The Journey is the Reward!

Instead of anticipating the goal, learn to enjoy the Journey for this is where we spend 99.9% of our time.

Bring Him Home… Comfort and hope through Music…

Posted by Ivan Olarte on May 28, 2014

Please watch\read and share this story…It’s my first step in getting the word out on early cancer detection!

This is a video of a beautiful song from Les Miserables called “Bring It Home”.

I had not heard it before until 5 days ago, and I learned a few days ago, so I could share it with you and a very personal story of how I came to know it.

I dedicate this video to my two wonderful sons Daniel and Adam Reed Olarte.  For they are my guiding light as I remain strong so I can teach them how I fight the biggest battle of my life to date.

I also want to thank Carlton Chong, who after reading about my diagnosis on a post at the Ukulele Underground Forums, was kind enough to send me some very supportive e-mails and followed up with the  F#&K Cancer t-shirts that you see on the title and that I’m wearing on this video.


Joining the club!

One of my favorite Groucho Marx sayings is “I would not want to join a club that would have me as a member” Well guess what, I became an official member of such a club a few weeks ago, as I got diagnosed with Prostate Cancer at 52.
I have a Gleason Score of 7 (3+4), T1A, Contained and with various options for treatment including various forms of Radiation and a prostatectomy.

The Decision & the Wait… an agonizing journey!

This nightmare started about 5 months ago, with the old yearly PSA and Prostate exam. Although the exam was normal, the PSA level had increased from 3.5 to 4.8. SInce then, We went on vacation as we waited (with fear creeping up my spine) for a scheduled biopsy after our return. We then waited two weeks for the results.

I received the news as we pulled up to my son’s house for his college graduation. I did not say a word then, not wanting to spoil his day in anyway. (later on I also used this a lesson to show him that sometimes it is not about ourselves, it was his day and it was my aim to keep it that way).
After several follow up meetings, I have made the decision to go with  a radical prostatectomy to insure that I get this @#@!# Cancer out and go on to a changed but cancer free life. While this decision is different for each person, I chose against the possible added complications of radiation in 10-15 years. At 52, I would simply be too young to deal with these issues.
Life as I know it comes to a halt!
Anyway, Since starting the treacherous journey of getting tested, having a biopsy, waiting for results, and struggling wiht a decision that only I can make, and now waiting for 2 months for a surgery that will change my life permanently and hopefully save it in the long run.
Because of the nightmare that I’ve been living since the whole cancer thing started, I have not played much music. In fact I stopped taking classical guitar classes which I had done for 6 years, and will be stopping violin which I had just started.  Both the recovery and and the expense make this a necessity for the near future.

The unseen effects of the disease…

Don’t let anybody fool you, cancer is CANCER! There is no “good kind” . Some are more lethal than others but all invoke fear, suffering, and lots of tests, treatments and the ever present unknown.   This decease has already devastated me.

I have experienced a range of reactions and non-reactions from my oldest friends, family members, dear ukulele friends and total strangers.  And ironically some of the most sincere and touching support has been from strangers and fellow Uke musicians. While surprisingly enough others have shown that often relations are nothing but labels and artificial construct….

Even though I have not been “treated” yet, trust me the effects on your life are instantaneous. It tests your own believes, your fears, your relations, your resolve, and your very idea of the meaning of life. Basically It turns your life upside down, and paralyses you with fear and with the unknown!
Trying to get back to “normal”

Finally after getting enough motivation and knowing that I must get to some sort of normal routine. I have started to play a bit of ukulele, but nothing serious. And the classical guitar has not been touched in more than a month…
I made a personal commitment to get off my but and made myself go to voice class as scheduled on Friday night.

Peace and comfort through Music!

