Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Empire Strikes Back

I realize that some folks may be reading this for the first time, so let me start by saying this:

Hello there! I am TK-66613 of the 501st Legion, Florida Garrison, Makaze Squad, first Imperial Storm Trooper Detachment. A little over a year ago I pledge myself in eternal service to the Galactic Empire on a mission of peace to bring order to the galaxy. There were many reasons, which you can read about  here, but the main reason was that my father had cancer.

If you don't know, the 501st legion is an organization dedicated to doing good works in the community through the elaborate and incredible costuming taken from the immensely successful Star Wars franchise. It's like the Shriners, or a motorcycle gang, only we are nerds. HUGE nerds. Huge nerds with huge hearts, and an immense sense of duty to the people around us, especially kids young and old the world over.

I started this blog so that my father would have something to read from his hospital bed during the lengthy and isolating process that was his stem-cell transplant, the most current and experimental treatment for his particular and viciously malignant for of Multiple Myeloma, a cancer of blood cells that forms tumors in bone marrow and blocks the normal production of blood cells. It has a slew of adverse side effects, and of course is fatal. The treatment itself is no picnic, a process that brings the patient down to a near-death state and then slowly brings you back, with fresh blood and the immune system of an infant. I wanted him to be able to read about the good things I had done, for others, for him, and in his honor. I wanted him to know that he was loved, and that the example he had set to me in my childhood, of charity, of loyalty, of virtue and courage, and of dressing in silly costumes, would live on, even if he didn't- that he and his traditions would live on and his memory would be the inspiration for some good in this world.

Many months later my father had recovered from his treatment. His cancer cell count was down. He was eating food and enjoying life again. There are permanent ailments, resulting from bone deterioration, such as a sore back and physical limitations, which I'm sure after the hell he had been through seemed miniscule. But my father was not cured. He never would be, and he would never be the same as he was before his affliction with this terrible illness. Currently there is no cure for multiple myeloma, as in the case of many other forms of cancer and other diseases.

And that is why I will not stop. And also why I will strike back.

It was in February that I decided I would start a team for the Altamonte Springs Relay for Life. I had never been involved in Relay prior to this all-of-a-sudden determination, so allow me to present to you why I chose relay for life as a starting point in my campaign. Taken from the Relay For Life Website:

"In May 1985, Dr. Gordy Klatt walked and ran for 24 hours around a track in Tacoma, Washington, ultimately raising $27,000 to help the American Cancer Society fight the nation’s biggest health concern – cancer. A year later, 340 supporters joined the overnight event. Since those first steps, the Relay For Life movement has grown into a worldwide phenomenon, raising more than $4 billion to fight cancer.

 In more than 5,200 communities and 20 countries, Relay For Life events comprise the signature fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. Each Relay For Life event is special to its community, but the movement's true power lies in the combined commitment of thousands of participants, volunteers, and supporters to help the American Cancer Society save lives from cancer

 Every year, the Relay For Life movement raises more than $400 million. The American Cancer Society puts these donations to work, investing in groundbreaking research in every type of cancer and providing free information and services to cancer patients and their caregivers. We're fighting for every birthday threatened by every cancer, in your community and everyone else's."

It's compelling. At least I thought it was. And so I set to work building my strategies for the fund raiser. I let loose on a facebook crusade to raise money that climaxed with a fund raiser at the ever patient and ever faithful Oblivion Taproom on the night of my 29th birthday. It was a great night. We were well on our way to our fundraising goal of $2,500 and the relay hadn't even started yet.

Oh yeah. I had a relay to plan too!

The days leading up to the relay became a frenzy- of event meetings, organizing people, getting gear ready. I also hadn't considered that I didn't really have a "team" for the relay-- and I was staring down walking 18 hours, alone, in a plastic suit that might as well have been a furnace. Luckily some very kind and very masochistic troopers volunteered to help share the walking duties, which in retrospect probably saved my life. Once that was taken care of I began the ominous and very spiritual task that is baking my special secret recipe chocolate chip cookies- a process that I cannot divulge the details of, aside from the fact that it took a very, very long time, and that I made about 200 of them.

Relay day came and went. It's all a blur to me really. From my hazy 10 am setup to opening ceremonies to the various themed laps and some weird contest were I boogied down for dollar bills- it was a great time. There were a lot of funny moments, a lot of smiles, and a few moments when the events purpose really just got to people. It's really impossible to relay the experience to you in words. By the end of the relay we had raised $3,100, I had been awake for almost thirty hours, and I had made friends who will last me a lifetime. Our team won three awards for our efforts. It was an emotional process for me, and though at the time I think I was too much of a zombie for the gravity of the moment to fully set in, I know it affected me.

Since this event I haven't stopped- I've done so many troops I've lost count. from birthday party's, to hospital visits, and much more. I found myself at another Relay for Life Event, where we had set up a "blast a trooper" booth and raised another $350 in just a few hours. My Dad had just re-entered the hospital a few days prior due to complications with his treatment, so this event meant a lot to me. He was several states away and there was really nothing I could do to be there for him, so I decided the best place for me was trooping. Trooping for the cure.

 I was handed a candle as part of the lumineria ceremony, and we once again took to the track in silence. I had an experience that night that I will share with you now, in the form of the text message I sent my father:

"Tonight I walked in silence with this candle around the track. It was windy and dark but I guarded the flame with my helmet. The candle light my way through the darkness under a moonlight sky, guiding my steps, until finally, despite my best efforts the candle went out. For a moment it was dark and I could not see, but in time my eyes adjusted and I found my way back to camp. I knew my way back to camp because the light had guided me halfway there. When you go from this world I will know my path in the dark because of the light you have given me. Thank you for taking me halfway there. And I will l do everything I can to keep you safe until you are gone."

I can only dream to become as brilliant of a light as my father has been for me.

It is my hope, that through this blog, and my efforts, that I can reflect the amazing kindness and unshakable will that I see every day-- in the faces of struggling children, in the efforts of selfless caregivers, in the hearts of sympathetic supporters, and in the acts of the 501st legion and their allies to make this world a better place. It is my hope that through this reflection, the desire to do good and the fight for positive change will be echoed through others, that the flame of my fathers memory will spread and live on, beyond him, and beyond me.

No Retreat.
No Surrender.
Never Tell Me The Odds.



  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Absolutely amazing Adam, I'm so proud of everything you do! You are such a kind and hard working person. I can't wait to troop with you soon! You always inspire me, just letting you know! :)

    Love whitney