Each time David B. Allen of Glenview sits down to perform, his challenge begins when he raises the bar and lid over piano keys.
Likely his left hand takes over, doing the heavy lifting. If Allen’s left hand is wearing his wedding band and watch during a gig, that’s extra too, perhaps cherished weight to bear.
Allen’s left hand compensates for loss of mobility of his right hand.
Performing can take its toll and tire the left hand after hours of playing with both hands.
But Allen is determined to “keep on keeping on” as he likes to say, two years after a February 2015 surgery at Evanston Hospital to treat a golf-ball-sized non-cancerous growth on his brain.
“I’m thankful for being alive,” Allen said. “I’m grateful.”
Allen has an older sister, Karen Allen Brook, of Highland Park. Their parents are Bob and Phyllis Allen, also of Highland Park.
David and his wife, Robin, have two teenage sons, Jacob, a Glenbrook South High School junior and Zach, a Springman Middle School eighth-grader. Jacob was diagnosed with autism at age 2.
“I’m thankful for my family,” said Allen, who has been making a living as a pianist for, “most of my life.
“I can’t eat, write or do much of anything fine motor with my right hand,” Allen said. “Balance is still off. Won’t climb a ladder ever again. Can’t close my right eye separately. Numbness (is) in the left side of right hand, thumb, index and middle fingers.”
Before his diagnosis, Allen experienced weakness and pain for several years. Doctors considered a stroke.
“I got a neurologist who was fantastic,” said Allen, who had MRI testing, which revealed a benign meningioma or brain tumor.
“It was supposed to be two hours and I did like almost five hours of surgery,” Allen said.
His operation was a more intricate lesion procedure than expected.
“Amazingly, I didn’t really feel that bad,” Allen said, of immediate post-op.
“But I was freaked out because I knew I couldn’t move my arm.”
But there was a, “funny story about when I woke up,” Allen said.
“The Blackhawks were playing Detroit that night and I was in the ICU and I’m watching the game just hours after having had five hours of neurosurgery.
“I started a ‘Detroit Sucks!’ chant,” Allen recalled with a laugh.
“That’s when my sister basically said, ‘I knew you were OK.’”
Allen is right-handed.
“See, I can write with my other hand,” said Allen, demonstrating the ability to use a pen with his left hand.
“I’ve learned how to sign my name with my other hand.”
Tapping a laptop keyboard is key now that he’s licensed for a career as a mortgage loan originator.
“With this new job, where I must use a computer, you know, I used to be able to type old school, secretary fast.
“But now I have to get that (right hand) to cooperate,” he said.
Allen, 48, a 1987 Niles West High School graduate, barbecued for extended family on Father’s Day, June 18 at the family’s split-level home. His handy tools helped flip burgers.
“He is a good gent,” David’s wife said. “He’s amazing, he really is. He keeps his spirits up and always kept his chin up. Every day, it’s a battle for him.”
Allen said, “I’m thankful for the ability to reinvent myself which I’m in the process of doing now.”
A big Chicago Cubs fan, Allen performs at Chicago venues such as at Sluggers World Class Sports Bar in Wrigleyville (3540 N. Clark St.) where he’s a dueling piano player.
“We’ve known him for years and he’s an inspiration to his fans and coworkers.” said Zach Strauss of Chicago, Sluggers owner.
“He’s just as talented as he was before his surgery.
“He’s always upbeat, has a positive attitude and has a group of fans always interested in knowing when he’s playing at Sluggers,” Strauss said.
Allen appeared with the Friday night headliner band Mr. Blotto Aug. 4 at Northbrook Days Festival in Village Green Park in downtown Northbrook.
“There’s a respect everyone has for Dave,” said TJ Vering of Northbrook, marketing chairman and entertainment co-chair for Northbrook Days.
“The stories from the musicians and fans are always of the incredible feeling, soul and sounds that he’s blessed them with over the years. It’s real gratitude.”
Allen drives the family minivan, which has a license plate that reads, “Muzik 2.” He picks up his sons from school and drives to piano bookings.
“You know, it’s real easy to get all sad and upset about the brain trauma … (that) certain things don’t work as well now, not really knowing the lifelong struggle that was going to follow,” Allen said.
Allen exercises on an elliptical machine. On Father’s Day, he went on a nearly 16-mile bike ride.
“I can move,” Allen said. “I’m thankful for that.”
“Never give up.”
Loved ones via Team Piano Man started a GoFundMe account on Feb. 22, 2015.
The fundraising goal is $35,000 with nearly $25,000 raised.
They wish, “to give Dave the relief from the medical expenses and loss of income so that he will be able to concentrate solely on regaining the ability that has brought so much joy and pleasure to his many fans and friends,” according tohttps://www.gofundme.com/mzkafg.
— Glenview man overcomes brain tumor to make beautiful music —-