About Jason

Broadway singing actor. Lives in NYC. Works wherever there's work; currently on Broadway in THE VISIT at the Lyceum theatre on W. 45th St. Married to Broadway star Marin Mazzie. Papa to Oscar Yappi Danieley the super schnauzer. I run a lot. I sing a lot with my wife in cabaret's, concert halls and with symphony orchestras around the world.

“Hello My Dear Friends.”

“Good morning my dear friends.”

Starts Alfie Byrne, a Dublin Transit System bus conductor in 1964, or so the story goes in the musical A Man of No Importance. It is the way he greets the passengers on the daily bus route who also are amateur actors in his community theatre troupe.

“Good morning Mr. Byrne!”

They reply in a sing-songy, obedient student manner.

(The indomitable, late Roger Rees and co. of the original off-broadway cast of AMONI)

He has been thrust into a relationship with a disparate group of people. They all come together for the same reason – the love of story telling and in particular, theatre. And they are all riding through life together, daily, on the same bus.

Alfie’s love for all things Oscar Wilde is beside the point in this blog, although it is an incredible story of unrequited love and acceptance of who he is, by himself and by his community. What is the point is the sense of community and the love and support by one and all, for one and all.

I see our coming together of disparate peoples, through social media and this blog, through our collective daily grinds with a love for story telling, through theatre mainly, as the cohesiveness of our relationship.

So I greet you with these words as I delve into an update of Marin’s health.

“Hello my dear friends.”

When we updated you last we told you that Marin’s ovarian cancer had recurred. She was being treated with a new HT (Healing Treatment) drug called Pemetrexed.

As much as we wanted that Super-hero sounding HT to work it proved to not have the magic punch we desperately needed.

In my previous blog, posted July of 2016, I mentioned Marin was doing a reading for James Lapine on Martha’s Vineyard. While there she experienced incredible abdominal pain. Everyone involved was so very understanding and accommodating as she needed to visit the ER and was out of commission a bit.

She visited the ER at the local hospital only to discover, to her great dismay, that the nurse on duty didn’t know what the BRCA gene mutation was. The gene mutation didn’t play into anything the nurse could have done to help Marin with her pain and this specific situation but in the course of discussing Marin’s medical history it came up and she hadn’t heard of it.

The fact that someone in the medical field didn’t know that the BRCA gene mutation is one of the only early detection tests for ovarian cancer was mind-blowing and only increased our determination to spread that word around.

More of that in another blog… BUT if anyone in your family history, on either side (mother or father) has had breast, ovarian, prostate or colon cancer, yes, this affects men as well as women, you should be eligible to have the BRCA jean mutation blood test and have it covered by your insurance. The previous “profile” for the BRCA jean mutation omitted Marin from having the test i.e. of Ashkanazi Jew decent or having Breast or Ovarian Cancer on the mother’s side… Marin’s was passed through her father’s side of the family and she’s not of Jewish decent.

If you have the BRCA 1 or 2 gene mutation you have a higher likelihood of getting any of those cancers and there are additional treatments that you will also be eligible for.

Educate yourself on the BRCA gene.

(Heavy, I know, but information you all need to know.)

What we didn’t know in July, but have come to subsequently understand, is that Marin was having a bowel blockage due to the “visiting” cancer cells. Some of the cells had come to rest on the bowel and caused the bowel to become irritated and therefore close off in a spot or two.

Too Much Information? (TMI?) Sorry, this blog isn’t necessarily a cheery one. Informative, real, maybe a little clinical and fact based but I’ll try my best at levity with pictures of talking toilets and such.

After the reading on Martha’s Vineyard, and after the blockage resolved itself, the very next week Marin was off to do a closed-door reading of the Mary Poppins Returns movie. She is not going to be in the movie but since Meryl Streep wasn’t available Marin read and sang her part for her.

What a fun time.

(not Marin Mazzie)

Since she had a bowel obstruction last year (different than a blockage. More painful and must be supervised in a hospital), Marin’s diet had to be restricted to a low residue aka low/no fiber diet. Marin has always been, since I’ve known her, 20 years now, a very healthy eater. A more examplary student of nutrition would be hard to find.

But since then she has subsisted on only easily digestible foods that would move through her bowels effortlessly: white bread, potatoes, eggs, yogurt, cheeses… I know, “doesn’t sound too bad” but it is a very limited diet and can get monotonous quickly, especially when you are a bit of a foodie.

And after the MV blockage, or as I like to call it the MF blockage, Marin had to become much more vigilant about the food intake which is kind of ridiculous as she was already extremely vigilant even militant about it all.

I was working at Williamstown Theatre Festival, or WTF, this summer and Marin was jotting around here and there, MV and NYC, doing readings and not feeling all her best but managing.

During our technical rehearsal time (aka Tech), the time dedicated to adding the lights, sets, costumes etc… to the process, we have what we call 10 out of 12s. When we work 12 hour days in order to put all of these elements together in a very short amount of time before the first audiences arrive.

It is a very intense, long and laborious time of work but crucial.

Unlike Broadway, and other theatres where there may be multiple 10 out of 12 days, at WTF we had only one 10 out of 12 day. And it started with a phone call that Marin was in the hospital at Memorial Sloan Kettering with more abdominal pain.

I was four hours away in Williamstown, MA but my good and gracious director suggested that I go down to be with Marin. But as the time was already short with tech, and that Marin was accompanied by a good friend, she and I felt it wasn’t necessary. But, of course, my stress level was out of the roof, worried that the HT wasn’t working, which it wasn’t. Sooo… what is the next step?

My cast mates were a dream of understanding and support. There is a reason we, in the theatre, refer to one another as family.

Marin didn’t need to stay at the hospital – thank goodness – but with two hospital visits in such a short period of time, both with extreme abdominal pain, this was starting to add up to a terrible unease of waiting for that proverbial “other shoe to drop”.

BUT… the show must go on… literally.

On a day off from WTF, Marin joined me and our wonderful trio of Joseph Thalken (piano/MD), Pete Donovan (bass) and Rich Rosenzweig (drums) as we made an encore appearance at Barrington Stage Co. in Pittsfield, MA where we reprised an embellished version of the concert we did the previous summer. “Broadway and Beyond

It was another triumph of music and storytelling to a sold out house. A show that our friend William Finn said “You need to do this in New York. It should be seen everywhere”. We’ll give it some serious thought.

Singing together has always been a very special and wonderful experience for us but since our journey, over the last year and a half, songs have taken on profound new meanings. I won’t go into specific lyrics but I’ll list a few songs that resonate in a deeper way that, if you know the songs, you’ll understand what I mean.

“Back To Before”, “Move On”, “Not a Day Goes By”, “I Miss The Music” and “And The World Goes Round”

That last one, by Kander & Ebb, was the title of my most recent blog entry. As we were adjusting our set-list for the concert, Marin took a glance at those lyrics, saw them anew, and thought she should sing it in the concert and briefly discuss her journey.

I’m paraphrasing here but what she essentially saw in the lyric before May 2015 was a song of defiance with a mounting resolve that had anger toward all that has happened.

And sometimes a friend starts treating you bad
But the world goes round
And sometimes your heart breaks
With a deafing sound
Somebody loses, and somebody wins
And one day it’s kicks then it’s kicks in the shins
But the planet spins
And the world goes round.

What she saw now was a song of, not resignation, but of an acceptance that life “is what it is” but the world will continue to spin and life will continue its course, whatever that may be.

Sometimes your dreams get broken in pieces
But that shouldn’t altar a thing
Take it from me, there’s till going to be
A summer, a winter, a spring and a fall.

Marin’s determination to survive and to help others with their journeys, through sharing her experiences, is what has been the inner “little engine that could” to move her toward that goal.

But goddamnit if life doesn’t have surprises just sitting there, in the dark, waiting for us.

On August 16th there was a fire in our apartment building four floors above us. No one was injured, thank god, but the damage to all the apartments in our line was really something else.

We were still upstate in the Berkshires, me doing my show at WTF, so Marin took the train down to assess the damage.

We ended up getting the least amount of damage, but it still ruined our master bed & bath ceilings and walls. The drywall ceiling had three large holes cut into it so that the emergency team could dry everything out between the floors. Sheetrock had been ripped, torn and broken and there was drywall dust and other unidentifiable rubble from the building’s 116 year old ceiling and floors permeating the air.

Not an ideal place for someone fighting cancer and going through chemotherapy to convalesce.

But while the walls and ceilings were drying out we were upstate at our house where my mother would soon be joining us for the last week of my WTF run.

But on the train ride from NYC back up to the Berkshires Marin started feeling incredible back pain. An intolerable pain that kept her up at night, squirming and writhing in pain for several days.

We couldn’t figure it out.

Mom saw the play and stayed with us for several days so that we might have a little alone time without the pressure of a show to do. Should be fun…

… it wasn’t.

… too much pain.

I put mom on the plane back to St. Louis and Marin, Oscar and I headed back down to “the mean old city” as Oscar calls it.

(Not Oscar but it sums up how he feels about leaving the country and going back to NYC)

We packed up and got back to our dusty and devastated digs in NYC where, out of necessity, I duct taped paint drop-cloths to the ceiling and walls to cover up the dust and rubble from falling in on us. I also had two high quality air purifiers going ’round the clock to help clean out the air.

(fun times)

Marin headed back to Memorial Sloan Kettering to see what was going on with her pain and I headed back to the Ambassador theatre on Broadway to resume my duties as Billy Flynn in CHICAGO the musical.

The doctors kept her overnight to drain her lung of a fluid that had built up because of the cancer. We went through this last year when they drained 6 liters of fluid, or ascites, from Marin’s lung and abdomen. This time it was just the lung and they got a liter and a half.

(The actual fluid. Sorry, I had the picture and… well, you know, “accuracy” and all.)

The fluid has nothing really to do with the lung. The ascites is in the abdomen but our lungs are porous and because of that it allows the fluid into the lungs. (The things you learn…)

Marin received instant relief from the draining although she was extremely sore and tender from the doctor sticking a tube through her back, into her lung, draining the fluid, which of course collapses the lung a bit, and while it’s re-inflating?… oh yeah, that’s painful too.

Okay!!!

Meanwhile, as I said, I started back at CHICAGO the same day Marin was having her lung drained. Talk about bad timing.

In CHICAGO-land we have Wednesdays off. And the next day we had off, a week after I started back, the company of CHICAGO put on a free concert for the city of New York in Central Park.

Should be fun…

… it wasn’t…

because Marin was in more abdominal pain and it caused her to cancel a few enjoyable appointments she had planned like a lunch with a dear friend, and a massage with a great massage therapist who has been helping with so many other aches and pains due to the cancer/chemo combo. These few enjoyable events are sometimes the only thing keeping you sane and keeping you going.

