Monday, September 19, 2016

Rockstar for a Day

I figure I should start this post out with two PSA's to everyone. First off, I would like to clarify one thing. Josh is considered terminal. I know, it's hard to hear, and because of that it is a subject that we tend to shy away from. From the get go we have always said he is just inoperable, often to just soften the blow. Most people don't know how to react when they hear the word terminal. It has even taken us months and months to be able to say it and we still hate it. We prefer inoperable; it's easier to say and it's straight to the point. The truth is his tumor will never be operated on and it will never be removed. The word inoperable doesn't carry the weight terminal does. I strongly apologize to those who have just found this out. We were not trying to keep it a secret, it was just our way of working through the emotions attached to that awful word. Second PSA is a piggy back to the first one. As many of you know, Josh was granted his dream day wish yesterday. This however, has nothing (and I truly mean, nothing) to do with his current health situation. Josh is as healthy as he can be with cancer. So just because his wish day was granted, doesn't mean things are bad. I consider this blog a viable way to connect with family on a personal level, so yes, if things were bad, I would have written about it. Now that that is out of the way, I'll tell you about the day my husband was truly treated like a rockstar. 

If Hollywood has taught us anything, it's that when people get diagnosed with a terminal illness, they want to go and do the most extreme and craziest things. I was actually watching Last Holiday a few weeks back. If you haven't seen it, Queen Latifah's character is diagnosed with a terminal illness. After she realizes she hasn't done anything spectacular with her life, she withdraws her life savings and flies off to Europe where she goes on amazing adventures and experiences new things. Now, Josh and I are no where near financially set to just blow money on a lavish adventure as the money would run out quick but, I get it. Money is just money. One way or another it will replenish itself. After watching this movie, I have been racking my brain thinking of something amazing to do for Josh. My husband can be broken down to the core with a few interest; music, fish, hockey, and video games. I will never in a million years see him jump out of a air plane and go skydiving or bungee jump off of a bridge over open water. I did my research and I came up with incredibly expensive trips to remote islands where he can spend his days snorkeling and fishing. I came up with great trips we can take around the states and even overseas. All of them were good ideas and they are definitely things that we will do, but I wanted to give him the once in a life time experience. One of those days where he is completely in awe the entire day and one where he was treated like the badass he is.

I have a confession, I always enter Josh into things. I usually keep it from him only because I never want to get his hopes up. Over the past year or so, I have entered him into winning concert tickets, trips to Hawaii, and countless other sweepstakes. Now, this most recent thing I entered him into is no sweepstakes. It isn't a contest in any sense of the word. I was scrolling through my facebook one day and saw a post from Avenged Sevenfold. I was actually hoping it was a tour schedule that had dates closer to us as we were looking at seeing them sometime at the end of the year in a odd state...I think Tennessee..all I remember is we would have to travel a little bit. Anyway, I actually read the post and the first sentence or so it said something about patients with terminal illnesses. Immediately I knew I had to put Josh's name into the mix. It was for a foundation called Living the Dream foundation that connects terminally ill patients with musicians and allows them to live like a rockstar for the day. I got the email address and wrote them a pretty lengthy email explaining Josh's medical issues. I was set on not telling him as I had to include three bands that Josh would love to meet. I didn't want to get his hopes up by promising something I couldn't fulfil. When I was proofreading the email, I felt as if I had to make sure he was okay with me telling a complete stranger his medical history. Unfortunately I wasn't able to keep this one a secret from him but at the time I really thought we would just get lost in the foundations email, never to be seen. A couple days after submitting the paperwork, we went to see Josh's cousin, Josh and his band DVWNS perform in Pennsylvania. As we were waiting for them to set up, I received the email saying the foundation was requesting more information! They wanted to know more about his story, to be able to contact his doctors and to finalize what bands he wanted to meet! We were SO excited! After re-submitting the paperwork, we waited a few days. I'm not exaggerating that, it was such a quick process! On September 8th, I was sitting in the hallway waiting to go into my doctors appointment. I usually turn my phone onto vibrate before going in and when I went to do that I noticed I was getting a phone call from California. Thinking it was a telemarketer, I was slightly annoyed and answered it hoping to get them off of the phone before my doctor walked in. When I answered it, the lady introduced herself as working with the Living the Dream foundation and then she told me that they would be honored to have Josh and I be their VIP guest at the Rock of Allegiance festival! She explained that we would be able to go backstage, to meet Avenged Sevenfold and to see them perform. We had no words and honestly had no idea still what was in store for us.

The next week and a half went by incredibly slow. It reminded me of our deployment days when I anxiously counted down to him coming home. We were nervous. We were anxious. We were so excited we couldn't contain it. When Saturday came around, we had the jitters even driving to the hotel. That night I got probably a total of three hours of sleep. My anxiety was through the roof. My lovely husband though was snoozing away, having no trouble sleeping. We learned from Warped Tour that Josh can't do a full day of a music festival. His stamina is still not where it should be and he gets tired quickly. I wanted to make sure that he had the best day so we decided to head to the festival a few hours after it had started. We were told to meet some people at the ticket booth and they would have our tickets. We met up with Kacie who was our escort for the day and we met Scott who founded the Living the Dream Foundation. The entire day they made sure Josh was doing okay, constantly handing him water and checking in to see if there was anything we needed. Within a few hours we felt like we had known these people our entire lives, which honestly made the day a thousand percent better. The Rock Allegiance festival set up is wayyyy less complicated than Warped Tour. There are three stages, two main ones and one off to the side. They had vendors and food trucks but it was simple and straight to the point, music was the priority. We were escorted backstage where we were able get food and talk with the foundation. Afterwards, I headed to the bathroom and left Josh with the group. While waiting, Josh was introduced to the lead singer Of Mice & Men. He had no idea who he was and he was already fangirling, haha so I was excited for the other meet and greets we were going to do. We then walked over to one of the main stages to see the tail end of a band performing. When they finished, we walked over to the other main stage and watched Sevendust perform, and wow, they put on a great show! After that, we waited between sets and decided we wanted to see Of Mice and Men perform. We figured after meeting the lead singer a few hours prior, we should check them out. We became instant fans. We were able to stand on the side of the stage and watch the entire set! Once they finished, we walked over to the other main stage and stood off on the side of the stage to watch Killswitch Engaged perform, which was awesome! When they finished up, we decided Josh needed a break and we just sat in the stands. We were scheduled to meet Pierce the Veil at 6:00 before they went on. Josh and I were so pumped to meet them as we are both huge fans. We saw them perform at Warped Tour a few years back and were planning on seeing them in concert soon. They were seriously the sweetest most genuine guys. We chat with them a few minutes and then took a bunch of pictures before they prepped to go on stage. Like the previous performances we were able to stand on the stage off to the side. It was a great performance and it was even better being so freakin' close!

After their performance, Josh and I had some time to kill so we walked around and went to the different vendors. We stopped by Fuck Cancers booth and bought some merchandise and we went to the FYE tent and picked up Avenged Sevenfold's vinyl album in hopes we could get them to sign it. We walked back to the VIP area and anxiously waited for our meet time at 8:30. The minutes ticked by so incredibly slow. Finally around 8:20, we walked over to the dressing room area to get ready to meet Avenged. Josh and I were both pacing back and forth and I was trying to calm my anxiety! When they gave us the go ahead to walk in, I pushed Josh in front of me, half because it was his dream and the other half because I was SO nervous! We walked into the room and Zacky Vengeance (guitarist and backing vocals) was sitting on the sofa. I immediately recognized him (I had a HUGE crush on him when we saw them back in 2011 and a girl doesn't forget her first rockstar crush, haha!) Josh sat next to him and we talked about everything. He wanted to know about Josh's diagnosis, how we had met, where we were from, and everything in between. A few minutes into it the rest of the group came in and introduced themselves. We all sat around talking about Josh's time in Iraq/Afghanistan, how their music helped him get through some dark times, how their music inspired him to make it through each day and then they started talking about fish and food, Josh's two loves besides me and Archie! We then decided to do some photos together where they let us hold their guitars! We then brought out the merch we wanted them to sign and they gave us a signed set list and a handful of guitar picks. We then said our goodbyes and were escorted back to the stage area to wait for them to come out. We were issued our VIP passes and were told that we had our own special area on the stage that only Josh and I will be standing at. HOLY CRAP!

They came out and did their pre show prep, jumping around and amping each other up. Before they went on stage, every single member gave Josh and I a good luck fist bump. When they took the stage, I got goose bumps! We watched the entire show right next to Synyster Gates (Brian, lead guitar and back vocals) and the entire time they were shooting us funny faces and giving us thumbs up. It was truly amazing to be in between the power of the musicians and the screaming crowd. It really is a different experience! Half way through the show the lead singer Matt, started talking about 9/11 and how we should honor those lost and those fighting for our freedom. He then looked over in our direction and asked for Josh to join him on the stage! I think Josh's heart hit his stomach when that happened! Matt introduced him to the entire stadium (I have no idea how many people were there, but it was a football stadium and the entire floor was full of people) and thanked him for his service. I started balling! My husband was on stage with Avenged freakin' Sevenfold! Josh walked back to me and I think he needed a moment to compose himself, haha. We finished the concert and said our goodbyes to everyone that made this day possible. Josh walked away and said "That was hands down one of the best days of my life...well besides our wedding day, but it's pretty damn close!"

Words cannot express how grateful I am to Scott, Kacie, and the entire Living the Dream foundation. I'll be honest, a month prior I had no idea who they were. I had no clue how much they would impact our lives. I knew that I wasn't able to give my husband a day he deserves, but I am so grateful for fate that lead me to this wonderful foundation. I really can't say it enough how amazing they are. I am also so thankful to Pierce the Veil and Avenged Sevenfold who took time out of their day to make his. The memories we made that day will be used on the bad days to remind us that we are not alone in this fight and will keep pressing on. 

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