By the beginning of April, Spencer began experiencing pain in his hip. It persisted and deepened, preventing him from participating in a couple of planned appearances. Eating became more and more difficult until it was obvious we were not going to be able to turn his situation around by ourselves. By mid-month, Spencer was in the hospital, where he was hydrated, nourished, and scanned for the source of his pain. It turned out that the stage IV part of his cancer (the part in his bones) had grown, particularly in his hip. There was a fracture, as well, perhaps from some sort of stress or perhaps because the bone was weakened too much by the cancer. The decision was made to radiate the joint to lessen the cancer and thus give the fracture a chance to heal.
WOW! This was not how we ever envisioned this all going, and yet here we were in the hands of medical professionals, outside of our home, going to the radiation clinic five days a week for ten treatments. Quite an adjustment! We’ve got to say, though, that all of the caregivers, from the housekeeping staff to the nurses and technicians to the oncologists ~ every single one of them ~ showed such caring and cheerful attentiveness that it was easy to feel positive about the entire experience. Even when another cancerous site was discovered and another ten days of radiation was recommended, we understood the gravity and trusted the decision to move forward in the hands of these fine people.
In the midst of all of the medical changes, Spencer realized that performing was going to be a supreme challenge. The reality hit hard: he had to cancel commitments that he had booked several months back with the understanding that the progression of his disease might get in the way of fulfilling the contracts. There was a bit of panic as we realized that it was truly time to STOP and give every bit of our attention to Spencer’s physical condition. I mean, musicians NEVER cancel gigs! There weren’t many bookings left, but each one was extremely meaningful to us. This was a tough step.
The last shows that were not cancelled were three performances and an interview for the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. Thanks to the encouragement of Spencer’s radiologist and our son Andre’s foresight in hiring a guitar tech to make sure Spencer took as few steps as possible, plus Spencer’s concentrated preparation, it all came together beautifully! Our emotions ran exceedingly high during those days as Spencer played his heart out, letting the music and the audience buoy him into the stratosphere. It was a beautiful and loving way to pause Spencer’s memorable career.