#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.


#661: Cancer Chronicles 10 – The “Firepower” of Positivity

Only good news today. Mrs. LeBrain just met with Dr. Sugimoto, for what is likely to be the very last time. “Dr. Sugi” inspected her incision and is very happy not only with how it’s looking, but how well Jen has managed since her surgery almost two months ago. She’s been out and about every day for the last few weeks, sometimes even by herself. She’s getting stronger. Personally I think she’s stronger now than she was before the surgery.

“Dr. Sugi” says we don’t have to come to London anymore.  He is satisfied that Jen has kicked cancer’s ass.  No more trips to London, and sadly, no more Dr. Sugimoto.  It’s been an emotional time and we’ve grown very attached to him.  It’s weird to say, but we will all miss him.

The drive down to London was a piece of cake. Rush’s A Farewell to Kings was the soundtrack. I don’t know how it’s possible but she fell asleep during “Cygnus X-1”. For the trip home, I chose All The World’s A Stage. She was blown away by Peart’s legendary drum solo.

Remaining positive in the face of adversity is not easy, But Jen has managed to do it. She gets up each day and kicks ass, and looks forward to doing it again the next day. We still struggle knowing we cannot have kids, but being alive and healthy is so much more important than that. It really is. Her positive attitude through this has been inspiring. I hope readers have gained that much from her.

We had one errand to run on the way home.  As you hopefully already know, March 9 is the release date of Judas Priest’s brand new Firepower album!  I ran in and out of the mall in less than five minutes — I am the man!  The deluxe edition of Firepower is in my happy hands.  Rock journalist Mitch Lafon says it’s already his #1 album of 2018.  Time to put Firepower to the test!

#647: Cancer Chronicles 9 & Star Trek Radio tonight!

Today Jennifer saw Dr. Sugimoto for the first time since her cancer surgery.  He walked in, and said, “I don’t want to beat around the bush.  All of your test results came back negative.”  Just to make sure, Jen asked, “That’s good right?”

“Yes, that’s very good,” said Dr. Sugimoto.

They found no more traces of cancer in Jen.  The tumour was relatively small.  At this point, she has a very small chance of recurrence:  a mere 5%.  No chemotherapy, no radiation necessary.

We are both tremendously relieved although I don’t think it has really sunk in yet.  I ordered some sushi to celebrate.

Because we got this good news today, I can announce that I will be going live on the radio tonight to talk about music!

LeBrain will be LIVE at 12:30 AM (ET) Saturday morning with Robert Daniels on VISIONS IN SOUND. Tune in on your dial to 98.5 or internet to CKWR!  You folks in the UK can tune in as you enjoy some morning java!  Join Us THIS Saturday 12:30-2:30am (ET).

This week’s show:  Star Trek: Discovery.  Per Rob:   “As we head in to the first major show of 2018. This week we look at the music to the latest Star Trek TV show, Discovery. Featured will be music from the TV series by Jeff Russo (of the rock band Tonic) and I’ll have special guests that will bring their opinions on the new show as well.” 

I’m a special guest!

It’s exciting to get behind the microphone again.  Due to the stress of Jen’s cancer, I wasn’t able to make it to Visions in Sound for Rob’s Star Wars specials in December.  And here’s a crazy coincidence.  Rob’s wife Dorothea battled and defeated cancer too…and her doctor was also Dr. Sugimoto.  Small world, and great support to have!

Hope you tune in tonight.  I know I’m in a great mood for celebrating music, and life!


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.