… but, what?

…The show must go on (goddamnit – muttered under breath)

We know now that the Pemetrexed was not working. So, it was time to switch up the game plan! Dr. O’C (Marin’s oncologist Dr. Roisin O’Cearbhaill) assured us we had other HT options and even though this one didn’t work we’ll move on to another one…

Doxyl and Bevacizumab (Avastin).

As Marin is like to do, she’d named the HT “a visit with her good friends Bev and Doxy”. Two girlfriends who are going to see her through the healing times.

(Hardly a party… but a positive mindset does wonders for the healing spirit.)

Above: Marin and one of her HT nurses starting the Bev & Doxy party. Icepacks on hands and feet because side affects include blistering. M also had to soak her feet nightly and put Bag Balm, a super intense moisturizer, on her feet and hands at night, with cotton socks and gloves to sleep in.

Alrighty then, new HT going in, things will start getting a lot better soon!

So, let’s have a lovely Labor Day visit from one of Marin’s oldest and dearest friends. You may remember Helen & Doug Brooks from a previous blog. Marin and Helen have known each other since pre-school days.

“People let me tell you ’bout my best friend
(S)He’s a warm hearted person who’ll love me till the end”

(Harry Nilsson from “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father” starring Bill Bixby)

(Mark Mazzie, Marin, Bill Bixby & Helen Brooks at an ABC affiliate, star visit to WREX-TV in Rockford, IL. Jack Mazzie, Marin’s dad, was the station manager)

They both visited last year during Marin’s HT and wanted to come back to have a bit of a normal long weekend with us.

As a diversion to all things crappy, pun intended, and looking for a bit of divine inspiration we decided to travel a few blocks to the largest anglican cathedral and church in the world (don’t tell the Liverpool Cathedral hear that – a bit of a controversy there), St. John The Divine, located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

It truly is divine, if unfinished… but aren’t we all.

Marin and I don’t pretend to corner the market on cancer stories. Our journey is ours and others have their own ways of dealing and coping.

A lovely woman called Karen Walsh who also is an actor, and going through a rough regimen of chemotherapy and cancer related obstacles, has taken to taking a series of awesome photos with friends at her healing therapy sessions. Her positive attack on things is very inspiring. Karen Walsh’s story.

Karen asked Marin to join her in a glamour shot with other actors and a talent agent who are all currently undergoing HT. It was an inspiring day replete with makeup designed by a professional team.

Very glamorous.

Should be fun…

… and it was until Marin started to have a major bowel obstruction, by the end of the shoot, and I mean major.

I hope you never have to experience a bowel obstruction. The incredible pain and cramping, so harsh that it shoves you into a fetal position, writhing in pain, rocking back and forth in some unconscious/subconscious, animal-instinct physicality that defies explanation but that we all know, somehow.

Ironically, the photo shoot was at New York Presbyterian hospital just next door to MSK. The real irony being that Marin made her way all the way home, to the opposite side of Manhattan, before realizing that this wasn’t going to get better and she needed to head back to MSK.

The ER at Memorial Sloan Kettering is incredible. Since it is a cancer center and not a general hospital, everyone there specializes in exactly what your needs are. Every visit, doctor’s note, prescribed medication, scan, test result… everything is on your chart and they can tell quickly the next step to take.

As we’ve come to learn, the only way to stop the pain of an obstruction is to stop the bowels from moving. There is a blockage and your “little bag of worms” as one doctor explained, are constantly moving. Just thinking of food and especially smelling food will set your bowels wriggling toward the “finish line” so to speak.

You have to stop them/it.

How?

Morphine.

You must STOP taking anything in: water. food. STOP!!! And try to stop your bowels from moving by using morphine and rest. And pray that the obstruction resolves itself in it’s own time, usually days, and that you don’t have to have surgery to remove the obstructions especially if you have very little to no bowel left to remove. Marin’s surgery, last year, left her with not much wiggle room there. Bad pun – intended. (sorry. levity. trying.)

Once the pain has subsided a bit and you are waiting to be admitted to the hospital only then can you resume normal activities. Like calling your mother and telling her what kind of horrific pain you were in and that the mystery of the “bowel obstruction” is now a strange and very real reality.

(I call this one “Dazed and Confused” which is referring to me not the morphined-up lady in the bed on her phone.)

I know this is a long tale. Sorry to say, this is only the beginning. I will try and condense some things in order to “keep the show running along”.

Marin was hospitalized for 6 days. No eating or drinking until signs that the bowel obstruction had corrected itself. X-rays and CT scans are good but the real test is passing wind and passing stool. Once that starts happening you can start on ice chips, graduating to sipping water (seeing how it all goes) then a clear liquid diet (still good?), an all liquid diet that includes nothing of particular interest like jello and Italian ices etc… unless you haven’t eaten in four days – then that stuff sounds delish!

During this hospital visit one of our concerns was if we were going to be discharged in time to make our trip to Washington DC with Cancer Support Community (CSC) and Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Alliance (OCRFA) to visit the White House to speak with someone on the Council for Women and Girls, speak privately with representatives on The Hill and for Marin to speak at the second annual Ovarian Cancer Caucus headed by Sen. Rosa DeLauro (D-Connecticut) and Sen. Sean Duffy. (R-Wisconsin).

WE DID!!!

But before we left for DC, Marin was honored by Lincoln Center Theatre, along with a few other artists, for their contribution to the theatre’s ’15/’16 theatre season with The Joan Cullman Award. Her Mrs. Anna Leonowens in The King & I was not to be missed. <3

And the very next day we were off to DC!

Here’s where I’ll condense a bit. These events hold blogs in and unto themselves. I will write more on them later.

So:

9/7 – 9/13: Six days hospitalized for bowel obstruction

9/19: Lincoln Center Theatre Joan Cullman Award dinner

9/20: Drive to DC

9/20: Meeting at The White House, meeting in the private offices of multiple representatives on The Hill, giving a short speech at Second Annual Ovarian Cancer Caucus. Drive home to NYC after full day of meetings.

9/25: Broadway Flea Market to support Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids.

(The color teal is for Ovarian Cancer Awareness month which is September!)

9/26: Video shoot for Cancer & Careers annual gala.

Finished video here.

Then for the rest of that particular week the only thing scheduled were some enjoyable social engagements with friends. Friends who have been chomping at the bit to see Marin since all of this cancer journey had taken place, some who had seen her regularly throughout… Marin has a lot of friends who care for her deeply.

Two days before Marin has an HT session she goes to MSK for blood to be drawn to see if her white blood cell count is high enough for her to have treatment that week. Without fail, to this day, Marin, with her healthy body, other than the cancer, and her strong mind and will, she has always had a sufficient white blood cell count to have HT.

On that Friday 9/30 Marin had a HT party with Bev and Doxy. Three days later she was back in the hospital with another bowel obstruction.

This one was worse than the previous one, as if I ever thought that could be possible. I mentioned the extreme cramping and abdominal pain? Now add nausea and vomiting. Because of that little added bonus Marin got to have an NG tube inserted. That is a tube that goes into your nose, down your throat and into your stomach to drain anything and everything that is “north” of the obstruction. That is why she was throwing up because there was nowhere for the fluid to go SO they bring it back up a tube and out your nose.

I had one when I was in the fifth grade and had my appendix out. I remember distinctly it being very uncomfortable and very weird. Talking was odd and laborious and swallowing was no easy task either. It is an old but tried and true/effective process that works, always has, and that’s why they still do it. If we could have avoided it we would have but the relief that it ultimately brings is sort of worth it. (He begrudgingly admits)

The NG tube has it’s purpose but it also causes great discomfort to your throat. I was hyper aware of the care I felt the technician needed to use with a plastic tube so close to Marin’s vocal chords. He didn’t appreciate my being so emphatic that he take GREAT care because she is a renowned and beloved singer. But that’s what husbands and caregivers are for. You are your loved ones greatest advocate. So advocate.

Let me take a moment to explain what else a caregiver does.

  1. Sit around.
  2. Watch every little move you make to assure you are not in pain.
  3. If you are in pain they go and find a nurse or doctor.
  4. They sit by anxiously as said professional does their job.
  5. Observe, listen and ask any follow up or missed questions.
  6. Sit around hoping there are no other episodes of pain or discomfort.
  7. Spend hours and hours doing this.
  8. Text family and friends to let them know what is happening.
  9. Browse social media for light reading because cracking open a novel isn’t practical.
  10. Post “heavily veiled” info about loved one and situation without giving too much away.
  11. Nap sitting up.
  12. Drink coffee.
  13. Drink water.

Repeat until room is available upstairs for loved one to be admitted. Then…

  1. Make bed comfortable with appropriate number of pillows and blankets.
  2. Unpack slippers, robe, iPad, books, lip balm, eye mask, ear plugs, ear buds, hand moisturizer and comfy socks.
  3. Plug in iPhone and iPad chargers in godforsaken impractical receptacles behind bed.
  4. Wait for in-law or close friend to relieve you so you can go do your little musical on Broadway.

Then go to work and pretend all is ok, that your loved one isn’t in pain, in a cold sterile (though efficient and professional) hospital, not able to eat or drink for the foreseeable future.

For the second time in four weeks.

Sing, dance, act… and respond to very loving and caring cast mates that “everything is going to be okay it’s just going to take a little time”. Sometimes taking care of their worries and concerns as well.

Oh yeah, and this visit will last a day longer (seven days) than the last bowel obstruction hospital visit.

AND it won’t be the last visit over the next several months, though none as long as the first two visits.

I must say that even though it was tiring and emotionally draining to go to work sometimes, it was also a great diversion to escape into one of the greatest occupations in the world. I got to go to a place where I could reinvest my day’s strüm ünd dräng into a character and a story, sing like it’s my last time to sing, as now, everything I do and say and see, seems to have an undulating undercurrent of the unknown and the finite.

(But seriously folks… No. Seriously.)

Well. The bowel obstruction resolved on it’s own again. That was a huge relief. The looming threat of surgery has weighed heavily on both of us. It is an option, yes, but it also will absolutely and forever change the way we live and function.

I’ll shelve that fear as it is not our reality. I will not live in an alternative reality when this one is already complicated enough.

Guess who’s having a Biiirrrtthhday?!?

And guess who is still in the hoooosspital?!?

THANK GOD Marin’s surgeon, Dr. Abu-Rustum, when he saw Marin two days before her birthday which is Oct. 9th, said that he was sending her home. She was released from MSK on her birthday.

I had two shows that day and at intermission of the evening show my dresser, Jo-Ann Bethel, said there was something for Marin downstairs in the wardrobe room.

The entire company, orchestra and crew bought every single sunflower there was in mid-town Manhattan and brought it to be combined into the largest sunflower party of bouquets I’ve ever seen. And a special, huge, birthday card was made and signed by every single person at the Ambassador Theatre.

