Rockford man with terminal illness gets to cross item off bucket - – Rockford’s News Leader

Rockford man with terminal illness gets to cross item off bucket list

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Wednesday, a dream comes true for one mega Star Wars fan, thanks to the kindness of his hospice caregivers.  He has a terminal illness and his biggest wish is something others might take for granted.

"The first one I saw was The Empire Strikes Back.  I couldn't comprehend the story to save my life, but I knew I liked what I saw," says 29-year-old Ken Markley.

It's easy to see that Ken is a Star Wars fan.  His room speaks for itself; collectibles from the famous saga are everywhere.  Ken spends most of his time there, surrounded by his favorite things, because of a rare disorder he was born with.

"Ken was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy when he was 3.  It's a progressive neuro-muscular disease," his mom, Sylvia Markley, explains.

Ken can't breathe on his own or move his arms or legs.  That's why he doesn't really get out much, except for hospital visits.  But, last week, the 29-year-old got some great news.

"Tomorrow, I get to leave the house for the first time in four years to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens," Ken said emphatically Tuesday night.

While going to see Star Wars may be a simple pleasure for others, for Ken it means the world.  Last year, he was diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure, which, coupled with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, comes with the chance of sudden cardiac death and a life expectancy of about two years.  Ken says going to Star Wars is on his bucket list.

"I enjoy seeing movies in theaters, just the experience of going to the movies," he says.

Sylvia adds, "Ken's been wanting to go and I didn't how how to possibly get him there safely and comfortably."

A few weeks ago, Ken started hospice care at Northern Illinois Hospice.  Sylvia says it was about that same time that he made a post on social media about Star Wars.  Ken's hospice caregivers found out he wanted to go and made it happen.  Thanks to their efforts, AMC Machesney Park held a private screening of "The Force Awakens" for Ken, his family and friends at no cost.  ATS donated an ambulance to get him there and back home, since he needed to be transported to and from his home on a gurney.

"There's a lot of things that I can't do for my child as far as making his disease go away, but we were able to see this happen... I was so afraid that Ken would have regrets because of something I couldn't give him... He now has this memory and you can't take that away from someone," Sylvia says.

His sister, Michelle, says, "I see how happy something so simple makes him.  It just lights up his world."

Wednesday morning, the group got a giant theater auditorium all to themselves, but there's another person here with them in spirit.  Ken's younger brother, Phil, died from the very same ailments Ken has five years ago this week.  It just so happens that Wednesday would've been Phil's 28th birthday.

"We're going with Phil's blessings and help, so we'll all be together," Sylvia says, beaming.

Ken's diagnosis comes with a lot of uncertainties, but the Markley's know this for sure:

"We're going to live like it may be our last day with the hope that there's a whole future ahead, too," Sylvia says.

Ken adds, "You have to live each day.  You've just gotta go for it.  Don't lose hope, stay optimistic."

13 News spoke with Sylvia after the movie.  She says this was the best day of Ken's life and The Force Awakens is now his favorite Star Wars film.

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