That means (roughly): keep moving forward.
I know this because Jeff, a guy I have never met (he lives in Pennsylvania), came up with it.
You’re probably thinking this doesn’t make much sense, why would she want a tattoo of something some guy she’s never met came up with…
Let me explain…
If you know me at all, you’ll know that I am an avid twitter user. I interact with people, connect others, enjoy the the new friendships I have made online that have now split over into my real life, the many opportunities that have come my way because of my regular tweeting like being granted free flights to California (Got to take @kid_lotus – it was a fabulous summer vacation), etc… I believe that the people who don’t get twitter, don’t get that it does eventually translate into real life connections & experiences, it’s not just people you’ve never met talking about what they had for lunch (although admittedly, sometimes it is, one of my most retweeted/discussed posts is a picture of a brunch I had at Baker Street that included a piece of tourtière :) but come on, you don’t see that every day!)
Before I get back to Jeff, I need to tell you about Amber or @MissDestructo on twitter. And no, I have never met Amber either, she lives in Florida. There’s been a couple close calls, but no luck yet. Amber and I have been tweeps for some time now, and I trust her judgement. So when she recommended I start following Jeff on twitter, I immediately went over to his blog to learn a little more about him. And that was it. I knew I had to get to him. He has an unbridled optimism that is infectious, a no apologies glass half full outlook on life and the biggest heart ever.
You see, the defining part of Jeff’s story begins with him having a large (and also the first of its kind this medical team had ever worked on to date) tumor removed from his abdomen in January 2008. What they thought would be a 2 to 4 hour surgery turned into a 22 hour marathon surgery and resulted in damage to the kidneys & paralysis below the waist. The second portion of his journey includes chemo, partial feeling returning to his legs and some recovery to his kidneys (not to mention beating the odds in terms of doing better than expected on the chemo cocktail he was on). The third part of the story was meant to be the “I beat cancer and am determined to get back to my fighting form ASAP part!” It was filled with oncology doctors, physical therapy and complications. Sadly, this part ends with Jeff becoming a bilateral amputee… (this is because of human error & hospital negligence for one of his legs, but this post isn’t about that – it is important to note, because even THAT hasn’t jaded or angered Jeff…) And when I say his attitude was unbelievably positive and full of hope, all you have to do is go his blog to find some examples of this. My favorite is that before is right leg amputation, he painted his toe nails, you know to give the doctors something to laugh at… All I could think of was wow – and I complain when I haven’t slept well or have a bit of a cold and he kind find the strength to want to make other laugh in the face of aa life changing event…
Behind the scenes of Jeff’s ordeal are 2 stories. The first involves another twitter friend, and you guessed it, I’ve never met him, he lives in Boston :) His name is Andrew and I have become extremely close over the last year or so, we email/chat/send each other letters & care packages… He also happens to be the best kind of nerd, the kind that will walk you through fixing your “on the verge of complete collapse” new computer before you have a mental breakdown kind of nerd.
The second story involves Jeff & Andrew! They had stumbled across each other on twitter and were both set to attend PAX East together… Now PAX is a BIG gaming conference. (Find out more about it here) The chances of randomly bumping into someone is pretty unlikely, and yet, Andrew & Jeff somehow found themselves on a team together in the break out session: Omegathon. Needless to say, they became fast friends :)
And this takes us to mid-September.
On September 17th, Jeff casually mentioned on his blog that he would like a pair of Bespoke Innovations fairings – those are custom covers for prosthetic limbs. If you click on their site, you will see that they do some pretty incredible stuff! And Jeff isn’t about to hide the fact that he is part robot, he is proud and wants to wear “his new parts” as badges of honour to remind himself of what he has overcome and to show others that they can to. I noticed the post a few days later and thought, I wonder what I can do to help… So I contacted Andrew and we started plotting.
There were lots of emails and chat sessions. We had a few plans lined up and people we knew we could contact to help if our plans didn’t pan out. Luckily, we didn’t have to. We found someone who when they heard about Jeff was more than happy to help us make this dream come through for him and they offered a donation to cover the cost of the fairings :). I should also say that this person has been kept abreast of Jeff’s progress so far and shown as much excitement as us at each step forward… This individual isn’t in the business of making the dreams of people he’s never met come through and has asked us to not reveal his identity. I was reluctant at first (the fit between our donor and Jeff is pretty amazing, which makes not telling Jeff that much harder & bittersweet) but we promised :)
Andrew & I worked hard at working out all the details behind his back and then managed to get him to tell us about who is lovely wife was on twitter so we could tell her what we were working on… And a few weeks back, when we finally had our ducks all lined up, we got to do a three-way Skype to tell Jeff the good news :) I was shaking I was so excited and happy :)
I couldn’t have possibly anticipated the joy, pride and excitement I felt when I saw photos & video of Jeff standing & walking with his new legs! Or the relief when he told me two days ago that a CAT scan shows he is still cancer free!!!
There have been emails and chats on a regular basis in the last few weeks and I only feel like I am getting closer to these guys and so excited to hear/read/see Jeff progress as he enters a physical therapy facility to do a 30-day intensive program on his road to walking again. Jeff is positive & determined and so close to walking again after a long arduous journey and I have no doubt that he will astound us all with how well this will go.
He also has a goal in mind: to be walking around to greet Andrew & me at PAX East 2011! Yup – we will finally all be in one place at the same time and I will finally get to meet my 2 good friends!!! It’s ridiculous how much I am looking forward to this :)
So for those of you who think twitter is about lunch updates and people being self absorbed that like to talk about themselves? You haven’t chosen to get involved and do something. What we did wasn’t hard, and other than a few long-distance calls, it was also free… But we did it… So next time you see or hear of someone needing help, just do *something* you may not be able to do it alone, and we had a wonderful anonymous donor backing us up, but you can do something.
Much love, Stéphanie