I was floored and so was Marin!

It was so massive Raymond Bokhur aka Amos Hart in CHICAGO gave me a ride home in his overstuffed with sunflowers car.

Speed through——

On Monday October 17th Marin was back at it. Making a tv appearance on WPIX to talk about Ovarian Cancer Awareness. video and we both made a personal appearance that day that was live streamed from the Drama Book Shop talking about our careers and cancer.

On Tuesday the 18th Marin started a four week workshop of a new, and really freakin’ exciting, reworking of PAL JOEY, playing Vera. As her character isn’t in every scene we took an opportunity to escape to the house upstate for a couple of days for a much needed break.

Our wedding anniversary is October 19th and we celebrated 19 years married this year. We had a lovely retreat to the house and dinner at a quaint and quiet new restaurant and a short, easy hike to Bash Bish Falls one of our favorite places in the world.

(The falls were a little anemic that visit.)

As Marin was rehearsing PAL JOEY and I was doing CHICAGO, the Phyllis Newman Women’s Health Initiative, which is under the auspices of The Actor’s Fund and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, honored Marin on October 24th with the first “Nothing Like a Dame” Award.

It was a joyous celebration of all that the Initiative does for women and women specific healthcare. The initiative was celebrating 20 years interestingly as Marin and I celebrated 20 years being together. I love that fact.

Many, many of Broadway’s most celebrated lead ladies were present to honor the Initiative and specifically Marin. It was an extremely moving evening.

I had the honor, of the only man participating, aside from Joseph Thalken who played for Marin, to introduce the woman of honor. I hesitate to post my remarks here, as this blog might very well be the longest blog ever written but, hey, continuity sake and all…

Dame intro

I mean, just look at the ladies who honored her: Tonya Pinkins, Christine Ebersole, LaChanze, Julie Halston, Karen Ziemba, Melissa Errico, Donna Murphy, Mary Beth Piel, Judy Kuhn, Bebe Neuwirth and that’s just a smattering of all the leading ladies of Broadway who would and who do show up for Marin on a regular basis to support her.

The videographer for the evening, Jonathan Frank, shared this video montage with me that he was asked to make for the evening. They ended up not using it but…, well, ya just gotta see it. Marin montage.

I also want to share Marin’s performance of “And The World Goes Round” by Kander & Ebb as arranged by our dear friend Joseph Thalken, also on piano.

Honestly, I could not have been more happy and grateful for the outpouring of love and support for the love of my life.

WHAT A NIGHT!

But as Fred Ebb wrote “one day it’s kicks, then it’s kicks in the shins”.

The very next day found her heading to MSK.

As the universe would have it, Marin was at rehearsal for PAL JOEY where they were doing some incredible table work (sitting around reading and discussing the play with the director and playwright – actual table sometimes involved). In fact it was going so we’ll that they extended the rehearsal for an hour beyond their scheduled time.

Marin wasn’t feeling very well and her stage manager, who accompanied her to the ER at MSK, said she could see it on her face but she stuck it out till the rehearsal was over. Yup, you guessed it, another bowel obstruction.

You may feel a certain monotony of me telling you she was in for another bowel obstruction but can you imagine the monotony, no, monotonous TORTURE of having to endure a bowel obstruction over and over again?!?

Ok, let’s keep this going now…

She was in for two days.

Bowel obstruction cleared on it’s own as it will two more times after this one with hospital stays.

She performed two presentations of PAL JOEY and it was a smash. She was incredible and NO ONE knew she was sick other than the team, cast, me and her agent. You just don’t know how good an actor is until they pull off a feat like that.

Now we are really getting good with how to deal with such an obstruction and the signs of it’s impending arrival. NO EATING, NO DRINKING, BOWEL REST, MORPHINE to help everything calm down. We actually don’t need to go to the hospital unless Marin is experiencing an actual obstruction and vomiting.

We started home hydrating as Marin still has her chemo Mediport which allows very easy access. We give Marin 1,000ml of saline with added potassium and magnesium to keep her going. Quite literally…

…as she wasn’t able to eat for the past 6+ weeks.

How do you deal with the fact that your love can now no longer eat anything? Everything she puts into her body causes her pain.

A clear liquid diet is all she was able to have for weeks. WEEKS!

All she would be able to handle was a half a cup of clear broth and MAYBE a soft-boiled egg.

OK, the longest story ever made mercifully, slightly shorter.

Friends were making her clear organic chicken broth, organic beet broth, organic watermelon ice, bone marrow broth… all sifted and strained so that not even the slightest particle might get caught in her bowel and cause her excruciating pain.

I finally left CHICAGO to be home full time with her so that I could manage not only the hydration but the round the clock medications. Fentanyl patch, Dilaudid (as a “breakthrough” opioid in case the Fentanyl wasn’t enough), Omepresole (acid reflux), Zantac (added reflux med), the reflux was out of the world crazy shooting up her throat at times like a geyser of fire water, a litany of stool softeners and a thorough bowel regimen to help her “go” since the pain meds cause constipation, anti-nausea medication…

I tell ya the list did go on and on and on and on…

We have a chalkboard in the kitchen with drugs and times drugs were taken.

Thanksgiving consisted of a clear organic turkey broth a friend made but Marin wasn’t able to eat much of it at all as she was in bed almost the entire day in constant pain.

Over this period of time of no eating, I took to sneaking meals in the den or waiting until Marin was in bed, which was usually no later than 6pm, just because of the guilt I felt for being able to eat anything and everything. And believe me I was eating anything AND everything.

If there is one thing I’m good at, it’s stress eating and stress drinking… pretty good at both.

To get back to the HT aspect of this all. Dr. O’C took Marin off of the Bev and Doxy party train cause that party was going no where.

Now she is on a regimen of Carboplatin (an old HT friend from last year – pretty potent stuff) and Gemcitibine (which sounds like a latin bandleader to me). No fancy or fun idea about this combo. We just want the damn stuff to work.

And it is.

I say this with a lot of reservation for as much as I’m revealing to you all there are still loads of stuff you aren’t going to hear about. The ups have been swiftly followed by the downs. I approach ALL good news with a suspicious eye. Right now I am happy to say that Marin’s CA-125 has been regularly declining over the last 11 weeks of being on this particular treatment. But while that is happening Marin has been wasting away.

There is not an inch of exaggeration in that statement.

Since she hasn’t been able to eat, because of the pain, she had whittled down to a mere 104 lbs. That is WAY under her normal or even lowest weight.

As recently as December 14th, a week ago last Wednesday, we were back at MSK. This time to seek help from the Palliative Care/Pain Management Team.

Now don’t get all worried! Slow down!

Palliative Care is: a specialized medical care for people with serious illness. It focuses on providing relief from the symptoms and stress of a serious illness. The goal is to improve quality of life for both the patient and the family.

It is NOT Hospice!

Hospice is: an end-of-life care. A team of health care professionals and volunteers provides it. They give medical, psychological, and spiritual support. The goal of the care is to help people who are dying have peace, comfort, and dignity.

But we did need help with Marin’s pain medication ASAP! And we were introduced to an incredible palliative team PA Jessica Goldberg who has found the right pain medication that actually is working!

The Fentanyl and Dilaudid were not working but now we are on Methadone. Yup, good old meth for my baby. Nothing but the best.

It is working!

Marin was pain free for the first time in almost two months just a week ago Thursday.

As she was in the hospital for the pain management care we watched over the next few days as the bowel obstructions (there have been multiple areas obstructed from the cancer on the bowel) have resolved.

So now, with no impediments and no pain, Marin has been able to go back to eating a low-residue diet again. We are moving slowly and cautiously but trying to get as many calories in her as we possibly can.

It’s not a pain free Christmas. The side affects from this last week of HT have knocked Marin for a loop but at least it’s not the same horrific pain she has endured over the last two months. Some nausea and fatigue seem to be all she is experiencing.

Christmas eve or day (depending on if she sleeps through the eve) menu includes: Roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, mac-n-cheese and roasted (within an inch of it’s life) carrots. Maybe even a little bit of red wine. For dessert some Christmas cookies made by friends and just a pinch of an edible cannabis cookie for any more pain and nausea from the HT.

(Not an actual edible in our house. Though it does look good.)

If you have made it this far in the blog you are a true glutton for punishment.

Actually, you are a very dear person to take the time out of your life to check in on us. We share this info so others who may be going through a similar journey know that they are not alone. Also that there are a myriad of resources out there to help you through it.

We are plugging along, one day at a time. Sometimes it’s one minute at a time. But we are doing this together. Together with the help of so many friends and family members holding us up.

(Marin and her mother Donna at HT this last Thursday 12/22)

May this holiday season find you surrounded by those you love and who love you in return. When it all comes down to it, we only have one another, all the other stuff doesn’t count and the only thing you can “take with you” is the love you share.

Blessings on you all.

Jason & Marin

 

(Keeping in touch with her friends – natch)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And The World Goes Round (and round and round)!

It’s been a little while since I last posted a blog. To be honest, I have been a little unsure of what to write about.

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I have been writing so much about, my wife, Marin’s journey with ovarian cancer this last year that anything else I have thought about writing that deals with “normal” life falls short in the importance category.

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I’ve gone through a tough emotional, intellectual and physical journey and have been nervous to write about it for fear of stigmatizing myself.

And just as I think I wouldn’t write about any of it, I hear from someone I don’t even know, about how my journey as a caregiver to Marin has given them hope. It makes them feel that they are not alone in their feelings and their part of the journey. I’ve come to the conclusion that that is more valuable than anything else I can think of, so what the hell…

So here I come with an open heart with the intention of helping and healing both you and me.

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You can go back in my blog list to read about Marin’s journey with ovarian cancer. You can also read a little bit about how I felt and had been coping with things. I was open and honest about my feelings and even honest in speaking about my talk therapy and seeking chemical help with anti-depressants/anti-anxiety medication.

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They were very helpful in making sure I didn’t go “over the edge” or to be overwhelmed and helped me maintain my composure to be there for Marin.

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I could, at any moment, tell you how I could “keep it together” in a variety of non-pharmaceutical ways.

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But usually my answer was to keep on truckin’ with the anti-anxiety meds, talk to my therapist, and then, my own self-medicating “prescriptions” which included running my ass off…

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Eating like a pig… (old childhood maneuver)

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And the good ol’ German-Irish way of dealing with almost everything – drinking.

This added up to a lot of temporary fixes but nothing with a long lasting effect other than the talk therapy.

The booze and the food added a bit of weight to my body and to that fat kid that still resides inside me. That kid continuously haunts me and can easily push me over the edge on his own power. (That jerk doesn’t need any more help.)

