Last Shot: Nine Inch Nails Helps Me Find My Way Through Cancer Pain

Andrew Youssef - Lindsey Best
Lindsey Best
Andrew Youssef

[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.]

Fatigue has been my worst enemy as of late. It seems like I can sleep for fourteen hours and still not feel properly rested. Over the last couple of weeks, my hemoglobin and hematocrit have been dropping, causing me to become anemic. Mentally I'm alert and have the will and desire to accomplish tasks but my body just can't handle the burden. Even when I walk around the house doing simple chores, I get winded.

See Also: Last Shot: A Concert Photographer's Battle With Cancer

I am in a holding pattern for the next two weeks, as I will finally get a PET scan to see if the new medication that I've been taking has had any therapeutic benefit. Unfortunately, one of my tumor levels has doubled from 586 to 1013 which is much higher compared to when I was originally diagnosed. While my other tumor level has dropped from 1400 to 1086, my health seems to be in a most precarious position.

These days I have to hunt for anything that will boost my mental well being and give me the strength and fortitude to keep fighting. I was still harvesting the energy I gained from seeing Nine Inch Nails at Outside Lands when it was announced that Nine Inch Nails would play a special show at the Troubadour in West Hollywood, sponsored by KROQ to celebrate the release of their excellent new album Hesitation Marks. I've been fortunate to have witnessed Nine Inch Nails at some small venues before and was blown away by the sheer intensity of the performance.

Seeing Nine Inch Nails at the tiny Troubadour would most likely shoot straight to the top of my all time most memorable performances by the band. Luckily, I was fortunate enough to attend the show and can verify that it exceeded my lofty expectations. Two semi-trucks filled the Troubadour with a massive amount of gear, lights and soundboard. While the sound can sometimes be spotty at the Troubadour, I could almost feel the jagged guitars of "Somewhat Damaged" piercing my skin.

I had been in bed sick most of the day but suddenly found the energy to stand in front of my balcony seat, clutch the supporting beam of the Troubadour and sing along at top volume. It was punishingly hot and everyone was sweating, but I had smartly secured two ice cold waters in front of me to make sure I didn't pass out. "Terrible Lie" was ferocious as ever, with the pummeling drumming by Ilan Rubin and the foot-stomping power chords blasting my eardrums.

Alessandro Cortini deftly mutilated the electronic samples for "March Of The Pigs" as Trent Reznor led the sweaty crowd into clapping along. It seemed timely statement for the band to resurrect their cover of David Bowie's "I'm Afraid of Americans" as the US is on the precipice of engaging Syria. "Sanctified" was stripped of its roaring guitars in favor of a heavy bass line by Josh Eustis and everyone else stationed behind their keyboards.

A new song "Disappointed" seemed to simmer slowly as Robin Finck sawed away on violin for a unique distorted tone, until it finally exploded into a wash of electronics. Another new song, "Find My Way," resonated the most with me with its haunting piano notes and palpable ache in Reznor's vocals. Nine Inch Nails quickly resumed kicking the crowd's front teeth in with a no-holds-barred take on "Wish," "Survivalism," and "Burn."

I knew the end was near upon hearing the shuffling, percussive beats of "Head Like A Hole" and couldn't believe how quickly the night had passed. After absorbing the twinkling piano notes of "La Mer," "Hurt" capped off an emotional evening that left me physically and emotionally drained. I can't thank Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails enough for a show that I will never forget. My new goal now is to hold on now until November 8 when they return with a full production show at the Staples Center.

See Also: Our Complete "Last Shot" Series

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