My Cancer Story Ch. 90 “Back to School”

Chapter 90: “Back to School”

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The New England School of Communications was the perfect school for me. Here, I could actually rent film equipment out like expensive library books, and make the movies that I’d been literally dreaming about since I was a kid. Of course, I didn’t think those ideas feasible back then, but thankfully, I made sure to at least jot them down in the moment!


In an effort to bolster my success, I took out some money against my retirement plan at EMMC and bought a brand new MacBook Pro laptop. And with the remainder of my student loans, I purchased the Final Cut Studio Suite (with the state-of-the-art Final Cut Pro 7), Microsoft Office 2010, and an Adobe Creative Suite that included Photoshop, Premiere, Illustrator, and many more.


I decided to spend the remnants of the student loans only if it was to better my studies during school and what better to spend my money on than the actual programs I would use in school? This way, I could maximize my time to work on assignments from home.

The first video class I had enrolled in was Intro to Video. I wanted to set myself up for success (listen to me, I sound like a coach at MBNA) by ensuring I knew the basics of shooting video.


My teacher, Rick, was a freelance videographer on the side and dealt with varied tape mediums and so I immediately asked him for help with Ellie and Alex’s wedding footage. Unfortunately, the school had JUST switched out from tape and was going digital ONLY. They had a few tape decks left, and I tried to use them to digitize the footage. These units weren’t working properly and so, Rick was gracious enough to bring the tape home to work on it. Hopefully, he would be able to transfer the footage.


During summer orientation, I had met another student named Spencer. He was one of the kindest people I had met, and I had hoped to have a class with him. Fortunately, we had a non-video class together, but he had gone straight to Video I, the next level of my course. I couldn’t help but feel as though I was already trailing behind in the curriculum. I mean, I was twenty-five already and he, eighteen.


In my Intro to Video class, we had another “alternative student,” a woman in her early fifties named Susan. It felt good to know that I wasn’t the oldest student in the Video Production Program. Another student of note was a quiet man named, Tom. He seemed to know what he was doing, and I wondered why he was taking Intro and not Video I.


Back at work, I was excited to take advantage of their College Reimbursement program. I had been hoping to go back to school to utilize it, and this was my chance. How it worked was that the hospital would give you a portion back of your tuition as long as you were a worker there. Unfortunately, I was told – upon my follow-up – that it had to be a degree that would pertain to the hospital’s occupational offerings. I knew that they didn’t have a filmmaker on the premises. But there was this Media Tech job. Hmm, why couldn’t I use my degree towards that?


I feared that this schedule would be tight: working full-time and going to school full-time and so; I tailored my class schedule to revolve around my work schedule instead of the other way around. I thought it best to get the easier scheduled classes out of the way as I adjusted to a “Full-Time Life.”


There was this trio of hard-working students at NESCom who always worked together on projects. Ok, so they were inseparable. No wonder the entire school (instructors included) called Cory, Mike, and Lucas, “The Triplets.” They always went above and beyond in their assignments, and I had wanted to be like them. Collaboration was a high priority on my School Bucket List, but I didn’t know how to go about it. I did find some in my Intro to Video Class, but it was usually with my friends and my brother.


It was funny that I had looked up to The Triplets even though they were a few years younger than me. But that fact made me sad because it took so long for me to get to school and figure life out, and it was entirely my fault. Why did I wait a year to begin at this wonderful school?! My life was behind a few grades.


The overwhelming schedule began to take its toll on my sanity. I would go to work, go to school, come home, eat, do homework, and barely have any time with Deirdre or Kaitlyn. But, I was enjoying my classes, even the courses unrelated to Film. I made a project illustrating my exhaustion called – fittingly enough – “A Full-Time Life.”



One of my non-video classes was a class called Interpersonal Communications. This class was designed to teach us how to properly handle conflict and become better people to those around us. I had always needed a lesson in this aspect of life, so I was thoroughly engaged in this class. I immediately sat in the front and offered up answers to any question that the instructor offered. A co-worker at the hospital had told me that her boyfriend had just begun at NESCom as well, and he was in that very class. I introduced myself to him (Brandon was his name), and he seemed rather “chodey.” He didn’t seem pleased to meet me, nor did I get the impression that he didn’t like me. There go my chances of collaborative projects with that guy. Spencer had already worked on projects with Brandon, and I felt that Brandon and my relationship wouldn’t allow me to work with Spencer, either. Dammit.


