DANCING WITH CANCER (part 4) – Grateful For This

This is Part 4 of the series, Dancing With Cancer. Here is Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. More here and here.

On December 20th, 2002, I arrived back in Los Angeles from a 6 week work trip in central Europe. That next morning I woke up with a pulsing pain that reached from my right kidney down to my groin.  There was something about it, this pain, something about how deep it felt in my body and the resonance of it, the way it carried through my system. This was something new, something untold. It didn’t have a beginning or an end, it had a pulsing quality to it and felt ‘eroding’. The pain persisted throughout the holidays, then soon after the new year I had a first visit to the doctor.

Over the next 4 weeks the news went from ‘nothing’ to ‘maybe something but not major’ to ‘something there but no worries’ to ‘you need to see an oncologist’. I was introduced to oncologist Carol Nishikubo at St. Johns Hospital in Santa Monica, CA, a kind and caring woman who took her time with me, answered my questions, ordered more tests and when she realized how my condition was beyond the scope of her abilities to diagnosis and treat, referred me to the next and higher level of the medical gods.

Around the end of the first week in February, 2003, I found myself at UCLA Medical, in the office of Fred Eilber, chief surgeon of the oncology department. What I remember most about meeting Fred for the first time was his handshake, it was firm and solid, and I liked the way he looked me in the eye – there was a moment of recognition between us, something that said, ‘I know you and you know me’. Fred took the envelope of x-rays I had brought with me and left the room.  He returned five minutes later, brought the lights down a bit and gave me the news, flat out and straight up. He said it was serious, a leiomyosarcoma in my inferior vena cava, that I had 6 months max to live and how was Tuesday of next week to operate?

Right then a lot of things hit me at once, but most of all I knew how Fred’s frank delivery was reserved for someone like me, someone who he knew could take the news in this way.  I was a tough guy and he knew it. I was smart and I was a fighter and he knew that also. When I said to Fred, “Ok, I understand…let me think about”, Fred reached out and placed his hand squarely on my shoulder, gave a firm squeeze and said, “Doug, you don’t have time to think about it.  If I could I’d operate tomorrow, that’s how serious this is.”

From somewhere in the small cubicle of Fred’s office, there in the bowels of UCLA oncology, the wind begin to howl in my ears and over my skin, it ran through me, hot like a fire in my veins and forced me to recognize the size and scope of the moment and in an odd and determined kind of way it reminded me how I’d been here before, at this door swinging between two worlds, sitting square in the face of something larger than myself. Life is big and wide and deep. You either do or you don’t, you will or you won’t, you either make it or break it. At once I saw the depth of it all, how far I would be falling, how steep I would have to climb, how long the road of return would be.

On the drive home, back to Venice from UCLA, I thought most of all about my daughters, Malia Luna and Bailey Rye, who at the time were 12 and 11 years old.  What to say…how to assure them…

Turns out, when you’re a father, there is no choice but to be a hero; you set your sights high, aimed squarely on the mountain top of recovery and return, and make your way there through the fog and the pain and the cold and the night. You may lose sight but that’s ok, you keep going, one step forward, then another.  You fall and get dusted, then you crawl until you pick yourself up and wheel a turn against every grain of pain to get there, back where you began to begin again, back to a place of breath and love and light and air. This is how life is.

A year later, having found myself teetering on the edge of recovery’s road, my daughter Bailey came home from school and gave me a printout of this essay she wrote for a class at school. Her words lifted me like hot air in a big balloon and I wept, realizing how great this gift of life is and how magical it is we even breathe at all, and how God IS Love, and Grace and Beauty, all at once.

By Bailey Rye:

Like most children, I have been influenced by both my parents, and I admire them both tremendously, but in this case I want to talk about my father and how he overcame his difficulties.

Last year, my father was told he had maybe six months to live. They said he had terminal cancer, and even after they had removed his kidney, he would still die. It was a really rare cancer, and not many people have had it, but the ones that had, have not survived. It was a really awful surgery, and he went through a lot of pain, but through all of this, my father seemed really confident, and that everything would be all right. Instead of us telling him it was going to be okay, he was the one who was telling us. He told my sister and I that he knew he was going to get through it no matter what the doctors said, and something about the way he said it, made me believe him. And not just because I wanted to, it was because there was something in him that made me feel confident and safe. And he made me feel as though he might know more than the doctors did.

It turned out he did know more than they did, at least in terms of himself. Luckily for us, my father isn’t dead. Far from it. He is now completely free of cancer, and has a free bill of heath. Even when everything was against him, my father stayed positive and determined. He remained certain of his own recovery. I am sure my father was frightened sometimes, but that didn’t did not stop him from doing everything he could to get well, and looking into as many ways as he could to get rid of the cancer. He never gave up, he never lost hope, and he believed things would turn out right in the end, and they did. These are the qualities I admire in my father. I hope he has influenced me. I hope by being around him through this terrible illness, that his heroic spirit has rubbed off on me, because that is what my dad is, he is a hero to me.

Thanks for tuning in…
Doug Lewis
April 20, 2012

Malia Luna, Doug Lewis, Bailey Rye
Image by Cara Tompkins 

Bailey Rye

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DOCUMENT THIS! – Cara Tompkins and the VAC

Photographer and visual artist Cara Tompkins documents all aspects of life at the Venice Arts Club.  Her images bring the scene to life and serve as reminders of what was, what is and what will always be, historically speaking, when it comes to remembrance, recognition and the telling of the tale and the involvement of who, what and when.

Cara’s recent career move to Vancouver has left a hole in our collective heart, but her talent and work with the VAC will live on. Cara not only documented the many people, events and happenings that poured through the VAC, she is responsible for the cool graphics, logo’s and packaging that make up so many of the recent VAC projects including the NEW WHITE TRASH, VAC MUSIC, GUNTER VILE, THE CHEETERS, and ALDEN MARIN MUSIC.

And in the spirit of true creativity, Cara refused to be limited by her visual talent; as a founding member of the New White Trash (with Wade De Void, Michael Ruppert, Kristen Vigard, Malia Luna, James Mathers and Andy Kravitz), when it came time to step up to the mic, Cara stepped up to the mic and let herself flow into the music leaving her mark on such songs as Train To Paris, One Good Reason, and Lu Lu Lemons among many. Have a look and listen to Lu Lu Lemons, dedicated to Cara Tompkins, and check out her work at Extraordinary World Creations.

NEW WHITE TRASH – LU LU LEMONS
dedicated to Cara Tompkins

 

CARA TOMPKINS

VAC IMAGES by CARA TOMPKINS
Wade De Void

Malia Luna & Bailey Rye

Alden Marin

Mike Ruppert & Wade De Void of the New White Trash

Acoustic Backyard at the VAC


AVALANCHE AND EARTHQUAKE – Michael Ruppert and the Lifeboat Hour

The LIFEBOAT HOUR, hosted by Michael Ruppert, is now one of the top rated shows on internet radio. Broadcast over the Progressive Radio Network, the Lifeboat Hour can be heard live Sunday evenings at 9pm Eastern. The subtext for the Lifeboat Hour is ‘A Nightclub At The End Of The World’, a theme Ruppert developed due to his love of fresh, relevant music. As many listeners know, Ruppert is a founding member of the New White Trash (NWT), a music project from Venice, CA.  Other members include Wade De Void, Kristen Vigard, Andy Kravitz, Cara Tompkins, Malia Luna, Michael Jost, Robit Hairman, Phil Maggini. DOUBLEWIDE, the 37 song, double CD debut release from the NWT chronicles the slide of the former American middle-class down a steep and slippery slope to the ‘new white trash’, a place impartial to race, religion, creed or color. Since its release on January 11, 2011, Doublewide, dubbed ‘music of the post-paradigm’, has sold thousands of copies (independently of any record company) to listeners and fans around the globe.

