Wednesday, December 16, 2009

So this is Christmas
And what have you done?
Another year over.
A new one just begun

I am a John Lennon fan.
One of the happiest memories of my life is dancing with my wife at our wedding to John Lennon’s Love

Love is living
Living love
Love is needing
To be loved

And one of the saddest was the news of his assassination the night before my 17th birthday.

John Lennon’s music has been important to me all through my life.

And then there’s Happy Xmas (War Is Over!)
For my entire life this song has been a tremendous weight on me every Christmas.
It hangs out there as a challenge. Another year gone by. Time wasted. Life wasted.
Every year Happy Xmas (War Is Over!) makes me feel... guilty.

So this is Christmas
And what have you done?

Well this year I finally figured out an answer for him.
This year, with the help of some really great Doctors, the care of the world’s greatest Nurses, the support of my amazing Friends, and the love of my wonderful Family

How's that, John?
Good enough?

Goddamned right.

Happy Christmas

War Is Over.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

What A Difference A Year Makes.

You know it if you have kids, or have ever closely watched kids grow, a year can make a big difference. Last year Katie couldn’t read. This year she reads - everything. Last year Coop looked up to Bonnie. Now he’s taller than she is. Fortunately, he still respects her. We’ll see if that still stands next year when he officially becomes a teenager.

A year ago this week I had barely enough red blood cells to get oxygen through my body. I had barely enough red blood cells to make my blood red. A year ago, I didn’t have enough platelets to keep a simple touch from bruising or to stop my nose from spontaneously bleeding. My blood ran like water. It was more like red Hawaiian Punch than red paint.

A year ago there was a leaky faucet in my brain drip, drip, dripping blood inside my skull. A year ago, I spent my birthday and Christmas in the hospital and New Year’s Eve in the ICU.

A year ago I thought Nursing was a smart career choice. Today, I know a good Nurse is the difference between Life and Death in the hospital. My Life. My Death. If there are angels walking the earth, they work as Nurses.

A year ago I thought that Doctors were overpaid prima donnas who should spend more time with their patients. Today I know they are worth every penny…

A year ago I thought Healthcare Reform was a good idea. Today, I know without a doubt that Healthcare Reform is an absolute necessity. Not just for me and my pre-existing condition, but for our country’s economic and social growth.

I know that the foundation of our democracy, the Declaration of Independence, cites “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” as unalienable rights – rights that cannot be taken away. I know that there is no Life without available healthcare. There is no Liberty when you are chained to a job for fear of losing your health insurance. And there is no Pursuit of Happiness when you live in fear.

The pursuit of profit from preying on the weak and fearful is never mentioned in the Declaration or the Constitution. I think it would be hard to pass any legislation guaranteeing that right. But some people seem to think that is the first and foremost purpose of our democracy: the pursuit of profit at any cost to our fellow Americans. Some people seem to think that successful capitalism requires a steady flow of poor, weak and fearful people. I think that’s lazy capitalism. I think that’s a capitalism that values fraud over innovation and determination. And I think that any form of capitalism that seeks to undermine our lives and families and swindle our neighbors is un-American.

A year ago I was dead but didn’t know it. Today I know I am alive, but will not live forever. And whatever time I have, I hope I can spend it making life a little better for my family and my friends and a little harder on those who seek to steal our life and our liberties and end our pursuit of happiness.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Okay. I Can Explain.

Some of the bulbs were out in the 10 year old snowman. It's easier to replace them while he's inflated.
Bonnie caught me in the act.

That's all.

Anyway, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

I sent it out as a reminder to friends and loved ones that:
I am still here.
I still have a sense of humor.
And that they should get checked because cancer doesn't care.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Best Song Ever Written...

...about having cancer.

SWIM by Jack's Mannequin

When I heard this song for the first time on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart it felt like someone had been in the hospital with me or sitting next to me in the chemo chair and writing down the very advice I needed to get through the ordeal.

That's pretty much the story. Jack's Mannequin frontman Andrew McMahon is a survivor of ALL, a particularly nasty form of leukemia. Hell, what am I saying? They're all nasty.

Of course I downloaded it from iTunes immediately. But when I watched the video on YouTube I got another kick in the gut. One of the animated artworks shows a flock of origami cranes forming the word swim. I was instantly transported back to the hospital and the thousand origami cranes hanging around room made by my son Cooper.

