My Day At Chemo ~ The Ballad Of Ol’ Doc Zeger

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Today was my chemo day up at Lankenau. This is every other Wednesday for now. It is actually my version of going to work for the day, seeing great “co-workers”, planning things out, working in tandem with a “crew” to achieve goals, and waiting for lunch time.

It was a good day, and as usual, it included an appointment with my personal god, my rock star, my hero, Dr. Zeger. We had to see what new ailments I had and other than a stuffy head and wanting to know what was for lunch, there was nothing to worry about.

We talked about the National Cancer Survivors Day party that was such a blast last Thursday at Lankenau Hospital. I mentioned that I requested AND WE DANCED by The Hooters from the DJ and yes, people danced and I kind of danced. We discussed how much ice cream we both overate at the party. I had put on four pounds and he joked that the raffle I won, a basket full of exercise equipment, was probably a sign about all that ice cream. We discussed his amateur soccer team and how he looks so young and yet was called “old man” by an opposing player. So I now call him “Ol’ Doc Zeger”.

While I was waiting to see him (he was delayed because he had to handle some details for a sick patient), I saw about six of the nurses go over to a woman in a chair, blow a few noisemakers, and then sing the most wonderful congratulatory song to her because she was getting her final chemo treatment and was now considered “cancer free”.

The song was wonderfully silly and fun and if I had to give it a name, it would be “Cancer is in the Rear View Mirror”. I heard her cry tears of joy and gratitude and it was wonderful to hear and witness. As of now, she has some peace of mind, a precious thing indeed.

019f804a43d1bf94c73edbc4c437929acce768cbe0 As I sat in the recliner getting my IV of Avastin, I put on my headphones and started shuffle play on my iPhone. The first song out of the gate was WAIT IN THE RAIN by Graham Alexander, one of the best new CD’s this year. Great way to start a KhemoKaraoke.

Halfway through the treatment, though, I got a little melancholy. I feel a bit bad that I did, but I think it is only natural. I thought back to the happiness of that song, that woman, all the nurses and the wonderful moment I got to witness. However, I started drifting into wish territory. I started wondering when I would get to hear that song with my name in the lyrics, get to hear those silly lyrics, and get to feel that emotion.

Don’t get me wrong. Despite the cancer, I am still trying to live my life as positive as possible, enjoying family and friends old and new, being as productive as possible, having great times, and hearing spectacular music. Energy and funds may not always allow it but this weekend includes a show with my favorite comedian Craig Shoemaker on Friday, a Retro Roadmap meetup at a classic 5 & 10 in Quakertown Saturday morning, and The Hooters concert Saturday night. Plus just hanging with my family the rest of the weekend. I am seriously enjoying life more than I thought I would after the diagnosis. All of you inspire, expect, deserve nothing less in me.

But still, I dreamt of the time that I hear that tune. I dreamt of the doctors and nurses singing it to me. I dreamt of my family being there and singing along both badly and proudly, I dreamt of my friends making up more silly words, and I dreamt of a supergroup of all my favorite Philly rockers playing it like the greatest rock masterpiece ever. And yes, I dreamt of achieving something that I thought I just can’t have right now, peace of mind.

Then, as I finished my chemo, I saw the other patients, the wonderful doctors and nurses, as well as staff, all making the best of the day, making sure the smiles kept coming, and I realized that my peace of mind is not so impossible, not so far away, not with so many great people around me.

018405ca4a5ac75079eb4de789b08bd3241341af2b I may not yet be hearing that tune, though it was appropriate that the final song that played on shuffle was Louis Armstrong’s version of WHEN YOU WISH UPON A STAR.

Damn straight, Satchmo, you and Graham and everyone else help to convince me my dreams will come true every day because of the people I am lucky to “work” with every day. That was some damn fine peace of mind magic.

Now I wish I had two more bowls of ice cream.

John Lennon: I heard the news that day, oh boy.

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I heard the news that day, oh, boy. On the night of December 8th, 1980, I was driving along Haverford Ave and was stopped at a red light at College Ave, near Haverford College. I was heading home to Overbrook from my shift at the Wayne Acme Market. I was listening to Famous56 WFIL radio.

I heard the news that day, oh boy. As I sat at that light, the news came over that John Lennon had been shot. Details were still extremely sketchy, shock was evident in the voice of the DJ and I sat through a red light trying to take in what I heard. I switched to the FM dial on my radio and tuned in the audio for WPVI TV6, since that frequency could be picked up at 87.7. They were running Monday Night Football so I twisted the dial to try to find more details.

I heard the news that day, oh boy. I drove home as fast as I could and turned on the TV, By now, it was known that John Lennon was dead, killed by a man who just hours earlier was shown kindness by John in his signing an album cover for him, one Mark David Chapman. Howard Cosell informed all of us during the football game, a game that no longer meant a damn thing. For the next few days, I kept feeding VHS tapes into my VCR to capture that moment for the future but also to be some part of the worldwide mourning.

