In 2006, Andrew McMahon rented a charter bus, cleaned out the air filters and drove it cross-country alone. He was not a loner or a germaphobe. Just an eager 23-year-old with a dangerously weak immune system who feared he might die before performing his newest songs.
The Jack’s Mannequin singer weighed 115 pounds.
“I think there was a point of gross ambition where I used touring to escape the realities of what I was going through,” said McMahon, now 31, reflecting on the year after he completed intense treatments for acute lymphocytic leukemia (a cancer of the blood and bone marrow).
What he was going through? Wasn’t it done? Hadn’t McMahon “survived” cancer, “beat” cancer, been “cured” of cancer? From an outsider’s perspective, seeing that McMahon had been extensively touring would seem like the Californian had recovered from his illness, as physically and emotionally healthy as ever.
But as the nonprofit organization Stupid Cancer put it in its manifesto video, “We believe when the doctor says, ‘You’re cured, go home,’ that is not the end of the story.” In many ways, McMahon’s cancer story had only just begun. He had plenty of cancer-related complications ahead of him, from physical injuries like broken toes to years of post-traumatic stress disorder. It took McMahon nearly a year to increase his weight past 120 pounds and even longer for him to discuss his cancer experience with a therapist. At first, he wanted to forget that it ever happened by returning to his life of touring, a risky operation given that his stem cell transplant made him very susceptible to infection.