Bryan Cranston Did Something Incredibly Sweet for This Cancer-Fighting ‘Breaking Bad’ Fan

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Bradley Joyner is proving that no matter what obstacles lay in his path, nothing — not even cancer — will be #BreakingBrad.

The 19-year-old from Mebane, North Carolina, decided to make a “Living List,” instead of a “bucket list,” after he was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in March, The Times News reported.

After seeing a doctor for headaches, Joyner was given a CT scan at Duke University Medical Center, revealing he had glioblastoma — a malignant brain cancer with a median survival rate of around 15 months, according to the American Brain Tumor Association.

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If it’s my time to go, it’s my time to go. I don’t want to leave everyone behind, but I know what I believe and where I’ll be,” the teen told The Times News. “Being mad about it, stressing out about it, is just going to make it worse.”

Things on his “living list” included swimming with sharks, driving a 1967 Shelby Mustang and meeting the star of “Breaking Bad,” Bryan Cranston, according to TwentyTwoWords.com.

Joyner was such a fan of the show that his family decided to create the hashtag “BreakingBrad” to get people to send him encouragement and support.

People from all over the world began tweeting the hashtag and eventually Bryan Cranston himself heard about it and contacted the family, wanting to chat with Joyner.

Watch the moment Joyner’s mother, Aimee Pettigrew, tells her son the exciting news:

Joyner was moved to tears by the announcement.

How did you do it?” he asks his mother in the video above.

“I didn’t do it, people who love us and love you made it happen,” she responds. “Complete strangers who read our story and just kept reading it and praying for us and it just kind of snowballed. And he finally heard. It took six months, but he heard, and when he heard your story, he said, ‘I would love to Skype with him.'”

Last Saturday, Joyner got to cross off the biggest thing on his list — sitting down for a chat with his idol.

Check out some of their conversation below:

The two talked for more than 30 minutes, according to Pettigrew’s Facebook page, and afterwards Cranston had another surprise for Joyner — he’d hired an ice cream truck to show up for the whole neighborhood to enjoy.

It was a sweet ending to a touching gesture by the actor, one that his biggest fan is not likely to forget anytime soon.

For more information about #BreakingBrad, or to make a donation, visit the website.

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Supermodel With Rare Skin Disease Proves Different is Beautiful

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Chantelle Brown-Young is helping to redefine the face of beauty.

The 20-year-old from Toronto, Canada, has a pigmentation disorder called vitiligo. Vitiligo creates unusual looking patches of white on her skin where melanocytes, or pigment making cells, have been destroyed, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. About one percent of the world’s population suffer from the disease.

.“A lot of people have a story and a background,” Brown-Young said in her America’s Next Top Model audition tape. “But mine is painted on my body.”

Despite her unconventional appearance, Brown-Young decided to pursue a career in modeling and got a big break when she was selected as a contestant for season 21 of America’s Next Top Model. She was encouraged to audition for the show after Tyra Banks saw her Instagram account, according to the New York Post.

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Via Winnie Harlow’s Instagram account.

 

However, it wasn’t always so easy for the model to embrace her appearance. She was bullied and picked on as a child for the distinct markings on her skin, she told NBC Today. Kids would call her “cow” or “zebra” and other hurtful names.

The only person that can make you feel that you aren’t beautiful is you.” Brown-Young told the outlet. “You can’t let someone else lower your self-esteem because that’s what it is — self-esteem, you need to first love yourself before you have anybody else love you.”

Check out some of her photos below: 

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Via Winnie Harlow’s Instagram account.
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Via Winnie Harlow’s Instagram account.
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Via Winnie Harlow’s Instagram account.
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Via Winnie Harlow’s Instagram account.

 

To check out more of Chantelle Brown-Young’s unique beauty, visit her Facebook page or follow her on Instagram.

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Why I Stopped Trying to Make My Son ‘Typical’

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When Morgan was first diagnosed with autism, my husband and I were in “fix it” mode. Our end game was that Morgan would be indistinguishable from other children.

