Tag Archives: Cancer

The Fastest Way to Stop Feeling Angry: How a Dying Child Changed the World

father hugging children


“I hate you, dad!” he yelled from his bedroom. “You always want me to do things how you would do them, and I don’t want to! I’ll never be like you! You’re the worst dad ever!”

I was getting a divorce the last time I lost my breath while standing still.

The little person I love most in the world is about to turn 9.

He had refused to follow some simple instructions, said something dickheaded, so I sent my only child to his room to think about it for a while and threatened to cancel his upcoming birthday plans if he didn’t leave the door closed.

I’m sure I did it wrong.

He got angry and yelled a bunch of unkind things from behind his door that I’d never heard him say before.

It feels sometimes like he’s all I have. He’s the only person who gets everything I have to give. My entire life literally revolves around his wellbeing and needs.

I hate you, dad, he’d said.

That left a mark.

I’m pretty sure Maria McNamara never said something like that to her parents. And I’m pretty sure her parents—Ed and Megan—never sent her to her room for being a little shit-machine.

Maybe that would have happened at 17. Maybe after dad told her: “You’re not walking out of this house looking like that, young lady,” or after mom told her: “Don’t tell me what I can and can’t do with your phone, Maria. We love you and if we have to read your texts to understand what’s going on in your life and keep you safe, that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”

Probably not, though.

maria mcnamara - prayers from maria

Maria McNamara (Image/Prayers From Maria)

Look at that cute freaking face. That’s the face of a future class president, or the girl who won’t let others feel left out and who always stands up for the kids getting picked on, and then credits her parents for instilling good values and setting a great example.

Maria McNamara would be 17 today, enjoying her final high school summer break before senior year. She’d be getting her senior photos taken pretty soon. Maybe she’d have a boyfriend.

Maria died when she was 7.

One day, everything was normal and her parents probably felt frustrated with her and maybe occasionally used frustrated-parent tones with her. And then the next day doctors told them their baby girl had a cancerous brain tumor and would die within a year’s time.

“We knew on that day that our lives had changed forever and that we would never be the same again,” Megan McNamara wrote.

[NOTE: If you want to quit reading or are in a hurry, please at least scroll quickly to the bottom of this post to learn about a child killer we can identify AND do something about.]

I often wonder how much I’m getting wrong as father.

He’s my only child.

I wonder how verbalizing my frustration with certain things he does or doesn’t do might harm him. There’s a happy medium somewhere between not sweating the small stuff and providing adequate parental guidance.

I replay moments in my head and wonder to what extent he maybe feels like I’m too critical of him, or somehow disappointed in him.

I write a blog with a name symbolically rooted in the powerful human desire to feel adequate and accepted—to feel like we’re “enough.” If I foster feelings of inadequacy in my little boy, shame on me. He must always know he’s enough. I hope I can figure out how to always make him feel so.

What if I died today?, I wonder sometimes.

Maybe my heart will stop suddenly in my sleep. Maybe I’ll get T-boned at an intersection by a high-speed driver who never saw the light. Maybe I’ll be in the wrong place at the wrong time and get killed in an armed robbery.

What will my son feel and believe about himself because of these moments?

I don’t know.

But I do know that if I knew today was my last day with him, I certainly wouldn’t be wasting time on anger or sending him to his room.

I know that if I knew today was my last day with my son, he would never feel like I’m being hard on him. He would never feel anything except all of the intense and unconditional love I have for him.

In a life where ANYTHING can and does happen, one wonders how we so easily lose perspective on The Things That Matter.

Whoever you would want to see and talk to. Wherever you would want to be. Whatever activity you would want to be doing. In our final hours.

Those are the things that matter.

How easily we forget.

Little Maria had a brain tumor called a glioma. It is the second-deadliest form of cancer in children.

Her dad and mom, Ed and Megan, searched desperately for a way to save Maria. What they discovered was that cancer research focused on glioma prevention or recovery was virtually non-existent.

They then spent the next 14 months feeling unimaginable things—they and their three other children.

