“ Enjoy the present fully despite what you may be currently going through. It's only temporary.
Angel Reynoso is another talented brain tumor mAss Kicker from New York. He graduated from Binghamton University in 2015 with a Bachelor of Art degree in Sociology in 2005. He was very active in the JP Morgan Chase’s Latino Cultural Fest at Queen’s Theatre in the Park from 2004-2008. Currently, he is a project manager assistant for Sequence Events. Angel is a very talented vocalist! He is very active in the young adult survivor community. He created the website Angel Rey of Light as a way to contribute to Adolescent and Young Adult survivor community. Check out his website. We were very honored to feature him this week on our website.
mK: Can you tell all of our fans out there what and when was your diagnosis? How did you find out that you now belong to the exclusive club no one wants to be part of?
AR: Well one day, back in early May 2013, I’m at work busing tables at a private club at Madison Square Garden and I start getting these crazy, side splitting headaches. I say to myself, “Did my hangover from last night JUST get worse?? Really??” I went home and picked up some Excedrin for Migraines cause this was the mother of all headaches! We’re talking sidewinder, hammerjack pounding pain! I figured they would get better by the morning, and it sort of, did but they kept happening randomly for a month! I could barely keep my eyes open or even stand up right. All the doctors I went to kept saying just take pain killers; one even went as far to say that I have a personality disorder. Well the only thing they got right was that they were all wrong! It wasn’t until a family friend’s doctor recommended me to do a scan. Thank God for her cause if not I would have died. Turned out I had hydrocephalus, a condition where the liquid in my brain was not circulating properly, caused by a germinoma brain tumor. Apparently I had it with me since I was a fetus. In fact we all do. It’s supposed to just go away but not mine. It decided to hang out and act out on my 30th birthday. I woke up in the intensive care unit that day; hydrocephalus nearly took my life. Happy Birthday to me!
mK: Can you describe any symptoms that you experienced before, during or after treatment?
AR: Besides those fun pangs of headaches, I would feel fatigued, nauseous, and a loss for appetite. I even experienced seizures right before I was rushed to the ER.
mK: We know you love giving back to the cancer survivor community, tell us how it all began? What made you want to get involved and what organizations are you involved with? What are some of the unique things that you do for those organizations?
AR: Well waking up to see a new day on my 30th birthday and realizing that I almost didn’t make it, I knew I had to pay it forward. My first night out of the hospital, I am laying in bed and I ask myself, “What the FUCK just happened?!” Right then and there, I reached for my voice recorder and a melody came to me. Stepping Forward was born and as fate planned it, I met the CEO of an organization that I would eventually help raise money by selling this song. The organization is called stupid cancer. Since meeting Matthew, I have done a lot of advocacy work for them such as speaking on the survivor panel at OMG East and helping to plan and perform at their first fundraiser, Toast. I have even been able to put together a benefit show for stupid cancer where 100% proceeds of ticket sales were donated.
mK: What feeds your fire and pushes you to get out of bed everyday?
AR: Fear and sheer anxiety. When that happens I just tell myself, detach from these thoughts and get the fuck up! Let’s go! Thoughts of what I have and being able to wake up in a warm house with food is a big inspiration for me. It gets me smiling and keeps me staying grateful throughout the day. It prevents me from complaining more than I would. My gift of being able to sing is something I cherish. I come up with prayer songs that really speak to the pain I am working through. I had a friend say once that those who sing, pray twice. By just humming or letting out my voice, it does something inside me. I am re-energized and motivated to do anything essentially. It’s such a blessing.
mK: When was the first time you felt like yourself after your diagnosis?
AR: I actually feel like I am finally getting to be my true self for the first time EVER after my diagnosis. I spent so many years worrying about what I would say or do, always looking for validation and to be accepted but now I just accept myself for who I am and aim to love myself better than anyone else could. I do me now more than I ever have in my life and it feels amazing. I’m only getting to see the full potential of who I am as an individual since I second guessed myself so much growing up. Don’t get me wrong, I have had an incredible life doing things that I wanted to do and I just went for it and did them. Thing is, now I am truly aware of my self worth and I feel I am about to just slay everything I put my creative mind to. There’s no stopping me. I almost died and I’m still here. I’ve been given another chance to just kill it! Nothing will hold me back.
mK: What makes you giggle? Shed tears? Gets your blood boiling?
