Tuesday, February 25, 2014

".....The Rainbow I've Been Praying For "


To paraphrase Barney Fife, I'm gratefully humble and humbly grateful for the treatment I received in Philadelphia. From the reception/intake staff to the radiation technologists, the nurses, the nurse practitioner, the registered dietition, and doctors, everyone was welcoming, thoughtful, and skilled. Aside from occasional dehydration, I've had no uncomfortable side-effects from the 20 radiation segments. 

I'm back to more regular exercise and look forward to weightlifting at the Triangle Sportsplex, where I was placed in the Boys' Modified Limited Junior Dare-To-Dream Division. This is a special group for adult men who can't lift anything greater that 50 ibs. on their best day.

Man in my group

Susan mentioned the rainbow we saw at the Trenton airport. The posting's title is a lyric from Johnny Nash's great 1973 recording of "I Can See Clearly Now", one of the first successful reggae recordings in the U.S.

Photo of Johnny Nash by Chris Walter , reference; n17010a,www.photofeatures.com
The great Johnny Nash

I'd always wanted to be in a band that included this song in their playlist and with Red's Rhythm finally got the opportunity. On Saturday night we got to play this song and others at a benefit for a program based in Wake Forest called Mercy for America's Children (www.mac-cares.org). 

MAC was started by some friends of Stacey's who adopted two boys from foster care. Their mission is to educate and support the public on adoption issues so that children will have permanent homes. It was high on the best-ever gig list, as we played three hours without a break for an enthusiastic, energetic crown who loved to dance. 

Roger Jones, Frank Hunter, Wayne Watkins (drums), Stacey Curelop, Peter Kramer, Leon Patillo, and Jay Tun

On Saturday March 1, there are a bunch of cool events to attend. For readers who have never attended the Murphey School Radio Show, check out this great TV segment that was on WUNC-TV last week: 
http://video.unctv.org/video/2365182216/. I'll be a participant in the 3 PMshow but can't make the 7 PM production, as our band had committed early on to play at Durham's Blue Note Grill the same night. So if you can't make the Radio Show, Red's Rhythm would love to see you at the BNG starting at 8:30 PM. Finally, on Saturday morning, my civic club, the Schley Grange hosts a community breakfast, a fundraiser for our various programs--all the sausage, eggs, gravy, ham, etc., that you care to eat. Please call me if you have questions about any of these events.

Susan, Jessie/Matt, Amanda/Alejandro, and I continue to be overwhelmed by the kindness and thoughtfulness of friends and family.


Saturday, February 22, 2014

"And HOME sings me of sweet things..."


Those words are from a Karla Bonoff song.  You can hear Bonnie Raitt sing it here:
  HOME - Click the "listen while you read" link.     

And home sings me of sweet things
My life there has its own wings
Fly over the mountains
Though I am standing still.

So we got home safely, though a little late, last night (2-21).  We flew out of Trenton, NJ, which is its own adventure.  At one point Peter looked at me and said, "Let's not use this airport again."  But we later discovered that if we'd used a major airport we'd likely not be waking up in our own bed this morning, as the spate of storms created cancellations everywhere.  Our pilot told us that we were lucky to get home, but we were still grumpy about the airport and didn't quite believe him then.

Ah!  There is so much to tell!  I didn't write my snow saga, and guess it will have to wait.  It seemed odd to come home to a place with no snow, as there was plenty left when I took off on Wednesday, and of course Philadelphia was covered.  Here are a couple of street scenes:

Peter is feeling very good, and, really, couldn't have done better with this course of radiation, especially considering how weak he was (from the pneumonia) at the outset.  They have given him a lot of IV fluids, and he will be battling dehydration for a while - partly an outcome of the treatment and partly from his post-surgery anatomy.  As I write this he is off at the gym already, and is playing a gig tonight with his Red's Rhythm band.

Here are some scenes we encounter as we walk to the Pearlman Center and the Roberts Proton Therapy floor inside.

After his treatment on Friday he got to ring the bell!  
BELL (or go to http://youtu.be/CXlxehxCUDg if the link doesn't work).

Peter's cousin Lori Ginzberg came for the ringing.  She and her partner, Joel Steiker, have been Peter's caretakers along with Lori's sister Janet and Janet's partner, John Caskey.

Lori is away Monday-Thursdays teaching at Penn State, and during two of the four weeks that Peter was in their home, Joel and Lori were also looking after Janet and John's kids, Simon and Hannah.  Of the 10 school days during that period, Philadelphia schools were closed for 5 of them due to snow, so Joel had his hands full.  Still, he made meals for everyone and managed to get a few pounds on Peter during his 4 weeks there.
Joel Steiker and Lori Ginzberg
  I think Joel and Lori might be happy to get their house back!

After Thursday's treatment Peter took me to some of the places he'd enjoyed, and these photos are from our walk to the Redding Market - an amazing food emporium that Lori and Joel visit with friends every Saturday.  En route Peter enjoyed the Hard Rock Cafe guitar sign.
 Oh, I wish Blogger would let me make a tile out of these pictures.  Perhaps one of my techie daughters will help me later.

