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Kate Granger

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We’re all dying.

It’s true, and no matter how hard we try to convince ourselves otherwise, there’s no denying our inevitable collective fate. Plastic surgery and Botox won’t save you. Two hours a day at Gold’s Gym won’t, either. You can eat 100 carrots, jog 20 miles, try the lifetime juice diet. Whatever. Come day’s end, we all cease to exist.

The question is: How to use the time we’re given?

Kate Granger has asked herself this quite a bit since 2011, when she was first diagnosed with sarcoma, a rare-yet-terminal form of cancer. At the time, she was a 29-year-old elderly medicine registrar at St. James University Hospital in Leeds, and the news—naturally—hit her like a Mike Tyson hook to the ribs. As a doctor, she had certainly been around death. But …. she was dying? How could this be? Why me? Why now?

Shortly after the diagnosis, Granger made the decision to live. She created an amazing bucket list—and is tackling the items one by one. She has written two books—The Other Side and The Bright Side, chronicling her journey (all proceeded benefit the Yorkshire Cancer Centre). She blogs regularly, and kicked off a social media movement (#HelloMyNameIs) to, in her words, “encourage and remind healthcare staff about the importance of introductions in the delivery of care.” She has thought long and hard about life, about death, about legacy, about love. You can follow Kate on Twitter here, learn more about #HelloMyNameIs here and visit her personal website/blog here.

It’s an honor to welcome our 196th Quaz, Kate Granger …

JEFF PEARLMAN: Kate, I’m gonna start this very bluntly. You are dying of cancer. What is it like to be dying of cancer?

KATE GRANGER: Well, I wouldn’t have chosen it if you’d asked me what my life ambitions were in my early 20s. However, in some ways it has allowed me to make sure my friends and family know I love them and to do some amazing activities over the past three years. I think of it as a kind of gremlin we now carry with us every single day, which sometimes sits quietly and allows me to live my life relatively normally, but sometimes chooses to prod me hard to make sure I know it’s still there. My cancer causes lots of pain, particularly at night so my sleep is disturbed and I’m reliant on strong painkillers to be able to function day to day. However to anyone glancing at me in the street they’d probably see a normal, healthy-looking girl. I struggle with that all-too-common comment, “You look really well!”—especially when I’m feeling rubbish. The invisible effects of dying mean that I carry a huge burden of fears, anxieties and uncertainty about my nonexistent future. I can’t plan anything more than a few months in advance and a common response to wedding invitations is, “I’d love to come, if I’m still alive.” The only way to cope with it, I’ve found, is to live by a one-day-at-a-time mantra, embracing humour as a coping mechanism and trying to enjoy every last little piece of life that I’m lucky enough to have.

J.P.: I have long suffered from a horrible, sometimes crippling fear of dying. It’s not the act itself (cancer, plane crash, drowning, etc). No, it’s being dead. Not existing. No consciousness, no awareness. Just being nothing. I tell this to others and they usually blow it off—with either God talk or the ol’ “You’re dead, so you don’t know you’re dead. What’s so awful?” Neither soothes me. As someone who has surely given her mortality quite a bit of thought, I’m fascinated by what you think …

K.G.: I’m scared of the non-existential aspect of dying, too. I’m scared of the process of actually dying more though—the chances are that my dying will involve bowel obstruction, bleeding and pain. And being unable to control those horrible symptoms is a hugely scary prospect. I’ve seen lots of patients die in similar circumstances throughout my career so my professional experience doesn’t really offer any comfort. I think the aspect that causes me most distress though is the pain I’ll cause my husband Chris and my family when I do die; that I won’t be there to comfort them; that I will be the source of their tears. I was brought up in the Christian faith and we were married in church, but illness seems to have pushed any faith I did have away. I can’t remember the last time I went to church and I’m not sure I even believe in God anymore.

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Checked off the bucket list.

J.P.: Here’s what I know: You have a husband, Chris. You live and work in Yorkshire. You graduated from Edinburgh University in 2005 and passed your MRCP in 2008. But what’s your journey? Like, why did you become a doctor? When did you decide to become a doctor? What sort of medicine do you focus upon?

