Metro Weekly

No Evidence of Disease: Cancer warriors use music as a weapon in their fight

NEDtheBandIt’s no secret that music can provide a powerful measure of comfort to soothe our souls and provide solace as we deal with the everyday battles and stress in life. For cancer patients, their families, and those entrenched in the fight to eradicate the disease and improve quality of life, music can be a powerful refuge and escape. Nobody exemplifies this more than N.E.D. (No Evidence of Disease), a band comprised of six gynecological oncologists who are warriors in the fight against women’s cancer with their both their surgical skill and their inspiring brand of rock and roll. N.E.D. is the subject of a compelling new documentary, No Evidence of Disease, a film by Andrea Kalin that offers intimate glimpses into the lives of these musician surgeons, as well as some of their patients as they struggle to cope with a life-altering diagnosis. As one might expect, the film is both uplifting and heartbreaking, and provides a very different look at the courageous doctors who give so much of themselves to fight the scourge of cancer.

N.E.D. the band includes six prominent gynecological oncologists from around the country:  John Boggess, M.D., from the Division of Gynecologic Oncology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, on vocals and guitar; Joanie Hope, M.D., Gynecological Oncologist at Alaska Women’s Center in Anchorage, and Director of GynOncology at Providence Alaska Cancer center, on vocals and guitar;  Nimesh Nagarsheth, M.D., of Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York and Englewood Hospital and Medical Center in New Jersey, on drums and percussion; William “Rusty” Robinson, M.D., Professor of Gynecologic Oncology at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, on bass and harmonica; John Soper, M.D., Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, on guitar; and William Winter, M.D., gynecological oncologist at Compass Oncology in Vancouver, Washington and Portland, Oregon, on guitar. The band has released two outstanding CDs – their self-titled debut from 2009, and Six Degrees from 2011. 

Despite their disparate locations, N.E.D. comes together for shows and benefits to play their music, and in the process offer themselves an emotional release from the daily battles they are waging on behalf of their patients. They pour their heart and soul into their music, and it’s obvious from the film that it is a balm for them as well as for their patients. N.E.D. also uses their music as an outlet for advocating additional funding and education about gynecological cancers. More information can be found at their website, www.nedtheband.com.

NEDthemovieThe documentary No Evidence of Disease puts a human face not only on the doctors, but also the patients who are fighting for their lives. All too often we think of cancer in terms of statistics that are hard to personify. This film gets behind the statistics and offers emotional stories of courage and heartbreak. Particularly touching is the support the patients’ families provide as they endure the inevitable ups and downs of cancer treatment – the “all clear for now”, i.e. No Evidence of Disease, or the traumatic news of a recurrence or complication. The film spans several years so the viewer catches glimpses at several points along the journey for a number of brave cancer patients. Information about how to view the film is available at www.nedthemovie.com, which also contains resources on how to get involved in the crusade against women’s cancers, and a short film called What Every Woman Should Know that provides crucial information for women about symptoms for which they should be vigilant.

As discussed in the film, there is no early screening test for ovarian cancer, which unfortunately results in many cases becoming advanced and difficult to treat before they are detected. No Evidence of Disease stresses the need for education so that women and primary physicians know and heed warning signs. The need for funding is also addressed. Every November, the National Race to End Women’s Cancer, organized by the Foundation for Women’s Cancer, is held in Washington, D.C. to raise funds and awareness. There is a vast disparity in both awareness and the amount of funding that is dedicated to gynecological cancers and other forms, despite the fact that every seven seconds a woman is diagnosed with a gynecological cancer in the U.S. This year’s 5k run/walk or 1 mile walk is to be held on November 8, 2015 in Freedom Plaza. The website www.endwomenscancer.org provides information and the opportunity to make a donation.

There are battles ongoing every day, all around us, that are hard to fathom as we wrap ourselves up in the bubble of our own lives. But the reality is that nobody is untouched by cancer, and women’s gynecological cancers in particular have remained a taboo subject that doesn’t get the attention needed. No Evidence of Disease will hopefully go a long way toward increased awareness so that those individuals in position to help, like the physicians in N.E.D., can offer more resources and hope to women and their families in the most desperate moments of their lives. The relationship between the heroic doctors, patients and families exhibited in the film is remarkable to behold, and the palpable release that N.E.D.’s music provides both the doctors and their listeners is profoundly moving. It’s absolutely worth the time to check out the music of N.E.D. as well as the poignant documentary that shows the power of music and the human spirit in the lives of everyday people who were dealt a very difficult hand. It’s a reminder that although we live in a cynical world and it can often seem that we stand alone, there are good people who are willing to fight for all of us, putting themselves on the line no matter how difficult the circumstances. 

 

 

Music writer for Metro Weekly. Contact at cgerard@metroweekly.com.