Friday, September 21, 2012

Happy Birthday, Corbin!

This is a two part post, the second of which which will be posted on the blog shortly. Both parts are very, very important to me, so I really hope you take the time to read it through!

Part One - The Story
First off, I want to wish my brilliant little brother a happy birthday! Corbin turns 23 today.

 Me and Corbin in Roatan, Honduras - Winter 2010

 Me and Corbin in Costa Maya, Mexico - Winter 2010

Since Corbin is only two years younger than me, we really grew up together. As with any siblings, we’ve had plenty of fights over the years, but ultimately, Corbin is one of the people I care most about in the world. He and I used to play legos a lot – for years, we grew our collection. He wanted to build cool things like planes... with mismatched brick colors, which drove me nuts. I, on the other hand, cared more about the personalities of our lego characters. We also loved books. Both of us devoured tons of books growing up, sharing our favorites and recommending series and authors to each other. When we got a new book, sometimes we’d fight for who got to read it first. I am a very fast reader, but Corbin goes through things at lightning speed. He’d remember every detail too. I know because I’d set up quizzes for him and his friends, where I would be the host – game show style. They would have to answer questions about the Star Wars universe or whatever the latest popular series was. The winner would get a prize from me – usually a hand-drawn trading card (yeah, we were nerdy) or something else I had fashioned.

Corbin is also a chess wiz. I really mean that. He’s won lots of state and national tournaments. He teaches summer camps and does private tutoring. He’s worked hard to learn a lot about chess, but he's also a natural. I was actually the one to receive a chess set as a child with a book on how to play. But Corbin was the one who became interested in the game. Even when he was little, he was so good… when I beat him once, so far into forever ago that I have no idea how old we were… I was so obnoxious about it because it was a huge accomplishment. I actually drew a chess board, drew the pieces in my winning position, and posted it on the wall for everyone to see (probably with the title “Kelsea Beats Corbin”, although I can’t quite remember). Terrible, I know.

Yoda and Corbin at the Mardi Gras Museum in New Orleans - Winter 2010

In high school, Corbin started flying out to major chess tournaments on his own. One day, he didn’t wake up for a round despite numerous phone calls from his friend to his hotel room, alarms, etc. We were all stunned and frustrated with him. How could he possibly miss something so important?

Later, we would find out that he has heart disease and has probably been suffering from it for years before we knew. The day we found out through a rather traumatic event which ended up with him in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), my dad happened to be in Bellingham, a city 90 miles north of Seattle, on a cycling trip. I picked up my dad and we drove down to visit Corbin at the hospital in Portland.

See, when Corbin was 13 months old and a tiny little fussy baby (our parents said he was really fussy), he had open heart surgery to fix a hole in his heart. He healed up nicely and other than taking medicine before going to the dentist and a scar on his chest that grew as he grew, there were no signs of any damaging effects. We had no idea it would strike years later.

Corbin is a fairly private person, and for his sake, I won’t go into the details of heart disease symptoms, along with the symptoms of other things he has since contracted, including diabetes. But know that he has talked to me about some of it – probably not all, but enough for me to be totally at a loss to truly understand. I can’t imagine feeling sick constantly, having to take dangerous medicines daily, and having to worry about mortality in my late teens and early twenties. Being sick for years and years and years. It just seems so unfair.

In chess, there are several coveted titles. One of them is Master. Corbin’s rating from tournaments is so close to what he needs for the title. But he also has to take a daily medicine that makes his brain cloudy. It makes it harder for him to concentrate – something devastating to a mind as brilliant as his. He can see sixteen moves ahead in chess - that is no exaggeration. I can’t even imagine how much thinking power that takes. His current rating is 2157, which is 43 points away from the rating needed for a Master title. But the medicine makes it difficult to think straight and there’s no choice of taking it or not – it’s a life or death pill. So we still have strong hopes that he can make it to Master someday, but with the side effects of the medicine, it isn’t going to be easy.

Unfortunately, Corbin is far from the only one suffering from heart disease. It is America's number one killer. Most people have a cause that is near and dear to them – something they care immensely about. Mine is heart disease. Each year, I participate in the Heart Walk, which  benefits the American Heart Association (AHA), and I ask a few friends and family for donations. I never want anyone to feel obligated or guilt-tripped into donating, so I always feel a little uncomfortable asking. I thought hard about what I could do this year other than just ask for money. I decided to sweeten the deal. In a month, on October 20, I will be walking in the Heart Walk, and I hope to have more money raised this year than in the past.

