For Photojournalist Andrew Youssef, Life Was Music. Then Came Cancer

Categories: Last Shot

Youssef is reserving his dwindling energy supply for a few choice endeavors, including using a pair of tickets to see NIN again in LA on November 8. "He's planning to go and do another shoot," says Art. Though he fights to hold back his tears, his quivering, accented English conveys hopefulness and heartbreak. "He's still planning to go, and God help him. And we love him for it."

This week, Youssef drove to Long Beach to meet up with Dexter Holland, the Offspring frontman and OC punk legend. They befriended each other after an interview Holland did for the Weekly some time ago. The plan involves one more thing Youssef has never done before: man the co-pilot controls of a four-seater charter plane, as he and Holland (a licensed pilot) take off down a runway. As always, his camera bag was in tow.

He takes pride in documenting every high point. Each photograph represents a notch on his belt that his disease can't take away. "For me, it's all about trying to prove to myself that I wouldn't let this beat me," Youssef says. "I'd like to think I'm just as stubborn as my cancer."

In life, maybe there's no greater joy than to watch a person with nothing left to give dig deep to somehow find a little extra, enough to flip open a laptop and release their pain, stand up and leave the house, lift a camera and get the shot.

Whether you discovered Youssef through his column, sweated it out with him on the front lines of Coachella, or are seeing his face for the first time on the cover of a newspaper, there's no doubt he has shown people what that kind of strength is all about. He reminds us that Superman is often the guy you least expect -- the guy who spends his life in the trenches. Though not long for this world, he's prepared to leave it exactly the way he should -- at peace, hurtling towards the clouds, a mortal looking down on the world through the lens of a god, flying high.

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