We wanted him to pass for typical. We wanted him to be happy at all costs, as long as those costs were within our scope of reasoning.

We were determined.

I didn’t care that the little voice in the back of my mind screamed this approach was wrong for us. Nope, it didn’t matter. My son’s voice and the atypical way he spoke? That needed to change. I completely neglected to remember that I should be thankful to be hearing words, finally. Those fidgeting and flapping fingers? Those needed to stop. All of the books said so. Typical kids don’t do that.

Scores needed to climb higher. He needed to blend with the other children. He was miserable — so were we. The more I pushed for him to be less of an individual and part of a herd, the more behaviors we saw.

This didn’t last long.

I (I say “I” because my husband traveled a lot in those days, and I was the primary caretaker) wasted time and energy. I didn’t see that this wonderful boy who had been in front of me the entire time was great, just the way he was. He needed support, not to be changed. The only changes that needed to be made were the parenting and teaching methods being applied to him.

I don’t remember when the epiphany occurred, but when it did, breathing became a bit easier. Morgan began to smile more. We, as a family, enjoyed life more. We understood each other better. There was no more suppression of autism, there was only expression of Morgan’s truest self. Sometimes his truest self wasn’t the happiest child or the nicest, but he’s been himself and not some representation of what I wanted him to pass for. This begins with allowing him to stim and extends to indulging him in his love of Thomas the Tank Engine at the age of 10. We used to fight against those things.

He’s in what is considered middle school here and with it comes clubs, a dance or two and some pressure to fit in. Morgan doesn’t really feel that pressure, I think, but he misses having friends. A teacher, when I was chatting with her, offered up some suggestions that would, in a sense, eventually allow Morgan to “fit in and pass” as a typical child. I laughed.

I told her that “being typical” isn’t possible and therefore, isn’t on our radar. I don’t want my son to pass for something that he is not. Morgan is the most genuine person I know, and I want him to stay that way for as long as possible. I don’t believe that teaching him to mask his personality, his thinking, his mannerisms or his truest self is the best way to go about things. The teacher saw my points and agreed.

I can’t wash my son typical. I don’t want to. I don’t want to compare him to his typically-developing peers and feel sad or long for something we’ve never had. I don’t want to push him to be something he’s not. Instead, I would rather push him to be the best he can be. The less I’ve pushed Morgan to “pass,” the more I’ve allowed him to play with his autistic peers, typical peers who get him and just “be,” the happier he’s been.

That’s the end game for me, right now. Happy.

I understand why, out of ignorance, I wanted my son to assimilate and “become typical.” I thought that, with enough hard work and diligence, he could figure out how to be typical and happy. My very literal brain was taught by society that my son would never be happy so long as he was autistic. That he could never be happy as an autistic.

I’m so glad that I stopped listening to what I was told. Society is wrong.

Being atypical is not easy.

Being autistic is not easy.

But you can be happy.

It just takes the right environment.

Path less traveled

This post originally appeared on Deciphering Morgan.

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Parent Like There’s No One Watching

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My friend told me once that I could find the silver lining in anything. Here’s a big one that I’ve found: being a parent of an autistic child has humbled me and made me a better parent. Specifically, I’ve stopped caring about what strangers think about my parenting skills. It took me a lot of searching to find that particular silver lining, and it wasn’t easy to find.

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Sometimes Bella can’t handle all the people at the store. Sometimes she doesn’t want to leave the spring fair at the elementary school. Sometimes she can’t share or take turns the way other kids can at her age. It could be anything or nothing at all. But her reaction is often huge, her meltdowns epic and when they’re public meltdowns, well, you can imagine how fun that is. I’ve been screamed at full-blast in Target over a toy I didn’t buy. I’ve had to coax an anxiety-overloaded child off the floor at Jo-Ann Fabrics because she’d just had enough. I’ve left parks carrying my child like a sack of potatoes kicking and screaming because she wouldn’t leave any other way. I’ve been slapped, scratched, kicked and almost bit while strangers watched (or pretended not to watch but lingered just a little too long to leave any kind of doubt as to whether or not they were shopping or watching).

