Anthony Moulton was making his way through his late 40s, living his very best life. He had a career that he loved with a company he loves and respects. He was involved with a nonprofit that he was passionate about. He loved traveling the world, exploring new places. And then – in the blink of an eye – everything changed. He had a seizure at work, which led to a diagnosis of four inoperable brain tumors. Today, his life is very different and his goals have changed dramatically. This is the story of an indomitable spirit facing the unknown with moxie.
Anthony Moulton is 49 and lives in Washington DC. On August 23, 2022, he was presenting to a cardiology practice for a job that he loves, along with the senior leadership from the company, and his life changed forever. He had a seizure. A colleague brought him to the emergency room, where he had an MRI and learned he had four inoperable brain tumors in his right temporal lobe. He describes the diagnosis as a tough pill to swallow, but one that he came to terms with after losing a friend the day he was discharged from the hospital. After that friend’s passing, he realized he has the great gift of time, which not everyone gets. He cherishes every day and embraces the time he has to spend with friends and family.
Anthony Moulton is a graduate of Colby College and the Arrhythmia Technology Institute. He works for Rhythm Management Group in Washington, DC, monitoring implantable devices. He has volunteered for Project Pacer, based in Massachusetts, for more than 15 years. And he has performed in drag for more than a decade as Ms. Kitty Chanel Fairfield.
Turning 40 and Stepping into the Unknown with Grace and Fortitude
In his early 40s, Anthony wasn’t feeling like pieces of his life didn’t fit. He was more focused on what was missing. In his younger days, he loved and sought out beautiful things. But as he got older, he started prioritizing experiences – specifically travel – which he felt were longer lasting and also gave him access to different perspectives on life. He loved the memories of all the places he visited and he loved that his camera roll was filled with pictures from all his adventures.
He loves the thrill of the unknown, especially going places you’ve never been before. When he travels, he rarely makes an itinerary, leaving space for discovery, including bumping into friends on the other side of the world.
Anthony looks at his 20s as a period of defining who you are, getting your adult life set up, and finding the perfect (or not so perfect) job. In his 30s, he felt more self confident, more secure, and found something he was passionate about. He started traveling more and felt a sense of independence. In his 40s, he took a two-month trip around the world and then moved back to Washington DC, where he really wanted to be.
Then came the day, almost a year ago, where he was making a work presentation and had a seizure. Luckily, he works in the medical device industry and his presentation was at a hospital; a colleague put him in a wheelchair and brought him to the ER. In short order, he found out he had four inoperable brain tumors. Now, he’s making his way through treatment.
Anthony found his cancer diagnosis to be liberating in a strange way. He knows he’s on borrowed time. He feels like his eyes are opened and his guard has been dropped. He cares less for keeping up with the Joneses, even as a gay man in Washington DC. Now, he wants to enjoy the world around him, embrace friendships and embrace his family. Life seems to be simpler now.
His goals have changed. Today, his main goal is to turn 50 in December 2023. And he’s searching for purpose in the morass he’s making his way through. But he’s retained his sense of humor and he’s making his way through with grace and fortitude and the unyielding support of his family.
The Forty Drinks Podcast is produced and presented by Savoir Faire Marketing/Communications
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Stephanie: Hey Anthony, thanks for joining me on the podcast today.
Anthony: Thanks for having me, Stephanie. I appreciate it.
Stephanie: I love having, um, another New Hampshire person on with me, although you're not here any longer, but you're originally a New Hampshire guy, is that right?
Anthony: Correct. Born and raised,
Stephanie: And do you rememberwhen we first met?
Anthony: I believe it was in the summer near Market Square, and I believe I was with Amy.
So, our mutual friend Amy, who interestingly was one of my 40 Drinks in the original project, introduced us and I recall us getting to spend some good time together on the night of her bachelorette party before her wedding, which is a lot of ago now. So I remember us bonding overglitter, truly. Does that about right?
Anthony: Oh yes. I glitter bombed Marie in the elevator.
Stephanie: You did! That's right.,
Anthony: Yes. Yep.
Stephanie: Yeah. That was so much fun.
Anthony: was such a lovely moment just 'cause the smile on Amy's face was just so genuine. I really appreciated that moment.
Stephanie: Yeah. Yeah, that was a fun night. And then, of course at the wedding you were Mr. Champagne, you had like bottles of champagne going. I remember we just had such a great time. That was a a really great party. But I wanna talk a little bit about your life today and some of your transitions. You're originally a New Hampshire guy and you moved away shortly after Amy's wedding, so like 10 years ago now. Is that right?
