Raising $$$ For Cancer Research & Wellness Programs

Olivia Newton-John leads the 2019 Wellness Walk & Research Run to raise funds for programs at her hospital in Melbourne, Australia

I’m so proud of my husband, Michael Caprio, for raising over $25,000 at today’s Wellness Walk & Research Run for important wellness programs at the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Center in Melbourne, Australia.

We lost Michael’s mother earlier this year to leukemia, and ten years ago we faced my own cancer journey when I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma (I’m great now).

In addition to her countless awards and accolades for her music and film work, Olivia’s lasting legacy will be this Center she has not only lent her name to but helped build from day one.

If cancer has touched you or someone you love, please consider donating to the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Center by heading to https://www.onjcancercentre.org

Profile: 60 Minutes Australia Talks To Olivia Newton-John

I have to share this beautiful profile of international pop star Olivia Newton-John from 60 Minutes Australia.

As regular readers know, my husband Michael is an entertainment publicist and has represented Olivia for some 20 years. He was the driving force in making this interview happen.

When I went through my own cancer journey in 2009, Olivia was my own private guardian angel, checking in on me often and always there with the perfect perspective.

The Australian news magazine devoted its entire hour-long program to chatting with Olivia, her husband John Easterling and daughter Chloe Lattanzi, on the progress and impact of the pop star’s third bout with cancer.

Knowing Olivia, I love that the segment captures exactly who she is – a lovely human being and a great artist who continues to inspire us all.

From the clip description: “One of the most remarkable interviews of the year: how the devotion of a loving family, and an unconventional treatment, is helping Olivia face up to the greatest challenge of her life, including a rare and raw insight from her daughter, Chloe Lattanzi. Powerful, emotional, and a reminder of the important things in life, it’s Olivia Newton-John as you’ve never seen her before.”

After the show aired, longtime friend Hugh Jackman, recorded and posted this message to Olivia from the stage of his current concert tour in mid-performance.

Just one more example of what Olivia means to, not only Australia, but the world.

Today Is National Cancer Survivor Day

Observed every year on the first Sunday of June, National Cancer Survivors Day® is an annual celebration of life that is held in hundreds of communities nationwide, and around the world.

Why do I know this? Because I am a cancer survivor.

On April 7, 2009, I was diagnosed with Stage One non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.

I know I was lucky. Six rounds of chemo and a really crappy summer, and I was declared cancer-free. Whoo-hoo!

A few rounds of chemo and I was a hairless wonder.
This is me with my portable chemo pump I nicknamed Bumpy.

Today’s celebration is for those who have survived, those recently diagnosed, and gathering support for families, and an outreach to the community.

On National Cancer Survivors Day®, thousands gather across the globe to honor cancer survivors and to show the world that life after a cancer diagnosis can be fruitful, rewarding, and even inspiring.

It is a day for everyone – whether you’re a cancer survivor, a family member, friend, or medical professional.

This day is an opportunity for all people living with a history of cancer – including America’s more than 15.5 million cancer survivors – to connect with each other, celebrate milestones, and recognize those who have supported them along the way.

It is also a day to draw attention to the ongoing challenges of cancer survivorship in order to promote more resources, research, and survivor-friendly legislation to improve cancer survivors’ quality of life.

And by the way…

The nonprofit National Cancer Survivors Day Foundation provides free guidance, education, and networking to hundreds of hospitals, support groups, and other cancer-related organizations that host NCSD events in their communities.

Through National Cancer Survivors Day®, the Foundation works to improve the quality of life of cancer survivors by raising awareness of the ongoing challenges of cancer survivorship.

#fuckcancer

Stranger To LGBT Parents Of Toddler With Cancer: ‘I Was Going To Donate But Found Out Parents Are Lesbians’

The parents of a one-year-old girl diagnosed with advanced cancer were shocked to receive a hateful message on social media from a stranger.
Tiffany and Albree Shaffer with their children (image via Facebook)

The parents of a one-year-old girl diagnosed with advanced cancer were shocked to receive a hateful message on social media from a stranger.

