Happy Valentine’s Day!

And, it is just that for us and we hope it will be for you, too.

First, to answer many of you who have been nice enough to ask about a progress report since the return of Steve’s Autoimmune Hepatitis, as we said in our last post, this is a long haul journey and not every day is wonderful with fatigue and some other symptoms still present, BUT we ARE slowly seeing some improvement.  There are still a mix of up and down days but, helped by constant input from our Hepatologist, we’re working on more up days!  Based on improving blood work results, the doctor is gradually reducing the medication with some additional changes anticipated in the next few weeks after an in-person visit with the doctor back in Chicago, next week.  We all remain optimistic that things are headed in the right direction and with a change in his meds even more positive changes will occur.

That being said, as we write this, it’s Valentine’s Day and we’re together and that’s a VERY good thing, so we thought we’d share a few Valentine’s Day vibes with you.

For those of you who have asked, here are a few pictures of some of the decorations the Valentine’s Day fairy has spread around our house.

And, here’s a Valentine’s Day ornament from the year we got married.

And, one of our favorites, The hopeless romantic, Cyrano de Beargerac!

So, from our house to your house, we hope you have a very happy Valentine’s Day spent with the one/ones you love and, if you can’t be with them, we hope you’re wrapped in the warmth of some wonderful memories.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Posted in Autoimmune Hepatitis, Holidays | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

So, Why Haven’t You Heard From Us In A While? Well ….

OK, this post is going to take up more than a little space and, depending on your tolerance for medical minutiae,  a bit more of your time than our usual posts so, when you’ve ingested as much as you need, feel free to move on with your life and there will be no hard feelings from this corner.

Over the years we’ve spent inside your radio speakers we’ve done our best to walk a fine line of being responsible broadcasters and, as our vision of that responsibility dictates, being honest and open with you, but still maintaining a semblance of a private life.  Now and then, that privacy thingy becomes a bit of a blurry line if we feel that there is a more than reasonable chance that sharing something from our personal lives with you could help someone else who is dealing with the same situation.

Our on-air conversations about how Johnnie dealt with her loss of taste and smell (Anosmia) and our conversations and posts here about Steve’s diagnosis of Celiac Sprue and need to follow a Gluten-Free lifestyle are two examples of the kind of sharing we’re talking about.

There is another that we’ve talked about on the air but, because it was in remission, we didn’t think we’d be revisiting in this space.  However, over the past several weeks our lives have taken a rather significant turn and we thought it just might be the time to share why you haven’t heard much from us here as we learned how to deal with the return of Steve’s Autoimmune Hepatitis.

First, for those of you not familiar with it, Autoimmune Hepatitis is NOT contagious and, because it is an autoimmune disease, its cause has NOTHING to do with drugs or alcohol!

Unfortunately for Steve, a significant amount of people diagnosed with Celiac Disease (Celiac Sprue) develop Autoimmune Hepatitis.  Both are autoimmune diseases.  In a nutshell, your autoimmune system is cattywampus, so your body thinks your liver is a foreign object and tries to kill it.

Steve was originally diagnosed with Autoimmune Hepatitis (AIH) in 2002.  After coming thisclose to a liver transplant and almost dying, with the help of some great doctors, some 14 years later he was in remission and able to come off medication.  Sadly, after 3 years in remission, we recently confirmed that AIH has returned.

We’d been aware that something was not quite right for a few months.  I (Steve) was getting increasingly fatigued, breaking out in a sweat with very little exertion and noticing a weakness in my voice.  The night of our 2017/2018 New Year’s Eve special, before we headed out to WGN, I told Johnnie that I really wasn’t feeling well and that I hoped my adrenaline would kick in and help get me through it.  Fortunately, it did.

Even in remission, I had regular visits with my hepatologist and, fortunately, one was scheduled just a few days away.  One look at me combined with blood work results confirmed to my doctor that AIH has returned and I am back on medication that suppresses my autoimmune system to fight the problem and, assuming the fight goes well, I will be going on a liver anti-rejection medication and stay on it for the rest of my life.

