Greetings from CancerLand!

amusement park

I have ridden all of the rides and I have eaten the highly poisonous funnel cake and I am ready to come home.

I hope you have missed me  because I sure have missed y’all. Last year in the Fall I began to realize that something was wrong with my body. I became aware of a frequent pain in my gut and I found that I was exhausted all the time.

My wife and I went to the doctor and I was diagnosed with fourth stage colon and liver cancer on December 18, 2013. What a shock. I started chemotherapy in January and it’s been an interesting journey since! I am fortunate in that I tolerate the chemo cocktail fairly well. However, the side effects make it extremely difficult to work. I have a hard time holding tools in my hands and my ‘brain fog’ is persistent in encouraging very poor decision making. Not the condition I want to be in while I am building musical instruments!

So, for the last five months, I have done a lot of navel gazing and soul searching. What does a ‘Maker’ do when she/he can no longer make? In the winter months, I sat by the fire and carved wooden spoons. That was fulfilling for a while. Then I rediscovered my interest in model airplanes – specifically the ones that fly. I retrieved my old airplane books from the attic and have had the best time reading through them! Many of them were written between the beginning of manned, powered flight (1903) and America’s involvement in the First World War (1917). This is really fascinating stuff for me.

penaud styleRight now, I am slowly working on a non-flying 1/8″ scale of one of the great British WW1 fighter planes: The Royal Aircraft Factory’s S.E.5

russ sefiveaPrimary building materials are cardboard and balsa wood. I am building from scratch (no plans) which is challenging but satisfying.

WP_20140516_001(Chihuahua added for sense of scale)

So this is how I am spending my time these days. I sleep, do battle with the insurance company, take the dogs for short walks, nap some more and build this damn model airplane. Not a very dynamic life I assure you, but everyone says I need to rest and get better. Fortunately, the end to chemo is in sight – just one more month! I hope to shake the brain fog soon so I can get back to building my lovely resonator ukuleles.

I look forward to talking with you soon.

For now, so long from CancerLand!


Published in: on May 19, 2014 at 7:43 pm  Comments (9)  

The URI to TrackBack this entry is:

RSS feed for comments on this post.

9 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Wow! Russ, I read your story with such interest. I admire your grit and your willingness to share what you have been through. Peace and Grace to you as you recover and rediscover the joy of making airplanes!

  2. Well written, Russ. Can’t wait to see the finished RAF fighter. Cheers!

  3. >

  4. I am constantly amazed by your endless talent of crafting things from wood. And I’m sure your doctors are constantly amazed by your improved state. Keep it up, cuz!

  5. Hello Russ,

    Sorry to hear about cancer diagnosis and your long period of chemo therapy treatments. My good thoughts and best wishes go out to you. I know there can be many lows on any fight with cancer. Keep up your positive attitude.

    My wife was diagnosed with endometrial cancer at Thanksgiving, then ovarian cancer around New Years Day and has also been receiving a long series chemo therapy treatments, since early February. Only 2 more months of treatments for her. Like you she tolerates the chemo cocktail well, without too many of possible side effects. She’s kept a really positive outlook, and I try to do the same. My wife has experienced the chemo brain fog you mentioned (I’m getting used to being asked the same question several times). But she has felt good enough at times to do a little of her quilting hobby. She has had her own long conversations with health insurance companies and hospital accounting departments.

    Keep us updated to your progress. When you’re feeling better and back to making those wonderful resonators, I’m going to need one.

    Wishing you all the best,

    Hodge Jenkins


  6. The power of the body is amazing and I know you will continue on your wonderful journey of healing and exploring your inner self. Realizing your potential, best of luck in your next sessions and hope to see you making music again soon…Debra

  7. you are extremely weird and im extremelier glad to be married to you.

  8. Russ, you are an inspiration! I’m in Chicago carrying the old Martin uke I picked up from you. I think of you often and love your blog posts.

  9. Thanks so much for sharing your story, Russ.
    As a fledgling luthier, I am fascinated by your ukuleles. The beautiful cover plates are amazing!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: