Day +2558. Seven is a prime number. 

Happy 7 years, Izzy. It’s been another great trip spinning around the sun. How quickly do the months and years fly by these days. I’m sad to admit that in the flurry and mix of life, I’d almost forgotten this anniversary. Thankfully I have amazing people in my life to remind me, and to celebrate my victory over the hardest thing I’ve ever endured. 

I’ve been forgetting a lot of things lately. Birthdays, anniversaries, plans, names, memories, lyrics to songs. Whether it’s age, effects from all the chemo, genetics, or sleep deprivation, the loss of these details is something I’ve come to accept as a part of this life’s journey. Pair that with a slowing, achy body and I fully understand the meaning of the adage: Youth is wasted on the young.

Regardless, this past year has brought some of the happiest and most depressive moments of my life. I’ve met the man of my dreams and have been blessed to experience a love so pure and complete I never thought I’d believe in goodness again. My family has grown with my second nephew Ezra and my fur baby Slinky. I’ve made huge strides personally by living alone in SF (barely sustainable), preserving my energy and happiness even at the cost of losing relationships, and establishing and affirming healthier boundaries in all aspects of my life. 

But with the good comes the challenging, as everything in the universe is balanced. It’s been an incredibly emotionally, physically, and fiscally challenging year, where I feel I’ve been stumbling from one mishap or misstep to the next with no time to catch my breath. I know I’m not alone in these feelings as life is difficult for most people. I’ve been finding comfort, albeit to a small degree, in accepting that this too is a necessary part of this life’s journey. The chaos and unexpected turn of events sprinkled along this road to *somewhere* is what makes life interesting, right?

At any rate, I’m grateful for more time, more memories, more laughter, more hardship, more disappointments, more delicious meals, and more of the unknown. Thanks for being on this ride with me. I’m happy we’re here together. 


Day +2192. Happy Sixth Birthday, Izzy.

Happy birthday, Izzy*! We’ve made it an entire six times around the sun, all thanks to you and a (still unidentified) stem cell donor. Between the two of us, I think you’re our better half. You’re such a trooper! 

The past year we’ve survived: the greater part of a global pandemic, vaccinations with uncertain outcomes, random infections and four rounds of antibiotics, the opening and closing and reopening and re-closing and somewhat-reopening of the city we call home, becoming a plant daddy, changing our hair color twice, starting a new job at a wild biotech startup, moving into our own apartment, making new friendships and rekindling old ones, seeing people I love commit their lives to one another, seeing I people love survive covid-19… this list goes on. Suffice it to say, we’ve made it through a lot this year, and I’m happy to have just a bit more time on this little blue rotating rock we call Earth. 

It’d be remiss for me to spout a long, gushy note about the wonders and glories of life, the enlightening mysteries I’ve unlocked, or the (seemingly obvious) life lessons I’ve learned. Dear Izzy, you’ve heard all these things and know them as intimately well as I do. After all, we’ve lived through them together.

It would be naively optimistic of me to skip over the challenges we’ve faced this year, and more importantly the growth that’s happened as a result of them. While we’ve cleared the seemingly worst ‘physical parts’ of severe aplastic anemia, the rest of the ‘living parts’ as we resume life are arguably just as difficult. 

Nobody quite prepares you for when relationships begin to fade and drift away as life takes you down different paths; or, when people you love, who have been aging with you all along, age faster than you’re ready for; or, when the plight for the meaning of life lands you at ‘just ride the wave’ (which for me is an incredibly unsatisfying conclusion partially because I’m terrible at surfing); or, when the reality that nobody can save you but yourself really sinks in, and true happiness can only come from within.

Izzy, I’m so proud of you, and I’m still so grateful for you. Thank you for granting me more time here. I’m truly treasuring all the moments I can get with the people I love. It’s been an incredible ride, with many bumps, bruises, and scars along the way. Thank goodness for collagen, and thank goodness for you!

So what now?

To be honest, I’m not entirely sure. What do I know is I want to keep spending the rest of whatever time I have left with people I love, doing the things I love. It’s all uncharted territory from here on out. Buckle in; let’s keep adventuring.

Love always,


*For those following along later in the game, Izzy is the name of my immune system. See: here.

Day +1828. Five Years.

