So, in between blizzards on the East Coast, I had the second biopsy on the nodule on my thyroid.Read More
...Here I go again, she sings. The 2nd biopsy of my thyroid nodule is finally here, five months after the 6.8cm nodule (along with several smaller ones) was discovered and biopsied the first time.
Oh no! It's not called Here I Go Again - it's called Here You Come Again! Talk about a double-dyslexic attack...But I get such a kick out of Dolly I'm leaving it.
There is good news.
- I feel fine, always have. No thyroid malfunction.
- The nodule is noticeably smaller (tho it’s still there, and tho who knows if I have normalized the cells, as I visualize in my meditations – spreading out the fried egg-like cells so they’re not overlapping, clearing up the yolks of the nuclei).
- I’ve really, really enjoyed this blogging, how it’s widened my focus and that of Hope Sings to include music, inspiration and wellness/healing.
After 5 months of -
- weekly acupuncture,
- major diet modification,
- daily meditation/visualization/blockage-specific yoga,
- vocalizing –
- not to mention the pricey electrified waters –
(maybe I should have seen a gypsy...oops...)
After all that, I wonder: how did I do?
(And I also wonder how much I’ll blame myself if I didn’t do well enough, which my pal Holly B brought up. Will I feel like a failure if the nodule is still too big to leave alone and more likely the cells are cancerous - a 2nd data point the biopsy will give).
My dear friend Gail (anesthesiologist, passionate lover of life and founder of an awesome social enterprise, Spiralis Ventures) reminded me of another, perhaps even more important healing factor I hadn’t recognized:
all the prayers, positive thoughts and support I’ve received
from family, friends, practitioners and total strangers over the past months.
And that may be the best “treatment” of all. LOVE.
So if you are so inclined, on Tuesday February 11 at 8:45 am EST – send a little love wave up to Mt. Kisco NY and yours truly.
I am not scared of the procedure or the results, not at all. But I am sooooooo curious.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I WROTE THIS, SAVED IT AS A DRAFT - AND NEVER SHARED IT!!
HOW GOOFY IS THAT? I WRITE A POST ABOUT NOT-SHARING WHICH I DON'T SHARE.
WELL SHARING IT NOW.
The very first song I created for Hope Sings was a huge leap for me.
With the blind hubris of an innocent who doesn't know any better -
- - I approached a huge Latin star (Ruben Blades)
- - who graciously connected me to one of his star composers (Romulo Castro)
- - with whom I couldn't communicate (he speaks no English, I speak no Spanish)
- - but who graciously agreed to write music to my micro-finance-success-story -inspired (English) lyrics
- - over which he labored longer than I had any right to expect
- - after which his band leader arranged and recorded the demo of the song
- - which I sang in their garage studio in Panama City.
So - I cooked up the idea, concocted the collaboration, wrote the lyric, sang the demo - and then never released it. That was more than 3 years ago.
Why do we do that? Choke back what we feel is less than perfect? Care so much what others think of us?
Or is it just me who says -
It doesn't sound the way I want it to (in this case, it's too "musical theatre")
I hate my voice
It could be better
They say, Kill Your Babies, and boy, do I. I tweak and fix and edit so endlessly that I never - well, ok, rarely - finish. So many of my babies have never seen the light of day. They're sitting in files, still-born.
In this case, I also stifled the lovely work of my collaborators, composer Romulo Castro and musician/producer Luis Thomas.
So, first of all, to them, this apology: I'm sorry I never let your work be heard. It was my fear, not any failure on your part (not that they would go there - though I would).
Second of all: I'm taking a deep breath and letting all of you hear that song now. It is not perfect. But it tells a meaningful story - of a woman named Blanca from the town of Barcenas, outside of Guatemala City. She had little money to feed or educate her family, but did break delicious bread. Full of trepidation, she approached the microfinance organization FINCA for a loan - and they gave her one. And another. And another.
Blanca's story deserves to be heard, as does the beautiful work of Romulo and Luis. Listen past my voice, through a clunky or trite lyric, and with forgiveness.
Third of all: I am meditating on creating a stage show that tells women's stories of empowerment - a hybrid world music concert and theatre piece. I think Blanca would be perfect for it (as long as someone else sings it). What do you think?
If Cameron, Lily and Heather can overcome their fears, so can you. A story of survival and mesothelioma. Lung Leavin' Day.Read More
I just had lunch, and my digestive tract is making all sorts of squawks and squeaks.
This is not business as usual for me.
But I think it’s good.
See, I suspect the blockage in my thyroid isn’t just about my thyroid – though I know I’ve gone on and on about voice and singing and not singing and all that ad nauseum in this blog.
I do think that's a big part of it.
But I also think part of the problem is my gut.
Now, isn’t that ripe for even more symbolism?
Let's start with the medical facts. I have celiac. I was diagnosed more than 20 years ago, before almost anyone here had heard of it. I am asymptomatic – meaning I’m not sick as a dog like I had been for the three years before it was discovered - but I am no purist, so I imagine there is some damage going on in there.
