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Dowan, Pete

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Origin: St. Catharines, Ontario

As a musician/singer/songwriter with my band back in the mid 1970's, I began having lung problems, diagnosed as being asthma. I never smoked, never drank alcohol or did street drugs, so my system was in pretty good shape to handle it, but needless to say, trying to sing with lung problems is not good. After much trial and error, I was given an experimental drug called Prednisone. It helped. This was 1976.

Unfortunately, because of the time it took, a couple of the band members had gone on to other things, and I had to re-organize the group, with new guys. I never did get the right chemistry in any unit again.

By about 1979, health problems emerged again, so I played as a single, so I could take time off (played guitar with my left hand, key-board with my right, bass pedals with my feet, and controlled an electric drummer ). Health kept getting worse, and by 1984 I ended up not even being able to walk.

The doctors were at a loss, until I went to McMaster University Hospital for about 3 months worth of tests. It seems that the drug I was on (and had been for 6 1/2 years), is a cortico-steroid and that I actually only had an allergy to milk !!. I had been taking Prednisone needlessly for all that time ! I was weaned off of it at the hospital, and the after effects started setting in. My system went berserk, and began first attacking itself, then (when that was brought under control... 2 years), it was found that I had become ultra-sensitive to many chemicals (especially those with a phenol base). My adrenal glands had shut down and when there was no more drug, my body went into shock. The drug also leached calcium from my body, causing my teeth to crumble, and my bones to become brittle. (one time I cracked a couple of ribs just leaning against our car !).

With the help of Dr. Tracy Drynan, who once had a chemical sensitivity herself (but for different reasons), I was able to slowly get myself functioning again. I learned to walk again with the help of first one dog, Scuttle, and then another, Holly, who helped me out my "feeling sorry for myself " dilemma. From 1984 till 1995, I not only didn't write, but I didn't play (or for the most part, listen to) music.

It wasn't until my dad was on his death bed with cancer, when he asked me to write a song for him (not about him, just something new he could hear), that I turned things around. He told me to take his keyboard home and get the hell back to what I loved doing. It was a real kick in the ass ! The song I wrote for him was called "Goodbye Didn't Mean Goodbye". I have dedicated the rest of my life, and my writing pursuits, in memory of him.

Another effect was the loss of my sense of smell, so it's even more a problem, because I don't know when any fumes are present until I begin reacting to them (unless someone is there to warn me). Hence, I have a gas-type mask that I have with me at all times. Unfortunately, not all things that I react to HAVE a smell, so vigilance is a major priority when I'm not in my safe place (i.e... home).

My reactions range from mild (headaches, dizziness, light-headedness and the like), up to severe: seizures, blackouts, and what they call "cardiac events" (some life-threatening)

It is not something either I or my doctors take lightly, and the only real recourse is avoidance. I have learned to live with it, I just have to follow the primitive rules of nature, and be alert to survive. AND I am surviving, and that's the main thing for me. (wasn't so sure, in the early days of this).

I have my family and my music to keep me going. My little basement "studio" is my music world. I've adapted to all of this (though I'd rather be without it !) and I keep pluggin' away, regardless. Used to REALLY be tough to "get the music out there", but the Internet has been a blessing for me and I shall continue on with it, mainly because it's only the music that's keeping me going.

Currently, I am battling 3 conditions on top of what I have described above ... Grave's Disease, Myeloma (cancer cells in my bone marrow) and Monoclonal Gammopathy, which is a non-contagious Auto Immune Disease.

Again, it's the music keeping me going, and I thank anyone who listens to any of my songs.

Sorry this was so long ... thanks for reading it.
Musically Yours,
Pete Dowan {:-)



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