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All Good Things... Mar. 2nd, 2019 @ 02:27 pm

... must come to an end.

That was the final episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. And it crossed my geeky mind when our beloved First Aid Services Team (F.A.S.T.) recently had its last business meeting at the Red Cross's Silicon Valley Chapter.

I joined the F.A.S.T. team in July 2012.  As a volunteer organization of first responders, F.A.S.T. was just about to have its biggest event of the year -- the Gilroy Garlic Festival.  In fact, that was my very first event volunteering with the team. I remember being nervous because a lot medical calls happen there especially in the summer heat. So I consider Gilroy Garlic my personal "trial by fire". I joined the team just in time to attend what would end up being my first of 6 consecutive Gilroy Garlic Festivals, all with the F.A.S.T. team.

In fact, back then I wrote a blog about my first few events with F.A.S.T..... I was definitely a newbie.

Over the past 6 years with F.A.S.T., I've attended numerous events all over the Bay Area. With a few exceptions, most of these events I never heard of, much less been to. With the F.A.S.T. team, we were able to hang out at them all and got some free food in the process. Some of the events I've been to are:

Gilroy Garlic Festival
Obon Festival
Greek Festival
San Jose Jazz Festival
Art & Wine Festivals (in Mountain View and San Carlos)
Bay to Breakers
Nike Women's Marathon
numerous corporate Xmas parties (including Google, Lam Research, etc)
countless foot races: Bubble Run, Hola 5K, Double Road Race, Easy Bay 510K, Glow Wars, Ruth Anderson Ultra Marathon, Run d'Armore Ultra Marathon, etc.
Cinco de Mayo
Island Reggae Festival
Women's March in downtown San Jose
Marion Cottle Park Fall Festival
Santa Clara County Fair
BMAGIC Backpack Giveaway in SF
Tet Festival
CSU Hayward College Graduation
Safe and Sober Grad Night in Livermore
Packard Picnic
UnScruz (ie. a smaller Burning Man version in Santa Cruz)
Stroke Walk
King's Day in SF
Tour de Cure bike race
Autism Speaks walkathon
Orchid Festival in SF
Indoor Motor Cross
Dia San Jose
Singapore Sports & Family Day
San Mateo Bacon & Brew Festival
Wine Festival in SF
Hispanic Rock Concert
Marin Century Bike Race
Black Cuisine Festival in SF
Veterans Day parade in downtown San Jose

Sure, there were days when I grumbled about having to sleep early on weekends and then getting up before the sun rose for some crazy foot/bike race.

And there were times when I had to volunteer 3 or 4 weekends in a row because the F.A.S.T. team needed more help at this or that particular event.

But by far and large, the F.A.S.T. team was one of the best things that's happened to me.  I learned so much in the area of "dirt medicine", gained valuable experience "out in the field", and although I am by no means a perfect first responder who knows it all, I've gained confidence in my skills as a medic and a field leader. I feel I can stay calm and focus in dynamic situations that can change in an instant.

And although I haven't seen everything there is to see out there in terms of medical emergencies, I've seen my fair share. I'm just glad that we were able to help so many people over the years.

Last but most importantly, I've met a lot of wonderful people on the F.A.S.T. team.  The people with the breadth of skills and experiences were second to none. I'm grateful for all the EMS skills and concepts I've learned from them over the past 6 years. And above all, I'm very thankful for the friendships I made that'll last beyond the F.A.S.T. team's closure.

So in a way, this feels like the end of a relationship for me.

I'm definitely going to miss F.A.S.T.  There have been rumors that the team will be transferred to a non-profit outside of the Red Cross, so it's possible that it'll go on in some way, shape, or form. And there are other organizations out there that work in the same function as F.A.S.T.  But it definitely won't be the same. Regardless, I would like to keep my medic skills fresh going forward and will have to find some avenue to make it happen.

Anyways, enough words. Here are some pics as a walk down the memory lane.