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Eventually I’ve come to taper off the self medicating, little bit by little bit, though not entirely and now I’m working on the “antis” as they have side effects that I just don’t need; thank you very much!

One side effect is weight gain which, as you now understand, I will not stand for. The meds helped me to not get all wound up over a particular situation, which has been helpful, but it also causes a bit of a “blah/meh” feelings/non-feelings in my head and that makes it very hard to memorize lines and lyrics… which is kind of crucial in my chosen profession.

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(Don’t worry, I’m tapering the meds with my doc. And I managed to learn and perform “Trouble” from The Music Man with the Boston Pops along with “Soliloquy” and “Sit Down You’re Rockin’ The Boat” so I think all is still in tact.)

It’s a slow process to get back to normal but that’s my trajectory and it will happen.

Meanwhile: Many of you know that simultaneously with the good news that Marin’s cancer was in remission, back in January, she was offered the role of Mrs. Anna in Lincoln Center’s Tony Winning revival of The King and I.

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What a glorious way to “get back on track” starring in a hit show in one of the most challenging and beautiful roles written for a woman in the musical theatre canon. Not to mention the reviews! We don’t read them but we were inundated by friends who told us how glorious they were.

There also was the added bonus of making a new friend in Marin’s co-star, Daniel Dae Kim (of Lost and Hawaii 5-0 fame) A charming and talented man who took on the iconic role of the King and made it his own. He was splendid! They were splendid! What a wonderful pairing.

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(Drawing by Justin “Squigs” Robertson for Broadway.com)

The opportunity to get back on stage after such a life changing journey was great for the spirit but Marin wasn’t looking at this as “everything’s back to normal”.

Last August Marin’s surgeon wasn’t able to get all of the cancer, during her full hysterectomy and major bowel resection, because of how it was spread, although contained, and not easy to access.

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But her oncologist was certain that with her Healing Therapy (Marin’s term for chemo) she would get her into remission. Would the remission be lasting? Hard to say, there are no guarantees for these kinds of things. So with that you know that you have to go back to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Hospital every so often to have blood tests run to see how your, in Marin’s case, CA-125 number is. CA-125 is a blood indicator of ovarian cancer levels.

If you saw this production of The King and I, you know how magnificent it was. It was the way you would dream of seeing this epic story told with a cast of 51 or so and an orchestra of around 29. On top of that the sets were huge and the costumes were beautiful and multitudinous so there were many, many crew and wardrobe people needed to maintain this production.

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And alas, unless The King and I was sold out every show it was near impossible to make the amount of money to cover the running costs. The show hadn’t been doing as well as it needed to since January, although there was a huge bump up from Marin and Daniel and their reviews, and therefore had an earlier than expected closing.

But before the show closed we were thrilled that both Marin’s surgeon, Dr. Abu-Rustum (pictured above with Marin) and his wife, and Marin’s oncologist Dr. O’Cearbhaill and her team came to see the talent and light of the person they saved and the crowds of people who admired and cheered for her after the performances.

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(Dr. O’Cearbhaill on left, Marin, and two of Dr. O’C’s team)

During Marin’s brief time rehearsing and performing this show she had several interviews. Many of them she used as an opportunity to talk about the gene mutation known as BRCA (1&2). Marin has the BRCA 2 mutation which made her more likely to have ovarian cancer.

You may remember hearing something about this when Angelina Jolie came out with the news that she also has this gene mutation.

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This is an important women and men’s health issue, yes men can also have the gene mutation, it’s not all about ovarian cancer it includes breast and others. Marin used her platform as a Broadway star as an opportunity to start to the get word out.

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And it’s her goal and mission to continue to get that word out. She will be traveling to Washington D.C. in the near future to talk to politicians and whoever… to see how she/we can help in any way we can.

Strangely and somewhat fortuitously the closing of K&I came the same week as Marin’s need for a check-in.

Nerves were jangling but Marin was feeling great. I mean she was running hither and thither on the huge Lincoln Center stage with a 40 lbs. hoop skirt and ball gown eight times a week. She was in good shape.

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Her CA-125 number came back elevated which is sometimes typical so the idea was to wait and see how it was in a few weeks. The number was quite elevated so we were more than a little worried.

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There’s nothing worse than waiting for news especially when it is something as monumental as “is my cancer back?”. You start living through the emotions of the “if/then” scenarios which are numerous and truly consuming.

My anxiety and emotions for Marin were rising while at the same time as I was trying to remain calm and solid for her so she could breathe and focus on being calm until we had word.

I didn’t want to be any distraction for her. I didn’t want her to worry about me. I needed to keep my shit together so WE could focus on her.

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We went about our “normal” lives seeing friends for lunches, going up to our house in the Berkshires for the fourth of July week to spend some relaxing time before we got into more specific tests and before we would find out more about what to expect for Marin’s health.

Another CA-125 was run and it had skyrocketed so high that we were “certain” that Marin was now riddled with cancer.

Warning!: This is where patience should be firmly placed in ones life. When you don’t know anything, you don’t know anything.

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More tests… CT scan with all of the contrast dye you can drink in 45 minutes. (Yum)

More nervous waiting… I mean what else can you do while you wait for this kind of news?!?

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Fortunately Dr. O’C, her staff and the technicians were quick about all of this and got back to us within a couple of days.

(Paraphrased as well as Jason can remember the conversation.)

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Dr. O’C:  “We can’t see any cancer.”

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Marin and Jason:  (Whew!)

Dr. O’C:  “But the elevated levels of your CA-125 lead me to believe there is cancer in there and we need to prepare for another round of Healing Therapy. A couple of lymph nodes and some fluid look like they could be the cause for the elevated levels but the HT should take care of anything that is going on. In some cases I would have this biopsied but I don’t think we need to do it in your case.”

Marin:  “Let’s do the biopsy so we know.”

Dr. O’C: “You got it.”

The biopsy showed that a little bit, microscopic really, of the ovarian cancer has moved to the liver.

We are saying it is “visiting” the liver.

The word metastasis simply means to move from it’s place of origin. But the word carries so much negative history and is often related to dark connotations that we are opting for “visiting”. A term Marin and her best friend Scott came up with.

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Marin and Dr. O’C discussed how the doctors, surgeons and staff at Memorial Sloan Kettering are looking for terminology that is not negative or combative sounding. Terms that are disliked, discouraged and sometimes create an unhelpful to healing imagery are terms like: fighting, battle, kill, win, lose, destroy. It makes people feel that they have failed or done something wrong, which serves no purpose for anyone.

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Here is a snippet of an email Marin wrote to some close friends pertaining to where she stands on the issue of her cancer.

“I will now be managing this for the rest of my life. It will come and go but it is part of me. I think of my friends who are diabetic, HIV positive, have Parkinson’s disease, heck anyone who is dealing with a medical issue every day of their life which is a heck of a lot of people. I am not going to be looking to “remission” as a goal anymore. If I get there again, which Dr. O’C anticipates I will, that will be great for that time but it doesn’t mean that now isn’t great and full and wonderful. I am alive today and that’s really all one can ask for. I truly believe in the power of my mind and spirit and as you all know I believe in all your love, light energy, prayer, whatever you want to call it as being a vital part of my life and keeping me going. I was overwhelmed by it last night after going through some dark moments but then I could channel all the LOVE and it just makes a huge difference to how I think and feel. I am so blessed with my husband, my family, Oscar, and yes, with my health because I am a healthy woman living with cancer!”

Now, possibly more than ever, I see Marin as a true super hero and a wonder woman.

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(Above) Marin receiving her first of her second kind of Healing Therapy. The chemo is called Pemetrexed and she is dubbing it Healing Therapy Pemetrexed Power because it sounds like something a superhero would do or have.

“By the power of Pemetrexed!”

Our incredibly well read and creative dog walker Ana (aka Oscar’s girlfriend) did some research and said

“Your treatment has a chemical similarity to folic acid, which is interesting since everyone’s health depends on getting enough folic acid. Folic is from the Latin ‘folium’ which means leaf. So in a sense, you are taking in a wonderful substance related to leaves – which also mean that you are even closer to nature than most of us.”

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(Just a picture of Oscar because he’s so damn cute! – taken by Ana, natch.)

And thus Marin’s journey continues with the trees that surround her and course through her during her HTPP.

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Nothing is slowing Marin down!

In fact during and soon after all of these events took place Marin has begun a steady stream of working on shows that are in development.

She’s done a reading of a revival of a show that she’s had her eye on for a long time, which will be workshopped in the fall/winter; a brand new musical by James Lapine, Tom Kitt and Michael Korie that she is doing a reading presentation, this very second, on Martha’s Vineyard; a reading of a big splashy new movie musical; we will be returning to Barrington Stage Co. in Pittsfield Massachusetts on August 8th for an encore of our new cabaret concert “Broadway and Beyond” the list goes on and on.

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The woman is NOT slowing down and doesn’t need too. Her HTTP treatments happen once every three weeks so life is manageable and not just any life but a…

“Marin A-Mazzie-ing” amazing life.

I began this blog by writing about my journey. It continues in tandem with my wife’s. I keep myself in check as do my caring friends and my loving wife. I will persevere as Marin will with a positive outlook and embracing the downs as well as the ups as part of the great journey.

I’m at Williamstown Theatre Festival doing a Wendy Wasserstein play called An American Daughter. I will be returning to Broadway soon after that closes to don my suave tuxedo as Billy Flynn in Chicago and much much more to come from both of us individually and together.

But mostly – Together.

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We thank you for your thoughts, prayers, meditations, sending of light, your communing with nature (trees and flowers) all as a part of sending healing love into the universe.

Sound too granola for you?… crunch – crunch!

 

Jason

Please reach out for help to the Cancer Support CommunityMemorial Sloan Kettering and for those in the “Show Business” actors, musicians, crew, orchestra etc… who are in need of help financially, medically, emotionally please contact Broadway Cares or The Actor’s Fund

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Very Superstitious – or – A Hard Habit To Break

We, in the theatre, have a LOT of superstitions. They have played a significant part in the history of theatre and those who are mindful of history try to be mindful of these taboos and avoid them lest there be repercussions with a high price to pay.

Like “don’t whistle in the theatre”.

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This was a practical rule at one time that over time became a superstition. Many years ago stage hands were corralled from the docks with unemployed sailors as the sailors used similar rigging on ships as are used in the theatre. They communicated scene changes by using a variety of coded whistles. If someone was randomly whistling as they crossed the stage it could unwittingly bring a set piece down on your head.

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Keeping a ghost-light lit overnight when everyone has left the theatre was used to ward off evil spirits namely Thespis, the first known actor back in ancient Greece. Apparently he would like nothing more than to wreak havoc on theaters around the world and somehow this single light spooks the spook.

