Happy Rare Disease Day! 5 Musicians with Odd Ailments

Categories: Weird Holidays

Scott Dudelson via Flickr
Deerhunter singer Bradford Cox
Like all good people, I want to kick cancer in the dick, but I will say one thing for the bastard: When you're as widespread and horrible an attack on the human body as cancer is, you at least leave behind you a network of survivors, support groups, foundations and so on for people to participate in a shared experience. A horrible one, but at least you can find others who will understand totally what you're going through and how they dealt with it.

You can't say the same for someone afflicted with, oh, I don't know, Jumping Frenchmen of Maine Syndrome. There's no lobby in Congress fighting for you, there's not a Friends of Jumping Frenchmen of Maine Syndrome chapter nearby and you are pretty much on your own.

This problem is why the last day of February is observed as Rare Disease Day.

The goal of the National Organization for Rare Disorders is to use the observation to sort of big-tent all the people afflicted with something for which no telethon exists. It started in 2008, on the 25th anniversary of the Orphan Drug Act, which offered tax incentives to pharmaceutical companies for developing and manufacturing medicine to treat diseases that were too rare to be big markets.

And just because you're a famous rock star doesn't mean that some of the oddball ailments won't nest inside you. Today's playlist is dedicated to our favorite musicians who deal or dealt with rare diseases.

"The Letter That Johnny Walker Read"
Asleep at the Wheel pedal steel guitarist Lucky Oceans was in critical condition in 2008 when he was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré Syndrome. The disease has no known cause, and afflicts victims with weakness and paralysis starting at the feet and moving up.

Luckily, Oceans made a full recovery, and posted a story on ABC about his experiences with a helpful guide for others who may think they have GBS.

Nic Potter was the bass player on Van Der Graaf Generator's best album, The Least We Can Do Is Wave to Each Other, as well as contributing to a host of other acts. During the last two years of his life, he was diagnosed with Pick's disease, a neurodegenerative disease that attacks the brain cells, causing loss of speech and dementia.

It is also characterized by behavioral changes like a loss of social conduct, compulsive pacing and overactivity. The condition is fatal, and claimed Potter's life earlier this year.

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