Yesterday, Jay Marvin, a mainstay on local talk radio until he was felled by a horrific health crisis beginning in early 2009, marked his 58th birthday yesterday with a decision: to retire from radio.
It's a choice he doesn't much like -- and one that he feels was made for him by circumstances and fate.
"Realistically, I have at least a year more to go to heal, and I don't know if I'll ever be able to get to work," he says.
Beginning in early March 2009, Marvin was in and out of the hospital with a series of infections and a large mass along his spine that had to be surgically removed in an epic surgical procedure that left him with an enormous scar and an incredibly difficult road to recovery.
By December of last year, Marvin, who was placed on disability (a status that he maintains), realized that he was still not ready for a return to the microphone at AM 760, where he'd manned the morning shift prior to his illness. (He also worked afternoon drive at KHOW -- a period captured in the 1998 Westword feature "Double Trouble.") So he formally passed the torch to columnist David Sirota, his fill-in over the course of several months.
Afterward, rehab continued, and it's ongoing.
"I go to this place in Cherry Creek, and right now, I'm working on my balance and my strength," Marvin notes. "I'm still weak in some parts of my body -- but I've made progress. When I went in there in November, I was in a wheelchair, and now I can walk. I can stay out for two or three hours, and even four or five if I really push it, although I pay for that the next day."
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Nonetheless, Marvin continues, "the pain in my back never leaves. It only goes up and down between a scale of one to ten. Some days, it'll be an eight, and some days, it'll only be a two. And I can drive my car, but if I become fatigued and I'm by myself, it can get dangerous, because I can't push myself or stand up out of a car. So where I can go is very limited."
Then there's the impact of medication.
"I take twenty-odd pills a day," he points out. "Some of the pills are for my bipolar condition, and some of them are for my back. And I've lost some of my instant recall ability, and I sometimes have problems with my short-term memory and comprehension. When I used to be on the air, bang!, I could answer a caller immediately. But now, if I would to do that, I might sit there and go, 'Uh, uh.' I couldn't pull it off."
He's got other side effects likely caused or exacerbated by his meds, too, including tremors. But because of his constant pain level, he can't go without them. This catch-22 situation has left feeling extremely depressed about all he's gone through.
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"I used to feel the same way at 56 as I did at thirty," he points out. "But I don't feel that way now, and it's a hard thing to face. When you've done something for 36 years and it gets taken away from you..."
Marvin has been seeing a psychiatrist with whom he's worked since first arriving in Denver circa the '90s and talking to good friends, including Sirota and singer-songwriter Tom Russell. He's also leaned on his wife Mary. "She's been an angel through this whole thing, and now she's like a boot-camp sergeant," he reveals. "She'll say, 'Get up! Make the most of what you have! Get up and do something!"
At this point, Marvin isn't sure what that something will be. He's been writing for his blog, sharing his latest news with readers in a post entitled "This Is the End." Friends and fans can stay in touch with him there or on his Facebook page.
In the meantime, Marvin says, "People have to realize how lucky they are to have their family, how lucky they are to have a job, even if the job sucks. They're lucky to have a life -- and my life got sucked away from me. I lost a year and a half of my life, and I'm still struggling. So people need to realize how important that is, and to appreciate what they have."