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A Tribute to My Journey, Looking Back and Onward Forward

Life, as it were, before being an amputee wasn't a problem-free experience. However, I find myself looking back at the past 7-years of my life.

In particular, I look back at my lab management position and truly miss what I had there. I really enjoyed leading the lab, working with the students, genotyping and also this once-off "God shot" of a situation that unfolded in 2019.

I hold my responsibilities sacred, so at first I very much put up a "wall" so to speak. But, basically a student from Lyon, France, was volunteering in a sister lab. Unhappy with her experience mostly involving animal work, study testing and animal husbandry, she voiced this concern to a fellow undergrad volunteer. From there, he expressed this concern to the PI of the lab, who then turned to the PI of my lab, to offer this particular student the opportunity the chance to obtain more bench experience. With that, my boss approached me and asked if this student could shadow me and if I could assist with their lab's efforts in genotyping. In turn, she could also help out with my project.

The first 2.5 - 3 months, nothing happened between the two of us. I noticed she was very friendly, helpful and anxious to help out... often spending more than 40 hours per week working with me. There was some innocent flirting and I enjoyed making her laugh and offering her the chance to get to know me better. It wasn't until the PhD candidate of another lab invited me to her dissertation party that something began to unfold. I recall so clearly, I tentatively planned on attending, however, it was all dependent on how I felt. That day in particular, suffering from "CFS" for years, I felt dead-level tired and generally felt unwell. But I wanted to be supportive to this PhD student.

When I got there, everyone coalesced in the kitchen and when I tried to start up conversation, most people ignored me. I did run into one of the PhD students from our lab and spoke with him for a while. Just as I was getting ready to leave, in walks my volunteer, from the other lab. Her and I got engaged in deep conversation and eventually we found the need to sit down in the living room. She kept offering to get me another beer, when I wasn't even half finished with my first. We really enjoyed one another's company. After an hour or two, pizza was ordered. I didn't want to be disingenous with just assuming that the pizza was for us (I know that sounds stupid), so I suggested we leave - since I wasn't feeling well and grab something to eat and find a place to talk before taking her back home. I didn't want to sound presumptious, so I suggested going back to work, or if she was willing, she could come back to my place.

Suffice to say, she came back to my place. We ended up going out with my roommates at the time to play pool and later to shoot darts at a different bar. By the time we got home, I so was eff'ing tired, I told her I was sorry that I didn't feel well enough to take her back home, but that I could either offer he the couch or an Uber back home. When my roommates/friends at the time heard this, they pulled me off to the side and asked what the fuck was wrong with me and that I should offer for her space in my bed.

I went back out there, apologized to her and told her how much of an idiot I was and that only if she was comfortable - and that was important to me - could she sleep in my bed with me. From there, we exchanged glances for a few moments. She asked me if this would be "bad" for me professionally. I told her, I don't think so, since you're not a student from our lab - specifically, but most importantly it has to be something she's okay with - which is what's most important.

She chuckled and said she was fine with it and after gazing at one another for a bit, we both closed out eyes and kissed one another. We kissed for what seemed like hours. Because of this, naturally, she slept with me that night. Although she didn't want to rush anything, she realized her time here was limited. So a few days later, she was DTF.

I can recall, so clearly, she would come over everyday. Either on her own via bus, or she would just catch a ride with me in my Miata back to my place. In particular, at one point she got up to use the bathroom. I was sitting on the edge of the bed. She came back to bed, wrapped her arms around me.

The final night she was here, we went out with her lab to a local bar/grill. She couldn't keep her hands off of me - which was a bit concerning, since she was holding my hands under the table and the PI of that lab and her students we were having dinner with. Once she left, the PhD candidate, who headed that lab, cut through everything and asked "Ok... time to address the elephant in the room... are you guys fucking?!" I don't recall what looks Justine and I shared, but suffice to say, we exchanged glances. She then said "I knew it... I told her (the PhD of our lab) that you guys had been fucking this entire time." I spoke up and said, "No... we only got together after you invited both of us to our party." But she could have swore that something had been going on between us had happened much sooner.

Regardless, we eventually left, and agreed to meet up with her and her then boyfriend at the time at a bar, but first they were going back to fuck themselves. As we walked from the bar back to lab, Justine let me hold her in the rain about a block away from the bar. As we walked, I asked her how she was getting back to the airport, tomorrow morning. That is when she broke down and cried and told me that she hadn't made plans, because she didn't want to leave me. A homeless person, on oxygen, saw all of this and said "Isn't God good, isn't love amazing?!" I agreed.

