When I was six, I was diagnosed with Leukemia. After drawing blood work, the doctor came in to tell my parents and I my condition. I remember the look of shock on my father's face and my mother holding back her tears.
After a month later in the hospital, I remember the nurses coming in and bringing me this bear. Before destroying the veins in my hands with IV needles, the doctors wanted to put a portacath in my body that would be a one way ticket to my blood stream at all times. To "best" communicate what they were going to do to me - mind you, I'm six years old at the time - the bear's chest "playfully" opened up to show drawn cartoon organs and an explanation of what they were going to do to me in surgery. So, in my adolescence, I freaked, thinking that these doctors were going to literally open my chest up like two barn doors, as opposed to simple surgery.
Years later, it's a morbid laugh on miscommunication.
After watching the Dear Jack DVD, a chronological time line of Jack's Mannequin's Andrew McMahon bout with Leukemia in 2005, I got the same feeling I did every time I think of that story - that somewhere past our greatest battles lies a bit of tragedy and misunderstanding that may one day be nothing but a laugh and a life lesson. Though it sounds cliche, "What doesn't kill you, only makes you stronger."
Throughout the DVD, McMahon keeps this ray of hope amongst all the odds of typical cancer recovery: hair loss, the ability to lose any and all immunity against a simple illnesses and fatigue from radiation and the stress of hoards of medication. Besides the time where McMahon was at his worse, post-transplant, he kept the camera running and turning out nuances of life and the pursuit to retain it after losing a comfortable form of it.
One thing that truly struck a chord - okay, maybe pun intended - was the fight in McMahon thanks to his passion for music. Though McMahon is more of a creator, as opposed to a listener, music is definitely a healer and a fighter for many of us. There's an aura about our favorite albums and songs that are forever latched to memories both grand and tragic, all of which we made it through with our best intentions of performing our passions or simply waking up to a new day.
I think it's ironic in a way that one of the first big interviews I was able to do since joining on to Absolutepunk was with McMahon discussing his treatment and recovery. For the both us, we lived through it and are on to doing what we love, and more importantly, it all centers around music.
If you, or a loved one, has ever experienced a story of cancer survival, the Dear Jack DVD is not to be missed. Even on the surface of the idea of a positive outlook, the documentary serves as a light past any tragedy that one has overcome and turned out to instill a new sense of substance in one's life.
Thank you for opening this up to us Andrew. Then again, you said it best in one part of the DVD, "Tonight's the night, and we're just going to go to war on this shit. You know?" I do. I think many of us have experienced that quote in one way or another at some point in our lives. I pray they will all be positive outcomes.
First off, thanks for all the kind words, I'm glad you guys enjoyed the interview.
It was an absolute honor to interview Andrew, sharing a specific tragedy, by his words and laughter, seems to have made him, and I still believe myself, to be a better person. It seems that sometimes the most dark of times eventually open us up to a light once the clouds disperse.
In no way do I want to make this about me, but simply put, something like surviving cancer, living three months of your childhood in a hospital where kids your age die around you week after week, and your body gets turned into a pin cushion and drained of all will...well...it definitely gives you a "I'm here for a reason, so let's live it," attitude.
This weekend is Austin City Limits, and you would think I'd be all over it, but alas, after a month of deposits and a trip back home for a wedding in two weeks, I kind of need the money, and don't have the bones to go. Hopefully, fingers crossed, I will be attending the Grizzly Bear after show at Emo's Saturday night, yet that is still up in the air.
When I arrived at work today, my manager called me over and asked if I wanted to get cut early and go across the street to the Mos Def Austin City Limits filming, because one of our guest had an extra ticket. I declined. Dumb idea for a guy like me to witness the first hip-hop act in the history of the show to perform, but I declined due to my financial situation.
Upon closing, I opened the back door to toss some trash, only to discover a heroin addict had overdosed on the side of our building. His life, unfortunately, came to an end - whether by his own merit or not. He probably didn't even know it was coming.
This leads me to what McMahon had to say today in our interview:
Trying to live a life that you're psyched on. Know that it's not always going to be around, so you might as well enjoy yourself. That you might as well be in a place where you reconcile enough that you can enjoy life a little, because none of us know what's happening next. Just live in the moment, that's all I can say. Try to be present in the moment, because the past and the future really don't exist.
It's true. I could have went to Mos Def, and maybe that was living in the moment, but if I hadn't stayed, I would have never found out that one of my cooks has a ticket to Grizzly Bear that he may sell me for Saturday's show. I may never have discovered the addict, and took in a new look on life. Maybe I would have went and been a part of music history, and the aforementioned wouldn't matter.
In any light, things happen for a reason I suppose, but I do believe if we continue to live our life in a positive, loving, and respectful way...well, karma is a grand thing.
I'm alive and have the opportunity to do what I love. Money will come and go, but I believe it's what we experience that is our greatest investment. It's just that we never know what that experience will be.