Anthony: Let's see. I moved here in 2000 17th of July.
Stephanie: Oh, okay. So it wasn't quite that long. All right. But let's go back a little bit. You are a drag performer I wanna know a little bit about how you got into that and where that came from and what it does for you.
Anthony: Well, it was shortly right after I graduated college, I went to Colby College up in Maine, that I moved down to DC. The first roommate I ever had who was like my best friend, Jonathan Warnock, drag got him through his college expenses. He was doing it down North Carolina and living in DC they always have what's known as the High Heel Race that occurs the week before Halloween. I had always had an interest to give it a shot, but I didn't know how to paint my own face. I allowed Jonathan to paint my face and we went out and picked out outfits. And the funny thing is, is everyone asks me, "How did you come up with Kitty Chanel Fairfield?" And well, I mean, Carrie Farfield is my drag mama. But when we went out looking for, just my overall output for that night, we happened to be in the Chanel area. I'm like, "Oh, Chanel sounds good." And then I turned around and there was a Hello Kitty key chain. And that's how I came up with Kitty Chanel Fairfield.
Stephanie: And so she was born.
Anthony: Yeah, and that was the night. Since then I've been able to paint my own face, do my own makeup, which is a skill in of itself, so kudos to all the ladies out there who do it day in and day out, ' I think it, it would take too much time in my day. But, you know, Cover Girl doesn't cover boy so,
Stephanie: Right, right, right. So you performed professionally for a long time. Is that true?
Anthony: Well, I wouldn't say professionally, but just sort of ad hoc, if people were looking for a drag queen. I've done it a couple times for benefits in DC they have Taste of Point, which works for students who come from or no family at all trying to get scholarships to go to colleges, et cetera. So, you know, any type of benefit, you know, Kitty will get out there.
Stephanie: Well, I'd say that's pretty close to professional, so that's very cool. So you've done that for a long time. Over 20 years.
Anthony: Well, I wouldn't say twenty year maybe 12 or 13, I think. I go by the stages of her face, and if the face looks really good, it means that she's been in the game for a bit. I've learned some new tricks of the trade that have certainly made her look better over the years.
Stephanie: That's awesome. So now let's jump over a little bit. Can you just tell me a little bit about your professional life? What's your day job?
Anthony: Sure. My current day job is I work for a remote management company that monitors implantable devices, so cardiac pacemakers, defibrillators. I work on their sales side, building the business. It's all remote transmission, but I do get in front of prospective customers.
Stephanie: Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. I do remember seeing the glimpses we get on Facebook, you are not a stranger to the operating room, is that correct?
Anthony: I am not, no.
Stephanie: So you're able to get in and actually see your devices being implanted.
Anthony: Well, yeah, well that was back in the previous job. So the previous job that I worked for 15 years together with my dad and my brother, um, that's when I was sort of carrying the bag with all of the devices and going in on those surgeries. So, from that experience alone, 15 years of that.
Stephanie: Yeah. Wow. And I understand there is a volunteer thing that you do that is very close to your heart. Talk a little bit about that.
Anthony: So Project Pacer is a nonprofit out of Massachusetts, and what we do is we do medical mission every year. And we go to either Cochabamba or La Paz or Santa Cruz in Bolivia. We get donations from all of the big five companies to get products and we select a team and then we go down for a week and we literally will see anywhere between 500 to a thousand patients where we're just checking their devices and finding out people who need pacemaker changes or actually an implant. We do about anywhere between 40 to 50 implants over the course of five days, and then we probably check about 800 to a thousand devices in that same timeframe. I mean, we got it down to a system.
Stephanie: I guess so, 'cause to me, that sounds like there's no time for sleep.
Anthony: Yeah. And this will be the first year in gosh, 14 years that I will not be on that trip.
Stephanie: Okay, we'll talk about that in a minute. So, it sounds to me like you are a guy who sort of has his stuff together. You've got this great hobby with drag. You've got this great volunteer passion with Project Pacer. Tell me how you were feeling in your late thirties or early forties. Were you starting to feel like different pieces of your life didn't fit, or like you wanted to make changes? Did any of that really apply to you?
Anthony: I think actually. It wasn't a question of what didn't fit it was more of a question of what was missing. In my earlier years, I tended focus on the material things that you could get. You know, whether it was a bottle of Veuve Clicquot or something from Louis Vuitton, what have you. Then I started gearing toward experience because for the, the same amount of money that you're spending for something that goes away over time, let's look at the life experience where you can take that money and do things like travel and whatnot and give yourself a different perspective on life as well as the journey of traveling on your own or with friends and just seeing where it takes you.
Stephanie: Yeah. Yeah. It's interesting you talk about experience, because I remember for many years my grandmother, my dad's mother. My dad is one of 10, so she has 10 kids, she has 16 grandkids. Most of my aunts and uncles are very successful. So, for Christmas or her birthday, you couldn't buy her anything nicer than either she could buy herself or one of her kids could buy for her. So starting in my like late twenties, I decided on experiences and time and so I would buy her tickets to the theater. And so she and I, and one of my aunts would go to Boston and we would go to the theater once or twice a year. And it was just such a wonderful way to get her to myself. And to your point, the experience was something that didn't go in a closet or on a shelf or get put away. It was something that we all could enjoy forever, really.
So when did you start traveling by yourself? When did you really start going into this? Like, I want to travel by myself and this is where I'm gonna go.
Anthony: So it started my sophomore year of,um, high school. I went to St. John's Prep in Danvers, Massachusetts, and I remember I had to beg my parents for probably weeks, if not months, 'cause I knew the trip was coming up and it was just going to Rome, Nice, and Milan. And I really wanted to go. My parents were very reluctant to let me go international and then finally they allowed me to and that just opened my eyes to the world, you know? And then from there it's like I caught the bug and the travel never stopped. I've traveled so much, and it's given me such great memories. When I scroll through my iPhone, the majority of all of my pictures from my international travels are there, so, you know, it just takes you to a happy spot.
Stephanie: What's your favorite place on the planet?
Anthony: Oh gosh, everyone always asks me this.
Stephanie: Top three. I won't make pick one
Anthony: All right. Top three because this will be great. Oslo, Cape Town and Sydney, easy three.
Stephanie: Oh, okay. have not been to any of those three. I've done certainly not as much traveling as you, but I also had quite a bit of wanderlust through my twenties. Got the bug in the teens same as you through a school trip. Oh, that's interesting. Okay, well, we'll add those to the bucket list
Anthony: You should. I mean, Cape Town's amazing. The views alone going up to Table Mountain or lions peak, great experiences.
Stephanie: Wonderful, wonderful. So you're saying in your late thirties, your early forties, you started transitioning from things to really doubling down into experiences. Do you recall the difference in how those things made you feel like the difference between a Louis Vuitton bag which don't get me wrong, is delightful, and a trip to Cape Town. How would you say your mentality shifted around them at that time?
Anthony: Yeah, I would say it's perspective, because A, it's something tangible and then it's an experience that you can enjoy getting from point A to point B and then the times that, cause after that, usually it's like, I don't even know what point C,D E and F are, but I'm gonna figure out how to make them once I'm there, I don't mind flying by the seat of my pants. And I never have an itinerary when I travel. Usually there's a couple spots that I know that I wanna hit, but I just really enjoy the thrill of the unknown, especially when you're going to countries that you've never been to before. And alone.
Stephanie: Wow. That's big adventure. Traveling by yourself and traveling by the seat of your pants. That's amazing.
Anthony: It was a two month trip around the world and I hits, oh gosh. 13. 13 countries in that two month time. And oh, I mean, you can note this too, because it's not easy for me to pack light, and I literally packed one bag and even my friends were surprised, you're going away for two months and everything's in that one bag. I said, yep, because I did it where there were a couple of spots that I hit like Buenos Aires I've been nine times and so in the areas I've been to before, I have no issue with getting an Airbnb 'cause then you have a washing machine and and it was over the summer so everything was gonna be like 80 degrees plus until you get to Bangkok and then that's a whole other story, but that was one thing that I felt accomplished with in traveling the world by myself for two months with one bag.
Stephanie: Wow, that's amazing. We just went on vacation in February and in the last like six months or a year, I have finally truly stepped into and owned the fact that I am an over packer and that these people who are there, you know, the like Carry On Only brigade, uh, like, if I could bring a steamer trunk, I would. Like, I'm a Victorian lady, if I could bring a steamer trunk with me and travel that way, I would, 'cause then I would have all the things I needed. So I am hugely impressed that a two month trip you could do in one bag. Kudos to you.
Anthony: It worked
Stephanie: I guess so. So I'm sort of dancing around the story here cuz I wanna get a sense of you and who you are and your life and the typical kind of transition that people go through around that age 40 period in their life. In the journalism business, we would call this burying the lead. So tell me a little bit about what happened a year ago?
Anthony: Um, all right, well, how about this?
