Monday, October 06, 2008

Bruce and Barack

My main man talking, singing and supporting THE main man of the hour and God-willing, the next eight years, Barack Obama.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Freedom, friends and the latest news

To start things off, here is a video of my friends Walter Parks and Stephanie Winters with Richie Havens performing at the opening
night celebration for the 2008 Cannes Film Festival in France on May 14 . The gala was hosted by Sean Penn and was
broadcast live world wide to millions of people. Those of you who went to New York City for Jillfest 2007 will remember meeting Stephanie when she met us at the Letterman Show then went with us to the "Dave-sponsored" dinner. I am so proud of them. If you want to hear their music, I will put their web sites up at the end of the post.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

What would Molly do?

What would Molly do?

January 30, 2008

It's been a year since Molly Ivins died, leaving us to slog through the political landscape without her sanity-saving blend of insight, humor and outrage. Unlike Maureen Dowd, who delights in snippy wordplay, with Molly you felt the words erupting from her soul, ricocheting off her funny bone and then passing through her brain to be arranged in a way that made sense -- an enormous challenge when dealing with the non-sense of the president she called "Shrub."

As Super Tuesday closes in with the fate of -- oh, just about everyone -- at stake, I keep wishing I could open my paper and find Molly's take on it all. What fun she would have had with the entire Republican slate, from the moribund-on-arrival Fred Thompson to the 12th-century worldview of affable Mike Huckabee to the transformation of "America's Mayor" to America's meltdown.

And she wouldn't have let John McCain's resemblance to an ermine -- a short-legged weasel who changes color with the seasons -- go unnoticed.

On the other side I imagine she'd have taken a few jabs at Dennis Kucinich for toe-tapping with a UFO and at John Edwards for his pricey girly-man haircuts -- yet slapped them a high-five for the truths they dare to speak. She encouraged veracity no matter how eccentric the package; she just couldn't tolerate "clever straddling," as she put it.

She would have donned a hazmat suit to deal with the hydra-like beast called Billary that clawed its way to defeat in South Carolina. She was clear on where she stood on the Clintons, calling Bill "as weak as bus-station chili" and writing in January 2006, "I'd like to make it clear to the people who run the Democratic Party that I will not support Hillary Clinton for president. Enough. Enough triangulation, calculation and equivocation."

So as millions of us trudge off to caucuses and primaries next Tuesday, I'm wondering: What Would Molly Do?

Referring to the death of Gene McCarthy in that same 2006 column, she gave a pretty good idea of where she stood.

"There are times a country is so tired of bull that only the truth can provide relief. If no one in conventional-wisdom politics has the courage to speak up and say what needs to be said, then you go out and find some obscure junior senator from Minnesota [or Illinois -- my add] with the guts to do it."

Well, McCarthy didn't win, but he also wasn't much of a candidate. I knew and admired Eugene McCarthy, but I think it's safe to say he was no Barack Obama. But by coalescing the young and the antiwar voters, he forced those who did win to put an end to America's other mistake of a war.

So Molly would rail at us not to let Bush Co. -- and any lily-livered so-called leader who is up for election -- tell us that this war is no longer an issue.

With plans for permanent military bases throughout Iraq and likely Republican candidate John McCain's comfort with 100 years of occupation -- not to mention the obscene daily loss of life and treasure -- we are a nation that will continue to bleed out until we die.

So do what Molly would do. Go to your precinct caucus on Feb. 5, not because your candidate's political future depends on it, but because your nation's future depends on the candidate you choose. Go with Molly's words ringing in your ears: "We want to find solutions other than killing people. Not in our name, not with our money, not with our children's blood."

Susan Lenfestey lives in Minneapolis and writes at the

© 2008 Star Tribune. All rights reserved.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Friday, November 16, 2007

Springsteen Dreams come true in D.C.

"Is there anybody alive out there?" Bruce yells as he kicks off the Magic tour in Washington DC.
"I AM!" I screamed back. And so it began.

I am so lucky to be alive these days and for two nights, was even more blessed to be present and accounted for at the DC Springsteen shows. I am still on chemo and have a few fractured bones from the cancer that bug me so I am moving slower these days. I knew I needed some help to be there. And magically, it appeared.

As Bruce sang to Wendy,

"Let me in, I wanna be your friend.
I want to guard your dreams and visions."

So, I must first give thanks to the guardian of my dreams and visions, my dearest friend Dean, who took off to escort me to the shows from FL (and sat in the yucky middle seat on the plane both ways). Here we are the night before the trip taking a shot from the patron Saint Patron to bring us a safe trip North.

Thanks to that little ceremony, our flight up was smooth as silk. We got to Washington and walked down to the Verizon Center to see if anyone was there with tickets. There were a few folks waiting in line for the possibility (no guarantees) of last minute release tickets. We got in line. This is where I met a truly amazing member of the Springsteen tribe, Jim the baseball coach, who offered part of his newspaper for me to read as we sat next to each other in line. After sitting, reading and chatting for a couple of hours, I realized my sore bones were not going to make it much longer. Jim offered to get my tickets so I could go back to the hotel and rest. At that point, I just knew things were going to work out -- no matter what tickets we got.

That evening, when we met up outside the concert hall, Jim handed Dean and I two great tickets in the 100s (low and near the stage). I asked him where his tickets where and he told me section 114 -- which sounded good as well. . . till I got inside and realized they were behind the stage. Amazing. HE gave us, total strangers, the better tickets. . . then offered to get tickets for us the next day since he was standing in line anyway for his own. It was like a children's Bible story come true! (Bruce would have set it in Mesopotamia).

The concert that night was, as always, perfect. Here is a little shot of the happy crowd that surrounded us.

Day two
"Tonight this fool's halfway to heaven and just a mile outta hell
And I feel like I'm comin home
These are better days . . ."

I woke up on Monday sore and tired but very happy. Humming "Better Days" to myself. Even if we didn't get in for the second concert, my mission had been accomplished. Everything from this point on would just be gravy. I sent Dean off to the Air and Space museum (he is a pilot and yacht captain in real life) so I could rest and build strength for the evening to come.

Baseball Jim had called when he got into line, just a few people ahead of him. After resting until midafternoon, I hobbled down to the Verizon Center. Jim had gotton us General Admission seats on the floor. Knowing I could not stand for that long, I wondered about getting some type of handicapped assistance. Jim starts working the line to see if he can trade my GA tickets for seats. . .but I soon realized my best bet would be to just go with the flow of the day and see what happened. It had been working fine so far. . .

For those of you who don't know, the General Admission seats for Bruce concerts arent really seats but standing room on the floor of the concert hall. (Imagine a cattle pen) This is great fun when you are young . . .or healthy. . .but I was a bit leary, to say the least. Still-- there was one thing that would make the GA ticket I held as special as a backstage pass-- an exclusive little corral up front for a few lucky ones who, once selected, will get to dance and sing at the feet of said hero. To get there, you have to almost know some kind of secret code -- or have a new friend like Baseball Jim. He helped me navigate the confusing world of the armband brigades to see if either of us could get up into the front area of the Floor. Our armband numbers were far enough apart that we knew we would both not be selected, but we were rooting for each other as much as ourselves as we waited in the crowd.

When they first called the number, it looked like Jim was within the lot of winners. He went off to check, but came back in a few minutes with the sad news that he had misheard the number. Then we looked at my armband. And looked at it again. I still didnt believe it but it looked like I was in the chosen few.
Jim hustled me into the line for entrance for the Promised Land, then wished me well and went on his way. Just a magical being who appeared right when I needed help. . . and stayed for the ride. I will never forget his kindness. But he would not be the last to help a sister out that night. Oh no. A few more soul crusaders were heading my way.

"Hell all day they're busting you up on the outside
But tonight you're gonna break on through to the inside
And it'll be right, it'll be right, and it'll be tonight"

Those of us selected were taken on a winding trip through the Verizon Center and down to the floor. I immediately hustled over to the right corner so I would have a good view of Patti and Little Steven. I placed my hands on the stage and looked around at the small crowd. We all had that same look on our faces, a glow of joy and happiness. In all the years I had been coming to see Springsteen, I had never gotten so close to the stage. It did seem as though the world was just spinning in greased grooves for me, like anything could happen.

It was still a couple of hours before the show so I began to meet my concert neighbors. . .Billy, dancing partner and beer bringer to all. .. Suzanne and Billy's brother who watched my place at the stage when I had to go sit, the wonderful security guards who brought me a chair to rest in between the rockin numbers and Joel, who stood on my other side and kept me chatted up. He even found my blog today and sent me the picture here that he found on Backstreets -- just me and Bruce . . in the spotlight.

Here is what he wrote on my blog:

Hi Jill,
I stood next to you with our elbows on the stage in DC Night 2. I came across a picture of Bruce standing in front of you on the stage from the show. I couldn't remember your email, but you mentioned the blog and this has got to be yours. It was great to meet and enjoy the show with you. Send me your email and I'll send you the picture.
Warmest regards,

Unreal. Magical. The trip of a lifetime. . . Unlike Blanche DuBois, I have never depended on the kindness of strangers, and yet, the very kindness and caring of the strangers I met that night turned them into friends. . . unforgettable ones. Let there be no doubt about this Springsteen tour. IT is the Magic one.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Monday, October 29, 2007

Are you a fan of JOY?!?!?!!!!

Good news today on my PET scan, everyone! No new growth in the lesions on my spine and ribs. Some areas have resolved while others show less activity. There is still a significant bone fracture at the base of my spine and plenty of bone pain in the places where largest lesions were. That is just going to take time to resolve. But the good news is that this chemo shut down the cancer from spreading. The side effects sucked yes, and they are not going to disappear overnight, but that is not enough of a reason to keep me from planning a celebratory Springsteen trip. Quicklike.

Last week, Jon Stewart went to see Bruce and he opened his show talking about it -- just about the same way I would . . . "ARE YOU A FAN OF JOY?"

What cracks me up the most is Jon Stewart's reference to still wearing the clothes that Bruce had hugged him in. I was the same way about the cheek Bruce kissed while we were both backstage at Letterman last month.(Still haven't washed it!) As my friend (and witness) Gretchen said, I literally elevated off the ground after that!



Friday, October 26, 2007

October musing

I know I haven't been blogging lately. Sorry about that. Here is what has been up for the last few weeks. . .

Being Breast Cancer Awareness month, lots of activities have made me realize just how huge the Cancer Planet really is. Some friends of mine did the Susan Komen walk in my honor and the Times had cheer cards made for those of us on the sidelines (Thanks Jill, Krista, Jenny, Adria, Maria, Marie and Annica!)

The trip to New York was so wonderful, but exhausting in a way that a couple of days in bed just didn't hack it as far as recovery goes. I know the Abraxane/ Avastin chemo combo is doing its stuff. The side effects are becoming more apparent as the cumulative effects of each treatment kick in. I have bone aches and pains, headaches, swollen hands and feet, and my favorite, a daily bloody nose or two. The steriods have been bringing back the "moon face" look that is sooooo attractive, but they don't seem to be giving me the energy they used to. Dang it. I spend a lot of time just laying around. And I hate that.

