~15 years ago I bought a guitar and really enjoyed messing around on it. Then I got busy with career, family, other obligations and the guitar just sat in the corner collecting dust for literally 15 years. Then I got diagnosed with advanced cancer. One day last summer early in my chemo cycles, I was lying in bed feeling pretty listless and I glanced over at it. It was like a long-lost friend who all of a sudden showed up. I felt compelled to get up, walk over, open up the case, pick it up and started strumming chords. Then emotions of anger, sadness, and regret started pouring out of me along with chord sequences that I liked. It became this wonderful distraction that enabled me to capture snapshots of what I was going through during those moments. At first I just wanted to capture the stories and music coming out of me so I could leave something for my family after I depart this world. So I bought some inexpensive home recording gear to do so. Then I shared a few songs with some close friends who liked them and encouraged me to do more with it. Initially my vision was small, but then it grew.
I have advanced Stage IV prostate cancer. In 2014 I joined the ranks of 228,000 other men in the United States to be diagnosed with prostate cancer. And though I won’t die this year like 30,000 other American’s with prostate cancer will, without new breakthroughs in advanced cancer research it’s questionable whether I’ll be able to see my 7 year old enter middle school.
What do I mean by breakthroughs?
Imagine researchers at cancer institutions being able to identify the genetic abnormalities that fuel an individual’s cancer through molecular testing, and then being able to offer a personalized, targeted treatment plan that shuts down those drivers responsible for the growth. Imagine treatment plans that don’t damage healthy cells like chemo does and just goes after the cancer cells. Imagine being able to know ahead of time that your cancer won’t respond to a certain treatment because of a mutation that is proven to be resistant to that treatment. Imagine a close family member going into a routine check-up and having the ability through a blood test to detect some pre-cancerous condition super early, before it becomes a problem and then dealing with it on the spot.
All of these imaginations will be realized one day, but will take a lot of funding and effort to get there. One of the ways I want to help is through music. When you download or stream my album “Together”, 50% of all net proceeds will go towards OHSU’s Knight Cancer Challenge until they reach their $1 billion fund raising goal. They are focused on turning these imaginations into reality, just like other leading cancer institutions across the country are.
Stay tuned for much larger fund-raising plans that will emerge later this year, with the goal of connecting music, advanced cancer research and the patients that need it the most. Why is this important? Because when the standard of care therapies like surgery, radiation, chemotherapy or hormone blocking fail for advanced cancer patients, those folks run out of options. Investigative techniques like molecular testing and other cutting edge tests can bring new understanding to oncologists and their patients, and novel targeted treatment plans can bring patients new hope. But many times these things aren’t part of the standard of care today, and that means they fall outside of insurance coverage. And advanced cancer treatments many times involve participation in clinical trials that may involve extensive travel that can be a deal breaker for people with less means. We’re going to do what we can to help, even if it just starts with helping a few people.