Finally, after treatment and the bell-ringing we rested a while back at Joel and Lori's, packed up our stuff (not much!), and pointed the rental car towards Trenton.  Storms had been raging all over the east coast.  I got one of those warning calls from Greg Fishel about conditions back home, and even Philly was under a rare tornado watch.  It was still raining when we left, but the skies brightened as we neared Trenton and then, behold:

A rainbow appeared!

We took that as a good sign, even though we did later grumble over the conditions at the tiny, disorganized airport.  But we made it home, safe and sound, and boy did the dogs whine when Peter came in!


Friday, February 14, 2014

"You'll Find This Dance Is Cool to Do/C'mon, Baby Gonna Teach It To You"


Anyone who has enjoyed or suffered my rants about 60's music knows that I relate strongly to song lyrics, factoids about the singer or songwriter, and other way-back information. In my perfect world, we'd all converse in early 60's song lyrics.

When I learned that I'd be spending a lot of time in Philadelphia, it was easy to recall my first associations with that city's music. The first records I bought and listened to around 1961 were on the Philly-based Cameo-Parkway label. Their artists were young performers and groups who specialized in dance songs: Chubby Checker (the Twist, the Fly, the Limbo), the Orlons (the Wahtusi), the Dovells (the Bristol Stomp, the Hully Gully), Bobby Rydell (the Cha Cha), and Dee Dee Sharp (the Mashed Potato, the Pony). I still have all the albums from 50+ years ago (!), including 6 Chubby Checker albums. The title of this posting is from Dee Dee Sharp's "Mashed Potato Time."
A couple of years ago Susan and I were eating lunch at Elmo's on 9th Street, I ordered my usual  meatloaf and mashed potatoes. The unsuspecting waitress asked innocently, "Would you like gravy with your mashed potatoes?" I answered excitedly, "Yes, because there was a record around 1962 called 'Give Me Gravy With My Mashed Potatoes.' The Gravy was a new dance and it was Dee Dee Sharp's follow-up to her earlier hit!" Susan started to roll her eyes and the poor server started to ease away from our table, likely wondering how much time she had left in her shift, whether she should call Security, or hang in there in the hopes of getting a big tip. She chose the last option, and every one was happy, I think.
In the 70's and 80's, I enjoyed other Philly groups like the O'Jays and Delphonics. But the authorities tell me that I've exceeded the limit on music trivia, so on to hospital matters.
I'm writing at the hospital, where I'm about to receive my 15th out of 20 radiation treatments. Any one who has been hospitalized for a while knows that there are occasional "indignities" that are part of the process. They may be absolutely necessary, e.g., getting constantly pricked for blood samples or IV hookups, but they feel intrusive after a while. I'm currently an outpatient, but the worst part of sessions is having to wear the gowns required for radiation. Before your name is called, you take off your clothes above the belt. Then you put on this long, cotton gown, with the open side to the back. Over that, you then put another gown with the open side in front. 
Because my Main Advisor for All Things In Life--Susan--isn't present to direct my arms, I struggle to find a way to tie loose ends. While walking back to the radiation room, I grab a handful of robe above and below the belt in a usually successful effort to prevent the whole mess from slipping off. My lurching past other patients bears a resemblance to a zombie in the movie "Night of the Living Dead." 
Don't forget the Murphey School Radio Show on Saturday, March 1 
(www.murpheyschoolradio.net) ! 

  A little (bald) boy, aged 4 or so, just rang the bell. Now he's posing for photos with his grandparents. Yay for him and his family and all the good folks who have treated him.

--Peter K

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Waiting To Ring The Bell


This morning I walked through 8 inches of snow to get to the U. of Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia, where I'm about to get my 14th out of 20 daily outpatient radiation sessions. If all goes according to plan, I'll head home, after the 20th, on Friday, 2/21. The docs say you can make up missed sessions, but that would delay a return to NC. I appreciated the staff who came to work under bad weather conditions so that patients like me could be seen.

When I started getting the treatments two weeks ago, I had to remove a necklace with a "charm" on it. The charm says "STAX" with the logo of a hand in the finger-snapping position. STAX was the Memphis record company and home of Booker T and the MG's, Isaac Hayes, Sam and Dave, Otis Redding, Johnny Taylor, the Staples Singers, Rufus and Carla Thomas, et. al. I attended the Durham Blues Festival about four years ago and was able to stand within 30 feet of Booker T and the MG's. Usually I'm not starstruck in the presence of famous people, but this time was different. Guitarist Steve Cropper was the co-writer of "Knock On Wood", "In The Midnight Hour", "Sitting On the Dock of the Bay", et. al., and the proximity to him was almost overwhelming. I look forward to putting the necklace back on for the indefinite future.

