Wednesday, December 11, 2013

New Update 12/13

December 12, 2013. Well I just read my last post and it's been quite an odyssey since then. In December 2012 the Leukemia relapsed with a vengeance. Pockets of cells on my skin. I felt fine but the doctors moved fast on this one. Immediately a biopsy on the cells, then a radiation appointment to plan dealing with the testicle which was still healing from the hydrocele, again suspected more Leukemia cells. All in one busy day with a catscan and hospital bed scheduled for the next afternoon. Chemo "MEK" was scheduled. A wild blue chemo included. I wrote a song to the tune "Kansas City" "I'm going to the Chemo ward, Chemo ward here I come" etc.(Blues in E). This 43 day hospitalization included some seriuous issues including a pneumonia and 12 days in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) where I rec'd amazing therapies. Once the chemo reaction crap was done (nausea, rhinovirus ((cold)), diarrhea and lung issues they tagged on 15 days of radiation for the testicle. No real bad reactions there, just impatience as I wanted to get home and start to rebuild this weak, sickly tired body. Indeed I got home Feb. 2nd and started to rebuild. By mid March I played an amazing gig with Anne Matlack and Harmonium (Britten and Mozart's Coronation Mass). I was still too weak to carry my bass so Spencer came to the rehearsals and gig with me and helped set up my bass and equipment (a stool and music stand light). God bless him. A great kid. Then we were planning a consolidation chemo round when my oncologist said "we have no experience with a 70 year old male with this extraordinary relapse. We don't know what we can safely give to you....we suggest you speak to the Bone Marrow Team" and see if they can help you. I set up a meeting the following Monday. Carol, Rebekah and Debra Vogel (my sister in law...I mean Frister in law...Friend and Sister combined) joined me for meetings with the scheduling nurse, and the BMT doc, Dr. Jakobowsky, and the social worker for the team (another Gem, the MSKCC teams are outstanding). The next morning, Tuesday, I called and said "Let's Go, I'm ready to try and save my life". It obviously was an easy decision since I wanted to be around for Benjamin's Bar Mitzvah in October 2013 and other wonderful family celebrations like Carol's Mother's 100th birthday and now 101st Bday on December 5th. Unbelievably the scheduling nurse calls me 4 days later, while I'm at Shanghai Jazz digging my neighbor Lee Finkelstein on the bandstand with another fine Jazz/Soul group (7:30 Friday night she's still working!!). "Mr. B, we have a perfect 10 match for you. We need you in the hospital April 23rd for another MRI and check in to the 8th floor (BMT floor). WE will prepare your body for the procedure". So that week I felt great, maybe a little bit concerned reentering Chemo mode again whereby they will wipeout my immune system, a dangerous enough prospect. That took about 10 days. Then a day off, and on May 2nd, 2013 I received my donors cells. For me a simple procedure, they inoculated the cells directly into my port through the inter venous lines and the cells somehow know where to go. I felt fine. I improvised a little prayer to welcome the cells to my body and off we went. Daily visits from the team told me how I was doing. Dr. Su was ecstatic how my numbers were "Charging back". I had some serious issues with C dif (a mean diarrhea) and such but I kept positive, and was even working on plans to put a big band together for July's MAPLEWOODSTOCK #10..."Jimbo's Jambalaya". Lee and Evel came to visit me one day and made me feel like I was back on the track. We talked music, friends, life. He even had an MSKCC employee come to visit me as he was planning a band for her wedding. So cool. The connections in this world. Wild. OK, I forgot to tell you something. My Frister in law made arrangements for Carol to live in an apartment in the city for 2 months so we didn't have to shlep back to Jersey each day. What a godsend. Thank you N and R and Debra. In addition the Docs did not want me to return home with the traffic we were used to at home since my immune system was rebuilding. Sooo...after 8 years together, Mildred and her caretakers had to move out of Maplewood. Fortunately again Debra and Elfin did the footwork and took over. Mom is comfortably settled with them in SO so we can visit frequently and carefully (I wear a mask etc. almost anytime I go anywhere). I was released to come home on July 2nd, 2013. We indeed performed at MapleWoodstock 10 on July 12th. I could only make it through 1 tune on bass, but that was fine enough for me. I loved the band of fine players, almost all my neighbors we had gathered and rehearsed. We had a ball. Last month I played 2 beautiful gigs, a Chamber Music Trio at 1978 Art Gallery where I showed 2 new pieces, and a Bach Magnificat back at Calvary where I've been playing on and off for 35 years or more. AHHHH....back in the saddle. AND....tonight and Sat. I play string bass with my Concert Band still going after we created it 10 years ago (as is SwingTown thanks to Ben and Susan). Next week trombone and tuba in my Brass Quintet for a session of Christmas Carols. Then back to Shul for a Klezmer service in January. I'm a fortunate musician to have a wide range of opportunities. I can shed on 5 instruments a day, and I love it!! I'm also painting like mad. Just finished 3 portraits of my Grandchildren and will get them framed this week so after Christmas the kids can take them home. I'm getting ready to set up the Christmas Tree and Train Set. We have a few new things to add this year again. We love it all. Well there are more updates on my Facebook page, but I will tyry to keep up this blog again for a while. Looking forward to when my ANC (neutrophil) numbers return. Docs are all mystified as to what's going on. I feel fine, but something has yet to kick in. My last Bone Marrow Biopsy was excellent. No leukemia cells, all my immune system is my donors!! I'm a lucky guy and got a great donor whoever or wherever he is. Someday I hope to find out. Peace. Enjoy the beautiful winter, keep warm. JIM