Earlier this month I had a couple of visits from friends that was nice, particularly since I have (almost) figured out that it is OK for me not to be the normal "hostess with the mostest" with gleaming baseboards, shiny sinks and inviting guest rooms. (If you don’t know what I am talking about, just watch any of the at home scenes in MAD MEN on AMC.) It is hard to admit that you can't do what you used to do, but I think it bothers me a lot more than anyone else. My friends just seem just glad to be here. Here are a few pics from a BBQ Shrimp dinner at my house that was a great celebration of old friends and new. . .

I do have that attitude in general, (I really am SOOOO GLAD TO BE HERE-- in the larger sense) but I need to apply it more broadly these days. I hate that throwing a dinner party -- something that used to be a favorite activity of mine-- now is exhausting to the point of no return. But the morning after, I look at the pictures and remember the funny things that happened and I am overjoyed that I did it. After all, I am going to be tired whether I am sitting here alone or surrounded by friends so why not occasionally take the plunge? It is worth it, but I just have to pace myself, something I was never good at.

I hate that when my best friend Tami visits from Colorado with her toddler -- who I adore-- they have to stay up the street at a friend's house and just visit me each day. But on the other hand, I am in awe that my friend and neighbor Julie opened her house up to my visitors with such grace and kindness. It made the time I spent with Tami and her son Rhodes so much more enjoyable as I was able to rest between visits. Another great friend Lise was just as helpful, running to the airport and helping watch Rhodes so Tami and I could go see David Sedaris speak at a local theatre.
Watch Rhodes get a ride from Jill's swim-crazy yorkie, Caldonia.
(See more video and pics at my jillavison blog,

I had a PET scan yesterday to see how the chemo was working on my tumors and will get the results on Monday. Another woman who started the same treatment as I did on the same day got her results a couple of weeks ago (I am behind as I had to stop treatment because of an infection for a few weeks). Her tumors are GONE! That makes me feel very hopeful and ready to celebrate if I get similar (or any) good news. If not, there are other chemos to try and I know I have the best doctor who is as determined as I am to stave off new tumor growth. I promise to post the results on Monday.

I met Elizabeth Edwards recently at a fundraiser for St. Anthony’s Breast Center (This is at the hospital where my oncologist's office is) and she is taking Avastin with Xeloda as opposed to my Avastin/abraxane and says she is doing great with it. She certainly looks great and was an inspiration to the many survivors who were there. I know when I was on the Xeloda it seemed to affect me less than this current treatment as far as side effects go. What I really admired about Elizabeth was her attitude about living was the combination of hope and practicality. Yes she has a “terminal” disease. So do I. But really, aren’t we all terminal? Some of us just know better how we are probably going to die. In a way, that is not such a bad thing.

It is a gift to have deadlines placed in your path. AS a chronic procrastinator, (just ask my boss and newsroom editors!) I would have never gotten my act together to do the amazing New York trip had I not felt the sense of urgency that having stage 4 cancer brings. Rather than waiting to see if Bruce Springsteen comes to Florida after the European leg of his tour, I am trying to figure out how I can get to Boston or DC (or both!) to see him in a few weeks. A Springsteen concert has never ever done anything but brought me joy and happiness – and so even if my coffers are still empty from the NYC excursion, I just need to let go of my worries and GO! I will keep you posted on that, my friends.

Right now, I have an assignment for you. What is that one thing that you have planned forever but haven’t done yet? Is it spending a month in Belizean tree house or learning the guitar? Skydiving or becoming a foster parent? What ever it is—start doing it now. You will wonder what you were waiting on.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

To conquer NYC, stay at the Algonquin

I know many of you JILLABUSTER readers are wondering what happened at Jillfest 2007 -- my incredible trip to New York where I stayed in the Dorothy Parker Suite at the famed Algonquin. Well, to paraphrase an old Teri Hatcher line from Seinfeld, "It was real and the stories are spectacular." I'm still processing them all and frankly, resting from the grueling nature of the trip as far as my illness goes. The day before I left, a snarky nurse at my oncology office sniffed at my request to have a home health care nurse do a visit at the hotel part way through the trip so I could get a dose of the prescriptions that keep me going during treatment. " IF you are that sick, it sounds like you should not be traveling." So completely different from the nurses a few years before who celebrating with me for going to see Bruce Springsteen during my first chemo treatment. Never mind that my oncologist had said it could be arranged and was himself incredibly supportive of my taking this trip. He was out of town and all the sudden my trip of a lifetime was at the mercy of Nurse Ratchett. I asked to speak to another nurse and she was more sympathetic but that was about it. So, I got over it. I willed myself to not get sick or tired while I was there. It was just too great of an opportunity. But force of will can only get you so far in NY. That city is amazing, but draining. My last day, the most important one, I was an exhausted zombie trying to act excited for all my friends who were beside themselves at our good fortune. I was thrilled that my friend Dave Marsh was taking the train into the city to meet up with me backstage at Letterman, thrilled to be hearing Patti Scalfia sing, interested in seeing what Bill Clinton's latest project was (Oh if I could bottle some of that man's energy and share it with all us cancer patients.) and of course excited to be in the legendary Ed Sullivan Theatre and getting to see David Letterman do his thing up close and personal from behind the curtain. But an hour before we were due for a preshow tour, I hit the mother of all walls and just wept with exhaustion and disappointment in my inability to will myself strong and happy.

