Sunday, March 24, 2013

Hitting too close to home

I never thought that lumpectomy, clean margin, BRCA gene test, and breast cancer would be part of my everyday vocabulary. That all changed about a month ago when I found out that my best friends wife had breast cancer. I never thought I would be walking into a cancer center and be waiting with my friend for his wife to come out of surgery to have a tumor removed. Up until this time our time had been spent playing video games and going to movies and dinners. Things change in a second. I have lost so many people to this disease. This time seems to be hitting the hardest. She is not even forty yet. She should have not had to deal with this. But these are the cards that have been dealt. So I did what I do, and started doing research. I learned that the BRCA gene test is done to predict how much more susceptible you are to cancer, and the chances of it coming back. Luckily both of these came back normal. I learned that clear margins are the area around the tumor that they have to clear out to make sure that tissue around the tumor is cancer free. I am a layman so these are these things as I have come to understand them. Doing the research made me feel like I was able to have control of something through all this. With cancer this is a rare thing.

My friends have already come up against some road blocks. She has to go in Monday because they thought the clear margins were not good enough. So this sets her recovery time back another week. They also have to wait for a test to come back from the pathology of the tumor, to see if she may have to do chemo. My friends thought she would be going the radiation route. They have to wait a week for this test to come back. That is something else I have learned about cancer and the tests you have to have. Tests take forever to get results back for. I cannot imagine something having to do with whether you live or die taking that long to get results back for. As if there was not enough fear and the unknown involved in this process in the first place.

Plans that were made at the last minute are out the door, replaced by how she is feeling. I come over their house and at times at a loss for words as to what to say. I can see she is getting thinner. It breaks my heart. I have not had good luck with loved ones with cancer. They have all passed. So I am really looking for a win on this one, because frankly it would break my heart. I know this is my selfish view from the outside. I can’t imagine how my friends are dealing with it. That again breaks my heart, knowing there is not really anything I can do to help. I can’t heal her; I can’t donate an organ or marrow. All I can do is be there for them when the need me, and let them know that I love them. The fight is far from over. I know it sounds like I have already thrown in the towel. But I haven’t, nor will I. I owe my friends more than that. So that is kind of why I have not been doing much, well any writing lately. I am trying to wrap my head around this. So Geek Happenings has kind of taken a back seat for now.  

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Heavy questions for a Sunday morning.

What would you do if you found out that someone you had just started following on Twitter has cancer? Would you keep following them as if nothing is wrong? Would you be afraid of starting a friendship up knowing that it could end up breaking your heart? This is something I have recently found myself faced with. I know the right answer is to go in with both feet and cultivate a friendship. Is it the honest answer though? I would like to think that it was for me, and that I would not give it a second thought. I tend to think of the people I follow and interact with on Twitter as friends. No I am not going to go the Manti Te’o route, but I would definitely be upset is something happened to one of them. So there lies the dilemma. I have lost a lot of real life close people to cancer and every time it breaks my heart. Would I rather not have know them and not had to go through watching them die? No. They were my family. We had awesome times together, which made their passing hurt even more. I want to try and put myself into the person with cancer’s shoes. Would I want people treating me differently because I have this disease? Would I not want to have a friend when I needed them most because I have this disease? The answer to both questions is absolutely not. People with cancer have got enough things going on with chemo, transfusions, radiation, and doctors visits. How could I abandon someone during this time because it is inconvenient, or that I don’t want to feel bad? Imagine how they are feeling.
With people that are sick I see a lot of people pulling back from them because of these feelings. There are also issues of not really knowing what to say to the person. Do you avoid the elephant in the room? Do you talk about it? Maybe the person that is sick is tired of talking about it. I think what the sick person most wants is to be treated normally, to have a normal life, in spite of everything they are going through. I know it is hard when you see the physical toll that they disease takes on them. I remember going to visit my aunt before she passed away from Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. We talked about what was on TV, what was happening with me, anything but her failing health. I am glad I took that time to go see her, as much as it broke my heart to see her like that. She was the first person that I lost as an adult, and when I could actually process the feelings. It was one of the most painful experiences of my life.
So I keep coming back to the same question. Why would I want to put myself through that kind of hurt again? The answer: it is not about me. It is about being a better person. It is about helping out any way I can. It is by trying to give a sick person friendship. I am not saying I am perfect by any stretch, but I can listen, I can make inappropriate jokes with the best of them. Love and prayers go out to the people fighting this horrible disease, you are the bravest people I know. Keep up the good fight, and never give up.

