Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Nine Years Extended Warranty.


August 7, 2007 was the day I was told I had cancer. I can still see myself sitting alone in my car, shocked and angry and crying. Tears of anger, despair and uncertainty streamed down my face as I sat in the parking lot of the Pathologist's office.

As I reflected on that day nine years ago, I talked to Wife about what I was feeling at that moment. My biggest fear was how to tell her and my kids I had cancer. I was more worried about what they would do, how they would act and how they would feel. The reason: control. I cannot control the emotions and reactions of others. But I wanted to, to tell them I'm going to live and beat the shit outta cancer no matter how bad it was or where it was in my body.

This is not a "I told you so" post. While there is great joy in the satisfaction that I lived through that first cancer, I have had to face "cancer" a few times after that day. Skin cancer is the next cancer I'm battling. In 2008, I had two surgeries to remove huge chunks of cancer. I just recently had another chunk frozen off of may face and a biopsy on my finger to see if it was cancer. Thank God it is not.

This is a post of hope, happiness, fear and anger. Hopefully that I can have another nine years of life. Happy that I get to personally experience so much love and joy in my family. Fearful that the cancer will come back again in another form. And angry that we keep losing loved ones to this nasty, fucking disease.

My cancerversary is also close to my Father's sobriety birthday. He has been sober for 40 years. One day at a time. Living on an extended warranty.

I'd like to continue to do the same.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

A Jazzy And Stormy Night.


I was not motivated to write down my thoughts.

After all these years of sharing my inner most thoughts, I began to think that no one was out there listening. Which is fucking stupid because I didn't begin writing this blog for anyone but myself. Then I thought I was being too much of an asshole to think that way. And I was thinking and thinking and yeah, thinking waaaaay too much. Get. Outta. My. Head.

Then I got a call from a dear friend. And it wasn't a good one––someone was beginning the battle against cancer. Again. And it is a BFF. You know the kind of BFF–––Brothers/Sisters from another Mother. When they hurt, you hurt. When they need you, no questions asked and you get there by their side any way you can.

I was listening to Stormy tell me about her friend. Stormy wanted to know what it would be like going through chemo––for her BFF, Jazzy and for HER. You know, the other side of cancer. (I've heard that phrase before). She wanted to know what she could do because she felt she wasn't doing enough. She was there by her side through all the upfront Doctor meetings and through the first chemo. She was there taking care of Jazzy when she came home from the treatment. She was there when the tears and fears came to the surface. I told her, "you are doing more than enough." She didn't think so.

She asked what else she could do. All I could tell Stormy was what I knew. This is what I said: "You are doing exactly what Jazzy needs. When you have a cancer diagnosis and go through treatment, you'll find out who really loves you. You'll find out who your real friends are and some of them will completely surprise you. I told her to keep it real. Tell Jazzy the truth. If she looks like hell, tell her. When she looks great, tell her over and over. She'll know you really mean it because you already told her she looks like crap. You may both even laugh at that, I know I did. I laughed because that meant I was ALIVE. We are all going to die some day. When you have cancer, the reality of life and death stares at you in the mirror every day. It what you see inside and the love of others that gets you to fight one more day. Because in reality, that's all we have. Today. And today if you're listening to Jazzy cry, complain or tell you she can't take it anymore remind her she is alive while telling you this. Being there unconditionally for someone you love is the greatest medicine. For Jazzy and you." There was much more. But that will be between me and Stormy.

Oh, and one last thing. Jazzy, if you are reading this––I have never met or spoken to Jazzy, ever but I hope I will––I am here for you. Any time.

Especially on a Jazzy and Stormy night.

  

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Another Life.

It's been awhile.

Why? A lot has been going on in my life that last 4-5 months. I was uninspired to write. I was living to work. I was trying to do too much. I wasn't doing enough. I was losing weight without reason––or so I thought. I had death in the family which has led to more problems within the family. And on, and on and on.

During this tumultuous time, I decided to look for another job. Because I didn't have enough to think of or decide. It's my personality to think I can conquer the world––even before the two cancers––and take on anything and everything. I'm self-aware but also an optimist at heart. I believe that's what guided me through cancer twice.

This time in my job search, I took a different approach. I would tell people I'm a cancer survivor. I didn't do that my first job search after the cancer diagnosis and treatment. I thought corporate America couldn't/didn't/wouldn't understand that my cancer journey has made me BETTER. So I went ahead and told people. And it was liberating. It was a "hey, this is me and I have a different perspective on life." It also told me how comfortable or uncomfortable they would be working with me in the future.

It also gave me a wonderful opportunity––I have a new job that I love. Or to put it another way, I have another life.

And a new outlook.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thanks For Giving.

In two days, we will gather around the dinner table as we do every year at this time.

It will be a time for family, football, friends and full stomachs. (Some may say it's full of something else but I'll let you go there). And I'm sure we'll all say "Happy Thanksgiving" at some point and even say it 10-15 times.

Now I'm thankful for a lot of things but won't bore you with those. I'm sure we have some of the same things to be thankful for––right? And it is Thanksgiving, after all.

But I'm going to take a different approach this year. And I'm starting today. I am going to begin every day with a great big THANKS. To myself. To celebrate the fact that I am alive and begin each day by giving thanks. To realize that there is more to life than work, work and more work.

I have lost myself a bit the last few years after cancer. While cancer changed my life completely, I still face the same issues of pushing too hard, being too focused on work and not enjoying life as I should. So I'm going to be a little more selfish from here on––selfish with my time for me. It doesn't mean that I'm going to become a selfish bastard. It means I'm going to take the time to live and enjoy life.

Thanks.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Nanoo Nanoo

It was the usual Friday night @ 6pm for me in 1980. I was working at a radio/TV station in Los Angeles––actually Hollywood––that was next to Paramount Studios. I was a "runner" or vehicle messenger working in the mailroom. But ironically I didn't have a car––used the work vehicle for deliveries and pick-ups––which meant take the bus or get a ride. Luckily for me, I had made friends with one of the DJs who lived right outside my neighborhood but his shift was from 3pm--6pm. So I would wait for him next door, at a little bar tucked in between the radio/TV station and the studio.

It became a regular thing. I would get off work, go next door and try to secure a booth in the back. That's where I would hang out with my DJ friend and one of the actors from a popular TV show that was filmed at Paramount Studios. Since Fridays were pretty busy, I would continue my "runner" duties and go get drinks for my friends. They in turn would buy my drinks for me as I had to fight my way to the bar––which meant they also got their drinks faster. We usually only hung around for an hour or so as it frequently ended with me driving my friend home––I was not and still am not a big drinker––parking his car and walking to my house a mile away.

Now I grew up in "Hollywood." I lived there for a few years until my family settled into a neighborhood right outside of Hollywood. Which meant we knew people "in the business" from all walks of life––actors, TV news people, prop masters, set designers, caterers, you get the picture––so it wasn't unusual for me to be around celebrities. And working at the radio/TV station, one of my jobs was to greet people in the lobby and lead them to make-up for the local morning TV show. So I would meet tons of "celebs".

Back to the bar. It had to be a little after 6pm because my DJ buddy was already here as well as "Arnold" in the booth in the back that I had successfully secured that night. I had finally made my way to the bar rail and was waiting. And waiting. (The stars were there and they got served first most of the time). Finally the bartender looks my way and as I start to voice my order, he skips my eyes and asks the person next to me "what'll you have?". As I'm about to get vocal I hear a familiar voice––"I'll have a vodka gimlet but get this gentleman's order first because he was here before me."

I look to my right to say "thank you" when I see it's Robin Williams. He was starring in a show called "Mork and Mindy" and was now about as close as you can get to someone without being romantically involved. "Thank you, appreciate that", I said to Mr. Williams. He said, " well it's only fair, you were here first. Wow, you drinking all that?" I said, "if I did, I don't think I'll walk outta here tonight. I'm getting drinks for my friends. They buy, I fly." As I point to the booth, he says, "oh you know Pat?. And who is that sitting with him?" Me: "yes I do. And that's Bobby Ocean, a DJ next from the radio station next door. That's where I work." Mr. Williams: "I work next door. Robin, nice to meet you." "I'm Greg, nice to meet you. And thanks again for helping me out here." He says, "My pleasure. And let me pick-up the tab for these." Before I could say "no, that's OK, those Dudes are paying" he drops some cash on the bar, tells the bartender to keep the change and shakes my hand. "Nice to meet you, Greg. Good luck with everything."

I was a fan of his already. I had seen him on Happy Days and thought he was crazy funny. And now I find out he's real good dude. So I became an even bigger fan. And I have to admit, I kept going back to the bar to see if I could run into him again. But it never happened.

Needless to say when I heard of his passing, I was stunned. I still am, which is why it's taken me a few days to get this post out of my head. And I'm not going to talk about how he died or any other stuff––I know addiction and depression pretty well and I'll leave it at that. But when I hear his name from now on, I'll smile upon that one Friday night and tell anyone who wants to listen this story.

Nanoo, nanoo.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Found Some Inspiration.

I often wonder if not posting sends a message. That message being "oh crap, he's not writing––is he still alive?"

Taking time to share has not been a priority lately. At that's not good. The reason is ridiculous, actually, I was looking for inspiration and a "cause." As if being blessed to live today is not cause enough. So the excuses piled up. Until today.

I listen to Mike & Mike in the morning on my commute to work every day. For me it's a diversion from work, the daily bullshit and the horrible drivers I encounter each and every morning, most of them looking at their cell phones instead of the road. This morning, I couldn't stop crying when listening. Because it's the 10 Annual V Foundation Auction and the stories, call-ins, text messages and emails were so powerful. And sad. And hopeful.

I'm coming up on my 7th cancerversary. August 7, 2007 was when I was diagnosed with cancer for the first time––skin cancer being the second and last, God willing––and that means seven extra years of life. SEVEN YEARS. Hard to imagine it's been so long. Even harder to imagine all that has happened in these seven precious years. Some of things I would have missed had I not been alive: the birth of two Grandchildren, the marriage of my Daughter, her Graduation and my Son's Graduation from college, a new job that has brought me lifelong friends, more conversations with my Father and spending more time with the love of my life, my Wife, Teresa.

No more excuses. No more extreme lapses between posts. Much more living. And one last thing, something that Jimmy V said that helped me forever in my cancer battles. Don't give up. Don't ever give up.

#DontEverGiveUp

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Pierson Robert Rader



Hey Pierson. It's your Grandfather. Or Papa is what I'm sure you'll call me one day.

But let's talk about today, your birthday. Tuesday, March 4, 2014. You were only 30 minutes late according to me. I always thought you would come meet us at 3:21––and was really hoping for it to be PM and not AM––but instead you showed up around 3:51pm. Your Mom & Dad said you were ears out about 3-4 times but didn't want to get outta there. I don't blame you. It gets rough out here sometimes. We'll have plenty of time to talk about that later.

I've been waiting for you. So has your Grandma, Teresa. You're going to love her like I loved my GranMarie. Your Big Sister Madison calls her Grandma T. She's the best Grandma ever, the kind of Grandma everyone wants because she loves her children so much.

I almost didn't make it to see you in this life. That fucking disease, cancer, tried to kill me. Twice. Oh, and you're going to learn two things right now about being a Johnston––that's on your Mom's side, I'm your Mom's Daddy––is we have a tendency to cuss and we're as tough as they come. Wait until I tell you about your Grandpa David. Your Mom will tell you, too. The man with nine lives. Your Mom's tough. She got the tip of her finger caught in the spokes of your Uncle Ryan's bike. Cut the tip almost completely off. She hardly cried, as I held her in my arms while your Great Papa Chuck burned out the emergency brake on the way to the hospital. In Mexico. But I'll tell you that story a hundred times.

I got to hold you in my arms today. It was one of the best things I have ever done. You were so calm as I rocked you back and forth. I told you who I was. That we were going to be best friends. And talk sports. I felt a connection so deep I can't explain. Just like I did when I cut the cord for your Mom when she was born and I got to hold her. It's a feeling I will never be able to explain. (And I call myself a writer).

You know what's really cool? You, your Dad, your Papa and your Great Papa David have the same middle name. Your name is the most important thing you have. Your Dad, Spenser, loves you so much he really took his time working with your Mom, Kaity, to give you your name. Your Uncle Travis had a name in a dream. I'll let him tell you that story. You have a great name. You have the chance to be great, at whatever you do.

The rest of the family is so eager to see you. Your Grandma Angie––you also have a Great Aunt Angie––was there but your Grandpa Roger is in England. He'll have lots of stories for you too. Uncle Adam came to see you but they wouldn't let him. Your Sister had to peek through the window because there's a flu epidemic. Why? Well it was 4 degrees this morning. Yes, 4. I know it's still winter. But 4? 4 should be your number. Your the 4th Grandchild, from the 4th child of your Grandparents born on March 4. (Your Papa is a numbers geek. You will be too).

I love you, my Grandson. I will always be there for you. Whether you can see me or not. By the way, don't be pissed I posted this pic of you. I couldn't help it.

It reminded me of me.