Now I know I'm not NEW new, but I'm still pretty much a newbie to this site, and I figured one way to let people get to know me better is to tell a little bit about myself. So, here goes nothing....
I'm 26 years old, and to tell the truth, I've been through more **** in my life than the normal person my age. When I was around seven or eight, my mother, who is a BIG part of my life, was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. If you do not know what that is, look it up. M.S. is a pretty nasty disease to say the very least. After about a year or so of being diagnosed, she wound up paralyzed, on an oxygen machine, and completely dependent on everyone in my family, which consisted of my father (who worked shift work - some days he would be working 7am-7pm, and other days he would work 7pm-7am), myself, my older brother, and my two older sisters. If you haven't figured it out yet, yes, I am the youngest child in my family. Anyway, she got so bad that she would have a nurse come to the house and help her out with day to day things everyday. Eventually things got even worse, and her doctor gave her three months to live, and so they put her on Hospice. Now because my parent's room was so small, they had to put her hospital bed in our living room. My bedroom was just down the hall, which I shared with my older brother. Just about every night though, I would come out into the living room and sleep on the couch, just so I could be with her and keep her company. I would also fake being sick a lot of days during school just so that I could stay home and be there for her. It was really hard going to school, and to go on field trips where you had to take a parent and I was the only one there with my grandmother. Don't get me wrong, I love my grandmother (the only one of my grandparents still alive anymore), but it just wasn't the same. I don't know, it's hard to explain.
Eventually though, for some reason (call it a miracle, whatever) she survived, got better and pulled through. She's still here with us today, she's walking (albeit a little unsteady at times and with a cane) and she's still on oxygen but she's a lot better than she was back then. Fast forward a bit to when I was 13 years old. During that time my back had started to really, REALLY hurt. After going to my family doctor, he told us that is was scoliosis and told me to just take Tylenol and what have you. None of that had helped and the pain eventually got worse. To give you just a hint on how bad the back pain was, the only way I could WALK was with the help of my mother's old walker. The only way I could sit relatively comfortably was on top of an inflatable doughnut normally used for hemorrhoids. I couldn't even sleep in my own bed. For some reason, sleeping on a couch was just a little more comfortable. Maybe one of the reasons was that at the time, my mother was still bed-ridden in her hospital bed and I would be out in the living room with her, I don't know, but it helped. The pain was so excruciating I was literally reduced to tears on more than one occasion. Anyway, after my family doctor heard all of this, he knew something was wrong so he sent me to get an MRI at St. Christopher's Hospital for Children in Philadelphia. After the MRI, myself, my father and my grandmother were meeting with the doctor I was seeing there and it was then that he broke the news to us---I had cancer.
The cancer was malignant, and the tumor itself was about seven and a half inches long and it was wrapped around the base of my spine. If you want some medical jargon, I can still remember the name of the type of cancer it was - myxopapillary ependymoma. Now that type of cancer is technically a type of brain cancer but for some reason (luckily enough for me) it had started at the base of my spine. So the doctor discussed the course of treatment that I would have to go through and it was decided that I would be checked into the hospital the next day to begin. I had my first surgery on my spine the next day or so. Everything went okay, or so they thought and I was out of the hospital after two weeks of recovery. After that I was required to get an MRI every month or so. Eventually the tumor had come back, so I had to have another surgery to remove those as well. Sometime after that second surgery (or after the first, I can't really recall) I had to get a spinal tap. I don't know if any of you have ever had one, but that was one of the most painful procedures I had ever had to get. Basically what they did was made me assume the fetal position and then they proceeded to stick a three and a half inch needle directly into my spine to withdraw some spinal fluid. When I say that that hurt, it's a HUGE understatement. After the procedure I had to stay in that position for a little bit because for some reason if you get up too quick after that procedure, you will get a truly painful migraine headache. When I was sixteen I went to get another routine MRI and it was discovered that my tumors had come back once again. So, once again, I went in for my third and what turned out to be final, surgery. Everything went really well that time and I really surprised my doctors with my recovery because that time I was able to be discharged only three days after having major surgery on my spine.
Afer all of the surgeries I had to get radiation treatment. I would go to school and at around nine am just about every other day it would seem, my father would come to pick me up and we would go off to Christiana Hospital in Delaware so that I could get my radiation treatment. Radiation treatment is nothing like chemotherapy. The only side effect I really had from the treatment was I was really tired a lot of the time. I only had the treatment for a month, and my doctor's told me that in that short frame of time I had received the maximum amount of radiation a person's allowed to have for a lifetime. I found this out later on, but during all of my surgeries I was woken up half-way through the procedure to see if I could still feel my legs. I wasn't told this at the time, but apparently there was a really good chance that I could've wound up paralyzed. When I first found that out I was really angry that I wasn't told that at the time, that the only way I could've possibly found that out at that time was if I had woken up paralyzed. What I thought was kind of cool though (in a weird sort of way) was during those surgeries, the surgeons actually had to lift my spine out of my body to get to the tumors on the underside of it. I don't know why I find that cool, I guess you just have to find something in all of that suffering to pull you through, I don't know. Anyway, after all of that I am still in remission to this day, and hopefully will remain that way.
