Friday, January 28, 2011

Off To Abu

I worked a full week! I figured, if I can travel across the globe and explore, I can work a full week and manage my time and energy. I was tired each day, but not unbearably so. It's nice getting back to life, feeling alive, feeling normal, as an active member of society, not on the outskirts. Jessaca did call me out on the treadmill this morning though. She recommended a nap. It was pretty hilarious. I'm a little bit loopy.

I'll have plenty of time to catch up on my sleep on the flight. It's 10.5 hours to Paris. We just have to hang out in Charles de Gaulle airport for a few hours and then it's an 8.5 hour flight to Abu Dhabi. Instead of the 24 hour layover on the first leg of the trip, it's going to happen on the way back.

Wow. This is so big!

We're done packing. I've painted a new coat of toenail polish, pale pink. All we need to do is relax, get a good night of sleep, wake up and drive to Seattle, hug my grandma and catch the 1:30pm flight.

I'll try and post a few times, with photos and stories. If not, don't worry, I'll be back on the 10th of February and I'll let you know we made it back safe. Thanks to everyone for supporting us!! This is going to be quite an adventure!

When I get home I have the opportunity to speak to two Rotaries in Wenatchee. I'll be sharing my story. I'm incredibly excited! It's going to be quite a project organizing my words, editing (as you probably noticed, I talk a lot), and chronicling the photos. I'm nervous but it's going to be such an amazing challenge. At least, for now, I've got quite a big distraction with this trip. Life just keeps coming, full tilt. Just the way I love it!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Word Of The Week


noun \ə-ˈmir, ā-\


 Definition of EMIR 

: a ruler, chief, or commander in Islamic countries


Variants of EMIR

emir or amir also ameer \ə-ˈmir, ā-\


Origin of EMIR

Arabic amīr commander
First Known Use: 1595

Next Word in the Dictionary: emirate
Previous Word in the Dictionary: E minor
All Words Near: emir

Tankinis & Tunics

This morning I woke up at 3:23 am with my heart racing. I can't believe we're going to Abu Dhabi!

We're starting to pack, and my suitcase is full of my mother's tankini's and tunics. No bikini this trip. No tank tops. Just perfectly respectable billowy fabrics. Nothing sexy. Nothing revealing. It's wild to be headed to a country where Danny and I shouldn't kiss, or even hold hands in public. I hope I don't accidentally forget and pat his bum or something. Viewed by the wrong eyes I could probably get in trouble. It's slightly stressful since I'm such an affectionate person.

I'm really excited to see such a contrasting culture. I'm going to learn a lot, I can just feel it. Every time I see something new, something out of my bubble, I learn so much, and grow immensely. I know that after this trip I'll never be the same. Some trips are like that. It's practically a field trip, not a vacation. Jess is a little scholar too so I'm sure I'll be soaking up her knowledge.

This is going to be an intense therapy session, and I feel like I'm completely prepared for the challenge! It's so wonderful to have this opportunity. We will be flying out of the country, exploring Paris for 24 hours, on the nine month anniversary of the second brain surgery. What a miracle! It has been a crazy nine months, and it just keeps getting crazier, and more wonderful every minute.

Who would have thought I would get diagnosed with a brain tumor, come back from the brink of death, wade through so many obstacles, challenge myself to no end, and come out stronger and more prepared to tackle my life. I'm less fearful of this tumor than I've ever been. I have my friends and family to thank for that. This diagnosis doesn't mean that I have to live in fear. I don't have to give up on all of my dreams. I may need to adjust a few, but in turn, I'm making new ones.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Abu Dhabi Here We Come!

Jess Protas and I made a pact a few weeks before she moved to Abu Dhabi. We tied hemp cord around our wrists and if, by chance, either person's bracelet fell off it meant they should go see the other one immediately. I know, I know, we're like thirteen year olds.

Although both bracelets were in tact, Jess flew to be at my side throughout the tumor diagnosis and surgeries. Then, by providence, they cut the bracelet while wheeling me out of surgery prep. It was fated.

After the weeks of diagnosis, doctor's meetings, surgeries, and recovery, a day before she left Seattle, I gave Jess a new bracelet made of silver chain with a petite diamond. It was important to me that I gave her a special gift. She's my little gem. She, in turn surprised me with an identical one a few weeks later (with a little help from the internet and Danny).

