It's a creekmore world

Week #10: Cancer is sentenced to death by Rock ‘n Roll

Cancer Boobographs from Faith No More


We’re halfway there. Trish has completed her third of six chemo treatments and gotten through the nasty after-effects.

She starts her second week with a bang, doing a 90 minute dance class Monday night, and going into her contractor job at Voice of America on Tuesday morning.

I’m proud of her for pushing to shake off the chemo treatment this way. It would be easy to stay on the couch and say “I just had a rough week and I’ve earned another day of rest.’

She inspires me.


The right way to be tough on cancer.

A vulnerable Tink.  Taken before we knew the cancer returned.
Trish has one of the highest pain thresholds of anyone I know.  She hates to be a ‘burden’ to anyone for anything.

Last time she had cancer she tried to “tough it out” and treat it like a simple medical procedure that she needed to endure. The approach wore her out and made the recovery even harder.

The second time, we changed our approach. As soon as she was diagnosed, I created a safe space in which she would feel completely cared for so her emotions and psyche could adapt to the horror. I stopped her work, took care of all her family responsibilities, and provided as much distraction in the form of games, movies, concerts and fun as possible.

Ironically, this way requires her to be even tougher.  For one thing, she’s taking support and love from me and other people that she couldn’t do last time.  She is relying on her community and team, which is healthy but not the easiest thing for her to do.

But more importantly, instead of focusing only on the symptoms, she has to face the cancer.  She needs to find the energy and confidence to hate it, laugh at it, and tell it to fuck off.

The early days are the most critical

We are through our first 90 days and I busted my ass to protect and support Trish.  If I had to do it again, I wouldn’t change a thing. For anyone in a similar situation, cancer or otherwise, I hope you can find similar support. The diagnosis phase and early treatment is incredibly scary.  It requires a strong response.

Our dear friend, Molly (right), had undiagnosed Lyme disease for four years and now begins a long treatment cycle that sounds as bad as chemotherapy. We can’t imagine how horrible that must be and hope can find the same comforting space in which to adjust. (And we’re absolutely humbled that this blog, and Trish’s experience could be any kind of support for Molly, who, having gone through that kind of suffering, is clearly much stronger than either of us.)

I can’t stress enough how important it is to provide massive support to the patient in the beginning. The mental distress and anguish are crippling.   Even if they say they don’t need it, they need your help as they adapt to the new reality.  I’m glad I had the presence of mind to spring into action.  It’s made all the difference.

Cancer is the new reality

Trish shows the nurse her malfunctioning tounge

However, at some point, things begin to feel different. We are halfway through the chemo treatments. It’s not as psychologically scary and distressing anymore. The chemo sucks, but it’s bearable because we know what to expect. And Trish is slowly finding the interest and energy to break out of the protective space and do more for herself.

She wants to do more around the house, drive to an appointment or two, and tackle a few tasks. When she went into work on Tuesday, she really contributed and felt needed, which is also critical to her recovery.  Her dancing has powerful physical and mental cleansing capacity when your body is full of toxin.  It’s so good, and strong of her, to begin to reclaim her life by taking steps that matter in the long run.

So, this is an important next phase for her. I’m still providing a lot of fun and distraction and support, but we don’t want to accidentally perpetuate any victimization. She is going to survive this nasty fucker, and doing a few ‘routine’ things is symbolic of her long term recovery.  It helps me out too.

The puzzle leads to Roller-Coasters

The moment of truth:  WE ARE GOING TO SIX FLAGS TODAY!
Trish and the girls wake up Wednesday morning and are joined by two friends for what they thought was an all-day play date.

Sleepy-eyed, everyone gathers in the kitchen for the rules. Find 15 colored letters hidden in the house and figure out what they spell, because I have a big surprise for them today.

It spells SIX FLAGS AMERICA! I’m taking four girls and a cancer patient to a theme park today for sugar, dizzying rides and long hot lines.

Awesome, right?

This was the queasiest teacup ride I've ever been on.
It’s actually a perfect day to do this. The mid-atlantic region is 75 and dry, which never happens at this time of year and there are almost no crowds on the Wednesday before July 4th. It feels like we have the park to ourselves.

In fact it’s a little bit cold for water rides, but the floom is our first stop anyway. Lily always gets scared in line, almost paniced, but we know her well enough that she needs to be pushed, even forced, to go on the first ride. After that she wants to go again and again.

Look out!!!
Sadly, we are not a tall family and she couldn’t go on all the rides that Emma and Sofija went on. But she really enjoyed the smaller roller coasters.

Trish went on a coaster, to scare the shit out of cancer. I got the very last ride on the Superman roller coaster as we closed the park with a half-dozen other diehards.