Anthony: All right. I wanna just sort of back up sort of how my perspective is, because I feel as though it wasn't until I hit 20, right, where you're just graduating college, you're trying to figure out what is that perfect job that you asked about earlier. You know, what is it you wanna do with your life and where do you want to be? And so when I look at the twenties to thirties, I look at that as okay finding yourself, defining who you are, finding that perfect job or maybe that not so perfect job. And then once I hit 30, I felt like I was more self-confident, more secure. I found something that I was passionate about. And then I also started to travel more when I was at 30. And you just have a whole different sense of independence. And then when you go from 40 to 50, it's like, ooh, you know, I remember I had to have the quarter of a life birthday, which was 25, you know, I mean, come on. So this coming December will be my 50th birthday. So as I progressed through the forties and I did my two month trip around the world, and what an exhilarating experience that was, so many great memories.
I also bumped into random friends of mine who were in Bangkok the same time I was and talking about just being fortuitous. It was my friends Brian and Brenton and it was just nice to be halfway around the world and meet friends that lived in DC at the time. it's just a small world. So, you know, I have great memories traveling.
I moved back to DC in 2017, it was roughly like 43, 44, but ultimately this is where I wanted to be, DC. So when we look at 40, moving to 50, okay, now I finally feel it's like I have a place, I have passions, I do things and I can walk out my door and enjoy the city life, which is much different than residential life in New Hampshire, as well know.
And then again, being in the job that I love, I work for a great company called Rhythm Management Group here in the Washington DC area. And I was doing a sales presentation to a cardiology practice in Mary Washington Hospital down in Fredericksburg, Virginia. And I got there early. I'm an early bird, so I was there probably about 30 minutes earlier. So I was in the conference room and I was just getting set up, making sure that I was connected, so if I had to walk them through the demo site, I could do so. And then I was answering some emails real quick while I was just waiting. And so, as I was sitting there typing away, I noticed, cause I can type without looking at the keys, and then I would look at the screen like that's not even what I meant to type. And then all of a sudden my left hand went limp, and then the left side of my face went droopy, and then I became all disoriented.
And for some reason at that moment the office manager walked into the room. And she probably saved my life. She put me in a wheelchair, got me down to the ER, to which I had an MRI done where they found four inoperable brain tumors. I was having seizures and I was so disoriented, and when you're so far from family, the only thing that you want is your mom, your dad, and your brother by your side. And so apparently , apparently this is me in true form, totally connecting, faceTiming my brother, and of course, I'm making no sense and he's trying to figure out what's going on with his baby brother.
Anthony: And the nurse was like, "We're about to do an MRI on you, but you can't take the phone with you." I was, Okay. And so she grabbed my phone, she talked to my brother. She said "He's in good hands, we need to give him an MRI." And they gave him all the contact information. And then they had to sedate me just because of the seizure activity, and I woke up in a bed and I did not yet get the news of what was going on and so during this meeting, two other colleagues, the vice President of Sales, Andrea Clark and one of the production leads, Chris Meadows, who were wondering, where is Anthony on this call? And you know, I don't know at what point they actually told them what had happened, but I just wasn't on the call. But I had managed to get a text message to Chris before this all happened, as it was going down and unfortunately dictation doesn't work too well when you're slurring. So the message wasn't great. And so then he's calling me all concerned. Again, Rockville, Maryland to Fredericksburg, Virginia is about a two hour drive
Anthony: and no VP of sales and no product production leader can just walk away from their day. Somehow they did it, when my eyes opened, they were both at my side, which makes me so grateful for the job that I currently have because they do treat you as if you're family.
Anthony: And so then shortly thereafter, I found out that I did have the four tumors. And at the time, they were at 60% progression, all deemed inoperable. If they operated, I'd either be paralyzed, go blind, none of the options were good. And so there I was for gosh, six days in the hospital.
But then a neurosurgeon who I had never met before comes in and he's like, "Hey, we have to do a craniotomy. We wanna make sure that we get a biopsy," of at that terms we call growths. So I said sure. And then three days later I was scheduled to go in for the craniotomy and my brother was the one that went down with me to the operating room because, again, he's very familiar with the setting. And then my parents were like, "Nope, you go ahead with him" and I remember just before closing my eyes, I just said, "Well, just wake up, as long as you wake up, you're fine. So they did the craniotomy, so I have a titanium plate, which is why I've got the hair a little short. It's finally starting to grow in post the six weeks of radiation and chemo. So that's when I find out I have four brain tumors. And I don't know if, well, I'm just gonna bring you there in terms of how I came to terms with it, because I think it's a poignant moment to sort of loop it all in. So of course, word travels fast in DC and my phone was just blowing up with text messages and, I just wasn't answering them just because they said, limit your eye being on the phone to a minimum cuz we don't wanna have you have any more seizures or, or what have you. And so I was getting many text messages and you know how sometimes you just have a feeling that you want to answer something, but you're trying to be good, you know? So when I was referring to Brian and Brenton earlier, who I happened to bump into in Bangkok, Brenton had texted me and for some reason I answered the text and that was like, I think on the Thursday night and on Saturday when I was released and discharged,
Brenton passed on that Saturday in a skydiving accident.