Monday, December 3, 2012

From the top to the middle.....

I was over at my parents doing some tech support yesterday, when my mom gave me a folder of papers that I had left at my sisters when I had been living with her. They were my separation papers from Electronic Data Systems. The first sheet said: To whom it may concern: Brett DaSilva has been employed by Electronic Data Systems from 12/8/1997 to 5/22/2009. When I read the sheet memories hit me like a locomotive. EDS was my first real job. Jen and I had just gotten married three months before I started. Before that I was a kid going nowhere fast. I was a manager at Wendys, I was making about 16k a year working crappy hours. The first suit I ever bought was for the interview. Thank goodness I got the job. I could not believe it. I was making 26k a year. I had to wear a suit to work every day. I had a job I could be proud of. I had a job where I was making more money than I ever had in my life. I started out on the phones taking calls from Xerox employees. I worked my way up to supervisor of the helpdesk. Things could not have been going better. We got bonuses, we got recognition, I had about 15 people under me. Life was good. Then EDS started closing down the helpdesks in Michigan in about 2004.

 I had to make a choice. Move down to Kentucky with the jobs, or be out of a job. This was one of those life changing decisions that come along. I made the wrong one. I moved Jen and I away from our family and friends and made the move to Kentucky. I was ill prepared for what awaited for me when I got down there. I ended up being demoted back to answering the phones. I had lost my support system and was lost. I was moved from job to job, but never really found myself down there. I was never the performer down there that I was in Michigan. I had gambled and lost. Then came the day when I got the call into my manager’s office. I was being laid off. After twelve years with the company I was being kicked to the curb. Holy self-esteem hit Batman. I was lost. When I started at EDS I was 26. I believed that like my parents you found a company worked there for 20 or 25 years, and then you retired. That is no longer true. We were hundreds of miles from home. I was jobless and Jen was working at Wendys. I was making 45K a year when I got laid off. I went from that to making 250 a week on unemployment.

We could no longer afford to stay in Kentucky so we moved back to Michigan with my tail between my legs. I blamed myself for what happened. I felt worthless. We ended up moving into my sister’s basement. I got a job at Kelly Services, I worked there for about a year, and then again I got laid off. By then I was wondering what the hell is wrong with me. Am I really that bad? I worked a few other temp jobs for Kelly before finally ending up at Siemens. I have been there for a year and I still look over my shoulder every day. I have some of the top numbers on the desk. I know I am doing a good job, but well I have been burned before. It has taken me three years to get back to the pay I was getting working for EDS.  

Now I am considering a career change. I am not happy answering phones. I really like writing, and interviewing people. I see others doing this and getting paid for it. I am like I want to do that. I am not quite sure how to get there yet, but people are starting to know my name. I have to keep being ignorant and keep asking people who I probably should have no right talking to for an interview. I have to, as the great philosopher Kevin Cronin said, keep pushing. I have to put EDS behind me. I have to know I have a good support system here now. I have to look forward. So I put the folder in a box that I never look in and keep my eyes to the future.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

When opportunity knocks

Lately is has been hard to wrap my head around the people that I have had the honor of being able to talk to and even interview. I guess sometimes ignorance is bliss. I was not a real big TV watcher or Buff the Vampire Slayer Fan. I don’t know why. I think it was at a time when I was not really watching much TV. So I have to say I was not too familiar with a lot of actors, and I don’t usually make a big deal out of actors or sports people. I guess I try to treat the people the same as anyone else. Luckily the people I have been able to interview have been great. No egos, where they could have every right to have one. From Kristen Nedopak, to Helena Santos Levy, and Lauren McFall, in the acting realm, to Hans Pasricha and Garrett Schultz, game designers from Leviathan Interactive, to writer Blake Northcott, I have been really fortunate to be able to talk to these people. These are probably some of the coolest moments of my life when I look back on it. Though at the time it was all professional and getting the interview done. Looking back on it now, it is like whoah, how did I get these people to give me the time of day? How the heck did I even get the courage up to even ask for these interviews?
I guess being behind a computer screen definitely helps. I am not sure if I would have the same bravery if meeting the people face to face. I guess being behind a computer screen and being brave does not have to mean being a jerk to people without fear of repercussions, it can also be used to channel the bravery into talking to people that you would not normally talk to and ask for an interview. There a bunch of clichés about chances not taken, well they are clichés because they are true. I would never have had the chance to talk to these folks if I had not asked the question. What is the worst they can do? I guess say no is the big one. One of the first rules that I have is to treat people with respect. If you are a jerk to people, the chances of them wanting to do an interview with you are going to be slim to none. I know I may never be a writer for Variety or Entertainment Weekly, but writing for Expert Comics has opened a lot of doors for me and given me some credibility. For that I will be forever grateful.
I will always be fans of the people that I have interviewed, hopefully even friends with some of them. When I read about their successes it makes me so happy for them. These are the hardest working people I have talked to and every success is earned, so I could not be happier for them. This post was not to brag, or to think I am cool or anything. Those that know me know cool is not a word associated with me, but it is just a reflection about how lucky I have been, and that a question never asked is an opportunity passed. Wow was that a lame line, but no less true. I appreciate all of the people I have been able to talk to or interact with on Twitter. Sometimes social media sucks, but it also provides opportunities and allows you to cultivate friendships with people you have never met in real life.

