In September 2019 I was in the midst of a very active period physically. I was on the drums about 6 days a week, as well as surfing and riding my bike regularly. I was also dealing with stress from some major life decisions and when I found myself experiencing severe fatigue and a heavy dry cough, I attributed it to that stress. But the symptoms reached the point that I knew I needed to see the doctor. After a physical exam in early October, they found I had iron deficiency anemia. Several tests and a referral to a hematologist later, they couldn’t diagnose the underlying problem. In November the fatigue worsened and I began experiencing daily periods of disorientation.
After more blood tests failed to provide any answers, in January I was ordered to undergo imaging that led to a CT scan. On January 13, after waking up to being broken up with long distance via text, I received a call from the doctor informing me that I have a pear/papaya sized tumor in my mediastinum (central region of the chest), behind my heart and in front of my esophagus.
After waiting for referrals and appointments etc I underwent 2 biopsies of varying methods that both came back non-diagnostic. The tumor had already begun to displace my trachea and breathing had become very labored, and decision making was becoming impaired from decreased blood flow to the brain. My condition began to worsen rapidly around this time (February) and I eventually returned to Texas to be cared for by my family. After changing insurance from California to Texas and the waiting process involved, I went for a consultation at MD Anderson and was almost immediately admitted to the hospital. This was right as the pandemic had kicked into gear and I was not allowed to have any visitors in the 9 days that I was hospitalized. I began chemotherapy while awaiting the results of a third biopsy on the tumor that had grown to 12.7x7cm (5x2.75")in size and that had blocked off 90% of my brachiocephalic vein (the blood vessel that flows direct from the heart to the brain).
I have been undergoing chemotherapy infusions every 14 days, and fortunately have been responding well to the treatment so far. With all of the treatments, tests, co-pays and meds comes a lot of cost on top of a high monthly premium for insurance (a plan that doesn’t have an extremely limited network & lengthy approval times). This is all on top of the situation many people, musician or not, are in: having no option to work at the moment. Even if it was on the table, my physical and mental state would prohibit perform or teach most days of the week. Anyone that has undergone chemotherapy can likely attest to how debilitating it can be both mentally and physically.
Obviously there is a lot going on in the world and some much greater causes are in need of donations, but any amount that you’re able to contribute would be very much appreciated.
Many thanks to my family, and anyone that’s known about my condition and checked in on me with regularity. It has helped so much in keeping morale up in an unprecedented time personally and in history
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