Today is the five year anniversary of my stem cell transplant. To say that I’m overwhelmed with emotion would be a gross understatement. Five years. Five extra years, on this earth. How insane is that?

When I think back to the dark days — when my thoughts and recollections were foggy and I couldn’t take a flight of stairs without being winded; when coffee was the only way I’d stay awake for the afternoon and I’d take two trips a week to the hospital for red blood cells to stay alive — I wonder how in the world I kept going. 

When I think back to the hard days — when my octopus arm (Hickman catheter) would get snagged on clothes and I was on an around-the-clock medication schedule; when the stem cell transplant successfully grafted, which resulted in unquenchable electrifying shocks of full body, bone-deep pain; when each hour wasn’t a promise and each day wasn’t a guarantee — I ask myself how I didn’t constantly break down into a puddle of tears.

When I think back to the recovery days — when I had to relearn how to use my atrophied body and any form of exercise felt like an insurmountable task; when I had to relearn how to use my mind as words, dates, and details were forgotten and I couldn’t trust my mouth to accurately communicate the thoughts in my head; when I had to relearn how to use my heart to exercise compassion towards myself and my slow progress — I ruminate on why I didn’t give up.

Five years. A lot happens in five years. People get married, have kids, travel the world, endure deep grief, celebrate supreme triumphs. Folks start new jobs, end bad relationships, begin new ones, buy houses and cars, revel in simple pleasures, save up for the future. A lot happens in five years and I’ve been very fortunate to live through these moments.

To say I’m grateful for this time wouldn’t quite capture the seemingly infinite feeling of gratitude that I carry in my heart today. To say I’m blessed doesn’t quite get at the joy and humility that vibrates from every corner of my being. Suffice it to say, this extra time has been incredibly precious to me, and sharing it with people I love is more than I could have ever asked for.

So, from the bottom of my heart, to each and everyone one of you, thank you for coming along and riding these waves with me. I’m excited for what the future holds; a future I now get to plan for!

Onward, to the next adventure.

Day +1191: Happy New Year!

Focus – my goal of 2019.

New Year’s resolutions were always enticing to me. The idea that, at the turn of the year, we have a moment to reflect on life and the past year with an opportunity to plan and think for the future. When I was younger, I’d write a list of 10+ things I wanted to do, ranging from the vaguest of thoughts to the most obscenely specific actions, like ‘do more’ to ‘exercise 45 minutes a day at least four times a week with cardio being at least 20 minutes of the time’.

I’ve learned, through the years, that these lists, while ambitious and well intentioned, were never sustainable. I’d fail at some point to keep the promises I’d make to myself, and I’d have to deal with my own personal failures. Eventually, I wizened up and began to make resolutions around one idea or concept that could help inform and guide my approach to life.

This year, I pledge to focus more – to focus on the things that bring me a sense of purpose, joy, and balance. By focusing, I’m accepting that there will be things or people I must let go, despite how hard those decisions will be.

Three years ago, I didn’t think I’d have the privilege of planning for any future as the scope of my life at the time was limited to each passing day. Then, slowly, days turned to weeks, the weeks turned to months, and here we are now with the months becoming years. Gratitude doesn’t even begin to cover the depth of feeling and appreciation I have for still being on this earth. Life continues to be an amazing journey and I’ve been blessed beyond my wildest dreams with the wonderful opportunities, experiences, and amazing people that are in my life.

Cheers to the new year everyone! May it bring you all much joy, love, and success you desire.

Day +1097. Happy 3rd Re-Birthday.

Day +1097.

Dear Izzy, my Immune System,

Happy 3rd Birthday. It’s been such a wild ride the past three years, and I’m so grateful for you every single day. The gift that you were to me from a (still unidentified) donor, which has allowed me to breathe deeper, dance harder, climb higher, and love fuller than ever before is one that will always bring me to tears of gratitude.

As I reflect back to the time before I had you, it was naive of me to accept death without wanting to put up more of a fight. I had resolved to accept the inevitable, because, well, what could I really do? At the time, I was so, so tired. Tired of waking up feeling groggy, tired of thinking about getting up to do anything, tired of being tired. The realist in me had collected all the facts, looked at all the options, made a reasonable predicted outcome, and had begun to process the potential impending reality.