It’s not always meltdowns, though. Sometimes it’s just all the quirky things you don’t notice around the house but are glaringly obvious when you venture out into the real world. I had to tell Bella once that no, not everyone in the store thinks it’s funny when you stand in front of their cart, put your hand up and shout, “STOP!” Also, kids tend to notice when your daughter licks every doorknob in the hallway at morning drop-off. Her eccentricities are amusing at home but were mortifying in public. I found myself saying, “No, Bella…” the entire time we were out, which only aggravated me and put her on edge.

I used to walk out of public places feeling embarrassed and humiliated. Partly because of how my child behaved but also partly because of how I behaved. So often, I found that I was parenting for the benefit of those around me. I felt their eyes watching me, judging me and so I would perform for them.   said what I thought I should say, what I thought people were expecting me to say. Instead of calmly and patiently waiting for Bella to cool down before talking to her, I would jump the gun and reprimand her when she wasn’t ready to process what I was saying. I would speak harshly to her so people could hear that I was in charge, that I was doing the right thing — even though the right thing for Bella doesn’t look or sound anything like what the right thing might be for other kids.

My worst parenting moments, the ones I am least proud of, happened because I was trying to impress a bunch of strangers I’ll probably never see again.

One day, after a particularly awful meltdown at the grocery store, I was driving home and had a simple but important thought flash in my head:

I’m not responsible for those people.

I have no control over those strangers’ reactions or perceptions of me. To put it simply, who the hell cares what those people think? The only people’s opinions that matter, the only people I am responsible for are my kids. I’m only beholden to them. I care about what they think of me and how they feel. No one else. Those lingering people in the store can just f**k off.

Once I stopped trying to impress strangers, my life got a whole lot easier. I don’t worry about what people will think of Bella and her behavior in public anymore, because I seriously don’t care. I focus only on my kids and how they’re feeling. If they’re happy, I’m happy. If they’re upset, then we deal with it the same way we would deal with it at home. Sometimes that means I have to stand in the store and wait a minute for Bella to pull herself together. Sometimes it means I have to stay calm and not react when my daughter tries to claw my arm. I know it’s because she doesn’t know what to do with the overwhelmingly intense feelings she’s experiencing, and reacting physically towards me is the only way she knows how to deal with those feelings. Other people don’t know that, but I don’t have to explain myself to them. If someone says anything dumb, I ignore them — I literally pretend like they’re not talking. If someone lends sincere help, I accept or decline politely (depending on whether or not it will make things better or worse, in my opinion).

People stare, and I’m sure some people go home and judge the hell out of me. Why should I care? I get to go home and feel good about how I treated my children.

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This girl’s opinion of me means a whole lot more than your opinion, lady.

This post originally appeared on 649.133: Girls, the Care and Maintenance Of. It was also featured on BonBon Break and The Huffington Post.

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Precious Photos Show the Unparalleled Bond Between a Girl With Autism and Her Cat

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We’ve read and reported on a few stories about therapy dogs. This story is about a cat, though — one who’s helping a little girl with autism connect with the world. cuddles-iris-and-thula

In the photo above, 4-year-old Iris Grace, a child who’s made headlines before for her incredible paintings, snuggles up to her four-legged best friend, Thula (pronounced “Too-la”).  The Maine Coon joined Iris’ family in February, according to her mom, Arabella Carter-Johnson. Since then, the pair have been inseparable.

“It’s incredibly comforting for me to know Iris can laugh and play, just be together with no pressures, no struggles with language,” Carter-Johnson told The Mighty in an email. “They just understand one another.”

iris-playing-with-thula-handshake Up until last December, Carter-Johnson had given up hope on finding Iris a faithful friend. Despite her mother’s efforts, the 4-year-old showed little interest in socializing — until she met a family friend’s cat. And when Thula arrived a few months later, their connection was instant.

