Gwar guitarist Mike Derks – known to most as Balsac the Jaws 'o Death – has been diagnosed with myelofibrosis, a rare, potentially fatal form of blood cancer. In a statement posted via DKMS (a nonprofit that helps blood cancer patients find matching bone marrow donors), the musician revealed that he'd sought medical attention after suffering recurrent bouts of "extreme fatigue and weakness" during Gwar's stint on the Warped Tour last summer. Without a stem-cell transplant, Derks says myelofibrosis will likely claim his life within three to five years. He's since launched a "virtual donor drive" via DKMS to help him raise money and find eligible donors for the procedure, which he plans on undergoing early next year. Until then, he's vowed to continue on Gwar's current fall tour, as originally scheduled. Head here to pitch in: you could save a legend's life! Read Derks statement in full, below.
"My name is Michael Derks, but I am more widely known by my stage name, Balsac the Jaws 'o Death," the guitarist begins. "I've spent the last thirty years behind a mask as the guitarist for the shock rock band Gwar. And that's where I'm comfortable, behind the mask. I am not someone who enjoys putting my life out for others to see on social media, and I do it now only because I know many people are concerned about me."
"This summer while I was out on the Warped tour, I began to experience extreme fatigue and weakness. Eventually it got to the point where the people around me insisted that I go to the hospital. I was treated for severe anemia, but extensive testing did not reveal a cause. When I got home, my hemoglobin levels continued to fall and the only course of treatment has been a series blood transfusions to keep my red and white blood cells from dropping to dangerous levels. I went for further testing at the Massey Cancer Center at MCV and the doctors there have diagnosed me with myelofibrosis, a disease that causes scarring inside of the bones and interferes with the marrow's ability to produce blood cells. If left to run it's course the doctors say I am most likely to only survive another 3 to 5 years.
"There is a treatment with a chance of curing my condition, a bone marrow transplant. This procedure involves destroying my diseased bone marrow with high doses of chemotherapy, and then replacing it with healthy marrow from a donor. I will hopefully have the transplant early next year. I will spend a month in the hospital and then at least a year in recovery, where my immune system will be practically non-existent. The procedure has a mortality rate of 30 percent, but the Massey Center has brought this down to around 15 percent. With my family's help and the support of my friends, I will beat this.
"Since the only thing I can do while the doctors try to find a matching donor is to get myself physically fit, I've decided to not let the impending hospitalization keep me from doing what I enjoy most, performing with Gwar. I will be joining them on the upcoming North American tour where we will be playing many of the songs from our new album, The Blood of Gods, a record that I am prouder of than anything else I've put out in my 30 year career. I will be using labs across the country to monitor my blood over the next 2 months as we travel and will probably have to leave the tour at least once to come home for a transfusion, but as hard as the road can be, I look forward to the curative effect it can have on my soul.
"Everyone I have told about my condition have asked what they can do to help. I have teamed up with the incredible people at Love Hope Strength to offer a way for my friends and fans to not only help me, but all of the thousands of people out there in need of a bone marrow transplant. We are running a virtual drive to find donors to join the international registry of people willing to save a stranger's life. So, please, if you are willing and able, become a donor today. There is no obligation, it will just allow you to find out if there is someone out there who's life you could save."
This past summer, Revolver spent a couple days with Gwar at the Vans Warped Tour's San Diego and Pomona, California, stops to chronicle the (very NSFW) madness, from bloody showers to presidential assassinations in effigy. Watch below.