[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.]
Writing my last column was definitely one of the hardest things that I've ever done. While I was still dealing with the reactions from the column, the flood of good wishes, prayers and tearful conversations that ensued was like adding another ton of emotional weight to my psyche. A sign that things were in overdrive was that I got a warning that my cell phone minutes were exceeded. This is something that never happens.
It quickly became apparent that I needed to photograph a show to regain some normalcy in my crazy life. While I'm in palliative care, it doesn't mean I'm incapable of functioning and completing normal tasks. Luckily, I had the opportunity to photograph the opening night of Depeche Mode at the Staples Center for OC Weekly. My strength is definitely not where it should be, but with the help of my brother (who drove and helped carry my camera bag), I successfully accomplished my mission.
I strategically medicated myself with Ritalin, which is used in cancer patients to keep them awake and alert, or else I would have just slept in bed for fourteen hours. I also took Zofran to prevent nausea, as I've unfortunately developed an untimely knack for throwing up. While shooting Depeche Mode is a nerve-rattling proposition from the outset, I felt like I was photographing my first show all over again.
After documenting the first three songs with my camera, I was very winded and my arms were like jelly. I noticed my strength and stamina have decreased significantly. While I could have been content photographing Depeche Mode once, I wanted to prove that cancer still couldn't keep me down.
Seeing that Depeche Mode was playing three nights at Staples Center, I took a couple of days off to rest and photographed the band again for Stereogum.com. This time around I had a significant amount more help, and at the conclusion of shooting the songs I didn't feel as winded. I attribute it to the large amounts of adrenaline coursing through my veins and my desire to give cancer the finger.
Another challenge lies ahead. Nearly four months ago, I bought a ticket, booked a flight and hotel to see Depeche Mode in Las Vegas. While I have some support of friends who are going to the show, It brings back memories of making the last-minute decision to fly to San Francisco to see Nine Inch Nails. Do I have enough gas in the tank to make the flight and carry my camera gear? It will be a last-minute decision, as always.
See Also: Our Complete "Last Shot" Series