July, 2010 Archives

Remission Accomplished

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July 28th, 2010

Looking for allegories and metaphors in this rabid rainstorm sweeping across our viewing area. Is it a cleansing, soothing rain that wipes away the past or is it more a reminder of the spectacular power all around us? It bends trees to the breaking point but they sway back into place. The lightning scares away […]

Looking for allegories and metaphors in this rabid rainstorm sweeping across our viewing area. Is it a cleansing, soothing rain that wipes away the past or is it more a reminder of the spectacular power all around us? It bends trees to the breaking point but they sway back into place. The lightning scares away the shadows for an instant and the thunder is so loud and near that my very marrow shakes.

My very marrow shakes.

Was that an accidental analogy or did the thunder clap shake it free? And what was the real thunder clap: the deep rumble that just shook the house or the simple declaration, repeated three, four, twenty times by my doctor, You are in remission.

Listen to that echo: remission, remission, remission.

Listen to the storm subside.

Listen to Peter Gabriel singing Solsbury Hill over and over and over again as I wait for my family to arrive and hear of my sweet marrow. My lovely bones. They’ll laugh as they recall my eating ribs for good luck the other night. They’ll mob me and cry. They may even rub my scalp whiskers for continued luck.

The dogs will bark. My friends will start to wonder about my chest tubes and more chemo and practical/important things that friends need to wonder about. I’ll explain there’s more chemotherapy ahead, but in manageable doses meant to perma-smack leukemia back where it came from and beyond. I’ll mention, casually, that we still don’t know what’s up with the marrow transplant thing, then I’ll thank them for being so caring.

Wait, that’s the garage door. That’s them.

Dancing, hopping and hoping, hugging like World Series champs, tears, barking, laughing, disbelief, rebelief, everything.

Look at the blue sky now.

God, Shiva, Mohammed, Buddha, Jesus, Mary, Dad look at that blue, blue sky now.

Peter’s Principles

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July 26th, 2010

On September 11th, after both twin towers were hit, I called my buddy Peter to find out what was happening. Peter lived in lower Manhattan at the time and my little paper in Midland was like every other news organization trying to make sense of the madness. Peter’s partner Masood got on the line and […]

On September 11th, after both twin towers were hit, I called my buddy Peter to find out what was happening. Peter lived in lower Manhattan at the time and my little paper in Midland was like every other news organization trying to make sense of the madness. Peter’s partner Masood got on the line and gave us some good, solid quotes about what he was witnessing.

That wasn’t the first time I asked Peter for help. Nor would it be the last. I had already known him for 14 years and trusted him as a journalist, photographer and friend. He and I met at the exact same time Marci and I met at the now defunct Ann Arbor News. I remember a conversation, which in retrospect is hilarious. I told Peter I was interested in Marci and hopefully he wouldn’t mind if I continued trying to get into her good graces.

Peter didn’t mind at all. I found out later through a great multi-page, handwritten letter that he was gay.

http://www.readthespirit.com/rodney-curtis/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2013/03/wpid-rcpeter_masood.jpgBack then it wasn’t as easy to be “out.” These days it hardly seems to be an issue. The ABC Family network has gay teen characters and my daughters know several openly lesbian or homosexual kids in middle school and high school.

But there are still places and institutions where it’s not easy being gay in this country. Apparently one of those places is the bone marrow donor program. Peter, who gave me that bright clown wig, who I’ve counted on for almost two dozen years, who is nothing but amazing, was rejected due to sexual orientation. He tried to donate but they told him they were concerned about HIV. Peter doesn’t have HIV. Lots of straight folks have HIV, however.

I feel rotten about that. The marrow program will be one of the factors that cures me. It will make sure leukemia stays far away and doesn’t rear its ugly head after two or twenty years. But I take issue with their selection process. Why can’t they just screen Peter’s test like they do everyone else’s. If people are being excluded, doesn’t it just naturally follow potential recipients are losing out?

I’m not on a crusade here. I’m just a guy hopefully recovering from cancer who thinks a lot more people could benefit if the gene pool were expanded. I’m no clinician or researcher and I certainly don’t understand actuarial tables. If someone wants to selflessly give of themselves, shouldn’t they be allowed to do so?

Maybe I should be silent and not cause waves. I wouldn’t want the program’s upper echelon to catch wind of my friend’s rejection or my feelings of injustice. I need their marrow. It would be reckless or feckless to openly ask for an explanation like they can do down in the Comments section below.

I guess I’m just not the silent type.