It also may come in handy when the last one out or into the theatre is fumbling around in the dark to look for the light switch. Dunno…

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And then, of course, there is the ubiquitous superstition of NOT saying the title of Shakespeare’s famous “Scottish Play” that starts with an M…

NO – not Merry Wives of Windsor.

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The speaking of the title and any lines from the play are thought to carry a curse that may cause unspeakable harm and even death to someone in the company. It is thought that the witches curse “Double, Double Toil and Trouble” etc… are authentic witch’s curses and if spoken aloud will invoke these curses on those in the production.

If you slip up on this one the remedy is pretty simple…

but kind of involved…

but kind of fun.

The person who said the title or quoted from the play must exit the theatre, turn around three times, spit, say the foulest Shakespearean curse or another one that comes to mind (you’re an actor, I’m sure you’re well versed in these things) then wait for permission to reenter the theatre.

With all these superstitions who has time to actually learn their lines, blocking and get on with the damn show?

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As if these and many other superstitions aren’t enough for us to keep track of we create our own little superstitions; self imposed superstitions or “rituals” that we as actors incorporate into each production, which if not done regularly or more specifically, ritualistically, can induce the same fear of fate, but with less dramatic affects.

I’ve gotten myself into a few routines – for instance I go around to all of the company members dressing rooms, stage management office, crew rooms and the orchestra pit to wish everyone a good show.

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(Have a good show Judy!)

What happens if I don’t do this?!?

After the number “Me and My Baby” in Chicagoas company members come off stage, myself and one of the dressers wait for them and on the button of the number strike a different and ridiculous pose.

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What if I’m not there to participate?!?

Sometimes, again, superstitions begin out of a necessity. There are traffic patterns backstage that are sometimes more complex than what you see on stage. Tight passage ways, single doorways, crew members crossing for cues, dancers exiting in a single file line, eight people long, while you need to make your next entrance all screams for organization.

If you aren’t standing in the right spot you might miss your entrance.

So be in the right spot!

Cause if you’re not you might bring on some bad-ass luck like…

losing a laugh…

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dropping a line…

or having the walls of the theatre crumble around you.

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Dramatic? Of course, this is the theatre!

But will something actually happen?

For YEARS I thought that something… might, and that was enough for me to just keep on keepin’ on. Well, that can cause it’s own set of problems, like getting into a rut.

Repetition can be your friend unless you are in a long run show then, for your own sanity, you need to shake things up a bit, keep it fresh, don’t get stale.

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You can’t create art on an assembly line. You can create a finished product that looks nice and runs well but to have something special it needs to be unique and not bogged down by overly precise, meticulousness.

Spontaneity is my dearest friend of late. The more I can be in the moment, present for what’s happening right now the more true and authentic I can be, which creates SO MANY more interesting options than staying in a rut of ritual.

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This may sound like Acting 101 but so many “rules” change in long runs. The rules of acting still apply but how to keep it fresh and spontaneous is a trick that can only be answered by each individual.

So I’m trying my damnedest to break myself of these habits, these rituals and break free of repetition of superstition.

See… old dogs can learn new tricks.

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“You be good and I’ll try.” – Martin Harrison (my great-grandfather)

 

Jason

 

 

 

 

 

When You Jog Through A Storm Keep Your Head Up High – or – (Fuck You God!)

Life’s vast contradictions are not lost on me, particularly at this time in my life. Over the last eight months I have had three friends die of cancer, my sister’s sweet and loving dog had to be put down, another friend’s dog was killed in a NYC park by another dog in front of her and my wife has fought for her life against ovarian cancer. Oh, did I mention that the anniversary of my father’s death is coming up in May?

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Oh this is going to be a fun read Jason! (Insert most ironic reading of that line you can muster.)

I was raised to always look on the bright side of life…

… to appreciate what I have and not complain…

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… that this is the best of all possible worlds!

Okay maybe that last part is stretching it a bit but I was taught that there is a “reason for everything”, that there is a “master plan”, that “we are only given what we can handle” and all of this under the aegis of “God’s will”.

I was raised in a family where my father was a preacher in a protestant church. So this was our constant motto “It’s God’s Will”. There was no such thing as luck it was “God’s Will” there were no accidents it was “… you get the point”.

I never questioned it I just lived my life knowing it was all in God’s hands and that whatever happens happens.

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Then a year, no eight months, like the last eight months happens and you start to get beat down a bit.

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I wrote in a previous blog about the “caregiver” needing to give care to themselves with regard to my being a caregiver in my wife’s journey through cancer. I was complimented on acknowledging that fact – that issue. I don’t profess to have any answers or solid advice on how to do that. I still struggle greatly with dealing with all of the aforementioned deaths.

I am happy and joyous to no end that my wife is alive and that my 10 year old miniature schnauzer, Oscar, is curled up by my feet as I write this.

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But I also have pangs of empathy, sympathy and something that closely resembles guilt, although I don’t think it can be precisely defined as such, for my friends passing and the loved ones they leave behind, that just completely smack my ass down.

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I’ve tried and continue to try any and all avenues to escape, intellectually deal with, confront, run away from, mask… the hurt and anger I feel.

Talk therapy is at the top of the list of things I seek out. If I can intellectually understand where I am emotionally, why I am feeling like I do, the cause of my hurting and also know that I have no control whatsoever over anything – that’s a great start.

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I try to simply “witness” what is going on in any particular moment, not “judge” the situation, sure, but mostly to not judge myself, to be kind to myself by allowing myself to have my feelings (anger, frustration, sadness, hopelessness etc…)

But even as much as I ponder my particular predicament overwhelming emotions take hold. So what’s the quick fix?

Psychopharmacology?…

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A great mixologist?…

Mixologist Michael Anderson of St. Charles Exchange – Louisville, KY

A good friend?…

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… all of the above at times, I suppose, even though some of these can be at cross purposes.

One very important outlet I do have is running, running, running.

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This blog was written in my head yesterday as I was going for an 11.5 mile run. I started off to clear my head and to hopefully blow out the sadness that was consuming me from our friend’s dog being killed the day before.

(How is it that sometimes a pet passing is more difficult to deal with than another human being? Not always but sometimes.)

I wanted to run past the park I had seen my friend and her dog play in near her home uptown. The day was gorgeous. The sun had begun to shine like it hadn’t in quite a while. The temperature was starting to move up and it was a perfect day to stretch the legs.

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The closer I got to my friends neighborhood the darker the skies became. Then the clouds opened up and poured out their own salty tears. It made complete sense that this would happen as there was so much sadness in this part of town.

Not only was it raining but the wind started whipping up like an unexpected Nor’easter.

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I felt like I was consumed by my own emotional metaphor. I couldn’t catch a break. Even when I tried to do something good for myself I was being knocked this way and that – bashed this way and that.

“I GET IT! Life is tough… We have our challenges… Keep moving forward… Keep your head high… Don’t give up… Be resilient, resourceful and rebound!!!”

I thought, enough already, I don’t need any more “lessons”! How many more things can happen to those around me? What can happen to me?! Is that what I’m being prepared for?

Enough!

Enough!

Enough!

Rain…

Wind…

Rain…

(stupid emotional metaphor)

“Fuck you God!”

I broke.

I got downright angry.

I had never said “Fuck you God” before. My, oh my, never would that sentence have passed my lips. My dad’s ashes are swirling around in his urn. My mom is gritting her teeth as she reads this blog post. I’m slightly embarrassed and ashamed BUT also relieved to just let my honest feelings out.

I don’t have a “take away” to sum up this blog. I think just honestly sharing where I am at this particular time is what I somehow need in order to process where I am and to “move forward”.

I don’t even know that this lesson will stay with me, ground me for further bashings from my stupid emotional metaphors. But this is where I am now. I’m witnessing what I’m feeling and not judging myself – even the “Fuck you God”.

 

Be good to yourself and I’ll try.

 

Jason

 

 

 

Caregiver, Caregiver, give care to yourself!

It’s been a little while since I’ve written a blog and it’s about damn time to write again.

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Honestly, it’s been difficult to write. The Danieley Digest blog began as a way for me to talk about, analyze, dissect, muse upon etc… my chosen vocation and art form, music theatre. But as this last year was hijacked by my wife Marin’s ovarian cancer and the journey that we have been on together, that has been put on the back burner, and rightfully so. When your world is turned upside down you adjust your mindset and daily activities to the situation and cope.

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Marin received the great good news on January 8th that her cancer is in remission! It also was my dad’s birthday and we took that as a fantastic sign. Hallelujah!

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“So, the cancer is gone so let’s get back to our normal life.” Right? No. Not in the least, right. There is this “new normal” that we are constantly adjusting for.  For one thing there are the check ups, tests and scans every three months to make sure that all the cancer is still gone. There is this little cloud that hovers over our head and heart in three month increments that we just can’t ignore.

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Is that going to be a problem? Not if you work diligently together to remind each other that you are okay right now, that there are no signs of illness and no reason to think that the cancer has returned. You must remind yourself or have your partner remind you of the lessons you learned during the last 8 months and that is to Breathe, Live in the moment and Don’t worry over things you can’t control.

Easier said than done. BUT that’s why we have each other AND a lovely therapist who is only a phone call away to help remind us of where we are and how we’re doing.

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Okay so we know how to navigate our expectations for three months at a time so our short-term goals are being achieved. Now, wouldn’t it be nice if we can get back to a normal work situation.

Now, for those of you who are not in the show business, this does not happen easily or effortlessly normally. As actors and singers we are probably unemployed as much or more than we are employed. But we’re used to that and so over the years we’ve learned to supplement our music theatre work life with occasional television work and a concert work life.

As I wrote in a previous blog Marin was back up on that horse tout-suite. A duet concert for the two of us at Bay Area Cabaret in San Fran in December, New Years Eve at 54Below for Marin solo and we toured with the Czech Philharmonic doing the first ever series of Broadway music concerts with this incredibly fun and jovial, internationally renowned orchestra.

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Prague: Czech Republic O2 Arena

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Don’t Cry for Her…

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Oh What a Circus (this last year has been)

As we were getting ourselves ready for our trip to the Czech Republic Marin was asked if she would like to take on the role of Mrs. Anna in the current, Tony Award winning, Lincoln Center revival of The King and I. 

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Not one to turn down a fantastic role or to shrink from a challenge she accepted the offer and will begin performances on May 3rd. The woman doesn’t do anything in a small way. She’s not just going back to work but she is taking on a role that requires her to “carry” this lengthy show while being corseted up and waltzing in a large, I mean large, hoop skirt.

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I talk about Marin in these blogs so much because I have learned so much from her. Her strength, courage, determination, positive mindset “etc…, etc…, etc…” (to quote a famous King of Siam) has been inspirational to so many and definitely to me.

I enjoy writing and I enjoy sharing our journey because, on the whole, it has turned out so well. We are so very fortunate and don’t take any moment or any blessing for granted.