At the moment, there are good days and bad days.  Some days the fatigue is pretty overwhelming and I just have to lie down for a while.  Other days, I’ll have more energy and feel reasonably OK going out.  BTW, because I’m NOT contagious to you, but you ARE to me, with all the flu going around, if I’m anywhere near a crowded space, I’m the guy in the mask.  Actually, combined with my sunglasses, this Lone Ranger look kind of works for me.

As this is being written, we’re spending a couple of weeks at our vacation home in Panama City Beach to get a little sun and build up a little energy.  We almost didn’t make this trip.  My doctor said I shouldn’t drive, but OK’d a flight.  Up to the day before our flight we were thisclose to cancelling because I just didn’t have the energy.  Fortunately, the day of the flight the meds seemed to have started kicking in and I felt well enough to walk (With mask and sunglasses, of course:-) through Midway airport.

Some fatigued days are spent just relaxing, but there are starting to be more days when heading out for some “guitar therapy” (More on that in a future post) finds itself on the menu.

We’re in constant touch with my hepatologist about weekly blood work results and we’ll be heading back to Chicago to see him in a few days.  The good days are starting to show up a bit more but, as we know from past experience, this is a long haul journey.

Personally, I’m optimistic.  I’ve got a great doctor, a WONDERFUL “live-in nurse” who has learned the names of the guitars helping me on this journey and, don’t be surprised if we show up back inside your radio speaker one of these days.

The sun is out and the glass is half full.

Now then ….

We said at the outset that one of the reasons for this post was to help someone else who is dealing with the same situation.

Unfortunately, there are far too many people all over the word dealing with Autoimmune Hepatitis and trying their best to learn HOW do live with this thing that has turned their lives upside down.  Not everyone is as lucky as I am to have Johnnie and not everyone is as lucky as we have been to have access to good doctors who LISTEN and help you understand what has happened and how to handle it.

So, we went back through our archives and found what we had written back in 2002 when Autoimmune Hepatitis first entered our lives and below we’re reprinting some of it.  If you have no interest, just pass it by.  But, if you are a newly diagnosed AIH patient or you know someone who is, you might find something from our past experience that helps you.

When Autoimmune Hepatitis forced us off the air for 5 months in 2002, here is what we wrote.

First, we have to start out by thanking all of you who have deluged us with wonderful calls, cards, e-mails and all manner of good wishes. We’ve always known the “extended family” bond between WGN Radio and our listeners was something truly special. You prove it again and again. All we can say is a very sincere thank you.

OK, so where in the world are we and what the heck is going on?  Well, here in print, as our dear friend, Paul Harvey, would say is –“The Rest Of The Story.”

I have to say that Johnnie and I never thought we’d share so much of our own “medical minutiae” with anyone on a web site, but … after all … you guys are family, so here goes:

For quite some time, I was having an increasing problem with my voice. I thought it was some kind of allergy, but as it was causing more and more problems for me on the air, Johnnie and I went to our regular family doctor to see what the deal was. Thorough man that he is, along with suggesting an allergist, he had me do some blood tests.

Those of you who are regular listeners know that our last day on the air was the morning of Sept. 5. After we got off the air Johnnie and I along with our friends, Gary and Sue headed up to Door County for a long weekend. Johnnie and Sue share their Sept. 5 birthday and it’s become a tradition for Gary and I to treat them to a “plastic burning” weekend in that beautiful Wisconsin area.

I should mention that along with my voice problems for some time I’d been experiencing a lot more fatigue than I was used to. By the end of our first night in Door County I was feeling pretty poorly. There are no phones where we stay, but late in the evening Johnnie checked her cell phone for voice mail. There were several calls, from, Denise, our producer, and from our doctor saying we needed to get in touch with him. Since it was late when she got the message, Johnnie couldn’t get through to our doctor till early Friday morning and then, with the bad cell areas, they played phone tag, but the message finally came through — my blood tests were VERY abnormal and the doctor wanted us to get back to Chicago immediately for CatScan and other procedures. It looked like I had a potentially serious problem.

Gary drove us back to Chicago and we made it to the doctor’s office just in time for a consultation and firming up of a battery of tests that would be performed on Saturday.