This is where the good part of this nightmare begings… it gives me a glimmer of hope…
The following story was indeed a surreal experience for me, and  an emotional roller coaster. I think you will agree as I take you through  the events of last friday night…

In, trying to get back to living, and enjoying my journey, I went to voice class last night after having missed a few weeks.  My teacher is a wonderful lady Mrs. Natalie Lawton,  who has been teaching voice and piano for over 40 years. She only charges me $50 for the month and I must say, I’m one of her favorite students because of my entjusiasm, and my musical background.
I had told her of my cancer diagnosis over the phone the week before.  I briefly confirmed what I had said on the phone, and we, went on to our class. Voice class seems to be only time in my life where I feel Normal , and away from the nightmare that I find myself in dealing with cancer, and it’s difficult choices.

Well as usual, we did 20 min of warm up exercises. I was feeling great, safe, back to normal… Then, as I focused on breathing. feeling my diaphragm Etc… I felt my pelvic and groin muscles engage to some degree and it hit me like a ton of bricks…. The fear that I might not be able to sing the way I want if I end up with stress incontinence. This is  where one leaks involuntarily, when coughing, sneezing or perhaps hitting a high or loud note? This possibility hit me like a ton of bricks. I almost went into a crying spell right then and there. (someting that has become all too common as I try to wrap my mind about having cancer…), but my teacher did not seem to notice this  as I was slightly behind her as she played the piano.

Anyway, much like  guided meditatiom exercises, I managed to focus on the music and the present moment and somehow managed to keep going. However I was not steady, I kept going back between waves of  panic and sadness coming in and my fighting back with my willingness and strength to regain control.

Well feeling like that was the worst of it. I finally seemed to get full control of my feekings.  I felt better and we went on to sing some songs. We always sang jazz standards, as my primary interest is jazz and ukulele. But we had talked about some broadway shows the last class. And sure enough she had bought two song books for Les Miserables, and The Phantom Of The Opera.
Feeling good and excited to try these out, we started with The Phanthom’s “Music Of The Night”.  Mind you I still had the shock of the initial panic about incontinence and singing… When I started singing I found myself focusing on the lyrics…. I don’t remember much but words and phrases came coming into focus,  about darknes, fear, nightime, and the music of the night! Everything seeming to relateto this cancer nightmare that I’m going through. Once again, my voice got shaky, I started tearing up but I held it together somehow…

My teacher  seemed not to notice, and this whole lesson  started to feel like an emotional roller coaster each curve being sharper and each drop higher…we went on to a Les Misserables song called “Bring Him Home” I did not know it but it was it seemed simple enough…. It’s a prayer about bringing a young. Boy home. It was surreal finding myself singing this prayer. Was I singing it for my self? for my inner child who feels so afraid? was I praying that somehow after surgery I would indeed come home to my old self?
Again, a deeper sense of despair overwhelmed me, yet I managed to regain control. Even appreciating the challenge of this, facing it  and overcoming it!

Next and old favorite of mine… Jesus Christ Superstar.

Boy, I should have known better! You see I first saw the movie when I was 13 in 5 or 6 grade. It’s a wonderful memory of my childhood where inocense still existed and the future was something to look forward.  I also played that album during my low days when I was a teenager. And just recently my wife took me to see  the Broadway show with the original a actor Ted Neeley. My wife and I even joke because he made total eye contact with me at the end of the show!

Mind you I have resisted being a catholic, I’m not  religious although I have practiced engaged Buddhism in the past. Yet this movie has always touched my heart.

So we began to sing “I Don’t Know How To Love Him” And more emotions start to pour all over me… One moment, the lyrics are all about me… I don’t know how to, love him, what to do etc…. Then they morph into thoughts about Jesus, questioning why I never believed, thinking, that maybe this  is why I’m going through this life changing\ending crisis, Almost feeling a touh of jealousey of  those that have him or religion to hang to… to hand over the suffering snd control to…
Somehow, I got back to the beautiful music and managed to ride out what for all purposes had become as bas an acid trip!

Finally we ended with the song “Everything’s Alright” ….