But you. An unassuming, small bag of undifferentiated, pluripotent hemopoietic stem cells, shipped all the way from somewhere in China, came to save my life. I very clearly remember the moment when you made your entrance into my stratosphere. Coy, cool, and in a petite, sterile bag. It was a calm, brisk fall morning. You didn’t say hi to anyone in the room but me (because I waved at you). From the moment when we made contact, I knew I was in safe hands. Oh, the preparations we made for your arrival! The days of chemotherapies, the hours spent on the toilet, the numbers of opioids to calm the serum sickness. And let us not forget all of the emotional anguish, too. But, it was all worth it. Every battle, every fever, every tear, and every drop of blood; all worth it.

What a wild ride the past three years have been! We’ve been through two new jobs, three new apartments, six different countries, and so many dance parties I lost track of the number! I’ve gotten to share with you my love for baking and music, and so many delicious meals and drinks with my amazing friends. We’ve seen some of my dearest friends commit to sharing their lives to their partners, and we’ve seen other friends’ children grow to be amazing toddlers. You’ve supported me through some of the toughest heartbreaks I’ve ever faced in my 30 years of life, and you’ve also been there as I’ve received and practiced grace and forgiveness.

Izzy, I’m so thrilled and honored that we get to keep each other company for the rest of this journey. You’ve been nothing but supportive to me despite having put you through the ringer at times, and I am forever grateful for you. Thanks for being here through my happiest and darkest moments, and I promise I’ll do my best to hydrate better.

Onward, to the next adventure.

Love always,


Remember when we went to the Vatican with Jenn and we were being silly? ❤

Day +1000. Quadruple Digits.

Day +1000. Another major milestone on this post-transplant life. To be completely honest, I must admit that lately (as in the past few months) I’ve been taking every day a bit for granted. The gratitude I once felt for every single day of being alive has, well, waned. I’m not saying that I’m not grateful for still walking this earth, because I truly am. What I mean is that the acute thankfulness for waking up each morning healthy and relatively able-bodied has normalized out significantly and each day is just, another day. I think this speaks to a normal human response of acclimation to repeated exposure to stimuli, as is seen in nature and society.

Either way, I’m here. I’m alive. Some days are great, some days are terrible; most days are pretty average. I was hoping that with such a milestone as +1000 days I’d feel more of something, but again, honestly, it feels like just another day. I suppose this is a good thing. This is an indicator that indeed I’ve come back to normalcy in my life and thankfully my health is stable.

For the entirety of my recovery, I longed for normalcy again. I reflected fondly on the days when I could get up and go for a run, dance all night, and eat whatever I wanted with little to no harmful consequence. And for the most part, I can do all of those things again (except the eating whatever I want because my metabolism has slowed way down with my age).

I still remember the first time I went to a bar months well into my recovery – the paranoia of germs and catching any sickness was constantly at the forefront of my mind and it left me socially debilitated and unable to talk to people. I remember the first dance party I went to – I avoided all contact with people and left after I felt the air tense up with humidity and artificial fog. I remember the first unwashed strawberry I ate at a park – the irrationally logical fear of “oh God am I going to get sick from this” clouded my mind all day until I woke up the next day still alive without some foreign infection.

I’ve forgotten about those times, but I’m glad I still have those memories. They remind me of the harrowing experience of stem cell transplant and recovery, which actually wasn’t that long ago. There were times in the past 1000 days when I really didn’t expect to make it. I’d accepted my lot and was preparing for the inevitable. Let me tell you, emotionally and mentally bracing for one’s preemptive passing is incredibly sobering to say the least. As cliché as it sounds, the truly important things in life become crystal clear and the rest fade into the background.

Even still, however, these ‘enlightened’ perspectives on life, normalize out over time and they too become subject to falling into the noise. And as time moves on, you again just learn to… live. Live your best life. Live your best life and make mistakes. Make mistakes and forgive yourself because you’re still incredibly human. Forgive yourself and hope you learned a lesson, and if you didn’t, allow yourself to make the same mistake and forgive yourself again. Keep forgiving yourself and hopefully through every experience, you gain a clearer understanding of who you are, what you’re willing to stand for, and what is an absolute no. But most importantly, learn to love yourself, flaws and all. We are perfectly imperfect, imperfectly perfect. This human experience is a loud, messy, tragically beautiful one. I can say from my experience that the sooner one accepts this, the freer one will be. Just some food for thought.

