Cancer Chronicles

Sunday Chuckle: A Whopper of a Solution

If you have been keeping up with Cancer Chronicles, then you know that after surgery, passing gas can be a challenge.  Even tougher:  pooping!

Mrs. LeBrain’s successful surgery resulted in some unpleasant side effects, such as constipation.  But don’t worry.  She kept me posted every step of the way.

It was a joy when she sent me the text message below:

Thank you Burger King for you assistance in this matter.




#639: Cancer Chronicles 8: Look Who’s Back!

Yes folks she’s back! She is home, resting comfortably now. We are celebrating by ordering in Chinese (and maybe sushi for me too). Jen will be watching her beloved Maple Leafs on our nice big screen.

Her strength at this time has been unbelievable. Every movement is pain but she made it back safe and sound. She gets even stronger daily. I can’t wait to see how she’s doing by this time next week. She should be making a full recovery in about six weeks, barring anything unexpected.

Of course, this is not necessarily the end of Cancer Chronicles. We will see Dr. Sugimoto in a couple weeks to go over test results and follow up on Jen’s recovery. Even with clean test results, she will be monitored for the next five years.

So, it’s not “over over”, but for now this battle is won. Fuck you cancer. You didn’t beat us this time. Just look at that face. Does that look like someone who’s been beaten? Not by a long shot. That’s one of the strongest faces I know.

Thanks again for all the wonderful support here in this rock and roll community. I have not have time to respond to anyone, but every message is read and cherished. You rock. And so does Jen!

#637: Thank You Mary Chieffo – Cancer Chonicles 7

I’m home now after three nights in London Ontario.  Jen is still in hospital recovering from her cancer surgery.  Her mom will be taking care of her for a couple days until I return.

I’m exhausted, but I managed to find a few hours to relax during this trying time.  A big part of that was being able to watch Star Trek: Discovery on Sunday night before surgery.  I’ve learned that it’s important to give yourself small things to look forward to.  My weekly treat is Star Trek.  It has been a long time since I have watched any kind of Star Trek on a weekly basis.  In the 90s, the entire family would watch The Next Generation together.  (My dad likes to make up his own names for episodes.  For example:  “Data’s Head”.)

This week’s episode of Discovery contained some Earth-shattering surprises, and a few theory confirmations.  Later on, I took some time to watch After Trek, the talk show that follows.  Shazad Latif (Tyler) and “surprise guest” Mary Chieffo (L’Rell) were on this week.  They did a funny gag introducing Chieffo, where she got to recite one of her famous lines as L’Rell.  “The prayer should make you remember, something is wrong!”  She did it in her own Klingon accent, and I had a genuine belly laugh.

I decided to tweet my enjoyment to Mary Chieffo:

“Qapla’!” means “success!” in Klingon.

So fucking cool.  Mary Chieffo helped brighten my week a little tiny bit while my wife was recovering from surgery.  She had no way of knowing that, but this really shows something:  how much a small insignificant gesture can help make a grey day a little brighter.  So thanks, Mary Chieffo, for that one tweet in the middle of a difficult week.  You rock.  (Chieffo seems like a real fan, plus her Twitter handle is @marythechief which doubles the cool factor.)

Jen’s second day in recovery was more painful than the first.  Several people told us that would be the case, as the initial painkillers wore off.  She was still kicking ass, but one thing she realized about this particular surgery is:  farts hurt!  Yes, farts hurt.  Passing gas is today’s challenge for her.  Please join me in wishing my wife successful farting.  Qapla’…?  Mary, do you happen to know the Klingon word for “fart”?  It’s not in my Klingon dictionary.

Thanks again to everyone who has been leaving comments that I have been unable to respond to!  And thanks to Dr. Sugimoto and the wonderful nurses in London.

Jen is winning.  Like a Klingon!

#636: Cancer Chronicles 6: The Recovery Begins

I have to admit I’m surprised how fantastic Jen looked and sounded post-surgery.  I’ve never experienced surgery; it scares the shit out of me.  Jen did it like a champion!  The hospital staff kept telling us what a great person she is.  Of course we know that already!

We spent several hours with her yesterday and she was in top spirits.  When we arrived, she was playing video games.  We got her hooked up with a TV so she could watch the hockey game.  We brought her yarn and needles so she could continue working on her knitting projects. We got her some coffee and she was thrilled.  She wasn’t allowed any coffee before surgery.  She said it was the best coffee she ever tasted.

A little while later the nurses had her out of bed for her first walk.  Part of the long recovery process is walking, breathing and coughing.  It hurt — I could see the pain on her face.  It will be several days before she’s able to come home.

