portraits

Persevere

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mortal man

Persevere

by: Alexander L.A. Huff

Persevere
per·se·vere | /ˌpərsəˈvir/
continue in a course of action even in the face of difficulty or with little or no prospect of success.

At the age of (22) I was diagnosed with stage 4 Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (NHL). It was something that just kind of happened out of the blue. It was January, 2017 and at the time I worked a full-time job and attended school at Central State University full-time taking (18) credit hours. My days consisted of going to school and on certain days I would leave class about (20) minutes early to make it to work on time. I worked at a group home for adults with special needs and I loved what I was doing because it tied in to special education which is what I’m studying in school. The reason I took the job is because I believed it would give me a clear picture of what life for my students would be like after the (K-12) educational setting. Many of them go to these adult homes and pretty much live in them forever. They go to dayhabs and work jobs that pay less than minimum wage. These are things that I had no idea or concept of so it’s a job that I’m grateful for. This was my routine for about a year. One night I was at work and felt a little stiffness in my lower back. I didn’t think much of it, I just thought it came from me doing too much.

When I got home I took some pain pills and went to bed. When I woke up the next morning the pain had kinda went away but not completely so I took some more pain medicine and headed off to class. This became a recurring routine for a week or so. Finally the pain got so bad that I couldn’t sleep and driving became difficult because it was too painful for me to sit upright. I went to the emergency room and was diagnosed with a really bad back sprain. I was prescribed pain medicine and sent home. The medicine helped with the pain for about a week but right after that the pain came back and it was so intense this time that I couldn’t attend class or make it into work.

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I went to urgent care and this time I was diagnosed with a really, really bad back sprain so they increased my pain medicine and the pain did seem to go away. It would come back in small spurts but not bad enough to warrant another trip to the ER or urgent care. A bit later I went to my doctor for a routine physical and follow up appointment. She ran tests on me and everything came back normal with the exception of my liver count and white blood cells being slightly elevated but not to a level that would cause any concern. Months went by and the pain returned so I underwent more testing. We did tests for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, leukemia, anemia, all types of things and everything test came back negative. After completing these test and not finding anything my primary doctor referred me to an oncologist.

The oncologist ran multiple tests and again everything came back negative. At this point, I also began having very bad night sweats. I would wake up and my sheets would be completely drenched. I thought”maybe I have the heat up too high” so I turned the heat down that worked for about two weeks before starting back again. I finally mentioned it to my oncologist and it’s so ironic that I did because in that same appointment she felt like the combination of my counts not being off by much along with all the tests coming back normal that she’d release me and see me in a few months. My oncologist told me she’d see me in six months and was about to head out of the door and I said “okay, and oh and by the way I’m having these night sweats and my whole bed is wet.” At the time the numbers from my test results weren’t in the range for Hodgkin’s or Non-Hodkin’s Lymphoma so there appeared no reason to test for them. However, the news of my night sweats changed the whole game and although my counts weren’t in range for Hodgkin’s or non-Hodkin’s lymphoma news of my night sweats prompted her to test me for it. 

It was May and I went home to Cleveland to spend Mother’s Day with my mom. My mother doesn’t like to go through my mail so I had a bunch of envelopes and mail to go through. I had bills from Kettering Medical Center, CompuNet and other places… all of these bills came up to about $12,000. Bills for every test that I had ran and from the emergency room and urgent care visits. I found out that all of these visits and tests were happening outside of our insurance’s network. That forced me to transfer all of my tests and healthcare needs to MetroHealth in Cleveland. The paperwork took some time and MetroHealth wanted to run their own tests on me so that was time consuming as well.

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There would be nights when I would feel so bad that I would question “is this what dying feels like?

In July of 2017, I was at an internship in Boston where I was  one of twenty five students chosen to participate in a program in which we did Mock GRE and Mock Graduate coursework all to help prepare us for grad school. I had to leave the internship early to return to MetroHealth for more tests. When I got to Cleveland they told me that my test results came back positive for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma but that later changed because they really didn’t know if it was Hodgkin’s or non- Hodgkins Lymphoma. I was told that I could return to Boston for the last week and a half of my internship but that when I returned to Cleveland I would have to start chemotherapy. When I got back there was still some confusion about if I had Hodgkin’s or non-Hodgkins Lymphoma but either way a bone marrow test would be required.