But I wouldn’t be completely honest if I said this has been easy and I wouldn’t be true to myself if I didn’t say it was down right, fucking hard for me.

So many friends along the way, during this cancer journey, have gone out of their way to ask if I’m taken care of and if my needs are being met. And I always gave a quick nod, a wave of the hand or a shrug of the shoulders to insinuate that “all is fine with me. It’s her we need to focus on”.

 

A considerable amount of my life has consisted of being a caregiver or at least a strong support for those in my family who have needed me to be strong. I pride myself on being able to be clear minded, efficient and able to act under pressure. It’s a great trait to have when it’s needed. Being from a family of stalwart souls it comes naturally. Being from a “good mid-western family” (a.k.a. good at suppressing feelings or emotions in order to “be there” for others) is what can really drain your well dry real quick – like.

I thought that I was being taken care of. I was eating and sleeping and doing what needed to be done in order to get my wife back on her feet again. But the emotional drain that goes on under the skin, in the deep recesses of your brain and your heart and soul is really what drains you and you have no clear way of quantifying that until…

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… you can’t get out of bed.

It’s an accumulative thing and one that I had a hard time figuring out. Once I figured out that I was living in a heightened and constant state of averting disaster, trying to do all within my control to keep my love (literally) alive as well as communicating with friends and family all that has transpired, since last we spoke, and to keep it real and clear but with a definite positive spin on it all… all I wanted to do, once that proverbial roller coaster ride had ended and the smoke had cleared, was to sleep and sleep and sleep.

There is an element of depression and adjustment and god knows what all else that I had to go through. And believe me it’s not all over yet but at least I have an intellectual understanding of what is going on; a clear plan of how to manage it – by not squelching what I’m feeling or trying to rush through and get “back on my feet” again – actually living in these moments as well; and communicating what I’m feeling with my wife so she knows where I am and she is, in turn, able to be there for me.

See how this partnership stuff works? It’s not all one sided – ever.  Communicating and sharing is paramount in survival.

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Let me just get down from here…

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I don’t mean to elicit sympathy from you but I think since this story of ours has been spreading around and people who have gone, and continue to go, through a similar journey are reading about us it is only fair and right to talk about the whole experience.

I have two close friends who have been the caregiver recently. One lost his husband to brain cancer and another has moved into the palliative stage of dealing with losing hers.

Cancer is indiscriminate, life isn’t fair, strange things happen in life and bad things happen to good people. There is no way to know what tomorrow brings. If you can buoy yourself with Marin’s good turn of fate or have a slight leg up on knowing why you are suddenly depressed or feeling helpless because of my being honest – then good.

If you are a caregiver please take the time, and that can be a moment of silent meditation a walk in the park or an afternoon nap, for yourself. Be as good to yourself as you are to your partner, husband, wife – love.

 

“You be good and I’ll try.” – Martin Harrison

 

Jason

PS. I’m updating this because I feel I may have come just shy of saying everything I should.

I know about being a caregiver, as you know, from Marin’s journey with cancer this year. I now know it from the inside. I have known it secondhand since 1991 when my dad became a caregiver to my mom. She had a brain tumor, about the size of a golfball wrapped around her left optic nerve – just behind her eye. She had surgery to remove it and it was successful. She, unfortunately, had many issues from that surgery: short-term memory loss, problem solving skill issues, limited peripheral site etc… enough to force her to have to retire very early, her mid 40s.

So dad was her caregiver. She was more than capable to do most everything normally but she did depend on him a lot.

Then I saw the roles reversed as dad had two quintuple heart bypasses within five years of one another. His recover was pretty quick but left him compromised and a life ahead of him of other heart related issues.

Then mom was diagnosed with breast cancer – and the roles reversed again.

…and the world goes round.

They were strong for one another but it does take an incredible toll on a person.

Medication is an option but in my opinion an anti-depressant or anti-anxiety drug should be accompanied by talk therapy so you can really understand the issues that are going on in your mind and heart and can address them or at least learn how to cope with them. Medication is a great tool but shouldn’t be used alone.

I add this with love, hope, encouragement and experience.

 

 

 

 

 

My blog – her words

My beautiful and talented wife Marin Mazzie appeared on Seth Rudetsky‘s radio show last week to promote her New Year’s Eve show at 54Below 7pm.

I’ll let her tell you, in her own words, how she’s doing.

Happy New Year!

 

Jason

 

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Singing for an evening honoring James Lapine.

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Ragtime – Original Broadway cast with Peter Friedman as Tateh.

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Bullets Over Broadway – Original Broadway company as Helen Sinclair.

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Next To Normal – Original Broadway run as Diana Goodman with Jason Danieley as Dan.

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Kiss Me Kate – Original Cast Revival 1999 as Lily/Kate with Brian Stokes Mitchell.

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Jason Danieley as Billy Flynn in Chicago the musical on Broadway. Record as of 12/26/15 35 seconds. Ha!

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Jason and Marin falling in love at Trojan Women: A Love Story.

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Marin embracing the Healing Treatments for her battle with Ovarian Cancer. Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Hospital NYC.

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Marin’s live album Make Your Own Kind of Music.

Where to, from here?

2015 will definitely be a year that will never be forgotten.  It has been a milestone and a turning point in the lives of my family.  This has been the most challenging year of my and Marin’s life.  Would we have had it differently?  Of course, it would have been nice to have avoided ovarian cancer and all the uncertainty, the frayed nerves, the emotional distress on top of all of the physical issues that go along with such a journey… BUT… where we have come out on the other side is a place that has made the world a richer place to have survived to see.  A place in which to continue to live and flourish.

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(On our way to the New Years Eve Gala performance of The Merry Widow at The Metropolitan Opera, December 2014)

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(On our way to the stage at the Venetian Room at The Fairmont Hotel San Francisco, December 2015)

When Marin was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in May we decided to keep a lower profile of her goings on as we had no idea what was ahead and wanted to keep the circle of friends who knew small so we didn’t have to relive every moment a multitude of times.  I would send out update emails periodically to let our supporters know how Marin was progressing.

Marin’s determination to have a positive mindset and outlook on her outcome was instantaneous.  No planning was done, no plotting, this was purely who Marin is and her instinct indicated she was to move forward in this manner.

Throughout the journey we have seen how important it is to:

  • Maintain a positive attitude.
  • Breathe (one of the biggest things to survival in so many ways – consciously breathing)
  • Focus on now
  • And let the things that are out of your control exist and not make ourself crazy that we might not have control over everything.

Without going into specific examples of all of these points I’ll let one episode alone speak to all of their importance.  It is the distillation of what I think is our greatest lesson we’ve come away with.

We look at this journey of healing in thirds.  The first third was 12 weeks straight of chemotherapy, as you might recall from my previous blog we call it “Healing Therapy” sessions because despite the terrible side affects that can happen when the medicine is used, it still is a healing drug that can eradicate the cancer.  Then after that first third there was a full hysterectomy and bowel resection surgery to remove the cancer that the Healing Therapy could not “melt away”.  Then a final third that was another 12 weeks straight of HT to hopefully remove any remaining cancer cells.

During the second third, the surgery third, Marin was in her hospital room at Memorial Sloan-Kettering and just starting to come out of her anesthesia.  IVs, tubes, wires, monitors… all kinds of gadgets and gizmos that us actors haven’t the faintest clue about, are monitoring my wife’s life force.  This is one of, if not the best cancer hospitals in the country, so we were confident that we were in a good and safe place.

Marin had never had a major surgery in her life before so she had no knowledge of possible bad reactions to certain drugs.  It turns out that the narcotics they were using, the really strong pain medication that they were giving her intravenously, she is extremely allergic too.

She’s started to complain about a shortness of breath, she asked me to get a nurse and by the time the nurse arrived Marin wasn’t able to breath deeply and her body was shaking as if she had just plunged herself into a frozen river – extreme convulsions.  She couldn’t get a breath to be able to speak more than one belabored word at time.

Her mother sat in a chair near the foot of the bed frightened, looking on helplessly.  Her brother stood at the foot of the bed trying to not rub her feet as it was annoying her.  I stood next to her, holding her in my arms, with my hand calmly on the top of her head to try and give her all of the calm energy that I could radiate.

At that moment the only thing that mattered was being presentbreathing in any manner that we could together, trying to remain calm as much as we could muster and allowing the very able, calm and loving nurse do what she had to do to help.  It was all out of our hands.

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She came through that episode but it scared the shit out of us.  I would give anything to never have had to experience that and I hope nothing like that is ever in our lives again… BUT… whenever I feel an old urge to let certain things in life – show business related, physical dissatisfaction (aka fat-kid-syndrome), political rancor, religious shenanigans, petty issues great and small – bother me, I think of that episode and step back, breathe, acknowledge what’s happening and know that most of it is out of my control and let it float away.

To us that is a great gift to have received.  We were of that mindset before but it will now forever be at the front of our consciousness and I feel it will make life richer and hopefully a little easier to journey through together.

Marin is inspired to somehow in someway share her journey with others in hopes that it might help them.  Stay tuned for that.  It’s certain to be wonderful.

Marin is a Broadway star and her talent shines bright but as many people have said that a great amount of her brightness as a star comes from her positiveness and the energy that is the human being, Marin Mazzie.

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Her hair has changed, her physical appearance has changed slightly and I’m fascinated to see what the future holds for her because she is still Marin Mazzie but a new Marin Mazzie. The lyrics of Ed Kleban come to me, in an abstract way, “Who am I anyway, am I my resume?  That is a picture of a person I don’t know.”

At her core she is still the person we know and love but her experience has and will continue to shape the new person she is now.

Where to, from here?… To be continued.

These videos were emailed to Marin from various Broadway shows and tours to show their love and support.  They were intended for her personal viewing but I think to share them with you, particularly at this time of year when we always seem to need a reassurance that there is still love and hope and support in humanity, that they might indulge me.

 

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I couldn’t upload HAMILTON’s video as it was too large.  Let’s just say that their love and the free-stylin’ raps from that cast are sure to make you feel like getting back to life.

Thank you for your emails, posts on Facebook, tweets, snail mail letters, gifts, donations, prayers, meditations, white light and good thoughts.

 

All our love for a happy and healthy new year to all!

 

 

Jason

 

 

 

 

 

A-Mazzie-ing Update!

When last we left our heroine she was relaxing and reflecting under a canopy of unchanged leaves in the Berkshire foothills.

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Many weeks have passed since then and we wanted to bring you up to date on her progress.  I say right up front that this blog is all about Marin’s last few weeks dealing with side affects of Healing Therapy (aka Chemo Therapy) for her ovarian cancer, bowel resection and in general getting back into the swing of things.

