The Story of My Life
I was born in 1959 in Norfolk, VA while my Dad was in the military. After his retirement from a 26 year career with the Navy, my family moved to New England to seek better care and education opportunities for my older developmentally disabled sister.
I spent the second half of my childhood growing up in a suburban New England town, hunting and fishing with my Dad every week until I graduated from high school. I learned a lot from him, his favorite saying was "The empty tin can rattles the loudest". Competitive riflery and model rocketry were just two of my passions during my teen years.
After high school, I went to a community college and earned my first degree. I majored in public communications and law enforcement. I then worked briefly as a constable in a small town before moving into private security.
After several years, my love of cartography (the craft of creating maps) led me back to school and a change of careers. I decided on a degree in Geography, at a local state college. Then I went to work at a local regional planning agency, and learned how state and federal agencies work with local communities to deal with infrastructure and growth.
About that time, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) became widely available on the new computing platform, the personal computer. As they became quickly obsolete, I set aside the fountain pens and mylar maps of my profession and became proficient in the analysis of satellite imagery and the internet. Soon I was the state's first regional GIS Coordinator, and I helped develop the standards for the data being developed across the country. That data eventually became the basis of Google Maps, which happily and transparently guides us daily in our lives today.
Eventually I moved on to working at a renowned University helping develop GIS applications used in developing nations to manage resources and plan for future growth. I was blessed with the opportunity to travel internationally, and gained a broad worldview in the process.
Throughout all of this chapter of my life, the first love of my life, Lyn, was by my side. We had fallen in love while we were in our teens, and we were together for nearly 30 years. We had bought a 200 year old farmhouse in a small rural town near New Hampshire, right next door to a wildlife sanctuary and put down roots with the plan to spend the rest of our lives there together.
Lyn was a social worker who worked with abused children in foster care. I was working as a consultant to communities developing growth plans. We even opened a consignment art gallery in the barn attached to our home, specializing in indigenous and Native American contemporary art. We felt like we had a plan for the rest of our lives in place.
Yet sometimes the plans we make are changed by events we can not foretell or control. In 1785, the poet Robert Burns wrote "The best laid schemes of mice and men go often askew, and leave us nothing but grief and pain, for promised joy!"
Fifteen years ago, Lyn had a accident while driving to work. Her injuries were minor, but a routine x ray of her neck revealed a rare form of bone cancer that had been slowly growing in her neck all of her life. It was predicted to eventually be fatal, and after countless visits to hospitals and specialists, she decided to go along with the only treatment proposed that could save her life.
The surgery she underwent was designed to remove the actual vertebra from her neck that the cancer was growing in. It was a high risk surgery, but we felt confident that the doctors at the major surgical hospital in Boston would be successful.
Although the surgery removed the vertebra, it also caused strokes that destroyed a third of her brain. This left her mostly paralyzed and in permanent pain for the rest of her life. We had not fully understood the risks involved with such an invasive surgery. Lyn forever regretted her decision not just live with the cancer for as long as she would have had left.
After 6 months in three different hospitals and endless complications, we returned home to our farmhouse. I had been taught to care for my wife, and converted our home into what was effectively an intensive care unit.
This was before the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), so her now "preexisting illness" allowed her private insurance to cancel her policy. Fortunately, Massachusetts had already expanded Medicaid under what was known as "Romneycare", named for the state's republican governor, Mitt Romney. So just months after we came home, our main insurer was now Medicaid. She also had Medicare, but Medicaid did the heavy lifting when it came to the services we needed once we came home.
For the next few years, our lives fell into a series of routines. Medicaid paid for over 90 hours of staff each week to help me take care of Lyn. It paid for countless therapy visits as she struggled to regain her voice and become able to eat actual food again. It paid for home visits by doctors and nurses who helped her heal. And ultimately, after three years of home care, it paid for her hospice the last few weeks of her life when the pain and loss became to much for her to bear and Lyn decided to stop eating and turn off the feeding tube that had kept her alive.
A year after her death, I was ready to move on without her and my life changed direction once again. I went back to school again, and earned my third degree... This one was a Masters degree in Health Care Administration. I became a healthcare advocate, donating my time to help people facing major illnesses make informed choices regarding their care.
Tired of the snowy New England winters, I had moved south to my home state, Virginia, and was living at the base of Mill Mountain in Roanoke as I finished up with school. I was then blessed yet again to meet the second great love of my life, Andrea, online. Our friendship blossomed into love after I moved here to South Carolina nine years ago. We got married four years ago and live in Northeast Columbia. Andrea and I enjoy visiting the beaches of South Carolina. I have been indeed fortunate to be able to share my life with these two lovely women.
Over the past few years, I have become an activist. Standing with local Indivisibles, we protested together to protect the Affordable Care Act. Working with the Poor People's Campaign, I helped launch a nationwide moral movement. I travelled to El Paso to be with Rev. William Barber, protesting the inhumane treatment of asylum seekers being imprisoned at the ICE facility there.
Speaking at events by Carolina Peace and organizing rallies with groups like Lights For Liberty I have stood up to protect the rights of people who have immigrated to our country. I have organized events, spoken out and acted with the support of many other groups and organizations, pressing for the expansion of Medicaid in South Carolina.
What I have learned in my life will serve my campaign to be the next Governor of our state well. I understand the importance of lifting up the voices of those who have been unheard. As a Christian Sojourner, I have pledged to make the message of my faith a central part of my campaign. I truly believe in the goodness of humanity and I think a better future for all of us can only be forged when we care about those among us who are less fortunate.
I invite you to join with me in this endeavor, and together we can make South Carolina a state where the voices of our people are not only heard but actually matter.