The bone marrow test caused the most pain that I have ever experienced in my life! They literally dig inside of your bone to get to the marrow and they’re tapping on it so that’s pretty painful. The test results came back in two days or so. It was determined that the lymphoma had spread into my bones which meant that I was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. At this time, I was told by the doctors that it would be in my best interest to withdraw from school because they didn’t think I could handle the workload while going trough chemotherapy. I was already about a semester and a half behind in school so I told them that withdrawing from school was not an option. Sick or not ,I was determined to finish school on my schedule so I was committed to push through. The doctors reluctantly agreed to let me go back to school they just instructed me to reduce my credit hours “they didn’t know it but I still took a full load of classes.” 

I returned to Central State University that fall semester and thankfully all of my teachers and professors were willing to work with me. They were flexible and even allowed me complete most of my work online and attend classes when I felt strong enough. My insurance was still out of network which meant that I had to commute between CSU and Cleveland for my chemotherapy. I would leave CSU on Thursdays to have chemotherapy in Cleveland on Fridays. After chemo I would sleep the rest of the day on Fridays, all day on Saturdays and half of the day on Sundays. On Sunday evenings, I would drive back to CSU for class. Even though I wasn’t physically going to class I still needed to be there to turn in my work and to get any new assignments. It was also better for me mentally. I did this for a few months and my treatments were complete.

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I tried to get my life before cancer back as much as I could. It was very challenging for me mentally because there were times when I would wake up in the middle of the night and wouldn’t feel well at all. There would be nights when I would feel so bad that I would question “is this what dying feels like? Am I going to survive? How is it that this can happen to someone like me that has been fairly healthy? Am I going to make it through this?” All of these questions would cross my mind. In these hours I would have to dig deep and really call on my faith. I would remind myself that I haven’t been brought this far just to be dumped off here. I know that better things are coming. I just have to endure all of the sickness and emotions and then also not to forget my own purpose and why I was planted here. So holding onto that faith is what helped me get through because it was a very, very difficult time. I went back for MetroHealth for scans and there was some confusion about the results. Eventually they said that my cancer was in remission.

This past summer I went back for scans and they determined that they wanted to send me back through another round of tests. This time I was under an insurance plan that allowed me to have things done at The James “which is Ohio State University’s Comprehensive Cancer Center.” After undergoing all of the tests they found that the cancer had returned and began going over different treatment options. Since the first treatment method of (R-CHOP) chemotherapy didn’t work they decided that they would try the (RICE) regimen followed by a stem cell transplant.  This meant that they would take my own stem cells; cleanse them and then freeze them until it was time to replace them. Essentially they were taking out my old immune system and replacing it with a new one. This process required six consecutive days of around the clock chemotherapy and a hospital stay of (21) days in which I would be allowed to have visitors but they would be required to wear gowns and masks.

It seemed like a daunting task but my whole motto throughout all of this was “Do what you have to do to survive. Do what you have to do to make it to the next day.” I knew it wouldn’t feel good but if it’s going to improve my quality of life and if it’s going to improve how I live life I have to do what I have to do to make it to the next day. With all of this in mind I embarked on this journey again, this time with a different regimen all while still trying to make it through school. All of my classwork at Central State was done and I was at a point where it was just a matter of completing my student teaching. I had twelve weeks of student teaching that I needed to do so I asked the doctors “how can I make this happen with chemotherapy and student teaching?” The doctors weren’t sure if it was possible and tried to talk me out of it. My overachieving spirit wouldn’t accept that answer so I put a plan in place.