Free entry @ the Academy of Sciences for the Lam Research Xmas Party

Some events started before dawn, like the Nike's Women Marathon....

.... while others lasted throughout the night till morning, like this Ultra Marathon.

Gilroy Garlic Fest was a annual (and very hot) tradition for the F.A.S.T. team.

To be honest, Christmas's won't be the same for me without annual Google holiday parties in San Francisco.

Before F.A.S.T., there were many events I never knew about, such as the Burning Man in Santa Cruz

In the past 6 years, most of my trips to San Francisco were due to F.A.S.T. events like this Double Road Race

It was interesting to try some of the foods at the festivals, like a bacon root beer float @ the San Mateo Bacon & Brew Fest.

And at a few of these events, I ran into some friends, which was always awesome:

Of course, this in addition to all the people I've made friends with on the F.A.S.T. team. It was something I truly enjoyed, and I'm definitely grateful for each & every time I went out there.

I just want to say a big THANK YOU to Matthew and Peg.  I looked up to both of them (and still do) as the leaders of our team, and I'm very thankful for all that they did for F.A.S.T.  Without them, I wouldn't enjoyed the last 6 years as much as I did.

And of course, I can't forget everyone else I've met and befriended:  Harold, Kaitie, Aaron, Lucinda, Nhi, Brenda, Doan, Danica, German, Doug, Rachel, Sarah M, Yousof, Tom, Sarah G, Don, Emilio, Christina, Inho, Gary, Randy, Hawley, Liz, David B, Ross, Brian/Karen, Dave C, Andy, Arndis, Ishan, Michelle Y, Genesis, Diana L, Michelle P, Jennifer, Dennis, Diana V, Mars, Margaret, Justine/Larry, Jeff, Euna, Cy, Rada, Judy, Paul/Monica, Quyen, Theresa, Bonnie, Kian, and countless others.

Except Yelena. She's mean to me. =P

I will never forget you.

Current Mood: sadsad

fun films, serious messages Oct. 20th, 2018 @ 05:46 pm

Alberto always brings an interesting perspective with him, including when it comes to the movies he watches.

Take Avengers: Infinity War, for an instance. That movie was awesome. But even though it's just a superhero film, there is a serious underlying message to it. The reason why Thanos wants to kill half the life in the universe is because it's, simply put, overpopulated. When life is left "unchecked", it needs to be "balanced out."

Don Cheadle, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Mackie, Chadwick Boseman, Sebastian Stan, and Danai Gurira in Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Afterwards, Alberto drew the parallel with real life today. There are now 7 billion inhabitants on this planet, and Mother Earth has limited resources. And I'm not talking about just oil, which fuels our vehicles. It's scary to think that there's a lack of food and clean water for everyone. Fresh water is definitely a resource that I worry about running out of. Sure, our planet is mostly water, but I'm sure most of it is sea-salt water, which us humans don't usually like. Fresh water is probably not in abundance, but it is something we cannot do without. As the main villain in Daniel Craig's Bond film Quantum of Solace claimed, H2O is "the world's most precious resource". That's why the baddies wanted to control it.

Image result for quantum of solace water.

Another movie we were watching was Battle: Los Angeles, in which aliens invade the earth because of our.... ta da, you guessed it: water.  The movie is an American military sci-fi/action film that focuses on US Marines battling it out with the nameless sinister aliens. During the film, Alberto (who immigrated from Costa Rica) said to me, "Your country has never known what it feels like to be invaded, has it?"

And in actuality, he's right. Even accounting for Pearl Harbor and September 11th, the US has never had a foreign invasion force land on its shores and having to fight them on our own soil. (If I'm mistaken, please point it out to me.)

So yeah. I enjoy watching fun movies, but even they have serious messages hidden beneath. As they should be because then they're not just brainless action flicks. Although that's not a bad thing either.

Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative

that "sexy" thing Sep. 26th, 2017 @ 11:08 pm
Several years ago, Stacy told me that if I wanted to be more attractive to girls, she suggested that I do the following:

1.   Get a Smartphone
2.   Get into sports

The 1st point has long been checked off, but I didn't do it to get girls -- my old cell died. So it was finally time to "catch up" with society in terms of getting the latest-and-greatest cell tech.

As for the 2nd point.... to this day, I'm still not into sports (I like to swim, but only as a form of exercise). Stacy said that she didn't used to be either, but Bobby was into football/basketball. So as a result, she got into it. And she found it sexy that Bobby was so passionate about said sports. It's not the only time I heard of the wife initially not being interested in something, but eventually was: Katie said she started watching UFC/MMA fights because of her husband Kyle.

Krystal once told me that a girl likes it when their guy is passionate about something, because then that means he can be passionate about HER. (Another example: she liked it that Chris was so passionate about video games, as geeky as it may sound to some.)

Anyhow, I digress. Stacy said that I should get into sports. Because girls found it sexy. And I also heard that girls found guys sexy when they play some kind of musical instrument, which I don't really do either.

If someone were to ask me what my passion was, the first thing that'd come to mind is helping others. That's why I volunteer. There's just something personally gratifying about lending a hand to someone else, even if it's nothing dramatic (no, I've never brought someone back from the brink doing CPR). I do it because I enjoy doing it, not because to get girls.

Although if the latter were a secondary benefit, I certainly wouldn't object. But again, it's not my ulterior motive.

But I know that may not be considered "sexy" by a lot of girls out there.

I was talking about this to Suzanne, how volunteering is not a hobby as exciting like sports or music. She said, "You're right. Volunteering isn't sexy. But it's important. We need more people like you."

And then there's Cameron: "I think what girls like is that you're truthful to yourself."

Deep down, I've always known that. I volunteer to help others. Simple as that. 
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative

"As friends" (from a Guy's POV) Sep. 25th, 2017 @ 09:39 pm
I remember speaking earlier with a female coworker about dating.... she's in her mid-to-late 20s. Out of her own dating woes, she said something like, "Why can't guys just start out as friends with girls? Why can't we just get to know each other as friends first?"

Immediately, I could hear the voice of 2 other coworkers (but both male) lecturing me in the not-so-distant past:  "You gotta tell her you're interested her EARLY ON. You gotta make your MOVE! Otherwise, she'll FRIEND-ZONE YA!"  

Their words weren't too far from the truth. This is what happened back then... I got friend-zoned by a girl I was really into.

I conveyed about the guys' fears of being friend-zoned to my female coworker. I said that at least with dating apps such as Coffee Meets Bagel, the guys' ulterior motives are known -- they're speaking to the girls in the first place because they want to go out on dates and be MORE THAN friends. So if the guy is pursuing the girl, at least she won't be "shocked" by his intentions.

But if the guy is indeed just "a friend" with the girl whom he's interested in.... the second he tells her that he likes her, chances are she'll be startled (at a minimum) or feel uncomfortable because she doesn't see him in the same way. To her, he's just another guy friend.

The guy, however, wants to let her know how he feels. He's gotta take the initiative while concurrently taking that risk of pushing the girl away once he opens up about having feelings for her. Even if the result ends up with the guy & girl no longer staying as friends... it's a big gamble. But doing nothing isn't a good option to begin with.

I explained all of this to my female coworker, from a guy's POV. None of it occurred to her and she understood in the end.

So she said:  "Derek, on behalf of all the girls out there, thank you and to the rest of the guys who take the initiative."
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative

doing better than the bully? Sep. 16th, 2017 @ 04:38 pm

I've been bullied before. Fortunately, I was never beaten to a bloody pulp or anything close to that. But I do know what it's like to be teased constantly, being made fun of, etc.