Now we'll fast forward a bit more to my junior year in high school. One day I was hanging out with a group of friends at my house. One of my friend's buddies (who wasn't really my friend, come to think of it) was the only one who could drive at the time so we had got to my house in his old ****** van. We were going to call it a day and take everyone home so we piled into the van and headed off. Now this van of his was so old and crummy that the middle row of seats I was in, I couldn't find the seat belt because it was either not there at all or so buried in the seat as to be irretrievable. We were heading down my road, and this idiot started going 45 mph or so (the speed limit on my road is 25 mph) and to make him even more of an idiot he started to fool around and jerk the wheel left and right to make the van swerve a bit to either side. Now I don't remember much of what happened next, but the next thing I know is we went from doing that, to slamming into a telephone pole on the side of my road. We found out later that when he was swerving the van, one of the front tires blew out and he lost control, and when he hit the curve before hitting the pole, the other front tire blew out. I woke up a few minutes after we hit, my glasses were missing, my nose was bleeding really bad, my right hand was COVERED in blood from the fingertips all the way to my elbow, my left collarbone was killing me and my right ankle was hurting as well. My best friend, who was with us at the time, was pretty much unhurt, so he was the first one out and he got everyone else out, except for my other friend who was in the front passenger seat because he was actually pinned between the seat and the telephone pole (he was injured the most severely - he had all of the nerves on his right hip ripped off so he had to get a replacement hip and apparently he was in a coma for a short time). Now to list my injuries from the accident. I had a concussion (because I didn't have a seat belt, I flew forward, hitting my head on the windshield, my right arm went through the glass first though, explaining all of the blood on my arm-there was a big hole in the windshield where I went through, but luckily enough though the force from the van settling back after the initial impact pulled me back into the vehicle, other wise I would've been possibly killed), I fractured my left collar bone in two places, my right arm had A LOT of lacerations on it (which was really painful when I got to the ER and the nurses had to clean it and get all of the shards of glass out of my arm and hand. They would miss one piece though and later on I had to go and get outpatient surgery to remove a little piece from my hand), I sprained my right ankle to the point where it should've been broken (I had to wear an aircast from March, the time of the accident, to freaking July, that was a pain in the neck), and I had gone into shock as well. One thing I do remember when I was laying on the grass at the side of the road was when the police and the fire department, etc, had arrived and was taking control of the situation, a police officer had come up to where I was laying and he asked me some simple questions. The first one was my name, which I told him, the next was where I lived, and my answer was me pointing down the road and saying "There." He asked me to be more specific and I told him. Now the next question he asked me, I don't know why but it took me a minute or so to recall the answer. He asked me, "What day is it today?" I had to actually lay there and think as hard as I could (which, honestly, wasn't that hard at the time) until I finally came up with the answer, "Friday". I'll spare the rest, because that's pretty much it to that part of the story. The driver eventually would have to pay a fine for reckless driving and had some points put onto his license.
Now onto my senior year in high school. That year was really hard on me and the rest of my family because that year, we lost two loved ones. The first person who died was my grandfather on my mother's side. A year or so before my senior year he was diagnosed with stomach cancer. I don't know the name of it, but apparently it was a pretty rare type of cancer. It seemed like he was doing okay, he had to get chemo though, but it seemed like he was doing alright. My senior year, though, he took a turn for the worse, and eventually, sadly enough he passed away in the hospital. It was really hard to take because he was such a huge part of each of our lives. It was especially hard for me to sit there and try to comfort my mother, who I was holding while she was crying and saying "I don't have a daddy anymore." To be completely honest with you, it's making it hard for me to type this just now. Anyhow, a few months later, my second oldest sister had given birth to a beautiful baby girl, my first niece. At that point, I was already an uncle because my brother had a son, my oldest sister had a son, and my second oldest sister had a son before her daughter was born. She was such a beautiful little girl, everyone loved her. A month or so after her birth though, she started to get sick every now and then. My sister and her fiance took her to see her pediatrician and he had told them that she was fine, that when she cries, just let her be and she'll eventually stop. What this doctor did next is why I hate this man to this day. After my sister and her fiance saw him, another couple had come to see him and their child had the exact same problems as their daughter did, and he told them to pick her up immediately, to not ignore her. When I found that out, I was really, TRULY angry. Anyway, two months after she was born, she died. That was a really, REALLY tough time for the family, especially, obviously my sister and her fiance. That was a tough funeral to attend, I could barely stand to be there, and what made it worse for me was that the doctor had attended. It took all I could to keep me from taking a swing at the guy, it really did.
Which brings me to the title, why I love Star Wars. I love those movies because when I was going through all of the stuff I've been through, one of the major comforts/distractions/what have you was the Star Wars series. No matter what I was going through, I could always drift away from reality for a while and just enjoy the fantasy of it all. I could always count on being drawn into them and just forget everything else for just a short time. And that short time of forgetting everything that was wrong in my life truly helped me through it all. So when some people who don't really know me look at me, with my collection and obsession with the Star Wars universe and call me the usual names that we probably all have heard before (nerd, geek, etc.) it doesn't bother me in the least, because they just don't know why I am the way I am today. And I am the way I am today partly in thanks to George Lucas and that Galaxy far, far away.
If you've took the time to read all of this, I thank you for it. I know it's a really long post, but I felt compelled to write this, just so that some of you know a little more about me, and that I can feel a bit more included in the Dented Helmet family.