K.G.: When I was little my mum used to volunteer at a day centre for older people with mental health problems. She used to cook the lunch once a week and in the school holidays I used to go along and help. I loved sitting and chatting with the older people there, playing Bingo and doing crafts. I think that’s where the foundations of my career to become a geriatrician were laid. I was bright at school and worked hard so with my love of people and science it seemed obvious to go for medicine. I was educated at state school but was a very under-confident teenager. I didn’t get a place at university in the first round of offers, but when I was studying for my final A-level exams I received a phone call from the admissions dean at Edinburgh offering me a place to study there. I was obviously elated at this news and didn’t stop smiling for at least a week. All through university I enjoyed the medical as opposed to the surgical specialties and the specialty I loved above all was elderly medicine. I loved the challenge of diagnosis, the variety, the people. I was fascinated by how very different one 90-year old is from the next. The stories patients have to tell and the context of their illnesses within their lives still excites me today. I have trained for 10 years post graduation and have for the past three months been acting up into a consultant role in medicine for older people. It has been hugely exhausting, challenging and scary but wonderful all the same. Many of my professional ambitions  were stolen when I was diagnosed so to have the chance to do the job I’ve spend 15 years of my life training for has been amazing and a huge tick on the bucket list.

J.P.: You were diagnosed in 2011 with a rare and aggressive form of sarcoma. How did you know something was wrong? How long did you wait before seeing a doctor? How was the awful news delivered, and how did you initially respond?

K.G.: I was 29 and working hard as a medical registrar doing long days and night shifts. I’d been studying for my last set of post-graduate exams. So I felt tired. Understandably so, but looking back perhaps that fatigue was the first pointer to something being wrong. I then missed a period. I did a pregnancy test which was negative so I didn’t think much of it. Then Chris and I took a holiday to California. His aunty and uncle live in Santa Cruz in California and we love that part of the world. I had back pain when we stepped off the plane but thought I’d just slept awkwardly. I took some painkillers and got on with our holiday. We were very busy exploring San Francisco, Monterey and spending time with family. My symptoms weren’t going away though, and I started to go off my food. I just couldn’t eat—it was really weird. The pain was becoming unbearable. Eventually Chris found me lying on our bed in agony and put his foot down. His uncle took us to an urgent care centre where the doctor thought I looked unwell and referred us to the local emergency room. Within an hour of being in the hospital it became apparent that I was indeed very sick. My kidneys had failed and an ultrasound scan showed my kidneys were swollen. A CT scan showed the reason for my sudden illness; multiple tumours throughout my abdomen and pelvis, obstructing my ureters and causing the renal failure. I’d worked out I had cancer before they told me; there was no other reasonable explanation for the early test results. The doctor who told me stood near the door of my side room with his arms crossed and his back against the wall. He said, “We think it’s ovarian.” He didn’t finish the sentence with the scary big C word. I remember being calm and collected. I had to protect and shield Chris. I had to take charge of telling my family thousands of miles away. It was not a time for hysterics. I had to concentrate on the immediate hurdle of getting well enough to fly home.

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With Chris, the hubby.

J.P.: You’ve started an amazing movement, the #HelloMyNameIs campaign, to “encourage and remind healthcare staff about the importance of introductions in the delivery of care.” Which strikes me as sort of strange, in that, well, why wouldn’t a doctor introduce himself/herself? Why wouldn’t a doctor ooze compassion, humanity, empathy? So, Kate, why was this needed?

K.G.: In the UK healthcare is publicly funded and in the recent times of austerity that funding has been squeezed. This means everybody delivering healthcare in the NHS is under immense pressure. I think when that is the case and you are incredibly busy the first thing that tends to suffer is the compassion staff feel able to deliver. Somewhere we’ve gone wrong and along the way forgotten the basics of care and the person on the receiving end. I started the #HelloMyNameIs movement in 2013 after an experience in hospital where I’d been admitted to a surgical ward with post-operative sepsis following a routine stent exchange. I’m a keen observer of my healthcare and one of my starkest observations on that occasion was that very few staff introduced themselves to me before they started interacting with me. This felt very wrong, as the first thing we are taught in medical school clinical skills sessions is that you start with introducing yourself, your role, asking what the patient would like to be called and explaining what you’re going to do. So I decided, after discovering on Twitter that my experience was not unique, to do something positive about it. Hence #hellomynameis was born. I think it is needed to remind healthcare staff, by using my fairly powerful narrative, that the little things do matter and mean a huge amount to patients, and that delivering truly person-centred care can benefit both patient and staff alike. It is essentially a gentle reminder to inspire and encourage a change in personal behaviour of healthcare staff by harnessing the immense reach and power of social media.