This mainly occurred during the middle school years, and 6th grade was the worst. I was this quiet, nerdy, little Asian kid with braces and thick-framed glasses as big as dinner plates. So for bullies, that's an easy target.

Plenty of kids -- mainly boys -- come to mind and unfortunately, I still remember their faces. One of them in particular. He was the worst and I admit I was downright scared of him at the time. I tried to stand up for myself but wasn't really good at it; he'd just pick on me more.

Now, it's 20+ years later. For some reason, his name crossed my mind and I wondered what his status was nowadays. So as weird as it sounds, I looked him up on LinkedIn. Needless to say, his LinkedIn profile isn't all that stellar. Don't get me wrong, I'm no Mark Zuckerberg myself. But based on the jobs he has held and their desriptions, it looks like I'm doing better than he is.

This isn't to say I wish ill will upon him, or anyone who treated me badly in the past. That's just not in my nature. I could care less if anything bad happened to them, but I'm not one to hope that misfortune be bestowed upon them or anything.

And of course, I'm not saying I look down on people with low-paying simple jobs, such as custodians. Those folks are doing what probably few others would want to do, and somebody has to be a janitor. For the janitors at my company, every now and then I thank them for what they've done. It's simple courtesy.

But I guess there is a certain... somber satisfaction to see that I am doing better (at least, professionally speaking) than the guy who bullied/made fun of me so much in the past. This isn't going to make me jump and down with cheers. However, it's good to know that I've turned out all right and have done well in my career.

And no one can deny me that.

Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative
Other entries
» happy bday -- Janie

I haven't done one of these in a while... and I'm a week late already.

Most of my friends on Facebook, I knew beforehand. But there are a select few whom I actually met through Facebook, believe it or not. Janie is one of them.

We're both members of the US Coast Guard Auxiliary, and just like every other organization out there, the Auxiliary has their own Facebook page. She was asking questions about the "Gold Side" (active duty Coast Guard), and I posted a lengthy response, making sure I actually knew what I was talking about. And then from there, we became "friends"! That's how it goes in the 21st century. =)

Later that year, I posted that I was going to visit Washington DC for the first time. It was a memorable trip because I'm a huge history buff and our nation's capital certainly has a lot of Hx.  Janie saw the post and was like, "We HAVE to meet up!!"

Which we did. She and her other half, Rob, took me out to dinner. It was kind of a small world -- not only was Rob also from the Bay Area, if memory serves correctly, but so was the waiter who served us! 2 koinikidinks in a row.

It also turned out that Janie's actually related to Alex Penkala, one of the soldiers who fought with the Easy Company, a US paratrooper unit in World War II. A HBO miniseries was based on them, called Band of Brothers.  What're the odds, that I'd meet an actual descendant related to perhaps the most famous American unit from the Second World War. I recall Janie saying that even though she never met "Uncle Alex", it was still eerie and strange for her seeing him "die" on the HBO miniseries.

But while being related to a Band of Brothers trooper is awesome, that's not why Janie is cool. We've KIT through Facebook and also had several convos over the years, both through messaging and phone. Despite being a wonderful full-time mom, she still made time to chat with me in times of support (and I could ask her for advice about women... ahem). Finally, our involvement with the Coast Guard Auxiliary is something I have in common with her, but with very few others. So that's special.

I truly hope to see her one day again. Another trip to DC is overdue.

Meanwhile, I hope she had a great bday.  =)

» Cathay Pacific flight attendant
I was flying back from Hong Kong via Cathay Pacific. One of the flight attendants was serving breakfast. Out of the 2 choices -- eggs or noodles -- I asked for eggs as I was tired of having Chinese food for the past 2 weeks. It seemed like a lot of people were ordering eggs though, because it looked like she was having some trouble finding an egg dish. So I told her, "If you only have noodles, then that's fine."  Just wanted to make her job easier for her. She managed to find an egg dish and told me, "You're too nice."