Recently, I woke up and felt my wrist, realizing that the bracelet was missing. Instantly, I knew what I had to do.

Today, I booked a flight to Abu Dhabi for Danny and I. We had been talking about it for almost two years, and finally, we're doing it! Next Saturday, we're heading out. We have a one night lay over in Paris, and then we're Abu Dhabi bound.

I'm a little scared, knowing it's expensive, and totally frivolous. I know that I'm crazy, spending the money on the flight, but life happens so quickly. Danny and I both love to travel, and right now, since Danny is between jobs, and I have flexibility at work, it's the perfect time.

At first, while contemplating this new adventure, I thought to myself, "You shouldn't be spending money on anything other than medical expenses." In fact, I'm still hearing that same mantra in my head. But, I'm doing it. I'm doing it for Danny and me. He has done everything humanly possible to keep me alive, physically, mentally, and spiritually. This is a thank you to him, and I'm keeping my word to Jess who has been the most amazing friend in the world.

So, lucky me! I have the most amazing man and the most wonderful friend, and now I'm getting to go on an amazing trip. I don't know how I'm so lucky to experience all of the things that I do. I'm truly blessed with an amazing life. Sometimes I feel like it's all a dream, or that it's too good to be true, but it's real and I'm so grateful!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

I'm Almost 1/3 Fat. Yikes.

I'm pleased to say that Danny's getting better each day! It wasn't a severe sickness, just a cold. The poor guy has had such a year. His body just couldn't quite shake it off.

Danny was feeling so good that we hit the gym this afternoon for 2.5 hours. I think it's a new record for us. While at the naturopath's office last week, Dr Aschtgen recorded my height, weight, and used a machine to calculate my fat percentage. My body is 28% fat. I feel like that's an awful lot. A healthy range for a woman my age is 21-29%.

I was thrilled to hear that Dr Aschtgen doesn't believe I need to lose any weight. It's one less thing to worry about. He was more interested in my body composition. If my weight drops he wants to see the fat percentage drop down too.

Although I do a solid amount of cardio, I had been seriously avoiding the weights section. I had been lying to myself, thinking that man push ups were enough. As a person who loves to run, I usually don't want to tear up my mucsles because then I'm unable to run as much. Oh well. I guess I'm going to have to get over it. I want to lose some body fat, and I've heard that the only real way to do that is by adding weights to your workout.

Staying healthy, and improving my body and mind have become a full time job. The diet, the workouts, the naps...I can't imagine people in my position who have children. I honestly can't even imagine. I'm really lucky to have a flexible work schedule (best bosses in the world), and man who is always up for the gym.

I'm still trying to figure out what this whole tumor diagnosis means. I'm trying to out smart the tumor, beating it at its own game, yet I'm trying to live my life with pleasure. Many things that I would have enjoyed in the past (red licorice, rosemary bread, Tim's vinegar potato chips, whole fruit sorbet, older than dirt cheese.....I could honestly go on for hours) are no longer a safe choice. I know that I can always eat whatever I want, and sometimes I cheat (like Green's 30th...I took a baby bite out of each of the dozen flavors of was HEAVEN!), but I know cheating is to my detriment. I don't want to be self destructive. If I give up, I'm giving up on myself and everyone around me, everyone that is supporting me. So, I won't give up, I'm going to keep powering through. I'm going to make this body composition thing a game. Let's see what I can do!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Organic Chicken Soup

Taking a page out of my friend Sara's blog book, I've changed the design of my blog. I was bored with the black on black. Hope you like it!

Last night, I made an organic chicken soup, sans noodles, from scratch. I can't believe I was unable to chop and cook just a few months ago. I'm so grateful to have progressed so much! What a wonderful gift, to be able to evolve. Danny has a sore throat so I'm taking care of him. It's nice to reciprocate since Danny's always taking care of me.

Here's the ingredients:
Half of a purple cabbage (chopped)
Half of a sweet onion (chopped)
Three cloves of garlic (chopped)
Two large handfuls of Shiitake mushrooms (chopped)
Head of celery, leaves and all (chopped)
Two boneless skinless chicken breasts (chopped)

First things first, I braised the whole chicken breasts in vegetable broth. While that was cooking, I sauteed the garlic & onion in olive oil, tossing the rest of the chopped veggies into the pan shortly thereafter. I then poured the vegetable broth over the veggies letting the whole thing simmer. When the chicken was done cooking I chopped it up and tossed it into the pot with the veggies, letting it all simmer for a few more minutes. Finally, I seasoned it with a tablespoon of cracked pepper and two teaspoons of habanero powder. 

The truth is that you don't even need noodles. It turned out so good that I'm making it again tonight. I think soup might just be my new thing. All of the ingredients were organic, the meat was free-range hormone free. There was no sugar, and no bad carbs. It was guilt free and delicious. I love it!

I'm ever grateful that I have the freedom to do ordinary things, like know how to create a recipe. The body, and the brain are incredibly intricate and resilient. I'll never forget being unable to chop or follow instructions. I'll never forget being unable to take care of myself. I'm so grateful to have the capability to give back to Danny so that he gets nurtured too. It's an overwhelming feeling, knowing he can rely on me.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Clean as a Whistle

The MRI was fantastic! There was a new fellow, a week in at the UW, from Portland. He is an IV genius. He killed it in one shot. The actual MRI hurts less and less each time, it's fantastic! I've never minded the contrast dye, which some people have a hard time with. I'm grateful for that.

The scans were really cool. My brain is shifting and filling the void, which is really exciting. It was kind of creepy to see the first post surgery scan where a tennis ball area of brain was missing.

There's still a pretty good amount of inflammation, and irritation from the surgeries, but that's to be expected. It's getting better each scan, which is relieving.

I have another MRI in April and if it's clean the doctor's going to see if he can push out the following MRI. That way I won't have to stress before our wedding. I thought that was thoughtful, it was their idea. Love those guys, especially Sarah, Rockhill's nurse.

I feel so excited, so happy. I keep referring back to the last MRI, I was so scared, petrified even. It took me a week or two to live my life again. Now, I'm more logical, more calm, and hopeful. I can feel my mind making sense of things. Even in three months I have an upgraded mind.

I left the U District thinking, "You know what, just maybe, I WILL beat this!"

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Paleolithic Jess

Long day, but it was wonderful. The meeting with the naturopath went extremely well! We received great reinforcement with our diet, and some fine tuning to make it even better. Here's some main points:

All processed foods - nothing in a box, nothing in a can, nothing in a package

All processed sugars (keep the fruits minimal, a serving of blueberries in the morning or something like that)

No dairy

All organic, free range and hormone free foods (from the coffee beans to the main courses - everything)

Eat lots of veggies from the allium, cruciferous and brassicacea family on a daily basis.

Get a water filter for the facet. Drink obscene amounts of filtered water (64-96oz). Drink matcha 2-3 times a day.

Basically, he referred to it as a Paleolithic diet. It's what humans used to eat before we started harvesting crops. Hence, the avoidance of grains, and sugar. The diet is mostly veggies, nuts and small amounts of meats (cold water fish, white meats, and small amounts of red meats). It's very heavy on the veggies.

After the appointment, at the request of the ND, I fasted for several hours and went to get a bunch of blood work done. I was actually supposed to do it tomorrow morning before the MRI, but I was worried that it would be too many needles in too short a period of time. Anyway, it turned out no big deal getting my blood drawn. The sweet woman (also named Jessica), called me a "hummingbird" because my veins are so small. She had a few tricks up her sleeve and magically hit my vein on the first try. It made me feel pretty excited about tomorrow's prick. Maybe it'll be the same.

Speech therapy went off without a hitch. She printed up a bunch of mind teasers, and problem solving sheets. Things are looking really good in that department. I just need to keep challenging my mind, working on reading aloud and my comprehension.

It was such a busy day, and I'm absolutely exhausted. No nap yesterday or today. I'm like a little child, needing my naps :)

There was a lot of information to process - all of it good. Now I need to rest up for the big day tomorrow.

For the record, I went as a viking for Halloween this past year (there was a helmet but it kept sliding off). I guess next year I can wear the same outfit but call myself Paleolithic woman. That's handy.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Off To Seattle

This morning, I woke up, showered and finished packing for Seattle. I had heard the snowplow outside as I was waking, but I forgot to take a peak until I hopped on the computer, and drew the curtains just now. We have about 8 inches, and it's still heavily snowing. I'm so bummed we're leaving!! For the past month, I've been itching to make a snow angel, but there hadn't been enough snow.

Here's a photo I just took of my little Buddha. My dad bought it for me in 2006 after a few weeks of hard work down in Tucson, AZ (we were doing the Tucson Gem & Mineral Show as we had for the past decade). He had watched me fall in love with it, hard not to with a face like that - he's so soothing. It was hand carved out of stone, somewhere in Asia (I can't remember where). It was a big deal that my dad snuck away and bought it for me, it was against everything in his Christian gut.

So, I just checked the mountain passes, and they're pretty messy. Wish us luck, we're heading over to the west side this afternoon after work. We'll just take it slow and easy. I guess the more you drive in extreme conditions, the better you get at it. I'll chalk this trip up as more experience. Here's the photos from the pass cameras...

We usually head over Stevens, but it's snowing like crazy and they're doing avalanche control which would cause some undesirable delays. Maybe we'll take Blewett & Snoqualmie instead. Snoqualmie is a mess though, they're requiring chains on all vehicles unless you have four wheel drive, which we do, but Danny's tires are pretty bad in the snow. We need to get studded tires. Either way I have a feeling it's going to be a looooong drive :) Don't worry, all of you mothers out there, we're packing warm clothing and snacks just in case we get stuck. And, I have what most people don't, a father that thrives on pulling people out of snow banks. If we go slow enough, the worst thing that can happen is that we end up getting stuck.

We're off to conquer another MRI! Every day's an adventure :)

Monday, January 10, 2011

First Naturopath Appointment

Sorry I've been sporadic with my posts lately. I tend to be all over the map with emotions just before an MRI. I have to admit, during the post-less days, there was some crying. Ok, ok, it was more like sobbing. Thankfully, our friends and family rallied around us. Usually, Danny and I are fine. We've got a wonderful life, we laugh all day and night, and we know that we're lucky. I just love him so much, and I never want to leave him. The idea of this tumor can be a bit overwhelming. On a daily basis, I don't think about long term, or worst case scenario, there's just no point borrowing trouble. But sometimes, when an MRI comes near, I have to start looking at the reality.

The reality is that I have a malignant brain tumor. When I get the results of the scan, if the tumor has grown, I have to make the decision about radiation. The doctors have said that radiation won't extend my life, however, it should put off the symptoms of the tumor. I'm still on the fence.

For the first time, I'm confident that my brain will show a clean scan. I hope I'm not jinxing myself, but I feel great. My mental processing is bouncing back. I still get pretty bad headaches, but sometimes, in the area where the tumor was resected, deep in what I imagine is the void, I feel a soft tingling, almost like a gentle tickle. I take it as a good sign. I'm healing...I can feel it! Of course, if that feeling is actually the tumor growing it's the most gracious little tumor in the world, quiet, and stubborn, and gentle. Either way I'm feeling a sense of hope, still nervous, but full of hope. It's tingling right now, in the back left side of my head. Not a bad feeling, it's almost like an intra-cranial massage.

Also over the past several days, Danny researched and made an appointment for me with a naturopath. I'm hoping it'll be a good fit. He has dealt with numerous astrocytoma cases, along with more severe tumors like glioblastomas (which is what my type of tumor is expected to progress to). He works directly with Swedish, and I'm very excited to gain from his knowledge. I've been grasping onto different studies, looking for the best way to make healthy choices. I'm hoping that he'll say that sugar isn't bad for me, and that sourdough bread is a miracle cure. Just kidding, I'm not that foolish.

Here's his bio (courtesy of

Chad Aschtgen, ND, FABNO

Dr Chad Aschtgen, ND, FABNODr. Aschtgen specializes in integrative oncology, providing expert naturopathic care for patients with cancer or interest in cancer prevention. He welcomes patients at every stage of diagnosis and treatment. Whether newly diagnosed, currently receiving conventional treatment (including chemotherapy, biological therapies, radiation and pre-/post-surgery), in remission or with advanced disease, individuals facing the difficulties of cancer have a great resource in Dr. Aschtgen.
He works closely with his patients to create customized and dynamic integrative treatment plans that take into consideration all aspects of an individual’s health and medical care. Dr. Aschtgen’s patients receive safe and effective natural therapies specifically designed to improve health, decrease symptoms and aid in fighting disease. Additionally, with a commitment to patient-centered care, Dr. Aschtgen is available to engage in communication and close coordination with other elements of an individual’s care team, including family members, general physician, medical and/or radiation oncologists, surgeon, care manager and other health practitioners.
Board certified in naturopathic oncology (Fellow of the American Board of Naturopathic Oncology –FABNO), Dr. Aschtgen received his Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, Washington. Subsequently he completed a two-year, hospital-based naturopathic medical residency at Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) – Midwestern Regional Medical Center, outside Chicago, Illinois. Following completion of his naturopathic oncology training, Dr. Aschtgen remained on staff at CTCA until his relocation back to the Pacific Northwest.
Dr. Aschtgen is an active member of numerous professional organizations: American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP), American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), Oncology Association of Naturopathic Physicians (OncANP), Society for Integrative OncologyWashington Association of Naturopathic Physicians (WANP). (SIO),
A former instructor for the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), Dr. Aschtgen continues to enjoy many outdoor activities, including hiking, climbing, camping, skiing and kayaking. He lives in Seattle with his wife, Christina, and their two young children.
In addition to regularly scheduled appointments, Dr. Aschtgen is available for introductory consultations to discuss the possibilities of incorporating integrative naturopathic medicine into your life and care.

I'm pretty excited for the appointment, and yet nervous at the same time. We're meeting at 9:00 Thursday morning, followed by a speech therapy at the UW. Yet again, I seem to make my MRI's count with numerous doctor's appointments.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Word Of The Week: Vitriol


noun \ˈvi-trē-əl\

Definition of VITRIOL

1 a : a sulfate of any of various metals (as copper, iron, or zinc); especially : a glassy hydrate of such a sulfate b : oil of vitriol
2 : something felt to resemble vitriol especially in caustic quality; especially : virulence of feeling or of speech 
vit·ri·ol·ic \ˌvi-trē-ˈä-lik\ adjective

Examples of VITRIOL

  1. His speech was full of political vitriol.
  2. vitriol and sometimes outright cruelty of his pronouncements>

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Harnessing Compassion

My friend Jenny and I had a conversation this morning about the tumor. She was wishing that bad things only happen to bad people, like prisoners, or those with black hearts. Later, I was thinking about it and I figured out why normal, inherently good people, have bad things happen.

I think it's to help harness the ability to have compassion. If bad things only happened to bad people we wouldn't need to feel empathy. We would look at people and say things like, "Well, he had Leukemia coming to him, he WAS an animal beater."

When children get sick it's such a devastating thing. They're so innocent, and undeserving. I know that when I see a child who's ill it breaks my heart. It stirs up all kinds of empathy and compassion. Their hardship makes me a better person. I wish I could take away their pain and illness, but I know that I can't. I can, however, treat others around me with more kindness. I hope, and I feel it's true, that my illness has opened the eyes of those around me to other people's hardships. We all have them, hardships. Everyone has a story.

Speaking of hardships, when I have a slow driver in front of me I like to make a story about their life, "maybe she's procrastinating because she knows when she gets home her husband is going to yell at her again," or, "he cut me off because his child is violently ill and needs to get home asap to take care of the other children so his wife can take the little one to the walk-in clinic." It's a fun trick that removes stress. When Danny and I are driving together the stories can get pretty outlandish. I can't imagine a world without empathy.

If only bad people had bad things happen, our society would be a miserable place. People would act entitled, and holier-than-thou. I'd take this tumor any day of the week over living in a place like that.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Breathe And Smile

The next MRI is in 9 days. When I feel doubt or anxiety, I'm trying to think about all of the wonderful people and memories over the past 9 months.

I keep telling myself, "Self, you have nothing to fear. This tumor is bigger than you. It's out of your hands. Do what you can with your food choices, and make it to the gym each day. Embrace naps as if they were cookies, and feel the virtual hugs that people keep sending. Breathe and smile."

There's not much more than that I can do. I think I'm handling this MRI a lot better than the previous ones. Maybe MRIs will end up, someday, feeling more like a routine check up instead of an overwhelming diagnostic test.

Breathe and smile. Breathe and smile. Breathe and smile.....

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Sex In City

This morning, I woke up and hopped in the shower. I walked into the kitchen, and started a pot of water to boil. I turned on the boob tube and started scooping coffee grinds into our French press. Our house is constantly divided between ESPN and the E! network...the only two news sources that people really need (kidding). 

When the teapot started singing, I pressed and poured my morning sanity. I sat down on the couch with a huge smile...there it old rerun of Sex In The City. A massive wave of nostalgia hit me. When I was in the ICU my friend Libbey brought a care crate (it was literally a huge crate of goodies). Among a billion other fun things, it included every season of Sex In The City, and the first movie.

When I was able to move to Laura's house for recovery, I couldn't handle much for sounds, and too much visual movement hurt my head. I tried watching an action movie with Danny at one point and I had to close my eyes and ask him to turn it off. It was weird. Anyway, I couldn't handle much for TV or movies, but I could easily handle Sex In The City. Jess Abu, Danny and I would curl up on Laura's couch eating red licorice at all hours of the day and night. We watched it during the odd times of the night when I had been woken by the alarm clock for pills. At that point I was ingesting 80 pills a day, with the shortest interval at every two hours.

Sex In The City made me feel like I had my girlfriends right there with me, and that I was alive. At that time, other than short walks around Laura's neighborhood, I didn't want to leave the house much. I was confused. My speech was slow and unclear, and my thought process was mud. I couldn't read at all, and I was only able to express myself with one syllable words. It probably sounds ridiculous, but Sex In The City helped me heal. I could follow the plot and story line. It made me laugh, cry, cringe, and get lost in another world.

When I saw the old rerun on my television a million memories from the past 9 months washed over me. Every memory from every photo. All of the laughter with my girl friends. The antics from my 30th birthday, shaving our heads, the walking marathon, the 10k, book club, the relay team, pedicure dates, summer barbecues, soccer, workouts...everything...all of the smiles, all of the love. I'm so grateful for the female friends in my life! They're all so wonderfully unique. Women have come out of the woodwork to support me while I deal with this tumor. Thanks ladies. You know when to smother me with kindness and make me laugh hysterically. I wouldn't be doing as well without you. Thank you. And cheers to Sex In The City, in all of its addicting madness, may we all find friends that feel like a perfect fit.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Word of the Week (thank you


noun \kə-ˈnärd also -ˈnär\

Definition of CANARD

1 a : a false or unfounded report or story; especially : a fabricated report b : a groundless rumor or belief
2 : an airplane with horizontal stabilizing and control surfaces in front of supporting surfaces; also : a small airfoil in front of the wing of an aircraft that can increase the aircraft's performance

Examples of CANARD

  1. The book repeats some of history's oldest canards.
  2. the widespread canard that every lawyer is dishonest

Origin of CANARD

French, literally, duck; in sense 1, from Middle French vendre des canards à moitié to cheat, literally, to half-sell ducks
First Known Use: 1851


Next Word in the Dictionary: canary
Previous Word in the Dictionary: canapé
All Words Near: canard

Sunday, January 2, 2011

TCU Smells Like Roses

What a wonderful new year it's starting out to be! Yesterday, TCU conquered Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. Woo hoo!! My favorite part of the entire game was the pass block by TCU's Tank Carder to solidify the win.

Tank is absolutely amazing. He's an inspiration. I was going to summarize his story, but I couldn't do it justice. Instead, I've posted an article from the New York Times that Danny found for me. I was wanting to hear more about his car accident and how he made it to play for TCU's football team. It was a perfect read aloud for my daily homework!

His is a story of survival, of hope, definitely courage, and most of all perseverance. Who doesn't love a story like that!?!? I hope you enjoy it the same way that I do. The only thing that could have moved me more would have been hearing his story while the theme music from Rocky was playing in the background.

From Broken Boy to T.C.U. Tackler


Paul Connors/Associated Press
Tank Carder was a BMX world champion at age 9, but gave it up when his interest waned. On the field, it is likely that no one has traveled a more unusual path to this point than T.C.U. linebacker Tank Carder.

He won a BMX world championship at 9, only to quit the sport. He nearly died a few years later when he was hospitalized for six weeks after being thrown from a moving car. The injuries were so severe that his early football days were as a kicker who would grab the kicking tee and run off the field because he was not allowed any contact. 

His improbable journey has him starting at linebacker and being a linchpin of a unit ranked No. 1 nationally in total defense (223.3 yards a game) and fourth in scoring defense (12.42 points a game). He is the third-ranked Horned Frogs’ second-leading tackler (81) and leads them in pass breakups (10). And he jumps off video the way he once did on a bike track.

“There’s not a lot of talk about Tank Carder, but he’s every bit a part of what makes that defense the No. 1 defense in the country,” said Chris Petersen, coach of sixth-ranked Boise State.

Raised in Sweeny, Tex., a town of 3,624 about an hour-and-a-half drive southwest of Houston, Carder was named Ricky Jr. but was nicknamed Tank as a baby for his enormous size. He started riding a bicycle without training wheels when he was 26 months old.