My personality is such that I deal best with something when I know as much about the parameters as possible, so I asked the doctor what the best and worst cast scenarios looked like. He responded that the worst case could be Cancer and the best case could be some form of hepatitis.

I found it a little strange to deal with what the doctor said was our “best case” option, but found a bit of comfort in rooting for a “little h” as opposed to a “the big C.”

I’ll skim over the next day of tests to the results that began making their way into our doctor’s office by the following Monday. I will mention however that, at this point, my appearance began to resemble a very fatigued box of Screaming Yellow Zonkers. By Monday, a steady stream of information was dribbling in and it was becoming apparent that some form of hepatitis was definitely in the running as a probable cause, but what kind was still up in the air plus we needed more information for confirmation.

It also became apparent to our doctor that we needed a hepatologist — “yesterday!” Unfortunately, even with our doctor’s help and recommendations we ran into problems getting any appointments with a doctor who could see us in under a month’s time and Johnnie (who was doing all the phone work, because at this point my voice was down to a whisper) found that hepatologists are not easy to find in the Chicago area. Once we thought we had an appointment nailed down with a doctor whose reputation we respected, but he was called out of town on a family emergency.

Even while our options kept falling by the wayside, good friends were jumping in and doing their best to help us with what was becoming by the minute a more difficult and stressful situation. Lyle Dean and his wife Sharon were able to help Johnnie set up an appointment with a very respected doctor. Hearing of the seriousness of the situation, Paul Harvey called and set about the task of moving a few mountains to put us in touch with a doctor whose reputation put him high on the list of most people we’d talked to … and he could see us the next day.

While Johnnie had been tirelessly working the phones, I’d been doing a bit of research on the web. I was a bit baffled, since I’m not a seafood eater, hadn’t shared any needles with anyone and my idea of a lot of alcohol is about 5 drinks … in a year and I do think I’d recall if I’d had a blood transfusion plus, most of the symptoms of hepatitis A, B, or C didn’t look like they applied to me. In addition, as more blood work kept coming in, one by one these types looked like they were being eliminated, so I decided to see if I could find any connection with my having Celiac Sprue (a complete intolerance to Gluten, which is found in wheat, rye, barley and oats) and hepatitis. Sure enough, my searches turned up a relationship between Celiac Sprue (an autoimmune disease) and something called autoimmune hepatitis (your body decides it doesn’t recognize your liver and just wants to make it go away!) AND the symptoms matched what I was experiencing. We immediately showed this information to our doctor and took it to the hepatologist the next day.

THE DIAGNOSIS: The hepatologist was very familiar with autoimmune hepatitis and, after more tests, confirmed that, in fact, I have autoimmune hepatitis, a non-contagious form of the disease.

Now that we knew what the problem was the doctor needed to determine how much liver damage had been done and was it treatable or would we be talking about a transplant.

As much as we appreciate your concern and want to answer as many of the questions you’ve sent us, please allow us to also appreciate the limited tolerance any of us have for “too much information,” particularly medical, and let’s just fast forward through the liver biopsy and other tests.

BOTTOM LINE: I have severe liver damage and after a hospital stay we were still not sure if the steroids I was taking were going to do what they were supposed to. We just had to wait and see.

WHAT’S THE LATEST? After weeks of tests and heavy medication the doctor smiled as he said “It looks like you’ve finally turned the corner.”

SO, WHAT NOW? The game plan is to continually be tested, monitor the medication and hopefully segue into what will be a two year treatment with the goal being remission. After that, continual monitoring for the rest of my life and, with luck, the only transplant conversation I’ll ever have is about that curly Carrot Top look I’ve been considering.

SO, WHEN WILL WE BE BACK ON THE AIR? That’s still an unknown. The doctor knows we want to come back, but keeps reminding me that I’m in no shape to do that physically or vocally … yet. It could be months or weeks, but I only want to go through this once so we’ll be back when it’s right.

And this update from a couple of months later.