We ended up going to that other bar, but we waited forever for the PhD to get there before we went in. There were live performances and one of the PhD's of our lab was there at the bar. Nothing was hidden between the two of us at that time. Eventually, I got really tired and needed to take her back home in my 2008 Mazda PRHT. I can recall getting to her place and sitting out in front of it for a good 45-minutes. She expressed that I was suich an amazing person and to not change a thing because I was perfect, just the way I was. I held her in my arms, as she cried and eventually got out of the car and went inside. She was staying with the sponsoring PI's friends, in north Boulder, near the lake and open-space there.

It wasn't until the Sunday following Sept 25th, that she left to go back to Lyon, that we connected on Facebook. At that point, I still had my guard up a bit, given that I had been hurt by girls before and I also didn't want her getting too close where I would hurt her. Eventually, it wasn't too difficult for us to express our love for one another over IM. Hell, I started even learning French.

It was a good six-months before she felt that she needed to break-up with me. It told her, numerous times, given the distance that she wasn't beholden to me, nor did we need to be exclusive with one another. I didn't want to put her in an unfair situation. Unfortunately, she cared too damn much and the distance bothered her too grately, that she made the decision to break it off and not discuss things further. She had been losing sleep over all of it, which wasn't good. I also was the one that encouraged her to go back, cuz she neededed to do it for her future, which was important to me.

Regardless, this experience resonated with me. It was such a God-shot. I mean, here, a person across on the other side of the planet was telling me how amazing I was and to not change a thing about myself. And yet, through these health ordeals, I was forced to change. I had been interested in getting a piercing for a while, a simple left lobe. However, she had a few industrial piercings of her own. It wasn't until a few months later that I found myself wanting one as well, but then the pandemic started.

Unfortunately, her and I have fallen out of contact. While the focus has been on remaining friends, I think it's still hard for her. I'm concerned and hope she is okay. It's been a good 3 months since we've last spoken.

So anyways, on May 23rd I got my left lobe pieced and two days later, I got an industrial piercing in my right ear. It symbolizes the struggle and pain I've been through. You have to realize a year after her breaking it completely off with me, I got really sick and remained sick for a good two years. We're talking 10 separate GA surgeries, three of which involved amputation. So I'd like to think that the piercing is a reminder (or symbol) of what happened between the two of us, God working mysteriously through her, and all that has happened since. I won't be the same, but I try my hardest to not let it jade me.

At this pojnt, AFAIK, the piercing is healing up well - even if it takes a good 6-12 months for it to be fully healed. It is a reminder that the love I'm looking for is somewhere, out in the world, waiting for me. I haven't been the best at dating, or forcing relationships. Rather, I believe it must stem from the place of naturally chemistry, not forced chemistry. I personally think online dating is a waste of time and in some cases, even dangerous. Moreover, my last major relationship of 4.5 years in the cruelest way possible (a little over a decade ago). However, looking back, I'm actually glad and relieved it didn't work out. A year into our relationship, everything spontaneously changed, when she has explained that she had been raped. For a while, I was unconditionally supportive, but after a while of her pushing me away and being cruel in general... I just couldn't handle that.

We ended up moving in with each other and living with each other 2.5 years in the lead-up to our breakup. Nothing was ever fixed, it only got worse. A few months before Justine, I tried to help out my first ever girl crush with an alcohol addiction and to be as supportive to her as I could. But, she was wanting a three-some with her and her husband and also a bunch of crazy and weird shit. Early on into me not healing from my leg infection, she dug into me saying that were were boyfriend/girlfriend and how dare I avoid talking to her... excuse me... WTF?!

It ended badly there, because she thought she could just belittle and talk over me. That didn't work. I warned her, over the course of two separate conversations that if I listened to her bit, she had to listen to my bit. She never offered me the chance, so I divorced myself from her, as well. We can't even be friends because she is too alcohol-addled to know that I was being supportive so maybe she would get better, not because the way she was acting, nor her behavior was actually ok.

So anyways, I know I'm a good guy. I put up with a lot and try my best as a human-being. It is sort of tragic where I find myself now, but at the same time, I don't worry nearly as much as I used to about concerns of being single, and whether or not I will ever find my soul-mate in life. I need to trust in God that everything happened for a reason, just like my cancer and these other chance encounters. Let my piercing be a reminder that I'm amazing, I'm loved and that in God's eye and through his love, I'm exactly where I need to be. I turned 38 at the other day and I hope good things come out of all of this. One can feel fairly jaded, if being put through these sorts of trials. At the same time, God has never forsaken me and has always shown me the way that things can and will work out, sometimes in the most unexpected and seemingly miraculous of ways.

I hope I can find genuine love again (for who I actually am) and a job/career track that is supportive to me as a person. Only time will tell and right now I need to do my part, but also show a willingness to remain patient. Here's to you, Justine, for sharing your wisdom and truth with me. Here, I intially thought I was only helping you. I also think you are truly an amazing person and I miss talking with you.