Today’s a special day. Even though it doesn’t quite feel like it, it’s a huge milestone on my journey. Thanks for being here with me for the ride.

Day +731: TWO YEARS! <3

October 28, 2015 - Day 0.

Day 0. A cupcake and lovely card from my care team to mark the beginning of this new life.

Day +731. I can’t believe we’re here. Two years post-transplant. It’s a friggin’ miracle. A scientific, modern medical miracle. I can’t begin to express the overwhelming sense of exuberance, elation, and just plain happiness that is beaming from my self today. I’m grinning the biggest, goofiest smile as I type this. 😀

It’s crazy to think that two years ago, I was just off a nasty bout of serum sickness and completely immuno-deficient, receiving a bag of hematopoietic stem cells from some stranger from across the world. And that three years ago, I was officially diagnosed with severe aplastic anemia, receiving weekly blood transfusions. When I take a few steps back and look at this journey in its entirety so far, I’m in absolute standstill, mouth-gaping awe of how much has happened. My heart is overwhelmed and filled to the brim with love and joy. I’m completely and utterly humbled for the gift that is more time to share on this earth.

Now, I won’t harp on and on about how life is worth living, because I’ve already done that. Though honestly, that’s a revelation I continually find myself relearning and reliving on a daily basis. It’s all too easy to fall into a grind, take moments for granted, and let life quickly pass you by. What I do want to share, if you’ll oblige my little soapbox here, is how special every single one of you are. Again, I don’t want to sound like a broken record since I’ve said this before, but I truly, truly believe that there’s not a single person who could ever come close to being who you are as well as you do. And your individuality, life, and uniqueness should be celebrated.

Of the many lessons I’ve learned from this experience, the one that shines the brightest is: live your best life, in whatever way, shape, or form that looks like (provided your safety and the safety of others are not put at risk, obv). Life is too damn short to be caught up in the details that don’t matter to you. Every living moment you have on this earth is a precious, precious thing that is to be cherished.

I’m not saying that every literal second has to be one of deep, profound meaning or full of swelling, tear-inducing emotion — that’s just completely unrealistic and unproductive, imho. I would urge you to pause from time to time to experience your life as it’s happening. Not just in milestone moments like weddings or celebrations, but also in the simple, quiet moments like embracing the warm sun on your face on a cold day or relishing that first sip of coffee in the morning; giggling at the excitement in a dog’s eyes as it prances through a park or appreciating the buzz of a bustling street; having a great conversation with a friend you haven’t seen in awhile or humming a song that pops into your head. As important as accomplishments, jobs, status, and money are in this capitalist society, nothing can change the fact that these moments, when added all together, make up your life. And sooner or later those moments will happen less frequently until, inevitably, they end. So, let’s enjoy these moments while we can and live our best lives.

Anyway, enough doom and gloom. Lemme tell you about some cool things that’ve happened!

I recently got my last round of vaccinations! Shingles (zostavax), MMR, and the flu shot. I’m now fully caught up-to-date with the rest of mainstream society! Hooray! That doesn’t make me completely immune to everything though — I’m actually just recovered from a terrible, terrible flu. Despite having gotten the shot, I still managed to contract a strain of flu that gave me the worst body aches I’ve had since being in the hospital. But I’m alive! This new immune system has now survived a bout of pneumonia, various colds, and the flu. I’m in it to win it!

I started a new job! It’s been an exciting whirlwind of an adventure so far. I’ve gotten the amazing opportunity to work on developing gene editing technologies (aka CRISPR for those up with the science news). I’ve made some pretty great friends with some co-workers and the impact of these projects is going to be huge. Looking forward to all the amazing opportunities that are to come!

I moved to a new apartment! From the Tendernob of SF to the beautiful 24th Street Corridor in the Mission, I’ve made a new home with two great roommates in a vibrant neighborhood full of amazing taquerias, ripe avocados, and a rich cultural history that’s so close to my El Paso roots.

I’ve been to all the weddings! I’m so blessed with amazing friends and the wonderful opportunity to have shared with so many of them on their special days! One thought that really hit me hard at every wedding was how fortunate I was to still be alive to be witnessing the momentous celebration of all of the wonderful couples. *cue ugly crying* I’m so thrilled that I get to continue on this journey and still be a part of the stories of all the wonderful people in my life.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post and for keeping up with me on this journey. As some of you have noticed, I’ve been blogging less and less frequently as time is moving forward. While keeping this blog during the hardest parts of my transplant and recovery has been an amazing outlet, I think it’s time to put this blog to rest. I’ll still post on major updates and milestones in this process though. I again, can’t express enough how grateful I am to everyone who has supported me along the way. Your kind words, moral and financial support, and enduring friendship has really been the fuel to keeping my fire going. So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. I’m looking forward to forging the path forward as we get to share this life for another day. ❤

Day +524: #year29

Day +524. We’re about 18 months post-transplant and I’m happy to report that all of my blood counts (white blood cells, hemoglobin, platelets, etc.) are back in the normal range! They have been for a month or two now, but life has been so busy I haven’t posted in awhile (sorry guys!). I just got my 18 month vaccination — a 23 valent pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV-23) which helps immunize against streptococcus pneumoniae. Woot!

Today, I celebrate my 29th birthday. One that was never guaranteed, from the moment of conception through 23:59:59 last night, but was made possible by the wonderful marvels of modern medicine. I am incredibly grateful for reaching such an astonishing milestone — the last year of my 20s.

Reflecting on this, I’ve thought long and hard about how to make the most of this penultimate year of such a life changing decade. Should I: start a new diet, commit to running more hours a week, volunteer more, bake more, travel more, etc? Through all of these fleeting thoughts and conversations with friends, there’s always been one thing that has remained — keep living life. As simple as that. No more, no less.

At the cost of sounding cliche, let me repeat it: keep living life. If there’s anything the entire experience of severe aplastic anemia (sAA) and two transplants have taught me, it’s to keep forging your path forward. Such a simple concept that’s said so often and sometimes not fully understood now deeply informs how I live everyday of my life.

There was a period in the past few months where I was rageful, bitter, and frustrated, to say the least, because of how much sAA had stolen from my life and how much it had affected the lives of people around me. I would have bouts of white-hot, seething, vengeful anger. I’d be lying if I said I still didn’t get angry from time to time. These emotions, however, are living. It took me a long time to realize and accept that the capacity for and ability to feel anger or frustration meant that I was alive. I am alive. Facets of my being, my humanness were indeed back and in full force.

I’ll admit that I wish joy and happiness and contentment were the major conductors of this train (thanks Inside Out!), but that wasn’t my reality. I’ll also admit that practicing gratitude on a daily basis makes for a generally calmer and more content existence, which is something I strive to do more regularly. But the range of emotion, feeling every last nuanced bit of it, is a reminder to myself that I’m alive. I’m here. I’m thriving.

So let a transplant-survivor give you a little advice: don’t stop fighting and do what makes you happy. There’s no better person to be who you are or to do what you do than you. Keep living your life. It’s really worth it; I promise!

In accordance with this new hold on life, I’ve been up to some fun things the past few months. In January, I celebrated the union of two of my favorite people Chris & Danika in Costa Rica! It was such a fun trip and I saw a real life manta ray while snorkeling! (Yes, I did get medical clearance from my care team and had to get a lot of preemptive travel shots before I left). We had a blast for a week exploring the beautiful western side of Costa Rica and partying like we were 21 again. 🙂

I also recently got back from a trip to Paris & London to visit my friends Ryan, Tommy, and Tea. In just two week’s time, Ricky and I managed to pack in as many sights to see and things to eat as humanly possible. Would I go back ever again? ABSOLUTELY. 😀

Till the next time (hopefully sooner than 6 months!), be well, be safe, and thrive.

Day +366: Happy Re-Birthday to Me!

Day +366. Today is my one year post-transplant anniversary; my first re-birthday, if you will. Today is one of the biggest milestones in a transplant patient’s life, and I’m so grateful and excited to be celebrating this important day.

When I reflect back to a year ago and think about how far I’ve come, I’m stunned by the fact that a whole year has come and gone. So much has happened between then and now, and so much has changed. Little did I know exactly what was in store for me during this arduous recovery process. Despite having had a bone marrow transplant once before, I didn’t make it out this far in recovery to have had the distinct pleasure of unearthing the stingingly complex and frustratingly unending aftermath of emotional havoc left behind from enduring sickness and intense treatment of one’s body.