“In the course of the 14 months from Maria’s diagnosis, we watched her go from having balance issues, double vision, sleeping excessively and vomiting to bouncing back almost completely to normal after radiation in what is known as the ‘false hope’ stage,” Megan McNamara wrote. “From there the tumor began to grow back and eventually rob her of everything a child loves to do. She endured horrendous debilitating headaches. Eventually eating, swallowing and breathing became difficult. She watched as her body slowly began to shut down. I wasn’t even able to hug her tightly as it caused too much pain. As she saw herself becoming worse, Maria would tell us ‘I think we should go back to St. Jude’s.’ We had to tell her that St. Jude’s could no longer do anything for her anymore.”

How Little Maria Spent Her Final Days

She didn’t feel sorry for herself nor spend time praying for herself.

She spent her final days intent on praying for other children and other families battling cancer.

“Through it all, Maria showed tremendous character and dignity. Her strength, her courage and, most of all, her faith, left marks on our souls that have changed us forever,” her mom wrote. “She never thought of herself. Instead she chose to pray for all children suffering from cancer and their families. She prayed that the doctors would find a way to help them. She is our hero and her fight became our inspiration. Her prayers became our mission.”

Lighting Up the Darkness

People sometimes say “Everything happens for a reason,” and I don’t like it for the very reason that sometimes little kids get cancer, and I’m sorry, but I’m not okay with attaching concepts like Fate or Purpose to Maria’s death and the agony felt by her parents and siblings.

But I also understand that THIS is why people say that.

The suffering endured by Maria and her family provided an opportunity for a tiny person with a giant heart to inspire those around her.

And now we have Prayers From Maria – Children’s Glioma Cancer Foundation, dedicated to funding global research into the causes, prevention, treatments and cure for these childhood brain tumors.


Why I’m Writing About This and Why it Matters So Much to Me

I know a guy.

He is easily among the best and most-inspiring people I know. He has become a personally significant mentor and friend. He owns a web-design firm with a few business partners. They are amazing people doing amazing work. Their company’s stated mission and purpose is “to help humans flourish.”

Not to maximize profit (though they run a fine business). But simply to—as a business—lift people up.

Their remarkable team walks that walk on and off the clock. My personal admiration for them knows no bounds.

They are donating a bunch of their time, talents and money to Prayers From Maria.

They didn’t stick their hands out asking my consulting partners and I, or anyone else, to help offset their costs. They said simply that this is an amazing organization doing difference-making work and invited us to be a part of helping people who need and deserve it.

I feel honored to be asked, and would have wanted to help them EVEN IF the cause didn’t matter to me.

But I’m a father. This matters to me.

I think about how fast my son is growing. Too fast.

I think about how I’m not promised tomorrow, or even five minutes from now.

How everything can change at any moment.

How truly, humbly, grateful I feel right now to have a healthy little boy.

How grateful I feel to have another opportunity to hug his precious face and see about mindfully adjusting how I communicate with him. About mindfully adjusting how I choose to think and act today with this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

To be here.

Right now.

Soon it will be time to go hug my son.

Almost 9 years old. Who’s luckier than me?

Maybe you. I hope you feel this too. The thing that replaces hurt and anger when we see things from another perspective.

Thank you for being you, Maria McNamara. For all you gave. And all you continue to.

Do Something Amazing Today

I don’t feel good asking you for things. If I ever get a book finished, I’ll surely be spamming you with pleas to purchase five copies.

I’m trying to save whatever goodwill I’ve earned for that.

But some things are bigger than me and more important than how comfortable I feel.

Right now, there’s a father somewhere who is about my age who has a son about 8 or 9 years old. Like me. But instead of getting ready to celebrate his birthday, he’s saying goodbye. Helpless. Trying to be strong for his wife and family. Trying to keep it together at work.

Right now, there’s a little boy out there around my son’s age who will grow up to be a father himself. And one of his kids is going to be diagnosed with a brain tumor.

Today, that diagnosis would be a death sentence.

But tomorrow, it doesn’t have to be.

Please join me in helping people save the lives of children and give hope to their parents.

There is no amount too small to give.

Thank you so much for reading this and doing something meaningful for other people today.

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The Secret About Men Most Women Don’t Know

smoking man


The January 1956 edition of The Atlantic Monthly quotes The American Cancer Society as saying it “does not hold that smoking causes cancer of the lung. It does not propose to tell the public not to smoke.”

In the 1960s, a person sick with a respiratory illness could visit her doctor and think nothing of him smoking a cigarette in a closed-door, windowless room while examining her.

Into the 1990s, smoking on airplanes and inside most public buildings was commonplace.

Sure, there were plenty who suspected tobacco smoking was a major individual and public health concern long before the Surgeon General got involved, but smoking was so routine and considered so benign, that things like “Smokes for the Troops” fundraising campaigns existed to supply tobacco to U.S. soldiers in 1918 during World War I.

In the following years, doctors began discovering the correlation between the heavy-smoking war veterans and the various cancers and respiratory diseases we now understand to be indisputably linked to smoking.

It was 1994 when I started smoking in high school. I was 15.

There was certainly a false sense of invincibility common to young people. That was a factor. But I’m not reckless regarding life and limb, and never have been.

I’m not a motorcycle guy for that very reason. It’s not because I don’t think they’re awesome, or don’t want one. I don’t ride a motorcycle because I’m not voluntarily signing up to do something where—no matter how skilled or cautiously I ride—some texting-and-driving asshole might clip me at a tortoise-like 20 miles per hour in the middle of a busy four-way intersection and kill me even though I didn’t make any mistakes.

I understood that smoking was bad. But I knew of plenty of people in their 70s and 80s who smoked regularly. There were still smoking sections in most restaurants then. How bad can it really be?

As a 15-year-old, smoking was bad for me for a variety of reasons. I didn’t make much money to buy them. I didn’t have a car. I couldn’t smoke whenever I wanted because I was trying to hide it from my mom. My Catholic high school would have come down hard if they ever caught me with cigarettes or actually smoking. And it made conditioning for track season infinitely less pleasant.

But I did it anyway.

And anyone who has never smoked, nor felt the pull from a nicotine addiction, nor understood the allure of a bad habit would rightfully question why I’d ever want to.

Anyone with memories of watching a loved one die slowly and painfully from a smoking-related illness, or with a uniquely wise or mature life outlook, are probably incapable of understanding how a person could intentionally make the choice to smoke when it seems so obvious to so many how dangerous and harmful it is.

Over time, more people figured it out and have collectively instituted personal and societal changes for the better.

Emotional Neglect is Cancerous to Marriage in Less-Obvious Ways

Many wives don’t understand how it can happen. “I have told you over and over and over and over and over again. I’m exhausted from telling you. And now I say I’m leaving you, and you REALLY don’t understand why?”

My only lifelong female friend, despite being super-smart and thoughtful, is by her own admission the least-responsible car owner in the history of the universe. Throughout her marriage, she never paid attention to the oil-change mileage, the air pressure in her tires, the depth of her tire tread, or any unusual brake noises.

It left her husband totally vexed. “How in the hell could she be so negligent?” He’d complain about it. He’d try to explain to her why a particular aspect of vehicle maintenance was important for safety or financial reasons, and that would be the end of it until the next incident.

A lot of husbands might be able to relate to that. Shit happens. It’s kind of our wife’s fault. We’re annoyed because it costs money or creates a new broken thing to fix, or a new problem to solve. But, typically, once we find some kind of solution or workaround to the problem, everything goes back to normal and we forget about it.

From a How Angry Did That Make Us? standpoint, we tend to not have prolonged anger-and-freakout sessions over such things, and we usually move on quickly. We like this about ourselves.

This is why our immediate reaction when our wives appear—in our estimation—to be inordinately angry about a pair of jeans tossed on a piece of bedroom furniture or an empty glass sitting by the sink, is to get defensive and think it’s unreasonably harsh and unfair.

I don’t treat you like this when you make mistakes, we think, so why should I sit here and take this?

But it’s a lot more than that.

We think it should be REALLY obvious that you shouldn’t drive a car 10,000 miles without an oil change. We think it should be REALLY obvious that the DVD/CD-ROM slit on the side of the iMac is not designed for mini-discs.

Cars cost tens of thousands of dollars. iMacs cost a couple grand. Then our wives break shit on them. Then we get a little pissed about it, but work hard at being cool.

And THEN, we get taken to task over where a pair of pants or a used glass is set down?

In the moment, it feels very unfair when this is happening, and when it appears our wives are so incapable of taking historical context into account in any sort of fair or thoughtful way.

Our wives talk and talk and talk and talk, but we don’t hear it. It’s because we’re pissed. Really pissed. We don’t hear the things they say. And EVEN when we do, we don’t get it.

We don’t understand how if broken cars and expensive computers aren’t worthy of fighting about, we have to defend ourselves over something as petty as a dirty dish, or a pair of pants in the bedroom no one but us will ever see.

We Don’t Get It Because It Doesn’t Make Sense to Us

Wives and other female readers of this blog keep asking the question: “Hey Matt! I don’t get it. If she told you a bunch of times that leaving the dish by the sink hurt her feelings, how can you claim that you didn’t know you were hurting her?”

For the same reasons men don’t understand how “silly little things” related to housecleaning and grocery shopping and childcare can so profoundly affect their wives’ emotional health and jeopardize their marriages, women often don’t seem to understand how those men could continue to neglect them emotionally UNLESS their husbands were doing it intentionally.

Most of the time, (like 98 percent, probably) men don’t hurt their wives or girlfriends on purpose. They do it accidentally. Wives have A LOT of trouble believing this.

But just like we can improve marriages by husbands understanding how a dish by the sink can actually cause pain, we can also improve marriages by wives understanding how husbands can accidentally hurt them by doing the same things over and over.

It seems to be one of those intangible concepts that seem obvious to men, but remarkably difficult to understand for some women, especially those hurt by the men they love.

There’s a guy who lately has been commenting often, engaging in thoughtful and respectful conversation with other readers.

His name is Travis B. Maybe his real name is Travis. Maybe it’s not. Travis and I don’t know each other.

But Travis, in the comments of a recent post, explained this dynamic so much better than I ever have. I found it insightful, well-written and totally accurate in terms of how I experience life as a man capable of accidentally hurting the woman I love.

I don’t think I can write it better than Travis, so I’m not going to try.

Other readers (who go by “Donkey” and “wandathefish”) asked questions.

Travis replied to those questions. And any wives confused about the idea that men are ACCIDENTALLY neglectful should read it a dozen times and tell all their friends.

How Men Accidentally Hurt Their Wives (as written by Travis B.)

Travis: Please understand that the explanations and theories I’m offering up from my own male perspective are not to be taken as justifications or defenses of them.

Donkey: “But when he’s been made aware of it over and over? Isn’t the reality then that he behaves (to put it simply) at work and accepts feedback there because he has to, but he doesn’t at home because he believes she won’t leave him anyway so he won’t bother with the effort?

If that’s what you’re saying, then guys can’t also claim to have been blissfully ignorant of being bad husbands. Then he’s just exploiting that she won’t easily leave him.”

Travis: Yes, I am saying he doesn’t put out the necessary effort because he doesn’t believe she will leave him, and yes, I’m ALSO saying we men can accurately claim to have been blissfully unaware of being bad husbands at the same time. You see, this always comes back to Matt’s “dishes by the sink” post because we don’t ever believe our wives will actually leave us over such issues because, from our perspective, we can’t fathom how something so unimportant to us can truly be so important to you.

This is the point that I see missed over and over by women here—this sense that there has to be some sort of active maliciousness happening on the part of the men in your lives to properly explain your misery.

I’m sure there is a subsection of men in the world who are true down-in-the-marrow-of-their-bones assholes who legitimately seek to ruin the hearts and spirits of their wives, twisted and damaged men who can only keep themselves psychologically afloat by hurling all their inner loathing at anyone who will willingly endure it, but I very much believe (naively? I dunno) they’re the exception, not the rule. The majority of us dunderheaded husbands aren’t actively trying to exploit you. It’s that when we hear you complain for the umpteenth time about the dirty dish being left out, it’s simply that we’re not taking the complaint seriously because, again, we don’t relate to the importance of the “pain” associated with the “crime.” We don’t hear (even if these are the actual words used!), “I’ve told you so many times that this matters to me, and you constantly dismiss it, which means you constantly dismiss me, and I refuse to live a life where nothing that matters to me matters to you.” No, instead, instead, we’re thinking: Boy, you can always count on women to make the most minuscule complaints in the most overdramatic ways, can’t you?

It’s not that we know how much it means to you and don’t care, it’s that we don’t truly believe you care about it that much, either. We just think you’re taking a minor pittance of a concern and, to be frank, just “laying it on rather thickly.” Now is that sexist? Very possibly. Is it passively disrespectful? Most certainly. BUT IT’S NOT INTENTIONALLY DRIVEN BY MALICE AND A DESIRE TO HURT AND DEMEAN.

You don’t have to like that answer (heck, it may, paradoxically, even hurt worse than if our behavior was intentional) but you better serve your quest to find peace with the men in your lives to accept it as the fact of the matter. Again, it doesn’t EXCUSE our behavior, but it sheds light on our psychology and the gulf between our perception and what we desperately need to start understanding about our wives’.

wandathefish: “Why don’t you see the ever-present palpable threat for the spouse, that misalignment with spousal duties and expectations can and will lead directly to a cessation of the relationship? Even if it’s neither quick nor clinical? Why don’t men fear losing the person they are supposed to love more than anyone else in the world more or at least as much as they fear losing their job??”

Travis: The majority of men with their heads screwed on at least halfway will clearly recognize that, if their wives catch them having an affair, or gambling away all their paychecks and savings, or killing innocent people, or filling their veins with heroin every day and the like, divorce is almost surely going to be fast-tracked. But, at the risk of sounding like I’m going back over the same ground I just went over, do any of us assume we’re literally going to lose the love and presence of the wives who’ve taken life vows with us because of dirty dishes? Toilet seats with pee drops on them? Weekends of being plugged into the week’s big games? Eye rolls at being asked to watch a “chick flick”? Changing the radio without asking from your Beyonce to our AC/DC? Not for a second.

Because, again, these things seem such trifles to us. Wrongfully. Wrongfully. Let me beat that drum. WRONGFULLY.

But, nevertheless, we do think that way, because, when similar behaviors are practiced against us, they don’t typically wound our sense of dignity and internal equilibrium the way they do for most women. We simply do not relate. Not even close. It’s a very alien perspective to us.

wandathefish: “Moreover, your reply would seem to back up the theory that men are not unable but rather unwilling to make their partner’s happy.”

Travis: You’re quite right there, but again, that comes not from an actively malicious place but from a passively disrespectful and lazy one.

If men could truly process and internalize that the little shreds of dismissiveness we toss at our wives’ expressed needs, complaints and concerns festers into a tsunami of disrespect and wholesale invalidation in their minds, hearts and souls, the majority of us would be shaken to our core. But it’s so outside the pale of our internal normalcy as males that it almost always takes packed bags and loveless, dead-eyed messages of, “I’ve reached my breaking point and I’m not taking another minute of living life like this” before our proverbial light bulb belatedly goes off.

wandathefish: “And I can’t see anything for her to give him the benefit of the doubt on. Where do you see benefit of the doubt applying in this scenario? It comes across as simple and deliberate cruelty or at best indifference to her suffering. There is no possible positive intent that could be involved in this scenario. If a man tries hard and fails then yes, you could see positive intent but when no serious attempt is even made to understand a woman’s position then you can’t spin that as anything other than callous disregard. Can you?”

Travis: Well, I hope I’ve provided a bit more perspective above in addressing this concern. I do believe that it is better for all concerned in a loving relationship to always approach matters of both communication and observed behaviors from a perspective of assuming positive intent and providing the benefit of the doubt (because, really, if you think so very little of your mate’s motives, why did you betroth yourself to them for life???).

The positive intent from a man’s perspective is that, if he demonstrates how unimportant these issues of dishes, watching click flicks, et al are in the grand scheme of things, surely the woman will recognize the “truth” of it, too, and be freed of her angst over them. Does this amount to disregard? Yes. CALLOUS disregard? Not intentionally, or wantonly, no. Simple cruelty? Yes. DELIBERATE cruelty? Again, not at all.

I’m telling you, I feel 100% confident that the toxicity most men pour into their marriages stems from a complete lack of proper frame of female reference, not because of any willful, vicious, targeted desire to wound, belittle and demoralize. To paraphrase a quote from Mr. Spock, “Our scanners only recognize what they have been programmed to recognize.” Men need better programming.

Slapping on the Bow and Shipping It

I started smoking when I was 15 because I didn’t understand HOW bad it was for me, nor did I have the ability to feel mortal peril like I can in my 30s, nor did I have a child to love, protect and teach.

But today I do understand. And that’s why I quit smoking long ago. And now we live in a world where most people don’t smoke and most kids will never start.

I am divorced because throughout my marriage I didn’t understand how dangerously horrible my wife and I were at comprehending and accurately interpreting one another’s thoughts and behaviors, nor did I understand how hedonic adaptation unknowingly lulls us into treacherous complacency, and how ugly and life-changing divorce can really be.

But today I do understand. And that’s why I write things here.

And maybe someday we will live in a world where most people do understand how these nuanced moments in our relationships ultimately make or break them.

And maybe most kids won’t grow up to learn the hard way like you and me.

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One Month to Live

This is Paul Coakley. He's my age and he died Tuesday. This is what love looks like.

This is Paul Coakley. He’s my age and he died Tuesday after just a month of knowing anything was wrong. I think this is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. I think this is what love looks like.

Someone important died and I never got to meet him.

He was married with three kids and has a fourth on the way. He and his wife learned just before Christmas that he had cancer. He had surgery the day after Christmas.

He died Tuesday.

I didn’t know Paul Coakley.

But we have a bunch of mutual friends.

They all say he was amazing and I believe them because they’re pretty amazing themselves. Every one of us knows someone who represents the best of humanity. Those people with an endless supply of kindness and smiles. With infectious laughter. That squeeze the most out of life while constantly giving more of themselves to others than they take for themselves.

That’s who he was. 

What if You Only Had a Month Left?

Paul’s friend asked me that.

“What would you do?”

How do you answer that question honestly without feeling like you’re wasting every second of your life? Maybe that’s the point of asking. It’s in our nature to take things for granted. To lose sight of the fact we all have a one-way ticket out of this life with our names written on them. We get caught up in our routines. And we forget to live.

What would I do?

I have a son. He complicates the answer to this question. My life is for him. I think I would do all the things we do now. I would just be more mindful of every precious second.

But I would also have a lot to say. I’d write more. I’d write and write and write and write, because a month isn’t long enough.

I’d write here. I’d try to finish a book.

But most importantly? I’d write something to each individual in my life, past and present, who left a mark. Something specifically for each person. Maybe it would matter to them. Maybe it wouldn’t. But there would be an actual piece of me living in those words and maybe they’d care.

Why do we wait for deadlines? Why do we need to lose someone else to reflect once again on the opportunities we waste?

Tragically flawed, humans are. I try to think of it as endearing. Because irony makes me laugh.

I didn’t know Paul Coakley.

But had I gone to the university my mother wanted me to, we’d have probably been friends.

Guys like Paul make me feel a mixture of things. And even though he’d hate it and even though he’d insist it was unnecessary (because I know people just like him), some of it would be feelings of inadequacy.

Feeling inadequate is almost always a bad thing and a useless human emotion that holds us back. But maybe not in this case. Because Paul’s was a life worth emulating. I don’t have the first problem with an exceptionally good man making me want to be better than I am.

I think he made a lot of people feel that way.

There isn’t a greater legacy.

Do you know people in your personal or professional lives that you find difficult to get along with? Maybe you avoid them because you don’t have much in common, or because they make you feel stressed? Maybe you don’t invite them to your parties or for Friday after-work beers?

I think most of us do that.

Paul either didn’t know how, or didn’t want to.

If someone was getting marginalized socially, he turned up the friendship with them because no one was getting pushed to the side on his watch.

I think about all the times I had the opportunity to be a better friend to someone in school or at work or to show kindness to strangers.

And I pray in those moments I remember how I feel right this second to remind me to walk that higher path.

People always ask: What do you want out of life?

I want people to talk about me the way they talk about Paul Coakley.

I have a lot of work to do.

Be Good to Others

Everyone in your life—everyone you dislike or fear or hate or shun or avoid—they’re all going to die. All the strangers you pass on the street or in the store and pay no attention to are going to die. Every single one. Maybe tomorrow.

