David Iglinski Profile
FOR: Marine Drive Magazine DM (March Issue)
03 Feb 2012
BY: Stephanie Lundberg
David Iglinski has been a musician since he was ten years old, when his mother put drumsticks in his hands and sent him out to march in parades. He was an original founder of the popular Guam band the M80s, and in the late 1980’s played bass guitar for Birds of Prey, who opened concerts for Cheap Trick. In the last ten years Iglinski played in a number of bands, including the Electric Boonie Dogs, in venues all over the Pacific and the United States. MDM sat down with Inglinski in February to discuss his time as a musician in all those smoky venues, where he picked up something more than just jams and fans: cancer.
Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I was stationed [on Guam] in the early 80’s, [in the] Navy, and that’s how I fell in love with this place.
And you stayed?
No, I married a gal, had kids, and 20-something years later came back because of the job I have now.
What do you do?
I work for NCR Corporation; fix all the ATMs for First Hawaiian Bank and Bank of Hawaii and various other things around town for NCR, since 1983.
So we understand that you are a cancer survivor?
Yeah, I sure am – what a surprise that is. You know, you never think that you’re going to be one of the statistics. You know, you try to keep yourself healthy and eat somewhat sensibly, do some exercising and all that kind of thing.
And suddenly, about this time last year, I was massaging my neck and I noticed a golf-ball sized lump in the left side of my neck. And, went to various doctors here and we did some preliminary stuff on it, some exams on it. And one was a needle biopsy, and it actually came back negative for cancer, which was kind of surprising. So the doctor here wanted actually remove it and that would have been the end of it.
Of course, that wouldn’t have been the end of it, because then the cancer would have spread. That was the lymph node, and the lymph node was actually keeping the primary source from spreading to the rest of the body. You learn so much when you’re going through this.
So, here in Guam we couldn’t find the primary source. He looked up and down my throat. I had a CAT scan and there [were] no cancer lesions, nothing. And before [he removed the mass] I said, ‘well, let me go to Hawaii for a second opinion.’
And then [in Hawaii] they put me to sleep and gave me a tissue biopsy, and I woke up to them saying, ‘yes, you have squamous cell cancer, but we can’t find the primary.’ Even in Hawaii they couldn’t find the primary yet. They biopsied nine places up and down my throat, took out a tonsil thinking that might have been it. Still they couldn’t find it.
So they said, ‘well, these are your options: we can treat it this way. Unfortunately, since we can’t find the primary, we’ve got to radiate the whole neck, all the way around, 360 degrees.’ So I said, ‘well, let me go make some phone calls.’
My mom lived in Atlanta, GA, and that’s where I lived before I came here in 2001. And I called up my mom and told her what I had. And Emory University is 45 minutes away from her home, and so we decided that that would be the best route, to actually go [there], and I’m so glad I did.
And [the doctors at Emory University Hospital] put me to sleep and they found the primary source. It was in the back of my throat, it was no bigger than my pinky fingernail. He biopsied it all out, but I still had to go through all the treatments, which was not fun. I wouldn’t wish that on my worse enemy, I tell you. I got pretty sick, you know from the radiation and chemotherapy. I didn’t lose my hair though, thank god for that!
It’s pretty crazy. Again, you never think you’re going to be one of the statistics. They found that [my cancer] was from second-hand smoke, [that] was the most probable cause.
I never had a cigarette in my life, but played at all these smoky bars all my life.
You’re also a musician?
Yeah, that’s where it all started from, playing at all these smoky bars. It’s just been a rough road this last year. But I feel myself so fortunate compared other people that would have the same thing.
Are you still being treated?
No, my last treatment was July 28th [of last year]. Yeah, so, every two to three months I go back, I fly all the way back to Georgia. It’s quite a haul, but these people saved my life, so I’m just sticking with the program. I just got back last week from my six-month checkup, and everything is good!
I just want to get the word out there about the second-hand smoke – really, nobody thinks about it. Of course, it’s all coming to light now. They say, what, 50,000 people a year in the United States get diagnosed with second-hand [smoke-related] cancers. And you never think you’re going to be one of the statistics.
Are you doing anything right now toward getting second-hand smoke out of Guam’s bars?
Well, I’m trying to. I’ve talked to Senator [Dennis G.] Rodriguez, and he was trying to write a proposal up [for outlawing smoking in bars], and of course he did do [a law] where you can’t smoke in the car with your children in there. And at least that’s a start.
And I said, ‘well, how about bars?’ And he said, ‘That’s still a touchy subject, because you don’t really have to go to that bar if you don’t want to and you’re not a smoker.’
I kind of differ on that, because what happens if I like the atmosphere of that bar too? The smokers say that they’ve got the right to smoke, but I’ve got the right to breathe clean air.
The reason being, I feel like they’re really a – I shouldn’t say a selfish bunch, but they’re smoking, they’re enjoying it, but you’re stuck – even another smoker – you’re stuck breathing what they exhale, and what’s coming off their cigarette. You know, for their own enjoyment – I think that’s pretty selfish.
I just think, hey, if you want a cigarette, don’t stop. Go ahead, but go outside. That’s where I think it should be. It should be like Hawaii. I love playing in Hawaii. When I go to Waikiki or on these trips to go back [to Atlanta], I always stop in Waikiki and play with my friends at some bars over there, and it’s all non-smoking.
Can you recommend any bars or other establishments that are non-smoking?
I was just in Saipan [at] Godfather’s Bar. I’m good friends with the owners there, and he knew what happened to me. And I walked in there for the first time in a long time, [it had] been a long time since I’d seen him. He actually went non-smoking.
He said, ‘I never thought of it, the way you put it.’ You know, he allows smoking in his place – well, what about his employees who are working for him? That’s how it got to be a non-smoking issue [for him].
There are [other] non-smoking bars [on Guam]. Livehouse is one, [where a] musician could play. The Venue is another one, they have bands there. Ralphie’s is a non-smoking bar.
Mac n Marti’s is a cigar bar, but they did try a non-smoking night every Saturday night in October, and [they] raised over $500 for the American Cancer Society for that month.
Do you have any advice for people who also want to advocate for non-smoking bars?
Yeah – as far as my advice to musicians, we should just boycott bars that allow smoking. You know, maybe they’ll get the message. But I know that [the bar owners] have got to work too. But, then again, they’re endangering their lives.
And again, it’s not going to drop cigarette sales or tax revenue, it’s just if you want a cigarette, go outside. Let’s just have everyone on the same playing field: no smoking inside public places, because you’re endangering someone else’s life. Mine was – [my] life was endangered.