J.P.: In your Nov. 23, 2014 blog entry you wrote this: “Charlie. That was what we planned to call our first born in honour and remembrance of Chris’s paternal Grandfather. But Charlie will always remain in our dreams and never become a reality. I will never have those precious new-born cuddles or experience the wonder of childbirth.” Kate, how have you been able to deal with these things? With the child you’ll never have? The events you miss? Because you seem to possess a profound bravery most people surely lack.

K.G.: Life is what it is. I can’t change what’s happening to Chris and me. We try our absolute hardest to live in the now most of the time. However, I am reflective about my losses and grief in my writing and the space of my blog and books; I guess as a cathartic exercise. I’ve been lucky to have been given much more time than we ever expected. I’ve managed to get to perform those bridesmaid and wedding cake baking duties; I’ve managed to get to know those children I never thought I’d see born. I have to be grateful for those things. I don’t see it as brave because being brave implies making a choice to act in a certain way. I haven’t had any choice about what has happened to us so we just take it each day as it comes. I do shed tears for Charlie, for the life we should have had, for the guilt of not being a complete wife for Chris and causing him pain, for not giving my parents grandchildren. But if I allow myself to dwell on those things I would be overwhelmed by depression and anger so I simply don’t allow myself to. I suppose that is my choice, so that could be viewed as brave.

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J.P.: You decided to blog about dying–in v-e-r-y detailed, gripping passages (“Why had you come along to ruin our lives? Abolished dreams of having my own family? Stolen my lifelong ambition to become a Consultant Geriatrician? Chris and I would never grow old together and be able to spoil our Grandchildren”). First, why? And second, do you find it more exhausting or exhilarating? Is it therapy? Painful therapy? You trying to leave a legacy? Both? All? Neither?

K.G.: Writing was not part of my life before illness. During those early days of a six-week hospital admission when I was very sick and the outlook was especially grim my boss at the time suggested to me the idea of writing a diary. It had helped his late sister gather her thoughts and deal with her emotions during her cancer journey. So I did and kept a diary, initially in a notebook, and when the notebook was full on my laptop. It grew into almost an obsession and during long, painful, lonely nights I would take solace in pouring my feelings and observations out onto the page. I wasn’t trying to write a book—not initially anyway. When I read back what I’d written it became clear to me it held a message and that message was to healthcare staff. It had become apparent to me that how the people looking after me behaved, whether that be in a positive or a negative way, had a profound impact on my experience as the patient. Those messages were not ones that I had considered much in my medical training before illness. Sharing my experiences as “one of them” but “one of us” seemed like the right thing to do. One of my passions professionally is medical education and I guess writing is kind of teaching … I enjoy writing and I do find it therapeutic. I like to try and say the “unsaid” to try and stimulate conversation and trigger reflections from others. It is comforting to me that my blog will exist long after I’m gone as a permanent record of my journey. Legacies are important to me. I really don’t want to be remembered as “that poor young doctor who died of a rare cancer before her time,” but rather someone who made a positive improvement to healthcare.

J.P.: Do you feel like people approach you differently since cancer was diagnosed? I mean, are there those who overdo it, those who stay far away? And, going through this, what would you advise people to do, if a friend has cancer? Is there a proper emotional/behavioral response?

K.G.: Inevitably … I want to just be treated as Kate. The Kate that I always was. Just because I have a serious disease doesn’t mean that I don’t still enjoy the same things in life; have the same values. I hate being treated with kid gloves—independence is so important to me. But cancer is part of me now and does mean things are different. I’ve always been the sort of person who has a small circle of close friends and that hasn’t changed. I’m also quite happy in my own company much of the time. I know those people are there for me no matter what, but they don’t smother us with attention. I’m not sure there is a ‘correct’ response to support a friend on a cancer journey as everyone’s needs are so individual. I think remembering the importance of ongoing support after diagnosis is essential though. People can be quick to send cards and presents in the beginning but putting the effort into being there for the long haul means a lot more to me personally.

J.P.: What do you think people, in day to day life, fail to see? Fail to grasp? Fail to do?

K.G.: I think it is very tough for people who look at me to see someone who is not going to get better, who is dying. I have fairly clear skin, glossy hair and I’m certainly not skinny. Even at my most sick I didn’t outwardly look that unwell. I’m also incredibly open about the fact that my life is going to be cut short prematurely and regularly speak about the ‘D’ word. I’m sure trying to associate those two disparate factors can be difficult for people. Because I’ve defied the odds in terms of my prognosis I think many people think I’m invincible. I hear, “You’re not really going to die though, are you?” I am. I always try to keep the realist view of what’s happening.

