I’ve been meaning to post this for about two weeks, and between the Vegas shooting, Petty dying and just so much heaviness I’ve had to disconnect from any emotion just to get through the day. Please excuse typos etc. Tough to write this.
I had my cancer scans and testing in Vanderbilt a couple weeks ago and all was clear. That puts me at 5 years, which means I can cut back to once a year checkup. 5 years was the goal date for me, at a time when I was just thinking how to survive. I knew the numbers looked better if you made it to 5 years. I can’t even describe how heavy it is for me to type this, but it seemed that my reports helped some of you that needed to hear a good word, and I promised God I would- so here I am. I can’t possible explain how it feels to even verbalize that I am 5 years out.
When I got sick, the diagnosis was not good. I was blessed that one of my friends, Cold Stares fans, was working at Vandy and got me in to see an amazing oncologist in a week- when I had been told when I called -6 months. I was blessed enough to get into a trial for a new type of chemo. I was excited like I had won the lottery, trusting that God had put me there. That was until the Dr. told me that I was in a group that would get 3x times the maximum dose. Still heavy to type and discuss. Over months of treatment I would be informed of other people in the trial dying from their bodies not being able to handle it. I would have to sign a waiver to continue. Each time I did I pictured being on a war field, and my fellow soldiers falling beside me, and just trying to push on towards the enemy. After my 5th round my body went into shock at the hospital and the room went black. I pleaded with my dr. to try once more and a week later they doped me up on Benadryl and I got one more round of chemo in. In my mind I had convinced myself that if I got that round I could beat it. This coincided with radiation that has left my right shoulder a wreck, 2 surgeries to remove lymph nodes. Thinking about it now, well I can’t really think about it- but can only say I turned it all over to God, prepared to die, but left it in his hands. I made some promises to him -and I am determined to keep them.
People will call me a survivor and it always makes me uneasy. I didn’t fight any more, or any harder than any of my friends and family that I have lost to cancer. We all fight the fight the best we can. Those that pass, I guess we will understand why someday, but not on this earth. I don’t know why I have survived, all I can tell you is that I am humbled. I am grateful. I am conscious everyday of those that didn’t survive. My friend Steve, Marty, Scott, my good friend Billy Block who was so kind to me during my battle only to have his cancer to return two years later. All my friends I made at treatment that just didn’t show up the next round. I can’t tell you, can’t even start to explain the feeling that leaves you with. What I can tell you is the lesson it teaches you about life. And each day, each moment I push towards something I have those people in mind, and live life to the fullest in their memory.
I’m not here to preach and convert folks. But I can tell you without any hesitation that I would not have physically and mentally been able to go through what I did without my savior Jesus Christ. I would be a fool not to tell you that. If you don’t believe in God, I have a strong feeling you’ve never looked death in the eyes. Because when you do, your body, your soul, cries out to a maker for help. For those of you that have that relationship prior to facing death, you know you have a comforter and strength giver on standby. I was fortunate that I did.
Prior to cancer, I really thought I was a risk taker, and lived life to the fullest most of the time. I can’t tell you how differently I look back on things after cancer. So many squandered moments, so many wasted days, so many things unsaid, undone. You may think because of what I have been through I am unlucky. I am not. I am blessed. Because each day, each moment now I savor. Nothing is taken for granted. Ever.
My advice to you, my hope for each one of you is that you LIVE. Live for all those that cannot.
Since I was diagnosed-
I lost a record deal. I fought back and got a record deal. I bought a guitar I shouldn’t. I raced a Porsche through the Hollywood hills. I took my best friend on a trip to LA and did everything two 15 year wanna be rock stars ever dreamed of doing. The Whiskey, the Rainbow. I saw the beach in Venice. I recorded an album in a Hollywood mansion. I sold the safe comfortable car and bought the hot rod I wanted. I apologized to anyone I thought I had wronged. I sent my dad to the tailor and bought him a couple suits. Just because. I bought a motorcycle and rode everyday I was strong enough to ride during chemo. I played New York. Saw Times Square. Got out of unhealthy relationships. I married the love of my life, who helped save my life. I spent Halloween in St. Augustine. I bought my friends things I couldn’t afford. I helped other folks that were in need. I played as many benefits as I could. I helped build a church in eastern KY where I was born. I went on a mission trip. I stayed up too late watching movies that I said I would see but hadn’t. Toured across the country. Stood over Robert Johnson’s grave. Sat on the shore of the Mississippi River where Jeff Buckley drown. I gave up working an 9-5 to teach guitar lessons, so that each day I could have a guitar in my hands and see the joy music brings in other people lives. I am not trying to brag, please don’t take it that way- I am trying to inspire. I stopped second guessing and started truly living. I made mistakes, lots of them, but instead of destroying myself over them I learned to ask for forgiveness and forgive myself. I made and make decisions like today could be my last day.
What I’m saying to you is- I choose to live like there may not be a next week. Because there may not. Those folks in Vegas, they had no clue. When I woke up from surgery and the dr. said I had cancer, I had NO clue that was coming- especially while we were in talks with record labels after fighting my whole life to get to that point. It’s the last thing I thought I would hear. But it is what it is.
For all of you that supported me during this fight, God bless you and thank you. I pray everyday that somehow I a blessing to one of you and somehow inspire you to LIVE in a way you may not have. Take risks. Open your eyes, your senses. Take nothing for granted. Stop caring what anyone else thinks. Be thankful. LIVE.
I had a 64 year old man come up to me after our set in Memphis Sunday night and tell me after ten year remission he was told last week he had cancer now spread throughout his organs and spine. I asked him what he was doing, and he looked me in the eyes and said “two days in Nashville, two in Memphis and 4 in New Orleans, I’m from up north and always wanted to see the south.” He said his wife asked him why he got up at 6am now that he’s retired, and he said “because I can.” You may look at my life and wonder why I may make a certain choice, same reason- because I can.
Now back to working this record and seeing what is possible in the rest of my life.
Today I let this go as much as I am able. I continue to pray for strength and wisdom each day for all that battle this disease.
God bless you. Love you all.