Terminal Cancer Allows Me to "Make a Wish" with Nine Inch Nails
[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.]
Lindsey Best Andrew Youssef
My life continues to be a whirlwind since I posted my column about going into palliative care. I've been coordinating visits with friends, tying up loose ends, sending more e-mails and trying to find a break in between it all to have some quiet time to unwind and decompress.
The way I decompress is by reliving some of my favorite moments. Flying to San Francisco to see Nine Inch Nails at Outside Lands and seeing them again at the Troubadour definitely qualify as moments that had me at peace with the fact I might not be able to see them on November 8 at Staples Center.
Fortunately for me, my experience with Nine Inch Nails would not end there, as I was invited to see them rehearse for their current Tension 2013 arena tour. Surreal doesn't quite fully explain my time spent with the band. I was greeted immediately by keyboardist Alessandro Cortini, who quickly introduced me to Trent Reznor. The whole crew and staff went out of their way to make sure I was comfortable. I was spending fourteen hours in bed, and suddenly, I found myself at Nine Inch Nails' rehearsals. I couldn't have dreamed that up if I tried.
It was amazing to see one of my favorite bands rehearsing in an empty arena while I sat on a plush couch in front of the soundboard. Whenever they dimmed the lights to examine their mind-blowing light show, I found a way to sneak in some tears because I was overwhelmed with such gratitude. Another part of the excitement was seeing bassist Pino Palladino added to the lineup, and backup singers Lisa Fischer and Sharlotte Gibson providing another dimension on the vocals.
I was loaded up on medications in order to get me through the time I spent there and well aware it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It never got old seeing some of my favorite songs performed back to back. I would wake up and wish I was in the Bill Murray movie Groundhog Day so that I could relive it forever. The rehearsals were catered, and during lunch and dinner, I was able to speak to various members of the band, trying hard to curtail my excitement.