Joining the Ten Club

“The music you guys have created has plastered the wall of my adolescent and adult life.  It’s really been the sound track of my life.”   Steve Gleason, on Pearl Jam

Dose ten was Wednesday, and so far, so good. The “routine” was more crowded this week, with some extra appointments and obligations sprinkled in. Life slowly shifts a bit more towards normal, and if you didn’t know better, you might think I was just a regular guy food shopping, taking his kids to the park, going to church, etc… It is a nice feeling, being normal.

Ten doses. Thirty weeks. Four scans with three results. And in some striking symmetry, thirty blogs since asking “Is PD-1 The Answer?”. It is ironic that the weekend after my tenth dose, I am heading back to Philly. To see Pearl Jam. You know, the guys who debuted with “Ten” (supposedly named after the band’s favorite basketballer, Mookie Blaylock, and not my infusion count. Whatever.)

So my routine this week was much more Vedder and McCready-heavy.  Pearl Jam channel on Sirius; PJ20 DVD on TV; even playing Pearl Jam Lullaby tunes walking Tommy to sleep the other night.  Back before cancer, hospitals and treatments, and even before kids, I spent an eventful weekend in South Philly with my buddy Cuz.  Pearl Jam’s last two Spectrum shows, a Flyers game, and a World Series Standing Room Only ticket for Game 4; that cheater A-Rod ruined an otherwise perfect weekend. 

With another busy weekend ahead (this time, the Cowboys-Eagles game and my Eustace 20th reunion are crammed in), it helps remembering a prior similar experience meant so much. It’s that whole “life in your years” thing that is easy to forget amid shuttling between infusions and appointments and the rest of semi-monotony, although this trip will be decidedly less “tailgate-friendly” than that outlandish 84 hours in 2009.

Amidst the building excitement, life has a way of reminding me how lucky I am to even have the chance to enjoy these opportunities (thanks Matt, Ari, Dave, Jay, and Jimmy!).  Last weekend, ESPN featured Steve Gleason and Pearl Jam, focusing on the former NFL player’s relationship with the band as he battles ALS. There was the obvious connection of a life-threatening illness to a young father. There was the football comparison, even if his stage was quite larger. Even the ALS thing had a relation; it took the life of my Mom’s cousin Michael Santarpio, an excellent athlete at Cherry Hill West and Rutgers. 

In the background of all this was the music I’ve listened to since I bought my very first CD – “Ten”. The poster that hung on my wall well after college (I had this one, too), decorated with lyrics that resonated with me. The melodies that still cause spontaneous smiles with the first chords. The soundtrack to my challenges, past and present. This weekend, those sounds will recharge the batteries once more. Many more challenges await. Luckily, I’ve got Mike McCready on my side.

T.J. Sharpe shares his fight against Stage 4 Melanoma in the Patient #1 blog. Read more »

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