Sunday, January 20, 2013

20 Years Ago • A Look At My 1993

HRSChemo_picture585_zps6a8efeb5-1_zpsaf4cf41c photo HRSChemo_picture585_zps6a8efeb5-1_zpsaf4cf41c-1_zps8807b3e8.jpg
Photo of me from 1993.

Perhaps it was the holidays, with time to reflect, that it occurred to me that I am coming up on an anniversary of sorts. It is one I no longer mark by days, weeks or even months. I mark it in years, and for that I am happier than I can express. Truthfully, when I think of it, it feels like it was such a very long time ago. And in many ways, it was. At the time, I was really becoming disenchanted by the music playing on Top 40 radio, a feeling that still continues today. So if I go back and look at the Billboard Pop charts at the time, it would most certainly not reflect what I was listening to on my Walkman. Some of the songs might have made it to radio, but seldom too high on the charts. While Sting might have had a string of hits, I wouldn't think one of my favorites would be considered so. Even if it was, I'd be happy. So I was quite likely to be listening to Sting sing "Fields of Gold", off the album 'Ten Summoner's Tales'.

Well, back to my own tale. In the fall of 1992, I had moved back to Delaware from New York City, having packed up my apartment in Park Slope, Brooklyn, after a 10 year run. About a month or so after getting home, I started not feeling well. I went to see the doctor, who scheduled a series of test, along with prescribing some medication to give me more comfort. Just when I thought I had about every test imaginable for my gastrointestinal system for what felt like a constant rolling in my stomach. The doctor scheduled another for the new year. So between Christmas and New Years, I started my prep, which included going off the medication I was on. I had no idea what was about to happen. You can be pretty sure the Scottish twins Charlie and Craig Reid, better known as the Proclaimers, who made some amazing music on the 1988 album 'Sunshine On Leith'. I would listen to it often. While there was quite the buzz about them, although it wasn't until a song off that album appeared in the 1993 movie 'Benny & Joon' did they really have commercial success. Enjoy Proclaimers as they sing "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)", a song I am sure most will remember.

So as I went off my medication in late December of 1992, I started to feel discomfort, and more. This was much worse than I felt before, and I wasn't sure why. I quickly deteriorated, and I found myself unable to sleep, and by morning, I was in the bathroom, vomiting. I started getting scared, for there was some blood visible. It was not long before my family woke up, and I was taken to the emergency room. I had no idea what was wrong, but I knew nothing was right, either. I spent hours in the emergency room, curled up on a hospital bed surrounded by a curtain. It was freeing cold, and I just wanted it all to stop.

Finally, after was felt like forever, I was checked in and taken to a room. They wanted things to get a bit under control, and then schedule surgery, for exploratory than defined. Soon New Years Eve passed, and I was still in the hospital unsure of what my body was doing. A doctor told me he suspected Crohn's Disease, but would know better after surgery. A nurse was kind enough to give me some information to read about Crohn's, which sounded a lot like what I had. After a few more days, I went into surgery, a bit frightened but hopeful.

I was already a big fan of the British Pop/Soul group Go West. Peter Cox and Richard Drummie released a great album in 1992, 'Indian Summer'. I had been a fan since 1985, when I first heard their first Pop hit, "Call Me". In late 1992 to early 1993, you could hear their single "What You Won't Do For Love", a song by Bobby Caldwell and Alfons Kettner, released by Caldwell in 1978. I loved the sound, but it didn't really make a significant impact on the charts, topping out at #55 on the Billboard Hot 100. But another song went really huge, when "King of Wishful Thinking" ran the charts as part of the 'Pretty Woman' Soundtrack. But I was playing the blue-eyed soul of "What You Won't Do For Love".

Back in the hospital, I was recovering from the surgery when I heard from the surgeon. It wasn't Crohn's Disease, I discovered. It was cancer. Apparently, I had a tumor the size of a grapefruit that was removed, as well as about 18 inches of intestine. I was a bit in shock, not expecting the news at all. Despite the advancement in medicine, I has to admit being scared hearing the world 'cancer'. In some part of my mind, I heard 'death' instead. I gave myself a little bit of time with that, and then made the decision I couldn't let that take up space in my thoughts. I needed to move forward, and adopt a brighter attitude, to stay positive. I couldn't allow myself time away from the light to let doubt and fear shade the playing field. I vowed to stay positive, no matter what. That was no mean feat, to say the least.

It didn't get any easier when I was finally released from the hospital a couple of weeks later, already set up with an appointment for an oncologist. After meeting with the doctor, it was decided I would undergo a new form of chemotherapy, where I would go to the doctor once a week and get injections in 50 of the next 52 weeks. The dosage would be less than a traditional 'course' of chemo, but with that schedule, it was intense enough for me. I as being given a drug known as 5FU, or Fluorouracil. Trust me, after the first few weeks, the drug with an 'eff-you' in the name was not lost on me. I was also taking a weekly does of Levamisole, which I later learned was originally used as a sheep wormer. I know, this stuff just got more and more weird, right? And I was getting weekly blood tests, as well as the chemo injections. This lead to feeling more and more like a pin-cushion with each passing week. Soon I was getting injections on the top of my hand, for it was easier to find the blood vessels.

I have to admit, I was feeling pretty poorly over that year, so my music was an important escape for me. I could put on my headphones, hit play on the Sony Walkman, and get out of the life controlled by disease, doctors, and medicine, and revel in being alive and able to listen to some great music. In 1992, The Cure released a great album, 'Wish'. They had a hit with the sings "Friday I'm In Love", a wonderfully bouncy and happy song. You better believe that was playing on Walkman, usually at a loud volume. I decided this should be part of this post, and so enjoy this version of "Friday I'm In Love (Acoustic)", release a couple of years later.

So I spent much of 1993, and the early part of 1994 sick from the chemotherapy, It changed everything in my life, from giving everything an odd metallic taste, to my sense of smell, which made me nauseous from odd things, like the smell from a dishwasher. I felt like I wasn't eating well, always feeling sick. The oncologist wanted to weigh me every week, to make sure the chemo wasn't exacting too high a toll on me. But somehow, I not only managed to maintain my weight, but I gained over 70 pounds during the year. Also, while I was going through the chemotherapy, the Delaware State News asked if I would be interviewed for an article on chemo. I agreed. Here is a picture while I was getting chemotherapy.

photo from Delaware State News photo HRSChemo_picture585_zps6a8efeb5.jpg

Well, needless to say, I survived it all. It was 20 years ago that I had surgery, and 19 years since I completed chemotherapy. I remember when it was just one month, six months, or the first anniversary. I also remember when I past a big landmark, five years. I was told that was a big one, if you can go longer than five years without a recurrence, you are in good shape. I remember fighting with the insurance company, who seemed to adhere to a policy of saying no to paying everything, until I would fight back, making a rough time that much more stressful. I remember how it was another 12 to 18 months to feel like myself again, no longer feeling the effects of the drugs. And how, even to this day, I shy away from taking anything, even aspirin, unless needed. But more than anything else, I can tell you I am damn glad to still be here, still listening to music, and loving every note of it.


  1. Thanks for sharing such a personal story, Howard. I'm damn glad you're still here as well - and still listening to groovy music!

    1. You are welcome. And thanks for stopping by, so glad to share with you.



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