Later on, she dropped by and asked me to fill out a Cathay Pacific survey. I felt singled out (not that I mind in this case) because no one else around me was asked to fill one out. I wonder what the "critieria" is to be picked out for filling out one of those things.

Towards the end of the flight, the flight attendants were collecting UNICEF donations (sponsored by Cathay). Feeling a little charitable -- hey, it's not like I haven't donated $$ before -- I filled one out. The same flight attendant said that was very nice of me. I guess donations from flight passengers don't happen too often.

Anyways, nothing big happened. Just small nice moments with her.  =)
» one humbling after another
Image result for humble
( Source )

Late last month, someone I knew passed away after fighting terminal lung cancer for 5 years. She left behind a husband and 3 little kids.

Also not long after the New Year, I had dinner with a recently widowed woman at my townhouse complex. On Labor Day weekend 2016, Darren and I helped her husband suffering from Lewy Body Dementia safely out of a jacuzzi because he couldn't get himself out, and his wife couldn't do it all by herself. I finally texted her asking how she was doing. It turned out her husband passed away way back in Oct, not long after Darren and I helped them out. He just withered away, complications arose, etc.  She was still very thankful and treated me out to dinner as a way of saying thanks (Darren lives in SD).

Also recently, I learned that the husband of a friend from high school has been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. They set up a Facebook support group, asking friends for their memories and good times together, and they never ask for $ or donations. In addition, they arranged these social gatherings that have these very giving themes to them (ie. "What cause do you care about?").  I got the invite to one such event and was admittedly a little hesitant. Even though I knew the wife, I didn't know her terribly well. We didn't kept much in touch since high school nor did I see her a lot way back when anyways (she went to Gunn, I was at Paly). And I didn't really know her husband at all, although I met him once several years ago. But just to show support, I decided to go. It was good seeing them both, and I ran into Peling! a former skydiving buddy.  =)    I also got to catch up with Emily, whom I haven't seen in 16+ years since high school. We actually didn't even chat much back then, but we were able to chat/catch up at the event. It turned out Emily is my friend's cousin, of which I had absolutely no idea. The things you learn these days....

Finally, I've been trying to get in touch with a former coworker. He retired quite a few a years ago, and has been fighting the beast known as pancreatic cancer ever since. Sure, I helped buy him a party gift that he really liked way back when (it was a Star Trek blanket... he's a fellow Trek fan!). But I haven't seen him since then. And especially after what happened with Fawn and her terminal lung cancer.... I just feel like I should do a better job with people. Not just those who has cancer, but those overall. But yeah, ever since he retired several years ago, I need to see him again. We were going to meet up for lunch a few weeks ago. Then some urgent "We need this done yesterday!! ASAP" thing with the FDA popped up... and I had to cancel on my friend 30 minutes before our lunch meet-up.

I was instantly reminded of Fawn... a few years ago, we were going to meet up for lunch. And then an unsuspected internal audit at work made me cancel plans on her. Now, I was going to see another friend (someone whom I actually know better), he also has some form of cancer... and then an urgent thing at work forces me to cancel plans on him. It's like... FUCKING work. Can't you just hold off your effin' emergencies for a mere few hours so I can see someone whom I haven't seen in forever? Geez.

And just yesterday, I attended the memorial service for my uncle's brother. I was only related to him by marriage, and while I wasn't particularly close to him, he was a good man. He was still a member of my extended family, with other family members & friends who loved him.

Anyways, I don't mean to sound somber. But this year has been... humbling. Sure, there are people dying everyday and unfortunately, medical conditions are common. But it just seemed like that lately, there have been more happenings that makes me stop and puts everything in perspective. When folks pass away or are fighting something like cancer, it's like... I shouldn't complain about my own first-world problems. Someone out there always has it worst. Gotta be thankful for what you got.

True, I can't save the world, and my hardships are no less important. But what makes my days bad? Stress at work? Traffic jams on 101? Woes of dating girls in male-congested Silicon Valley?  (Yes, I'm aware that I just insulted myself.)