I, however, have to get back to “real life”.  Jen’s mom will be taking care of her for the next few days.  At least I know she’s in good hands.

Recovery means she’ll be taking it easy for about six weeks.  I’ll be doing double duty on house chores which means much less writing.  That’s OK.  I had a pretty good five year run of writing almost daily.

Now, you may wonder “what’s with the main photo at the top of this article?”  It’s called “Guess The Grossness”, a fun hospital game that Jen plays.  Can you guess what the “food” is in the top photo?

Thanks for all your support.  It had been overwhelming, and so appreciated.  Thank you all!

#635: Cancer Chronicles 5: It’s Done

It was a long anxious day but it’s done now.  Jen’s surgery went well  We’re all exhausted so this will be a short one.

We didn’t get to see her while she was in the recovery room. We’ll see her Tuesday and we’ll bring her anything that she wants.  I miss her.  I can’t wait to see her and tell her how amazing she is.  Everybody told us how special she is.  Of course, we already know that.

This one battle is won.

#634: Cancer Chronicles 4: It’s Time

The past week was stressful for Jen and I.  We met the surgeon on January 9.  He didn’t tell us anything we didn’t expect, but still:  it was happening.  It was real.  Time was ticking we couldn’t shut it out of our minds anymore.  We had to get ready to Jen’s surgery and aftercare.

Three hours of surgery will be following by approximately a week in the hospital for recovery.  Then, six to eight weeks recovery at home.  Dr. Sugimoto assured me that if Jen’s home care was too difficult, they would arrange for help.  She’s applied for Mobility Plus, the special busses for the disabled.  We both really like “Dr. Sugi” as the staff call him.  When Jen had her biopsy, she had abnormal bleeding.  Dr. Sugimoto came back from home to re-do the gauze.  He’s amazing, honestly.

Even though we have incredible support, we are only human.  Both of us.  After the last meeting with Dr. Sugimoto, I was unable to go back to work.  The weight of this is affecting me emotionally and physically.  I hoped I could be stronger.  I set a goal for myself to keep going to work.  That was my mistake and I knew it.  It wasn’t a realistic goal.  I knew there was a real chance I wouldn’t be able to go to work every day.  So, I felt like a failure and it was my fault.  I guilt myself like nobody else can.

We’ve never gone through something like this.  I don’t know how we’re “supposed” to feel and act.

I think we’re prepared as much as one can be.  When she comes home there will be a new set of challenges, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  When I have news to post, I’ll post it.

In the meantime, every comment and prayer is appreciated.  We love you and we’ll be back soon.



#630: Mind Games – Cancer Chronicles 3

We’re less than a week away from surgery.  Jen’s scared.  While this is a routine surgery, it’s life changing for her.  Neither of us have ever experienced anything like this before.  Afterwards, she’s looking at a significant recovery time.  She’s going to have very limited mobility for a while.  This is very stressful.  It’s also stressful to imagine the challenges that we don’t know about yet, so we try and shut those thoughts down.

My brain is sometimes my worst enemy.

I know that we have a great surgeon.  We are confident that he is going to do a great job.  He also has great bedside manner.  He is reassuring.  Fear is natural and there’s nothing he can do about that.  When Jen is up scared at night, and I’m there to comfort her, it takes its toll on me, too.  I’m not oblivious to her fears.  And when the lights go out I can’t control where my brain goes.

So I’ll wake up, usually between 2:00 and 3:00 am, with the vague memory of negative unconscious thoughts in my head.  I’ll try to meditate, think on something else, but at 2:00 am you can only do so much.  Before long I’m in the bathroom vomiting up whatever I had in my stomach.

The day after a puke night, I never feel right.  Sleep is interrupted.  I’m sluggish, I have headaches and back aches.  It’s sometimes hard to put food back in me.  I can’t always eat a breakfast or a lunch after a night like that.  I’m losing weight but not in a good way.

I’m not sure how to turn this around, with less than a week to go.  The stress is only going to increase as we prepare for surgery.  We are being as proactive as we think we can be.  I am trying to take care of my body and my mind.  I’m only human and I have my own strengths and weaknesses.  I often consider my brain to be my greatest strength but right now, it’s getting the better of me.

#628: Cancer Chronicles 2


GETTING MORE TALE #622: Cancer Chronicles 2

Welcome back to Cancer Chronicles – the completely non-musical and self-indulgent series of updates on my wife’s cancer battle.

In our last chapter, I had to battle with hospitals to correct an appointment date for an MRI. They screwed up the date and booked it for February. I won that battle, and because I did, Jen was able to get a biopsy performed on schedule in December.

The surgeon promised he’d update us as soon as possible and he was true to his word.