So maybe my digestion isn't functioning 100% well. Which could impede the normal flow in a body.
But I think the blockage has other deeper levels to it.
I was a fat child (the neighbors loved to chant “Two Ton Tilly was a hippo” to me). So there’s emotion in that area – and not good emotion. Plus, sucking in your tummy all the time can't be good for the above-mentioned digestive process.
I also think the tightness there way pre-dates that. I think there was stuff that went on “down there” in former lives (sorry to go there, folks, but I gotta). Not pretty stuff.
Years ago, I had an energy person tell me she saw tons of energy around my head and in my legs - but the torso was dead. Almost like there was a line through my midsection. (hm…pirates, sabers, samurai? So odd, the vague visions we get.)
Back to the blockage: if the tummy is blocked, there’s nowhere for the throat stuff to drain down to.
The Running Piglet Energy says there is stuck energy that causes a back-up – in my case, in my gut – which forces that little piglet to run squealing back up through the body – in my case, to my throat. The cause of that blockage? Fear. No surprise there. Some people even get panic attacks (I'm not there).
It also might have something to do with the onset of menopause. Interesting.
Yesterday, I experienced a first: acupuncture needles in my pubic area. Not sexy at all. Regina put them in right next to that c-section scar of mine (Aha! Another source of blockage. That’s worth considering. I’m never going to be done with this unraveling).
And today, my tummy is squealing.
Wonder what it’s saying?
And now some music!
Here's a personal fave of mine from way back. I particularly applaud the articulate, resourceful lyric writing in the chorus.
And here's a song I wrote, inspired by childhood chubby time. Music and vocal by the awesome Jenny Giering.
Live in the Grey is a new community/website that advocates getting out of your comfort zone.
Plan to fail, then figure out how you'll keep trying to get what you want.
Small things - try a new food, travel a new route to work.
What risk could you take that would scare and free you?
- I could sing what I write.
- I could go to Nashville and try to "write around."
- I could do nothing at all. Besides be kind, generous, loving. That's the scariest of all.
I'm doing it!
My formerly 6.8cm nodule is definitely smaller than 6.8cm.
The combined onslaught of my treatments - the waters, the meditation, the visualization, the yoga, the diet, the acupuncture - seems to be working.
I wonder what is having the most impact?
The one I most feel is the acupuncture - and my acupuncturist, Regina Walsh, is the one who confirmed the shrinkage, and that the nodule feels different, too - softer.
I see Regina weekly, and every session is different. She specializes in what's called Five Elements Acupuncture, which works with the five elements (duh): wood, earth, fire, water, metal.
Turns out, I couldn't have picked a better type of acupuncture for releasing the blockage, getting my "chi" flow going again.
See, my friend Jo wanted to have a second child. They tried and tried to get pregnant – IVF, the whole nine yards. No deal. Then she tried acupuncture - of the Five Elements variety. Within a few months, she was “with child” (the phrase Anne Boleyn uses to tell Henry the VIII in Anne of the Thousand Days).
Now, that’s releasing some serious blockage. If you have a blockage, too - TRY IT.
I’m not used to taking an hour a week in the middle of my work day and just laying there – much less paying for it – but I tell myself I am worth it (?).
But the luxury of it!
Regina also utilizes Aromatherapy – yummy lemon, soothing lavender, invigorating geranium. Hard to believe something so indulgent can be so good for you. But Regina says she gets as good – if not better results – from lightly applying these essential oils to the energy meridians than sticking needles in them.
So if you haven't tried this stuff because you're scared of needles - fear no more! Try that Aromatherapy. You're worth it.
Now, for a little comic relief ;)
So, I'm doing the waters to dissolve my nodules.
And I'm meditating, visualizing, altering my diet and doing acupuncture (more on these in future posts). And I'm going to go hunting in my jewelry box for a blue gemstone (I must have a 5-karat sapphire in there I've forgotten about).
Gosh, it's amazing I'm getting anything else done (secret: I'm not) (well, not totally true).
So much for a controlled experiment on which tactic is most effective. But I'm going for the full-on assault here. I've got a second biopsy coming in January and I am visualizing the Radiologist saying about my huge nodule,
"Wow! Where did it go? I've never seen this happen before!"
I now have something else to put on my action list.
Turns out there are yoga poses that are particularly helpful, too.
The Shoulder Stand and the Plough (from the Shoulder Stand, you drop your legs/feet down behind you to touch the floor.)
The Lion. This video is makes me laugh - the reference to a Kiss concert and the great depth it goes into for something pretty simple.
Any Yoga yogis out there with more advice on good poses to flow this nodule away?
On June 13, 2013. I go to a "group reading" event with Elana Kilkenny in New Canaan, CT.
Elana is, to quote her blog, “an inspirational psychic, intuitive Feng Shui designer, healer, writer, and spirited teacher.”
To quote me, "she is awesome."
Elana is HIGHLY intuitive. I met her through my friend Mindy Levine (another very inspirational individual). I had seen her for a private session about 9 months before, when I felt I was at a crossroads in my life. She summoned up some incredible insights and information – way out there (I had been a samurai??), but way right on.