I continued on with my work on Fort Thomas as much as I could. I used Photoshop to cover some of Travis’ work with a fresh coat of paint. Since the scan revealed all of the colored pencil strokes, the process was a bitch. I had to choose the best approximation of the shade of each color we wanted to display, and the Magic Wand tool proved fickle in the selection of each segment. I had never thought this process would take over fifty hours when it was all said and done. But here is the final product:



It had been a month since I gave Rick the tape and I was eager to edit the footage for Ellie and Alex. He finally got back to me and told me the most dreadful news: “I can play the tape, but I can’t get the footage off. And the audio is shot.”


My heart sank. Sure, I was out $200 that I didn’t have, but I was the only videographer there, and so, all of the footage we had of the entire wedding was on this camera. I called Ellie and told her the bad news; it was a dreadful call, and I vowed to send back the money. I had done everything in my power to make this work. I had hoped she knew that.


As the semester wound down, I had discovered the ability to apply for scholarships for the next semester. I had never tried for any before, and I figured, why not? I perused the list of offerings, and a lot of them were centric to a certain collegiate level or for a student from a certain town, but one, in particular, stood out. It was called the Brian K. Welch Scholarship Fund. It was only $500, but it was honoring a student that had lost his battle with cancer while still enrolled at NESCom. I found this the perfect match for my renewed sense of appreciation and dedicated my essay to him:

A Life Honored

In all the years of my life, one particular event stands out as the definitive moment in which my outlook changed forever. On August 19, 2003, I arrived at Eastern Maine Medical Center and those three little words no one hopes to hear reverberated through my skull: You have Cancer.

Now, seven years since my life began to make sense, I’m attending the New England School of Communications, and I finally have a path. In order to continue to walk on that path, I need money. I’m applying for scholarship funds through this generous program, in particular, The Brain Welch Scholarship, because I have the determination I once lacked, I have a perspective rarely seen, and the need required. “Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try.”

            The whirlwind of life threw me ragged until I decided to try. I had been working dozens of hours of over-time past the full schedule at Eastern Maine Medical Center, breaking my back and my spirits. My brother and I created a cartoon show and had been developing it for quite some time, yet I knew I had to do more. “I have to go back to school.” I applied where I knew it was the right path. I had been working with cameras after my epiphany-inducing experiences and knew it in my heart that NESCom was the place to be.

            I applied with little money to put towards my tuition. My loans didn’t even cover the total bill; this is without insurance, room, or board. Yet, I was determined to finish my schooling once and for all. Five semesters behind me, I was nearly halfway completed for a Video Production Major. NESCom turned out to be a wonderful surprise, more than I had hoped for: home. Achieving my goals would be a pleasant journey. Hopefully, I can harness my unique student perspective with the help of the NESCom staff.

            Surviving Leukemia forces one to appreciate all the joys around them. I was lucky enough to have cancer. Yes, I said lucky. The perspective I possess is one of modesty and admiration for relationships and daily life. The projects I expect to develop to fruition explore my perspective and hopefully can help others appreciate the oft-forgotten happiness that is easily achieved by acknowledging its existence.

            The reason I’m isolating the Brian Welch Scholarship for your consideration I believe is apparent. He left a mark on NESCom that has been the catalyst for this fund in his memory. Truly, he must have been a great member of the school’s family to receive such an honor. I hope to display his dedication and his outlook if he had won his brave battle with the disease. I hope to honor his memory, and use my perspective– nay, our perspective to educate others on just how important the little things in life can be. Naturally, for this purpose, there is a need involved.

            I work full time and currently, also attend NESCom full time. I’ve found it difficult to acquire the equipment needed at times, difficult to get the classes I need with my schedule, and lastly, difficult to find the funds needed to pay for school. I believe this scholarship was made for me, the Leukemia Alumni. I hope to do Brian proud and continue his legacy.

            I’m applying for the Brian Welch Fund because I believe I have the determination, the right perspective, and the need required. With this scholarship, I can avoid an unsubsidized loan and continue on with my purpose. May you find it in your heart as the right answer and honor a fellow fighter to prove that Cancer can be beaten. Let me prove that Life can be honored.


This battle’s for you, Brian.

-Jamie (@GuyOnAWire)

This is an ongoing story of my personal battle with Cancer. My hope is that it helps others who are currently experiencing their own battles (whether it be for themselves or a loved one) or to help with early detection.

The way I’m doing it is terrifying for a writerI’m writing a publically available first-draft outline for an eventual book, chapter by chapter in weekly form. The only reason I’m doing it this way is to get the story out as soon as possible for someone out there who needs a survivor to visit them during their own treatment. If you’re reading this and need someone to talk to, tweet at me and I’ll give you a call. No questions asked. This story is for you and I’ll help any way that I can.

Stay tuned, as I will be posting a new chapter every Monday until the story is complete.

And remember if you experience any Anemic symptoms– get checked for Leukemia as well.

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42 thoughts on “My Cancer Story Ch. 90 “Back to School”

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