Last Shot: A Concert Photographer's Battle With Cancer

Categories: Last Shot
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Lindsey Best
Andrew Youssef
[Editor's Note: Longtime concert photographer and fellow Weekling Andrew Youssef found out almost two years ago that he had Stage IV Colon Cancer. In that time, he has continued to shoot tons of music events for us on top of other freelance work and working a day job at a hospital, of all places. As he continues to fight for his life, this series allows him to tell his story in his own words.]

It was close to two years ago that I passed out at work. Fortunately, I work as a pharmacist in a hospital and was immediately rushed down to the emergency room. During the several months prior to this incident, I had lost about 20 pounds and started to get fatigued very easily. The streaks of blood in my stool probably should have risen more red flags. At the age of 35, my thoughts jumped to a possible diagnose of Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis.

When my gastrointestinal doctor appeared in my room, he suggested I have a colonoscopy and a CT scan to see what was happening. After the CT scan, I was wheeled down for a colonscopy. Eager to hear about my results, I asked my doctor what the scan showed moments after being injected with some anesthetics. The last thing I remember before going under was the doctor telling me the scan showed I had some spots in my liver. Why would anything be in my liver?

I awoke in the recovery room in a daze, and the nurse asked the doctor if he wanted to give me the results. He mentioned he would tell me upstairs in my hospital room later that day. I can remember the moment vividly when the doctor told me that I had a tumor obstructing my colon by 98 percent. They could not perform the colonscopy as I was too obstructed and immediate life-saving surgery was crucial. I've never cried so hard in my life than when realizing I had Stage IV colon cancer.

The cancer had aggressively spread from my colon into my lymph nodes, which sprayed the disease like a shotgun blast into my liver. Things like this aren't supposed to happen to people my age. How did I get so lucky? It didn't make any sense, and I was shell-shocked. My physician called me later that night to see how I was doing as he could tell I was distraught.

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22 comments
JamesHartline
JamesHartline

The Bible teaches that the power of life and death are in the tongue. Never speak the words of your demise over your life. Speak the blessing of life over yourself. The doctors predicted my death many years ago. I refused to accept their declarations of demise for me. I have fought AIDS for 16 years, Hepatitis C for 24 years, cancer for 10 years, 3 near-death experiences in the past year, a nearly ruptured gall bladder, degenerative joint disease and many hours of warfare in the hospital. But, I arise from the sick bed to run my course in this life until God says I am done, not the doctors. This past June, I completed my first 13.1 mile 1/2 Marathon when I completed the San Diego Rock n Roll 1/2 Marathon in 01:51:00. These are the words I live by from the book of Psalms: I shall not die, but live, And declare the works of the Lord. The Lord has chastened me severely, But He has not given me over to death. Open to me the gates of righteousness; I will go through them, And I will praise the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord, Through which the righteous shall enter. I will praise You, For You have answered me, And have become my salvation. (Psalms 118:17-21 NKJV) God bless you and get well through the same faith in God that I have. James Hartline

LCohen2
LCohen2

Every time I see you at a concert, Andrew, I am filled with inspiration.  I hope you beat all of the odds and are with us for a very, very long time.  Thank you for sharing your story so we can all be enlightened by your insights and honesty.

rzrbk8
rzrbk8

Man, I've been trying to get ahold of you for awhile, it's been a long time . . . I'm sorry to hear about this, keep on fightin'! I think of you often; I'd love to hear from you if you're up to it. It makes me happy to know that you are still lovin' the music. Much love to you bro!

ktm882
ktm882

Andrew, please look into alternative medicines as well. Cancer thrives in an acidic environment, b17, hemp oil and other  ingredients  switche blood back to alkaline state. I don;t even know you but I feel for you and will pray for you. There are other methods not endorsed by mainstream medicine. Best of luck and walk with Grace. :-) <3

kirstiecat
kirstiecat

I have been lucky to get to know you both through photographs and spend time with you in real life, Andrew.  You have more stamina and drive and ambition when it comes to working through your pain and getting your great shots no matter what.  I really don't know how you do this to be completely honest with you  but it makes me think that more things are possible between heaven and earth than many people realize.  Of course, it also makes you truly an exceptional artist and human being (possibly superhuman.) 

kirstiecat
kirstiecat

I have been lucky to get to know you both through photographs and spend time with you in real life, Andrew.  You have more stamina and drive and ambition when it comes to working through your pain and getting your great shots no matter what.  I really don't know how you do this to be completely honest with you  but it makes me think that more things are possible between heaven and earth than many people realize.  Of course, it also makes you truly an exceptional artist and human being (possibly superhuman.) 