People talk about Kings Dominion being a better park, and perhaps it is by a small margin. But Six flags America is so much closer that we even bought season tickets. I hope to go again soon, especially when it’s hot enough to really do the waterpark.  (The full picture album is here.)

Obelisk and Ray’s the Classics

Emma is on a marathon, multi-day, sleep over at her very close friend Sofija, and spends a few nights at each house. Lily has been doing sleep overs herself, but gets a night or two alone with our babysitters. She loves the attention and gets her nails done with her friends on Friday night.

David and Trish in our playroom before going out.
We use Thursday and Friday for some simple entertainment. Thursday we check out the once-a-month happy hour at the Phillips Collection. It’s a lively event, packed with young singles from the local think tanks, NGO’s and non-profits. Trish, as always, stands out but we don’t stay long because we have 8pm reservations at Obelisk.

Obelisk bills itself as a Trattoria, and has only a dozen tables most of which host seat just one party the entire evening. The menu is Prix fixe, with only a few choices. It’s intimate, but not formal. All the anti-pasti, side dishes, cheese course and desserts were amazing but we thought the Primi and Secondi were just average. Still, it’s a great place that one could easily take anyone and have a great meal.

How am I gonna concentrate on the movie next to this?
Friday we saw a funny movie, Cyrus and had a good meal at the steak house Ray’s the Classics. The theater, AFI Silver, is a local art-housey place that we often overlook. And we got a great steak and crab meal at Rays for about $100. This is our new favorite combo in Silver Spring.

We’re already exhausted and it’s only Friday evening.  Cancerpalooza is grueling.  I hope that fucking lump can’t keep up, because we sure won’t stop.  But we do sleep soundly.

Almost backstage for  Faith No More.

In early May, as cancerpalooza was just an idea forming in my mind, I noticed that one of our favorite bands, Faith No More, is doing a short tour after a 13 year hiatus.   As one of Trish’s surprises I bought her some great tickets for the second row at the closest show, in Philadelphia.    Well, today is the day finally.  Up I-95 we roll on a warm, but not uncomfortable, late Saturday afternoon in July.

The sun sets as we arrive at the Mann Center, Philadelphia
Trish and I both love this band.  In the late eighties, she was part of a social scene that included Mike Patton, who has been lead singer for this band since ’88 or so.  I was an early, die-hard fan before they became popular, and made many, many Russian metal-head friends by carrying a cassette of their newly released album “The Real Thing” across the Soviet Union in 1989.

Faith No More have several gold and a platinum albums, a few top 10 singles and are considered one of the progenitors of nu-metal and alt-metal.

A week before the concert, our friend Tom Berrard, who knows everyone in the alternative and indie music business contacted Bill Gould, the amazing bassist and founder of Faith No More.  Tom asks if Bill would give us a back-stage pass so Trish could have the band sign Trish’s tits with epithets to the cancer.   Bills reply to us: “That has to be one of the most unusual requests I’ve heard yet, but I don’t see why we can’t do something…I’ll let you know.

Second Row!  Just off center.
The cancer-boobograph is an art idea I came up with a few weeks ago.   I want to get as many rock stars, celebrities, friends and people we admire to sign her cleavage with Fuck You’s to the cancer.

A week went by with out any follow up and we figured it wouldn’t happen. We know everyone is busy and these little requests easily get lost in the day-to-day nuttiness we all live. But on Saturday morning, we get word from Tom that passes will be waiting for us at the will call.   Trish and I are both ecstatic.

We make very good time into the Mann Center in Philadelphia. The crowd are in their 30’s and 40’s mostly, with tattoos, facial hair and khaki cargo pants. Trish points out, interestingly, that there are few women.

Mike and Billy on 'From out of Nowhere"
We walk up to will call and ask for our passes.  The woman searches twice but there are none there!  For a moment we are shocked. I don’t know why, but we assumed this was a certain thing.  Then we both remember how chaotic the backstage pass scene is. People forget, lists get lost, and people make mistakes.  Shit just doesn’t go right.

We text and facebook message our friend Tom who, amazingly, is around on Saturday night and tries us to help sort it out.  But as the opening band goes on, and the will call closes, we assume that our chance to meet Mike, Billy, Mike, Roddy and Jon is gone. I check my text messages a few more times, but Tom doesn’t send any news.

An amazing show and a stroke of luck

Hands.  Trish's are the ones with nail polish.
The show they put on makes us forget any dissapointment we might have had. They perform like they have been rehearsing together for years. Almost all the songs I wanted to hear are played. Trish does her little wiggle dance to my delight. And they are within 10 feet of us! I really did buy some fantastic seats.

The show is over, and we are slowly shuffling out. We check with the security guards in case someone left our passes with them, but they all shrug. One suggests we go to the press gate. It’s nearly hopeless, but one thing we’ve learned travelling is to be persistent. So we walk over to the press gate, just before which, I casually check my facebook mesages on my nearly battery-dead phone.