Stephanie: Oh my goodness.
Anthony: And it came to such a shock to. And instantly, Brian being that selfless, loving human that he is, reached out to me to tell me how much Brenton loved our friendship. And here I am thinking, I don't care I got brain tumors, you just lost your fiance. And that very moment gave me purpose because I was still waking up and realized that I had time. Time to spend with my family, with my friends, and it was a very sustaining moment for me to sort of put me on track. And I never lose sight of that because not everyone has that opportunity. Could get hit by a bus tomorrow, could be in an airplane who you never know. I mean, anything could possibly happen to anyone. And so that was like my wake up call. I don't think there's been one night where there hasn't been a FaceTime with my family, my brother, my nieces, um, we say I love you more, things that we just take for granted. You just take family for granted, and you typically don't say I love you all the time. Now we say it every night, and so it grounded me to be given an angel to help me walk this path because sometimes it's just hard to get up in the morning and start the day.
And in that process I've had five to six people, friends of mine, diagnosed with cancer, still battling it today, whether it's five years, 10 years, and that cathartic moment where I went to each of them and apologized because I felt as though I didn't do enough for them as a friend. Because until you go through that journey of cancer and know what the treatment's like, and you come home and you're utterly exhausted, and I don't expect everyone to have the right thing to say, because it's just as much of a learning journey for me as it is for my friends as well.
So they don't always say the right things, but you just gotta learn how to make it fixed, you know? And so I went to each of my friends and I said, "Now that I am doing this journey, I am going to be so much more supportive. And yeah, it's been an interesting journey for me given that. And my perspective has been, you know what, you can't get angry about it. You can't change it. There's nothing that you can do, but you can hope and pray. Cause I am in now in a phase two immunotherapy trial at NIH and um, we'll see how that goes for me. But I know that I have four inoperable brain tumors, and that's where I'm at.
Stephanie: Yeah, that's, so, first of all, such an amazing story. all of it together: your experience, the experience of losing your friend and how that provided perspective and, I love what you said about your friends who had previously had cancer. I mean, it's, you can extrapolate that to almost any situation in life, right? I lost my dad several years ago and you can't know what it's like until you've gone through it. And, my husband lost his mom last winter and again, you can't know what it's like until you've gone through it. So when somebody else is going through something that you don't have experience with you can do your best to be a friend but until you've walked that path, it's tough to know all of the ins and outs and intricacies and like you were saying, you know, the exhaustion and the real meaning of going through chemo and radiation and what the toll it takes and all of that stuff. It's beautiful that you went back to your friends. I'm curious to know how they responded to your apology.
Anthony: Well, I think some of them said, "You know what, we're in the journey together now," and so I think especially when I have a teachable moment from them where they say, Hey, you know what, this might, bog you down, but this will pick you up." And there's a good support network in that. and I think that it's needed, of course there's mental health, wellbeing and, you can do therapy sessions for that. But I think also it's like when you walk that journey, it's nice to have somebody that's familiar with that journey. And I'm sorry to hear about your dad and your husband's mom.
Stephanie: Thank you. That's very kind of you. When I lost my dad, one of my college friends, we saw each other I forget how long afterwards, but he basically said to me, "Welcome to the club nobody wants to be in," because he lost his dad, six months before. I feel like that's you and your friends who had previously had cancer, it's like now you're in a club that nobody wants to be in, but at least there's someone a couple of steps ahead of you who, like you said, can give you some insight or some, you know, context for what's coming and what's gonna help and what's gonna hurt and things like that.
Stephanie: Another little piece I want to talk about is, what I know of you, you have an indomitable spirit and I want you to tell me you named all four of the characters that are in your head. Will you please remind me what their names are?
Anthony: Yes. Frick. Frack. Nutsack, and Plums. Makes me laugh too, every time.