As such, I'm going to announce the details of the Help a Heart Event here on the blog very soon. Hoping to get the final preparations done this weekend and announce it by Monday. Thank you so, so much for reading through this, and please stay tuned for the details of the event.

Also, I just want to say that I reached 100 followers today via Google Friend Connect, and I am so grateful to each and everyone one of you! Whether you follow Pink Wonderland regularly via GFC or Bloglovin', click in through Facebook or Twitter, drop by the blog occasionally, stopped in from Pinterest, or are just reading for the first time today, thank you! I'm considering doing a giveaway to celebrate... any interest?


  1. Such an emotional story! I can't even imagine how difficult it must be to have a disease and to fear for your life. But I wish him a really happy birthday and ofcourse, that many many years may follow. I'm really encouraged by your donating event. I'm afraid I won't be able to help you but I definitely want to for sure! I spend about 10% off my monthly 'pocketmoney' on a charity so I truly think it's awesome what you're doing. And I hope that I'll be able to support events like yours later when I grow up :) xo

    1. Dorien, I think it's so cool that you put a good portion of your pocket money toward charity! We need more generous people like you in the world. =) And don't worry, I totally understand that not everyone has any money to spare for donations, but there's always other ways to help like spreading the word! <3

  2. Oh, thank you very much for all your nice comments! I'm glad you like my blog so much- especially that you'd like to share some pics of it on Thursday makes me very happy!:))

    (by the way, there'll be a sequel to these "eatime with Alice series", hope to post it at the end of next week... still have to edit the pics^^')

    And you were swimming with dolphins?! What was it like? Im sooooooo jealous!;) and the sea so blue!(I'm kinda longing for a holiday at the beach, haven't had any like that in a long time...^^)

    have an nice rest-of-the-weekend!:)
    best wishes,

    1. Yeah my family went on a Caribbean cruise a few years ago and one of our excursions was to hang out with dolphins. =)

      Thanks, Penny!

  3. beautiful post! I am sorry to hear about your brother's health and hope it will improve. Seems like you are both brilliant people!

  4. Happy Birthday Corbin! Hope you are able to achieve that much deserved title very soon! xo

    PS Congrats Little Lovely on your ever growing support system here! xoxo

    1. Thank you, Jessa - you are the best!

  5. Kelsea, Me and Aaron both got a bit misty eyed...your love for your brother is palpable in this post. It's so great that you're participating in these worthy charity are such a compassionate and generous girl. We absolutely love how nerdy you and your bro were...and still are!!
    Having to deal with health issues is so so taxing on the soul...emotionally exhausting. And we admire your bro's strength so much...what a brave guy. Please don't second guess yourself when writing a post like this. As you know, I'm a BIG blog reader...I see a whole lot of posts and it's not too common for people to truly open up like this. Believe it or not, we benefit from posts like this. Both Aaron and I have dealt with so much stuff...and reading about your struggles and your brother's, and knowing what kind of a person you are, etc...Well, we just feel more connected to the world...not alone...sorta like a strength in numbers type of thing. Anyway, keep it up...keep your heart open and your words open. We'll be here to read them.
    xo, Jenny...& Aaron

    1. Aw thank you two so much! I got teary eyed reading your interview responses too, when I read about Aaron's accident and just tried to imagine that horror. Everyone has something and I totally agree with you that being open about it and sharing it with others is what helps all of us get through it.

      Corbin is so strong and I really can't even imagine what he has to face daily. I held back sharing too much for his sake, but I hope just this piece of it reaches people, you know?

      Much love!

  6. congratulations for reaching the 100-followers mark, kelsea! and also happy birthday to your dearest brother! :)

  7. I really admire your brother for his incredible strength and for his zest for life. Reading this article, I can say that you're such an amazing sister! Your brother is very lucky to have a loving sister like you. :)

    1. Thanks, Aizzing! You are so sweet!

  8. "To the outside world we all grow old. But not to brothers and sisters. We know each other as we always were. We know each other's hearts. We share private family jokes. We remember family feuds and secrets, family grief and joys. We live outside the touch of time."

    I just saw this and thought of your beautiful tribute to Corbin in your blog. Good luck on your heart walk!


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