For those of you who can’t play audio, we thought we’d summarize our conversation with Nick and Garry. The bottom line is that we just got some good news! After 9 weeks of treatment we’ve gone from talking about a liver transplant to getting a report that says the liver readings are normal! What happens now is a gradual lowering of the dose of the medication I’ve been on to a small level that will be used to maintain the liver’s stability. Also, a new medication (an anti-rejection medication) is being added that I’ll be on for the next 2 years to, hopefully, put the Autoimmune Hepatitis into remission.

OK, for you Radio Road Test fans, try this analogy: We got lucky and didn’t need to get a new engine (liver) because we were able to rebuild the old one. Now the trick is to keep it running smoothly.

While I’ll be monitored for the next 2 years, the initial concern in the next several weeks is to make sure that my system accepts the medication. In addition, while the medicine works its magic, I’ll be starting a daily exercise regime to help build up my stamina.

That’s what we wrote in 2002.

Now, here we are, in 2018 and today has been a good day.

I’m a lucky man.

Posted in Autoimmune Hepatitis | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 36 Comments

R.I.P. Milt Rosenberg

One of the most amazing “perks” of our time spent at WGN radio is that we’ve had the luxury (and pressure!) of working with an incredible cast of genuine broadcast legends.  Wednesday morning we got the sad news that one of those legends, our friend, Milt Rosenberg, passed away.

Milt Rosenberg

Milt Rosenberg was “Old School” in the best of ways.  Many of them ways you probably never knew about because they didn’t happen behind a microphone.  We were reminded of that Wednesday while entering Northwestern Memorial hospital for a regularly scheduled visit with Steve’s hepatologist.

For those of you who may not know, in 2002, Steve was diagnosed with Autoimmune Hepatitis.  Being an autoimmune disease, this kind of Hepatitis is not contagious and has nothing to do with drugs or alcohol.

So, what does this have to do with Milt Rosenberg and why were we thinking of him as we entered the hospital?  Well, when Steve was originally diagnosed, because of the severity of his condition at the time, we were off the air for 5 months.  During that time, it was not at all unusual to get a call at home from Milt, just to check on Steve and see how we were doing.  Even though we thanked him, we’re not sure Milt ever really knew just how much those calls meant.  It was that wonderful off-air, “Old School” side of Milt that gave us an even deeper respect for the man.

We’re also not sure Milt ever knew how complimented we were when we found out that, after he got off the air, he would sometimes stay in his office with the radio on because he wanted to hear how we interviewed a particular guest.  Other nights, during the newscast between his show and ours, he would compliment us on something he’d heard us do at 2AM or later because he was up and listening.  Compliments from Milt were compliments we will always treasure.

Speaking of the newscast between Milt’s show and ours, one of the reasons our theme song would sometimes run long was because, occasionally, Milt and his guests would be so enthusiastic about whatever they’d been talking about or about meeting each other that their conversations just continued in the studio.  At some point one or both of us would have to gently remind them that the newscast was now over and another show was starting.

One personality trait of Milt’s that we appreciated was that, while over the years his political leanings shifted from left to right, he understood that we didn’t necessarily lean the same way.  He respected our opinion and would readily engage in a discussion NOT a rant.  We’ll never forget the night we followed Milt expressing how he was going to vote in a particular election.  Steve mentioned that he was going to cancel Milt’s vote.  A woman called and berated Steve for “outing” Milt.  We had to stifle some laughs as we patiently tried to explain to the woman that Milt had already “outed” Milt.

Don’t get us wrong, life with Milt was not always warm and fuzzy.  Just ask any of WGN’s Program Directors or General Managers.  In fact some of them were too intimidated by Milt to suggest small, but significant, corrections.  Apparently they didn’t realize that, yes, they were dealing with a, shall we say, strong personality, BUT a strong personality who, if he found out that he was doing something incorrectly, would correct it.

Case in point: For several YEARS we’d hear Milt miss the time tone for the station ID and newscast.  After a while, we realized that he was missing it by exactly 7 seconds – exactly the time of our on-air delay in case someone drops an “F” bomb – or worse.  So, one night during the newscast between our shows, we asked him why he always hit the station ID and the news late.  He was genuinely shocked.  He said “But, I hit the ID at exactly the top of the hour!”  We asked if anyone had ever explained that, with a 7 second delay, in order for it to time out right, you had to time it to :53 and not :00.  We’d never seen Milt flabbergasted before, but we did that night.  He said “No one ever told me that.”  We have every reason to believe him because, starting the very next night and every night thereafter, Milt hit the ID right on time.