This time around my chemotherapy was a lot more intense than the first time so my bounce back wasn’t as strong as I thought it would be. After the first round of treatment I went back to school and felt pretty good. The second round of treatment was a lot more taxing and I had a hard time even making it into the house without throwing up. I’d go to sleep and wake up feeling like I hadn’t been to sleep at all. That’s what chemo does to you. It's a toxic treatment that drains you physically. I suffered a lot of pain, I lost a lot of weight as well as all of the hair on my body. It also effects you mentally. Most people are prepared for not physically feeling well but we often overlook the mental aspect. That’s something that took it’s toll on me. I saw myself healthy and vibrant and then all of a sudden I looked as though I had a foot in the grave - that does something to you mentally. To see yourself with hair and then with no hair at all anywhere; no eyebrows, no mustache, no beard… no hair anywhere on your body - that does something to you mentally. To see all of the weight loss where your clothes no longer fit you anymore and they all fall off of your body - that does something to you mentally. Going out in public wearing a mask and seeing people stare at you - that does something to you mentally.

There were times I felt as if I was fighting three battles at once. I was trying to maintain and make it through school. I was try to keep afloat mentally while fighting for my life, “it’s me or the disease. How do I fight this fight over something that I see wipe people out every day of the week?” I reached a point where I finally stopped going to school and I stopped working. I was living off of support from my family and the money that I had in my savings account. A huge weight was lifted from my shoulders once the chemo was complete. I still had concerns though because I had been here before. You can end chemotherapy but that doesn’t mean that you’re healthy.

It was time for the stem cell transplant and that was very trying. There were times that I couldn’t eat because I still had sores in my mouth from chemotherapy. There were times where I would throw up on myself because I couldn’t make it to the restroom or to the barf bag. When I was going through all of this I was still trying to do my schoolwork so that I could still stay afloat in school. I got out of the hospital and still needed to complete my student teaching. My family and friends told me that I really needed to take it easy. I told them that I would but I needed to get back and for many reasons. I needed to finish school for my own mental well being and also I had ran out of financial aid and if I didn’t finish that would cause me to have to pay out of pocket along with a few other concerns.

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I was back in school three weeks after leaving the hospital so the turnaround time was quick but it was something that I had to do for myself. I just finished student teaching last Thursday and graduation is May 4th. I was able to maintain my honor role status and I finally feel like “I did it!” I know I didn’t do it alone. I definitely didn’t do it alone. God is definitely amazing and good. Without God, I wouldn’t have made it through cancer the first time let alone the second time. So here I am. My cancer is gone, it’s currently in remission. For the first time in two years, I feel like I know what my health looks like. I know what’s going on with me right now. I am optimistic that my future will be great and that my status of being a cancer survivor will be just that, a “survivor”. I will never again have to say that I am a cancer “patient” again. So much comes with that. People hear the word “cancer patient” and they immediately count you out. They look at you like you have an expiration date over you that is soon to run out. 

I aspire to be a beacon of hope for somebody to know that you have a disease but the disease doesn’t have you. You can still live a full life and have cancer. My mission is to show people that you can sill live life on your term. You can still be upbeat and positive about life when you're battling cancer. Overall, I feel blessed and fortunate. I will graduate from Central State University with a degree in Education. I didn’t shelve my goals and dreams. I hope that I have shown people that you can battle cancer with grace, that you can fight through any challenges that may present themselves.

 
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PERSEVERE

Alexander L.A. Huff

Educator | Vocalist | Advocate of Individuals with Special Needs | Fighter | Cancer Survivor

You can keep up with Alexander and offer words of encouragement by leaving comments on the website and by following him on instagram.

@thisisalexander_

Meet Dr. Cleavon Matthews Sr.

One of the perks about being a photographer is the wide range of people that I get to meet and establish relationships with. In this series I feature a few people that I have met and photographed recently that I think you should know.
— Aaron Paschal
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Dr. Cleavon Matthew Sr.

Minister, Leader, Author, Orator, Counselor and a Guiding Light

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This past summer I had the pleasure of meeting and photographing Dr. Cleavon Matthews Sr. at Bold Believers Church of Christ. As a photographer it’s important to me to tap into people’s personalities and what stood out to me about Dr. Matthews was his passion, commitment and positive spirit.

