[Editor's Note: Long-time concert photographer Andrew Youssef found out two years ago that he had stage IV colon cancer. In that time, he has continued to shoot tons of music events, on top of other freelance work and working a day job at a hospital, of all places. As he continues to fight for his life, this series allows him to tell his story in his own words.]
This is the most difficult column I will ever write. Although it wasn't easy admitting to everyone that I had Stage IV colon cancer in my first column, I now have more important and difficult news to convey to all my friends and colleagues. Unfortunately, the new clinical trial medication did not improve my condition, and my most recent CT scan showed my disease has worsened.
After consulting my oncologists they recommended that I seek palliative care and eventually hospice care since I have weeks to months to live. Although I knew the diagnosis of Stage IV colon cancer provided a low percentage of survival, one always has to keep some faith that they can fight and win the war against cancer. Immediately, a flood of emotions washed over me upon hearing this sobering news.
What about my parents, brother, nephews, niece and friends? It was hard telling everyone I had cancer in the first place, but to go through the pain all over again of letting everyone know I have a limited time is like peeling off scabs. The last few days have been heart-wrenching, making calls to my friends for a message that they knew would eventually come. I apologize to those who I didn't get a chance to communicate with.
My emotional fortitude couldn't handle making more than a couple calls per day. I also e-mailed a number of my musician friends who were also considerably saddened by the news. Fielding all the different reactions from my loved ones was considerably challenging as the reactions varied from tears to dead silence. I probably should have researched how to complete this difficult task more before attempting to accomplish it.
Now I enter a different phase of my life where I need to enjoy my remaining time with my friends and family, and make the rest of my life a celebration instead of a procession. Initially, I debated about making this my last column, but after some feedback from family and friends have decided to soldier on and try to help as many people as possible by sharing my experiences.
Lately, I've been listening to a lot of Nine Inch Nails, and one of my favorite songs is "In This Twilight." Throughout my diagnosis, the meaning of a lot of the songs I like has changed drastically. This particular song resonates with me during the lyrics "As the time is running out.. Let me take away your doubt.. We can find a better place.. In this twilight."
See Also: Our Complete "Last Shot" Series