During our last week doing a 5 night a week show at WGN Milt wanted to make time for a private conversation in his office.  We were cleaning out our office and shared some books and prospective author guests with him and he enthusiastically shared some of his favorite reads with us.  He had a few questions about why we were leaving and about who the good guys and villains that brought us to this point might have been. We answered his questions and shared some “radio war stories” with Milt that he hadn’t heard.  He told us a few of his own and, as all three of us reluctantly brought the conversation to a close, went out of his way to wish us well.  We knew his wishes were genuine.  Sadly, it was only one year later that Milt broadcast his final show on WGN and, not surprisingly, walked through the exit the same way he first entered the station – with class.

While on WGN, Milt’s podcasts were the most popular on the station and he continued embracing podcast technology on his own website.  For a while he also returned to radio and hosted a show on Evanston’s WCGO.

Although we still had occasional phone conversations with Milt, the last time we saw him, in person, was at his 2014 induction into the WGN Walk of Fame.

Milt Rosenberg, in 2014, at his WGN Walk of Fame induction

We’ll never forget that day, not only for the celebration of Milt and other legendary WGN talent, but for THE HEAT!  Because of how hot it was, we were concerned about Milt.  Those of us in the audience were able to move around and find some shade.  Those on stage had to sit there enduring the simmering temperatures, smile and, when it was their turn to be inducted, forget the heat and put their best professional foot/voice forward.  Not at all surprising to us and anyone else who knew him personally or through their radio speakers, Milt did just that.

Wonderfully “Old School,” indeed.

We haven’t just lost a friend or a colleague or even a legend.  We’ve lost one of a kind!

We wish him a most cordial goodnight.

Posted in WGN | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Join Us For An Historic New Year’s Eve Broadcast!

This New Year’s Eve, we’re continuing a tradition that started 23 years ago and we’re hoping you’ll join us for what will be a historic event of sorts.

23 years ago we rang in the New Year on the air with you on WGN Radio from the Showcase Studio for the very first time.  Well, this year will really be an historic event.  Since the WGN studios are moving to a new location, this will be the last time Steve  & Johnnie’s “Cheap Date Life After Dark New Year’s Eve Extravaganza” will welcome in a new year broadcasting from the Showcase studio location!!  We’ll start at 11PM (ish) or whenever the Chicago Blackhawks game ends and go till 3AM.

Among our guests for this special New Year’s show will be one of the featured artists on the PBS Soundstage Special “Cornerstones Of Rock,”  the man who sang lead on many of The New Colony Six’s hit records, Ronnie Rice.

Ronnie Rice

And, since we had so many requests after their last appearance with us, joining us again this year will be Josh Solomon and Erika Brett from The Empty Pockets.

Josh Solomon & Erika Brett

Also, following her New Year’s Eve “Rock The 80’s” show at Harrah’s, Joliet, the incredible, Lisa McClowry will join us along with her guitarist/co-composer, Lavant (Van) Coppock.

Lisa McClowry

Lavant Coppock

And, because we had so much fun with him last year, making a return appearance is the world’s only Musical Mentalist, Sidney Friedman, who will have some predictions for the new year.

Sidney Friedman

We’ll have hourly countdowns from different time zones.

Watch this space for more details as we know them and, of course, expect a surprise or two.

Remember, no cover charge and no dress code!!

We hope you’ll tune in to 720 AM or, if you’re not in the Chicago area, you can still listen and watch by clicking this link to WGN Radio’s live stream.

This is gonna be fun!

Posted in Events, Holidays, WGN | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Johnnie’s Gluten Free Date Nut Bread In Cans

I know it’s been a while since you’ve seen any posts here about gluten free cooking.

What can I say, sometimes life gets in the way of my oven.

