It had been a dream of mine to travel to California to see a taping of The Big Bang Theory and meet the cast, but a medical issue was preventing me from accomplishing my dream. After getting the medical issue fixed, Simon Helberg and his wife Jocelyn, arranged for me to achieve my dream in January of last year. I flew across the country to CA and attended a taping. At the taping, I was able to meet some of the cast. I was even got to sit in Sheldon’s spot! It was the best night of my life. About a year to the day I was contacted by Big Bang Theory cameraman Brian. After speaking with him, he told me I was welcome to come back anytime. Truth be told, as much fun as I had the first time, I hadn’t considered going back because going originally was rougher on me physically than I expected. The offer was too tempting and being the huge Big Bang Theory fan that I am, if they said I can come back, I couldn’t say no. Brian and I were in communication for about 8 months about me coming back. A few days before my birthday, in August, the audience coordinator was able to set a date, in October, for me to return.
After 10 months of anxiously planning and awaiting my return trip to Big Bang Theory, it was finally time for my trip. But before I tell you about my trip, let me give you a little background about myself. As a basic overview, I have Muscular Dystrophy (MD). It is an umbrella term/classification of many neuromuscular diseases that cause gradual muscle weakness. MD affects people in different ways. My Muscular Dystrophy has progressed so I cannot walk anymore. To get around I use a mobility scooter. I also require the use of a breathing machine (BiPap) while I sleep to regulate my breathing. I also use it when I’m tired or weak. I weigh only 47lbs.
On Sunday October 2, I boarded a plane for California. The plane ride however was rough. Problems on the plane is what made me have to drastically alter my plans. The main issue with the flight was food. Since I weigh only forty-seven pounds, I need to eat regularly to maintain my strength. On the flight I wasn’t physically able to sit with the tray table and eat. Not being able to eat for seven and a half hours is a very very bad thing. It rendered me very weak so I need my BiPap machine to breathe. This created a catch 22 situation arriving in California. I really needed food but was too weak to get off my breathing machine to eat. I couldn’t breathe without it and can’t eat while wearing it. Normally, in this situation, I use nasal gastric (NG) feeding tubes. Those are tubes passed into the stomach via the nose. I use them for short term nutritional support, until I am strong enough to eat again. Unfortunately for me, they were at home. I didn’t think to bring it as I only use them once every few years. We made phone calls to everyone imaginable out in California trying to get a NG tube so I could eat. Nobody had any and/or would take 3-4 days to order one. I could not wait that long. I ended up having my dad overnight mine from home. It arrived to me Tuesday (day of Big Bang Theory taping). By then, I was even weaker and nausea had set in from not eating for 2 days. I had to make the disappointing call saying I would not be able to make it to the filming that evening. I was in too bad shape to pull myself together in just a few hours.
I’m man enough to admit that not being able to go to Big Bang Theory filming probably took a more emotional toll on me, than physical one.I was disappointed for my mom because she is constantly working to provide everything I need, doesn’t get breaks. I wanted this trip to be a fun relaxing break for her too. And then there’s new friend/caregiver Tina, my newest BBT protégé lol….I was really looking forward to showing her what going to a taping was like. I was contacted by lot of the wonderful Big Bang people the past few months leading up to my trip. I know they too were anticipating my visit. I was in a really dark depressed state Monday and Tuesday because I felt like I let everyone down. When I set out to do something, I achieve it. Not being able to achieve my goal, like I imagined, was soul crushing for me. I kept trying to wake myself from the bad dream. As I layed in bed trying to get better, I couldn’t help but think the terrible thought of ‘What in the world was I thinking making a trip across the country?’ I just wanted to go home and forget I disappointed everyone. I wasn’t used to these emotions at all. They were so unJoe-like.
Despite not being able to go to Big Bang Theory taping Tuesday, I received some wonderful surprises Wednesday afternoon. First, Big Bang Theory audience switcher Jacob and his father Howard (retired BBT guest director) came to see me in my hotel room.
It was extremely touching they came to see me. We were planning on meeting when I visited Big Bang Theory. With them coming to see me, I still could. Jacob even brought a special message from Melissa Rauch:
It made me feel good when Jacob showed me this video from @themelissarauch. My trip to CA had me in dire straights so I was too ill to attend BBT taping. Seeing this video, and video from the cast helped nudge me out of disappointing depression mood. @bigbangtheory_cbs @therealjimparsons @missmayim @sanctionedjohnnygalecki @normancook @kunalkarmanayyar
A little while after Jacob and Howard left, I received another surprise. Simon Helberg, Mayim Bialik and Melissa Rauch showed up at my door. (They play Howard, Amy, and Bernadette on the show) Tina says my face lit up when they arrived. Nobody told me they were coming. It was huge surprise to me the cast would take their time to come to see me. Simon had a video they recorded for me, before the taping, so I knew, despite not being there, they were thinking of me. They are truly wonderful people.