I’m proud (and relieved) to say that physically, my body is doing great! I received the third round of immunizations with, in true infant format, two rounds left at 18 and 24 months post-transplant. I’m continuing to get phlebotomies when I visit my care providers to keep lowering my iron count. I’ve been bumped waaay down to one doctor’s visit every two months. Contrast that to twice a week! My health overall is past the drastic, steep increase back to normal, and is now on cruise control with a steady incline towards better health.

The bane of my struggles these days has been primarily emotional and psychological. Having to come to terms with one’s mortality while life keeps whirring on without you isn’t something that’s easy or quick to resolve. Thankfully with the help and support of Ricky, some pretty amazing friends, and my therapist, I’m getting through this phase of recovery.

So. What’s next?

The short answer is: I don’t know. Keep living life? Survive another day? Bake more cakes? What I do know is that I’ve been given the wonderful gift of time. Time to figure these things out; time to live my life. And for that, I’m incredibly grateful.


From my surprise party last night! Put together by Ricky and the wonderful people in my life. ❤

Day +300: Are You There God? It’s Me, Min.

Day +300. 10 months post-(second)transplant. We’re here. We’ve made it. Still alive, still breathing. In some ways today’s milestone is more significant than say, day +100 or day +180 because today means that I’ve survived the equivalent of a normal gestational period for a human. My body, the one I was born with which isn’t quite the same now as it was back then, has lived through an entire pregnancy cycle’s worth of time with a completely new immune system. The implications of this are staggering. Sobering. Exciting.

I could spend the rest of this post talking about how I’m still recovering from the H.flu pneumonia and parainfluenza 3, which almost took me out for good. I could give my musings about how Ricky and I are moving in together this week taking a huge next step in our relationship. Or I could update you on all the things I’ve injected back into my life to try and gain a sense of normalcy and productivity in an attempt to give my “second chance” at life more meaning. But, I can save all those for a conversation over coffee or a beer. Today, I want to celebrate the people in my life because without the immense team of people who have supported and encouraged me the past two years, I know I wouldn’t be the (almost) healthy guy sitting here typing his thoughts in a somewhat coherent manner. I digress.

First and foremost above any friend or family member, my Ricky has been an unconditional, unwavering source of support during my darkest, scariest hours, and trust me, there have been a few. From being with me on many difficult hospital nights to helping pack and move me into and now out of my current apartment, Ricky’s been the brawn and human tissue through so many major highs and lows. I really don’t know where or who I’d be today without him. ❤


I want to thank my wonderful SF family. My roommates Chris & Danika who have been so patient and supportive during my second transplant and recovery; Susie & David who are the most outdoorsy, goofy, and loving people I know; Connie & Alicia who are OG Bay Area friends & fellow theater lovers, respectively; Matt O. who always know how to snap me out of a funk with the best Asian food in the Bay and movie nights; Isaac who shares a love and appreciation for all the nostalgic things of our childhood + science; Ilana for her calming presence and unconditional acceptance, flaws & all; Ryan who continues to show me that you can love and pursue more than one passion; Matt C. who sure can throw a fun game night and is always up for Musical Mondays; the wonderful members of the Weissman and Walter labs at UCSF who have all been more than understanding and supportive of my recovery often times telling me to slow down and take care of myself; and so many, many other wonderful people! If I listed everyone this post would read longer than a Genesis genealogy.

I also want to thank my loving non-family family. Bekah with who I communicate without words, but primarily through music; Jenn C. who really is my sister from another mister and has been a constant rock through all of my adolescence and adulthood; Katie & Amanda who have been nothing but supportive and unconditionally loving; my friends on the East Coast: Momo, Steph, Brennan, Dimp, Jason, Steve, my Abbeys around the country – you guys have been the core foundation of a lot of my adulthood and miss you all so much!

This post is reading more and more like an Oscar acceptance speech, so I’ll end here, but you get my point. It really takes a village to both raise a child and support someone back to health! I’m so incredibly grateful for all the wonderful people I have had the pleasure of crossing paths with in life, and for everyone who has reached out and provided support to me one way or another. I’m humbled and honored to be able to continue on this journey. It’s been such a rollercoaster of an adventure with so much more yet to come! #wintheday