Golden Bubbles and Silver Linings

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July 23rd, 2010

There’s something stirring inside of me. Please forgive me if I talk in circles here but something is happening and I’m trying to find the proper place to put a Post-it note on it. My blogging has been sporadic since I was released from the hospital over a week ago. There isn’t a precise reason […]

There’s something stirring inside of me. Please forgive me if I talk in circles here but something is happening and I’m trying to find the proper place to put a Post-it note on it.

My blogging has been sporadic since I was released from the hospital over a week ago. There isn’t a precise reason why I’ve been more incommunicado than normal, although I think it has to do with an intense re-grounding, re-focusing and no, no, I’m not saying this properly. Sorry. Allow me to start all over.

I began to notice a stirring inside of me on Sunday, the day we spent visiting our daughters at Blue Lake and attending the extraordinary fundraiser you’ve all heard about. My eldest daughter led me through a mind-over-matter exercise after we had lunch that day. It involved golden bubbles coursing through me, gently easing good white blood cells into existence and ushering the naughty ones away. Later that day, “coincidentally,” a fellow survivor wrote a serious note on a silly caricature of me, “Rodney, mind over matter.”

So my daughter’s internal visualization began to take hold and was fertilized by the love and buoyant support surrounding me at that bar. Inward changes fostered by outward buttressing. That’s a potent mix. Wait, I think I’ve got it. Let’s begin this blog a third and final time.

Something wonderful is stirring deep within me. Yes. That’s it. There’s something wonderful within. A routine blood test this week, the kind you sometimes hear about on Grey’s Anatomy, revealed certain levels of certain counts to be twice as high as back when I was “healthy” a year ago. My doctor didn’t believe the test. He thought his machine was broken. A second test told him they were real.

He apparently hasn’t witnessed golden bubbles or karaoke fundraisers or mind messing with matter. My treatment plans are now in a tizzy. No one exactly knows which end is up. A fourth plug of marrow will soon be removed from my hips which have become so comfortable with the procedure that when they see the needle and corkscrew, they just yawn, roll sideways and flip on an old Seinfeld rerun.

http://www.readthespirit.com/rodney-curtis/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2013/03/wpid-rcRayStanczak.jpgWhen you look at our year, there hasn’t been a lot to cheer about. And yet there are so many positives that have sprung out of the negatives, as my mother has always told me. Being unemployed gave me a lot of time with the family and allowed me the luxury of heading to the hospital on that Sunday evening in April to have my gall bladder examined. Had there been a job to attend to the following morning, I would’ve waited the extra five or ten minutes for the gut pain to subside, (which it did), then headed off to bed. That Rodney guy wouldn’t have found out his white blood cells were dangerously low. Being unemployed also presented me with the opportunity to teach some college classes, something I always thought I’d be good at. Turns out, I was mostly right about that.

The car accident which totaled our van while Marci waited at the stoplight turned positive when it took our 12-year-old van with 180,000 miles and replaced it with a 10-year-old van with only 80,000 miles.

The money stolen from our locked safe in Paris was reimbursed by the hotel management. And it gave us a chance to speak with the gendarmes, Interpol and feel like we were part of any given spy film from the past decade.

The Detroit Daily Press closing after only five days saved me mountains of headaches due to extreme underfunding. And honestly, the blog material and sympathy was incredible.

And as Marci said, after nudging me in bed just now, “Your leukemia is bringing out the best in people.” She’s right. Armies of friends and strangers are committing acts of such brazen kindness, it almost feels illegal to enjoy the fruits of their offerings. Even though our family is insured, people still muscle their way to the front of the line and offer up newer and more creative ways to help out.

My cousin Chris explained that people need to do good and I am giving them the opportunity to do so. As I bumble through this cancer experience I sometimes think — but only for a moment — that might be part of my role. No, I’m not so arrogant as to imply it’s because of my disease that all my friends are being awesome. That doesn’t explain it. But try this T-shirt on for size; by swallowing my pride and allowing others to do nice things, I am letting a greater good metastasize around me. Each one of you does good every day. Just seeing it all happen in one confined location is simply astounding.

Something is stirring outside of me now.