I’ve often been faced with people who perhaps haven’t seen me in a while who are in fact rendered completely speechless by the situation. They always seem to have those sad, sympathetic, “But you’re too young” eyes. Everyone wanted to be involved at the beginning—we were overwhelmed with messages and visits. But as time has dragged on we’ve found out who our true friends are; those people who have kept up their support week in and week out; and those who have disappeared from the scene. I keep many of my symptoms to myself and don’t allow most people to see my suffering publicly. Chris is the only one who really sees how unwell I become with chemotherapy; the tears at 2 am because I’m in so much pain I can’t move. We are blessed, though, to be surrounded by some wonderful support and are extremely lucky in that respect.

J.P.: I love your bucket list—especially your accomplished goals of making brioche, riding a horse, skydive, visit Venice and getting a tattoo (which, sort of ironically, is listed right above visiting Anne Frank’s house). So tell me, Kate, what was skydiving like? What’s the tattoo, and where’s it located? What was the horse’s name, how was the brioche? And what did you think of Venice?

K.G.: My bucket list has given everyone in my life such a positive focus to create special memories not associated with illness and has led to some amazing experiences. Skydiving was simply awesome—I’ve never done anything like that before but I loved it and would do it again. It was such a rush. The tattoo is a small, pretty purple butterfly on my left ankle. The horse was called Harvey and was very patient with me after so many years since I’d be in the saddle. The brioche turned out really well. I love to cook and bake, and some of the items on the list are about learning new skills. Michel Roux, Jr. who is a famous French chef in the UK, gave me a lesson in brioche baking at his restaurant. With all his tips I’ve made it at home successfully twice now and it was delicious (if I do say so myself!). Venice was beautiful—we’d always talked about going but never quite got there. I loved the Rialto market, the ice cream and the tiny back streets crammed full of a huge array of different shops. We nearly fell out of a gondola on the Grand Canal when we got a little too close to a large boat! I would say my favourite item on the list though has been renewing our wedding vows. It was an incredibly emotional and special day.

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QUAZ EXPRESS WITH KATE GRANGER:

• Rank in order (favorite to least): David Beckham, Jet Li, Temple Newsam, Pride and Prejudice, Ed Sheeran, Nas, Kobe Bryant, opera, your wedding ring, the smell of armpit, paper airplanes: My wedding ring, Pride and Prejudice, Temple Newsam (if you mean the Tudor-Jacobean house with beautiful grounds near Leeds!), Ed Sheeran, Paper airplanes, David Beckham, Jet Li, Smell of armpits (Had to Google Nas and Kobe Bryant—so not sure I can have a view of them!)

• Three things you can tell me about your husband, Chris: He’s like a human calculator—if you ask him any mental arithmetic he’ll give you the correct answer straight away. He’s amazing at blagging free stuff which has meant my bucket list has been extra special. He’s a keen walker and has done some amazingly long hikes for charity.

• Should there be another A-Team movie? And do you like the idea of Rampage Jackson filling Mr. T’s shoes?: I’m not really that bothered for me, but if the A-Team fans have an appetite for another movie then fine. I wouldn’t be first in the queue at the cinema to see it though.

• I’m starting to have lots of hair growing from my ears. What should I do?: Don’t stress. Life’s too short.

• What are three things that should immediately turn a person off of a new doctor?: As a patient you form a judgement of a doctor extremely quickly. For me it’s when someone fails to introduce themselves, stands over you when you are in bed or has disinterested body body language such as lack of eye contact.

• If you could have lunch with five celebrities, who would they be?: Michelle Obama, HRH Duchess of Cambridge, Stephen Hawking, Colin Firth and James Galway.

• Tell me the best joke you know: A bit childish but someone told me this one the other day: ‘Doctor, doctor, I’ve got something wrong with my eyes. I keep seeing an insect spinning round my head.’ ‘Don’t worry, that’s just a bug going round.’ I’m rubbish at remembering the punch line to jokes!

• Can you create a poem, right now, that incorporates Starbucks, Cleveland, Muhammad Ali and the number eight?: Been sat in Starbucks since about 8/ They asked me my name, #hellomynameis Kate/ I’m reading an article on Muhammad Ali/ Before meeting my friend from Cleveland called Sally/ Must rush now before I am late! (Thanks to Chris for his help on this!)

• Six words that describe your knees: Pale, fat, scarred (I knelt on a piece of broken glass when playing in long grass as a little girl) and best covered up!

• You have “another visit to California” on your bucket list. I’m officially offering up my house in Southern Cal as a place to stay. You coming?: If you’re offering and I survive round 3 in the chemo boxing ring Chris and I will be there. Thank you! That’s an incredibly generous offer.