So I go to this session at Rosie Cafe in New Canaan. There are about 25 of us, and we each pull a card from the tarot deck. Elana, using the cards as a psychic prompt, provides a reading for each woman (it’s all women, surprise surprise).
Somehow, I feel almost everything she says is directed to me.
Stop telling the Old Story. TELL A NEW STORY.
Focus on the SOLUTION not the Problem. Not the Why, but THE WHAT NEXT.
Look at the world and others with INNOCENCE.
See people differently, hold them in your heart differently.
Which of these really speak to YOU?
Now she comes to me. She says:
"I don’t know what this means, but I’m hearing, Get back to the ELEMENTAL BETH."
(When Elana talks, it’s as if she’s channeling voices she hears. She says some people have clairvoyance – she has clairaudience.)
Then she says/they say:
Write. Write easily, simply, just do it (thank you Nike for ruining that phrase forever). UNBLOCK yourself.
I think, This is exactly what I have known in my heart for ages. Is this the kick in the psychic butt I’ve been needing?
Next morning, I get up and a lyric leaps out. For the first time in a long time. Full-formed, like Aphrodite on the half-shell.
See, there is this bird who sits on the rearview mirror of our old Ford Focus parked in the driveway. He checks himself out. Just about everyday.
I see that bird, and I write.
Looking in the mirror
What do you see?
Looking in my rearview mirror
Loving what you see,
Happy as can be.
To be a bird
Not just any old bird
But a Ruby Red Bird.
Look at me -
Looking in the mirror
What do I see?
It’s like I'm looking
In the rearview mirror
Not me I see,
It’s the me I used to be.
To be a bird
Not just this old bird
But a groovy new bird.
Look at me -
Stop looking in the mirror
And look at me
I’m a liwi - whee…
Now, I really want this to be a pop song. But that bridge - the laundry list of strange red birds - yanks me back to musical theatre land. I like that bridge. But I hate it, too. I put the lyric away.
11 weeks later, late August, they find the nodule on my thyroid. The BLOCKAGE.
As I've written before, I believe this blockage, this nodule is connected with the fact it's been years since I wrote freely, effortlessly and years since I sang at all. Okay, some of you may be rolling your eyes. Roll away. I believe what I believe.
Early September, I sign myself up for a songwriting class in Ridgefield CT with award-winning Kevin Briody.
In that class, I write my first piece of music ever - for "Red Bird". I write 2 other songs, too.
Early November, I record "Red Bird" – with me singing the vocal. Singing. Finally. Something I vowed to my mother I would do as I sat down after singing “Ave Maria” at her funeral 18 months earlier (she used to so love Xmas church service, the only time I sang anymore).
Then a couple of days ago, Elana sent out a note about Gratitude. Feeling and expressing gratitude restores our love of life, of others, of ourselves. She shared a few ideas about how to express.
Writing this blog about Elana's gift is how I’m expressing my gratitude to her. For her kick in my psychic butt.
It is also how I express my gratitude to you, Kind Readers. I now know for a fact there are a few of you out there who do read it and, miraculously, find value in it. It is that that keeps me writing it.
I ask you now:
WHAT IS YOUR "WHY"?
I’m always looking for My WHY. Why bother to write? If it’s just for me and my notebook, it feels like masturbation (sorry for the off-color reference, but it feels the most apt).
But if you read it and find value – there’s My Why.
If someone hears one of my songs and feels infinitesimally better, if someone sings it and connects to it successfully – there’s My Why.
WHAT IS YOUR "WHY" ?
It can be fame. It can be fortune. It can be sheer cussed competitiveness. It can be a song-writing contest. It can be a wedding.
Where's My Why, my pipeline, for this new kind of song for me? A song that's kinda pop, kinda quirky (you can take Beth out of musical theatre, but you can’t take the musical theater out of Beth).
Actually, it's reminiscent of Jill Sobule. She’s kinda pop and kinda quirky. She's found her way, has her own distinct voice. Love that song she wrote about global warming (below).
There's not a lot of funny pop songwriters. Randy Newman, Loudon Wainwright III, We Might Be Giants, Alanis Morissette. Though even Taylor Swift can be funny (2nd below).
(Who am I forgetting? Nominations, please.)
Back to the whole thesis of this series of blogs - I wonder:
If I write more funny pop songs and maybe even sing them –
will my nodule go away?
Only one way to find out.
Have you written a funny pop song? Send it to me - if I laugh out loud, I'll post it. There's a Why for you.
OMG! I JUST REALIZED ELANA HAS RED HAIR. SO, IN THE ENGLISH PARLANCE -
SHE'S A RED BIRD
It's in the DNA!Read More
The decision to drink electrically-charged waters to try to shrink my big ole’ thyroid nodule is a quantum leap I’m making - from accepted Western medical practices to little-tested alternative therapies.
I’m looking at Quantum Leaping in other parts of my life as well - working on blockages in any way I can that might be contributing, on a psychic level, to the blockage in my thyroid.
