A celebration of cancer survival in Saint Paul

The healing power of music and friends was out in full force at Wilebski’s Blues Saloon in St. Paul March 25. Between 400 and 500 people came through the doors over the course of a day jammed with some of Minnesota’s finest musicians and songwriters. They were there to help keep me alive.

I never set out writing this blog as a Caring Bridge kind of thing, but things don’t always work out as planned. So rather than the usual steady diet of slings and arrows at local political miscreants, investigations into fraudsters trying to buy votes, pardons or legitimacy, or occasional forays through musical doors, today you get another Update from the Cancer Desk.

First, the medical lowdown. A CT scan several weeks ago showed the tumors on my liver had shrunk since chemotherapy had begun (the tumors have metastasized from the pancreas to the liver, thus the “Stage 4” diagnosis), which was a good sign. Another scan next week will determine the future course of treatment after the eighth of 12 planned chemo sessions. That could include surgery and/or radiation. Stay tuned.

Now for the fun stuff. Yes, there is an up side to getting cancer. In this case, it came through the love and dedication of the Krewe of DADs, a whole gang of great musicians and hundreds of friends. I’m a founding member of the Krewe of DADs, which modeled itself after New Orleans’ notorious Krewe of MOMs, a rogue Krewe among the Crescent City’s elite other Mardi Gras Krewes that ultimately coalesced around the New Orleans-based Radiators. The Krewe of DADs adopted Halloween as their annual celebration of music featuring the Radiators and we’ve hosted our own Halloween masquerade balls on this end of the Mississippi River for a quarter century. All but last year’s featured the Radiators, but after they disbanded in June 2011, the New Orleans Suspects, a new group formed by Radiators bassist Reggie Scanlan, ably filled the bill.

Besides helping with the Krewe’s regular musical events that brought in some amazing talent to the Twin Cities and surrounding farms and living rooms over the years, I initiated Krewe of DADs fundraisers for post-Katrina musicians in Louisiana and for another Krewe member and cancer survivor, Minneapolis artist Johnny Hanson. In a show of the old saw “what goes around, comes around,” the Krewe of DADs put together a musical extravaganza and silent auction fun(d)raiser for me at Wilebski’s Blues Saloon March 25 that featured some of the same gracious talent that always seems to be there when you need them:

Camile Baudoin, Tony Glover, Gene LaFond & the Wild Unknown, Paul Metsa & Cats Under the Stars, Curtis Obeda and the Butanes, Tim O’Keefe, Peter Ostroushko, John Pasternacki, Paul Toracinta, Harold Tremblay, Willie Walker, Willie West.

In an ironic twist of fate, Reggie Scanlan had to cancel his trip up from New Orleans to play. Instead, he had exploratory surgery for pancreatic cancer that week, for which he was diagnosed two weeks before. Fortunately, it appears treatable and his recovery period mercifully short.

Friends came from near and far, some I hadn’t seen in 30 years or more, to help take the sting out of losing a year or more of fulltime work and good health. It did that and more. It was kind of like getting a snapshot of your future through the lens of your past. Or an episode of  “This Is Your Life.” Seven hours of pure positive energy permeated the room on Rice Street, and I didn’t miss a minute of it.

In situations like this, you’ve got to treat the mind as well as the body. Thanks to all who organized, attended, performed, donated, publicized or otherwise participated in this celebration of survival. I promise a good return on your investment.

This post was written by Karl Bremer and originally posted on Ripple in Stillwater.

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