We traveled back to NYC for the memorial of our dear Roger Rees on September 21st.  It was a splendid and emotional remembrance of a wonderful man and artist.

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(Rog, Marin and myself only last October)

It was a particularly charged memorial as the New Amsterdam theatre, home to Disney’s Aladdin, was packed with friends and fans.  It was also the first time Marin was out in public after we shared the news of her medical issues.

It might sound like an understatement to state, but I believe in the essence of words and detest hyperbole, that the theatre community was and remains absolutely wonderful in their support and love of both of us.  Thousands of people have been writing on Facebook, Tweeting, writing letters (snail mail even), sending emails, cards, gifts… it has been stunning.

On the 23rd of September Marin received a port to receive the remaining doses of her Healing Therapy.  Her veins had finally been tapped out and weren’t providing ample access for the nurses.  This is a typical procedure.  Marin’s oncologist was actually surprised that she had gone so many weeks taking the treatments intravenously.  So this was not a surprise or a setback.

A port is inserted under the skin at the top of ones chest and gives direct access to your blood stream by going directly into a large vein.

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A more vain person than Marin might have a difficult time with this but as she and I have both acknowledged, this port is a beautiful thing.  This small devise makes it immeasurably easier to draw blood, give medication, IVs and administer the chemo drugs and by this access, her life is being saved.  The miracles of modern science.

So this visit to Memorial Sloan Kettering was anticipated with a more jovial spirit than the surgery and that return visit for the infection.

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(pre-op I didn’t have to wear that cap but who could resist?)

That same afternoon as she had her port placed she had HT 15.  In her HT room, as in most of the rooms, were many potted plants, this one had this beautiful pot.  One of my favorite musicals too.  A lovely reminder of the secret beauty that lies just beyond the gate and all we have to do is look for it.

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We headed back upstate for a quick weekend getaway before I started rehearsals for Chicago on Broadway.  Oh yeah, I’m playing Billy Flynn until Jan. 10th at the Ambassador Theatre.  Come see me!  (and whoever is playing whichever role on any given week.)

The day after I began rehearsals I started my four show stint at Feinstein’s/54Below.  A very full weekend to be sure.  The show Romantic Notions was a huge success even our friend at the NYTimes liked it.  There’ll be more about that in another blog as I’m going into the studio to record it.

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I finished on Monday night at 54Below, all the while rehearsing Chicago during the days, and on Tuesday night Marin and I did our first short concert/gala appearance, since surgery, at the Boat House in Central Park.  It was a quick 20 minute set and although a little tired, Marin did extremely well.

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Things were going pretty damn swimmingly.  We were hitting all of the “marks” that we had made for ourselves, all was going according to plan.  A couple of lunches for Marin with a friend on Sunday and one on Monday… then Monday night October 12th…

I had rehearsed for Chicago during the day and was getting ready to enter stage for a Grammy committee performance of song excerpts from The Visit when Marin and I spoke on the phone just as I was going on.  She was in the most excruciating pain she has ever been in her life.  I wasn’t panicked but definitely on high alert and had another, “the show must go on” moment.  Fortunately “the show” was only one song for me and I dashed out of there.

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I took her to the urgent care at MSK again and this time it was a bowel obstruction caused by Marin’s uber healthy eating and the scar tissue that had formed from the bowel resection surgery.  Not an uncommon issue but definitely not planned or expected.

No worries though, we didn’t have anything going on like a put-in for Chicago the next afternoon before I went on for the first time in the role…

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I left the hospital around 12:30 AM and Marin had to stay overnight for observation but was home the next evening at the same time that she began showing symptoms the day before.  24 hours and all of that had happened.  It seemed like a whirlwind to us and, in fact, her doctor said that that was the fastest and shortest stay she’s ever experienced anyone having with a bowel obstruction, usually it takes four days minimum.

So, litereally, Marin ain’t taking no shit!  She’s determined to get better and get through any and everything that is thrown her way.

A side bar, and maybe not as tastefully humorous as some may expect from me (so start lowering your expectations) in addition to going on a low-fiber diet (irony anyone?) to deal with any future bowel obstructions, a friend introduced us to the Squatty Potty.

Never heard of it?  This explains all you need to know.  Squatty Potty Unicorn Poop video.

Since all this shit happened… or didn’t happen (constipation anticipation is a bitch) things have been moving forward quite nicely.

Marin’s dear friend, director and playwright James Lapine, was honored with the George Abbott Award for lifetime achievement.  James asked that she sing if she were able.  So she sang the song that introduced her to James and Steve Sondheim and began her career, “Not a Day Goes By”.

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She was also asked by Bernadette Peters to sing for an evening that the Drama League was having to honor her.  Years ago we all sang, at the Hollywood Bowl, for one of Sondheim’s birthdays.  Marin sang “Buddy’s Eyes” from Follies and Bernadette said it was one of her favorite performances.  So Bernadette asked that Marin sing it for her evening and who can say no to honoring such a star of the music theatre and wonderful woman to boot?

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(photo: Richard Termine)

Marin would like to thank her friends who have accompanied her to Healing Treatments over the last months Helen Brooks, Martin Moran, Barbara Marineau, John Scherer, Scott Burkell, Valerie Wright, Lynn Ahrens, Becky Baker and me.

She has four more HT left and as of three weeks ago Marin’s CA-125 number, which is the blood test for cancer, was at 42 and the normal range is 0 – 35.  She started in May with a CA-125 of 1,100 so as you can see she is going in the right direction and almost back to a normal number.

Hopefully soon we’ll know more about remission status.  Your continued prayers, meditations, white light, good thoughts etc… are embraced with all the love with which they are sent.

The trees at the house have changed their color and we are transitioning yet again into a new season.  Here’s to many beautiful autumns ahead for all of us.

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Jason

PS.  Marin and I will be performing for Bay Area Cabaret at the Venetian Room at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, CA on Dec. 13th.  It’s the show we put together earlier this year that has many of the songs for which we are “known”.

ALSO!

Marin will be returning on New Years Eve to Feinstein’s/54Below with her show Make Your Own Kind of Music with an additional holiday/New Year’s throwback section.  This will mark Marin’s solo comeback and if you can come out, do.  It’s a 7PM show.  You can come to mid-town and get your New Year celebration on in big nightclub style!

AND ALSO!

If you happen to be in the Czech Republic Feb. 2 – 5 2016 we’ll be singing with Keith Lockhart and the Prague Philharmonic.  Czech our website later for specific venues. (I said to lower your expectations.)

 

 

 

 

I Am Woman Hear Me Roar!

Hello there,

It’s been a little while since my last update here on the Danieley Digest.  I’ve missed you all terribly.  We’ve gone through a whole summer and a lot has happened.  I’d like to take this time to let you know exactly what has happened.

Don’t be thrown by the title of this blog “I Am Woman Hear Me Roar!”

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I have not found my inner, trapped woman and joining the ranks of Caitlyn Jenner.  That would be a scary sight indeed.

No, I am referring to a particularly tough journey my family has been on over the last five months and the strong, positive center of this journey is my wife Marin.

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When last I left you, just before the opening of Terrence McNally and Kander & Ebb’s The Visit on Broadway, I was chronicling the life of an actor in the theatre.  I am thrilled to be able to return to that mission.

Sometimes, as a writer, you hit a dry patch of things to write about or have a hard time finding inspiration.  Sometimes you have so much to write about that it can be overwhelming and you can only tread water in your own pool of ideas.

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Other times, what you want to write about, what you need to write about is so personal that you can’t write about it until you are past a certain milestone when you feel you can share this important piece of information.

Even then, poised to share your very personal story, you are unsure how others will interpret it and how they will react.  The best way for us to share our story is to write about it ourselves and ask for your complete consideration.  We hope that it may help others in some way.

Our a-Mazzie-ing Journey of 2015

(A hell of a journey in three acts.)

April 23rd. 2015: Opening Night of The Visit!  

It’s always a wonderful experience to open a brand new musical on Broadway.  Excitement is in the air, pure electricity passing from friends, to family, to business acquaintances… there is nothing quite like it.  A celebration of this true American art form.

I was thrilled to share it with my family as it was so important to me.

Family opening night The Visit

(Marin, Jason, Kara (sister in background), Carole (mom), Corrie (sister))

That very same week Marin was rehearsing Zorba!, another musical written by Kander & Ebb, which was going to be performed at Encores! at City Center for it’s usual one week run.

Marin and I have been very fortunate to have worked with John Kander and Fred Ebb on many occasions and love delving into the varied worlds they’ve created over their long career.

Marin was playing The Leader, a role that our friend Chita Rivera had also played.

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(Chita as The Leader)

Chita and Kander were very excited about Marin playing this role and there was an extra, extended kind of buzz going on during this already exciting evening.

Rehearsal for Encores! productions are very short and very fast, around seven days to rehearse and three days of tech.  It is like being shot out of a musical theatre canon where all of New York’s theatre community comes to see your finished product with very high expectations.

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This show was starring John Turturro, Zoe Wanamaker and Marin as well as many other accomplished stage actors.  Very exciting!

During rehearsal Marin was feeling a bit uncomfortable in her stomach/abdomen area. She thought it was just basically a weird bloating but it didn’t seem to go away and in fact seemed to get worse as the week went on.

She went to our doctor who thought it was probably nothing more than constipation (sorry, just the facts ma’am.) but ordered some tests anyway.  Marin is an extremely healthy eater and also an avid gym rat so it seemed weird that this could be anything serious.

To try and make this long story short…

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The tests came back and they found a growth on one of her ovaries which we would later find out were on both ovaries and extended on to her peritoneal wall.  Not the news you want to hear.

Devastated.

The bloating turned out to be ascites, a fluid that cancer cells produce.  Marin was filling up with this fluid which made her constantly and extremely uncomfortable.  But there was a show to do… right?  Damn right.

I have personally known and worked with two people who had cancer and were going through treatments while performing on Broadway.

Kathleen Freeman during the run of The Full Monty on Broadway:

The Full Monty CD signing

And Roger Rees during The Visit:

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Two incredibly strong and positive life forces who refused to let their health dictate how they lived their life.

And that is exactly how Marin was going to attack this incredible role.  She used Rog, who was performing the male lead in The Visit at the Lyceum Theatre with brain cancer, as her inspiration as she somehow willed herself on to that stage for each performance, feeling such extreme discomfort and pain, not knowing how she would move around and give a performance.

But she did.

She really did.  People who didn’t know what she was dealing with, which was basically everyone, thought she was giving an incredible, career defining performance.  Marin is a chameleon of an actress and people are always wowed by her transformations but this seemed to be a particularly potent part.

I think it was a role she was meant to be playing as she got the news, literally on her first performance of Zorba!, that she had ovarian cancer.

