Ok I’m new with this blogging stuff — never done it before. And I don’t really understand all there is to know about this blog post but what the hell, I’ll just start writing. I need a place to help me process what’s going on but also to report on it to my family and friends or really anyone that’s interested. Sending emails with inconsistent distribution lists just isn’t cutting it anymore so I want to write here and then let anyone who wants to read about it come here. Anyone that has my email can write me back. But I’d rather you not post anything here — I don’t even know if this site would let you do that. Enough in the way of introduction.
I have been diagnosed with Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma. I found out that I had this 2 days before Thanksgiving 2020. And after some more tests I found out I was stage 4 in mid December. I won’t go into all the details of the test and stuff. I am going to the Winship Cancer Center at Emory in Atlanta. I had my first chemo on Decmber 29 and 30 — it took 2 days. And I’m doing OK. No big side effects. Knock on wood. I will get chemo every three weeks for 6 cycles. The cancer is moving like wildfire. This is a very fast and aggressive cancer. It started with a rash on my leg in late September that didn’t look very bad. It didn’t go away so I went to the dermatologist and they did a biopsy that came back positive for lymphocytes but negative for malignacy. But they wanted me to see a lymphoma dermatologist and have her take a look. Dr. Tarabadkar at Emory has been a God send. She did a deep biopsy on the gnarliest sore on my leg and I got the biopsy confirmation of cancer right before Thanksgiving. During this time I also developed sores in my mouth so I went to the dentist and he took a look and sent me to an oral pathologist. A very rare specialty as I have come to find out. There’s only one in Atlanta according to the dental and oral surgery community. I got in to see her and she did a biopsy on my gums and I got the confirmation a few days after Thanksgiving that it was the same cancer. I was referred to an oncologist is the Hematology department at the Winship Cancer center. The did a PET CT in early December, and the PET scan showed it had already spread to my bones — my spine, my femur and my hip — the one that hadn’t been replaced.
I met with Dr. Allen on December 11 and found out I was stage 4. And so my journey began. I was in shock and panic. I woke up in the middle of the night with panic attacks — something I had not had before. I felt like I was suffocating. I called on a long lost just plain old Joe from my time at the Shambhala Meditation center in the middle of the night. Bob just kept saying back to me “relax and just breathe…it’s all right.” Bob passed away about 6 years ago but he is helping me so much right now. So are others who have passed on but we’ll get to them eventually I guess.
I have calmed down and started to deal with the situation rather than reacting to it. My priorities have shifted completely. I was a news junkie. What the fuck would Trump do next? I had to know. I watched TV and played fantasy football. Even won a few hundred dollars at it this year. It all seems so absolutely insignificant right now. I realized that I have just been passing time with my life and now that I am staring at mortality, I don’t want to just pass time anymore. I’ve gone back to some of my spiritual practices — getting back to Translation, which I learned at age 23 in The Prosperos school. I’ve used this tool off and on all my life and it is the very best tool for working through issues from your sense that exists in the world as I know it. It is so far beyond visualization or affirmation or even traditonal prayer to a higher power. Not knocking any of that — whatever gets you through the night as John Lennon says. I have so many people praying for me and I am so grateful. My most coolest of cool cousins Joe in Chicago goes for a run every day and stops at the church and drops in in the middle of his run and lights a candle for me. Just how magnificent is that. Anyway I started showing up at ZOOM meetings at The Prospers again after many years. And getting back to the work — on self, for other, for the world. The 4th way. Also getting back to the mindfulness meditation I learned at Shambhala. That has such a calming in just being present. And breathing.
And music. Music is all I have been doing for the last few days. I loaded all my hundreds of CD’s into the cloud. It’s a pretty eclectic collection from hard rock to folks to classical to choral singing to jazz and blues. I gotta a lot of stuff. I found a set of 7 CD’s my youngest brother Jack (who has been my absolute ROCK through all of this) made about 11 years when my parents died. And absolute timeless masterpiece of playlist about our large family. I am the oldest of 12 — Jack is the youngest. The Playlist folders are HER, HIM, US, HOME, THEM, OTHERS and SPIRIT. I’ve been texting with one of nieces Allison and my nephew David about how I can post this playlist of Spotify and have folks add to it. I’ve been having a blast as I add new songs and new folders to it as I rediscover my music. I have been a singer for most of my life. It started with the boys choir at St. Gregory’s in LA with Bishop Manning as our pastor. He later was Cardinal of LA. My singing picked up again when I lived in San Francisco where I took a few voice lessons and sang at a wedding of a friend. When I move to Anchorage to work on the pipeline is where I discovered my true love with singing. And that is choral singing where you work to achieve the blend of voices. It means listening as much as anything else. It’s about dynamics and communication. So I sang with the Anchorage Community chorus (even did a Verdi Requiem with them — big piece of music) and then Anchorage Civic opera where I was in the chorus for a La Traviata and and Lucia. Both amazing experiences. I have photos of my Lucia costumes. So much fun. Couldn’t take the darkness in Alaska winters so I moved back to California in 79 and after a lost year in LA, I moved back to San Francisco and sang with a Gilbert and Sullivan group there — HMS Pinafore. I have a DVD of that one. But the real love of choral music was developed in Atlanta. I had to stop singing when I fist moved here because I came to take an outside sales job and I was on the road ALL THE TIME. Could not commit to rehearsals. But after 20 years of that career, I got into one concert with a small renaissance a capella group Schola Cantorum. I just found the CD of the one and olny concert I sang with them. Just soaring voices. Hard to think that only about 20 voices could produce that sound and even to to think that I was one of them. So cool. I didn’t make the audition for the next concert after a year in San Diego helping my parents move. But I did get on with a much larger — 5o to 70 depending on the year — Collegium Vocale based at Emory. It was originally the Emory faculty glee club some 60 years ago or so. It is not an “official” part of Emory but they let us use rehearsal space and our concerts are at Glenn Memorial. I’ve been singing off and on but mostly on for the last 20 years. And found some of my very best friends there. So rediscovering music during this time has become an obsession. I even pulled out the guitar after some 10 years of not touching it. I was never very good — my thing was singing and I just needed the guitar for accompanyment. But as my life just moved on aimlessly, I let the guitar lapse. I used to mostly play Dylan songs. I could rock Mr. Tambourine man and almost rock Memphis Blues Again. Did OK with “When the Ship Comes In” which I’m practicing again. It’s an early early Dylan protest song that is sooooo timely in the age of Trump. BUt the song that made me pick up the guitar came from my Sister in law, Carrie. She is Jack’s wife in Chicago and has come through a very tough cancer treatment in drug trials. It was more serious than I realize but she made it. She is the CEO of a hospital for mentally ill patients in Chicago and an amazing person and mother and wife. She is someone who knows how to write from heart. She send me a video of 3 guys sitting in church singing LET IT BE. I had started to learn that one so I could sing it at my mother’s memorial service but never got that together. I delivered the eulogy for my mom instead. And it was an amazing service. I could post that eulogy someplace here if I wanted I guess.
So it’s back to music and good bye to TV. The TV addiction is strong. I have to make myself resist turning it on. My sense testimony for my next Translation is NEWS IS TOXIC. Think I’ll just go do that now and pick this up later. I know I’m all over the place but this is so therapeutic for me.