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Dr. Cleavon Matthews Sr. is also a prolific leader, orator, communicator, and author. He is highly sought after and accomplished as a person of influence locally, nationally, and internationally. He serves as Chairman of the Midwest Conference of Churches of Christ. He is academically accomplished having obtained the Doctor of Ministry degree from Amridge University. He is also a Registered Nurse and a Licensed Professional Counselor. Through his ministries he continues do extensive work in church consulting and premarital counseling. He has written several publications including two books: Get In The God Zone and Unmasking The Satanic Attack Against Masculinity. He ministers to the Bold Believers Church of Christ in Dayton, OH.

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If you are looking for a church to visit or a new church home I encourage you to visit Bold Believers Church of Christ located at 1306 Salem Avenue in Dayton, OH.

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You can learn more about Dr. Matthews and the Bold Believers Church of Christ on their website https://www.nthwcoc.com/ or by following their facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/boldbelieverscoc/

Church grows out of its space, finds a new place to call home

By Beth Anspach | Dayton Daily News

Over the years, churches have transformed themselves. Congregations of believers meet in private homes, in open fields, in tents or in expansive sanctuary buildings. But the one thing they have in common is each group comes together to worship and share their shared beliefs.

Dr. Clevon Matthews moved to Dayton from Orlando, Fla., 15 years ago because he saw an opportunity to lead a church he believed would be a better fit for him and his family. What was then known as the Northwest Church of Christ on Broadway Street in Trot wood had been a gas station when the small congregation bought the building in 1981.

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“As the church grew, they ran out of space, but it served us well,” Matthews said. “The building sat on four acres, so we investigated the possibility of building on the property.”

Matthews said a new church building was cost prohibitive for the small congregation of 300. But about two years ago, he was introduced to the Solomon Foundation, an organization headquartered in Colorado and devoted to helping churches reach their ministry and growth goals by providing low-interest mortgage and construction loans.

“They (Solomon) specialize in taking older properties and remodeling them for churches,” Matthews said. “After we applied and were approved, we started looking around for existing properties.”

In 2014, Matthews happened to be driving a guest minister around Dayton to show him the area and was explaining about their efforts to expand the church. As they were driving, they noticed a vacant property on Salem Avenue, formerly the home of the Beth Abraham Synagogue.

“I remember thinking at the time that this would be a great place for our church,” Matthews said. “But I put it out of my mind.”

Three years later, a member of Matthews’ congregation, a real estate agent, took him to see the same property, which had been a conference center for a Baptist Church, but had since been vacant again for the past four years.

“I could see it as soon as she brought me in,” Matthews said. “The building has very good bones. Of course, it needed TLC and renovation, but it had a good layout and infrastructure.”

Matthews knew that to grow his congregation, he would need more visibility. The former gas station in Trotwood was difficult for people to find.

“Being right on Salem Avenue gives us the visibility we need to have greater impact,” Matthews said. “The church was on board with the move and we had the resources to do it, so we took the bold step and closed on the property in January of 2017.”

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The entire congregation worked together on the renovations beginning that spring and the new church was completed the last week of June this year. Now christened the “Bold Believers Church of Christ,” the congregation has room to grow in 45,000 square feet, up significantly from the 7,000-square-foot building in Trotwood.

“We removed old seating in the sanctuary, did cleaning and landscaping, got rid of flooring and moved furniture, put in a new HVAC system that is more efficient and put in new plumbing,” Matthews said. “We also put on a new roof and had new parking lot paving done and painted inside and out. We have a new sound system and sanctuary seating and it’s amazing!” Matthews said his personal vision for the new building is outreach and he wants it to be not just a place to have church on Sundays but also a community center as well.

“We want it to be used every day of the week,” Matthews said. “One component is to have a counseling center. My wife is a licensed counselor, as am I and one other member, so we want to have a space for that. We also want to offer a pre-K program in the future and have another space for banquets and community events.” Matthews said he sees the church not as a building, but as its people, so he wants it to be a beacon of life and hope with his focus is on the counseling center and the needs of the Dayton community at large.