Why aren’t we more kind?

Someone important died and I never got to meet him.

Light up the darkness. And live. Hard.

Because life’s too short.

Because yours is a life worth emulating.

Because you’re important.

The Coakley Family

This is the Coakley family.

As you can imagine, the lives of this pregnant mother and her three children just got infinitely more challenging. If they weren’t just about the most-beautiful people I’ve ever read about or heard about, I wouldn’t ask. But this family is worth it. If you want to make a difference in the lives of deserving people, you can read about the Coakleys and make a donation here.

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Mr. Balls Proves Anything is Possible

Mr. Balls. An actual, real thing.

Mr. Balls. An actual, real thing.

If anyone ever tells you that you can’t do or be anything you want, you now have irrefutable proof they are wrong.

It’s a message of hope from Brazil.

And because of its existence—its simple purity—I can no longer doubt that ANYTHING is possible.

You want to be president of your country? It’s possible.

You want to move things with your mind? It’s possible.

You want to be a movie star? It’s possible.

In fact, after seeing something so unlikely, so impossible, I’m beginning to think my hopes and dreams are likely to happen.

And now, you can too.

Oi, Senhor Testiculo

Meet Mr. Balls.

His mission: To raise awareness about the dangers of testicular cancer.

His appearance: Tall, dark and handsome. A friendly face. Plump cheeks. Nice dental work. Covered in pubic hair. Clearly doesn’t manscape.

His existence: Improbable. Yet, real.

He’s the mascot for the Associação de Assistência às Pessoas com Câncer in Brazil.

“Both children and adults love taking pictures” with Mr. Balls, the AAPEC website said.

So, to recap: Mr. Balls is a massive, friendly faced, pube-covered, glistening ball sack to whom children are encouraged to nestle up next to for photo ops.

This is real, ladies and gentlemen.

This gargantuan, smiling, two-toothed, Portuguese-speaking scrotum man exists. A marketing team thought it up. Spent money creating it. And now it’s a thing.

Not only is it a thing, it has been so effective in raising awareness for testicular cancer (and for being a huge, noteworthy hairy man bag) that some random guy in Ohio found out about it and is sharing it with even more people.

Mr. Balls is a champion for hope. Hope that we can prevent, treat and perhaps one day cure testicular cancer. And hope that there is no dream too far-fetched to be realized.

Dream Big

One of my friends says this a lot. She has it tattooed on her wrist in her father’s handwriting, because it’s something he always said to her.

Dream. Big.

Nothing can stop you. Nothing.

“Mr. Balls!?!? Are you freaking shitting me right now with this!?!?!” the executive director of the Brazilian non-profit organization MUST have said in Portuguese when first presented with this idea.

But then some earnest little marketing person stood up to her or him, saying: “Yes. Mr. Balls. Because he’s the hero testicular cancer deserves, but not the one it needs right now.

“And so we’ll exploit him. Because he can take it. Because he’s not a hero. He’s a silent guardian. A watchful protector. A massive, hairy ball sack.”

And then the executive director shed a tear.

“My great uncle Gustavo had testicular cancer. And maybe Mr. Balls could have saved him,” she/he said. “Let’s do it.”

And now at public events, parents are snapping photos of their children hugging a walking set of huge, unshaven testicles.

It defies every bit of logic I possess.

It is almost, literally, inexplicable that Mr. Balls walks this Earth.

Yet, he does.

A smiling mascot. That looks like this.

I still can't believe this. If this can be real, then there is truly no stopping me. I can do ANYTHING. And so can you.

I still can’t believe this. If this can be real, then there is truly no stopping me. I can do ANYTHING. And so can you.

Doesn’t this mean anything is possible?

Doesn’t this inspire you and give you endless optimism about life’s possibilities moving forward?

If Mr. Balls can be a thing—a real thing—posing in children’s photos. Doesn’t that mean the sky’s the limit?

That I can make all the money I ever need from writing?

That I can find Mind-Body-Spirit balance once again?

That you can do anything your mind can dream up?

I say yes.

Mr. Balls says yes.

And now it’s time for you to look in the mirror, and say “Yes,” too.

Because I believe in us.

Today, we spell hope: B-A-L-L-S.

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