It was very cool to talk with the cast. I got to tell Simon I was excited to see his new movie Florence Foster Jenkins. I told Melissa I saw her movie The Bronze 5 times. I loved it. In her Hope Ann Gregory voice she said I made Hope proud. It was too funny.
Mayim stole my phone to take a selfie of us. :)
My friend Regina had been teaching me to draw. I had 2 sketches that I had done so far, Amy and Penny from Big Bang Theory. I was hesitant to give Mayim her sketch because I am a perfectionist. In my eyes it wasn’t 100% good enough. But when her face lit up when I gave it to her, I knew then I did good. It made me feel good to see she liked it.
Mayim took the Penny sketch to give to Kaley. I don’t know if she liked hers as well.
Finally that evening, the mastermind behind my trip, Brian, came to see me. It was great to finally meet him in person. I felt the worst for Brian because he was the one having me come. But he made sure I didn’t feel bad for not being able to go to the taping, spoiling all the work put in for me to come. He was kind enough to bring his Emmy with him. Holding an Emmy was one of the other items on my bucket list. I got to cross that off.
It was truly an amazing thing to spend 1-on-1 time with my visitors. They are all very nice, down to earth people. They brought me some gifts, but just having them come to see me is the greatest gift I could have ever received. Their visits really helped lift me out of the dark depressed state I was in. I will never be able to thank/repay them enough.
I have had a little time to wrap my head around my trip. While it was disappointing not achieving my goal the way I planned to, I am at the same time forever grateful for what everyone did for me. The way the cast and crew went out of their way to still make my BBT trip memorable. It really helped raise my spirits more than they could ever know. I truly feel so loved. It is great how much they care about someone they don’t really know. I will never forget it. It just dumbfounds me, despite not even going, a pretty big fuss was made. I am just Joe. I am no more deserving/special than any other BBT fan. I REALLY REALLY appreciate it.
Brian, Howard, Jacob, Simon, Melissa, Mayim, Kaley, Jim, Johnny, Kunal, Mom, Tina and everyone else who have been supporting me, messaging me encouragement; If I commit to doing something, the outcome, conclusion, sum of the parts, etc., is simply God’s will; and if plans, hopes, dreams, and desires happen to go sideways or backwards, I will continue to press on, for better or for worse, cuz I will never give up. If I stumble and fall, I will get back up, brush myself off, and keep trying until I achieve my goal.
This time may not have been like we planned, but it was NOT a fail because you all made it great. Besides, a F.A.I.L. is never really a failure. It’s only a First Attempt In Learning. You all did say I am welcome back, to try again, whenever I am ready. Whether that’s in the spring, or the start of season 11 next fall. [BBT fans, them saying “start of next season” make of that what you will. :) ]
I may have been really out of it while meeting you all this time, but next time you see me, you will get to see the real Joe. I won’t let you guys down. I have faith this isn’t the final chapter of my Big Bang Theory story. There never is an E.N.D. because Effort Never Dies.
Until next time. Thank you again so much.
P.S. – Thank you for the encouragement note left on set that night:
I was hesitant to watch the new Big Bang Theory episode Thursday night. I didn't know if it would be awkward or something because it was the episode I was invited to, but missed because the trip to CA made me sick. Watching the episode, I noticed a note was added to Penny's fridge (well I guess it's Sheldon/Amy's fridge lol). The note reads "GOOD VIBES ONLY", in large letters. It wasn't there before. I want to pretend that they added it, that night, on purpose. Probably not but considering how disappointed they know I was I wasn't able to be there, I'd like to think the yellow note was put there as an encouragement note to me. That is was their way to tell not to be upset. Have positive thoughts cuz I will get there some day. And Simon, @themelissarauch, @missmayim, @normancook, @therealjimparsons, @sanctionedjohnnygalecki, and @kunalkarmanayyar, if I commit to doing something, the outcome, conclusion, sum of the parts, etc., is simply God's will; and if plans, hopes, dreams, and desires all go sideways or backwards, I will continue to press on, for better or for worse, cuz I will never give up! I WILL find a way to come! I can't let you guys or myself down. #TBBT #BBT #BigBangTheory #TheBigBangTheory @bigbangtheory_cbs #BucketList #Dreams #Goals #Wishes @tina_frank4
It took me about a week and a half for Tina and Mom to help me get back to, as I like to joke, the Land of the Living. I’m ready to finish my story.