A Trip

yesterday was such a whirlwind of a day. At 5:00am, I woke up to feed Lincoln and get him ready to be puppy sat by my mom (who finished radiation treatments recently). My dad drove me to my final heart biopsy which was at 7:00am. While I was on the table with a catheter in the right part of my neck, my cardiologist said to me:

” isn’t today your 15 year anniversary from being diagnosed by cancer? ”

I was surprised he knew that. he knew that my cancer put me on this table. 

Here’s some math:

Jan 18, 2004 (15 years ago - cancer diagnosis)

Jan 18, 2007 (13 years ago - final chemo treatment)

Jan 18 2019 (final heart biopsy / received bike from Trek

 

wow.

 

Mike Cohen
Incredible Superhuman

Looking back with a bit of insomnia creeping, I look through old photos (check below the ones that stuck out most). I look to see what life was for me back then. I remember the time and place, SOMETIMES. I forget a lot of things. I blame it on the two and half years of chemo, as an eighteen year old. Also the medication used to keep the incredibly healthy heart, I received from an incredible superhuman. His name was James (I know I’ve mentioned it a few times previously... sorry!) . He was a LT in the Navy. He loved people. He was selfless. I get to continue my life with a legend’s heart? I get to continue pursuing my ultimate life goal, in inspiring others and helping people overcome anything, with a heart from a man who dedicated his life to protecting this country? A person like this I will never get to meet. But you all will get to meet me. You’ll see traits of him and traits of me. Together we will change the world. 

James - I can never be able to meet you. And that really bums me out. Thank you for my life

 

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Flying to from Newark, NJ to Portland, OR (2014) 

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Shooting photos on rainy day in La Jolla, CA (2018)

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Lincoln (2018) 

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showing off my LVAD to the doctor who saved my life. (2017)

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When I reserved all of Anza Borrego Campground for our photo shoot ;) (2018)  

Mike Cohen
Abnormal Recap

You’ve already have had your fair share of “Final 2018” posts. This will not be like the others. I will not be using any of the “best of 2018” apps or posts. Mainly because most of those posts are photos of me post LVAD or in the hospital waiting for my heart transplant. The highlights through my eyes or through my lens has been the incredible path of photography. I picked up my first “serious camera”, spent a good amount of taking shitty photos, editing and finally in a place of confidence. Here’s the photos I feel are my best of 2018:

Talking Pillows

It’s definitely not a comfortable table. Even for the 15 minutes I’m laying on it, while my cardiologist sticks a catheter into my neck. I’m awake. I feel the lidocaine, when I’m not supposed to. I feel it in my heart. Sometimes I have a heart ache. Not being sensitive but actually an aching heart due to being pricked. Only one left. So excited. 

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Mike Cohen
Sore as f*ck

I have experienced so many levels of pain and soreness, that I’ve come to the point where it’s really difficult for me to recognize the difference. Over the past couple months, I have noticed my body constantly changing and being sore and tender in all areas of the lower part of my body. I’m constantly putting work in. My legs are going to be tree trunks again for this upcoming ride next year.

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Mike Cohen
Less Turkey

it’s not about the turkey. It’s about the sides. I mean maybe a few of us might enjoy the leftover options with turkey. Most of us are stoked for most if not all of the side options. I’m more about the time spent with awesome people. My family, my girlfriend, my girlfriend’s family. I’m fine with less turkey.

 

That’s a portabello mushroom! 📸 (gf)

That’s a portabello mushroom! 📸 (gf)

Mike Cohen
Welcome

Coming home from training (cardiac rehab - which is pretty much all of my outdoor activities), I was greeted by my hairy little son, Lincoln. He immediately makes me smile, and speak in a voice that is only reserved for puppies and small children. I am going to start making sure I greet people that are coming into my home, the same way... check it out:

Mike Cohenlaughmore, alive, Puppy, doglover
Yeeeeah

I have worked out every single day of this week. I’ve been going to cardiac rehab (where they monitor my every move and heart beat during any level of exercise) 3x a week. I am feeling incredible. My heart is fully happy and loving it’s new home. I am hopefully making James proud, how I am treating his heart and constantly doing whatever I can to get stronger and healthier. Here’s a few photos from the last few days.

