GWAR Guitarist Diagnosed With Bone Cancer, Appeals For Marrow Donors
Written by Emmy Mack on 31st October, 2017
CHECK OUT THE LATEST
GWAR axeman Michael Derks, better known as BälSäc the Jaws ‘o Death, is battling a life-threatening form of bone marrow cancer.
In a statement made via a new virtual drive for marrow donors, the rhythm guitarist reveals that he was diagnosed with myelofibrosis after being hospitalised during this year’s US Warped Tour with “extreme fatigue and weakness”.
Despite seeming in fine form when his band gatecrashed American Authors’ Warped set to butcher their singer live onstage, Derks says that when he got back home his hemoglobin levels “continued to fall and the only course of treatment has been a series blood transfusions to keep my red and white blood cells from dropping to dangerous levels”.
“I went for further testing… and the doctors have diagnosed me with myelofibrosis, a disease that causes scarring inside of the bones and interferes with the marrow’s ability to produce blood cells,” he recalls.
Derks goes on to reveal the horrifying prediction that, “If left to run it’s course the doctors say I am most likely to only survive another 3 to 5 years”, adding that there’s only one hope for his potential recovery.
“There is a treatment with a chance of curing my condition, a bone marrow transplant,” he explains. “This procedure involves destroying my diseased bone marrow with high doses of chemotherapy, and then replacing it with healthy marrow from a donor.
“I will hopefully have the transplant early next year. I will spend a month in the hospital and then at least a year in recovery, where my immune system will be practically non-existent. The procedure has a mortality rate of 30%, but the Massey Center [where he’s receiving treatment] has brought this down to around 15%.
“With my family’s help and the support of my friends, I will beat this.”
Derks further states that he doesn’t plan to let his diagnosis prevent him from doing what he loves; shredding metal riffs and dismembering political figureheads live on stage, which he says has a “curative effect” on his soul.
“Since the only thing I can do while the doctors try to find a matching donor is to get myself physically fit, I’ve decided to not let the impending hospitalization keep me from doing what I enjoy most, performing with GWAR,” he writes.
“I will be joining them on the upcoming North American tour where we will be playing many of the songs from our new album, The Blood of Gods, a record that I am prouder of than anything else I’ve put out in my 30 year career.”
His brave post, entitled GWAR commands you to save a life!, details an intimate account of the reclusive musician’s health struggles wrapped in an appeal for any prospective bone marrow donors to volunteer.
“I’ve spent the last thirty years behind a mask as the guitarist for the shock rock band GWAR. And that’s where I’m comfortable, behind the mask,” he confesses.
“I am not someone who enjoys putting my life out for others to see on social media, and I do it now only because I know many people are concerned about me.
“…Everyone I have told about my condition have asked what they can do to help,” Derks continues. “I have teamed up with the incredible people at Love Hope Strength to offer a way for my friends and fans to not only help me, but all of the thousands of people out there in need of a bone marrow transplant.
“We are running a virtual drive to find donors to join the international registry of people willing to save a strangers life. So, please, if you are willing and able, become a donor today. There is no obligation, it will just allow you to find out if there is someone out there who’s life you could save.”
To get involved, you can head to lovehopestrength.org
Derks was last in Australia with GWAR as part of the Soundwave 2014 lineup. Frontman Dave Brockie AKA Oderus Urungus tragically died of a drug overdose just weeks after the festival wrapped up.
Photo: Tim Mosenfelder / Getty Images