Thursday, March 17, 2016

Charles Bissell, Singer For The Wrens, Is Battling Cancer

Charles Bissell, the lead singer and guitarist for the New Jersey band The Wrens, has revealed that he is suffering from cancer.

Bissell was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma in the blood, which was extremely serious in the past but, with advances in drugs, it is now manageable but not curable.

The singer revealed the diagnosis in a lengthy Facebook post on Wednesday which said that he had been treated twice late last year for pneumonia and it was during the treatments that the cancer was found.

Bissell tells the story:

As of last week, by a very wide margin, the most expensive thing I've ever owned is a bottle of pills I'll eat in 21 days. Although covered by insurance (at least luckily for now) they're just north of a cool ten grand. Impressive.

With apologies for both a repeat of what's old news for some, and an out-of-nowhere 'what the...?' for others, as short as I can make it, had pneumonia a few times in Nov. & Dec. and in treating that, by fluke they stumbled on the underlying cause which is something called multiple myeloma. That's a white blood cell cancer sorta thing (technically a plasma cell, so not actually leukemia but that's sorta splitting cilia (please note bio/hair pun). But because I'm "young" for this (avg. age of diagnosis is usually more like 70) and because targeted treatments have advanced so much esp. in the last few years, my prognosis is almost certainly not as dire as googling might make it seem.

It's not "curable" per se - but here that's not in the usual sense of a dramatic Brian's Song "get your affairs in order, you've got nine months". Here it means more that you're stuck with a longish weekly hospital commute for meds/chemo from here on out (with sooner/later, possibly/probably a bone marrow transplant (not as crazy as it sounds, more on that also below)). So really almost more like a chronic condition like say, diabetes. If diabetes came with free bone marrow.

Or at least that's how it is currently - the drugs that have come out in the last year or so are getting pretty spectacular so there's a lot of optimism that that yo-yo cycle is flattening out and they're even talking cure stuff. And they don't mean Friday, I'm in Love.

I should clarify too that the bone marrow transplant isn't as radical as it sounds - it is currently sort of standard treatment esp. if you're all young & sprightly (which for this, I am) and it is really effective at keeping things in remission, sometimes for years. It's also all done by transfusion, they don't actually go in surgically like a holiday turkey. But it does mean a few-week stay in the hospital plus recovery time. The good part is that here too, because the drug therapies are progressing so fast, they're also defaulting to the transplant less & less soon and it's a bullet I may even dodge entirely.

Anyway, officially started treatment last Thurs. & Fri. in a clinical trial the crux of which tests one new foncy-ponts drug in combination with one of the current standard-treatment three-drug cocktails (actual cocktails now discouraged, sadly). And my numbers have already come down some (that's good).
The Wrens were formed in 1989 by Greg and Kevin Whelan who brought in high school friend Bissell. They released their first album, Silver, in 1994 and have since put out Secaucus (1996) and The Meadowlands (2003).