None of these things are worth whining about, at least compared to all of the stuff mentioned above. Although I do it anyways because I'm only human, I try not to.

I'm taking all these as learning experiences, because along the way, that's all one can do. 
» RIP, Fawn

She wasn't family.

I'm not sure if I'm allowed to call her a friend or a colleague.

Acquaintance is more like it. But even that term seems too high up there for me.

Regardless, I am dedicating this entry to Fawn. And I will never forget her.


It Began with the Newspaper

Back in Apr 2011, the San Jose Mercury newspaper had a front page article with a picture of an Asian woman crying.

Her name was Fawn. She was at then just diagnosed with terminal Stage IV Lung Cancer. That's bad news for anyone, but it also affected her husband, Rick, and three little kids. At that time, her kids were 4, 3, and 1. Boy, girl, girl. Fawn and Rick had a videographer with them so that in the future, their kids wouldn't just have pics of their mom, but an actual video. So they could see their mom speak and hear what she sounded like.

Just like anyone else reading that article, I was touched by Fawn's story. I managed to reach out to her and told her I wanted to help by donating some $. I couldn't cure her cancer but at least I could help soften the blow of her medical expenses. As a character remarked in the 1996 film Mission: Impossible, "Dying slowly in America... can be a very expensive proposition."  So true.

If my foggy memory is correct, the first time I met Fawn was at a fundraiser for her. It was at this Italian restaurant in Alviso, CA. The place had really good spaghetii, I remember. That's where I met Fawn. I handed her a check, the first of a few I would give her.


Irregular Correspondence

Over the next 5-6 years, Fawn and I mainly kept in touch through emails. We didn't correspond very frequently, but when we did, I always asked how she was doing and kept sending well-wishes her way. If you read her emails, you could tell that she was a lady who was fighting the cancer with doctors and chemo, all the while raising her kids and working. Through it all, she was humble and thankful for every day of life she had.

Every now and then, she'd send out emails (whether mass email or personal ones), inviting me to family events, including her kids' bday parties. One of them was to renew vows with her husband after 10 years of marriage.

I didn't go to most of them, which I now feel ashmed of.

Admittedly, I was busy with work, volunteering, family, social life, etc. Her home was pretty far away. Very lame excuses, I know. Through it all, I just thought, "She'll be okay."

I did go to one of her kids' bday parties though. I still remember that inflatable jumpy house with other families with kids. It was a happy environment.

But the only other times I saw Fawn were when we met up for an occasional lunch or dinner. And when I say occasional, it's probably even less frequent than that. More like... once or twice a year, really.

Things just got so busy for me... and for her as well. So whenever we'd meet, it'd be like several months in the making. Communicating through emails, trying to set a date to just get lunch during the day. Both of our schedules were super busy.

And one time... I remember we were set to go to meet for lunch. Then a fuckin' unscheduled audit came up at work that day. Working in the medical device industry... it's technically audit season all year round. But I had to be there. I contacted Fawn and profusely apologized to her, cancelling our lunch just a few hours before it was to happen. Of course, she understood. Another time, she had to cancel on me too. Sigh, the things we do for our jobs...

About 2 or 3 years ago, we did manage to have dinner together. That was when I had this super big crush on my housemate. Fawn was like, "Go for it!"  She later wrote to me that girls, especially Asian girls, tend to wait for the guy to make the first move. That was the kind of lady Fawn was. Even in the midst of her terminal cancer, she wanted to know what was going on in your life. Fawn was a big believer in not wasting any time -- she said that even after a few dates, if you're not interested in the girl, move on. Not surprising this is coming from a lady with limited time left, telling me not to waste my own.

