Northeast Times

Charlie Chuckle

A can­cer sur­viv­or from Hawaii brings his joy to the world of can­cer pa­tients.

The pa­tients in the in­fu­sion room at the Fox Chase Can­cer Cen­ter might have been drowsy with med­ic­a­tion, but Charlie Lust­man livened things up one af­ter­noon last week.

Lust­man, who lives on the Hawaii­an is­land of Maui, brought his col­or­ful peace-and-love gui­tar and up­beat singing voice to Fox Chase as part of his Mu­sic­al Hope Cam­paign.

In 2005, Lust­man was dia­gnosed with a rare form of os­teo­sar­coma of the up­per max­il­lary (jawbone). There are about 800 new cases of os­teo­sar­coma dia­gnosed in the United States each year, ac­cord­ing to the Amer­ic­an Can­cer So­ci­ety.

After two sur­ger­ies and a year of treat­ment, he was de­clared can­cer-free, but first doc­tors re­moved three-quar­ters of his up­per jaw. He wears a pros­thet­ic jaw and had to learn how to talk, eat and, of course, sing again.

Lust­man, a sing­er/song­writer and com­mer­cial jingle writer in New York be­fore his dia­gnos­is, was in­spired by his can­cer ex­per­i­ence to of­fer hope to oth­ers af­fected by the dis­ease.

“Look at me,” he said. “I had my jaw sawed off and I’m singing in can­cer wards across Amer­ica.”

The “Min­strel of Hope,” as he is known, vis­ited Fox Chase on Dec. 1, thanks to the cen­ter’s Love Versus Can­cer cam­paign.

Lust­man, a 46-year-old mar­ried fath­er of three, de­lighted staff, pa­tients and their fam­ily and friends in the wait­ing area, on hos­pit­al floors and in the cafet­er­ia. He was in­tro­duced to em­ploy­ees by Pa­tri­cia Can­t­well, who sur­vived os­teo­sar­coma after treat­ment at Fox Chase.

The en­ter­tain­er dis­trib­uted cop­ies of the com­pact disc Made Me Nuc­le­ar, a col­lec­tion of 13 up­lift­ing songs that he wrote and pro­duced.

The songs have funny lyr­ics but are meant to of­fer hope. Lust­man is grate­ful for beat­ing the can­cer and be­ing able to spread a mes­sage of hope.

“I’m a lucky guy,” he said. “I am lucky to be able to stay on the plan­et longer and watch my kids grow up.”

Lust­man’s ba­sic mes­sage is that there can be light at the end of the tun­nel for most can­cer pa­tients.

“I feel very blessed to of­fer that light,” he said.

Lust­man calls fight­ing can­cer “the ul­ti­mate chal­lenge.” It’s OK, he said, for those dia­gnosed to feel scared, de­pressed and angry.

The key, he said, is to de­vel­op a pos­it­ive out­look on life.

“All of a sud­den,” he said, “amaz­ing mir­acles will pop up in your life.”

Among the songs Lust­man per­formed was Chemo Brain.

“This chemo stuff makes you a little loopy,” he said, speak­ing from ex­per­i­ence.

Ann Darling, a US Air­ways stew­ard­ess from Cape May Court­house, N.J., de­scribed Lust­man’s per­form­ance as “fab­ulous.”

Darling, ac­com­pan­ied by her hus­band Bill, has breast can­cer and was at Fox Chase for the first time, ad­mit­tedly not in the best of spir­its.

“He lif­ted my spir­its,” she said of Lust­man.

He sang Made Me Nuc­le­ar as Phoenixville’s Ro­lan­do Ranaglia was hav­ing blood drawn.

“I love your lyr­ics,” said Ranaglia, who has can­cer in sev­er­al parts of his body.

On the oth­er side of the nurses’ sta­tion, Lust­man per­formed Some­body New, a groovy rock-and-roll tune, for sev­er­al pa­tients.

The good­will am­bas­sad­or also told stor­ies, some de­signed to gen­er­ate a laugh and oth­ers to in­spire. He re­com­men­ded a book, Get­ting Well Again, which chron­icles some of the pos­it­ive as­pects of a can­cer jour­ney — such as the at­ten­tion, love and sup­port a pa­tient gets from fam­ily and friends.

Jean Bridgers, of Sole­bury, Bucks County, has stage-four colon can­cer. She’s a wife and moth­er to three teens ages 14, 15 and 18. She ap­pre­ci­ated Lust­man’s can­cer mes­sage.

“He un­der­stands it,” she said. “Your whole world changes. You be­come a dif­fer­ent per­son, and so does your fam­ily.” ••

For more in­form­a­tion on Lust­man, go to www.ma­de­me­nuc­lear.com

Re­port­er Tom War­ing can be reached at 215-354-3034 or twar­ing@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at twaring@bsmphilly.com.

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