Categories
Athletes Blog News QUAZ

Melissa Stockwell

-1As I sit here, stewing over the government and the apparent inevitability of our economy’s collapse, I long for someone to look up to. Someone with purpose. With meaning. Someone who does the right thing, simply because it’s the right thing. Someone with honor. With respect. With dignity. With courage—real courage.

Someone like Melissa Stockwell.

To be blunt: This ain’t the most detailed of my 124 Quazes. I e-mailed Melissa the questions, and she responded kindly and appropriately. Her replies are not especially long. And yet … they speak volumes. Read Melissa’s words, and tell me who better to look up to? To admire? In 2004, while leading an Army convoy in Baghdad, Stockwell became the first female soldier to lose a limb in the Iraq war when a roadside bomb exploded. She was given a bronze star and Purple Heart—and then (instead of vanishing into the abyss) competed in three swimming events in the 2008 Summer Paralympics. She proceeded to turn her attention toward triathlons, and—according to Wikipedia—is “a multiple U.S. National Paratriathlon Champion in her classification,and was named USAT Paratriathlete of the Year in 2010 and 2011.

In other words, she took a tragedy, and turned it into a triumph.

Here, Melissa talks about what it is to lose a limb; how goodness can emerge from darkness; why she chose to serve her country and why she think Bo Bice deserved to place second on American Idol. You can follow Melissa on Twitter here, and visit her website here.

Melissa Stockwell, it’s an honor to welcome you to the Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: Melissa, through the years you’ve spoken very courageously and profoundly about moving on after losing a leg. But I’m actually fascinated by the moment you first learned what happened. It’s 2004, you’re in the hospital—what was it like, being told your left leg was gone? How did you absorb, process and ultimately accept the news?

MELISSA STOCKWELL: It’s been nine years so my memory might be a bit off. What I remember sounds cheesy, but I remember knowing that it was going to be OK. I was happy it was me and not another one of my soldiers because I knew I was strong enough to get through it. I remember thinking that my support system with my family and friends would get me through the tough times and that life would go on.

J.P.: Here’s what I know—you’re from Grand Rapids, Michigan, you attended the University of Colorado, your lost a leg, you’re a dazzling athlete. Here’s what I don’t know: How you got here. Melissa, how did you get here? Why did you join the military? What sort of athlete were you growing up? How did you go from there to here?

M.S.: Technically, I was born in Grand Rapids, but lived there only briefly. I moved from there to England, to Georgia, to Minnesota and then college in Colorado and into the military. I joined the Army because I love our country. Plain and simple. I was a gymnast growing up and dreamed of the competing at the Olympics. When I lost my leg and found out about the Paralympics it was like I had a second chance. To represent a country I had defended over in Iraq. I couldn’t think of anything better. So I swam my heart out and made the 2008 Paralympic team and competed in Beijing. After, I turned to triathlons, and have swam, biked and run my way onto podiums around the world and am a three-time Paratriathlon World Champion. I live a life of sport and wouldn’t have it any other way. Check out the Paratriathlon club I helped found here in Chicago.

-2J.P.: I’m always fascinated by Iraq war veterans because—just being 100% honest—I feel like it didn’t have to be this way. We weren’t attacked by Saddam after 9.11; Iraq had 0 to do with the Trade Centers. It was, in my opinion, a war of choice … and now many are dead, you don’t have a leg, etc … etc. In your blog you refer to yourself as “non-political,” but I’m wondering what’s your take on this? Do you disagree with me? Are you at all angry? Were you ever angry? None of the above?

M.S.: It’s an all-volunteer Army. I signed up knowing there was a risk of going to war and that risk became a reality. If I were to be angry, I could only be angry at myself. But I choose not to be, I live a good life.

J.P.: Along those lines—I recently watched a documentary about the pink breast cancer ribbons, and how many of the corporations “going pink” are solely interested in PR; how many breast cancer sufferers find the whole, “We support the fight!” brigade sort of, well, irksome. I’m wondering—you fought for your country, yet very few children of privilege, children of politicians follow suit. Does this ever enter your mind? Come into play? When you were fighting in Iraq, did you ever think, “Yeah, the support and yellow ribbons are nice, but how about enlisting, too?”

M.S.: No. People make their own decisions in life and have different passions. My passion was my country and I chose to serve. We need those on the side supporting us as we do that. I am just thankful we live in a time where we have the support. It makes coming back home and returning to life that much better.