____________________________

Hey kids, don’t forget the incredible opportunity to purchase vintage or fresh photos from Detroit-area photographers during this print sale sponsored by The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press. Whether it’s Babe Ruth or Barack Obama, these images make me proud to be part of a superb Detroit photo legacy.

http://www.readthespirit.com/rodney-curtis/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2013/03/wpid-rcbaberuth.jpg.png

My FUNraiser

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July 20th, 2010

Hey, quick show of hands. How many of you think coincidences are simply random, unrelated events? 1 … 2 … maybe three of you. Great, okay, how many of you know in your gut that coincidences signify something more, but you just can’t figure out … whoa, okay 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, […]

http://www.readthespirit.com/rodney-curtis/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2013/03/wpid-rcRodneyhugTyler.jpgHey, quick show of hands. How many of you think coincidences are simply random, unrelated events? 1 … 2 … maybe three of you.

Great, okay, how many of you know in your gut that coincidences signify something more, but you just can’t figure out … whoa, okay 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 … got it. And that’s just the first row of you. I see.

Something amazing happened Sunday afternoon. If you’re thinking it was all the love, outflowing of support, amazing acts of kindness from strangers and a festival of genuine friendship then you’re mostly right. But there was something else buried in the bar. I’ll get to that in a moment, but first a confession.

I was nervous. I was very, very nervous. I didn’t even know how apprehensive I was until I stood there, outside the fundraiser, talking to friends and I realized my knees were actually shaking. If you feel like attributing it to chemotherapy and a general, overall fatigue, be my guest. But the honest emotion coursing through me at that moment was anxiety for what was happening all around me.

http://www.readthespirit.com/rodney-curtis/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2013/03/wpid-rcRomainCheryl.jpgGoodness knows I love the spotlight. I can’t tell you how much I love things being all about me. But Sunday’s silent auction and karaoke event brought out an aspect of me I didn’t realize existed. I didn’t know what to expect. I felt weird showing up with my bald head conspicuously covered with a Tigers cap. I didn’t know who in the world would want to give up their gorgeous, sunny Sunday afternoon to hang out in a dark bar and sing old songs. I was, okay I’ll say it, afraid.

I feared no one would show up. I feared being stared at. I feared people would think I was trying to use cancer as a way to make money. I feared I’d have no stamina. I feared x, y and z.

Then I just accepted it all. I accepted the person I never met who made a cool, retro ice chest which made a handsome decoration and a handsome profit. I accepted all the amazing photos which were fiercely bid upon. I accepted the photo lamp and the fishing trip and the karaoke singers, and the, and the, and the from people who knew me well, knew me a little or didn’t know me at all.

Accepting charity is normally very hard for me. Each one of you made it simple.

http://www.readthespirit.com/rodney-curtis/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2013/03/wpid-rcRodneyMarty.jpgThere are so many organizers to thank from Marty Westman, to the owners of The Inn Place, to Sally Tato Snell to Patty Montemurri to everyone who just came to have some fun. You probably don’t know, though, that it was my Mom who felt most like a celebrity, when so many of you came over and had a kind word for me or her. It made her week, or even her month.

So what’s this about coincidences Rodney? Only a few people are aware of this, but on Friday, when Marci and I met with the Karmanos team to determine our next course of attack, they told us our insurance probably won’t cover bone marrow testing for my cousin and brothers — the likeliest of donor matches. Through a crazy loophole, which is being closed by the blessed Obama health care plan, HAP can deny payment for their tests, but will allow unrelated searches through an anonymous registry. As ridiculous as that sounds, there’s a scenario that could’ve led to us owing a large chunk of money.

Yes, a very large chunk of money indeed. That amount was so large that it actually made us begin to question how we’d handle the search and maybe we’d try this or that to cut back. That amount was a mountain.

That amount was slid into a shopping bag, donated throughout the day by all of you, and handed to Marci and I before we drove away.

That exact amount.

There were many other coincidences — major and minor — including Shield’s pizza, movie extras, wisdom teeth, storms and the Human League. But don’t worry if you don’t buy into them. Sometimes coincidences are too mind boggling to sort out.

As we took off down Main St., my bride of 20 years asked, “So how do you feel?” And then her laughter slipped and slid out as I sat in the passenger seat, open mouthed without a sound coming out. For the first time she’s known me, I was left speechless.

Then just when I thought it was safe to go back into the water, (as they said in the old Jaws movie posters), a large group of News/Free Press folks including Elizabeth Conley, Robin Buckson, Steven Cherry, Kathy Kieliszewski, Romain Blanquart, Jessica Trevino and Sally Tato Snell together threw some new chum into the surf. Area photographers have donated even more gorgeous photographs for a sale in my name. There are modern and historical photos from the News and Free Press archives from Babe Ruth to Miguel Cabrera, Marvin Gaye to Kid Rock and MLK to Obama. Look at these amazing photos up for sale!

My mouth remains frozen in the ON position.