From my first 1:00 ride in at least 2-3 years.... 11/8

From my first 1:00 ride in at least 2-3 years.... 11/8

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After a great workout at cardiac rehab - 11/7

Mike Cohen
Fully Lonely

It has been a LONG time since I have felt alone. I think it was when I first moved to Long Island, I was about 13 years old. I didn't know anyone. Whenever I wasn't hanging out with my younger brother, I was in my room writing. I think it could've been considered a "phase", I was going through.

A common phrase I have used and witnessed, is "You just don't understand!". I feel I've said it when I feel I was trying to communicate to either my family, friends, ex-girlfriends, ex-friends, etc, and they just weren't seeing my point of view. It was also my attempt to make myself the center of attention, doing what I could for people to either feel bad for me, or to come up or down to my level and try to "understand", for whatever I was trying to communicate.

I have spent much time over the years in my thoughts. For one, trying to process and understand why I was diagnosed with cancer at the age of eighteen years old. As well as experiencing the brutal side effects of chemotherapy, bone marrow biopsies, spinal taps, constant uncertainty and constant pain.

I feel I've become much more mature and much better with communication. Whether it was in the form of writing it down or speaking it out. In July, when I experienced the heart attack and the eventual open heart surgery to implant the LVAD, I didn't complain. I understood when they told me, the heart attack was caused by the two and half years of chemotherapy. It was a matter of when not if. 

So when they told me about having to become listed for a heart transplant, I understood. This was all a part of the plan.

Now that I am over three months since my heart transplant,  I barely understand the sacrifice for the donor as well as their family. To have received the letter from James' family, and to know James was in the Navy, this Memorial Day has been quite difficult.

Honestly, Memorial Day was mostly a three day weekend for me. It's now a day when there was more than one sacrifice by James. 1. Serving his country. 2. His unfortunate/untimely death, has allowed me to live.

I don't know how to put into words. I have deep, deep feelings about James' sacrifice. It's a painful gratefulness, it's a painful appreciation, and an extremely painful love. I find it extremely difficult to accept how much pain his family is in. His mom, his dad, his siblings, his fellow soldiers, his friends. 

I have accepted, that I am fully lonely in my feelings and thoughts of where I am in life, and I am at peace with that realization. 92 days later, I have significantly improved in every way. Mainly because of the incredibly health heart that I received from James. I have lived a long time of my 33 years, unknowingly unhealthy and unknowingly, slowly dying. The rest of my body has fully accepted the organ and I have never felt as alive and healthy as I do right now.

It's pretty sad to read that.

 

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Taking it All In

Photography has become my new passion. It all start years and years ago via my Blackberry and eventually my iPhones. I loved having a good camera with me at all times, but I just never wanted to have to lug around a DSLR or a point and shoot. Unless I was on vacation or at a Yankees’ game, would I bring a camera with me. I would take photos in a way that would capture exactly what I was looking at. I wouldn’t edit them. I wouldn’t change them. I would just take them, so I could always have that moment with me. 

Presently, I now seek out sunsets and any scenic landscape that I want to consistently be able to look at. See, when you spend as much time as I have in a hospital and recovering inside at home, you live and die with those photos of those beautiful sunsets or scenic point of views that you’ve randomly taken over the years. 

I think that’s why I am so into photography now. I want to absorb all that’s around me at all times, visually. If I’m ever back in the hospital for any reason, I’d have tons of photos I could look at to take me back to the moment I shot them. 

My intentions with photography is to shoot visuals that inspire and invoke emotion for anyone looking at them. To be able to bring these photos with them, whenever they need to momentarily escape, find some inspiration or find some level of grounding.  

In the coming weeks, I am releasing a photo book, of my recent experience being admitted in the hospital, being treated for a blood clot in my LVAD heart pump and waiting for the heart transplant. I am excited to show you and invoke any questions or thoughts you that may come to mind. Anything I could do to educate, inform and inspire you, I will do.

love

 

 

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