About two-and-a-half years after his diagnosis, Youssef had shared the news of his illness with only his closest friends, family and colleagues. Even as the disease advanced, he worked hard, as always. Rarely one to surrender to aches and pains, he was even less likely to talk about them. But then after so many years of watching and reading about people dying from the same affliction, Youssef had a change of heart. In late February, he started writing his column, chronicling his struggle with cancer.

The disease had come out of nowhere in early 2011. At first, he didn't know what was wrong. He'd lost about 20 pounds and seemed to be getting sick more easily than usual. Then, during an assignment shooting Gang of Four at the House of Blues for the Weekly, Youssef was seized by stomach pain and nausea—he'd barely made it through the gig before stumbling to his car. Streaks of blood in his stool, he says, "should've raised more red flags."

Soon after, Youssef passed out at work and was rushed to the ER. A colonoscopy and a CT scan revealed spots in his liver. Later, the doctor sat with him and his parents to deliver nine terrible words that stuck vividly in his mind: "You have colon cancer that's spread to your lungs."

Atoms for Peace
Andrew Youssef
Atoms for Peace
With Trent Reznor
Andrew Youssef
With Trent Reznor

Youssef immediately broke down. How could this have happened? He was young, ran marathons and ate right. By his estimation, he was a good person. He didn't deserve this.

But there was no time for self-pity. The doctors immediately wheeled him into surgery to remove a tumor that was blocking 98 percent of his colon. The operation left him with a zipper-like scar on his abdomen. The simplest tasks became excruciating: rolling over onto one side or walking from his hospital bed to a chair. The cancer had already spread diffusely to Youssef's liver, like a point-blank shotgun blast.

Days dragged by, filled by tear-stained conversations with a handful of friends over the phone and with his parents and brother, who rotated shifts by his side at the hospital. He dutifully emailed his employers, telling them he'd be out of commission—he didn't know for how long. Youssef no longer attended shows, which only enhanced his depression. Because of the surgery, he missed shooting Coachella 2011. He managed to watch a few minutes of the live stream of the Indio festival in bed before closing his laptop in disgust. "The sad part is I barely even had the strength to lift up my laptop at that point," he recalls.

Two months later, after moving from Huntington Beach back to his parents' house in Downey, Youssef decided to get back to the business of shooting shows. "I knew I had to get up and regain some sort of active life, or I would die a lot quicker," he says.

The first show on his list was Fleet Foxes at the Hollywood Palladium in September 2011. Days before, he prepared himself by doing laps around the house with a camera bag strapped over his shoulder.

For the first time in years, Youssef found himself asking for a ride to the show. One of his friends and fellow photographers, Lindsey Best, was kind enough to not only drive him up, but also watch over him as he sat against the barricade, conserving his energy for the headliner.

The roar of fans and the sight of Fleet Foxes' grinning, bearded front man, Robin Pecknold, walking onstage gave him the lightning bolt of adrenalin he needed. He remembers barely having the arm strength to hold up one of his 8-pound cameras. But he heaved himself up and held the camera, which felt like an anvil in his trembling hands. Youssef adjusted the shutter speed to account for his shaking, and before he knew it, it was over. He'd made it through the allotted three songs.

When Best dropped him off at home, they hugged goodbye. Holding each other in her car with the motor running, they both began to break down.

"I couldn't believe after all I had been through that I successfully attended a concert and photographed the show," Youssef wrote in his second column, titled "Helplessness Blues at a Fleet Foxes Show," published this April. "For those three songs, I momentarily forgot I had cancer. It was and still is the best feeling in the world. I was back doing one of the things I loved to do the most."

*    *    *

To understand Youssef's love for concert photography, you have to know about Judas Priest's Defenders of the Faith tour stop at the Long Beach Arena in 1984. It was the height of the '80s metal scene, crusty Sunset Boulevard types, with Viking hair, black leather and forearm spikes, roamed the pit like Mad Max extras. It was on this sweat-drenched, beer-splattered floor that a 9-year-old Youssef found himself at his first concert, tagging along with his 14-year-old brother, Pat, and their father, Art (an Americanized take on his Arabic name, Atef). The trio couldn't have looked any more out of place.

By the time he hit his teenage years, the skinny, fair-skinned, Brillo-haired boy was addicted to concerts of the metal and grunge variety—the sounds that dominated his adolescence. Even his parents, both retired librarians, bucked just about every vocational stereotype, allowing their sons to blast KISS and the Scorpions as they drove to hockey games with the windows of the family's Chevrolet Caprice Classic down.

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
5
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
14 comments
iloveconcerts
iloveconcerts

Super cool blog (Amateur Chemist). What a joy to see those amazing concert photos!

Also, great article Mr. Jackson. Love the photo art cover Ms. Best. Thank You for sharing all of this.


lifelieswaiting
lifelieswaiting

Healthy people who are pissing their lives away should take note. THIS is how you live your life. Every moment is precious. You rock, Youssef.

CRIMECONCERNS
CRIMECONCERNS

Our prayers and thoughts are with you and your family.... thank you for sharing this difficult time with others.  As my sister is currently battling the same Stage IV cancer, the difficulties are over whelming and we can only hope that a cure for this horrific disease is not far off.  God bless you. 

CAHinSoCal
CAHinSoCal

A wonderful tribute to an extraordinary man.  I do not know Andrew personally but I have gotten to know him the next best way...through his mom.  Andrew, as your  journey on this earth comes to a close, please know that you will end up with the best seat in the house for every single concert of your choosing as well as all the LA Kings games.  Peace and comfort to you and your family.

merlinlacy
merlinlacy

Thankyou Youseff for sharing your life.   I do not know any family that has not suffered loss from this killer.  My past spouse, mother, in laws and more to come I am sure .

Most have handled this killer in very helpful ways trying to give to others all that they are able to give, just as you are doing.  So very proud of you for joining this group .  Trust we shall find a cure soon.   Trust that I could learn to be so positive and helpful should I ever have to deal with this killer.  Thankyou for your example and for being a role model .... THANK YOU AND MAY OUR HEAVENLY FATHER CONTINUE TO BLESS YOUR LIFE.

humbuckinhoney
humbuckinhoney

I don't know you, Youssef.  But you rock.  And you are beautiful and passionate.  Thank you for being utterly and entirely and wonderfully you. 

heatherreger
heatherreger

Really nice work Nate! A powerful tribute.

Stephanie Roske
Stephanie Roske

Very nice article of "one of us". Andrew could be any one of us and I am so honored that he shares his journey. Sending love and prayers.

terminator4007
terminator4007

Such a clear article. I was able to picture every part since I live a similar life style as youssef. I even wonder if I had bumped into him at a few concerts waiting in the pits. But I look up to people like him that continue to persevere to do more until ones last dying breathe gives out. Stories like these encourage us to do more, and be more because we really never know when we will go.
~~~R.I.P. Kimberly Illobre~~~

tapthedancer
tapthedancer

Seen the pictures,they are great pictures!!

Reading the story, I realize the  man is great. What a shame to have to loose you so early... Andrew,you left a beautiful mark on this world, for ever to be seen, never to be forgotten by anyone....

René Bruce
René Bruce

Like I said last week, have him go check Kanzius Cancer Research Foundation they are moving to clinical trials.. Google John Kanzius !!! He can be cured !!!

 
Anaheim Concert Tickets

Concert Calendar

  • December
  • Fri
    19
  • Sat
    20
  • Sun
    21
  • Mon
    22
  • Tue
    23
  • Wed
    24
  • Thu
    25
Loading...