I have a sizable perfectionist block. Who doesn't, right?
It keeps me from completing and sharing work I’ve done - the songs and shows I’ve created. It keeps me doing endless rewrites, the latest not necessarily any better than the one that came before, just different.
It also keeps the work of my collaborators locked in the electronic file cabinet. Not fair to them.
Take the first song I created for Hope Sings. No one has ever heard it (my husband doesn't count) (don't tell him I said that).
I went to tremendous lengths to create the song “Blanca.” I brazenly buttonholed Latin music stars, worked and reworked the lyric, traveled to Panama twice to collaborate and record the demo.
And there “Blanca” sits, in its electronic drawer. 3 years, it sits.
- It doesn't sound "pop" enough (I'm embarrassed of my musical theatre roots)
- I don’t like my singing voice (I sang the demo) (I'm such a soprano!)
- I ran out of money to produce it (an excuse).
- It’s not perfect.
- I’m afraid others will be even more critical than I am.
- It's not perfect
“Music is now a conversation, and feedback from your fans helps you adjust what you do every day.”
Actually, he wrote “Marketing,” not “Music,” and “customers” not “fans.” Creative license.
Seth Godin says the same thing. Ship, ship, ship. That’s the only way to improve the product.
In our world of $100 (min) tickets to a Broadway show, consumers demand perfection. What a shame. Sometimes one glorious moment in an otherwise mediocre enterprise is worth the price of admission.
At a certain point you have to say WHO CARES WHAT ANYBODY ELSE THINKS? NOTHING IS PERFECT. HERE'S MY BEST EFFORT AT THAT MOMENT IN TIME.
Let It Go
Like you have to let a child be who they are.
Let It Go.
Like stress. Insecurity. The laundry.
Let It Go
LIke this song.
Let Blanca Go
(shades of the Wizard of Oz)
To Romulo and Luis: my heartfelt apologies. Here is your song. And a promise: I will produce it with a better voice than mine. it will be a big part of Hope Sings the Musical. (more on that soon!).
What “songs” are you hiding? Share them with me. Please. Let your babies out.
It’s a muggy day in June, and my friend Susan and I (plus my friend Sharon) are doing hydro-calisthenics in Susan's pool in Wilton, CT.
Susan is telling me how she was cured of Lyme disease after 3 years of being on and off antibiotics.
By drinking electrically charged waters.
I’m only listening with half an ear because I’m busy treading water (I really do not like hydro-calisthenics).
90 days later I am on the phone with Susan, listening with both ears wide open. Doctor S. has found a mongo nodule in my thyroid, and I don’t want to leap to surgery. I want to try something “alternative.”
For those of you who don’t know from alternative therapies, there are LOTS of them. There’s -
Acupuncture, Chinese herbs, Qi Gong, Feng Shui, laser therapy, hydrotherapy, diet, reiki, crystals, aromatherapy, homeopathy, meditation, crystals, toning, aromatherapy, colors - even healing with Tibetan bowls.
Many of these therapies work by releasing blockages in our energy meridians - channels that connect our body in somewhat mysterious ways (stick a needle in your left ankle and your right elbow feels better – I speak from experience).
Some treatments, more specifically, stimulate and restore healthy vibrational balance. And that’s what these electrically-charged waters do. It’s called VIBRATIONAL HEALING (or Quantum Healing), and master herbalogist Andrea Candee is the one who “cured” Susan.
For those of you with Lyme disease – or a loved one with it - Andrea has an extraordinary cure rate for what has come to be, for many, an uncurable condition through a combination of these waters, in combination with with herbs and a low-inflammatory diet.
Vibrational Healing, as practiced by Andrea and a handful of others around the world, is based on the laws of Quantum Physics. Everything has a specific vibration, a specific wave pattern, even solid items. Expose one item and its vibration to an object with the exact opposite vibration – and that first item disintegrates.
Just like the opera singer and the wine glass. When her high note vibrates in directly inverse waves to the crystal champagne glass – you guessed it.
Ditto for pathogens - bacteria, viruses, parasites, etc in your body that cause disease. They have vibrations. Introduce the opposite wave to them, and they dissolve.
And how do you introduce those waves into your body?
You drink them. Electrically charged waters.
It’s more complicated than a blog can support. If you're interested, read more at Healers Who Share.
So – back to that phone call. When I hang up, I’m super excited.
However, after 20 minutes of fruitless Google searching, I’m nervous.
There is zero about it on-line. Except on Andrea’s and Healers websites.
But you know, I’m like this: once I’ve opened the door and looked in the room, I can’t not go in. I will always wonder, Brando-like, what might have been.
I guess this is my Quantum Leap. Pun intended.
I decide to do it.
Though the doctors say my thyroid needs to come out, I've now got a way to see if I can avoid that. As they say, it ain't over 'til the fat lady sings.
En Vogue didn't just say it - they sang it!
Which way do I go? Follow everyone else, or strike out on my own?
I'm talking about treatment for the huge nodule in my thyroid.
So, to recap:
- Doctor S. finds aforesaid huge nodule in the left side of my thyroid.
- Odds are 15-20% it’s cancer.
- He recommends I have it out. Don't mess with cancer, and the nodule is huge. Have it out.
- I’m not so sure.
- I start looking at alternatives.
- I fall in love with Dr. Bernie (Siegel) who believes in the connections between our thoughts/feelings and disease.
- I wonder what's going on with my thoughts/feelings and this dis-ease.
- I press the doctors for other options to immediate surgery.
- They say it’s ok to wait a few months and re-biopsy, get a second set of cells for more clarity on the big C.
So that’s what I decide to do. Wait.
As I wait, I wonder:
- What have other people done, in the same situation?
- Has anyone not taken it out?
- How do I find out?
I google around. Not much. Huh.
I go on Facebook. I ask friends.
It seems everyone follows their doctors’ recommendations. Most have it out. Only two regretted the choice - one because her parathyroids were compromised, the other because she can't get the dose of replacement hormone quite right and now has weight/energy issues.
I’m surprised. Nobody tried anything short of surgery?
I’m also a bit nervous. Am I overreacting? Really, no biggie, have it out. I am clearly so in the minority.
But I can’t seem to let it go. Like Robert Frost, I'm inclining toward the path less traveled.
Part of it has to do with that weight gain thing. Petty, I know. But I was a chubby child. (The neighbors used to chant, “Two Ton Tilly was a hippo, the fattest of the fattest of the hippos.“) My weight fluctuated over the years, but has stabilized at a reasonable level since I had my son. I largely processed those fat demons through my writing (see video below). But I have no desire to reconstitute them.
NOW HERE'S THE IMPORTANT PART:
How have YOU processed emotional scars with your art?
Please SHARE –
I’d love to share your stories of
HOW ART DEALS AND HEALS.
And for me and my thyroid – what next?
Maybe I should let it go. But the problem is: I’m really interested in this journey. In your journey.
- Why does disease appear where it does? For me, at the figurative center of my creative life – my voice.
- And why does it appear when it does? For me, when I had already downshifted from a lot of career pressures. Did I intuit it was coming?
I think I know the answer - answers. More on that in the next post.
Until then - Creative Coach Eric Maisel – genius – has great tips for breaking through creative blockages, whether you’re designing costumes or composing music on the computer. Check him out!
Have I ever not taken a doctor’s advice?
(Have you? Think about it).
Maybe I’ve not followed it to the letter – not been super respectful of all the stretching reps I’m supposed to do for a shoulder injury – but I’ve always been a pretty obedient gal – a Good Girl - in all ways.
So I wonder why I am not jumping to do what Doctor S. (as I’ll call him, in the German style) has recommended. Take out my thyroid. At least, the half with the huge nodule.
I don’t even feel conflicted or guilty about this insubordination. Doctor S. may end up being right and it may be Bye Bye Thy – but I am clear I have some stuff to figure out first.
Can I shrink this big ole nodule? If I can do that, half my problem (the sheer size of it) diminishes as well.
And if I can shrink it, can I normalize those irregular Hurthle cells, too, while I’m at it?
Not 2 minutes into my Google search, the Universe gives me a powerful ally: Dr. Bernie Siegel (or just Bernie, as he prefers it).
Bernie's book, “Love, Medicine and Miracles,” is subtitled “Lessons Learned About Self-Healing from a Surgeon’s Experience with Exceptional Patients.”
A Western doctor talking about “self-healing”? I like it already.
And not another 2 minutes after that, my brother returns my earlier call so I can update him on my situation. Bill has bravely and brilliantly dealt with MS with a combination of medication, meditation, biofeedback and diet. He has actually reversed lesions in his brain. That never happens.
I tell him my good news: that the cancer chance for my nodule is low (15-20%), that all my tests for thyroid function are normal. I tell him I’m not rushing to take it out.
I ask Bill if there are any books I should read. This is the first time I’ve been “sick.” He is a law professor who is incredibly thorough about everything and a very, very deep thinker (I say he is an oil well, I am an oil spill).
Guess his first recommendation. Yup.
Though Bernie is a surgeon, he doesn’t feel like his major job is cutting (for anyone who knows a surgeon, this is pretty extraordinary).
Bernie believes that -
We …”can change the body by dealing with how we feel.”
“...emotional growth toward greater self-acceptance and fulfillment helps keep the immune system strong.”
“...most self-induced cures don’t get into the medical literature.”
Illness “can allow a person to take time off to reflect, meditate, and chart a new course.”
(All bolding is mine).
And lastly, he suggests we ask the $64 question:
Why did you need this illness?
There is no blame in his question, no fault implied.
So - if you are not well – in ways minor or major – I ask you what I am asking myself:
Why did you need this illness?
Doctor my eyes
Cannot see the sky
Is this the prize for having learned how not to cry?
On August 23rd, I go to the ENT for an ear infection. I’ve never had an ear infection before in my life. I'm really healthy, and don't even have a primary care doctor.