kirstiecat
kirstiecat

I have been lucky to get to know you both through photographs and spend time with you in real life, Andrew.  You have more stamina and drive and ambition when it comes to working through your pain and getting your great shots no matter what.  I really don't know how you do this to be completely honest with you  but it makes me think that more things are possible between heaven and earth than many people realize.  Of course, it also makes you truly an exceptional artist and human being (possibly superhuman.) 

ronlyonphoto
ronlyonphoto

Thanks for sharing your story with us Andrerew. You've been a big inspiration and have always enjoyed sharing space with you in the LA/OC photo pits. I look forward to your next installment and our next encounter at a show.

judy141
judy141

andrew is an amazing human, who keeps on going even in the face of it all. this company is proud to work with him

jkravitz
jkravitz

My best thoughts with you as you battle this horrible disease.  My family is touched by cancer, we lost my sister to breast cancer. See you in the pit, stay strong!

LorriM
LorriM

Thank you for sharing your story, Andrew. I too, a fellow music photographer, was diagnosed with colon cancer exactly two years ago. Your explanation was spot on, in regard to how one tends to assume it's nothing serious. I too, fell to my knees in excruciating pain, and was taken to the ER.  I thought I had stomach flu. Had been experiencing severe stomach pain for several days but again ... chalked it up to stomach flu and stress. 
It was surreal to have the doc tell me after the colonoscopy that I had colon cancer tumors that needed to be removed ASAP.
Though my level of progression was not as yours is ... I did undergo colon resectioning surgery ... it had not spread to other areas ... but it did absolutely change my life.  I was 46.
I am cancer free but the way I wake up daily, and approach life dramatically and forever changed that day ... and I will never be the same. 
Remember, Sharon Osbourne also had progressive colon cancer as well. 
Bless you, and may your health find a way to heal instead of the alternative. I believe strongly in alternative medicine and healing. Much is out there to benefit from. Peace to you and thank you for your courage and confessions. 

PhotoDivaLV
PhotoDivaLV

I hope to share the photo pit with you someday.


Kampy
Kampy

Andrew, you look familiar. I'm sure we've been in a few of the same photo pits. Thanks for sharing your story. Looking forward to reading future updates. Hope there's a lot of them to come, spread out over a long time. –Kampy

GustavoArellano
GustavoArellano moderator editortopcommenter

We are honored to have Andrew as a Weekling, and it's an honor that he's allowing us to publish his column. I look forward to the day where Andrew tells the world he beat his cancer down. FUCK CANCER!!!

paulhebertphoto
paulhebertphoto

One of the coolest guys EVER in the pit. Andrew is a true inspiration - seeing him when I walk into the pit always brightens my day.

paulgiunta
paulgiunta

Andrew was the first person that I met in the first pit that I ever photographed a show from.  Getting to know him over the last couple of years has been truly a privileged.  I have so much respect for him doing what he is doing and I don't know if I know anyone with more courage than him.

Andrew, you are an absolute inspiration to me and I look forward to seeing you in the pit now and many more times to come.

sleepydoll3
sleepydoll3

Love you Andrew and so glad you are doing this.  Music and the love of family and friends will get you through this. - Debi

photo-grafitti
photo-grafitti

mad love for Andrew.  he is an inspiration to us all.  he is constantly working on his craft & passion through the love of music, and i see that deep inside him.  he is, without a doubt, one of the sweetest photographers i have ever met inside the photo pit, and still believe that til this very day...and he can jam on the guitar like a mad-man! love you, buddy

XO, harmony

vampee
vampee

I just heard about this today, Drew. Thoughts and memories began rushing in my brain and I can I truly state that you are such a huge part of some of my fondest memories. It's sad how life, time, and distance can change friendships, however, you still have a special part in my heart. I will admit that this news saddened me at first. However, after reading this article, I find myself feeling admiration for your strength and courage as well as sesne of inspiration because you are still doing what you love no matter what....Plain and simple, you not only rock my socks off, you freaking Kick ASS, my friend. I hope that you kick the shit out this cancer because you clearly are not a quitter!-----<3 Carla

rebelmel82
rebelmel82

I've had the pleasure of calling Andrew my dear friend over the years and I've also watched him fight this with everything he has got.  From day one, he's been fighting this and not letting it bring him down.  He's an inspiration to me; watching him do what he loves despite how bad I know he must be feeling. I love him dearly and hope he continues to fight and kicks this cancer's ass out his system so he can continue to bring you all awesome concert photos and be one of my very best friends.  LOVE YOU DREW!

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