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.


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.


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.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Dates To Remember.

No, this is not an online site to find your mate or dish about your best/worst date.

I have always been fascinated by numbers and what they represent. Being a cancer patient and now a cancer survivor, the sheer volume of numbers can be overwhelming. But the numbers that stick out the most are the calendar type. They have an intrusive way of sticking in your mind––at least mine––because milestones are HUGE.

Yesterday, February 19, was one of those days. All day I kept thinking "why does today feel so different?" I checked all my blog posts. Nothing but a bad Valentine's Day post I wrote last year. No biggie. But as I began to look through past posts, I rediscovered that my first post on this site was July 19, 2008. And that I had a journal before––hand-written, not digital. Yep, let's go back in time.

My Sister-In-Law, Claudia, would have been 60 this year. She passed away from cancer 16 days after my diagnosis (the first cancer, head-and-neck) in August of 2007. Claudia loved life and her family. I know my Wife misses her every day. I miss her, too. That didn't come from my journal but after telling my Wife, "I keep feeling this is a monumental day somehow" she reminded me of Claudia's birthday (I have always thought it was February 18). "Oh yes, that's right, " I said. But I knew there was more to this day, as callous as that may sound.

February 19, 2008 was my first scan after all the treatments. It was a scan to see if the cancer was GONE completely. A little over 12 weeks after my last chemo treatment––I had finished 7 weeks of radiation, 5 times a week two weeks prior––I was going back in the tube. And it scared the shit outta me. I was a shell of my former self––both physically and mentally. I had already been back to work for almost two months and was struggling to perform. Fuck, I was struggling just to live every day.

Now I remember.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Color Purple.

So today is World cancer Day, huh? (I don't put a cap on the "c" in cancer, ever. I don't want to give it that distinction).

Full disclosure: I am employed in the social media world. Any opinions expressed here are my own and do NOT reflect the opinions or practices of my current employer. The reason I write the above is because I'm a little conflicted on the efforts of some brands and their support of cancer research and prevention. Most notably, Chevy and their truck line's current Facebook posting https://www.facebook.com/ChevyTrucks which promises to give money and support to the fight against cancer. I'm also conflicted because I like their position which is "to make this cancer's last century" and the fact they are united with the American cancer Society.

The reason for my consternation is this: Purple Your Profile will receive the following info: your public profile and friend list. Uh, no thank you. Why? I'm afraid what they'll do with my profile and friend list. Meaning, will it clog up my FB friend's news feed and right rail with countless other "promotions"? What are they going to do with all that information? Are they going to help me pay my medical bills when cancer comes back? Do they really care about my story?

Yes, I'm a cynical bastard. Comes from learning about life mostly from the streets and 30+ years in a dog-eat-or-kill-your-dog business. I'm also very passionate about the prospects of having cancer become a disease in which the survival rate is as close to 100% as possible. Not just for me but for my Children, my Grandchildren and my soon-to-be Grandson who is arriving in this world in less than 30 days. So you won't see me "purple" my FB profile. I don't have anything against Chevy or the color purple.

I just try to fight every day without any commercial influence.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Not Again.

Once you have cancer, the thought of hearing that word again attached to your name is no fun at all. For me, beating cancer twice has always got me thinking about the 3rd time––mainly that it never comes.

I had been feeling pretty lousy for a couple of months. I ignored it. I'm fucking Superman, right? Just working too hard for too many days, weeks, months and years. I'll be OK.

Then I realized about 7 years ago, I was feeling the same. Always tired. Weight was fluctuating. My hair was falling out more than usual. So I finally stopped for an hour. Yes, took myself away from phones, computers, TV and people to get my head straight for a whole hour. Had a talk with myself. The conclusion? If you keep this up, you won't be around very much longer. Time to go see the Doctor.

I decided that it was time for a complete physical––and so did my Doctor. I made an appointment (earliest was 6 weeks later) and went back to working myself to death. All the time wondering what the hell was wrong with me and would I be able to handle the "c" word again if it came to that.

Fast forward to the physical. I had lost 10 pounds. My blood pressure was through the roof. I had no energy. My Doctor ordered extra blood work. This did not seem to be good. At all.

Last week, I had a consultation on my test results. Seems as if the radiation and chemo I received in 2007 has damaged my thyroid––hypo thyroid it was explained to me which can be caused by radiation among other things. "Nothing to worry about right now but we need to see if we can correct it with medication." When people tell you there is nothing to worry about, there's something to worry about. And so I did worry until I got my scrips filled. Which now includes medication for: acid reflux (side effect), cholesterol (hereditary), Vitamin D (dangerously low) and thyroid (side effect). For the next 4-6 weeks.

We'll see how it all works, one day at time. Because that's all we really have, is today. And for at least today, I can say with absolute certainty that I do not have cancer and turn those two dreaded words into positive words.

Not again.