Then last year... around the summer time, we managed to have a lunch (after more and more scheduling). I didn't mind making a long round trip drive from work to see her. You could kinda tell that she was wearing a wig, because of the hair loss from all the chemo. But I didn't say anything. When lunch was over, she was like, "Have a good summer!"  Which, again, tells you that we didn't see each other all that much....


The Last Time

Finally, in Dec 2016, I decided to check out her personal blog. She didn't update it much and it didn't get much public views. But what I saw shocked me.

Hospice care!

Her recent entries talked more about her physical ailments from the cancer and all the chemo treatments. In the end, her doctor said that she shouldn't reduce her quality of life and should go into hospice care. Fawn also said in her blog on how she came to accept her pending death....

I immediately texted Fawn. She got back to me and not knowing how much time she had left, I asked her if she'd like to meet again if she felt able to.

So not long after New Years 2017, Fawn invited me over for dinner. She asked me if I could bring take-out for her and her family. I was like, "Of course! Anything you'd like!"

I didn't mind driving all the way from work to Santana Row in stormy weather, buy $70 to $80 worth of food, and double back to southeast San Jose where she and her family lived. Sitting in traffic along the way... that was fine.

I also bought Fawn some rainbow daisies. Didn't want to get her red roses because it wasn't a romantic situation. I certainly didn't want to get WHITE roses because those are for someone who'd have passed away already.

Admittedly, I was nervous. I wasn't sure how to act, or what I should say. I've never really been in the company of someone who was in hospice care before. And when I'd leave, what was I supposed to say?

See ya later?
Take care?
Nice knowin' ya?

Kaitie said be positive, but be whatever Fawn wanted me to be. Suzanne said something similar along those lines.
Bob W. (my mentor at work and with other things in life) said, just make yourself available to her and leave it at that.

So during the night, I tried to be uplifting and not sad. Fawn appeared fragile and lost her hair. Her speech was a little slurry even though she was fully cognizant.  But nevertheless, it was good to see her again.

Her kids.... they were much older than when I saw them last. It's amazing -- they knew that their mom was dying, yet they acted totally normal, laughing and behaving like how little kids normally behave.

As for Rick: he's a nice guy. You could tell he was sad about his wife. But he was very friendly to me. When he said, "Hey, Derek! We haven't seen you since our kid's bday party!"... which was quite a few years ago. I told him straight up, with a tone of regret: "I don't have an excuse."  Of course, Rick said it was all right.

That night, it was just mainly me eating with Rick and Fawn. Their kids were watching TV. Fawn couldn't eat much. We didn't talk about the cancer most of the time, but here and there, it'd rear its ugly head as a topic. Fawn said, "Even after I'm gone, you should still come over."  Oh man, that just gave me a lump in my throat.

When it was time for me to leave, I did what Bob said. I told Fawn that please reach out to me whenever she wanted, and that I hoped to see her again.

Over the next few weeks, I'd still trade some texts with Fawn. They were brief, like "Happy MLK Jr Day! Hope your kids got the day off school so you could spend time with them."  Nothing significant.


The Text

It was a Weds, late morning. I was just finishing up a meeting at work. Then a text came through from Fawn's #.

It was Rick.

"Hey, buddy. Fawn went to Heaven at 5:40am. Thanks for everything."

I replied back immediatey, saying how saddened I was to hear that. I told him to please reach out to me if there's anything I could to help. He just simply said "thanks". Which is totally fine.

Haven't heard back from him since.

I still have that old newspaper article from 2011. The one with Fawn's story. I should throw it away now, yet it seems wrong.
I still have her emails and texts. Should I delete those too? From someone you knew but who's no longer with us?

I still feel bad about not regularly corresponding with Fawn.
I feel bad for not going to all the family events she invited me to.
Heck, I feel bad for having to cancel our lunch because that stupid audit that one day.

And even though I got back in touch with Fawn after finding out she didn't have much time left, that also comes with being assailed by my guilty conscience:  "Oh, now that her time's coming up so soon, you're finally going to go see her???"