Here are some of the Twitter handles of folks that are going places and are great people.

Kristen Nedopak creator of the Skyrim Parodies @Nedopak
Blake Northcott writer of VS Reality and Relapse @ComicBookGrrl
Helena Santos-Levy Also from Skyrim Parodies @helsvy
Lauren McFall Skyrim Parodies and host extraordinaire @CLOSETGEEK1

These are just a few of the great people I have had the chance to interview. Great folks all.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

What do I want to be when I grow up?

So a few posts ago I wrote about finding my voice. Well now I have to decide what I want to do with that voice, and if I am good enough to do anything with it. Working at Expert Comics has got me writing. Reading the articles I can tell when I am doing some decent writing and when the writing is so bad I can't even read it. I think my best articles are the interviews. I think I think I can say that with confidence. I am especially proud of my interview with the developers from Project Lodus . I like to have someone to bounce things off of, and working with creative and passionate people brings out the best in me. So is that what I want to do? Do interviews? I look at my reviews and articles and I think boring. I don't know if it is just that I am not that interesting or if it is just me? Do I want to do op-ed pieces? Do I want to try writing a book? I just don't know. I know that I don't like what I am doing at my day job. But I don't know how to parlay my writing into a paying gig, or if I am even good enough to do it. We write articles for Expert and we maybe get one comment on the article that we write. So I have no idea how I am doing really. I don't want comments as a means to an ego boost, but to use them to see what people like, what they don't like. I mean my degree is in IT, not English. So I am kind of lagging behind in that respect. I don't have any formal writing training. I wrote papers in school, but I hated doing them then, so maybe that is a bad sign. But then again, that was about subjects that I really did not care for.
I have been asking around about web hosts, and I am really interested in doing podcasts. Of course I know nothing about doing these either. Like I said learning on the job. So lets see my list of to do things, consists of learning how to write better, getting a website, learning how to podcast, figuring out how I can make money with all of this. Easy peasey right? It is probably not the smartest thing to do, considering a career change at 41 years of age. It would be different if I just had to worry about myself, but I have a wife to support and cats that get very angry when they are not fed on time. So for now I am working on building contacts and relationships through Twitter. I am trying to learn from these people that are on the path to where I want to be. I know it sounds cliché, but I don’t want to be one of those people who hates their job and wonders what if I would have only done this or that. I actually want to be happy in what I am doing. I think it would translate into other aspects of my life as well and make me a lot happier. I find myself being really angry lately, especially while at and leaving work. A change needs to be definitely made. So right now I am a rudderless ship looking for somewhere to land. Hopefully I will find land soon.

15 years

This is going to be a different post than usual.