And you know what? That song brought some sort of feelings of redemption and comfort. The lyrics are wonderful. Again it was as if I was singing it to myself. It’s a conversation between Mary Magdalene and Jesus… And it’s a conversation between pain and suffering and peace through acceptance hope and relaxation…. and taking a rest from what seem to be insurmountable problems!
And Sure enought, this song calmed me down and I was able to gently have one last “Acid”  trip, gently singing to myself that everything will be alright… if I could I would have rocked myself to a nice peaceful nap right then and there.

Well after this roller coaster of emotions, I was touched by one last thing. My dear teacher had bought a couple of copies of  the Phantom and Le Mis books to sell to her students. I saw them and asked how much they were.  She gave me a big smile as she gifted me a pair of them. Her  excuse was because I missed so many classes and paid for them. At $50 a month I  certainly did not mind paying for missed classes. I thanked her, and consider this a very personal gift from a dear mentor and friend. We also talked a bit about what’s coming in the sense of staying busy as I wait for the dreaded surgery, and how much music helps.

I was touched by this wonderful lady and by the power and beauty of music and the teacher student relationship.

I don’t know what will happen regarding muscle control and my ability to sing after the surgery, but I will continue to cherish experiences like this and making music one way or another. With any luck I will make a full recovery, but then again, there is always the possibility that this might not become a reality.. we’ll see…

Meant to be?
Interestingly enough, The order of the songs that we sang  provided their own logical  continuity,

from the Darkness of the “Music of the Night”,

to the Prayerin “Bring him Home”,

to the Questions of hope, faith and a higher being, in “I Don’t Know How To Love Him”,

to the final Comfort and Reassurance of “Everything’s Alright”….

Very strange how these seem to flow so natural.

A return to Music!
So this happened about 4 days ago last friday. And so After not playing any music for some weeks now, I got the inspiration to learn and tape the beautiful song “Bring  Him Home” And so I started two days ago, and so here is my humble attempt at playing it for you.

I dedicate this video to my two wonderful sons Daniel and Adam Reed Olarte. For despite what I will be going through my concern is for them to be strong and healthy before it’s time for me to leave them… And to learn from my strength as I fight my biggest fight to date, much like I learned from my own dad as he battled the same dragon about 30 years ago!

I also thought that you might like to read through the lyrics of “Bring Him Home” and “Everything’s Alright”

Maybe, just maybe they will bring some small degree of comfort like they did to me.

Ivan Olarte
Tuesday 5/27/2014


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By the way, here are the addresses for the websites that I maintain for my creative efforts.  You might want to check them out, and subscribe so you are notified of future updates.

Blog Page:
Photography page:


Song Lyrics

God on high
Hear my prayer
In my need
You have always been there

He is young
He’s afraid
Let him rest
Heaven blessed.
Bring him home
Bring him home
Bring him home.

He’s like the son I might have known
If God had granted me a son.
The summers die
One by one
How soon they fly
On and on
And I am old
And will be gone.

Bring him peace
Bring him joy
He is young
He is only a boy

You can take
You can give
Let him be
Let him live
If I die, let me die
Let him live
Bring him home
Bring him home
Bring him home.


Try not to get worried, try not to turn on to
Problems that upset you, oh.
Don’t you know
Everything’s alright, yes, everything’s fine.
And we want you to sleep well tonight.
Let the world turn without you tonight.
If we try, we’ll get by, so forget all about us tonight

Everything’s alright, yes, everything’s alright, yes.

Sleep and I shall soothe you, calm you, and anoint you.
Myrrh for your hot forehead, oh.
Then you’ll feel
Everything’s alright, yes, everything’s fine.
And it’s cool, and the ointment’s sweet
For the fire in your head and feet.
Close your eyes, close your eyes
And relax, think of nothing tonight.

Everything’s alright, yes, everything’s alright, yes.

Woman your fine ointment, brand new and expensive
Should have been saved for the poor.
Why has it been wasted? We could have raised maybe
Three hundred silver pieces or more.
People who are hungry, people who are starving
They matter more than your feet and hair!


