 16, he lost his mother to AIDS, and since his father had never been in his life, he was essentially orphaned.

Then, in January 2012, the neurofibromatosis morphed into Malignant Peripheral Nerve Sheath Tumors, which causes tumors to form on peripheral nerves anywhere in the body. From January to November 2012 he had more than 200 tumors removed, including seven 9-hour back-to-back operations. More operations followed in 2013 and 2014 and to date he's had 320 tumors removed.

At the time of his diagnosis with MPNST he was given 6 months to live. That he is still alive he credits to his decision to try a plant-based diet.

"It was a lot to wrap my mind around, but with six months to leave the Earth I started entertaining everything," he said. This included a plant-based diet, which his aunt told him about.

Meat, yeast, sugar and dairy all create an acidic environment, Evans believes. By limiting the amount of acid you ingest, cancer will have nothing to thrive on.

"The only way to limit amount of acid is through green leafy veggies, fruits and legumes," he said.

Evans, whose diet had consisted of 40 pounds of chicken a month and more than 10,000 calories a day, is now 80 weeks meat-free. He attributes his mentality, strength and physique to a plant-based diet.

Still, Evans knows he is terminal. Postoperative survival rates for MPNST are 0-5 years on record.

"The cancer is still there," he says. "I'm alive because my body's not acidic. I just don't put anything in my body that irritates it."

Evans has a goal. "It's my mission to touch 1 million people before I die," he says. "My days are numbered so this is a full-court press."