How our anniversaries go. No money to go anywhere to get anything. We have to wait a week to do anything, yet this woman still stays with me. I am not quite sure why. I am not good looking, I make average pay, yet she still loves me. It is one of lifes great mysteries. We have been married for fifteen years today. People said it would not last. It has been the best thing that has ever happened to me. I did not date in school. I only dated one other girl, and that did not really count. It was only two dates, and she moved away. So she has been it. She saw through my faults. She saw through this person who was a manager at Wendys at the time and asked me out. Yep, you heard that right. SHE asked ME out. I was not exactly a ladies man, as I have mentioned, so asking a girl out was out of the question, but SHE asked ME out. She took a chance on me. I am not exactly sure what she saw in me. We have been together through a lot. Me getting laid off three times, having to move to Kentucky for six years and coming back to Michigan to live in my sister’s basement for a year. Still she is here. I guess you could call her a glutton for punishment. I may not be able to provide her with a huge house or jewelry, but I can be there for her. I was there when her brother passed unexpectedly. I was there when her Aunt passed. So that I can do, I can provide support. I can provide a shoulder to cry on. In the long run I figure that means more than material things. She has made me a better person. I am really not sure where I would be if we had not gotten together. I was working a dead end job at Wendys. As I mentioned no girlfriend, so I figured I was going to be on my own for the rest of my life. Then she came into my life. I quit Wendys. Got a job with EDS as tech support, making twice what I was at Wendys. I am not sure I would have had the courage to quit Wendys. I had been there for a long time. But now I had someone else besides myself to look out for. I knew I had to find something better. It has not been easy. EDS closed down the offices up here and moved everyone down to Kentucky. So it was either follow or have no job, so we packed up the truck and moved to Lexington. Where after a couple of years down there I got laid off from there, twice, so we ended up moving back home to Michigan to live in my sister’s basement. If I was going to be unemployed, might as well do it around family. Still she was there. I went through a couple different jobs, but I think I have finally found one that is going to stick. *crosses fingers* Still she is with me. This 41 year old man that collects comics, likes all things nerd, she is still there. What more can I ask for. At the end of the day we are there for each other and that is all that matters. Material things come and go, but the bond endures. I love you Jen.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Remembering my Uncle Ray

Tomorrow we are finally putting my Uncle Ray to rest. He passed away in May of cancer, but it was down in their winter home in Florida so we could not be there. Some of my earliest childhood memories are of going up to his and my Aunt Shirley's cottage at Torch Lake. They had everything a kid could want up there. Motorcycles, snow mobiles, boats. There was never a boring moment up there. He also had a great collection of old radio shows like The Shadow, and Flash Gordon. I used to get so creeped out when that voice came on, "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!"The days were spent driving around the lake in his Sea Ray boat. Either fishing or stopping off at the many restaurants around the lake. They were also spent riding motorcycles or in the winter snowmobiles. There was so much to do up there and it was part of my formative life. I was never afraid of motorcycles or snowmobiles because I grew up with them. Above that I came away with a love for the water that I still have today. No place I would rather be.
As I grew up I helped out in the print shop that he owned and my dad worked at. When I started High School, I went to live with him and my Aunt Shirley until my parents closed on their house. By then he was into horses and had Thoroughbreds at his house that he kept there until they had their foals. I had never seen an animal be born until I went to live with him. That is something that you never forget when you see a foal being born and taking its first steps. They never had anything to say when I lived there. I never felt like a stranger there. But as time goes on we grew apart. I am not sure what happens with married couples, but it seems that one side of the family seems to not be seen as often. This is what happened with my parents. I am not sure how the decision gets made, but holidays and birthdays were always spent with my moms side of the family. We kind of grew apart from the DaSilva side of the family. So I had not seen my uncle and the DaSilva side of the family for years. Probably since my grandmother had died. You think that time is going to last forever, the people you love will be there forever. Unfortunately that is not the case. People pass away and the time is lost. I am going to make sure that I don't lose any more time and try to reach out to that side of the family. You only get each minute once. One it passes it is gone. Don't waste them. This is one of the last pictures taken of him with my dad and my Cousin Dennis.

His prayer card

I’m sure God has a ranch in Heaven
A place for cowboys to call home
With dusty trails and deep passes
Where cows and horses freely roam
I picture you up on a ledge
Gazing at the draws below
Leaning forward with your Thirty X
Stetson hat pulled way down low
I can ‘bout hear the leather creaking
When your gelding switches feet
Your spurs softly jingle in the wind
Your rope’s tied on and coiled neat
There is contentment on your face
You’re happy, but I can’t pretend,
Though I’m glad you’ve made God’s journey,
That I can truly comprehend
In my earthly ways I question
The reasons God took you away
I guess the timing was exactly right
To enter Heaven on that day
The only comfort I have found
That puts my grief to rest
Is that God only takes the top hands
Because His crew’s the very best
We still cry and we sure miss you
And all the things that might have been
But God needed one more cowboy
And He felt you’d fit right in
So He sent down all His ranch hands
An extra horse stood at their side
Then he softly whispered to you
“Saddle up, my friend, let’s ride”

God Speed Uncle Ray