AR: Blunt, crude humor makes me giggle for sure. It’s just real. There’s nothing like the honest truth and it’s not easy for one to face their own truths. Once you do and you claim it with no shame of all the mistakes or embarrassing things you have done in your life, you can then laugh at it all and release yourself from the pain that can consume you if you let it. There’s just nothing more empowering than that, especially when you’re dealing with or recovering from cancer. I watch Shameless like it’s my job and it just inspires empathy within me to accept other people for their ratchetness! Watching this series, I realize how we truly are all one and the same. Amy Schumer is another brilliant force that has allowed me to laugh at myself. From bold women to vulnerable men to pragmatic dreamers to idealists who overthink even further than their high standards, I get emotional from people who have sheer, raw passion and those who take risks without apologizing for their bombastic ardor. Now with that said, it gets my blood boiling when I see people get cunty for no reason other than to project their anger and frustration over you. I have learned that those who show hate upon you are really just hating on themselves. To each their own. I am more cutthroat with friends and acquaintances than I have ever been. I just don’t associate with that and leave that baggage right where I found it.
mK: Can you share an experience that you would describe as the most interesting thing you’ve done?
AR: My senior year in high school, I was on a school trip in Europe. Our last stop was Vienna, Austria. Here we are in this really shotty looking amusement park late at night. We’re all there riding bumper cars and getting our knees scraped from each crash we made cause none of us actually fit in these cars. We were hunched up like gorillas in tiny clown cars! Not to mention, they were entirely made of metal with barely any protection or proper seat buckles, so we literally were chancing a really bad injury at any point. We all came across a crane with a bungee jump cord and only myself and someone else from my class were bold enough to do it. We’re going up as high as humanly possible and I remember going, “Oh wait, don’t we have to sign a release form for this?” The guy literally goes, “Ehh, whatever… besides, you’re already here” Before you know it, he undoes the chain link that separated us from the open night sky and says, “Ready?” At that point, my friend and I are clutching on to each other for dear life! We shook off all that nervous energy, jumped and went for it! In that moment, I realized how hesitation can prevent you from having the time of your life. I’ll never forget that trip, especially that night.
mK: Help us paint a picture of what you as a survivor consider to be the toughest challenge you faced since cancer? How did you rise to the challenge and kick it’s butt?
AR: I am currently experiencing it now to be honest. Since I came out of the hospital and didn’t want to even consider myself as a cancer patient or survivor, avoiding cancer support groups, and kumbaya type shit, I went to work and threw myself into completing my first album. I’m super proud of it. I already feel like a success for completing it and don’t feel a need for anyone’s validation on it but my own. However, that attitude of not thinking about cancer brought me to a realization that I was in denial of having cancer. All these emotions and the fact that I almost lost my life in a really tragic way just started flooding my brain a couple of months ago. I literally almost lost myself! To navigate performing and singing at the wedding gigs like I used to do, to my closest friendships just dissolving away, it has taken such a toll on my emotional and mental health. I am a strong motherfucker and all. I was able to get over a father who basically didn’t want to be a father but cancer was a true test of all my faculties as a person. I didn’t really let cancer get to me at first but it eventually did. I felt PTSD like symptoms and just had so many negative thoughts reeling uncontrollably that I almost gave myself panic attacks. After avoiding the idea of therapy, I decided to go ahead and find someone to see. I have always been and still to this day very comfortable with speaking about my cancer diagnosis, but the emotions I was dealing with and how the flashbacks would hit me, it wasn’t easy to subside. I realized I was even mixing resentments from the past that were hampering my present state. I let go of the stigma that therapy is for quacks and really opened up to figuring out who I was and really facing all that I am and how I adjusted to what life threw at me. It hasn’t been easy but I am so glad that I have decided to take this vital step in making my life better. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made for myself.
mK: What is your guilty pleasure?