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With Thula by her side, Iris wakes up easier each morning. Usually, she’s nonverbal, according to her mom, but in the last few months, she’s talked more and more. When Thula tries to jump on her iPad, Iris will say, “Sit, cat.” The two always sleep side-by-side.

“If Iris wakes during the night, Thula is there to settle her,” Carter-Johnson wrote on her blog. “It’s as though she instinctively knows what to do.

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Iris’ mom hopes that when people read her daughter’s story — whether it be about her friendship with a cat or her paintings — they’ll change any preconceived notion they had about autism.

“I want people to see the potential in autistic children,” she told The Mighty. “It’s all about opportunities, both Iris and Thula are proof of that. Who would have thought a [little girl] would inspire millions worldwide with her paintings or a cat could ride on a bike and take baths happily with a child?”

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Bonus! Watch the video below to see Iris’ amazing painting talent. And for more photos of Iris and Thula, visit Iris’ Facebook page. All photos via Arabella Johnson-Carter / IrisGracePainting.com.

h/t BuzzFeed

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On Learning My Second Child Can Move Her Legs

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My daughter can move her legs.

I figured she would. Why wouldn’t she? Lightning doesn’t often strike the same place twice.

And by lightning, I mean spina bifida. And by place, I guess I mean… me.

I knew she would move her legs. Still, I was not prepared.

For the triumphant force of it. For the sight of kicks and squirms. For the ultrasound tech’s cheery exclamations saying, “Look at those legs move! She is kicking up a storm in there…”

I wasn’t prepared for how those words, lovely and true, would tear at my heart. It was just too much, and I wept in that soundless way – the way that collapses your insides and leaves your belly tensed and quaking. The crinkling of the butcher paper gave me away. The room went silent as my husband and I joined hands.

But it’s not what you think. Or at least, it’s not what I would have thought. If someone had asked me to predict how I would feel the moment I heard those words, I would have said one word: relief.

But relief was not the thing that hurt. Neither was joy. Neither was gratitude.

I did not feel relieved at all. I felt torn. And protective. And jealous somehow. I was watching my daughter flit around the screen, but I couldn’t stop thinking about my son.

The thing is, my daughter still feels abstract. My son does not. I know my son. I know him in a way that I do not know my daughter – not yet. And I know that I love him. I know he has value. I know he will face challenges in this life that his sister will not. Somehow (although even as I write this it sounds strange), rejoicing over legs that move felt wrong. After all, my son can’t move his legs – but there is so much more to him than that.

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I guess I didn’t want to admit that legs matter and when those joyful words fell upon my ears (“Look at her legs move!”), I felt a protective urge to say – so what?

But I knew “what.” I knew the moment I heard that knee-jerk question burst inside my head. The “what” is the running. It is the hopscotch and the trampoline. It is taking the stairs. It is reaching the highest shelf.

Still, to me, those things are unremarkable. They are secondary. They are not the real “what” – the “what” that I wept for.

The real “what” is in how she will be treated – because this world is designed for people like her. And it will value her automatically, in a way that it is still learning to value her brother.

Relief was not what moved through the air that day. I think that’s OK, though. There was still wonder. There was still anticipation and excitement for this new life, and we were thankful. I am becoming a mother of two – two people who will be different on the outside, just like on the inside. I am still learning what this feels like.

I should mention that my daughter is beautiful – I can tell already. She will have her own struggles and flaws. Her life will not be completely typical or completely perfect – at least, for her sake, I hope it won’t be.

And she will move her legs.

But there will be so much more to her than that.

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For those of you with multiple children, did you ever worry about (or feel protective of) your first while waiting to meet your second?

If you, like me, have a child with a disability, was it hard knowing how to feel about baby #2 being “typical?” Did you feel relief? Joy? Mixed feelings?

This post originally appeared on What Do You Do, Dear?

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