By Joey Stuckey
Every year on this day, September 29th, I celebrate my "Alive Day". That is the day my brain tumor was removed and prayers were answered for my family!
As a very young child, at first I was too sick to care about this day in my personal history. Later, we started having parties and small gifts--what kid doesn't love toys? Still later, it turned into a more dignified dinner with family and friends but for the past several years, I have written a blog post about what the day means to me and how it can serve as a source of inspiration for you and your family.
After I was born, my Mom and Dad began to feel that something wasn't quite right with me. They couldn't really put their finger on it, but they became concerned about my growth and health. At first, the doctors told them that they were just being overprotective. But shortly thereafter, they were proved right in a rather dramatic fashion. My dad had put me down and let go of my hand for a second--I was about 18 months old—and I promptly walked off a flight of about 30 stairs. As it would turn out, I was going blind from a brain tumor. Eventually after tests, tests and more tests it was decided my only option was surgery. The doctor told my parents that it was extremely risky, but it was my only chance for survival. He told them the surgery would be very complicated and would take about 7 or 8 hours and if he came out before that to be prepared that I hadn't made it.
Imagine my folk's dismay when he came out about 3 hours later. However, he said that he didn't understand it, but, it was like a higher power had taken control of his hands and he just lifted the brain tumor out. How about that?
While I have never been shy about talking about my blindness, I have been a little more reticent about discussing the full ramifications of the brain tumor and what it did to me physically.
Of course, as most of you know I am blind, but, there is much more to the story of how the tumor wrecked my body.
I will not bore you with the details and all the medical info, but, besides being blind, a challenging condition, I also have no sense of smell and I have no endocrine function.
In over simplified terms, I have no bio feedback for many of my glands, like adrenal glands, which normally would tell my body when I was tired or sick or stressed to make more adrenaline to help me cope. Therefore, while I don't get sick more then the average person, I can get sicker very quickly and end up in serious condition and in the hospital. I also have no thyroid--You get the picture?
So, not only do I have to deal with working in a very sight driven society and deal with transportation issues and needing sighted folks to read things to me from time to time, but, I also have to watch very carefully how tired I get and make sure I am drinking lots of fluids, eat and take my medicines on time, etc.
Honestly there are days I feel so bad I can hardly move or stand, but, 90% of the time I manage to get the job done with a smile. Add to these health difficulties the metal hip I had to get when I was in my late twenties and the 6 months or so I spent in a wheelchair which did some interesting things to my back and neck and you begin to understand that being in the music business, a field that is crazy to begin with and with insane schedules, you can see, pun intended, that sometimes it is tricky being me and doing all the things I do.
Just some of the things I am responsible for include a TV and radio show, producing albums, running a recording studio, performing with my band, teaching at Mercer University and doing master classes all over the world along with doing my inspirational talks and mentoring other musicians.
But, don't get the wrong idea, this is not a pity party or even a "wow look at me" article, it is a "wow, Joey can do it, so can I" article!
Just hearing the medical side of my story would you have expected me to do things like perform in front of 10,000 people when opening for Ted Nugent and Bad Company? Working 16 hour days for weeks in a row so I could complete projects like the "Macon Music CD V-1" on time? Or how about recording with Georgia music legends like Randal Bramblett and Jimmy Hall? How about doing a 10 day whirlwind tour of the UK where every moment was filled with things to do like a Korean documentary, speaking and performing at the University College of London and launching my new single "Blind Man Drivin'" at the historic Ivey House? Not to mention filming my first music video?
Well I have done all that and more! And most importantly, you can do it to!
That's right--stop saying "no" to your dreams--they are in reach and more obtainable than you might think at first.
Who would have thought that a blind guy would have been hired to direct a musical at Macon State--well I was. How about a blind recording engineer doing dialog replacement for film, yep, I did. Not only that, I teach sighted students how to read music, even though I can't see to do it myself! If I can do these things you to can reach those dreams that might at first glance seem to be too lofty!