For the show airing, Sunday, April 15 2012, Ruppert chose to play AVALANCHE AND EARTHQUAKE, a song from disc 1 of Doublewide. A&E is also Ruppert’s theme song for the show and is heard each week at the top of the show, as an introduction to the hour. The video for Avalanche & Earthquake features two of the Venice Arts Club mascots, the dogs Rags and Squishy at play in the VAC studio.  Enjoy Avalanche & Earthquake.  NOTE: the version of the song as it is heard on the video is a slightly different version than what appears on the final release. Doublewide is available here.  Thanks for tuning in!

NEW WHITE TRASH – Avalanche & Earthquake

NWT co-founder Mike Ruppert in the VAC Studio. Image/Cara Tompkins

NWT founders Mike Ruppert and Wade De Void. Image/Cara Tompkins

NWT/VAC Mascots RAGS and SQUISHY. Image/Cara Tompkins

NEW WHITE TRASH


MAYBE LOVE IS MORE FUN – Jamie Cohen and the Venice Arts Club

MAYBE LOVE IS MORE FUN is a lighthearted song from the VENICE ARTS CLUB MUSIC PROJECT.  It is song 1 on volume 1 of the 8 volume set and features JAMIE COHEN, KRISTEN VIGARD and MALIA LUNA. The refrain is, ‘gonna align the stars for you’…

Maybe it’s true, we’re all doing time
Minute by minute, please tell me your sign

All the weather finally got its act together
According to plan – you and I are feeling fine
A new moon, our only witness

Maybe love is more fun

Remember when we were good together
We were tethered to the sun
A nova, your casanova
You are my only one

Maybe love is more fun
Take it from me
(Like lemon with your tea – gonna squeeze the day for you)
Maybe love is more fun 

MAYBE LOVE IS MORE FUN – Venice Arts Club Music Project

JAMIE COHEN

KRISTEN VIGARD

MALIA LUNA

PRODUCED BY VAC


HELLO LIFE – Kristen Vigard and the New White Trash

The song HELLO LIFE is from DOUBLEWIDE, the 37 song, 2-CD release from the NEW WHITE TRASH. The music of the NWT can be heard each week on Michael C. Ruppert’s LIFEBOAT HOUR broadcast every Sunday evening at 9p Eastern on the Progressive Radio Network.

Hello Life features NWT member Kristen Vigard on vocals.  Kristen is also a founding member of the Venice Arts Club. Check out the video for Hello Life

HELLO LIFE – NEW WHITE TRASH

NEW WHITE TRASH – DOUBLEWIDE

NEW WHITE TRASH – MUSIC OF THE POST PARADIGM

PRODUCED BY VAC


PARALYZE ME – Mainstream Media and the Tower of Babel

TOWER OF BABEL, an installation by Iranian artist GORAN HASSANPOUR is an apt companion piece to PARALYZE ME, a social-commentary song from Volume 3 of Venice Arts Club Music. Born in Kurdistan, Iran in 1977, Hassanpour now lives and works in Goteborg, Sweden. Paralyze Me, produced by VAC founder Doug Lewis, also features VAC regular Malia Luna.

Paralyze Me

More of the same here – TV man is acting strange
Prime time in the evening, the host is screaming
His propaganda reeling, stacked up to the ceiling
Paralyze me – don’t paralyze me

Headline commentator – she scratches like a cat in heat
Her glass eye gleaming for the camera
Her plastic parts heaving to feed the daily beast
Paralyze me – don’t paralyze me 

PARALYZE ME, Venice Arts Club Music Project

 

 TOWER OF BABEL, installation by Goran Hassanpour

Produced by VAC


BLACK FRIDAY – Another Kid With A Gun

ANOTHER KID WITH A GUN is from VENICE ARTS CLUB MUSIC PROJECT, Volume 3. Features Michael Jost, Malia Luna, Spring Groove. Produced by VAC.

Cops in a frenzy shoot a man in the back at least 45 times
They said he had a gun – turns out they were lying
A witness to the crime took the mess to the internet
What kind of world do you want to live in, really?

Another kid with a gun…

VAC MUSIC – ‘Another Kid With A Gun’

 

Produced by VAC