My earliest memories are from the front steps of our house on Empress Avenue in South Pasadena, practicing tying my shoes (I didn’t get the hang of it until 2nd grade) and taste-testing dirt, versus mud. My mom was raising my brother and me on her own, working all the time. We moved to my grandparents’ home in Santa Cruz when I was four, and I loved them both, as they joyously took us into their lives. Grandmother was amazing, always making the best of everything and speaking well of everyone—and teaching my brother and me manners, whether or not we were interested. Later, we moved back to South Pass, then Mission Viejo. Along the way I developed a love of nature, of living things, of building airplanes and playing instruments, of doing things with my hands. In college, then dental school, I turned some of my energies into athletics—crew, running, cycling, lifting weights. My affection for and connection with my grandmother (who, following her husband’s death, had moved to Carmel Valley Manor) led me to eventually settle and start a periodontal practice in Monterey. The Peninsula felt like home from the moment I moved here, and I still sense my grandmother’s presence. I ran a very busy practice for 30 years, one in which personal trust, caring, integrity and kindness gave me tremendous satisfaction and joy in serving.
Some odd symptoms began in the summer of 2017, starting with panic attacks (usually when in the midst of treating patients), then changes in my vision which led to three separate car accidents, and after the third accident, a hospital admission at the end of June, 2018. Three days later I underwent surgery to remove a brain tumor, whose diagnosis came back as a grade 4 Glioblastoma (the same tumor Senator John McCain was battling at the time). The tumor, the surgery, radiation and chemotherapy resulted in loss of nearly half of my visual field, severe G.I. problems, weight loss and fatigue. It became necessary to find a buyer for my beloved practice, and more importantly, of looking past the neurosurgeon’s estimate that I “might make it three months, after that, it’s all a matter of luck”. In the year and a half since, I’ve discovered many things available to me to create a good quality of life. This has not been without effort, every day. And I have discovered a host of blessings, truths, moments and most important, people, that have collectively made my life far richer and more meaningful than it was before my diagnosis.