#fuckcancer

Sunday Chuckle: Cockspital

Hospitals are so much fun!  Check out this cock-shaped graffiti from the Sunnybrook elevators!

 

Graffiti aside, Sunnybrook was a good hospital.  Canadian singer/songwriter Dan Hill had his prostate cancer treated there.  How do I know that?  There were big posters of Dan Hill advertising this fact! Dan got better, which is good.

Here’s Dan Hill’s hit ballad “Sometimes When We Touch”. Listen to it while gazing at the cock graffiti for maximum giggles.

 

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#700: How Are You Doing?

GETTING MORE TALE #700: How Are You Doing?

It’s been a week since we lost Mum…and we are doing OK.  Jen’s been focused like an electron microscope on getting things done for the funeral.  My job is scanning photos and preparing music…and catching up on laundry.  Attempting to put a dent into the pile of clothes I call “Sock Mountain”.  I’m assuming reality will hit us later.

For music, Mum would have liked if we used something by my sister Dr. Kathryn.  I hope I can find something appropriate, perhaps from her Stealth CD.  At least one track.  For the reception after, I’m using Mike Slayen’s awesome acoustic guitar album DUDE.  Don’t let the title fool you!  If Mum was well enough, I know she would have been enjoying this album with us.  Probably in the car on the way to the cottage.  She would have loved it.  Me, I would have loved just having Mum with us.

This has been a very hard year for us, and I know the power of music is such that you always associate certain tracks or albums with periods in your life.  Music also has the power to raise the spirits, and it did that for me quite a few times this summer.  On every shitty drive to Toronto on the 401, to every dismal hospital parking lot, my stereo was on.  A lot of albums were repeat listens, and I worry:  “Will I always associate the Bosstones or Blotto with this shitty summer?”

I might.  And that might make the Bosstones or Blotto hard to listen to, down the road.  I think we have to try and make more memories of those bands later on.  Maybe when we finally do return to the cottage.

That aside, we sure did devour a lot of music on the road.  Just last week, between Toronto and the work commute, I polished off Marillion’s The Singles ’82-’88 (12 discs), its followup Singles Box Vol 2 ’89 – ’95 (12 more discs), and a third “box set” of eight more singles. A whopping 1.5 gig of music.  Basically all their singles and B-sides in one massive weeklong stretch.  Meanwhile, back at the office, I had my Kiss flash drive.  Basically, everything I own by Kiss in one place.  I’ve been focused on the studio albums, and each one has been spun more than once.  I realised this:  I never seem to get tired of Kiss!

Whether it was Lick it Up, Hotter Than Hell, Dressed to Kill, Love Gun, Rock and Roll OverDynasty, Unmasked, Creatures…even Asylum got multiple plays in the last couple weeks.  When a band has been your favourite for over 30 years and you can’t explain why, I guess you can just keep playing those albums in rotation.  The later albums…admittedly less so.  The emotional attachment isn’t quite there.

Get this!  While I was bopping to Kiss Unmasked one afternoon, the guy in the office next to me put on “Summerland” by King’s X!  How cool is that?  When was the last time you heard King’s X in the office?  The guy even knew the names of the members.  Said a friend recently turned him onto King’s X, but all he had was the Best Of.  Gotta start somewhere!

Thanks for checking in.  We’ll be OK.  I think we’ll manage to make it through this, but not without the support of friends and loved ones.

#699: Brief Encounter

On the dark days, you just need to find things to cheer you up.

This past weekend, caring for Jen’s mom in the hospital, I had a chance encounter that lasted just a few moments, but gave me something else to focus on.  “Mum” was staying in a very nice wing of a veteran’s hospital.  It was filled with retired war heroes, but also regular people who were fighting their final battles with cancer.  You can always sense the grief in the air.  It weighs down like a heavy, thick antiseptic mist.

Sunday morning we were making our way to see Mum, with other families to see our loved ones.  Walking in front of us was a tall guy carrying a guitar.  It was in a road case, which jumped out at me.  Most guitar hobbyists don’t need one, but professionals do.  He looked like a dressed-down star.  He held the elevator door open for us.  We got in and I had a closer look at his road case.  There was a laminated tag with his name on it, which I recognised immediately.  For his privacy, I won’t say who he was, but I Googled him to verify.  Sure enough, the guitarist in front of us was the guy who came up in my Google images search.

Seven solo albums stretching back 22 years.  12 more album releases as a sideman, for some pretty big names.  If I said them, you’d recognise them.  He has played on Leno, the Oscars, and the Grammies, and he also opened for two of my favourite bands (one of which, Deep Purple, is in my Top Five).

I didn’t bother him.  He was there for the same reason we were.  It would have been disrespectful for me to invade his privacy.

I did, however, stream some of his music on my phone.  Later on, I heard him down the hall, playing blues licks for his loved one.  It was an awesome, awesome sound.

My only real wish was, it would have been nice if Mum was well enough to come out into the hallway to listen.  Mum loved all kinds of music, including the blues.  But she was too sick.  We played some George Harrison in her room, instead.