Friday, September 14, 2012

Fall healing

So it turns out after a few weeks the antibiotics did nothing and the diagnosis was a Hydrocele....somewhat of a common problem for young boys and guys over 40. So, after a sonogram no sight of cancer issues, just water. So I had surgery (Hydrocelectomy) to fix it August 24th and healed for about 2 weeks. Now I'm back walking and soon to swimming. I go for the final checkup on that surgery in 6 weeks, Meantime our checkups at MSKCC are 4 months for Diabetes and 5 months for the Leukemia which is still in Remission now over 5 years. Getting back to our music as well after a hot summer with fewer rehearsals and gigs. Enjoyed a fine half week with the Grandchildren in Woodstock. Now they are back to school and sound busily happy, or is it happily busy??? Enjoy the beautiful Fall. JIM

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Hot Summer Reading

July 12, 2012 . 9 am. Just reading an amazing, powerful, series of articles in the NY Times on new cancer therapies; genome sequencing and finding drivers of cancer cells (re)production. Heavy articles but so important to read.
Meantime I'm performing a lot and enjoying the rehearsals as well. Trying to stay out of the incredible heat here. Now that the Beethoven Symphonies are performed we are doing a lot of summer Jazz etc. in the parks, pool, clubs etc. It's all fun. I lowered the bass strings and am turning up the amp. : ) Will get back to MSKCC for checkups in the late summer or early fall. Dealing now with problem which appears to be an infection (taking Cipro) but we'll see in a few days if it works. May need more therapy than that.
Meantime the Grands were here and we got to the beach, the pool, the concerts at MapleWoodstock and the fireworks. Good time. They'll be off to summer camp soon. Carol and I enjoyed a wonderful day up in the lakes country with Army buddies. Fine.

Keep cool. JIM

Friday, June 22, 2012

Grands Visit

June 22nd, 2012. Well the Grandkids went home yesterday and already we are a bit lonely around the house. Missing an energy and vitality they bring. We were very busy with them...the Art Show last Saturday, then the diner and Shosh and Riv went home, the others of us went to the movies. Then Tenement Museum on Monday in NYC and the diner at night for Jazz. Tuesday to the Beach for a long day of Boogie Boards, play in the sand, and rides on the Boardwalk (this has become a tradition now). Wednesday to Yankees Stadium on a hot but beautiful afternoon. Thursday pickup and go home. So we've got a busy schedule of gigs this month but the Pool is open so I'll get over there and start doing laps now. Redone pool apron etc. will make things more comfortable. Enjoy your vacations folks. Keep those veggies. JIM