“I’m talking about suicide prevention, crisis response, partnering with Montgomery County Juvenile Court and looking at how we can help families and parents in meaningful and practical ways,” Matthews said. “We want to address violence and poverty in significant and meaningful ways.”

 
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Dr. Cleavon Matthew Sr.

Minister, Leader, Author, Orator, Counselor and a Guiding Light

BOLD BELIEVERS CHURCH of CHRIST

1306 Salem Avenue, Dayton, OH 45406

937-985-9320

boldbelieverscoc.com

Meet Emerald Sparks

One of the perks about being a photographer is the wide range of people that I get to meet and establish relationships with. In this coming series I will feature a few people that I have met and photographed recently that I think you should know.

Emerald Sparks

Financial Strategist, Public Speaker, Author, and a Spark of energy!

I originally met Emerald at a cover shoot that I did for Ambition Magazine. As a photographer I pick up on people’s energy right away and I noticed that not only did Emerald have a lot of positive energy but that it was contagious! When she contacted me to schedule her session I was excited to work with her and to create and capture images that would accurately represent her and her brand, “which are really one and the same!”

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About Emerald

I solve Misconceptions about money

Emerald has helped everyday people, just like you, become extraordinary money masters by maximize their income to make it do what they wanted it to do. Collectively, she has helped her clients pay off $100,000+ of debt, invest in real estate properties, and purchase $65,000 dream cars.

She got her start at Fortune 500 companies such as Deloitte & Touche’, Liberty Mutual Insurance, Fifth Third Bank, and Northwestern Mutual. She has seen it all in her 12 years in the financial service industry and now helps people live financially healthier lives through personalized curated budgeting and debt repayment strategies.

She’s helped her clients increase their money mindset and start living the life they want to live financially, while eliminating creditor harassing phone calls, sleepless nights, and underwhelming bank accounts. She created her business to help people live financially healthier lives and maximize their income, while living in balance.

Emerald is also an Author!

  • Create Sparks: A Bossed Up Financial Planner to Maximize Your Income
  • Vision. Future. Reality: How to Budget Like a Boss

session notes...

sessions with AP2 are stressful...

During Emerald’s session we talked about our respective businesses, goals, places she’s been and future travel plans and we may have laughed a few times! 

 

Emerald has used the images from her session on her website and social media accounts to create printed and digital promotional material for speaking engagements and media releases.

    engage with emerald!

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    Emerald Sparks

    learn more about Emerald by visiting her online @ emeraldsparks.com

    Connect with Emerald on social media!

    facebook: esparks10

    instagram: @ShzAGem

    twitter: @EmeraldSparksES

    linkedin: Emerald Sparks

    LORE

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    Mortal Man

    Lore

    by: Ty Greenwood

    Currently, my work centers on toxic Black Masculinity and the negative representation of Black Men in media, television & film and other visual rhetorics. I argue that Black Males are voiceless and invisible, groomed not to ever show their emotions, groomed into a vision of hyper-masculinity heightened by the media, but even more so by their own environment. Therefore, it is time for an INTERVENTION and BLACK REVOLUTION that showcases positive portrayals of Black men that are not damaging to their identity, existence and Black bodies. The associations built around masculinity include: white, powerful, heterosexual, college educated, upper class, strong, tough, aggressive, sexually dominant, ripped body and the list goes on and on. This concept has shaped and molded the way Black men are viewed and the unrealistic standards conjured by white people.

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    The Black male experience today has become one inflicted with fear imposed by the seemingly never ending police killings of Black men. Black men are at risk. The same qualities and values that white people have placed on Black masculinity are the same ones killing them today. Black men can’t breathe, walk down the street, go into a convenience store without being feared, followed and or killed. Black bodies are adding up. The qualities of being aggressive, thugs, criminals, ghetto, uneducated, drug dealers, sexual assaulters, professional athletes, sex symbols, the Black muscular body,  deadbeat fathers and unprofessional, are just few of the commonly publicized descriptions in today’s media and various other forms of rhetoric. Thus, when it comes to the Black performance it is nothing more than a minstrel puppet show that is being composed by white people and sold to white audiences who buy into a false sense of what being a Black man really is. It is time for this to end. How many more Black bodies have to be sacrificed for it to really mean something?

    Black men can no longer be a sacrifice and killed off senselessly and carelessly. Who will protect the innocent Black boy who is walking down the street to the candy store? Who will protect the innocent Black boy who goes to college and must deal with all the white faces that don’t understand him? Who will protect the innocent Black men when the white cops who are suppose to protect them murder them in cold blood and leave their bodies on the street for all to see? WHO WILL PROTECT OUR BLACK MEN? 

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    An excerpt from my short play, “LORE”:

     

    DAD:  So, what color is Sasha’s dress?

    JR.: It’s an African print dress. 

    DAD:  African print? She ain’t African, hell she barely black!

    JR.:  Dad!

    DAD:  What?

    Jr.: turns his back to his dad and approaches the clerk’s desk

    CLERK:  Hi, can I help you?

    JR.:  Yes.  A pick up for Jeffrey Cole Jr. 

    The clerk goes to the back. He comes back with a long dashiki in a gourmet bag. 

     DAD:  What the hell is that?

    JR.:  It’s called a dashiki, dad.

    DAD:  A what? That’s a damn dress!

    CLERK:  The dashiki is a colorful garment for men widely worn in West Africaand other parts of Africa as well.

    DAD:  Sir, I know what a dashiki is, I grew up in the 70’s but this is a damn dress! I’m not paying for that shit! Jr. you’re suppose to wear a suit to prom. A tailored, fitted suit.

    JR.:  Dad it’s not a dress. Just think of it as a long t-shirt. And look it even comes with pants.

    DAD:  A long t-shirt? This is prom not a sleepover. And if that’s what you’re planning I can tell you right now Sasha ain’t gonna give up nothing with you in that shit.  Uh-Uh. Excuse me, sir? Where are your suits?

    CLERK:  We have suits over to your left, but we wouldn’t be able to have it tailored in time for your son’s prom. I’m sorry sir.

    JR.:  Dad would you stop embarrassing me?

    DAD:  Embarrassing you? Jr. you’re embarrassing me! Picking out a damn costume to wear to prom. What the hell is wrong with you?

    JR.:  It’s not a costume, dad, it goes with Sasha's African dress.

    DAD:  Why the hell are you two even wearing this African shit? Ain’t neither of you African. Let me guess, you saw it on tv.

    JR.:  Dad this is in style! They wore these back in your day!

    DAD:  Back in my day men wore suits to proms and formal, son. Hell a tux even. But this shit here, NO!

    JR.:  What is the big deal?

    DAD:  The big deal is that you don’t understand the purpose of tradition. You leave out of the house everyday wearing pants off your ass and clothes too big for even me but tonight of all nights you’re supposed to look like you have some sense. We have family coming over and I am supposed to sit there and just smile while you come down stairs looking like the Prince of Zamunda? I’m not paying for that. I trusted you to come to the store, pick out something sensible, didn’t even give you a price limit because this is your day…

    JR.:  If it’s my day then why are you trying to control everything?

    DAD:  Jr., listen to me, you are going to wear a suit to this prom. We can pick out a dress shirt to go with your black suit at home. And we can find a nice tie.

    JR.:  Dad that’s not want Sasha wants. She wanted us to wear/

    DAD:  I don’t give a damn what she wanted. It’s not happening!

    JR.:  But Dad/

    DAD:  I’m not paying for you to wear some dress to look like a little bitch Jr. If you want it, you pay for it.

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    This is the third and final entry in Ty’s three part series. The others can be read by clicking on the following links:
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    Ty Greenwood

    I Danced With Death

    Writer, Poet, Actor, Director, Teacher, Student… MULTIFACETED

    twitter: @ty_greenwood

    instagram: greenwood26

    facebook: Ty Greenwood

    email: greenwoodet26@gmail.com

    "please be sure to comment below to continue the conversation, offer words of encouragement or to share your story."