I heard the news that day, oh boy. The news was unreal because it was not only the loss of a life, but also a loss of a major part of our own lives, of my life. John had been absent from the public scene for 5 years, choosing to be a house husband and to raise Sean. However, in 1980, John was ready to create again and released DOUBLE FANTASY which sadly became the tale of where he was at that time and the hope that was now dashed. Each song had a positive spirt, rooted in his domestic life, celebrating his young son with the gorgeous lullaby to Sean, BEAUTIFUL BOY, and a rocking ode to kickstarting both his private family life and his public career.

I heard the news the coming days, oh boy. Over the next few days, and this was well before social media to trigger any response, the world mourned. Spontaneous human gathering formed in every major city. In Philadelphia, fans flocked to the steps of the Art Museum to mourn his death but more importantly, to celebrate a life that had been a huge part of our own consciousness. The voice raised and singing “All we are saying, is give peace a chance” was haunting, sad, and inspiring. Bruce Springsteen played the Spectrum the next night and opened with a tribute to John.

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I heard the news those days, oh boy, DOUBLE FANTASY sales would go through the roof as people needed something, anything, as a final goodbye to John. And given the subject matter of John’s songs on that album, despite the horrendous murder, that goodbye was tempered by the fact that at that point in time, John may have been the happiest he had been in years.

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I heard the news that day, oh boy. The world would mourn, the surviving Beatles would find their own ways to pay tribute, and John would never really be gone. But for that one moment, it felt like we could never again imagine a world without John. 34 years later, John is always just a #9 Dream away.

59th Birthday Bridge Song: Hello Lamppost

FORWARD

Always start with a joke…

“How about those 2014 Grammy nominations?”

OK, then do a little song…

Now you have your blog audience in the palm of your hands. You can start now (and drop the 3rd person style, it’s a cliché.)

45845_1568489220291_1769207_nnToday, December 6th, is my 59th birthday. That’s not a normal milestone birthday but for me, this year, it is. I’ll try not to get too heavy here but this year was a heavy year, as many of you know.

This 59th is a “lamppost” birthday, a day to take a break, lean back, reflect, but then get my ass moving forward. That forward will partially explain the reason for that fine graphic at the top of this post.

Lampposts illuminate the darkness as well as steady on the journey. Lampposts may hold signs pointing out the direction to go, waybills telling you to look and see what is happening around you, or old Grateful Dead bear stickers that will never come off.

(Before I continue, if you have the time and the inclination, this link will take you to a list of posts that I’ve written about my life and my journey over the last few years. I think these will amuse and amaze you, and even if they don’t you can laugh at the picture of me. )

ABOUT ME

When I was diagnosed with Stage IV Renal Cell Carcinoma back in March, 13 months after having my right kidney removed to hopefully stop the cancer in its tracks, I simply lost it. The cancer had spread to my liver, but was still kidney cancer since all the genetic markers were from my kidney. Add this to my interstitial lung disease and this is complicated. It figures that I don’t smoke, so I get a lung disease and I don’t drink, so my liver goes screwy.

After a year where I felt that maybe, happily, finally, something was going to go right for me medically, this just threw me up in the air and I landed with a month long thud.

I made the mistake of using the internet to research it without acknowledging that I NEVER WENT TO MEDICAL SCHOOL AND AM NOT A DAMN DOCTOR. I just played one on the internet. I panicked myself a lot, and maybe it was justified. I read the life expectancy averages, I read the side effects that chemo can have, I read the possible out of pocket costs that might come with this. Every little ache, pain, and blemish sent me into Fred Sanford mode (I’m coming, Elizabeth!).

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01c4736ba2d2a1e26159bb30bae69d804d51784113I worried about how to plan for the costs should I not survive. I worried about how my family would replace my support and income. I worried deeply about breaking my promise to my mom and dad to always be there for my brother Tommy. I worried about my beloved buddy, Swiper Doxy, and pictured him sitting sadly outside of my old bedroom door wondering where I’ve gotten to. I worried about promises to friends that I desperately wanted to keep as well as losing those friends, many of them new to me and many who have been there all along.

Then the best thing that can happen at the time happened. I started chemo. While chemo is scary and I hate being a pin cushion every Wednesday, it started to give me hope, it allowed me to plan, and it stopped me from self-diagnosis. I was no longer sitting around worrying, I was doing something about it.

Continue reading

A Wayback For My Brother Tommy’s 44th Birthday.

This was originally written in 1999. It was written shortly after he was diagnosed with kidney failure and spent over four years on dialysis. He had a successsful kidney transplant in 2004. When this was written, he had not yet started his decade long love affair with Kelly Ripa. At this time, he actually had a crush on Kitty Carlisle, of all people.

I sat with my brother Tommy and asked him what he would like to help me write about.

This was his blog post. I wrote it and he served as my verbal editor. We wrote this on GEOCITIES (remember that?) but the original page is long gone.

The only change is to remove any dead links.

Happy 44th Birthday, Tommy.

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(These are some of the friends that Tommy made at the concerts.)


There is more to read. Just click here.