We will be meeting with him on Tuesday January 9. This is in preparation for a surgery on January 15. I can’t believe how fast this is happening! Imagine if we didn’t get that MRI date fixed? We’d still be in limbo.

Jen will be in hospital for at least several days after surgery. I will most likely be out of contact that week. We are very much looking forward to putting this behind us and getting on with life! She’s scared, naturally. It’s happening fast but that also means it’ll be over before we know it.

I’m not scared, just nervous. When I feel stress, it manifests itself in a few ways but the worst is in my stomach. I’m a stress-puker. Sometimes I can’t eat for days. My own challenge is going to be providing support while trying to take care of myself. So wish us both luck. We’re going to kick cancer’s ass — together.

#622: Cancer Chronicles

For those who don’t know what’s going on, please read #619: State of the Rock – FYC! first.

Although this is a music site, because of our current battles I am going to be writing more personal stories within Getting More Tale.  I apologise for the lack of music today.  Music will always be the main focus but I also have to express myself.  Hence:  Cancer Chronicles.


GETTING MORE TALE #622: Cancer Chronicles

Health care in Canada is free, but it’s not an easy system to navigate. It can be confusing and scary; there is no instruction manual. You have to be hands-on with your own health care. You have to be on the phone every day asking questions and pushing for answers.

Here we are with the next chapter in Jen’s cancer battle. We needed an MRI (magnetic resonant imaging) done right away. The surgeon in London, who is an excellent doctor by the way, needed the MRI results so he could perform a biopsy. The MRI in Kitchener was booked for Tuesday December 12. We had a meeting at the hospital on the 14th, in preparation for the biopsy on the 18th. It was a tight schedule and we were glad so many things were moving very fast.

Jen showed up for her MRI on the 12th, right on time. She was extremely upset to find out there had been some kind of mistake. Instead of December 12, the MRI was apparently booked for mid-February. This threw everything out of whack. The surgeon couldn’t perform the biopsy without the MRI, and the biopsy was mere days away. A February MRI simply would not do. It would push back Jen’s cancer surgery by two months!

I got a text message and a phone call from Jen, extremely upset about this turn of events. Understandable. Finding out you have cancer is a kick in the shins enough. Having your appointment date screwed up so badly is a whole other punch in the face. We never got a straight answer on how it got messed up, but that wasn’t the issue. The issue was getting it fixed.

The hospital called the house, fortunately, because that’s where I was.

The person on the other end of the phone said “Please tell Jen I got her appointment moved to January.”

I realize that getting appointments pushed ahead is next to impossible. I know she probably moved mountains to get that date. But the fact is, it still wasn’t good enough. We needed the MRI done before the biopsy. Otherwise everything would be delayed.

I told her, “That is not good enough. We need the MRI done by Thursday when we go back to London.”

“I’m sorry sir but I’ve done everything I can. I was just calling to tell Jen that we got a better date, I thought she’d be happy about that,” she said.

“But we have a meeting at the hospital on Thursday! And a biopsy on Monday!”

“I’m sorry sir but this is the very best I can do. There was some kind of miscommunication over this, it’s not my fault. If anyone cancels I’ll call Jen immediately but we are booked solid,” I was told.

I wasn’t happy and it showed.

“Sir, please let me finish,” she said.

“No, you need to listen to what I’m telling you,” I interrupted. “The surgeon is waiting for that MRI, he needs it to do the biopsy. The biopsy is already scheduled. We need to get it done for him before then.”

“I understand what you’re saying,” she told me, “but please don’t be angry with me, it’s not my fault, I have done the best I can do.”

I calmed myself down.

“I’m not angry with you,” I attempted to say in a calmer voice, “and it doesn’t matter whose fault it is. That’s irrelevant. You have to understand that you are now delaying her cancer surgery.”

“That’s not what I’m saying,” she rebutted.

“Well it might not be what you’re saying, but that’s a fact. That’s a fact.” I paused to regain my thoughts. “If the doctor doesn’t get these results until January, he won’t be able to do the biopsy, and that’ll push everything back. That’s a fact.” I couldn’t imagine the surgeon being happy about this.

Finally she seemed to understand the problem. I think before this point, she just assumed I was an upset husband who wanted to get the dates expedited. But I still wasn’t getting any help.

“Then you need to take that up with your doctor,” she said. “I’ve done all I can do.”

I attempted to escalate.

“Then I need to talk to someone who can get us a better date.”

“I’m sorry sir, but that’s just not possible. This is the best date I was given.”

That gave me an opening. “Then I need to talk to the people who gave you that date.”

She paused. “Please hold,” she said with no patience left. I was on hold for two or three minutes.