I'm petitioning my Congresswoman to add a provision to the Healthcare Reform bill that requires this song to be piped into every cancer patient's room at night when all the visitors have gone home and you wake in the dark surround by strangers and beeping machines. Keep going. You're not alone.

In case you didn't catch all the words:

You gotta swim,
Swim for your life,
Swim for the music,
That saves you,
When you're not so sure you'll survive,
You gotta swim,
And swim when it hurts,
The whole world is watching,
You haven't come this far,
To fall off the earth,

The currents will pull you,
Away from your love,
Just keep your head above,

I found a tidal wave,
Begging to tear down the dawn,
Memories like bullets,
They fired at me from a gun,
Cracking the armor yeah,
I swim for brighter days,
Despite the absence of sun,
Choking on salt water,
I'm not giving in,

You gotta swim,
For nights that won’t end,
Swim for your families,
Your lovers your sisters,
And brothers and friends,
Yeah, you gotta swim,
For wars without cause,
Swim for the lost politicians,
Who don't see their greed as a flaw,

The currents will pull us,
Away from our love,
Just keep your head above,

I found a tidal wave,
Begging to tear down the dawn,
Memories like bullets,
They fired at me from a gun,
Cracking the armor yeah,
I swim for brighter days,
Despite the absence of sun,
Choking on salt water,
I'm not giving in,
Well I'm not giving in,

You gotta swim,
Swim in the dark,
There's no shame in drifting,
Feel the tide shifting and wait for the spark,
Yeah you gotta swim,
Don't let yourself sink,
Just find the horizon,
I promise you it's not as far as you think,
The currents will drag us away from our love,

Just keep your head above,
Just keep your head above,
Just keep your head above,
Just keep your head above,

Absolutely Goddamned Right. Keep swimming.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


There are so many people to thank. So many people who helped me - who helped my family. So many who kept us afloat while I recovered. I can never thank you all and I can never thank you enough.

I don't think I can say it any better than I did at the benefit. So here is the speech I gave that night. Thanks to my sister Nancy for recording it. The night went by in a flash and my memory of it remains a blur. Thanks to all who made that possible.

Thanks to FLAT STANLEY for rocking the place!

And thanks to B101's DAN BLACKMAN, our Master of Ceremonies!

The only words that come to me are “ Holy Shit.”

I look around this place an d see all these people and I am so very grateful – that I have my immune system back.

I can’t help but think… wouldn’t it be great if this was the world’s most poorly timed April Fool’s joke? I feel fine. I just wanted to get all my friends together for a party. It’s a shitty reason but I’m glad you’re all here.

I wanted to clear up the most frequently asked question. I don’t know if you have been on my blog, but the most commonly asked question I get is – just to answer it - Yes, I have leukemia. Yes, it is a form of cancer. And no, it is not the type of cancer they give you weed for. So stop asking.

From the audience: Are you sure?

As far as you know.

This is, uh… somebody came up with the word, “humbling.” And that’s about right. This is amazing. I don’t know how to handle all this attention. I’m sure my Dad is up there somewhere walking in circles and shaking his head. But what I know of grace I have learned from my Mother. So I will try to do this as gracefully as possible.

Thank you all for being here. Thank you all for coming out. It’s just – humbling.

I need to mention a few names out of many hundred. First of all, every day I go to get chemo at a place called the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine. Which is, if you haven’t been there is like the starship Enterprise. It is going to make Philadelphia a world class center for cancer treatment. When I walk in in the morning I walk past this large bronze of the names of the people who have donated to make that place possible.

Two of the names are Ellen and Jerry Lee. Ellen is on the board of the Abramson Cancer Center and Jerry is the founder with Dave Kurtz of B101 Radio, our sponsor here tonight. It is great to know people who can look beyond the horizon and see what we will need not today or tomorrow but in ten years and in the future and bring that here to Philadelphia. So I want to thank Ellen and Jerry Lee.

So many people at B101 have done amazing things to make tonight possible. And I want to thank them. I really want to mention two names, General Manager Blaise Howard and Station Manager, Bill Boone. For two reasons. The first of which is, when I got sick and Bonnie had to come and help me, the only thing they ever said was, “Go!” And that is amazing.

The second reason which is somewhat less prosaic. In this business environment when people are looking to cut back, they have made the business decision to invest in their people and not cut back on things like health insurance. And I can tell you that I am not the only person in this room whose life that has saved. So thank you for your business acumen and for taking care of your people.