But enough whining. Yes, I felt tired and sick. But who cares. I met Bruce Springsteen. He kissed me on my cheek and told me to hang in there. I laughed with Patti Scalfia about meeting Vigo Mortensen (who was in my Dorothy Parker suite when I checked in) and our favorite horse movies. She is incredible . . . and charming as I'll get out. I met Dave's kind and caring wife Barbara Carr and felt like I had known her forever. Dave and I talked civil rights stories -- from my dad's clashes with the KKK to the acid in the hotel pool incident in St Augustine FL. As always, He got my mind going on things I could be doing, writing, accomplishing. And yet he called me on my "legacy angst." Something along the lines of, "Get over it. Let go of the pressure of planning and just live. Look around at all the people who came to be with you in New York. Your legacy is you." I swear I felt an exhale come from the bottom of my soul when I took that in. Thank God for that man's honesty and caring heart.

I watched the show in a sweet suite with my dear friend Gretchen, Dave Marsh, Barbara, a hilarious woman who works with them who had just flown in from London, and sat on a tiny loveseat next to Jon Landau, admiring his socks which were something out of a Dr Seuss story before giving him advice on how he should take a page from the Talking Heads Stop Making Sense tour and have Patti's band do a Tom Tom Club "show in the middle of a show" for Bruce's upcoming Magic shows. I told him no charge for the consultation. We laughed ourselves silly, getting another glare from poor Gretchen who was trying to watch her brother's show on the monitor. She had no idea who Jon Landau was. When we got back to St Pete and she was sharing stories with some of our Bruce-loving buddies in the newsroom, Pulitzer Prize winning feature writer Tom French figured out who this big funky guy was she mentioned and gently explained to her that she was in the room with a legend of titanic proportions. That's why we pay Tom the big bucks.

Anyway, yes I was sick and tired. But more than that, I was happy, grateful and after Bruce kissed my cheek, according to Gretchen, walking on air. It was, just like Bruce’s new album moniker, MAGIC.

Stay tuned for more NYC slide show over at I downloaded some more pictures tonight but haven’t labeled and captioned them yet. You can click on the title of this post to go to and check out what is up so far. I'll try and finish in the next couple of days so keep checking back!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Let the Blog Wars Begin! The Boss vs. Ol' Ball Coach and Patti Scialfa too!

Springsteen or Spurrier? Gentleman or Jerk? RocknRoll Vs. College Football?

Normally these two worlds spin on separate axles but reading a little blip about the upcoming Springsteen release and tour in Sean Daly's St Petersburg TImes music column got me in a ranting mode. (Click on the title of this post to read what got me going -- be sure to read all the comments . . . )

It wasn’t Sean's words that got me -- he is very funny, entertaining and knows his stuff. (As opposed to the old music critic where I used to live: Dan McDonald of the Times Onion in Jacksonville. Dan would go to a bar to review a band and spend half his article talking about the chicken wings he ate. Dan wrote a column before the Born in the USA tour that was named something like "I liked Bruce better when he was skinny". It turns out that this musical "expert" had never seen Bruce in concert, yet felt confident in spending an entire column reminiscing about the good old days of Rosalita and what a great job Manfred Mann did with Blinded by the Light.

Here is the thing. I don’t care if you don’t like Bruce. I don’t like Celine Dion but I won't hold it against you if you have all her CDs (to your face, anyway). I can respect someone who has different musical tastes from me. But don't sit there like the great expert, licking the chicken grease off your fingers as you wax poetic about how great Bruce USED TO BE. And then admit you have never seen him in concert. Please.

Well of course Dan came back after having seen BorninUSA tour and of course he had changed his mind. He thought Bruce was great. But it was too late. I had already fired off a letter to the editor asking them to please get a decent music writer who was as passionate about music as Dan was about chicken wings. I probably said some other insulting things about Dan's taste that I can't remember now, but when I met him a few years later I said, "Yeah, I wrote you this letter after you blasted Springsteen BEFORE you went to see him in concert. I was pretty hard on you.” He was like, "You wrote that letter? I still have that letter!"

BTW, Dan is now the Food Critic for the Florida Times Onion. I kid you not.

But I have digressed. The point I wanted to make a couple of paragraphs ago was that my crazy meter goes off when someone says something uninformed about one of my heroes. A couple of dingbats wrote in the comments section of Sean's blog "Pop Music" about how bad Bruce had gotten . . .how political . . . how Pete Seger-ee. And I was off and running. It probably has to do a lot with the fact that the last couple of months have been really bad for me: my cancer has returned and spread to my spine and ribs so I’m back in treatment so my hair just fell out again . . . but that was nothing compared to losing my dad (my ultimate hero) on July 24, the day before my 46th birthday. Then last week I went to hang and mourn and rest at a friend's lake cottage and instead came home with a horrible infected abscess at the base of my spine that had to be surgically drained and yeah, I'm just looking for some poor smoe to make a dumb remark about the Boss.

But I got that out of my system and even was able to work in a little dig at old visor boy himself -- Steve Spurrier. And get this -- the guy who posts after me is so mad I bashed Spurrier he told me to go jump off the Skyway Bridge. Nice! Some people just don’t know how to express their anger in a proper forum. Harrumph.

So please, go read the comments and add your own outrage to the fire. In a couple of weeks, I will be in NYC listening to Patti Scialfa sing her heart out on the David Letterman Show. Mrs. Springsteen and I have both been told to jump off a few bridges before, so I am sure she will inspire my next rant and rave. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Educator butted heads with Ku Klux Klan

Jane and Garfield Wilson at their Fiftieth Wedding Anniversary, December, 2006.

A man of quiet strength, he and his family were ostracized as he pushed for school integration.

Published July 27, 2007

PLANT CITY - The Ku Klux Klan filled the room. Garfield Wilson, superintendent of the Walton County, Ga., school district, led the board meeting.

Wilson's wife was steamed.

"I want to tell you one thing," yelled Jane Wilson. "When my husband gets up and looks in the mirror, he sees a man, not a coward under a bed sheet!"

That man - the man she loved passionately for 50 years - died Tuesday of heart failure. He was 76.

Wilson of Plant City was a desegregation pioneer. During the civil rights movement, he championed a plan to gradually integrate Walton schools.

It didn't go over well.

Klansmen would stalk Wilson's three daughters on the playground, and gather on the lawn outside the house. Jane and the girls would hide in the bathroom, the only room without windows, and pretend it was a campout.

But Wilson never changed his tune. He was always soft-spoken and calm, never flashy. He wasn't the type to get up and make a fist-pumping speech or point fingers.

"There were so many nameless, faceless people like my dad who took these quiet stances," said daughter Jill Wilson, who works for the St. Petersburg Times.

When the family was no longer welcome in white circles, they attended black churches. Eventually, the family left town.

They settled in Thomasville, Ga. There, Wilson led a new district. Desegregation challenges were more subtle, but they persisted.

When one of Wilson's black principals was barred from a country club, Wilson played golf with him at a black course, his daughter said. Soon, other white principals followed.

Wilson learned leadership early. As a boy, he suffered rheumatic fever, but he still raised chickens and drove a tractor on his family's farm.

His mother studied to earn a master's degree, a scandal in those days, Jill Wilson said. While Mrs. Wilson took classes, her son cared for four younger brothers.

In college, he met Jane, who was wooed by his country values. His big brown eyes and sculpted build didn't hurt, either.

"He was all muscles. He weighed 185 pounds when we married. He was just out of the Army. I weighed about 104, and he could just pick me up and run upstairs," she said, giggling.

Wilson would cook for the family and patch the girls' pants when they wore thin. She never heard her husband raise his voice or lose his temper.

Still, if he had a point to make, he'd make it. He'd lower his eyebrows and look at you with those big brown eyes. And you knew.

Stephanie Hayes can be reached at or 727 893-8857.


Garfield Wilson

Born: March 3, 1931.

Died: July 24, 2007.

Survivors: Wife, Jane Wilson; daughters, Jenny Burke, Jill Wilson and Krista Komosinski; son-in-law, Ron Komosinski; granddaughter, Sara Burke; brothers Ed and Jim Wilson.

Services: 11 a.m. today at Bowdon Baptist Church in Georgia. Memorial donations to Hospice or the Salvation Army.

© 2007 • All Rights Reserved • St. Petersburg Times

Dr. Garfield Wilson March 3, 1931 - July 24, 2007

My wonderful father passed away on July 24 2007. He went just as he wished. Playing golf with friends, he collapsed on the course and was rushed to the hospital. A doctor was in Dad's group and did CPR for 45 minutes with little result, but he hung on until all his girls (wife Jane, daughters Jenny, Jill and Krista and granddaughter Sara) could be at his bedside. We sang his favorite song to him (I'll Fly Away) and each told him how much we loved him. Then we let him go.

Because of my own terminal cancer diagnosis, Dad and I talked a lot about living with long-term illness and end of life issues -- not in a morbid way, mind you, but as a practicality. One of Dad's greatest fears was to finish out his days as an invalid, unable to care for himself. HE had a very specific "do not resuscitate" order in his living will and my mother bravely followed his wishes.

Dad's heart was damaged by rheumatic fever as a boy, then he had his first quadruple bypass surgery at age 41. Back then, this was a new procedure and few survived it. But my father had the strongest will to live of anyone I have ever met and he went on for another 35 years living each day with joy and passion. This was in spite of a massive heart attack, second quadruple bypass surgery and congestive heart failure in his fifties, and various scares and hospitalizations in his 60s and 70s. These visits usually ended with him coming out of an operating room doing the Seminole Chop, sporting some new electronic device (Pacemaker, Defibulator) implanted in his chest and cracking jokes to sooth my mother's fears.

I have a lot more to say about my dad so keep checking back with jillabuster in the months ahead. He was a great man, but an even better father and husband. The St. Petersburg Times wrote an article about him and his fight with the KKK Click here to read and my sister Krista and I will be working on his papers and news clippings to try and retell the remarkable story of this quiet man.

Here is the obituary I wrote for my father, which ran in the Atlanta, Tallahassee and Tampa/St. Petersburg newspapers.

Garfield W. Wilson, 76, of Plant City, passed away July 24, 2007. Dr. Wilson is survived by his wife of 50 years, the love of his life, Jane; daughters Dr. Jenny Burke, Tampa; Jill Wilson, St. Petersburg; and Krista Komosinski, Dunedin; granddaughter, Sara Burke; son-in-law, Ron Komosinski; and brothers, Dr. Ed Wilson, Bowden, Ga., and Jim Wilson, Concord, Calif. Wilson was born on March 3, 1931, in Bowdon, Ga. He graduated from Bowden High School and West Georgia College, served in the U.S. Army with distinction, then went on to earn his bachelor's and master's degrees from Auburn University and doctorate from Florida State University. He was a lifelong educator who fought on the front lines of the Civil Rights Movement, serving on President Lyndon Johnson's desegregation task force while superintendent of schools in Walton County, Ga., one of the first large southern school districts to implement a comprehensive desegregation plan. Wilson started his education career as a high school math teacher, then was the first principal of Towers High School in Decatur, Ga., before moving on to serve as Walton County superintendent of schools. Wilson next served as superintendent of schools in Thomasville, Ga., then moved his family to Tallahassee, where he taught in the doctoral program at FSU and served as director of teacher education and certification at the Florida Department of Education for 16 years. He finished his career as a senior consultant with MGT of America and his own firm, Continuous Improvement Consultants. In 1995, Wilson and wife Jane retired to Mexico Beach. One year later, they lost their home in Hurricane Opal, but rebuilt and continued to enjoy their life playing golf, fishing, and watching sunsets each evening. Wilson was one of the founding members of the Mexico Beach Artificial Reef Association, serving as president during the years after Opal when reef restoration was critical. Wilson also served as board president for the St. Joseph's Country Club and as honorary "mayor" of 27th Street, where he watched over all his neighbors' properties, baited hooks, untangled fishing lines and fixed the bikes of all the neighborhood children who learned from him the healing power of WD40. The Wilsons moved to Plant City in 2002 to be near their children. Wilson was proud to watch his daughter Jenny defend her doctoral dissertation at USF in Human-Robot Interaction, read work published in the St. Petersburg Times written by daughter Jill, and walk daughter Krista down the aisle at her wedding to son-in-law Ron. Services will be held at Bowdon Baptist Church on Friday, July 27, at 11 a.m. Arrangements entrusted to Rainwater Funeral Home, Bowdon, Ga. Memorial donations can be made to Hospice or the Salvation Army. Condolences can be sent to the family by CLICKING HERE to go to guest book.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Back in the saddle again

