N03 — January 2013 — Punk Guitarist Survives Brain Tumor
Intro: Nine lives. That's what guitarist Henry Cluney says he has. The punk rocker made it through a car crash and several bomb blasts in his homeland of Northern Ireland. But then he got hit with another blow; a diagnosis that threatened his music career and his life. Vivien Williams has Henry's story.
"I started Stiff Little Fingers, the band."
A punk rock band from Belfast. Guitarist Henry Cluney says their first singles, "Suspect Device," and "Alternative Ulster" were smash hits.
"It was about Belfast and the way things were."
Cluney says their early music reflects the political situation of Northern Ireland in the late 70's and 80's.
"I suppose in Northern Ireland I could have been killed a few times. I've been through bombs and things."
But the biggest bomb he faced was not during those volatile years in Belfast. It was the diagnosis last year of a brain tumor the size of a baseball.
"They said it could have been there for years. Who knows how long it's been growing?"
"What he had is a tumor called a subependymoma, and that's a very rare, slowly-growing brain tumor."
Mayo Clinic neurologist Dr. Derek Johnson says Henry likely had the tumor for years, and it finally got big enough to cause symptoms.
"I'd been feeling dizzy for quite a while over the summer.
Henry needed surgery, which brought with it a small but real risk of damaging motor skills needed to play the guitar.
Neurosurgeon Dr. Jason Hoover and his team performed the operation to remove the entire tumor. Afterwards…
"The therapist brought in a guitar to me and said, 'do you want to try'? So I did, and it was the way it always was. Awful. (laughter). Noisy and out of tune, but at least I could still do it."
The tumor was not cancerous. Henry is back on tour.
"Just playing gigs."
Solo in the U.S. and Europe. Thrilled to have lived through the violence and unrest in Belfast and the bomb that fell on him personally in the form of a brain tumor.
"You know you're not here forever. Enjoy yourself."
For Mayo Clinic News Network, I'm Vivien Williams.
If you want to hear some of Henry Cluny's music, check out henrycluney.com.
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