I talked about this brief encounter all day.  I guess I was a little starstruck.

In the end, the bluesman did more than play some licks for his loved one.  He didn’t know it, but he helped me out too.  Thank you, bluesman.

 

Rest in Peace, Mrs. LeBrain’s Mom — “Mum”

Some people knew her as “Debbie”.  Some called her “sis”.  Jen called her “mommy”.  Readers here remember her as “Mrs. LeBrain’s Mom”.

As for me, she liked it when I called her “Mum”, so that’s what I did.

She’s been sick for a little while.  She was diagnosed with cancer at the same time as my wife, late last year.  Because Mum only cared about other people, she tried to protect us.  She did not tell us about it.  She lived with her secret, so we could focus on Jen.  We knew she was sicker than she claimed, but at the end of the day we had to trust her.  I don’t begrudge this.  She was right — I needed to focus on Jen, beating her own cancer.  When she did, Mum told us the news.

She’s so important to me.  We became much closer when Jen’s dad passed away in 2009.  When that happened, our little unit circled the wagons and held on to each other tight.  We invited her to come and stay with us on the weekends, and she did, probably two out of every three times.  She came and celebrated Christmas (and all the holidays) with my family.  She bought us dinners and treats and spoiled us.  She took good care of Jen.  We talked and laughed.

I already miss our talks.  I just wanna call her.

She even contributed to my website.  She co-reviewed Machete Kills with me.  She helped with two of my videos, always as comedy relief.  She was a great sport.

I miss her so much.

I could count on her for wisdom, for support, and she was always there when Jen needed her.  If Jen called, Mum would be on a train.  She just liked being here.  She wanted to retire in Kitchener.  Over the years she made a lot of friends. Lots of people here will miss her.  Her generosity won’t be easily forgotten.  She was good to everyone.

I have always tried to put on an optimistic face when it comes to health.  Until you’re done, you’re still fighting to win.  But as summer progressed, it was clear Mum wasn’t getting better.  She bravely tried a new experimental treatment.  The upside was that some tumors were shrinking, but the treatment made her incredibly ill.  She couldn’t continue.  Eventually the doctors just ran out of things to try.

The last thing she said clearly to me, many many times, was “I only trust Michael.  I only trust Michael.”

I will never forget that for the rest of my life.  “I only trust Michael.”

I guess she means to take care of Jen.  Hearing her say this, repeating it, was the heaviest moment of my life.

But it felt good at the same time.  I couldn’t have asked for the trust of a more important person.  She was a second mom to me.  I am a very lucky person to have even known her.

She fought that cancer, and fought, and fought.  She fought longer than any of the doctors said she would.

She was the toughest woman I ever knew.  I miss her like crazy.

Rest in peace, Mum.

Mrs. LeBrain’s Mom had a cameo in this video. She was a good sport and played the role well.

Update 2

On the last few Toronto drives, one band keeps getting played over and over again.  When I return from my hiatus I’m going to be writing a lot about Blotto.  Their upbeat, comedic rock and roll has been everything we needed.  There have been dark days these past weeks, but Blotto helps make us laugh again.  Blotto formed in the late 70s, never signed to a major label, released one album and several singles, and became a cult band.

One day before hitting the highway, I checked out a Blotto concert from 1982 on Youtube called Tonight At Toad’s.  It had Jen’s favourite song (“It’s Not You”) and two of mine (“Metal Head” and “Goodbye, Mr. Bond”).  I flipped the concert to mp3 and put it on the car stereo.  Together we found a new favourite, “I Wanna be a Lifeguard”, their first hit from 1979.

Music helps.  Every little thing helps.

Selected Road Tunes:

  • Blotto – Tonight at Toad’s
  • Deep Purple – The Book of Taliesyn
  • Deep Purple – With Orchestra: Live at Montreaux
  • Deep Purple – The House of Blue Light
  • Budgie – Deliver Us From Evil
  • Joe Satriani, Eric Johnson & Steve Vai – G3 Live in Concert
  • The Darkness – Live at Hammersmith
  • The Sword – Used Future

 

 

Hiatus Update

“Well, the cops have been lookin’ for the son-of-a-gun,
That’s been rippin’ the tar off the four-O-one.”

I’ve learned a lot in the last week and a half.  I think I have mastered this “driving the 401 to Toronto” thing.  It really boils down to three easy steps:

  1. Watch the signs and you won’t get lost.
  2. Stoppy-starty traffic is perfectly normal.
  3. Motorcycles can and will drive between lanes of stopped traffic.

See?  Easy.

Timing is also fun.  What takes 80 minutes on a good day takes 120+ minutes on another day.  It’s like a guessing game you can enjoy with your friends.

OH!  And last Saturday in Toronto, I dropped my brand new glasses into a pissy hotel toilet.  Thankfully, it was my own piss.

When we have something to update you on, we’ll update you!  Until then, keep watching the roads….

 

 

A sampling of Road Tunes:

  • Deep Purple – Burn
  • Deep Purple – Stormbringer
  • Deep Purple – Come Taste the Band
  • Blotto – Combo Akimbo
  • Thin Lizzy – Renegade
  • Thin Lizzy – Dedication
  • Stompin’ Tom Connors – Bud the Spud

 

Well it’s Bud the Spud from the bright red mud
Rollin’ down the highway smilin’
The spuds are big on the back of Bud’s rig
They’re from Prince Edward Island
They’re from Prince Edward Island

Now from Charlottetown or from Summerside
They load them down for the big long ride;
He jumps in the cab and he’s off with the Pride Sebagoes
He’s gotta catch a boat to make Tormentine
Then he hits up that old New Brunswick line
Through Montreal he comes just a flyin’
With another big load of potatoes

The Ontario Provincial Police don’t think much of Bud

Well, the cops have been lookin’ for the son-of-a-gun
That’s been rippin’ the tar off the four-O-one;
They know the name on the truck shines up in the sun – “Green Gables”
But he hits Toronto and at seven o’clock
He backs her up again at the terminal dock
And the boys gather ’round just to hear him talk
About another big load of potatoes

Temporary Hiatus

Mikeladano.com will return after a brief hiatus.

#698: Cancer Chronicles 12: The Battle Rages On

At LeBrain HQ this summer, we have been burning the candle at both ends.  Caring for a sick family member is not easy especially when they are out of town.

Mrs. LeBrain has been on trains and busses for half of every week, going up to Toronto to provide love and support.  She can’t drive because of the seizures so she’s at the mercy of bus and train schedules.  One night she spent five hours getting home from Toronto.

I’ve been given strict instructions from her aunt:  “Don’t let Jen burn herself out”.

Easier said than done!

She’s been doing an amazing job.  Since I work full time I am only free to drive down to Toronto on weekends.  That’s exhausting too, though not as much as public transit.

We haven’t had as much time to recharge our own batteries.  It’s sad to say but we won’t be going to the cottage at all this summer.  On the hot days, we would love nothing more than to jump in the refreshing waters of Lake Huron.  It’s not happening this year.

And I haven’t had as much time to work on my reviews here at mikeladano.com.  I come home from work mentally wiped out.  I’m still playing and enjoying music every day but not writing about it very much.  Thankfully guest writers like Holen MaGroin, Kovaflyer, Harrison Kopp and Derek Kortepeter have stepped up to provide some content and relief!  (And there will be more content from Mr. MaGroin soon.)

My job, supporting Jen, is the easier of the two.  I go to work, get paid, drive her where she has to go when I can, and try to take care of her.  She’s got the harder job.  If I’m not around these parts as much, or haven’t responded to your comments, that’s why.  The struggle continues and the battle rages on.

We are not quitters!

 

#679: Cancer Chronicles 12

The good news is that Jen’s recovery has been amazing. She virtually back to full strength and still getting stronger.

Thank God for this, because I don’t think we could handle any more bad news on top of what we already have.

Our other loved one who has cancer is…not doing well.  Surgery was successful but more spread has been found.  This news is fresh and we do not know the path forward.

The future is unknown.  There are new experimental treatments that might be effective.

We are trying to continue our lives as normally as possible.  Sausagefest is less than two months away.  Cottage season has begun.  We don’t want to live our lives in a cocoon and our loved one doesn’t want us to either.  But we are in a state of shell-shock and knowing how to feel or what to think is just not happening right now.

#667: Cancer Chronicles 11

You might have noticed I’ve been quiet the last few days. I have not been able to respond to comments. The reason is, once again, I am supporting someone who has cancer. This person is very close to both Jen and I. They just had their successful surgery yesterday.  Now, on to chemo.

It’s all very much deja-vu.  Hotel rooms out of town, hospital waiting rooms, doctors and nurses.  Yesterday we clocked 10 hours waiting at the hospital.  That’s a long day — longer than a work day, and twice as tiring.  My dad said to me, “I think you deserve the Congressional Medal of Honor”.  But that’s only for Americans.  I’ll settle for a plate of sushi at the end of it.

Fuck cancer.  Two weeks ago, an original Sausagefester died of cancer.  I’ve known him for 23 years.  Some of the guys have known him since childhood.  His absence this summer will be deeply felt.  We will all miss our friend in the orange boiler suit.

These are dark days.  Neither of them wanted any online attention, so I’m being purposely vague.   Just know that 2018 has already taken a toll, and it’s only 1/4 of the way done.

Music has been a blessing, as always.  Yesterday the clever frivolity of Spinal Tap kept my spirits up.  It’s impossible not to laugh at the absurd “Stonehenge” or the just plain funny “Big Bottom”.  (“Talk about bum cakes, my girl’s got em.”)

Fuck the dark days.  I do not want to be dragged down by them.  I also don’t want any more of my loved ones to get sick, but we know we have no control over that.  That is the struggle of life.  All I can do is try to keep smiling.  So here’s Spinal Tap.  Enjoy.

 

Look for Derek Smalls’ solo debut, Smalls Change, April 13 2018.