Diagnosed in January with stage four Neuroblastoma, little Callie Shaffer has already spent more than 100 days in the hospital undergoing rounds of chemotherapy as well as surgery to remove a cancerous tumor.

Her parents, Tiffany and Albree Shaffer, have created a Facebook page titled “Callie Strong, Tiny But Mighty” to share Callie’s progress with friends and family. They say the support has been overwhelming, and helped them through this difficult time.

But amid all the good wishes being sent Callie’s way, the lesbian couple were shocked to find a hateful, homophobic message from someone they don’t even know.

“My prayers for Callie. I was going to donate $7600.00 to her fund, but I found out her parents are lesbian. I’ve chosen to donate to St. Jude due to that fact. Sorry. I’ll still pray for her though, but maybe it’s God’s way of getting your attention that she needs a mommy and a daddy, not two mommies.”

Callie’s parents shared a screen capture of the comment on their Facebook page.

“This is a very sick little girl, who’s life is on the line,” read the parents’ caption.

“For someone to actually send this and speak to my family in this way is utterly DISGUSTING,” they continued.

“Regardless of how you feel, don’t say a word,” added the couple. “What Callie needs is love and support…..not hate and misery.”

Speaking with local NBC News affiliate WNDU, Albree admitted she was “shocked” and “disgusted.”

“That’s mainly what it was — shock and hurt at the same time,” said the mother.

“She’s loved. She’s being taken care of. Why does it matter?,” added Callie’s aunt, Trisha Lamb. “Why would you want to hurt someone who is already hurting?”

With a stage four diagnosis, Callie has a long road ahead of her. In addition to chemo and surgery, she will need radiation treatments and a bone marrow transplant.

Albree has had to stop working to be with Callie in the hospital, while Tiffany is working as much as possible to pay the family’s bills in addition to driving to see her daughter every day.

GoFundMe campaign has been launched to help defray the costs of the expensive treatment.

You can follow Callie’s progress on Facebook here.

(h/t WNDU)

Olivia Newton-John: “The Rumors Of My Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated”

Olivia Newton-John knocks down exaggerated rumors of declining health in new video

Because my husband, Michael, is Olivia Newton-John’s publicist, it’s been a strange couple of weeks watching as stories of Olivia’s health “rapidly declining” took flight.

It began with that bastion of journalism, The National Enquirer, and then other tabloids ran with it.

This week the story reached Australia where all the rags there also ran headlines of “Olivia near death’s door” or “Olivia on her death bed.”

In reality, Olivia has been feeling better and stronger as she continues treatment for her cancer, and enjoying her Christmas holiday.

Today, she sent this video to let the world know the rumors of her death “are greatly exaggerated.”

Please let me know if Olivia looks anywhere near ‘death’s door” to you 😉

Study: A Curved Penis Might Indicate Higher Risk For Cancer

A new study shows that men whose penis curves may be at a higher risk for several types of cancer.

Via The Independent:

Presented at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, a study of more than 1.5million men has found worrying links between Peyronie’s Disease – a condition which causes the penis to become curved when erect – and stomach, skin and testicular cancers.

Also known as penile fibroses, the condition affects around 155,000 male adults in the UK, and while it is more common in men over 40, it can happen at any age.

A review of patient data by Baylor College in Houston has found that those diagnosed with the condition are at a 40 per cent higher risk of testicular cancer, a 29 per cent higher risk of melanoma and a 40 percent increased likelihood of stomach cancer, the Telegraph reports.

As such, the team behind the study suggest that men with Peyronie’s are closely monitored for cancer so that any development can be caught early.

Happy Anniversary, Happy Anniversary…

Randy Slovacek just weeks before his cancer diagnosis
Yep, that’s me

Today is the 9 year anniversary of my cancer diagnosis. The above picture was taken a couple of weeks before the “cancer journey” began. I looked at that picture practically everyday knowing I’d get back there eventually.

Plus, I like my hair in this picture.

For folks who may not know, April 7, 2009 I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. The good news is the disease was Stage 1 and I kicked it’s ass. The bad news at the time was it kind of didn’t matter – Stage 1 or not – six rounds of heavy-duty chemotherapy were in my future.

The first thing I said to Michael was “well, it’s going to be a shitty summer.”

In the end, I look back at a roller coaster ride and the many things that came out of the experience. 

First and foremost is my appreciation for the life and health I’ve had in the past and the fact that I’m still here. Until you go through something like this yourself or with a very close loved one, you think you understand it but it’s really at arm’s length. I constantly felt like I was stuck in a bad TV movie.

I’ve also stopped, listened and spoken to every cancer patient and survivor that crosses my path since my journey. I always have time to listen and let them know “no, you’re not crazy – it sucks – but you’ll get there.”

During the journey, I only told a handful of friends; the ones who had to deal with my day to day. In my mind, I couldn’t put this huge thing on friends who were across the country and already had full plates. It felt selfish.

Below is a Note I posted on Facebook the night of my last chemo round, plus a couple of pictures from “the ride.”

 It was in this note that I finally shared the journey with my friends. I wanted to share it again on my anniversary:

SUMMER ADVENTURE 2009 or “Everything You Never Needed To Know About Cancer”

Well, it’s about time… I finally put this all down regarding my Summer Adventure 2009, or as I got used to saying “Everything You Never Needed to Know About Cancer.”

In Early April of this year I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. A routine medical test (my first “over 40 test” as I called it) discovered what would be the beginning of a surprising, unexpected, sometimes uplifting and often depressing chapter of my life.

However, this is NOT a “woe is me” story. I just felt a strong urge to share this with all my friends who have not known what’s been going on in my life this summer. For most of you, when we’ve spoken or emailed and you’ve asked how I am, “great” was about as far as I could go with this tale.

I also want my friends to know this kind of thing can happen to us, and we then face it and move on stronger than before. 🙂

How I Got Here

After first meeting with an oncologist in Las Vegas whose office was too cold, sterile and not conducive to healing, plans were reassessed. Olivia Newton-John, who is a friend and client of Michael’s, asked how my first appointment went in Las Vegas, and when we related the lack of healing “environment”, she reached out and made sure I had an appointment with the head of oncology at Cedar Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles – which became my home away from home for the past five months. I have to applaud the world class treatment I received at the Cancer Center there.

Olivia uses the word “journey” in describing the cancer adventure. I couldn’t pick a better word. Hills and valleys, ups and downs, long days to long nights and then dawn again. It’s a step by step kind of thing.

The Bad Things:

Ok, there are a lot, but I don’t and won’t dwell too much on those things. I’ve been lucky – not too many side effects along the way.

I did lose all my hair two weeks into it all but it will grow back – although I miss it everyday. It’s just about the only physical attribute I’ve ever liked about myself. 🙂

Thanks to all the anti-nausea and pre-meds they pump me full of before each round, I never got too sick. I did go through a lot of fatigue. Just collapsing fatigue. That made days and nights very long sometimes. Restless nights. Seconds crawled by. Dawn would never come it seemed.

The drugs also me very bloated most of the time. It was hard to look in a mirror. Not in a vanity way – I just didn’t recognize the guy I saw.

The one major side effect I’ve hated the whole way was numbness in my hands and my feet due to one of the drugs in my chemotherapy. It tool 6-9 months to finally go away. I couldn’t button a shirt or write a note or type for a long time.

The Good Things:

Are there good things in cancer? Maybe not. But the journey does remind you of some great things in your life. And in this case, those would be the friends who were a part of the “great adventure.” No over dramatizing here, but I wouldn’t have made it without them.

I made a choice early on not to make this whole thing too public. Not because I felt shame or attached some negative connotation to the disease. But it felt selfish thinking I would add to my friend’s already “full plates.” To tell friends that I wouldn’t see on a day-to-day basis anyway – well, that just felt selfish and self centered.

One other reason about not sharing this sooner: especially in the beginning I simply was not able to take more than one phone call a day or answer more than one email. My energy level was so low, I had to make the decision to keep things to my self for a while out of self-preservation. No reflection on any of you.

I knew I would be fine and I knew I would tell you all someday after all of this. And with long distance, there was nothing you all could do but worry. And I couldn’t do that to you. I wanted to save that energy for you all to tend to your lives, and also for us to celebrate this day that I finish my “great walk.”

Some friends, however, I speak with daily, and there was no getting around sharing with them. And they are my heroes.

Olivia Newton-John, besides being a world famous pop music icon and humanitarian/advocate for cancer since her own bout 17 years ago, became my patron saint of the journey. Emails, notes, voicemails, phone calls – it seems she checked in on me just at the right time, giving amazing encouragement to me to keep putting one foot in front of the other. She confirmed aspects of what she had gone through, almost to say “no, you’re not crazy – it’s not fun, but you can do it.” Her CD “Grace and Gratitude” played on my iPod almost every day. She is more special than the world truly knows.

Usually, I rarely could muster walking to the kitchen. But on the very last days ending a recovery period before a new round of chemo, I almost had a normal sense of energy. One day after round four, I put some Oleta Adams music on. And as the song “Window Of Hope” came on, I started to dance a bit around the kitchen. It took me a minute to even recognize it was happening. It was a very moving moment to reconnect to a part of me – dancing – that I hadn’t felt in so long. I eventually wrote her manager a note to share with her about my “window of hope” that I felt. Oleta herself emailed me the most wonderful letter saying “You danced because you let go of any delusions about your present condition (good or bad) and enjoyed where you were at that moment. And yes, you were ‘smiling in your liver!” I’ve loved her music, voice and writing for so long. To hear from her was magical.

John Genovese was with me at my first “outpatient” chemo-treatment. I had no idea what to expect and it was a six hour infusion process before I left with a portable chemo pump (I eventually named “Bumpy”). John sat with me and handled the whole episode with such confidence. Confidence I only pretended to have. More than once, because my husband Michael had to travel on business to keep our household going, John stayed with me in L.A., cooked for me, and drove me through the desert back to Las Vegas because I couldn’t do it alone. Hero.

Matt Zarley never missed a round of this with me. Whether it was dinners or lunches or going to a movie (something I rarely could get through physically) Matt was always checking on me, texting me, emailing me, sending me new music to listen to, getting me out of the house. Telling Matt face to face about my diagnosis was one of the most emotional moments I’ve ever experienced in my life. Perhaps one of the only times I cried as I said the words “I’ve been diagnosed with cancer.” He never flinched. He just knows me. He’s like my younger brother and this time he carried me.

John Bell and David Burke are my best friends from high school. John, a police officer in Texas and David, a fireman in Washington state. John had major back surgery the day I had my second round of chemo. Both of us wanted so badly to be where the other was. But we had to be in our respective states getting the treatments we needed. From John’s bedside in Texas, David was checking in on me. John came out of anesthesia asking how I was. They both have honored me with giving me space to heal but also being in contact long distance, asking questions, sending good thoughts and planning a reunion in Las Vegas for us after all this.

I didn’t tell Carlye Hughes, my rock family of 30+ years, because she carries so many people through life. She’s the Rector of her own Episcopal church, and in addition to helping her congregation on a daily basis, her niece Gabrielle was diagnosed with cancer two days before me. My first instinct was not to add to her plate. It just felt selfish. But after one round, I just couldn’t hold this back. Sometimes you just need that someone.

At the end of my first round, with confidence that I would be fine, I called her. Shock and silence on her end. OMG, I knew it might be selfish to tell her. I asked her not to come to the west coast. Too many other people needed her. Two weeks later she was on my couch in L.A. for my first “out patient” round. I was knocked out, fatigued, and she was the answer. For four days we just watched TV, she cooked my favorite foods from childhood, and talked. And that made all the difference. Sometimes your best friend being on the other end of the couch is the greatest medicine in the world. Carlye is my greatest medicine. Always.

And finally, there’s my husband Michael – my rockstar. There’s not enough room anywhere to express how he got me through this. What I can say is he made this about me at all times. Even though he was carrying the household and working 14 hour days in the absence of my income, he never complained. He constantly asked me to just “go lay down and get better.” That was his mantra. Dawn would come and I would get up to find the whole house cleaned and put together so I would have “order in my chaos.” He made everyday about my recovery. Whether sleeping in a chair in my hospital room in between working on his computer, to driving me to the hospital – sometimes at 4am because “Bumpy” the chemo-pump was malfunctioning and we had to go get it fixed. He’s just a rockstar. No other words. Thank you god for Michael.

As my cancer journey ended, I was more and more aware of how much there is for folks to do to help with this cause. In my small way, I encouraged Olivia Newton-John to revisit her amazing CD “Grace and Gratitude” and share it on a larger scale, which became “Grace and Gratitude Renewed.”

She wrote a new song – “Help Me To Heal” – with Amy Sky, and re-released the project anew. I was fortunate to get to edit footage from recording sessions to make a music video for the new song.

The End:

This is a good news story 🙂

The words “full remission” were spoken. Treatment/checkups will continue for a few years just to monitor things, but trust and believe I’ll be fine.

#FuckCancer

Me and Bumpy, the chemo pump.  Looks like I have bad taste in handbags, doesn’t it?

My wristbands from each time I went to the hospital

Doctors diagnose, nurses heal.  JoEllen, my chemo nurse.  Bless her. This was my last day of chemo.

Olivia Newton-John Covers People Magazine

People Magazine does great by pop icon Olivia Newton-John sharing her positive perspective as she faces down cancer again 25 years after her first bout.

While the article is filled with statements by her husband, John Easterling, and close friends like Didi Conn and Leeza Gibbons, the Aussie icon shares a message to her fans via the publication:

“I am really grateful for and touched by the worldwide outpouring of love and concern. Thank you.

“I am feeling good and enjoying total support from my family and friends, along with a team of wellness and medical practitioners both here in the US and at my Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness and Research Centre in Melbourne, Australia.

“I’m totally confident that my new journey will have a positive success story to inspire others!”

You can listen to my interview with Olivia talking about her latest album, LIV ON, on iTunes.

Today is National Cancer Survivor’s Day

National Cancer Survivors Day is a celebration of life that is held in hundreds of communities nationwide and around the world every year on the first Sunday in June.

Participants unite in a symbolic event to show the world that life after a cancer diagnosis can be meaningful, productive, and even inspiring.

It is a day for everyone, whether you’re a cancer survivor, a family member, friend, or medical professional. This day provides an opportunity for all people living with a history of cancer – including America’s nearly 14 million cancer survivors – to connect with each other, celebrate milestones, and recognize those who have supported them along the way.

More info about NCSD at the official website.

Practically everyone is touched by cancer – either by your own diagnosis or that of a loved one.

It was 8 years ago that I had my own personal journey with cancer, and I’m healthy and strong today.  It’s important to let others know that a cancer diagnosis is not a death sentence and that we can kick cancer’s ass.

Celebrate!  More wine!

Me in May 2009 with “Bumpy” the portable chemo pump

Podcast: Ireland’s 1st Openly Gay Prime Minister, Pride Month 2017 Begins, 7th Circuit Court Rules In Favor Of Trans Student

In this week’s podcast:

• Ireland elected it’s first openly gay prime minister

• Newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron stands up for gay men in Chechnya

• The 7th court of appeals rules in FAVOR of a transgender student in Wisconsin

• Illinois is about to ban use of the “gay panic” defense in courtrooms

• The Navy and the Pentagon honor Pride Month

• LGBT ally Olivia Newton-John lives by example being positive in the face of personal challenges, and her fans return the favor

• New queer film, “Handsome Devil,” delivers a charming and charismatic coming-of-age story that’s reminiscent of Dead Poets Society

All that and more in this “good news” episode of The Randy Report


Listen below, and a favor – please Subscribe to my podcast on iTunes here.