The first words of the show come out of her mouth as The Leader.  She sings to the audience…

“Life is what you do while you’re waiting to die.  Life is how the time goes by.”

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But she wasn’t going to sit idly by she had a role to do, a very important role, and that is to be a cancer survivor.

She took her very well earned bow…

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… and got on to the biggest role of her life.

The “hell of a journey in three acts” that I mentioned are the three sections of her treatment that she has been going through.  Marin is being treated at Memorial Sloan-Kettering hospital here in NYC.  It is one of, if not the, best cancer hospitals in the country.  Her surgeon is the head of the gynecological oncology division and her medical oncologist is also very accomplished and both are wonderful human beings.

It’s was quite reassuring, while I was waiting during her exploratory surgery, to see Dr. Abu-Rustum’s name in New York Magazine as one of the top doctors in New York.

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The ascites that I mentioned added up to six liters of fluid in her abdomen (picture three 2-litre bottles of soda) and another liter and a half drained from her lung.  No wonder she was so uncomfortable!

Act I:  Four rounds (12 weeks straight) of chemotherapy.

Marin has taken a very strong and deliberate, positive stance on her treatments.  The medicine that goes into her body is there to help her beat the cancer.  There are side affects, no doubt, but you have to go through this in order to get better.  So she has been embracing this tough road by calling her chemotherapy “healing therapy”.

Another very positive role model who is a performer and who very publicly dealt with her cancer is our friend Melissa Etheridge.

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The positive view Marin was already using as her mantra and meditation was greatly affirmed by Melissa.  She found it was paramount in her healing process.

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It is unavoidable that ones hair will fall out during chemotherapy treatments.  As you know Marin had one of the most beautiful heads of long blond hair to grace the stage.  But it’s JUST HAIR, it isn’t who she is as a person.  And fortunately Marin knows this and that element wasn’t traumatic as it may be for some.

Believe me, it ain’t easy to go through but it will grow back.  Here’s Marin after her first haircut by our long time stylist friend Tara.  Tara did Marin’s hair for our wedding 18 years ago and still does… or will do.

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(It’s cute, right?)

I am woman, hear me roar.  NOT!  I am a head of hair, hear me roar.

One of our short term goals was after Marin was finished with her first four rounds of healing therapy and before her surgery we would perform a gala concert at Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, MA that we had scheduled some time ago.

We created a new show for the occasion and performed it to a sold out house.  Marin and I did 90 minutes straight through and she gave it everything, which wasn’t diminished in the least by her treatments and had energy to spare.  It was a triumph!

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Act II:  Surgery.  A complete hysterectomy and bowel resection.

This isn’t an easy surgery but it is something that Dr. Abu-Rustum has done many times for many years.  So our confidence in the man was great.  It was not an uncomplicated procedure and it wasn’t a quickie either but he said everything went as he expected it to and was even pleasantly surprised by some things.

Marin’s recovery time went very well.  After we got past a really scary reaction to the narcotics she was given for pain, she was on the road to recovery.  No grass was growing under her ass.

She was doing laps around the 10th floor at MSK and by that weekend she was ready to go home but not before she was visited by 15 to 20 friends in small groups of 5-7.  Marin held court in the library/conference room regaling her audience with her experience on York Ave. and 67th St.

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(Marin and longtime friend Donna Murphy.)

Next the unwelcome visitor of an infection from the surgery:

It wasn’t something we were planning on but given the area the surgery took place there is no way to say with 100% certainty that there wouldn’t be any contamination.  So only three short days after Marin’s return to our apartment she had to return to the “far east” side, to MSK, to deal with an abscess.

She stayed there for a grueling week of extremely harsh antibiotics that fought off the infection but also caused side affects that were much worse than any of the healing therapy side affects.

We’ll fast forward through this part as it was unforeseen, and not a part of the plan.  A real pain in the ass, literally as that’s where they had to drain the abscess through a drain out of her very lower back just at her Gluteus Maximus.

But even during this horrible side bar she looked great doing her laps around the 10th floor.

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If you are a friend of mine on Facebook you undoubtedly saw many photos of sunflowers.  These are Marin’s favorite and an incredibly vibrant botanical friend to have on your window sill while you are recuperating.

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Act III:  Four more rounds of Healing Therapy.

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And here we are still recovering from surgery but moving on, quickly, back to healing therapy.  It’s another 12 weeks and by the end of this Marin’s team of doctors are quite confident that this will be in remission.  I say to the moon and beyond with the crap.

The weekly side affects of the healing therapy is all pretty manageable.  Headaches are dealt with with coffee, caffeine being one of the main ingredients in migraine medication.  So that’s always at the ready.  Fatigue is pretty strong on certain days but you know when it’s coming and we can adjust our schedules and appointments as we need.

We have a house upstate NY in the lower Berkshires.  We have found a lot of time to get away and soak up the beauty of the healing countryside.

Marin has lost a lot of weight and so I’m constantly trying to get her to eat foods she would never have eaten before.  Which is fun, unless she doesn’t finish it and then I have to eat it, which is fun but it does accumulate… in all the wrong places… if you know what I mean.

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Marin’s brother, Mark, looked up the two chemo drugs she is on.  The main ingredient of one is from the bark of the Pacific Yew tree and the other is platinum.  Who doesn’t love platinum?  We dream of having platinum rings, platinum albums… but we really like the idea of a tree helping Marin heal.

We are surrounded by trees here at the house and as I type Marin is lying in a hammock under our favorite oak tree.

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She loves watching the nut hatches, black capped chickadees and tufted tit mouses flit around from tree to tree.  We are a part of nature and nature is a part of us.  If we embrace the beauty and strength of what is around us it can sustain us and even give us life.

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It feels very important to write this for you, to let you know what is going on in our lives.  I mean, we don’t have to and, in fact, we are quite private people but I personally think that the way Marin has captained her own ship of positive thinking through this crap storm is worth noting.

Many people are inspired by the performances she has given, the artist she is as an actor and a singer.  I think her real person is very inspiring as well.  If you can be moved by her portrayals as Diana in Next to Normal, laugh at her outrageous outsized personality as Lily/Kate in Kiss Me Kate and inspired to “Journey On” with her as Mother in Ragtime it’s worth noting that the real person of Marin Mazzie is at the core of what you are really falling in love with in those roles.

I hope she can help buoy someone up or give strength to a person who is just starting their journey with cancer.  The science is out there.  The surgeons and oncologists have incredible technology to help us, BUT even as Dr. Abu-Rustum said there is a lot that rides on your personal outlook and positive attitude that will help you beat this.

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Marin will be back in action as early as November doing concerts.  We will be in San Francisco in December with our new show from Barrington Stage Co.  Life is different. Life is new.

Please know that even though Marin is strong it does take a lot of energy to even acknowledge someone’s well wishes in a simple way.  Right now her focus needs to be on keeping her strength up.  If you are interested in writing her you can do it through my Facebook page. Jason Danieley That way she can read them but not respond to them.  That is just too much to handle right now.

If you do write I would ask that you would be considerate and keep your comments positive.  Everyone’s story and journey with any illness is unique.  I’m sure you can understand.

Thank you all for your thoughts, prayers, meditations, white light… anything and everything you are capable of mustering that is positive and good and sending it to Marin.

Best,

Jason

PS:  Marin wanted me to share a picture of her bald.  That’s how she’s rollin’ on this.  Bald is beautiful!

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PPS:  In case you are wondering how she is today, well, she walked three miles with the dog in the park, walked up and down our drive way five times which is 100 yards long, swept out the garage (guess, I should have done that), did two loads of laundry and she moved her summer and fall clothes around.  Like I said, no grass growing under her ass.

For the garage sweeping I’m going to share my favorite pic of a recent trip to a Farmer’s Market.

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Make Your Voice Be Heard

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Who is the arbiter of good taste for you? arbiter: (n) a person who has the sole or absolute power of judging or determining.

When you were a kid and your mother said “try these brussel sprouts they are good for you and tasty too”, did you just take her word for it and shovel those little baby cabbages that smell like feet in your mouth and say “gee, mom you are absolutely right!”?

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Or when faced with the life decision of what kind of underwear guy you are going to be (sorry gals) and your junk was jumbled up in a bikini brief praying for a little airspace did you say foo on boxers?

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Or gals when you are trying to figure out “your type” of guy do you take People magazine’s test on “the perfect mate” and stick to that type no matter your personal feelings?

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My guess is NO to all three of these questions.

You have to taste the sprouts for yourself, try a pair of boxers and delete the duds from your e-harmony profile pronto.

I would have to say that choosing your entertainment would be high on that list of personal tastes.  Not everyone is a Monty Python fan, not everyone likes classical music and nobody likes Justin Bieber.

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But whose word are you going to take on that subject? I have close friends whose artful endeavors I admire and aspire to but I don’t always agree on everything they say about comedy, or a personal performance or the verbosity of a particular writer.  It’s all subjective.

I challenge all of you theatre goers to be a little “old school” with your choices and go with your heart and gut and not what someone else feels or believes is en vogue.

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Make a quick and simple list of the pros and cons of what you are considering seeing.

Asses how you are feeling at that particular moment and what you want to feel.

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1. Happy and diverted from your daily grind  (Spamalot)

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2. Emotionally engaged in a romance  (Passion)

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3.  Intellectually stimulated and challenged by political and/or moral issues… and more. (Enron)

The only way to ensure that there will always be a variety of choices out there is to cast your vote and make your voice be heard.  Don’t allow these arbiters of theatrical good taste: critics, award committees, bloggers (myself included), entertainment news writers etc… dictate what can be on and succeed, in this case, on Broadway.

You “cast your vote” by buying a ticket to a show whose subject intrigues and compels you.  You “cast your vote” by doing a little, very simple research (a few words on google will do) about who is involved with a production; director, writer, composer, star, designers… and judge for yourself on whether you have enjoyed their work in the past and what kind of career path they have chosen for themselves and if that is something that interests you.  “Cast your vote” on whether this kind of theatre is something you want to consider seeing on Broadway.

YOU CONTROL THE TREND!

If you like jukebox musicals and want to see more of them – see them

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If you like old fashioned musicals and want to see more of them – see them

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If you like theatre that challenges you to think and feel – see them

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Whatever you do, think for yourself.

 

All that being said, I HAVE to say that if you do have a penchant for smart, unique and thought provoking music theatre DO come see The Visit.  There is no way to guarantee that works of art like this can survive unless you “cast your vote” and “make your voice heard”.  One would think with Chita Rivera, Roger Rees, Kander & Ebb, Terrence McNally, John Doyle, Graziela Daniele, Jason Danieley (;D) that this would be a no brainer to run and that others of it’s ilk will always be on Broadway.

Not true!

You have to let the theatre community know what you want to see.  You actually do make a difference.

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“You be good… and I’ll try.”

 

Jason