Thursday, July 21, 2011

Cancer Journey Mixed Tape - Song 4

Getting chemo, listening to tunes...
There were some dark periods in my fight against cancer.

They usually didn’t come in the Chemo Den, scan session, or when I was recovering from treatment. During those times it was easy to block everything else out of my head and have singular focus of doing whatever was needed for my body to heal. The dark days came in the days when my mind had time to wonder...

Why was I chosen to receive this situation?

What is the purpose of this test in my life?

Why on earth am I going through this at age 30 with a wife and young son?

The best way I can explain these periods is walking down a hallway towards a closed door. There is only one other door and it is the one behind you that just closed on life as you knew it. This hallway is as long as it needs to be for you to gather yourself before opening the door at the other end and entering a new phase of your life.

Song #4 on Roger’s Cancer Journey Mixed Tape is a song that perfectly captures the mood of all these periods combined. The beginning is when I was reflecting on my previous life, the lull in the middle is me looking myself in the eyes and determining my own fate, and the last minute and a half are when I start running towards the door because I’ve figured it out and am ready to burst through to the other side.

Artist: Jason Mraz (Link)
Song: Song for a Friend
Album: Mr. A-Z

One thing I love about Jason is the story of how he made the decision to pack up his life in New York City, stuff his personal belongings in a car, and set out to San Diego to pursue music full time. The world is full of similar stories where someone dropped out of college to start a software company in their garage or someone excused themselves from public office to pursue breast cancer philanthropy in honor of their sister.

The list is long and inspiring.

What is rarely explored in these stories is that there was a point in each one of these people’s lives where they had to make a decision to stay in their normal, or put it all in line to chase what made them tick inside.

The ending of this song must be the script the little voice in your head is reading you as you ponder this decision:

Climb up over the top survey the state of the soul
You got to find out for yourself whether or not you’re truly trying
Why not give it a shot, shake it take control
Inevitably wind up finding for yourself
All the strengths you have inside of you

I mentioned that I figured “it” out above. “It” is going to be different for every one of us. The only way you are going to find out what “it” is for you is to take a hard look into your soul and conduct an honest assessment of the life you are currently living versus the life that makes your soul burn.

If you are like me, you will realize that things weren’t lining up. And in that moment you have a choice to stay where you are, or to fill your life with fuel that will make your soul shine brighter than you or anyone else thought imaginable.

For now, I will be on the other side of the door at the end of your hallway waiting with open arms.

You can do it.

And you can do it now.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Cancer Journey Mixed Tape - Song 3

Getting chemo, listening to tunes...
My wife and I have been to more concerts than we can remember. Our paths in life first crossed at a concert at the House of Blues in Chicago when she was on a blind date with a lawyer for some corporate outing and I was with my friends (the only other young 20 somethings in the Foundation Room) using my best buddy’s Anheuser Busch credentials to pre-party on the other side of the bar by seeing who could drink more Jager Bombs before the show started downstairs.

We must have been doing something right, because she ditched her date to hang out with us.

Gotta love fate...

Shortly after we were engaged I surprised her with tickets to a small venue show in Grand Rapids, MI to see our new favorite band: Angels and Airwaves (AVA). AVA was a relatively new group of guys who had all had considerable success in different bands and wanted to explore creating music with a mission.

And man did they deliver...

Song #3 on Roger’s Cancer Journey Mixed Tape is a song that helped me make sense of my new reality and got me living in the moment.

Artist: Angels and Airwaves (Link)
Song: Young London
Album: LOVE

Pre-cancer I was constantly trying to get to the next level at work or in my personal life. This would lead to me thinking about where I wanted to be in the future instead of celebrating life as a young kid out of college with the world in front of him.

I’ve said numerous times that the hardest part of my diagnosis was that my life was on hold while I got treatment. As I learned to get present in the moment and enjoy everything around me the break in this song just resonated so hard in my head:

Suit up boys let’s ride it’s the weekend
Get down girls and dance with your best friend
Show yourselves and take what you ask for
Let it go no fights on the dance floor

As I came to the realization that life’s about living and enjoying every moment together it struck me that I didn’t want to live in the future anymore. I wanted to be present, focus on the right things in my life, and enjoy the ride knowing that it will take me wherever it’s supposed to.

Kind of like how it took me to the House of Blues that night were my wife and I connected for the first time. I think AVA wrote the following about my wife, son, and my life going forward:

The night gets better the wait so wonderful
They move together and dance so colorful
And kiss like flowers that breathe with pheromones
Songs get louder it feels so natural

I wasn’t able to attend the last AVA show in my area due to chemotherapy, but you can bet your ass I will be there with my wife and all the other fans in the room taking it all in from the dance floor.

Suit up boys!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Cancer Journey Mixed Tape - Song 2

Getting chemo, listening to tunes...
The first time I experienced warm up music in hockey was in 1987 when I was 8 years old in the championship game of the Northern Illinois Hockey League’s Mite A-2 division. The song?

“Mony Mony” by Tommy James & the Shondells

Not my top choice for getting pumped up, but we really didn’t have a say in it...

Fast forward 5 years and our team was able to pick the songs that would play during the 5 minute warm up before the game to get amped up and set the stage for an ass kicking on our home ice. “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns N Roses was a favorite as well as “Right Now” by Van Halen during our National Championship game (we lost, but it’s still a great song...).

Song #2 on Roger’s Cancer Journey Mixed Tape is my warm up song for fighting cancer.

Artist: 30 Seconds to Mars (Link)
Song: This is War
Album: This is War

When you are diagnosed with cancer, there is a moment when you can choose to let the disease take its course until you die or you can choose to seek treatment and fight. For me the decision was easy: fight (hard!) for my wife and 2 year old son.

No matter the physical pain, strain on relationships, mental stress, side effects, or length of the fight:

A warning to the people
The good and the evil
This is war.
To the soldier, the civilian
The martyr, the victim
This is war.

The fight is often a lonely one, but when you are at your weakest it's often your support network that lifts you up and carries you through. One of the coolest parts of this song is the intro. It is a building cheer from the fans which reminded me of the walk from the locker room to the ice during my hockey career. The noise from the fans crescendos at the beginning of the song and comes back in the end as background chanting/singing.

My cancer fight included thousands of prayers, cards, smiles, hugs, laughs, and tears of my supporters, my fans. There is a point in the song where the fans are chanting:

Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!

It’s in this chant I imagined each of their faces pulling me through my darkest times when I was at my lowest. Chills is an understatement of what I had thinking of their strength while getting chemo. This song gave me the energy I needed to fight with all my might against anything and everything I faced to ”the edge of the earth” until “the war is won” and I entered “a brave new world.”

Jared Leto was probably not thinking about cancer when he wrote this, but I couldn’t have said it better. Thanks Jared.

You helped me win my war.