Suddenly, I was connected with the imaging lab. The person on the other end of the phone was already aware of the situation. She asked me for the name of the surgeon. I asked, “So you are going to try and get her the MRI appointment before the biopsy?” She answered yes and assured us that she would call us back.

Jen arrived home shortly after I got off the phone. She was still incredibly upset. I told her, “It’s OK, don’t worry, I am taking care of it. They are going to call you back, they are going to try and get you a better date.” She started to calm down a little bit, but the truth is, neither of us really thought we’d be able to get a closer date. I know I did the very best, and pushed as hard as I possibly could. However I also know how booked up these places are. Usually for months and months in advance. I gave it my best shot.

An hour or two later the phone rang. To my absolute shock, they told Jen they moved her MRI to the very next day.

I still can’t believe it.

They must have called the surgeon, who assured us that he needed that MRI done right away. And so it was.

When Jen showed up for her MRI the next day, the staff told her “Your husband must love you very much. This never happens.” Well of course I do! But I didn’t do anything special. I did what any husband would have done. The fact that I got results is the only thing that made it special, and I think the surgeon had a lot to do with that.  The biopsy was performed on schedule.  Results should be in before Christmas.  We are still on track.  In the new year, she’ll be beating cancer.

I told my dad and co-workers what happened. Every single person said the same thing: “I’ve never heard of anybody being able to get an MRI scheduled for the next day, ever! How did you do it?” Another guy at work assured me, “I come from a family of doctors, so believe me, getting an MRI moved to the next day never happens!”

I felt good. I felt like a total hero. But as long as I’m just a hero to my wife, that is reward enough.


#619: State of the Rock — FYC!

I didn’t plan on writing anything on this subject until next year, but here goes.

First of all:  Thank you.

Thank you for reading and following for the last 5 ½ years.  Thank you for your comments, your emails, and in some cases your valued friendship!

Thank you for joining me as we talked about music and all sorts of miscellaneous tangents.  Thanks for sharing your points of view!  Thank you for being interested enough to read about my life at the Record Store, and after.

This is where we get serious.

A few weeks ago, my wife the incredible Mrs. LeBrain was diagnosed with cancer.  This is on top of her major, decade long struggle with epilepsy.  It feels like another kick in the shins.  We made some major progress on the epileptic seizures this year, but now we have this new setback.

I’m not going to get into the details, except to say that right now, we are told the prognosis is good.  That doesn’t mean there isn’t fear, or pain.  Pain exists daily for her, and fear is probably right there with it.  She has a fighting attitude.  We both do.  In my role as supporter, it’s my job to keep her going.  It’s a role I wouldn’t trade with anyone else.  We are all dealt different cards in life.  I’ve been a supporter for a long time now.  It’s not an easy job, but I have a gift for it, I guess.

Being a supporter might not be as difficult as being the one with cancer, but it does require time, and lots of energy.  I talked about having writer’s block a few weeks back.  I expect that there will be times in the weeks to come where I won’t have any energy to write.

I know you understand that.  I know there’s no pressure to write every day, except the pressure I put on myself.  And Jen has put no pressure on me to cut back or do less writing.

I continue to write because I feel good doing it.  I have been a creative personality for as long as I can remember.  Writing about what I love – music – brings me great happiness.  It helps me forget, for a short while, the real struggle of our lives.  Reading your comments is its own form of joy.  After all, writing is only half of the equation if nobody is there to read it.

Again – thank you for reading.  You probably didn’t know that it pumps me up, like fuel injection.  The first thing I do every morning is read the comments.

Because even the supporter needs to take care of themselves, I continue to do what I do.  I must do what makes me happy.  I don’t plan on stopping for this.  As much as I love to write for you, I do it mostly for me.

There are going to be times when I’m too tired physically, mentally or emotionally to work.  There may be some days with no new content.  I’ve been having trouble dedicating time to finishing the KISS Re-Review Series.  Now you know why.

This is not going to stop us.  We have the best medical team, and family to support us.  We have friends who have offered to be there with us in this fight.  I’m confident we are going to beat this.  I’m looking forward to getting it all behind us.

We have a busy schedule in the coming weeks.  Lots of appointments and tests and travel.  If I miss a day, or two, or three, don’t worry.  It’s just us taking on a bigger challenge, together as a team like always.  But when we beat it, and I’m sure it’s “when”, I know you’ll still be here.

Thank you for your support.  When I feel we have something to update, I’ll let you know how it’s going.  Until then, stay safe and healthy this season.  We have the upcoming Christmas bounty, and all the year end lists to look forward to.  Please continue to join me as we rock and roll all nite (and part of every day).

Fuck you, cancer!

Mike (LeBrain)