Sunday, June 11, 2017

Mark's Excellent Road Trip Part Three: The Benefits of Cancer

Yesterday, the time had come for the event I drove so far to be here for; my friend Christopher Caminti's birthday party and cancer benefit concert. At least I thought I drove a long way, but others drove even farther. Which shows how much love there is for the man we came to support. After two days of travel, I'd had a recovery day on Friday, and I felt like myself again. My energy level was high. I told Christopher's wife Lori yesterday that I was here to help in any way I could. And help I did, though not as much as many there did, Lori in particular. She never stopped the whole day, even to eat.

An event like that takes an incredible amount of planning and preparation. And for the principal player involved, a ridiculous amount of individual practice and group rehearsals. People who don't understand why Christopher or I would ever decide to stop performing have no idea the amount of energy it takes, not just to perform, but to prepare for a performance. I am exhausted today, and I wasn't beating things with a stick all night last night!

But just as my final big public performance was worth all it cost me, I know the same is true for Christopher. In spite of the pain he's in, and the amount of time it will take him to recover, there is a big smile on his face today. Not just because of the joy of playing music, which we both share, but because of the amount of love and support he received last night, and during the weeks leading up to the event.

I've met some new friends since I've been here. Most of them have known Christopher or Lori for many years. When they asked me how I met my hosts, I told them we met on Facebook just over a year ago. We connected because we're both so public about our prostate cancer journeys. They were some of the first people I sent a cross pendant to, months before my wife started making them. We never would have met if it weren't for cancer. I definitely would not have made this trip if not for that, even though cancer treatment made the journey that much harder.

Cancer is a terrible thing, especially the deadly kind Christopher and I have. But it does have its benefits. And I don't mean just benefit concerts like last night.

There was another scary vehicular moment before the concert, while we were setting up. Christopher's long time friend Jes and I went back to the house to pick up some forgotten items. Jes was driving, and I was in the passenger seat. It was a windy day. On the way back, we passed a furniture store that had mattresses and a box spring frame sitting outside, in front of the store. The frame got caught by the wind, blew out into the street, and hit the car on my side. No major damage was done, and we were both fine, though a bit shaken up. Once again, I felt like God protected me on the road. It could have been much worse.

The benefit was a tremendous success. A lot of money was raised to help Christopher and Lori, but more importantly, a whole bunch of love was showered on him. The money will eventually run out, but the love never will. Around 200 people came. There weren't enough chairs for everyone, but at a rock show, standing room is a good thing. It's hard to rock out when everyone's sitting down. And each of the bands rocked out big time.

Christopher played in four different bands. Drums are the most physical of instruments to play. It takes a lot of energy and endurance. But between sets, Christopher never sat down to rest. There were too many people to talk to. Too many old friends to reconnect with. So he spent his breaks on his feet, talking to people who came to see him and support him. That alone costs a lot of energy. I've worked many events where, between performances, I was required to be on my feet, interacting with people. It's exhausting having to be "on" all the time, to be the one everyone wants to talk to. I know. I've been there. And that was when I was healthy. Christopher did it like a trooper last night, even at the advanced state of his cancer, and with the amount of damage treatment has done to his body.

It was Christopher's night. The drum riser was set front and center, which meant the lead singers had to go around behind him to work the stage! As a lead singer myself, I was somewhat bemused by this. We're supposed to be the focal point. But it was the drummer everyone had come to see last night. By the time the third band began their set, I could tell his energy was starting to wane. But he powered through. I was very impressed with his playing and his determination to finish strong.

I had a job to do at the event as well. I manned the raffle prize table. Lori kept checking on me, making sure I had what I needed, and asking me how I was feeling, like the caregiver she is. She was pulled in twenty different directions the whole time, but she always found time to take care of me. At one point, she asked how I was doing, and I was honest. I was getting tired. It was getting to be past my bedtime. She told me to go back to their house and go to bed whenever I needed to. But my brother Christopher was powering through, so I would too.

At the end of the concert, Christopher was presented with a guitar signed by all of the members of each band. He was genuinely moved, and was unable to speak for a moment. Love was in the air, and all of us could feel it.

Afterwards, I stayed to help clean up and load out, as I'd been there for load in and setup. My car was needed to carry tables and chairs. Once I was up and moving, my energy returned. They had lots of help, and I was happy to be part of the crew.

I didn't get to bed until around 1:00 AM, and had trouble falling asleep even then. Christopher and Lori stayed up even later, talking and laughing with friends. It was an awesome night. Even with the long day preceding it, it was hard to come down from the adrenaline high we all felt.

Would that many people have shown up for a reunion of those bands if Christopher didn't have cancer? Doubtful. Would I have been here? Would I even know them? Not at all. The benefits of cancer.

Today was a recovery day for all of us. Some of Lori's family stopped by for dinner, and Christopher opened birthday cards and gifts. More evidence of the love there is for this man was on display. I told him that one thing I'd learned from being with them for the past few days is just how much love there is for him, and the closer I got to his inner circle, the more love I saw. The people who know him the best love him the most.

Christopher and I have each been amazed by the outpourings of love and support we've received. I don't think either of us grasped just how much love there is for us out there until we went public with our cancer. As horrible as our disease is, that much love is a benefit that helps us get through it.

Tomorrow morning, I begin my drive back home. I have every intention of standing on that corner in Winslow, and visiting the Meteor Crater. I'll continue my listening tour of the Neal Morse catalog. I'm partway through the live albums now, a couple of tracks into the So Many Roads album. I probably won't write again until I get back home on Tuesday. I don't want to compromise my energy level for the final leg to Denver on Tuesday by staying up late writing Monday night. Unless I get really inspired, of course.  That's always a possibility. For me, inspiration has been one of the benefits of cancer.

Please continue to pray for my safety and protection on the road. If you've been reading, you can see I've clearly needed it. Wednesday morning, I get my next PSA test, and expect to have major cancer news by the end of the week, one way or the other.

I'm so grateful to Christopher and Lori for their hospitality to me these past few days. Our friendship has been a true benefit of cancer, for it would not have happened otherwise. If we were both cured tomorrow, we would continue to be fast friends, and find reasons to travel to see one another. Christopher's benefit was a great success, but for us, our friendship is the best benefit of all. #waroncancer #bearingwitness #marksexcellentroadtrip #prayforchris


  1. I'm glad that I am replying to this post here, and not on one of our Facebook groups. Mark, you captured that entire day more than I could possibly have done. Being so busy, and having to execute the months of planning, I didn't even get to experience the day as you did. Reading this right now has blown me away. It allowed me to relive that day completely; without having any distractions or people pulling me away! Thank you from the bottom of my heart for this entry. My favorite one to date, and the one that touched my soul the deepest. My eyes are still leaking!!! With your permission, I would like to copy/paste this entire entry and post. Would that be ok? Love you my good friend. We are so blessed to know you.

    1. Of course, Lori! I'd be honored. I am the one who is blessed to know you guys. Friends forever!