Stephanie: I literally, every time I see you write it, it does make me giggle. Which I love. I love that you still have your sense of humor. I know what you're going through is inconceivable to me. Um, so I love that you still have your spirit and you still have your sense of humor.
My dad, when he was dying, I remember he was at the point where he was, laying down and probably he couldn't sit up on his own anymore, but I walked into the room one day and he said, "There she is, it's my daughter from my first marriage." My parents got married when they were 20. So, still a joker on his deathbed. To me that just meant that that was part of him at a cellular level, that silliness, that joker, the guy who was always making wise cracks. He was that until he couldn't speak anymore. And I love that about you, that you still have your sense of humor and your spirit with you and you're facing it head on. You said something else to me about, um, jealousy.
Stephanie: Talk a little bit about that.
Anthony: Well, I think it comes from being such a free bird. I would get up, travel, I was a big runner. I ran 21 marathons, 11 of them for Children's Hospital in Boston, raising money. But now I feel like my wings have been clipped because as soon as you have a diagnosis with brain tumors and seizure activity, you instantly can't drive for a year. So, there's no driving for me at this moment in time.
I have done domestic travel. My passion is always international travel and so I just have to wait there until I see how the treatment is before I make an international trip, cause I just don't wanna be at the wrong place, wrong time, and then have something go awry. I mean, ironically, two days before August 23rd, I was in Dublin, Ireland. It could have happened at any point while I was in Dublin, and that would've probably made it a much more challenging situation. But you know, so when I'm out walking, cuz I, I love to walk since I really can't run just yet. as I'm out walking about and I see people running down the street, I'm like, "Ooh, I really wish I could do that, cuz that was always my way of sort of finding the inner Zen, you know, listen to my music disconnecting from all of reality. And then, I like to quietly observe from afar, whether it's a table of two, a table of four, just how they're interacting and from my perspective, it's almost like I'm hovering over them. Just like, what appreciation for life do you have? What are your passions? How are you as a human? And I think that there's a lot of times at which people sort of walk idly and blindly through life, where they're never really looking around for others around them and how connected they either are with the individual that they're with or not. And so, when I look at, I don't think that my friendships have changed. I, I just know that my, not my demeanor, but I would probably say, my personality has changed a little bit because people ask, "Oh, when's the old Anthony coming back?" I'm like, "Well, I'm still here, but you know, I just can't go out drinking and getting crazy cuz if not then I end up possibly having a seizure. So from that standpoint, I slow my roll a little bit more, but yeah, I still get jealous about my friends that go out and can tie one on and I'm just kinda like, uh, maybe one glass, and keep it at that. But I was awake for all of my seizures and it's just not a fun experience and just never wanna be back there. So it's very easy to convince yourself not to have that drink.
Stephanie: Yes. Absolutely. Absolutely. Also, your goals have changed.
Anthony: Yeah. Goals have changed.
Stephanie: Tell me about your goals now.
Anthony: Just to hit 50.
Stephanie: So that's December of this year,
Anthony: Yep. December of this year. I mean, ironically when I look back at it, it was almost seven months ago where they told me that I had four to six months without treatment. Here it is, March.
Anthony: Seven months. So, there is a purpose to my journey. I'm not sure what it is. There is so many variables in this journey.
Anthony: I just have to believe there's a purpose to it, whether it's to help me or help somebody else further down the line.
Stephanie: Even you being here with me today, you are providing an example to others. You're showing them what it looks like to walk the path you are walking with such an open heart and a positive attitude. Just how you're talking about your life right now, I think, provides a beautiful example to anybody who listens to this. I don't, propose that that's your entire purpose, but I just wanted to share with you that a piece of it is. And if I recall correctly, and I hope I'm not overstepping, I think you posted something about your treatment so far is working. Is that correct?
Anthony: Yeah, so last Thursday I got the indication that the treatment is working, but there's still a lot of swelling in the brain, and so the tumors are swollen as well, so they really can't determine if they're paused, shrinking or growing, but what they saw on the MRI scan is exactly what they wanted to see.
Then unfortunately, on Friday I had a setback that put me back in the hospital. I was doing another sales presentation with another cardiology practice, I'm starting to get skittish about these ones, and I was with our company's CEO, Rhonda Bray, and she was across from me and she was the first one to pick up on it. And she's like, "Anthony, are you okay?" And speech was slurred. then once again to the ER another MRI. Don't even remember it cuz I don't handle MRIs quite well. So they gave me some good meds. And then I was admitted to the hospital that night for overnight observation. So, I look at everything as two steps forward, one step back and it's unpredictable and I just have to roll with the punches and it's not fun and it's not a great experience to wonder if you're a ticking time bomb. They've probably changed my anti-seizure meds three times now, and you're like, "Well, why is was the first one you know that you prescribe me on not working as well?" And same with the second. And how about the third? And so, you know, gotta believe in the science and just make sure that I'm taking the pills as prescribed and then hopefully, it will settle down, but I gotta still wait for some of the swelling, in the brain to go down.