J.P.: You were the first Iraq veteran chosen for the Paralympics, and you competed in three swimming events, the 100 m butterfly, 100 m freestyle, and 400 m freestyle, at the 2008 Summer Paralympics. That’s amazing. How hard was it to train your body to perform at a high level without one leg? What was the process like? Did there come a point where it became—and now is—second nature?

M.S.: My training was similar to that of an Olympian, the only difference being that I am missing a leg. I swam thousands of laps in the pool, learned to love the smell of chlorine and saw my times gradually improve. I don’t think my training was any easier or harder than someone with both legs. Swimming can be mostly an upper body sport, especially with the strokes I did. I love the water, it makes me feel whole.

J.P.: You’re a triathlete. Most of us are not, and many probably think one putting his/her body through such pain is crazy. So tell me, Melissa, what is it about the triathlon that draws you? How would you explain the love and desire to compete through such hell?

M.S.: It’s really not hell. It’s a little swim, a little bike and a little run—it just happens to all be at the same time. I love the challenge of all three sports and the variety of training for them all. I’ve always been one to enjoy a challenge and a triathlon is no different. The thrill of the finish line and proving to myself that I can do such a thing, keeps me going.

J.P.: Melissa, I’m a wimp, in that I fear death. I really do, and I hate that about myself. I’m wondering, having been on the front lines, how you feel about death? Does the inevitability worry you? Do you think about it? Care?

M.S.: I like to live in the moment, day by day. There is no sense in worrying about something that will happen regardless of if we want it to or not. So no, I don’t think about it.

kansasJ.P.: You were medically retired from the Army in April 2005 with a Purple Heart and bronze star. I’m wondering what these honors meant to you, and how did you find out you’d won? As we speak, where are the awards? Closet? Display case? Bank vault?

M.S.: Purple heart and bronze stars are earned, not won. You really don’t want to be out there competing for one. Anyone that is injured while in combat receives a purple heart. The bronze star is for someone whose gone above the call of duty. I was surprised on that one as I just counted myself as being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

They are currently displayed in my house.

Screen Shot 2013-10-15 at 1.38.28 PMJ.P.: How do you think America treats its troops these days? Are we doing enough? Are there areas where we need to improve? Also, does walking up to a soldier and saying, “Thanks for your service?” matter? Or does it come off as clichéd and trite?

M.S.: Saying “Thank you for your service” to a veteran is always the right thing to do. It never gets old. I feel so fortunate to be part of an era where America appreciates and thanks the troops. Whether or not someone believes in the war, they seem to always believe in the troops which is what matters most.

J.P.: It’d be a made-for-TV-movie cliché line for you to say, “I’m better off having gone through what I did in Iraq.” But I’m wondering—are you? Has it somehow made you a better person? A more compassionate or understanding  or … whatever person? How did it change you, and your life course?

M.S.: On April 13, 2004, my life changed in a positive way through a tragedy. I have become a better person who appreciates life. A new career, athletic opportunities and meeting people who are my very best friends. It changed my life course in every respect but I’ve done more with my life with one leg than I ever did with two.

Screen Shot 2013-10-15 at 1.37.49 PMQUAZ EXPRESS WITH MELISSA STOCKWELL:

• Coolest thing you experienced during your time in the army?: Seeing the wounded vets at Walter Reed overcome their injuries.

• I’ve always felt Bo Bice should have beaten Carrie Underwood. Your thoughts?: Nope, Carrie all the way.

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Lance Armstrong, Houston Astros, CapriSun juices, Dunkin Donuts, Jessica Tandy, oranges, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, spaghetti sauce, Cosby Show, ducks, Steve Steinwedel: Oranges, Dunkin Donuts, spaghetti sauce, CapriSun, ducks, TMNT, Lance Armstrong, Cosby Show, Houston Astros. Who are Jessica Tandy and Steve Steinwedel?

 • Five things you always carry with you?: Chapstick, my phone, wallet, gum and my dog. A service dog. And the best one around.

• Greatest myth about prosthetic legs?: They can’t cook me dinner.

• All-time favorite movie line?: Spaceballs: “What’s your name?  Barf. Your full name? Barfallonyou!”

• Would you advise your children to enlist in the armed services?: Yes, if they loved their country:

• Global warming—more real or more hoax?: Real.

• Should Pluto be classified as a planet?: Yes. Why discriminate just becasue it’s small?

• One question, if given the opportunity, you’d ask Rey Ordonez?: Wanna have a handstand contest?