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GWAR guitarist Michael Derks diagnosed with bone marrow cancer

on October 26, 2017, 7:53pm

GWAR guitarist Michael Derks, better known as BälSäc the Jaws ‘o Death, has revealed he’s battling a rare form of bone marrow cancer called myelofibrosis.

In a statement made through his virtual donor drive, Derks shares that he went to the hospital for “extreme fatigue and weakness” this summer while on Warped Tour and was treated for severe anemia. After extensive testing, doctors diagnosed him with the life-threatening disease.

As Derks explains, myelofibrosis is “a disease that causes scarring inside of the bones and interferes with the marrow’s ability to produce blood cells.” Doctors have said he’s “most likely to only survive another 3 to 5 years” without treatment.

Thankfully, there’s hope in the form of a bone marrow transplant, which “involves destroying my diseased bone marrow with high doses of chemotherapy, and then replacing it with healthy marrow from a donor.” Derks is hoping to receive a transplant early next year, followed by at least a year in recovery. He says the procedure normally has a mortality rate of 30 percent, but the Massey Cancer Center has reduced it to 15 percent.

As Derks awaits a matching donor, he will join GWAR on their North American tour, where the band will be playing songs from their latest effort, The Blood of Gods. While Derks notes that he’ll probably have to leave the tour at least once to receive a transfusion, the guitarist says hitting the road has a “curative effect” on his soul. Check out the complete schedule below.

GWAR 2017 Tour Dates:
10/26 – Baltimore, MD @ Rams Head Live *
10/27 – New Haven, CT @ Toad’s Place *
10/28 – Worcester, MA @ Palladium *
10/29 – Philadelphia, PA @ Trocadero *
10/31 – New York, NY @ Irving Plaza *
11/01 – Buffalo, NY @ Town Ballroom *
11/02 – Louisville, KY @ Mercury Ballroom #
11/03 – St. Louis, MO @ Pop’s *
11/04 – Sioux City, IA @ Hard Rock *
11/05 – Lawrence, KS @ Granada *
11/07 – Minneapolis, MN @ First Avenue ^
11/08 – Winnipeg, MB @ Pyramid ^
11/09 – Saskatoon, SK @ Saskatoon Events Centre ^
11/10 – Edmonton, AB @ Union Hall ^
11/11 – Calgary, AB @ The Palace Theatre ^
11/13 – Vancouver, BC @ Commodore Ballroom ^
11/14 – Portland, OR @ Roseland ^
11/15 – Seattle, WA @ Showbox SoDo ^
11/17 – Santa Cruz, CA @ The Catalyst ^
11/18 – Las Vegas, NV @ Fremont Country Club ^
11/19 – Sacramento, CA @ Ace of Spades ^
11/21 – San Diego, CA @ House of Blues ^
11/22 – Los Angeles, CA @ Fonda Theater ^
11/23 – Tempe, AZ @ Marquee Theater ^
11/24 – Albuquerque, NM @ Sunshine Theater ^
11/25 – Denver, CO @ Summit Music Hall ^
11/26 – Lincoln, NE @ Bourbon Theatre ^
11/28 – Tulsa, OK @ Cain’s Ballroom ^
11/29 – Dallas, TX @ Gas Monkey Live ^
11/30 – Houston, TX @ House of Blues ^
12/01 – San Antonio, TX @ Aztec Theater ^
12/02 – Baton Rouge, LA @ Varsity Theater ^
12/03 – Atlanta, GA @ Masquerade ^
12/05 – Ft. Lauderdale, FL @ Revolution ^
12/06 – Tampa, FL @ The Ritz ^
12/08 – Indianapolis, IN @ The Vogue ^
12/09 – Peoria, IL @ Limelight ^
12/10 – Detroit, MI @ St. Andrews Hall ^

* = w/ Ghoul, Doyle, and U.S. Bastards
^ = w/ Ghoul, He Is Legend, and U.S. Bastards
# = w/ Ghoul, Doyle, U.S. Bastards, and Stonecutters

Read the full statement below and contribute to Derk’s donor drive here.

My name is Michael Derks, but I am more widely known by my stage name, BälSäc the Jaws ‘o Death. 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. 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.

This summer while I was out on the Warped tour, I began to experience extreme fatigue and weakness. Eventually it got to the point where the people around me insisted that I go to the hospital. I was treated for severe anemia, but extensive testing did not reveal a cause. When I got home, my 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 at the Massey Cancer Center at MCV and the doctors there 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. If left to run it’s course the doctors say I am most likely to only survive another 3 to 5 years. There is a treatment with a chance of curing my condition, a bone marrow transplant. 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 has brought this down to around 15%. With my family’s help and the support of my friends, I will beat this.

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. 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. I will be using labs across the country to monitor my blood over the next 2 months as we travel and will probably have to leave the tour at least once to come home for a transfusion, but as hard as the road can be, I look forward to the curative effect it can have on my soul. Everyone I have told about my condition have asked what they can do to help. 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.

–Michael Derks

In 2014, GWAR frontman David Brockie was found dead inside his Richmond, VA home on Sunday, March 23rd after an apparent heroin overdose.

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