New Orleans Times-Picayune interviews Spencer Bohren about cancer

 Spencer Bohren performs as part of The Chilluns on the Gentilly Stage for the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival on May 4, 2017. The show also featured Dave, Darcy and Johnny Malone, Cranston and Annie Clements and Andre Bohren. (Ted Jackson, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)

Spencer Bohren performs as part of The Chilluns on the Gentilly Stage for the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival on May 4, 2017. The show also featured Dave, Darcy and Johnny Malone, Cranston and Annie Clements and Andre Bohren. (Ted Jackson, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)

By Chelsea Brasted, columnist, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune

cbrasted@nola.com

The Times-Picayune

Spencer Bohren isn’t going anywhere.

It’s an odd thing to look at the calendar and not see it speckled with names of far-off places where the New Orleans musician will go to thumb his guitar. But there’s a big reason he needs to stay put at the moment: He’s been diagnosed with stage IV prostate cancer that has metastasized to his bones.

The world first found out accidentally. When doctors told him earlier this year about what was making him achingly tired — the kind of tired that made getting around to all those far-flung gigs particularly difficult — he let some folks in Germany know why he was canceling a tour there. The news traveled, but Tuesday (Nov. 13) he and his wife, Marilyn Bohren, brought everyone else in on the thing they’ve been dealing with for a couple months. The reaction, including the financial kind, has been “overwhelming.”

“It was very moving, to be honest. We would have been a lot more private about it, but the truth is it was really touching to see the amazing outpouring,” Bohren said. “I can really feel the support more than I would ever have thought. It’s very palpable.”

When I called Bohren about the diagnosis, he said the last time he’d looked at the GoFundMe set up to help make ends meet while he’s not working, it was right at $6,000. I gave him the update that it was now north of $20,000.

“You’re kidding me,” he said, laughing. “That’s just going to make such a difference.”

Like anyone who’s self-employed, a musician facing the prospect of taking a year off, as Bohren intends to do, presents steep challenges.

“It’s not the same as everybody else’s job,” Bohren acknowledged. “It’s more of a calling.”

 The Chilluns perform for the crowd on the Gentilly Stage for the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival on May 4, 2017, featuring Dave, Darcy and Johnny Malone, Cranston and Annie Clements and Spencer and Andre Bohren. Ted Jackson, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune

The Chilluns perform for the crowd on the Gentilly Stage for the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival on May 4, 2017, featuring Dave, Darcy and Johnny Malone, Cranston and Annie Clements and Spencer and Andre Bohren. Ted Jackson, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune

For now, Bohren and his wife are approaching his medical care with a holistic approach. Though he and Marilyn are posting some updates to their blog, they’re keeping many medical details close to the vest — getting sick has a way of eliciting lots of advice from folks — Bohren did say he’s found some success in changing up his diet.

“Caterpillar food” is what he calls it, but the point is clear: Don’t eat anything that cancer likes.

He’s also finding time to pick up the instruments laying around his house that don’t get much love when he’s on the road.

“Every one of those guitars is teaching me something,” Bohren said, marveling at the things he’s discovering while each note doesn’t serve any purpose other than to be heard. Nothing’s getting recorded. Nothing’s being rehearsed.

Still, there are a few things on the calendar that aren’t getting moved. Among them is a December show with Rory Danger and the Danger Dangers, and a March event at the Jazz and Heritage Foundation with the Whippersnappers. He’s also looking forward to returning to teach guitar at Fur Peace Ranch in south Ohio next spring. It works out to about a gig a month, a sharp decrease for this routine New Orleans performer.

“When I do come back onto the streets,” he said, “I’ll be ready.”

Chelsea Brasted is a columnist on the Latitude team at NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune. Latitude is a place to share opinions about the challenges facing Louisiana. Follow @LatitudeNOLA on  Facebook and Twitter. Write to Chelsea at cbrasted@nola.com. You can also call or text with story ideas, tips and complaints 225.460.1350.

Spencer Bohren has Cancer

 Photo by Glenn Lancaster

Photo by Glenn Lancaster

For 50 years now Spencer Bohren has been sharing his musical heart with friends and audiences throughout the world. And for 44 of those years I have shared that wild ride. Early on we discovered that we traveled well together as we spent nearly a year exploring the coasts of America, making a few bucks here and there to finance the adventure. It was a fortuitous journey, pushing Spencer into becoming a soloist and infecting us with a love of New Orleans. We shared further adventures as we began a family, which in turn nudged us into our seven year odyssey in the Airstream trailer pulled by our 1955 red and white Chevy Bel Air in order to keep our family strong.

All along Spencer and I have been a team, sharing the work of raising our family and keeping this musician moving forward. It has been a glorious life filled with challenges as we turned roadblocks into new opportunities. And now we have perhaps the biggest bump in the road: 

Spencer Bohren has cancer

As with everything else in his life, Spencer doesn’t just have cancer; he has stage IV prostate cancer that has metastasized to his bones. It is a big one, and It has our full attention, you can be sure. After several weeks of studying and talking with doctors, healers, survivors, and friends/family of survivors, we see our path to better health. Like everything else we do, we are both throwing ourselves into Spencer’s healing full time, and we realize that we need to take a year off from touring in order to give Spencer full advantage to overcome the cancer.

To facilitate such a move, we ask your kind indulgence to help us out by clicking here to contribute to his GoFundMe. Contributions will go directly to the expenses of healing, as well as covering our basic living expenses for the year dedicated to healing. 

Many thanks to all. We love you ~

Marilyn Bohren