So what exactly is the hand that fate has dealt me, so far?
Well, after I got back from Brazil, I finished a two year degree in communications at a local junior college. From there, I moved on to film school at a major university.
It was while I was there that I met my wife—a wonderful gal, who had dropped out of school and gone to work because she had been diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome by the University Medical Center. The doctors had told her she could choose school or work, and since she liked having a place to sleep at night, she had chosen work.
Her illness began to dominate our lives, highlighted mostly by a suspicion we both had that she was misdiagnosed. Her illness was obviously getting worse, and though the doctors said the CFS was progressing into Fibromyalgia, we felt she didn’t have the right signs. There were pressure points that should have been more painful, and other wrong clues.
After doing some research on my own, and at the prompting of a neurologist, I came to believe she actually had Rheumatic Fever. The complications—which included hand and facial twitching—seemed to fit the symptoms of Sydenham’s chorea, a complication of Rheumatic Fever.
I was right. Not only did she have Rheumatic Fever, but during the years it was misdiagnosed it had progressed so far that she ended up having open-heart surgery the exact same weekend we originally had planned to be married. She was 21 years old.
Naturally, getting health care was my top priority. I got a job managing a small, one-man storefront business in the San Gabriel Valley. There was no staff, no crew. Just me. Once every month and a half, a very nice lady would come out and work a day for me so I could have a Saturday off.
Even with that schedule, I managed to start working in some schooling again. I attended classes in the morning three times a week and in the evenings twice a week.
But things changed. The exact same month we found out we were pregnant, they raised our rent out of our price range. We ended up having to move to a run-down two bedroom house-behind-a-house in the next city.
My daughter was born the week of September 11th, while my wife was already in the hospital for a staff infection she’d received from some ants behind our wonderful new home. I decided to take one semester off school to help with the baby.
Except that two months later, my wife was expecting again. And two months after that, we got notice that the landlord was selling the house. We would have to go. Again.
About that time, a job opened up near my wife’s folks, who live on the other side of the country. It might take me a while to get the job, but the cost of living would be cheaper out there.
So in order to avoid being locked into a lease, we did what every kid dreads—moved back in with Mom and Dad.
I was 26 years old, with a wife, a baby, another baby on the way, and I was living with my parents.
I was even driving my parent’s car. I had wrecked mine the week I’d started back to work after my first daughter was born (I had actually wrecked the one before that the week I’d found out she was pregnant).
Aside from being humiliating, it worked out alright. Even thought the job didn’t pan out, we got a lot of debt paid down, and managed to move into our apartment one week before my second baby came into the world.
Even better, my new apartment was right around the corner from an affordable four-year school. Would I finally be able to finish college?
But then came April of 2003, when my eight-month-old was diagnosed with Melanotic Neuroectodermal Tumor of Infancy in her leg—an extremely rare tumor the doctors really didn’t know how to deal with. There’d only been six cases in the leg before—never in the lower leg— and in one of those cases, had the child died within two months of discovery. We were given the choice whether to amputate.
It wasn’t a choice we took lightly. After a lot of discussion and prayer, we opted to wait. So far, that’s been the right choice.
In the meantime, the debt’s all back, plus more. I got a car, so there are payments there. And while I have good health insurance, there are still co-pays and deductibles and fees right and left. And there’s just the whole busy business of living.
And last month, we got notice our rent was being raised again, more than 10%.
Believe me; I’m not blaming all the debt on circumstance. Dell offered me nice payment arrangements for this computer. At the time when I took them, I naively thought within a few months I could have it paying for itself.
And believe me even more, I’m not holding anybody but myself responsible for getting me out of it. This is, after all, my lot in life, no one else’s. So it’s my responsibility and opportunity to get myself from where I am right now to where I need to be, and I’m giving myself 365 days to do it.