The scene rallies around Mike Marchant, who was recently diagnosed with lymphoma
Although to our knowledge, Mike Marchant's name has never appeared in bold print in the New York Times touting the local scene, he's a local treasure and has most certainly played a crucial role in helping to make the music in this town infinitely more compelling. He first made a name for himself a half dozen or so years ago as the creative mastermind behind Widowers before spending time with Houses and then fronting his Outer Space Party Unit. Over that time, he's proven to be one of the most gifted songwriters in Denver, and, more important, one of the kindest, gentlest, most genuine guys we've ever met.
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Almost four years ago, we wrote a short item about Marchant after he'd suffered a concussion from being hit by a car one morning as he was taking out the trash in the alley behind his house. "To say Mike Marchant has an angel resting on his shoulder is an understatement on par with saying our economy is sort of in a bad way right now," we wrote, marveling at all that he'd survived up to that point, from being mugged in broad daylight walking home one afternoon, which left him with another concussion, to mistakenly being arrested and detained in a Mexican jail while on vacation.
If that whole angel bit is indeed true, then it is now facing its biggest test, as Marchant was recently diagnosed with lymphoma just before the holidays, and he's in the midst of undergoing treatment right now. After undergoing a biopsy that proved to be inconclusive a few weeks earlier, he was diagnosed with stage two Hodgkin's lymphoma. "I had a huge, swollen gland in my neck, just on one side," Marchant explains, "and so that's why I went out to the doctor in the first place, and they started doing tests at first, thinking it was an infection or something like that. So it took about a month and cost a couple grand to be diagnosed just because there's so much testing to do."
And that testing isn't cheap. Like most musicians and creative types in our community, Marchant doesn't have medical insurance, but, luckily, he has been getting a little bit of help from a local nonprofit that works with area doctors and hospitals to arrange for parts of his treatment and care to be subsidized. But while that certainly helps, it also doesn't cover everything.
"You know how it is," says Marchant, who remains notably upbeat, "when these things pop up, whether they're big or small, one of the first things you think about is money, even though that's the last thing you should think about. So it's like, 'Oh, I just got told I've got cancer. Oh, shit! How am I going to pay for it?' And that's like the last thing I should be thinking about. I should be thinking about getting healthy and getting better. But that's just in our nature, to freak out about money."
With that in mind -- and as testament to the overwhelmingly generous nature of our scene, a dependable benevolence that never ceases to amaze and inspire -- Marchant's friends and peers are rallying to help ease the burden of his impending medical bills. The latest such benefit takes place this Thursday, February 14, at the Larimer Lounge, where a few of those friends (Achille Lauro, the Blue Riders, the Night Shades and the New Ben Franklins) will share a bill dubbed the Concert for Mike: A Benefit for Mike Marchant.
"I've been continually stunned by how far people are going to help me out while this is going on," says Marchant. "It's amazing, man. It's much appreciated, you know?"
Between the help of the local nonprofit and money being raised by his friends, Marchant has been able to reserve his strength for treatment, and he definitely needs all the strength he can get right now. He's in the second week of a four-month-long cycle of chemotherapy, and it's starting to get taxing.
"I'm just now kind of getting into the bad shit that comes with chemo," he says. "Like, I haven't shaved my head yet, but I know all of my hair's going to fall off this week because it's always day eighteen or nineteen of chemo that your hair falls out. I don't really care about that -- I'm not a vain person -- but you think about being bald and having no eyebrows, and you're like, 'Oh, yeah, chemo, pain and all that stuff."
According to Marchant, the treatment is fairly intense. Once a week, he undergoes a four- to five-hour round of treatment that involves four different drugs. So far, it's been pretty taxing. He was sick for several days after the first round of treatments and left without a lot of strength or energy. "I was changing the sheets on my bed," he says, noting that one of the common side effects of lymphoma is heavy perspiration at night, "and I was lifting up the mattress to get underneath it, and I could barely do it. I was like, "Holy shit! I'm 28. Why can I not lift a mattress?"
While the effects of the treatment are likely to get worse as things progress, the fact that Marchant is so young bodes well for his prognosis. According to his doctors, Marchant says, his particular form of lymphoma, which is one of the most treatable, coupled with the fact that it was diagnosed early, gives him great odds of him beating it entirely within two years.
"That really helps a lot mentally," he says, again remaining incredibly upbeat. "I'm not going into chemo thinking, 'Man, I'm beating the hell out of my body and I might not win.' I'm going in saying, 'Oh, I'm beating the hell out of my body because there's a 95 percent chance that I'll be done.' The mass in my neck has gone down since the first treatment, which is bizarre. So it's super-treatable, which is good to know. I know that I'm not going to die from it. The odds are slim to none. My oncologist has been doing this for 25 years, and he's never lost a Hodgkin's patient.
"I'm young and I'm in good health," he goes on to conclude, "and it's been three and a half years since I had a drink or did any drugs, so my body's in good shape otherwise. So it's heavy and it's crazy, but we're hoping that one round of chemo -- that being four months -- might blast it out. So that's what I'm kind of crossing my fingers for right now."
Hear, hear, Mike. Ours are double crossed for you, buddy. Godspeed.