I wouldn’t even be at this ENT if this ear infection weren’t really, really persistent, resisting 3 courses of antibiotics (which I haven’t been on in years – did I mention I’m really healthy?) and multiple visits to the GP at the Emergency Care Center.
Thank you, Universe, for getting me to a real ear doctor.
So after the ENT vacuums the wax out my ear (ouch), he catches a glimpse of my neck and says, "Whoa, that's a big mass you've got there."
It’s funny, but my reaction is a total lack of alarm.
Six days later, the ultrasound guy confirms it is, indeed, big: a 6.7 cm nodule on the left side of my thyroid (which is shaped like a butterfly, for those of us ignorant about thyroids). The size gets a Wow out of him, but also some comforting perspective (he sees nodules all the time - though maybe not this big).
I remain unalarmed.
The next day I have a biopsy (a FNA, for you detail-oriented types), and a few days later I get the results. 15-20% chance the nodule is cancerous. That's not very high, I think. ENT thinks I should take it out (the thyroid, that is, at least the left side, and maybe the right, too, while they're in there).
Really, I think? That low a risk, and take it out? Just like that?
Better safe than sorry ( which I can get). And even if that nodule isn’t cancerous, it is really big.
I'm not so sure. And still unalarmed.
Three days later, I luck into a cancellation from the endocrinologist (again, thank you, Universe). His recommendation: take the thyroid out (again, Really?). Though he does say it would be safe to wait a few months, get a second biopsy, maybe even a second opinion on that biopsy, then there would be a greater degree of certainty on the cancer front. But even if it isn’t cancerous - you guessed it: it’s awful big. Get it out.
And yes – I'm unflaggingly unalarmed. Kinda strange. Kinda nice.
I do get their point of view. The nodule will (may?) keep growing. It will require regular oversight. It may be a constant cause of concern (or not).
I do hear their advice. They are excellent physicians. I like them. I trust them. They see thyroid problems all the time. This is standard operating procedure (literally).
I ask both doctors what caused the nodule. Neither hazards a guess. It seems – irrelevant?
I ask both doctors if there’s a way to shrink the size of the nodule, since size seems as much a concern as the cancer. Neither makes a suggestion (the one option, radioactive iodine, is not an option).
They tell me the thyroid is merely a sort of factory. It manufactures certain hormones, but doesn’t decide how much of them to make or how to use them. They tell me there are manmade hormones indistinguishable from the real ones the thyroid makes, and that 95% of people take that one pill a day (for life) and never notice the difference.
The doctors believe taking out my thyroid is no biggie.
I believe the parts of the body are amazingly, magically, beautifully interconnected.
I believe the mind has tremendous control over the body.
I believe I’m not going to “take it out.” Not yet.
As Dr. Bernie Siegel says in his book, Love, Medicine and Miracles, “physical symptoms are often only the ‘tickets of admission’ to a process of self-discovery and spiritual change.”
He then quotes a poem by the French poet, Guillaume Apollinaire about taking a leap of faith:
Come to the edge.
No, we will fall.
Come to the edge.
No, we will fall.
They came to the edge.
He pushed them, and they flew.
Am I going to fly – am I going to fall? What do I do next?
(on the subject of flying - take a break with this classic Steve Miller tune. You gotta check out the lyrics. Who knew you shoed children??)
I have a confession to make.
I told myself when I started Hope Sings that it was all about helping people – to empower women, to “harness the power of song and story to change the world.” My stated mission was to put the power of inspiring true story back into pop music – to Sing Stories and Change Lives (to misquote our tag-line). Sounds good, right?
In my heart, I knew a big part of why I started Hope Sings was for me. I wanted to swim in a bigger pop/international pond than the musical theatre one where I’d been. I dreamed of writing with all different kinds of big exotic fish, traveling the world as I created huge hit songs.
We have had many satisfying successes - our songs supporting microfinance, our Songs for Sandy initiative, the anthem for UN Women. I believe we have helped people. And I know I've written next to nothing in the four years since I started Hope Sings.
And now I find myself facing a crisis – a crisis of inspiration.
I am facing it because of an ear infection.
A summer swim with my son, an overactive Q-Tip, a stubborn plug of earwax, a visit to an ENT who noticed something I hadn't – and today, here I am looking at what truly inspires me, what my real talents are, and what happens when you stop singing - literally and metaphorically.
I've pondered whether this line of posting of belongs with Hope Sings. But I think there is something worth sharing about this journey I'm beginning. Another more personal aspect to the idea of hope and singing.
In recent weeks, my energy and attention has shifted from creating songs and shows to another use of my creative energies - healing myself. And trying to uncover where the disease (or "dis-ease" as Esther Hicks calls it - genius) came from.
I believe that when you are blocked creatively - or in any part of your life, since your life is your biggest and best creation - disease will follow. So letting yourself Sing - and letting your hopes and dreams Sing - isn't just nice, it's fundamental. It's key to wellness and thriving, a matter of life and death - as much as microloans are essential to women in Latin America.
More on What the ENT Saw in the next post.
But first: a song that reminds us how SINGING defines who you are (however you define singing) – whether you achieve “Success” or not. Jim Croce’s “I’ve Got A Name”:
Like the North wind whistling down the sky
I've got a song , I've got a song
Like the whip-poor-will and the babies crying
I've got a song, I've got a song
And I carry it with me and I sing it proud
If it gets me nowhere, I'll go there proud
Moving me down the highway
Rolling me down the highway
Moving ahead so life won't pass me by.
And what a charmer this show is!
From stage veterans (Steve Blanchard, DeWitt Fleming) to newcomers (Marymount Manhattan College senior Katie Brady) to upstarts (Rosie O'Donnell's Theater Kids), everyone delivers musical theatre style and spunk.
Kudos to creators L.E. McCullough (book), Doug Katsaros (music), Michael Barry Greer (lyrics) and Pat Birch (direction) - and may the show inspire many audiences to make a different in their world, just as the people involved with the Orphan Train did back in 1872.
Director Pat Birch below - explaining she's wearing sweatpants because they didn't get into the space at GCT to tech the show until midnight the night before - and she'd been up ever since (2:30 pm here).
Composer Doug Katsaros' bio is too lengthy and impressive to go into with the depth it deserves. Here are just a few of the names with which he is associated as a composer, arranger, conductor, or performer: Hal Prince, Cher, Ringling Brothers, Bon Jovi, Gloria Estefan, Jacky Mason, Macy's, the Tony's - and he'll create the song of your dreams, too!
Get all the detes here: http://www.themusicofyourdreams.com/Biography.html
(Also, Doug happens to be married to another great composer - Elise Morris. One day we'll do an Q&A with her - check out her collaboration with musicians in Mali - http://www.elisemorris.com/About%20Me.html )
But back to Orphan Train. I was so curious to hear about Doug's process with the show - hope you are too!
1) What was your musical inspiration for Orphan Train?
There was a CD of Celtic music that I was listening to which put me in the mood for Orphan Train, but of course, there is none of that influence in the score, as the time and place of the score did not call for it. Still, to cleanse my palette while writing, I would listen to that beautiful CD. IF you mean what gave me the idea to do the musical in the first place, I saw an article on AOL about "Orphan Train Survivor Reunion" and researched it, and had a very vivid dream that night, and called the lyricist and bookwriter into my office the next day to explain the dream to them and tell them to get crackin'! :)
2) Have you made any big changes to the show for the GCT performances?
Yes - we have cut more than a half hour from the show, both in book and songs. We felt this show should run in one act at about 75 minutes for this production. Otherwise it is exactly the same.
3) Music first or lyric first? (I know, it's an old, somewhat reductive question - but folks always want to know)
Lyric First. I did not even begin to write the score until the book and lyrics were complete for the entire show.
4) What do you hope for the future of the show?
What does anyone hope for their show? to be performed, perhaps on tour, perhaps here in New York, perhaps anywhere in the world, but mostly to have the audiences come away with the feeling that they have experienced a part of our history that has been kept from them, and they are moved to do something about these situations in their everyday lives.
5) What's next for you?
I am the composer for the new Broadway adaptation of Somewhere In Time, opening in New York this coming Summer!
L.E. McCullough is an author, composer, performer and producer. He has worked as a journalist, publicist and fundraiser. He helps other artists get their art out to the world, and organizes festivals and events (as he puts it, he has spent his adult life being a resource). He plays the Irish tinwhistle and flute (composes and produces, too). Gosh, is there anything this man hasn't done? See for yourself at http://www.lemccullough.com.
The latest entry on his dazzling CV is bookwriter for Orphan Train, the Musical, which will have performances at New York's Grand Central Station this coming Friday and Saturday (Oct. 11-12) as part of the Centennial Celebration for the terminal.
But hey, he's much more interesting than me - so let's get on with his Q&A!
1) How did you become involved with ORPHAN TRAIN?
I had just moved to New York City and my actress fiancee (now wife, Lisa Bansavage) took me to a party. Michael Greer was there, and we began talking about our common love of Irish music and Irish literature. Next day, he told me his longtime musical collaborator, Doug Katsaros, was interested in writing about a little-known episode in American history — the Orphan Train movement. I actually knew a bit about the Orphan Trains, and I had already written about 50 historical plays, so Michael, Doug and I met and decided to create a musical.
2) How has the collaboration worked?
I did more intensive research on the Orphan Trains and created a group of characters that mixed reality and fiction. Then I roughed out a plot that told the Orphan Train story through these characters and started writing dialogue for the scenes. When I had the first draft of the book done, Michael and Doug and I decided where the songs would appear. Michael wrote lyrics, and often I would feed him lines of dialogue, historical facts, 19th-century slang, actual quotes from Orphan Train founders and so forth to keep grounded in history. Michael took it all and transformed it into lyrics that Doug made music for. Michael and Doug had such a simpatico musical relationship that within 2 months we had a complete musical. And having Pat Birch come in as director really kicked us up a notch. She's amazingly gifted in keeping the narrative personal and focused on the children's viewpoint. Over the years, we've honed the play to be ever more powerful and succinct in telling the Orphan Train story so that it feels compelling to today's audiences.
