It was just short of a year ago now that I was rushed to the hospital with unexplained internal bleeding, in need of five units of blood, and sick enough that when the source of the bleeding was discovered – cancer lesions throughout my digestive tract – it was unclear if I would be able to survive the first dose of chemotherapy I desperately needed.

It was all a blur, really. I knew it was serious by the grim looks on the faces of four different doctors who came to explain the situation to me. They seemed to want to make doubly sure I knew what I was getting into when I authorized them to begin treatment. It was only later, after I had pulled through, that my primary care physician told me honestly, “We weren’t sure you were going to make it.”

Looking back, it seems like years ago, not months. I spoke with a good old friend from Los Angeles this weekend, filling him in on all the details of this last year. When I got to the part about being rushed to the hospital I said,

“It was great! My first time in an ambulance and those EMT’s are so damn cute! And I didn’t really know how serious it was so I was just enjoying these guys in their uniforms rushing me to the hospital with lights blazing and the siren droning on!”

Thinking back though, it really wasn’t my first time in an ambulance. Years ago, when I was struggling with drugs and alcohol in Los Angeles, I had an accidental overdose and was taken by ambulance to a hospital near my home. Because of the intoxication, I have trouble remembering exactly what that ride was like, but it’s clear that I haven’t romanticized it as exciting or fun. I’m so glad that I’m sober now. At least that struggle is over.

Twice now I’ve been in the hospital, fighting for my life. Once because my addiction brought me to a point of foolish over-intoxication. And more recently because a cancer that began on my skin had metastasized to my digestive tract, weakening me and making everything more complicated.

Every time I think about this, the George Michael song, “White Light,” featured in this really honest and brilliant video, plays in my mind. I like George. He’s from the 80’s and my youth, and one of the first celebrities I had a crush on (back in the Wham! days). I relate to him as a fellow gay man, and as someone who has also struggled with alcohol and drugs. I respect that he’s been honest enough to talk about all these things, both in his lyrics and in interviews and public statements.

Not many people know that in the midst of his struggle, while on tour in November 2011, he had to be hospitalized in Vienna for a viral infection that turned into a deadly pneumonia. It was touch and go for several days. He was treated in the intensive care unit, spent time in a coma, and underwent a tracheostomy. Finally released on December 21st of that year, George Michael made a public statement thanking the staff of Vienna General Hospital for saving his life.

This song was released in June 2012, just months after Whitney Houston’s cocaine-related death. The lyrics allude to both Amy Winehouse and Houston’s deaths, and George’s fear that it “could have been me.” This lyrical honesty gives credence to rumors that the problems in Vienna were drug related. The video is haunting because it is so brutally raw, so honest, and I’ve been there. It catches my breath every time I see it.

Having just come home last week from the hospital after my own struggle with pneumonia, I thought I’d post this video tonight. As George sings,

“I’ve got so much more that I want to do
Was it music?
Was it science that saved me?
Or the way that you prayed for me
either way I thank you

I’m alive”

My thoughts exactly.



Stayed for one week at Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs, a hospital that started out in the mid 20th century as a resort (hence the inviting tower). Great care and food, but I was ready to check out of there. The less time in any hospital the better.

Infection in my lungs and legs (community-acquired Pneumonia and Cellulitis). Legs swelled up with fluid that ran out of room in my thighs and so creatively over-flowed into my groin, penis and testicles. The body really is amazing (and gross). Felt like an elephant for a few days. I’m headed back to normal, which in zoology terms is adequately (but averagely so) human. Healing due to antibiotics, of course. Amazing what antibiotics can still do despite increasing resistance due to the collaboration by big-PHARMA and big-FARM(Agriculture) to feed meat in the food chain daily doses of antibiotics like they were candies.

Had another chemotherapy treatment as well, because my cancer came back and we have to keep it in check.

And just in case anyone is keeping tabs, this hospital stay will be about $100,000 – just like the last one I had in April. That’s the American Health Care system for you, even after the ACA.

Should be home at my place next weekend. Need some hands-on care until then.


Some of the best things come out of Portland, and some of the best songs come out of this Portland-based singer/songwriter’s mind and mouth.

How often have I returned to the refrain, “This too shall pass,” especially this past year when I’ve been through so many twists and turns. And how nice it is to have a melody now to sing it to.

The day BEFORE Thanksgiving, I will be having chemotherapy treatment number 8. The doctors say it just might be my last.

This too shall pass.

The official music video for “This Too Shall Pass” by Tyler Stenson. From the “Some Days I’m a Lion” LP (2012). Filmed and produced by Americonic Films.

DOWNLOAD THIS SONG ON iTUNES: http://bit.ly/Rfwnpk
14 FREE SONGS: http://noisetrade.com/tylerstenson
MUCH MORE AT: http://tylerstenson.com