Try not to get worried, try not to turn on to
Problems that upset you, oh.
Don’t you know

Everything’s alright, yes, everything’s alright, yes.

Surely you’re not saying we have the resources
To save the poor from their lot?
There will be poor always, pathetically struggling.
Look at the good things you’ve got.
Think while you still have me!
Move while you still see me!
You’ll be lost, and you’ll be sorry when I’m gone.

Sleep and I shall soothe you, calm you and anoint you.
Myrrh for your hot forehead/
Then you’ll feel
Everything’s alright, yes, everything’s fine.
And it’s cool and the ointment’s sweet
For the fire in your head and feet.
Close your eyes, close your eyes, and relax
Think of nothing tonight.

Everything’s alright, yes, everything’s alright, yes.
Close your eyes, close your eyes, and relax…


5 Responses to “Bring Him Home… Comfort and hope through Music…”

  1. […] Ivan Olarte, a father of two sons, is fighting against cancer. He gains peace and comfort through music. Read more about him in his blog. […]

    • Thanks for posting my story on your blog. Unfortunately I had to update the video link, so please reflect this change on your blog.


      Ivan OIarte

  2. Paul Zidow said

    Beautifully played and sung. You’re a great writer, too. Your story really helped me feel what you’re going through. Please try to remember, sometimes people (like your sister) say what they say, thinking that is the best way to help. They’re not always right. There’s wisdom but the next level is “skillful” wisdom and sometimes we can’t be as skillful as we should be – so when we do what we think is right or say what we think is helpful, it doesn’t always turn out to be. I hope you understand that she loves you and says what she does because she thinks that’s the best way to help. Anyway, by coincidence I heard a radio ad today for the Arena super star rock version of Jesus Christ SS – they have a bunch of musicians from big groups doing a ramped up rock version of the show. I hadn’t heard or thought of the show in years and here it is twice in one day. Oh, we saw Santana a couple of weeks ago and if you need a little cheering up, try to catch the show if he’s playing near you – wow – it was amazing and so are you, Ivan. I hope you’re not thinking “what an a-hole – I have cancer and Paul thinks seeing Santana will help.” I’m not the wisest or most skillful person but I want to share things I think you might enjoy, just like you have always done for me. Take care of yourself and get better – we’re ALL pulling for you.

  3. Michael M said

    Ola Ivan,
    I don’t know if you are the correct person I mean to send this communique to, but I think you are. I hope I will not bother you in any way with this message. I knew your sister, Mercedes, albeit not very well. I knew her for only perhaps 4-6 months in late 1985 to early 1986. My girlfriend at the time was Pam Jennings, and they were friends from both studying nursing at Towson University in Towson, MD. At that time, Mercedes was involved with a lady named Barbara Hayes.
    Pam introduced me to them, and it turned out that I knew Barbara’s sister Stride. I lost touch with both of them soon after spring 1986. I’d heard from Pam later that they’d moved to Massachusettes. Pam lost touch with them about 1988.
    When I Googled Mercedes’ name and found your blog about her passing away, I told Pam and we were both very upset… Anyway, I wanted to tell you that Pam very recently gave me several pictures of Mercedes and Barbara that I felt you might like to have. Just let me know where to send these.
    Feel free to write back also.
    Sincerely, Michael Molz

    • Paul Zidow said

      Hi, Michael. I am Paul – I saw your message to Ivan, Mercedes’ brother. Mercedes was my wife’s sister (Ivan’s sister, too) and she would love to see your photos. Barbara and Mercedes had 2 children together (through donors, of course) and they are both doing very well. Barbara graduated with an advance degree from MIT and Mercedes’ son recently graduated from Harvard – its been a while. So, if you would like to make Esperanza (Mercedes’ sister – my wife) very happy, she would love to see the photos. It was very kind of you to make the offer. Paul

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