The owner of an area BMX track saw Carder burning up and down the street when he was 2 and mistakenly asked his parents if their 4-year-old son would like to ride at his track. After his first lap, Carder stopped and told his parents, “I need a bigger bike,” then resumed pedaling.

“I just kind of got on the bike and never wanted to stop,” he said.

Over the next six years, Carder did not. At 3, he won the first race he entered, against 5-year-olds. Soon, he was sponsored and traveling every weekend to BMX meets and winning virtually every race he entered. He flew so much that an elementary school teacher put up a map and tracked the cities that he had visited with pushpins.

But the grind of BMX eventually wore on Carder. He wanted to spend more time with friends and was envious of their playing football. Carder once played youth football for two weeks but quit because it conflicted with his racing. He wanted to quit BMX racing at 8 but was persuaded by his manager to continue.

The next year, Carder won a world championship in France. 

“I was from this little town in Texas and I’m the best in the big world,” he said. “It seemed like so much at the time.”

But Carder’s interest in BMX waned. By the end of fifth grade, he quit it to focus on other sports.

“If he would have just kept going, he would have been in the Olympics,” said Bubba Harris, a professional BMX rider. “He would have been the best in BMX if he would have kept going. That’s for sure.” 

At the end of seventh grade, Carder had regrets and had just resumed training for BMX when he was badly injured in a single-vehicle wreck. A rod broke and the vehicle flipped three times, ejecting Carder before hitting a tree.

“All I remember is that we started swerving and I started laughing because I thought she was playing,” he said of the driver, a teenage sister of a friend. “Then I got up after the wreck and looked down the road and passed out.”

The crash broke Carder’s back in two places, fractured seven ribs and punctured his diaphragm and lungs. If he lived, doctors said, they were unsure whether he would walk again. 

“Tank didn’t want to die,” his mother, Marti Carder, said. “His doctors called him the miracle child.”

While Carder was hospitalized, his mother asked him what he would do if he could not walk again.

“Well, I’ll just join the wheelchair Olympics,” Carder told her.

He did walk but was slowed by a fiberglass body brace when he was discharged from the hospital. A few weeks later, his father, Ricky Carder Sr., heard Carder crying in his bedroom and went to check on him. Tank Carder insisted nothing was wrong before saying, “I’m never going to be able to play sports again, Dad, ever.”

“I will never forget that,” his father said. “It broke my heart.”

The father came up with the idea of trying out as a kicker, but when Carder entered Sweeny High School, the football coach was leery of letting him kick because doctors had not cleared him. He was allowed to kick only after Carder and his parents signed a waiver and agreed to a stipulation: to ensure he avoided contact, Carder would pick up the kicking tee and sprint off the field after every kickoff and sprint off after every punt.

Carder became the varsity kicker and punter as a freshman, but he sometimes jogged to the sideline in hope of getting to make a tackle.

“I wanted to play,” he said. “I knew I could play.”

So when the holder fumbled the snap on an extra-point attempt his sophomore year, Carder picked up the ball and ran untouched into the end zone for a 2-point conversion. Afterward, Carder said, his fuming coach told him, “You do that again, you ain’t kicking no more.”

It was not until his junior year that Carder was allowed to make contact. He showed enough glimpses of potential at linebacker to receive letters from a few colleges. He continued to kick and play linebacker as a senior but also saw action at running back, tight end and quarterback.

That versatility prompted T.C.U. Coach Gary Patterson to call two weeks before signing day in 2007 and provide Carder his lone N.C.A.A. Division I scholarship offer.

“It was just one of those things where I watched his highlight film and really liked him,” Patterson said.

Carder redshirted his freshman year but made an impression on Patterson and his teammates when he tackled a 400-pound calf during a rodeo at the Texas Bowl that season.

Next season, Carder may also handle T.C.U.’s kickoffs and long field goals, Patterson said.

“The story’s not over,” he said. “I think most people judge it by how it ends.”

And if Carder’s past is indicative of his future, there are plenty more chapters to be written.

Like I said earlier in this post, I hope that Tank Carder's story moves you the same way that it did for me. Our bodies are amazing, and once you support that energy with a great mindset, you can truly conquer unbelievable feats. You don't get to pick your life, but you get to decide how you want to live it. Pretty amazing.
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