3) How much input did you have in ORPHAN TRAIN's songs?
Doug created all the music, and his stylistic versatility has made this score truly phenomenal. He's created music that sounds "historical" and "American" but is very sophisticated, subtle and totally original. My input into the songs was feeding Michael history facts, slang snippets, bits of conversation, etc. that he fused into his lyrics.
4) What lines really capture the heart of the show?
ORPHAN TRAIN shows a serious social problem and says to the audience: "These people made a difference in solving this problem a hundred years ago; what can we do about the same problem today?"
So, the narrative, the songs, the whole thrust of the play is to get the audience to identify not just with the orphans but also the adults who got off the sidelines and pitched in to make a difference.
The song that best expresses that is "Some Letters" sung by Miss Pemberton, the naive young placement director whose faith in the Orphan Train movement is battered by the harsh realities of the "orphan saving business". This is the core moment of the play, where Miss Pemberton (who is us, the audience) has to decide whether she's going to stay committed to these children or pass them off as somebody else's problem. I mean, she's not really responsible for this mess, right? The lyrics by Michael and the music by Doug convey this pivotal moment in an incredibly compelling way.
5) What's next for you?
Well, I want to keep doing everything I do — write more plays, sell some filmscripts to movie makers, keep on playing Irish music, blues, etc. I'm also now managing Hamilton Stage for the Performing Arts in the heart of the Rahway, New Jersey, Arts District. I want to foster a community of playwrights and producers who create Theatre That Matters. Which is Theatre that talks about the realities of human life on this planet right now ... social and economic realities that shape all our lives. And the fact is, audiences DO want to experience live theatre that asks questions, challenges their assumptions, inspires them to action and positive problem-solving. Contemporary theatre can be more than spectacle or sit-com ... it can change our world. And we'd love to start building that out of Hamilton Stage.
If you walk through New York's Grand Central Station Friday or Saturday (Oct 11-12), you may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of something you don't normally see in a train station: a musical.
(The presentation is part of GCT's Centennial Celebration - so there will be other cool events coming, no doubt.)
Orphan Train is about six children who were part of a movement in 1872 to send orphans - "surplus children" - out of the horror that was New York City and place them with families in the West - both for their own good, and as cheap labor for the booming frontier.
Orphan Train has a book by L.E. McCullough, lyrics by Michael Barry Greer, score by Emmy-winning composer Doug Katsaros, and direction by Emmy-winning choreographer Patricia Birch. The 75-minute musical has a fabulous Broadway cast, and includes some of Rosie's O'Donnell's Theatre Kids.
We were so excited to hear about this project - talk about inspirational subject matter! - that we reached out to the creators and will be offering a series of Q&A's with them. We're going to lead off with Pat. Birch Pat has earned two Emmy Awards, five Tony nominations, and scads of other honors, including her recent induction into the Theater Hall of Fame. Pat has directed music-driven projects ranging from Sondheim to the Rolling Stones, and to theatre folk, she is a Legend with a capital L.
Pat has worked with Orphan Train for years, and Hope Sings is so happy to have an opportunity to learn and share more about the project through this informal Q&A. It's so welcome to hear her goals for the show are not just artistic, but social as well. As she says in her interview, "In the 1870s the kids on the streets were called "surplus children." I want to help our own 2013 surplus kids now!
And now...here's Pat!
1) How did Orphan Train begin its life as a musical, and how did you become involved?
They invited me to a very early reading. I fell in love with the stories and the message, and wanted to, and did, help the writers develop it.
2) What has been the journey of the show so far?
There were a few early developmental performances at NYMF (the New York Musical Festival). Patricia Snyder optioned it for NYST. We had huge success in the tri-state area - and thoughts about coming in to NYC, but I felt we might do some good and try to do a few gala performances at Grand Central - the very station from which the trains departed - then go across the country on the route of the trains, playing for family audiences and raising awareness- helping our own needy children!
3) How has it been to stage the show at Grand Central Station, of all places? The challenges/bonuses?
We're on the way now - it will be enormously exciting to play Vanderbilt Hall - we're ready for sound challenges and a very short rehearsal there before we have an audience - but guess what? We'll be fine. The cast - including Rosie's Theater Kids, wonderful Steve Blanchard, DeWitt Fleming and very talented up and comers, some from Marymount's Musical theater program - are great!
4) What impact do you hope the show has on the audience - on the world?
I hope to bring Orphan Train to a wider audience across the country … a family-focused drama that will inspire thousands of Americans to get involved in supporting foster care, early education, wellness/nutrition, juvenile justice and other critical youth development needs in their communities. In the 1870s the kids on the streets were called "surplus children." I want to help our own 2013 surplus kids now!
Though there are no tickets left for these performances, there has been such strong demand that they hope to do more in the future. To get on their mailing list, write to firstname.lastname@example.org