That brings me to the Gang of Six. Bonnie and I have had nothing to do with this party tonight. There are six people here who have put this all together and have done an unbelievable job.

Jeanne Behr. Where’s Jeanne?
The amazing Maria Sylvester
Heather Crosby.
The great Brian Kaiser
The great John Costello.
And my dear friend Alan Barlow.
If you’re having a good time, it is because of them.
From the audience: And if you’re not, it’s not our fault.

I gotta tell you that in addition to this, they are truly dear, dear friends who, when I got sick were there for whatever we needed. Whether it was dinner or watch the kids or whatever, they were there and I am truly forever grateful.

I think I have some nurses here tonight. Where are my nurses? There they are. I invited all of my doctors but none of them RSVP’d so to hell with them. We can talk about them. There is something with this health plan I am on. Somehow I got on the Hot Nurses program. I’ll tell you that when somebody is waking you up every 15 minutes to take your blood pressure it really helps stop you from taking a swing at them.. I am convinced that the University of Pennsylvania could increase their endowment if they all just had a calendar or a video. Nurses of the Hospital of University of Pennsylvania. Not a great title, but there are a few dozen producers here tonight. So, Girls…

If there are angels walking the earth, the odds are they are nurses. I spend a lot of time – as do many of you – working in and around the healthcare field. And until I was part of it, I never really understood it. And I will say this tonight – because my doctors are not here tonight - that a doctor may cure you, but a nurse will save your life. Thank you.

There is a list – longer than I am tall – of people who sent cards and emails and brought food to the house and who appeared out of nowhere. People who I have not seen in 10 or 15 years who when they found out that I was sick came to my rescue. And I can never thank them all enough. And I can never thank you all enough for a thousand kindnesses. So please accept this big blanket thank you for everyone.

You can’t do this without family. They have been there for everything that we’ve needed. Many many years ago when I was young and stupid.

(My sister) Nancy: Amen!

I said to my friend Tony, Why would anybody ever want to get married? Now that I am older and wiser… wise-er – I have come to realize that if you are very very lucky you get married and you get to spend your life with someone as wonderful as my wife Bonnie. If you ever need a reason to live – that’s it. That's my reason.

That’s pretty much it. I just wanted to say just one more thing. And that is... Every Christmas – including this past one, my family sits around the TV Christmas Eve and watches “It’s A Wonderful Life.” And this Christmas we did the same thing in the hospital. Bonnie, me and the kids sitting on the hospital bed watching “It’s A Wonderful Life” on my little 12 inch laptop. And it was great to feel a little normal.

I have always loved that movie and I have always felt that it was movie that made you feel grateful for, uh…

[John hands Dave a tissue. Everyone laughs. Dave dabs at eyes.]

It’s coming…

It always made you feel grateful for what you have. Tonight I understand the ending of that movie. George Bailey, Jimmy Stewart, gets a book from Clarence the angel and it says, “No man is a failure who has friends.” And tonight, like George Bailey, I am the richest man in town.

Thank you all. Thank you very much.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

My First YouTube Video

Vice President Joe Biden sent out a request for videos to help destroy the myths about Healthcare Reform.

Hey Joe, you asked for it...

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Road Back

I’m not who I was.

I would be a fool to have gone through all of this and remain unchanged. I’m not a “saintly” cancer survivor who now enjoys a love of all mankind. Nor am I on a quest to “live for today.” I have too many responsibilities to the future to do that.

I feel like Tom Hanks at the end of Castaway. I am at a crossroads. Which road do I take? I know my road back will lead through physical rehab – and a much longer physical rehab than I initially expected. I guess you can’t sit on your ass for 8 months at age 45 and just bounce back. So I envision my road will include many, many laps in the pool.

I know my road back will have to include doing what I can to help the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and cancer charities in general. Every hour of every day there are 5 more people like me getting bad news. We must develop tests for early detection of all cancers to give people a fighting chance and we must never stop working for a cure.

I know my road back will include working for a more secure future for my family. Fool me once…

I hope my road will include more laughter, more time with friends and family, making work more fun and working hard at play. I need to be deadly serious about the things I care about and take myself much less seriously.

I will need more tolerance, courage and wisdom on the road. But who doesn’t?

Here I am.

Now, where to?