Remember, anything that makes you feel positive and let's your natural talent shine is worth pursuing! Also remember to set what some might consider silly dreams for yourself as a way to renew your spirit and energy. For example, one of mine is to experience a MLB game at every stadium in North America. So far I have done Turner field, Chase Field and AT&T Park-- lots to go
But, I digress. If you want to be a famous musician like Elvis that is not a silly dream, however, reaching that status overnight is. Point here is that yes, if you can dream it, you can do it, but, you have to have a plan of action. That plan will require soul searching, thought and honest reflection, but while you must work hard and set small steps to reaching the big dream, you should never say "I can't". Remember to give yourself some grace. To use an expression that is old and over used, Rome wasn't built in a day. Trite perhaps, but also true. So maybe you can't go from working full time at your day job to being a full time musician, but, you can make that change over time. You have to be patient and believe. I will admit I am not the best on the patient part, but I work on it. Also, while you do need to come up with a plan of action, remember to be flexible, every plan doesn't work as first envisioned and that is okay and the natural state of the universe. Just because your plan didn't work 100% like you first thought, doesn't make it a bad plan and it doesn't mean you won't reach your goal.
So what am I really saying? Just this. Despite almost dying many times and some people in my life saying you can't do this or you shouldn't do that, I have lived a life worth living and reached so many dreams and I know you can. I believe my life was saved for a reason; one of those reasons is to be a facilitator for others. I am meant to share ideas and stories and through that communication to inspire and help everyone I come in contact with to have a better life! That is my big dream!
I have reached that dream and am still reaching it! So today on this day that means so much to the Stuckey family, make a pledge to start living the life you want and to start reaching for and achieving those dreams you once thought out of reach. I believe you can!
Below for your inspiration or entertainment (either is fine) are just a few of the dreams I have reached and a few left to go.
By the way, I do believe you should write your dreams down and talk about them as much as possible.
- Touring the UK. http://youtu.be/qvipyykwLY8
- Touring Hawaii
- Working with and learning from Alan Parsons.
- Performing at the Georgia Music Hall of Fame Awards twice--first with Trisha Yearwood and B52's on the main stage for the concert and TV broadcast and the second time for the red carpet and governor's reception.
- Performing and recording with Southern rock star Jimmy Hall. http://youtu.be/zoGpvJehxmg
- Representing my hometown of Macon, Georgia, as its official music ambassador
- Working with two UK universities on technology that will improve the lives of blind musician's. http://youtu.be/z-qOvmg-RYI
- Receiving the key to the City of Green Cove Springs where I was born.
- Producing my first real music video for my single "Blind Man Drivin'" All that running around and stuff is harder than you think if you can't see where you are going. www.blind-man-drivin.com
- Recording an album showcasing the talent of new artists for my hometown of Macon, Georgia. www.newtownmacon.com/music
- Becoming an official Gibson endorsed artist.
- Having my first jazz album "Mixture" reach #9 on the CMJ top 40 jazz charts.
- Being a student at Mercer University and then being asked to be professor of music technology at that same college.
- Being a camper at Midsummer Macon, an arts summer camp held at Wesleyan College and then returning to be an instructor at that same camp that gave me my first real musical and social success.
- Being the youngest person inducted in to the Atlanta Country Music Hall of Fame for my work in education and that same year also having my studio inducted.
Dreams still reaching for:
- Recording with Neal Finn.
- Recording with Spiro Gyra.
- Getting a Neve recording console.
- Performing at Carnegie Hall.
- Performing with Jeff Lorber.
- Recording at Abbey Road.
- Buying a beach house.
- Seeing a baseball game in every stadium in North America and singing the national anthem at many of them!
- Being a Georgia Music Hall of Fame inductee.
- Writing a book about my story so far.
- Working for Apple as a beta tester for their screen reading software Voice over.
- Having a vintage LA-2A.
- Getting a DW drum kit.
- Being on the late show with Steven Colbert.
- Getting a Google car so I can go anywhere!