On October 27, 2010, I found out I had aggressive cancer. In an instant, everything in my happy-music universe imploded. It was like Jaws was savagely eating me from the inside out. My biopsy showed that I had to make some important decisions... fast. After consulting with numerous doctors, I decided to have radical surgery to try and remove the cancer in its entirety. I told only a handful of people because I didn't want to worry anyone, especially, my family around the holidays. I did everything as usual - as best I could - until one day I couldn't. My hand had sudden muscle loss and a number of stressful events followed. I've just returned home from the hospital and want to explain my recent disappearance to everybody and share my appreciation of life, music and people.
Before my surgery I prepared for a number of possible outcomes, the most terrifying period of my life. Death was looming just around the corner but I acted upbeat for my sake as well as folks around me. Daily four-mile walks were a major preparation for the upcoming operation and lengthy therapy that would follow.
When walking, the only music I listen to is the music I sing to myself - or what happens naturally around me. My first morning walk was extremely eerie on Planet C (a term for cancer coined by a doctor friend).
It was foggy - just before dawn. The song that popped into my head was “Let’s Dance”, and I started walking. At 1.3 miles I reached my local diner. I went in for a cup of coffee.
“We Are Family" was playing and the whole staff was singing along. I said, “Wow, that’s my song!” And they looked at me like I was nuts. I’ve known everyone in this eatery for about twenty years - but none of them knew I co-wrote it. My eyes welled up with tears. Crazy. I know that people generally don't know what songs composers write - but this was "We Are Family", written by Bernard Edwards & Nile Rodgers, both residents of this town. For some reason, I felt really hurt. Tears were now flowing...
Cancer is horrifying. It makes you think a lot. My ex-partner passed away and most people don’t realize many songs they sing along with every day he did. Maybe, I was just afraid of dying and feeling sorry for myself - cancer also makes you do that. But my sadness was real. Cancer is a humiliating disease and I wanted to feel dignified about something. I wiped the tears from my eyes and told the diner's staff that I wrote the song they were singing. I finished my coffee, smiled, hugged everybody and waved goodbye.
My morning walks now have a dual-purpose. Do everything in my power to heal and try to put cancer behind me - and share the "Good Times" and happy memories of a lost songwriting partner to anyone who’ll listen. We did fun music meant to lift the spirit - and I'm proud of it.
After I left the diner I sang "We Are Family" to myself, three times - in its entirety... all the way back home.