Well, as Molly Ivins said upon hearing of her diagnosis with Inflammatory Breast Cancer, "Well, what the hell, it's been a good run." Click here to read her IBC story. I had quite a run myself there for a while. From August 23, 2005 until May 24, 2007 I was a proud member of "Club NED (no evidence of disease). Almost two years... But in May I started having severe pain in my ribs and back. The rule of thumb for me which I learned from the IBC support website is to give it a week or two and see if it goes away. To be honest, if you didn't do this, you would be at the doctor's every week, because something is always not quite right. You learn to just deal with it.

Anyway, I had a PET scan and they found some large "mets" on my ribs and spine. I had three weeks of radiation to try and shrink the large spots that were causing the pain (imagine a cracked rib) and it definitely helped although for about a week I had to resort to the heavy duty drugs. . . a rarity for me.

So now that my cancer has metastasized (spread to distant organs), I have moved from stage IIIC to stage 4. If you have ever wondered what the staging numbers mean, here is a chart and explanation from the American Cancer Society.

I started chemo last week and will continue with weekly treatments for the next 3 months. If I respond to this treatment, I should have a break then. If not, we will try something else. As I am wont to do, I must again steal from Whit Stillman's "Last Days of Disco"
"There are a lot of choices out there."
And I am just getting started.
More tomorrow.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Friday, April 27, 2007

The Bank

Incompetence and abuse of power like this belongs on sitcoms, not at the World Bank (or the Attorney General's office, or the White House, or FEMA, or USDOE . . .)

Democrats: There are a lot of choices out there. . .

The democratic debate last night had me thinking about the scene from Whit Stillman's "Last Days of Disco" when Alice and Charlotte are looking down over a huge dancing throng and one of them muses (somewhat wistfully),

"There are a lot of choices out there."

As a life-long Democrat, I have had many opportunities to be dissapointed by our party's habit of stumbling all over ourselves when given the chance to shine. An old Sat Night Live skit mimicking the Bush-Daddy/Dukakis debate said it all for me. After Dana Carvey's dead-one Bush rambles incoherently, Jon Lovitz's Dukakis mutters,

"I can't believe I'm losing to this guy."

This is a talented field of candidates. My early crush on Richardson wained a bit tonight. The "big three" all did well but the one who I would chose if I had to right this minute was-- Hillary. (Believe me, no one is more surprised than I am by that). But she was posed, prepared and knowledgeable. We are ready for "the best and the brightest" to come try and clean up this mess the Bushies have made, yes?

Hillary gave an answer to the health care question that really resonated with me and I NEVER hear people talk about it -- those of us in the middle class who have health insurance who also need health care relief. I have a good job with a decent salary, but after being diagnosed at age 44 with Inflammatory Breast Cancer, a particularly aggressive form of the disease, I found that even my company's excellent insurance was not enough. My treatment cost almost a quarter of a million dollars and I paid over $20,000 out of pocket in co-payments and related costs. Every one of us in the middle class is just one catastrophic health crisis away from losing everything we work so hard for. Reform has to be more than just universal coverage.

Stay tuned. It's not too soon to be paying attention.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Thursday, March 01, 2007

We are the deciders. Molly Ivins said so.

Molly Ivins has always been my favorite newspaper columnist and finding out that she and I had the same rare form of cancer, (Inflammatory Breast Cancer, or IBC) only made her even more inspirational if that is possible. I saw Molly in person years ago at the SXSW music festival in Austin Texas. She sat in with the world-renowed rock band, "The Rock Bottom Remainders" ( which includes Dave Barry, Ridley Pearson, Stephen King, Scott Turow, Amy Tan, James McBride, Mitch Albom, Roy Blount, Jr., Matt Groening, and Kathi Kamen Goldmark. People more commonly known for their bookwriting skills (but they HAVE played with Bruce Springsteen (so in my book, they are utterly, completely - IN!) Molly didn't really sing that night -- unless you consider what Rex Harrision did with his songs in My Fair Lady singing. SHe did a more of a Ginsbergian-Howl-cadenced rant, which she read off what looked to be a bar napkin. Of all the memories that chemo has washed away, the specifics of that night are some I would pay dearly to get back. (OK, maybe I can't blame chemo on the memory cells lost that night. Instead, I will blame it on the evil Hacking Cat Productions gang who forced me to drink heavily through out that vacation. I also forgot that I saw Junior Brown at the Continental Club play "My wife thinks youre dead." But it came flashing back to me when he came to St Pete.

Molly Ivins checked out last month after living seven years with IBC. As she said herself, "It was a good run."