There is a message from Tom! He said we should stay inside the arena and talk to the show manager at the front of the stage. But shit, we’ve left the arena and the security guards won’t let us back in. Trish puts on her cutest smile and talks to the guard at the press gate. No luck.  He isn’t having any of this cancer-story bullshit, lol. He has a job to do, and it mostly involves keeping people like us out.

Roddy, Billy, Mike, Mike and John

We shuffle around, peering through the gates like little kids outside Wonka’s Chocolate factory, hoping for a golden ticket.  Trish, shouting through the bars, somehow convinces another guard to go look for the Tim, the stage manager. And she does!  10 minutes later they escort us through the gates inside to the ‘VIP’ room.

Holy Cow. What a stroke of luck it is to be here.  Tom was able and willing to help us on a Saturday night on July 4th weekend.  I might not have even checked my facebook messages until we got back home because he and I had been texting, not using Facebook.  And nintey-nine times out of a hundred, you can’t convince a security guard at a concert to help you find the band.  We are very lucky.

The VIP room

AWESOME!  We finally made it to the VIP After-Party!  Wait, wut?
But we are still at least one door away from getting Trish’s boob-o-graph. The VIP area has a few people in it, but there is no sign of the band.  In reality, lots of people can get VIP-after-show passes from radio promotions, venue management, press credentials etc…

So there is usually a room to contain the ‘VIPs’ away from the band.  And this is where we sit, along with a few dozen people shuffling around a plate or two of wrapped sandwiches. We’re not sure if the band will even come out.

But they do! Bill, Roddy and Jon come say hi to the people they know. (There are clearly a bunch of folks that don’t know anyone from the band there.) Bill is incredibly nice and chats with a few diehard fans from Brazil and Denmark.

Trish gathers up her nerve and introduces us. He is very welcoming. It turns out that she and he both lived in the same building in San Francisco at one point.  Billy says he’ll be back and dissapears behind a door.

Mike Patton, uncomfortably, prepares to autograph his first boob.  Billy seems to enjoy watching Mike squirm.
The other VIP ‘guests’ begin to leave. We’re not sure how this whole boob signing thing is going to work. Mike Patton, the lead singer, is totally charismatic on-stage, but is shy as a redneck at a cheese tasting off-stage.

And he isn’t anywhere to be seen.  Since Trish knew him a little, years ago, she really wants to meet him to do the boob thing.

Roddy and Mike Borum step into the VIP room and wave goodbye to everyone.  It seems the band is ready to take their bus back to New York for tomorrow’s show.  We wait patiently.   Everything has worked out so far tonight.

Cancer killing boobographs

Billy peeks his head through the back door and motions us to come back to the band area. A few of the other VIP’s notice and watch us curiously. Inside there is a sofa-filled room covered in paper plates and uneaten food.

We meet Tim, the mythical stage manager, who is incredibly nice. His mother went through breast cancer and he warmly wishes Trish the best. Thank you, Tim!

Mike writes "Die Fucker, Die <3"  Perfect.
Billy walks us into a sterile, fluorescent, institutional hallway and there is Mike Patton, hunched up against the wall, already wincing at the thought of having to sign a boob.

Mike and Faith No More are the type of rock stars that eschew the stereotypes, especially the groupie-fucking, scenes that dominated southern California in the 80’s. Mike mumbles something about never having signed a tit in his life.

But as Trish gets closer, Mike’s eyes light up a little and he murmers, “I know you, don’t I?” to Trish. And he snaps his fingers trying to recall how he knows her, and she fills the blank in for him. “I’m Trish Smith, we knew each other from San Francisco.  We’re both close friends with Mike Wilson and Danny Heifitz.”

Billy Gould signs too with a pentagram!  Nice.
Mike grins and hugs Trish. They chat about their connections. Both of them had hung around the same people in the late eighties when San Francisco was more famous for slackers than silicon. Trish and four other hot girls lived in a dilapidated giant victorian that is now worth multiple millions of dollars. They called it ‘the rock n’ roll chick palace’, and it was the scene of much debauchery and mayhem.

Uh.... I'm backing away slowly, getting the kids, and the keys to the car.
The topic turns to cancer, and Trish explains our ironic art project – getting her murderous boobs signed by rock stars. Mike winces again, but steeles himself for the signing. He does it perfectly, putting “DIE FUCKER DIE” with a heart and “PATTON” right over the cancer.

Billy jokes “Mike’s cancer is stronger than your cancer” and we all laugh. Mike doesn’t have cancer, but has a reputation for being a very nutty, acerbic personality. Billy signs with a pentagram and Jon, the guitarist puts FIGHT! in big letters. It’s amazing. Cancer took another blow to the head tonight. Thank you, Faith No More. Now go write another album and tour more. We miss you.

Jon Hudson, Mike Patton and Trish signing cancergraphs.
It’s midnight and we have a long ride back to Washington D.C., but it’s not hard to stay awake because we just had so much fun.

When Trish is down in the dumps with chemotherapy, she’ll definitely be thinking of today. It was Epic.

A July 4 visit to Shlomowitz Acres

Fireballs #2
With only a few hours of sleep we pile the family in the car and drive the opposite direction from Philadelphia to the lovely Rappahannock County weekend home of Randy Reiland and Carol Ryder for a July 4th party.

Last July 4th we were in Petra, Jordan.  The July 4 before that we were in Paris.  We haven’t had a proper Forth of July in a long time, so this is a welcome celebration.

And it doesn’t get any more fun than this group.  We tell obnoxious jokes, make inappropriate comments and rip at each other all day as we stuff our faces with burgers, hot dogs and fried chicken.

Trisha and Jodi try to escape Lily's point blank throw.
The kids play with water balloons and chase the adults, who are only too happy to get hit since it’s about 95 degrees outside.  They chase the dogs and play a little volleyball.

Night time comes too quickly, and our abdomens hurt from laughing so much.  The kids go through hundreds of sparklers in about 20 minutes, and then we do the fireworks display, including a few from ‘the back room’ of a fireworks stand that come with a mortar tube.  Yeah, they were freaking nice.

Simple sparklers are so beautiful
I drive my girls, young and old, back to DC and they all doze off.

Luckily it’s a national holiday tomorrow and we have a day off with nothing planned.

We’ll need it.  This week of Cancerpalooza kicked-ass!

101 Surprises

Mike Patton croons 'Ben' while sitting a large man who looks like he wants to make-out with the hairless tattoo chick.
  • 41)  Faith No More tix: Well, Tom and Faith no More provided the ultimate surprise, but I still bought Trish some awesome seats.
  • Moments like this, seen left, where Mike sang Michael Jackson’s ‘Ben’ carried on a large man’s shoulders. Rock on, Mike!

  • 42)  Phillips After 5 /Obelisk: A refined, low-key date night kept us relaxed between Six Flags and Faith No More.

The kids coaster is still a lot of fun even when you're big.
43)  Rays the Classics and Movie: Another date-night surprise, but I didn’t even have to make reservations and 5 minutes from our house.  That’s awesome for me.  lol.

44)  Six Flags: Trish loves surprises with the family.  It was a great day.  She had to fight off fatigue to close the park, but she did it.

45)  Gold Louboutins: My new favorite dangerous pass-time is scouting for Louboutins on E-bay.  Not only do you have to watch for the usual E-Bay nastyness, but there are knock-offs which you have to try to avoid.  These are brand new, but floor models.  I got them almost 75% off and they are so glamorous.

5 thoughts on “Week #10: Cancer is sentenced to death by Rock ‘n Roll

  1. Alexandra Scott

    Hi Trisha,
    I caught up with the ongoing tale of your battle royale with the unfortunate return of cancer (via FaceBook, and now on this amazing blog). You are a truly unique and gifted person, and you appear to be blessed with the support of so many friends and a strong and loving family — it does not surprise me that you are fighting like a rock star!
    I just wanted to add all my best hopes to the bunch. You are amazing and inspiring, even from a distance. Fight! Win!!
    (from PBS back in the day)

  2. Cindy Johanson

    Trish and David — Similar to Alex, I just saw the links to your blog (via LinkedIn). Trish, you are an inspiration and please know that my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. You are both showing the world how to live and love life, every minute, every day. Hang in there! If there is anything I can do to help, please let me know! Best, Cindy

  3. Jason

    I’ve been looking for pictures from the Faith No More concert in Philly last month, and came across this story. I think we can both agree it was one of the best concerts of all time. If I’m not mistaken, I was sitting right next to where you were sitting (the thirty something guy in the black Faith No More shirt and red hat, acting like a kid at a candy store). At one point I was standing on my seat, facing backwards, flailing my arms trying to get the crowd amped up (to no avail, left my charisma in the car I guess).

    I was told upon asking the security guys that, at “the bands request” cameras weren’t allowed, and with the respect I have for the band, I left mine behind. I think he was just being a jerk, IDK. I was wondering if you might have any other pictures?

    If not, it’s cool. I’m glad to at least have gotten to see Faith No More live, I missed out on a show near Albany, NY about 15 years ago. I’m glad for you as well, as it appears you had a great, once in a lifetime experience. Those moments are what life is all about.

    Thanks for taking the time to read this, and God Bless. And to the cancer I say “fuck off”.


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