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Joys and Loss

It's been a beautiful spring of Joys and Loss. Today our dear Sophie has gone to rest. Last week my cousin's wife Marty died after a wonderful couple of weeks with her family. During my last post I told you Steve had passed. Then Pat had gone to rest. We enjoyed a beautiful Memorial service for Dick Kniss in Woodstock 2 weeks ago. Yesterday Chrissy's Mom passed. And so we see the fullness of life this Spring, from rebirth in our gardens, and many fine performances of music and dance people have been preparing for months or years, and then to the space to say I Love You and the time to say goodbye, as best we know how. Meantime I am fortunate to sit here at the computer to kvell, celebrate, the joys of living and Grandchildren, my wife, my brothers and sisters, my friends, my fellow patients, my doctors and nurses, my family and colleagues. I feel great. I enjoy seeing people, partying, hearing the music, playing the music, seeing the paintings, making the paintings etc. We're a fortunate lot here. No wonder it is so difficult to say goodbye. We try so much to enjoy all this it is painful to see some leave us. Yet we all must take our rest and leave this place sometime. the meantime enjoy the beauty, the sunrise, the sunsets, the warm nights and bright days. Play your hearts out. Dance up a sweat. Enjoy that meal man. Thanks for checking in. We're doing ok. The docs keep checking me out and so far so good. We will keep looking forward.Enjoy this time of life, and get ready for the pool, the lakes, the warmth. Peace. JIM

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Spring and Steve

Sat. March 24, 2012. Spring is here in Maplewood and yesterday we enjoyed a day trip to Woodstock to dig the blossoms, birds etc. up there. The sky, the mountains, the lakes all looked inviting. Can't wait to go back and spend a weekend or a week up there. Next week I'll be in Tampa to catch up with Brother Kim and family and go to a Yankees game and visit some friends on the West Coast. Carol and I trekked into MSK for her checkup and all is clear. 6 months before her next checkup. Great. Tuesday my friend Steve Phillips the drummer passed on. He had a heart attack while sitting in at a gig and lingered for almost 2 weeks in a coma before passing. Tuesday I'll get to his funeral. I miss him already. We had played 3 times last month, and I have videotapes of all 3 of those sessions as memories. RIP.
Well, I gotta go practice to keep up with the music challenges ahead. Enjoy the beauty of the season. Keep your health. JIM

Friday, February 17, 2012


Fri, Feb 17, 2012. Last night Carol presented a very interesting video to our Neighborhood Assn. featuring one of our neighbors whose family was enslaved in South Carolina. The white family Plantation owner's descendants and the slave's descendants were researching that history. It's an amazing story captured on a PBS video. Great discussion and questions afterwards. Yesterday I did a concert for Tots, little preschoolers featuring our string quintet...solos and ensembles and games for the kids. Evidently this concert series has been going 35 years or so. My bass was new to the mix and it sounds like they want me back next year. Looking forward. Also got a call to perform Beethoven's 9th in June. Great. Playing Schumann's 1st and Saints-Saens Cello Cto. early March. Last month did Elgar Cello Concerto and Vaughn Williams Serenade to Music. I enjoy preparing and performing these pieces. This morning I am listening to Yo Yo Ma and his Brazilian friends...I want to play Brazilian, Spanish, and Argentinian Duos with Joel on Guitar and me on cello or bass. Am seeking tunes now. Brass Quintet continues Saturday, with a sub for Al this week, but we are looking forward to some recitals in the Spring. Also trying to put together a Nawlins styled Brass/Funk band four MapleWoodstock ala Dirty Dozen. The Country Band continues once everyone returns to NJ and the Blues Band is cranking back up for the summer months.
So, an annoying 2 week cold is finally lifting and we're doing good. Off to Mohonk for a little break soon. Before you know it we'll be back to Woodstock. I'm also trying to do a chamber music workshop in Vermont this spring. We'll see how it goes. Meantime we keep drawing, collaging etc. Peace. Stay Healthy. Thanks for catching up with us. JIM