A friend of Molly's wrote that her greatest words of wisdom came with three children's books she gave his son when he was born.
" In "Alice in Wonderland," she offered, "Here's to six impossible things before breakfast." For "The Wind in the Willows," it was, "May you have Toad's zest for life." And in "The Little Prince," she wrote, "May your heart always see clearly."

Now those are some words to live by. The last column she wrote was not a walk down memory lane or an Oscar-style thank you speech. IT was a call to arms. It was angry. And not just at the idiots in charge. She is angry with us for watching from the sidelines. "We are the deciders!" she cries. Raise hell! Hit the streets!

It is not to late to start paying attention. Start reading newspapers and watching CSPAN, Olbermann and Face the Nation. Make Real Time with Bill Maher and The Daily Show required viewing and realize that while they are making jokes, the situations they are calling attention to are real, and scary, and that we are all just one freak storm away from living the Katrina life. really.

Make Molly proud. It is not too late to be one of the deciders.

oh, and that last column? Here it is. . . Read it and don't weep. ACT!

Molly Ivins is a nationally syndicated columnist.
Ivins: Stand up against the surge
POSTED: 4:59 p.m. EST, January 11, 2007

(CREATORS) -- The purpose of this old-fashioned newspaper crusade to stop the war is not to make George W. Bush look like the dumbest president ever. People have done dumber things. What were they thinking when they bought into the Bay of Pigs fiasco? How dumb was the Egypt-Suez war? How massively stupid was the entire war in Vietnam? Even at that, the challenge with this misbegotten adventure is that WE simply cannot let it continue.

It is not a matter of whether we will lose or we are losing. We have lost. Gen. John P. Abizaid, until recently the senior commander in the Middle East, insists that the answer to our problems there is not military. "You have to internationalize the problem. You have to attack it diplomatically, geo-strategically," he said.

His assessment is supported by Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the senior American commander in Iraq, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who only recommend releasing forces with a clear definition of the goals for the additional troops.

Bush's call for a "surge" or "escalation" also goes against the Iraq Study Group. Talk is that the White House has planned to do anything but what the group suggested after months of investigation and proposals based on much broader strategic implications.

About the only politician out there besides Bush actively calling for a surge is Sen. John McCain. In a recent opinion piece, he wrote: "The presence of additional coalition forces would allow the Iraqi government to do what it cannot accomplish today on its own -- impose its rule throughout the country. ... By surging troops and bringing security to Baghdad and other areas, we will give the Iraqis the best possible chance to succeed." But with all due respect to the senator from Arizona, that ship has long since sailed.

A surge is not acceptable to the people in this country -- we have voted overwhelmingly against this war in polls (about 80 percent of the public is against escalation, and a recent Military Times poll shows only 38 percent of active military want more troops sent) and at the polls. We know this is wrong. The people understand, the people have the right to make this decision, and the people have the obligation to make sure our will is implemented.

Congress must work for the people in the resolution of this fiasco. Ted Kennedy's proposal to control the money and tighten oversight is a welcome first step. And if Republicans want to continue to rubber-stamp this administration's idiotic "plans" and go against the will of the people, they should be thrown out as soon as possible, to join their recent colleagues.

Anyone who wants to talk knowledgably about our Iraq misadventure should pick up Rajiv Chandrasekaran's "Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone." It's like reading a horror novel. You just want to put your face down and moan: How could we have let this happen? How could we have been so stupid?

As The Washington Post's review notes, Chandrasekaran's book "methodically documents the baffling ineptitude that dominated U.S. attempts to influence Iraq's fiendish politics, rebuild the electrical grid, privatize the economy, run the oil industry, recruit expert staff or instill a modicum of normalcy to the lives of Iraqis."

We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war. Raise hell. Think of something to make the ridiculous look ridiculous. Make our troops know we're for them and trying to get them out of there. Hit the streets to protest Bush's proposed surge. If you can, go to the peace march in Washington on January 27. We need people in the streets, banging pots and pans and demanding, "Stop it, now!"

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Inflammatory Breast Cancer Newscast Gets 10 Million Hits

Wow. I was surprised to see that this story on the cancer I have has aroused such interest. Perhaps there will now be more interest in a cure for all of us. Check out the original video by clicking on the title of this post.

SEATTLE - On May 7, Seattle's KOMO 4 News' Michelle Esteban reported on a little-known type of breast cancer that is difficult to detect: inflammatory breast cancer.

Little did we know the impact the story would make.

In the weeks after the story aired, some people wrote an e-mail to their friends warning them about the cancer, and then urging them to watch the video of our 6 minute segment.

Those friends forwarded it on, and then those did the same. The e-mail spread like wildfire across the globe. It's even been posted as truth on popular Urban Legend sites such as,, and

We've also seen hundreds of e-mails from people asking for more information, and we're told that IBC support groups have been getting a lot of people calling with questions.

As of Thursday morning, amazingly, the video has been accessed a total of 10 million times, and has helped shed light on the important subject to several news agencies across the nation and world.

We continue to hope the video helps provide important life-saving information and helps bring more awareness to a subject that not many people knew about.

To read Michelle's story and to view the video, go to our IBC site at We encourage you to e-mail the link to whoever you'd like, but please use the link in your e-mail.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

NPR's My Cancer and MY CANCER: Parallel Universe?

I suppose I like reading other people's blogs more than posting in my own regularly. One that I enjoy most is MEDIA IN THE MIRROR, written by St. Pete Times media critic, Eric Deggans. Now that I am moderating another blog for the Times' younger readers, I can see who has recently posted from our family of bloggers and the faux-ADHD part of me goes, "ooow, what's that?!?" Early this morning, after reviewing and posting student comments on our Summer Times Reader blog, I clicked over to read Eric's latest post, Can Cancer Struggle Make Good Radio?

Eric's entry posed the question that I often asked myself when working on my blog, Jillabuster. Just how much do people really want to know about "My Cancer"? When I was diagnosed with a particularly lethal form of breast cancer in Sept. 2004, I thought my blog and web site would be good resources to send my friends and family to for information and updates during my treatment. But I found myself hesitating to write about the bad stuff. No one wants to read about that, I thought. Why depress people? So my posts were few and far between and probably did not do much to inform folks about how I was doing.

My blog and website became a repository for my other interests: Springsteen, politics, FSU Football and recipes. One thing I discovered was that I really didn't like being defined as, "the one with the bad cancer."

But boy, am I interested in reading other cancer warriors' accounts.

Leroy Siever's My Cancer series and blog drew me in from the minute I heard about it and the former executive producer of ABC's Nightline (back when it was Koppelicious) did not disappoint. One statement in particular jumped out at me:
"For those of us directly affected, cancer opens up a whole new world. I like to call it a parallel universe. It looks like the regular world, but it's very, very different. It's populated by other patients with whom you share war stories. 'What drugs are you on?' 'How are your side effects?'"

That parallel universe was mine! Although my family, friends and co workers were incredibly supportive during my 12 months of treatment, there really was a world where in some ways I felt more at home. At Gulfcoast Oncologists, I could walk into the chemo room and actually breath a sign of relief. No need to fake it here. Morbid jokes? No problem! Feel like pulling the wig off? Go right ahead. No one here gives a second look at bald (or breastless) women. When fellow Times employee, metro editor Barry Bradley wrote a series about his final days living with lung cancer, he spoke of the chemo infusion room like it was a quiet, sad place:
"People don't chat much in the infusion room. There's the woman alone with her John Grisham book, the man who is taking a nap, a woman doing some kind of knitting. We all know why we're there and we have little reason to discuss it."

My colleagues at the Times, Gretchen Letterman and Jill Deisler, both had been with me to chemo at the same place where Barry received his treatment. We all marveled at the different take Barry had on place I viewed as a combination coffeehouse, therapy session and sanctuary. Barry and I were in treatment at the same time, and met because of this. We would stop and chat about our treatments when ever we saw each other for the next few months and I got to know him a bit through that lens. Although his thoughts on Gulfcoast's chemo room were nothing like mine, we were in agreement about the expertise and kindness of the staff there. His "war stories" as Siever calls them, were profoundly different from my own but his experiences gave me great insight into this universe I now inhabited.

Which is why the following comment from a reader of Eric Deggans's blog struck me cold when I read it this morning:

i suppose some people can gain insights from these kinds of maudlin reports. however, i find them more than a bit self indulgent. millions of poor people get fatal diagnoses every day, but they don't have access to media where they can publicly engage in personal therapy to help them get through.

then when these poor reporters inevitably die after leaving behind their final dramatic thoughts, they are, well, always simply forgotten.

harsh? yes. but am i wrong?

uh, yeah.

When Barry wrote about his struggle with lung cancer, the comments poured in and they were not just from those of us living in the parallel universe. They came from our caretakers, our co-workers, our bosses, our neighbors, our friends, our families, our lovers. Believe me, they want to know what is going on in a cancer patient's head. Because most of us aren't telling the whole story. And they know it.

And "Self-indulgent"? Lord help us.

This must be the same guy who thinks I'm lucky because I get to use handicapped parking now.

That's right, buddy, I endured a year filled with rounds of dense dose chemo, chemically-induced "freight train" menopause, image-altering surgery and hair loss, more cancer found, more chemo, and finally, the creme-de-la-creme of treatments, daily radiation/chemo combos for weeks on end -- AS A SCHEME TO GET A BETTER PARKING SPACE??!?!?

Apparently, this guy lives in the same parallel universe as a security guard at work who stopped me one morning on my way into the Times building. I needed to pick up some materials for a workshop I was presenting later that morning. Because I was running late and already exhausted just from getting ready for the day, I pulled into the handicapped parking space in our visitor's lot. Any steps I could save would help me get through what was sure to be a challenging day.

Anyway, the guard stops me as I am passing through security and asks, "Ma'am, what kind of handicap do you have?"

Dumbfounded, I found myself stammering a reply, "Breast cancer, . . . late stage," (as if that would make me more worthy of a handicapped space).

But he didn't stop there. I guess I had done a good job with my wig and makeup (usually the no eyelashes/no eyebrows gave me away) because he then asked me if I had a handicapped sticker on my car.

"Of course," I replied, and started to move toward the elevators.

But the handicapped parking vigilante was hardly finished with me. "Well ma'am, we have to be careful that people who aren't handicapped don't use those spaces, and you just didn't look too handicapped coming in from the lot."

If he only knew the mental pep rally I gave myself every time I stepped out in public. ("Be energetic! Smile! Don't feel sorry for yourself!") Do you think he might be well served to read about a cancer patient's experiences? Even if it happened to be a member of the main-stream-media? Apparently, working at a major media outlet doesn't give you a free pass-- even into your own building! (NOTE: This one person does not in any way reflect the service of the rest of the fantastic professional security team where I work. They were some of the most supportive and caring members of the Times family upon my return to work).

So, speaking as one of the "millions of poor people (who) get fatal diagnoses every day, but don't have access to media where they can publicly engage in personal therapy to help them get through. . ." that "formerly mr anonymous" refers to in his post to Deggan's blog, I say,

You don't speak for us. You don't speak for the legions of friends and family who are going through our cancer journey with us. And since you don't have the nerve to sign your real name, "formerly mr anonymous," you don't even count as one person to me. So lay off all us cancer patients, buddy. Go find a puppy to kick.