Stephanie: Well, it's funny that you touch on that because when we were communicating to try and set up this time to chat, I was blown away. I had not realized this is, you're still working full-time.
Anthony: Yeah, yeah.
Stephanie: Talk about indomitable spirit. Oh my God.
Anthony: Um, my career thus far at Rhythm Management has been a blessing in disguise. I always give them praise for being such a family. They are family owned, the co-founders are both sisters and the mother and father also work there. And so when I look how blessed I am to be in a job that I really love. Like within a week I sat down and had the conversation, I said, "As long as you're okay with it, I want to continue working. It's my choice. It gives me a sense of balance, because as long as my mind is actively engaged then I feel better about life and then also, I find that I wanna keep my mind moving because my biggest fear is losing memories, maybe early onset dementia where I can't even recognize my own family. So that being said, it gives me direction, it gives me purpose each day when I wake up. And I am always so grateful for my company that I work for and I'm never shy to tell them how much I love working for the company and how great the company is. Because in my last role, I wouldn't be able to go into the OR with tumors cuz they, they use fluoroscopy. I would've been let go. So when it comes to the sort of where we're at, yeah, uh, that shocks everyone. And I'm just like, well, I've gotta keep my mind occupied and my mind usually goes a thousand miles a minute, and it's probably still going a thousand miles a minute, but I really have to think about speaking because sometimes my brain's going so fast that my mouth doesn't sort of connect so well. So I just typically have to make sure I sort of slow the speech down.
Stephanie: Yeah. Yeah. Well, that is just truly amazing to me, and it sounds like a really, really nice situation, a wonderful company that you're with, so that's, that's lucky for you.
I want to go back to something, you sort of mentioned that one of your friends might have said to you, and that is, when is the old Anthony coming back? I'm amused by that and also feel that a little bit. So, I have a chronic illness that I've been dealing with for like five years that has debilitated me. This is nothing at all similar to what you're going through, but it's, a, tiny shade of it. And the thing of it is that, even though I've been improving in recent years and feeling better and able to do more, I don't know that the old Stephanie will ever come back, for a couple of reasons. One, she's been through something that changed her. And two, even if you're not nervous about tripping the same wires you tripped before, for me there have been lifestyle changes that were made that in order to help myself get better and improve that, if I were to go back to the old Stephanie, it might take me down the path back to where I was. So it's interesting that somebody asked you that and I feel like there was some semblance of that when I first got sick, it meant I had to change my diet so I couldn't eat with people. I had to stop drinking, so I couldn't drink with people. And how do you visit with people? Usually it's over food or drink. So I found it to be an exceptionally isolating experience because, well, that plus fatigue and exhaustion. But people didn't have a great idea of how to interact with me anymore. It's interesting. I'm seeing some parallels in your world, I think.
Anthony: Yeah, well, I'm sorry that you're going through what you're going through. It's never easy to answer that question cuz sometimes you just want to shake them and be like, "Are you kidding me? did that really come out of your mouth?" But you know, I think that your true friends know what you're doing. And let me tell you, I've had great friend support, from people taking me to meetings, when I need to get somewhere, people sending me food, people coming over to hang out. So I'm blessed with many friendships I have cultivated here in DC over the years, and you know, they all get it. They understand it.
Anthony: And like you said, coming into 40, I mean, I used to party all the time. I loved my drink, my champagne. And now it was like a switch, you know? I turned the light switch off and the one thing I enjoy when people try to do like the dry January, the dry February, and they might make it halfway through you know, and, you know, I tried many times and it just didn't work for me and for some reason, you know, all this, um, definitely changed my perspective and literally the switch was just clicked out and I might have a glass of red wine here or there. And then in saying this, I was gonna bring this up earlier, but it just came to me, when it comes to my perspective about the cancer diagnosis, I find it very liberating, and you might think that that's crazy to say, especially when it's four inoperable brain tumors that are considered terminal. Unless, you know, a miracle happens with this phase two trial at NIH. But it was liberating in the sense that I know I'm on borrowed time now. Could be a few weeks, could be a few months, could be many years. I hope it's many more years. I'm a fighter and if I can be the one that's, you know, oh shit, he's still moving, I would love that, you know. And I would love to look back at this a year later and say, you know what, I'm still here still, and that year is coming up soon. But when I talk about liberating, you open your eyes more. You let down your guard. I mean, I'm a 49 year old gay man in DC who was always going to the gym, wanted to fit a perfect mold.
Anthony: I couldn't give two shits anymore because the way I look at life now is just get through the day, enjoy what's around around you, embrace the friendships, embrace the family and it's almost like I breathe easier when I start my day. I am like, okay, I no longer have to fit this mold. But then how does that limit me in other paths and directions I want to go? You know, is dating off the agenda because who wants to date the guy with terminal cancer and also possibly walk that journey, cuz that could very painful, you know? I say that I'm blessed sometimes that I was not in a relationship at the time this came too, because I could only imagine. I can barely imagine what my parents are going through. Ironically, my mom's baby sister at 47 was diagnosed with glioblastoma as well. And so my aunt had the operation done and she passed, but also 30 years ago, and she was a wonderful woman.
And so, my mom had to first deal with her baby sister passing of cancer and then her mom passed of leukemia, if I remember correctly. And then, Now it's her baby boy. My father tells me every day that he would change positions with me in a heartbeat if he could. And my father is such a wonderful man. My whole family's wonderful. My mom is great. My brother Jeff and Cat have been great.
Stephanie: Yeah. Every time I see a picture of your mom, she's got a big smile on her face. So I know she's by your side as often as she can be. She's always just got this beautiful smile on her face. I enjoy seeing those pictures.
Anthony: She's my biggest champion.
Anthony: The wind at my back.
Stephanie: So what is your prognosis?
Anthony: So right now the prognosis is unknown cuz just waiting for a clear MRI picture to see how the immunotherapy is going. But I've also had the challenges of all the treatment cuz it brings down your white blood cell count. So about three weeks ago now, I had a MRSA infection that took over my left side of the face and it had me in the hospital for a full five days. So I had to have that drained. And then they had to culture it because they had me on an antibiotic that wasn't gonna necessarily work. So yeah, as a result, I was in the hospital for a week and, unfortunately I've had one too many hospital stays in the past seven months. I'm hoping that maybe one month I'll get a break, we'll see what April brings. But again, there's no perfect way to navigate this. It would've been a heck of a lot easier if when I came outta surgery on August 26th, where the neurosurgeon and the oncologist said, "Okay, here's your book, Anthony. This will get you from point A to point Z and you're gonna survive this." I didn't get that book. So each day I turn the page and just hope for the best. It's a crapshoot, cause again, I never know if I'm gonna have another seizure or where I'm gonna be and it just sucks going from when I was perfectly healthy, had no symptoms leading up to this, no headaches, no migraines, no other seizures before that I'm aware of. And all of a sudden have everything change in a blink of an eye.
Stephanie: Yeah. Yeah. That's a lot to handle. I had a vision you were saying that when you came out of surgery, you wished that they would able to hand you a book, and I thought to myself, you, sir, are the greatest American hero. And if you remember the Greatest American Hero, there was no manual. He never had the manual. He had to make it up as he went on. And that's what you're doing now too, and you're doing it with grace and with spirit and with an open heart. I'm just so in awe of how you are making your way through this. I think that certainly is part of your purpose. You are setting an example for anyone who touches you. It's amazing.
Anthony: Yeah, it's been an interesting journey again with all the meds. And I'm on steroids now, which makes me all kind of crazy emotional. It was funny because my parents were like, "Oh my God, what's wrong?" I'm like, "It's just the steroids," a lot of people just don't know what steroids do to your body. I've packed on 22 pounds of water weight, you know, can barely breathe some of the time, and I'm just waiting to get off the steroids just because it's been sort of an emotional rollercoaster. And don't get me wrong, I mean, I totally have my moments. I mean, I remember the first time when I was in the shower washing my hair, and my hair was just coming out in clumps.
Anthony: That was a lot.
Stephanie: Yeah. I'll bet. And of course, those moments too, you're alone, you it's, uh, yeah.
Anthony: in the corner, just letting water pour over your face.
Stephanie: Yep, yep. Yep. Until you can catch your breath and get your feet under you again.
Anthony: Yep. So.
Stephanie: Yeah. Anthony, this has been an amazing conversation and I just so appreciate how, um, generous you have been with your story and with everything that you've shared with me today. I want to thank you for joining me today.
Anthony: Well, thank you for the time. I appreciate it.