AR: Pop divas! From Whitney Houston to Mariah Carey to Christina Aguilera to Selena to my all time favorite Brandy! I am that guy who can’t help but geek out over a woman who can belt, slay vocal runs effortlessly and package it all in a slamming outfit and killer shoes!! I just can’t help it. As a matter of fact, I am currently working as the backup singer of a Selena tribute band! It’s literally a dream come true because I have always been influenced by her as a kid. I mean, to have the talent she had and then have her life cut short like that, I just never forget her. It’s a reminder for me to keep living it up as much as possible cause who knows what tomorrow brings. This experience with that band just exemplifies how therapeutic music is and all the healing powers it contains if you just tap into it and let it take you there. Not to mention, we can help her legacy stay alive because people still appreciate and enjoy her music as much as when she was alive. It just shows how we really never die. Our spirits truly live on and on. The more we do what we love with the time we’ve been given, the more you leave behind something for others to hopefully be inspired by and to be influenced in shaping this world to be better and better.
mK: If you could travel in a time machine when and where would you go?
AR: I would go back to the Harlem Renaissance. To be able to swing with Count Basie or duet with Ella, I would be in heaven. Plus, the way people dressed at that time is everything to me. I’m obsessed with some good threads and looking good while wearing them!
mK: When your not busy with life what occupies your spare time?
AR: Going out to see live shows – I am constantly studying and observing performers every chance I get. Doing my yoga moves and meditation every morning is vital. Sometimes I miss or skip it cause my schedule won’t allow for it but it’s been more and more important to have that time for myself. Through it, I am able to deal with life better, prioritizing when I need to and allowing me to prevent the stresses of life getting to me more than they would if I didn’t. Other than that, just to get to spend time with close friends having a good beer, talking, writing a song, jamming, checking out a live baseball game, going out to eat – it’s all about the company you keep! I used to swim weekly when I was younger. It’s my favorite form of exercise of all time. It’s something I will eventually reintroduce back into my life.
mK: What’s the main focus in your life right now?
AR: Getting my music out to the world. I started holding myself back recently cause of all the emotions flooding through me. Trying to control it all, I wasn’t as confident with my artistry. I’ve learned you can only control what you can and just pace it all as best as you can. Luckily I have an amazing support network now through stupid cancer and they have revitalized me to keep going. I’ve already made a video for Stepping Forward and have been able to raise about $135 through digital sales. I just seek to continue creating music, to be able to share it and perform it as much as possible. I’ve realized that it is truly what I am intended to do so I keep it onward and upward. Most importantly, I remind myself to really stay true to myself as a person and not try so hard while making my music. I was forever changed by Nina Simone when she said at the beginning of her recording for I Shall Be Released, “Don’t put nothin’ in it unless you feel it … it’ll come up by itself”
mK: As many people that face cancer are more wise, what would you like to pass on to those that get a daunting diagnoses?
AR: Take it all with a grain of salt. Doctors are there to give you parameters and constructs from which you decide what’s best for you. Remember you are here to fight for your life and have every right to have jurisdiction over your health as much as the doctors do. Practicing silence will allow you to realize what your best options will be. Tap into your instincts and listen and stay open to everything around you but be keen and observe. Stay aware. You will surely figure out what is necessary and what is not. I have learned that life does not give you anything you can’t handle. It’s a journey, so accept the challenge with a smile and give it all you have.
mK: Final thoughts before the mic drops and we wrap this up?
AR: This is your time. Do away with the maybes and what if’s. It’s all about yes or no; here and now. Enjoy the present fully despite what you may be currently going through. It’s only temporary. There are other things lined up for you to experience as long as you stay open to them and all that this life has to offer you. It’s your choice as to how you process it all so look at life as a puzzle you have to figure out. Enjoy the beautiful struggle. Keep stretching out no matter how hard the strain might get. Most importantly, keep putting your best forward and keep shining brilliance!
Angel Reynoso: music addict, artist, classy Harlem Reinassance dreamer, secret pop music diva fan boy, bungee-jumping thrill-seeker, motivated brain tumor “thriver”, and cool dude. Thanks for doing the interview Angel. Check out AngelReyofLight.com to see what he is up to. We look forward to seeing what you do next!