I'm sorry, Fawn....


What She taught me

1. Be thankful for what you got in your life.
2. Don't complain about your problems. Someone else always has it worst.

She fought for almost 6 long years. Her original prognosis ranged from a few months to 2 years at best. Her courage to live that much longer was inspiring, to say the least.

Through it all, Fawn remained humble, prayed daily, treated every day as a gift, and continued to fight her lung cancer. She didn't let it stop from living her life as a devoted wife and mother of 3.

Seriously, my issues were -- and still are -- such first world problems compared to what she faced.

So 2017 has already been quite a humbling year for me. While I try not to whine about my own issues, I still tend to (ie. "I got cut off by those douchbags on the freeway again!!").  I try to remind myself on a regular basis to not be caught up in my own personal issues, that things could be a lot worse.

And yet, there are so many people out there who're like Fawn. They're facing what she had to face for so long.

Fawn, I don't know what to say. Except that I'm sorry. Rest in peace. I'm glad that I got to know you.

» a "front line" type of guy
Every now and then, I do think about whether or not I should switch industries. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not dying to get out of the medical device field. But I guess this could be somewhat of a third-life criss maybe...?

Problem is, the line of work I am most interested in doing is emergency first responder stuff. However, they're not known exactly to pay very much... and that includes in the expensive Bay Area.

I remember asking Matthew why EMTs don't get much $$$. He succinctly said, "You don't need to have a college degree."

Which I guess makes sense. The higher the pay, usually that equates to more education. And when I was taking my EMT class, there was a guy in my group who graduated high school, but hadn't gone to college yet.

But still, when I tell people who aren't familiar with the world of EMS (Emergency Medical Systems) that I wouldn't be surprised if green, inexperienced EMTs get paid just $10/hr or so, they're shocked.

"But EMTs save lives!"

And they do, I'm not saying they don't. But I've read articles online from experienced EMTs themselves who say that they don't deserve to get more $$.  One person basically said: "You want higher pay? Get more education."

That's why paramedics -- the next level above EMTs, who are basically the bottom rung of the ladder -- get more $$ b/c they have to have more training.  How much more $$ they get, depends on your experience and where you work. Docs have to go for years in med school. Paramedics, about 18 months to my knowledge. EMTs... 6-12 months, depending on where your classes are.

Last year, I felt like I was getting fed up with my current job. Peg asked me if I had any debt or family to take care of. Because if not, then I'm in a better position to take a pay cut (albeit a really big one) than most people out there....

And when I was speaking to Joe about being a volunteer emergency first responder, he made me realize something about myself:   "I think you're the type of guy who enjoys being on the front lines."

That got my attention.

First responders are indeed out there on "the front lines"... that's why they're called FIRST responders. True, we don't perform complex surgeries out "in the field" and hospitals themselves can be quite chaotic. But "out there", it's a different kind of chaos. The environment is less controlled, there are potentially more dangers, equipment and manpower are more limited (especially the equipment), etc.  If you are effective "out there", then I think that says something about you.

But alas, those on the "front lines" don't get that much pay. It reminds me of those fighting as infantry in the US Army and in the Marines. They're doing the most dangerous work in the US military, but generally speaking, a lot of them don't have degrees and are the lower ranks. That means they don't get paid very much (albeit they're free of taxes), despite the fact their jobs are very high risk.

So yes, every now and then, I do wonder about having a full-time profession in the world of emergency medicine (or "dirt medicine", as some have called it. Hey, it has a nice ring to it.) Kim has brought this up every now and then.

The main thing that's holding me back -- and I know this makes me sound greedy -- is the low pay, at least compared to my current job.

I was speaking with a paramedic-trained first responder a few years ago on a ride-a-long. I told her I'm not an EMT, but I volunteer as a medic for the Red Cross. She asked me how much I made for my regular job in the medical device industry. When I told her how much, she said to me:   "Keep volunteering."
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