Thursday, January 15, 2015

22 Years Ago • Music of My 1993

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

Every year about this time, I always find myself revisiting a time that was not a highpoint in my life. It has been 22 years since I was in the hospital. While just typing that in makes it seem like a very long time ago, I must admit, I still remember it like it was yesterday. It was January of 1993, a time of change for me. I was in my thirties, and had become disenchanted with much of the music playing on the radio. I was listening less to radio, and more to my own music collection, which was rich in the music of the 1970s and 1980s, and music I picked up along the way. Much of it was music that didn't really make it to the top of the charts, but did make it high enough I heard it and fell in love. While I've posted about this before, I thought I'd revisit it, only using different music to punctuate the soundtrack to my days.

 photo UB40_2_zps11af3f8f.jpg  photo janet-jackson-2_zps59332995.jpg
 photo Gin_Blossoms_2_zps74d325ec.jpg  photo SoulAsylum-1_zps5814989d.jpg
Clockwise: UB40, Janet Jackson, Soul Asylum, and Gin Blossoms.

When I think of UB40, the British reggae band best known for their cover of "Red Red Wine", they pretty much fell into this category. They weren't controlling the charts, but they were making Pop music more interesting than it was. I was listening to their cover of "Can't Help Falling in Love with You", off the album 'Promises and Lies'. This was a remake of the song written by Hugo Peretti, Luigi Creatore, and George David Weiss, and made famous by Elvis Presley in 1961. But they did, in fact, top the Billboard Hot 100 with their version of "Can't Help Falling in Love with You".



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 in the big city. About a month or so after getting home, I started feeling unwell, like a constant rolling in my stomach. I went to see the doctor, who scheduled a series of test, along with prescribing some medication to give me some comfort. Just when I thought I had about every test imaginable for my gastrointestinal system, the doctor scheduled another for the new year. However, between Christmas and New Years, I started my prep, which included going off the medication I was on. I was not prepared for what was about to happen.

But let I shall talk about a bit more music. I first became a fan of Janet, or Miss Jackson if you're nasty, in 1986 with the release of her album 'Control'. I was among those who could not wait to purchase her amazing next album, 'Rhythm Nation 1814'. I continued to enjoy her music in the coming years, into the 1990s. I loved the sexy and sweet song she released in 1993, and listened to it more than I might normally care to admit. This is Janet Jackson with her music video for "That's The Way Love Goes".



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, more 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 must admit, before the next song came out, I didn't really know much about the group Soul Asylum. But with the release of this single, I was intrigued, like many other people out there. "Runaway Train" was a single off their 1992 album, 'Grave Dancers Union'. In fact, the success of the single helped propel the album to double Platinum status. The song was so touching, and the music video helped bring attention to the fact there were children in need in the country. This is the music video for Soul Asylum's "Runaway Train".



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 or my Sony Discman (I did have both, but I'll be damned if I can tell you what happened to either), 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 the summer of 1993, Gin Blossoms released a great major label debut, 'New Miserable Experience', and I was all over it. They had a hit with the second single "Hey Jealousy", a frantic yet introspective song. You better believe that was playing often, usually at a loud volume. In truth, I'd play the whole CD, for I couldn't get enough of it. This is the original music video for "Hey Jealousy".



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 22 years ago that I had surgery, and 19 years since I completed chemotherapy. I remember when it was just one month, six months, and then 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, I would be 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 chemotherapy. 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.

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