Another thing I look forward to is ringing the bell in the large waiting room of the radiology clinic. It's a custom here for a patient to ring the ship's bell loudly upon finishing the last scheduled session. Everyone applauds loudly, happy for and envious of the ringer. I've seen this done at UNC-Hospital, where a large gong is rung.
For people new to the blog....the reason I'm here is that my cancer was re-detected 4 months ago. Duke, where I'd been treated for the past two years, was unable to offer me much besides chemotherapy. Proton beam radiation, a specialized approach, is available at only ten sites or so around the country, and the hospital here is close to several family mermbers where I'm staying.
This space provides a good opportunity to publicly thank a lot of people. Susan continues to be there for me in all her roles: organizer of my medicine supply; reminder-er that I need to drink a lot of water; communicator with hospital persoonel; sender of warm clothes (I would never buy or wear fleece-lined pants on my own); keeper of our farm. Re: the latter, yesterday Susan, who is alone at the farm, put the blade on the tractor, fed 7 dogs and cats, tried in vain to to get Cledus the Mule out of the snow and into a shed, brought loads of firewood into the house, etc. Many friends are standing by to help, especially if there's a bad ice storm.
Art Axelbank, M.D., my family doctor in Hillsborough, has been a superb diagnostician and caregiver. Two years ago he referred me to specialists who confirmed his suspicion of cancer and recently he made the right call about pneumonia. He demonstrates the  best qualities you'd want in a doctor--a smart, caring, kind doc. I'll mention other folks in subsequent messages.

Don't forget to attend the Murphey School Radio Show on Saturday, March 1. The seventh in a series of shows over the past three years,it's a comedy/musical/theatrical production in the format of a live radio show. Along with core cast members--singers Jennifer Evans and Stella, musicians Robert Griffith, Rick Keena, Lesley Land (and me), and various actors, the event will have initial appearances by a bunch of talented writers and musicians. 

Beneficiaries of the occasion are Meals On Wheels (Durham) and Farmers Foodshare. Go to www.murpheyschoolradio.net for ticket information. Every show, in the beautifully-restored auditorium has ended with a long standing ovation by the audience.
Love and clear blue skies to all----Peter K

Friday, February 7, 2014

So far so good


Peter's journey has been interesting because after two weeks of treatment (halfway there!) he feels better than he did when he started, and that's not the trajectory that radiation usually takes.  The reason, of course, is that he started treatment just on the heels of having been hospitalized with pneumonia.  So the pneumonia has resolved and the radiation sickness hasn't kicked in.  Here's hoping it just won't.

High on the list of what is helping Peter feel good is the exquisite care he is getting from cousins Lori and Joel.  Lori teaches M-Th at Penn State, so a lot of the weekly care has fallen to Joel who is such a good cook that I wonder if Peter will really want to come home.  Joel has anticipated many of Peter's needs, and has become a good friend as well as cousin-in-law.  Joel and Lori have done double-duty since they also looked after their niece and nephew in their home across-town while Lori's sister Janet and her husband John were away.  Peter has enjoyed getting to know Hannah and Simon better, and we anticipate a summer visit to the farm from Hannah, and maybe we can entice Simon, too.

I think all the walking is doing Peter some good as well.  Most days he walks at least one way (one mile) to the hospital for his noon-time treatment.  He talked of being tired and cold some days, but wouldn't take the trolley.  I knew why...he was afraid to navigate the logistics of getting a ticket, getting on, and getting off (hopefully at the right place).  Finally the weather drove him to ride the rails.  That night I got this message:

I took the trolley both ways today. Am writing from Des Moines--PK

See?  He can still make me laugh after all these years.

My home-organizing efforts have been modest at best, and most can't be seen from a walk-through.  You have to open drawers or cabinets.  But if you do, you might find something like this:
Displaying 20140203_165416.jpg

After the successful trolley-ride Peter bought himself a train ticket to visit his mom in NY this weekend, and I am gearing up to go to Philly in about a week.  I've tried to use this time to catch up on repairs and other things here, but the extreme cold that first week took a lot of time just to manage. So far this time has been a good transition from the working-outside-the-home life.

To follow up on the last post, my sister stayed in the hospital far longer than she or anyone else expected.  She got an infection from a cat bite to her wrist that went into the facia and threatened to get into the bone, which could be deadly.  She is home and infection-free now, but tired and weak.  Here's a picture Taz ("that cat").  Once, while visiting them, Taz tried to keep me from leaving my room at night when I needed to visit the loo.  Sweet ferocity.


My friend Solita is doing incredible well considering the severity of the wreck and her injuries.  She is awake, talking some, and by now should be out of the ICU and starting physical therapy.  She will have a long recovery, no doubt, but so many things went right for her.  She is fortunate to have wonderful family members in town and her mother is down from CT. 

That's about it for now.  I am bracing for more "wintery mix," but so far it doesn't look too bad.  The Hotwheels Handspinners are meeting here on Sunday for a fiber swap, so if you knit or crochet or spin, come join us!  Email me for details.  Thanks again to everyone who has checked in on us or helped out in one way or another.