So, let me rectify that right now by sharing one of the most fun things I’ve done in a while.

Making Date Nut Bread!

Yes, Date Nut Bread!  See, growing up each Christmas my job was to snip the dates and cut out the wax paper to line the cans. Recently I did it all and was rewarded just like I was over 50 years ago. The crown off a can of bread…a smear of cream cheese and wonderful memories.  What could be better?

Johnnie’s Gluten Free Date Nut Bread

OK, let’s get to it.

Preheat oven to 350.

Prep 4 vegetable cans by washing well.

NOTE: The picture above is 6 cans of a double batch.

Do not use pull tab cans, they leave a lip. Labels & sharp edges should be removed. Line with waxed paper. Draw and cut out circles of waxed paper to drop in the bottom of cans and cut sheets of paper that are long enough to line the insides OR you can use a spatula with a paper towel to work butter inside cans instead of cutting the paper. Careful though, there may still be sharp spots around the edge. I also like the paper to insure moistness when the bread is wrapped to store.

2–8 oz bags pitted dates.

Snip into smaller pieces for 2 full cups of dates.
Put dates in a bowl and sprinkle with 2 teaspoon baking soda.

Pour 1 & 1/2 cups boiling water over dates and allow to sit while prepping the dough.

1 & 1/2  cups sugar

4 tablespoons melted butter

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 large room temperature eggs

2 & 2/3 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour
( I successfully used Pillsbury All Purpose Gluten Free Flour)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 & 1/2 to 2 cups chopped pecans

Cream sugar, butter and vanilla

Add eggs mix well

Mix salt into flour

Add to the egg mixture. Mix well.

Don’t over-beat.

With a spatula add dates & water to batter gently fold so dates don’t tear apart.

I add 15-20 stemless sliced maraschino cherries and fold into the batter with the pecans.

With a large spoon gently drop batter into the lined cans filling to 2/3rds full.

Tap cans on the counter to remove air bubbles.

Place on a cookie sheet on center rack to bake 1 hour.

(I always have enough batter left for a mini loaf of bread. It should bake in 30-40 mins.)

Let cool til cans can be handled to shake the bread out.

Continue cooling bread rolls to room temp.

Slice and eat with cream cheese.

This bread stores and freezes well and makes great gifts wrapped in plastic wrap or foil with wax paper left on.

Enjoy!  We sure did.


Posted in Gluten-Free Diet | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Backstage With Joel Paterson!

If you’ve been with us for a while, you know the name Joel Paterson.  A frequent guest on many of our shows, Joel is a Chicago based guitarist with seemingly endless drive that is fueled by his incredible talent  Most recently, you might have heard Joel when he joined us in the WGN Showcase Studio on Thanksgiving morning.  His hard work and constant touring schedule with his own group(s) and backing others has resulted in applause and respect from many far-flung corners of the globe.

World-renowned does not overstate Joel’s status!

He recently had a CD Release party at Evanston Space for his album “Hi-Fi Christmas Guitar.”

Joel Paterson “Hi-Fi Christmas Guitar

Joel was nice enough to invite us backstage for a conversation and let us share some video of his performance with you. If you’re a Les Paul fan, you’re gonna love this!  And, if you remember the nights Joel and The Modern Sounds performed “Bacon Fat” on our show, you’ll want to watch. The video is now available on WGN Radio’s Steve & Johnnie page.

Just click this link to join in the fun.

And let us turn on the blatant plug light long enough to tell you that we think Joel’s album really does belong in your Christmas stocking.  “Hi-Fi Christmas Guitar” is distributed by Bloodshot Records and can be ordered by pointing your browser right here.

Posted in Guitar Related, Les Paul, Music, WGN | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Too Much Fun With Nick Digilio!

Anytime we get together with Nick Digilio, we always have waaay too much of a good time.  That was certainly true, Thursday morning.

Steve, Nick Digilio & Johnnie

Let’s see, there were “5 Naked Ladies” and then …. well, the podcast is now available.  So, you can just click on this link and see/hear for yourself.

THAT was fun!

Thanks, Nick.

Posted in Appearances, WGN | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments