Spirit Of The West singer and founding member John Mann announced today he's battling early onset Alzheimer's disease.
"I know this will come as a shock to many of you," Mann said in a statement on his official site. "It wasn't for me. I've had my fears and suspicions, but I was remaining hopeful that there was some other cause for the problems I was experiencing. But I don't want to spend any more energy trying to hide my symptoms. I don't want to feel embarrassed. I want to accept what has happened and live. I will continue to make music and I will continue to do shows."
"It has taken us some time to reach the acceptance necessary to be able to speak of it publicly," the band said in a statement. "John, his family, and all of us had concerns but were hopeful that there was some other cause for his problems. Although we may never know what triggered John's condition, it seems safe to conclude that his battle with cancer in 2010 was a contributor."
The statement went on to say Mann, 51, and his wife Jill Daum wished to make the announcement so "he can more honestly and openly go through life facing what to him is simply the 'new normal' of his existence." Mann revealed the news to friends and family before going public "in the hope that he and his loved ones might have time to come to grips with ramifications, outcomes and eventualities."
The band added that while Mann has remained "positive and proactive" they hope to "carry on a little longer for our fans, for our families, and for the sake of our own hearts." The statement concluded by thanking fans for their support and love and asking them to "stand with us as we turn the page to the next chapter in the long career you have so graciously given us."
In an extensive interview with The Globe and Mail Mann said he was "getting a bit antsy" in wishing to reveal his diagnosis which came approximately one year ago. Years earlier, while battle colorectal cancer, Mann had concerns about dementia but doctors considered the problems to be related to the stress and strain of battling cancer.
Bandmates Geoffrey Kelly and drummer Vince Ditrich saw signs something wasn't quite right as Mann began having difficulty remembering lyrics and guitar chords.
Meanwhile, Mann, is also an actor, was having difficulty with performances as far as back as 2001. "He had the therapist talking to him outside the rehearsal door, just trying to calm him down, because he was having so much trouble," his wife Jill Daum said.
Mann, who released an album called "The Waiting Room" earlier in 2014 about his cancer experience, hopes to continue touring and performing for as long as he can, though his bandmates say every gig can be nerve-wracking.
"You're on tenterhooks, hoping that he's going to have a good night, because if he has a good night, then we can have a good night," Ditrich told the Globe. "Because he's always been our Gretzky, right? He's always been the guy you can count on in the dying minutes of the game to put the puck in the mesh."
Mann is also busy working on a theatre production of "The Waiting Room," a play slated to open the 2015-16 season at Vancouver's Arts Club Theatre. The band is hoping to launch a "retrospective tour" in the fall of next year and having discussions with filmmaker Pete McCormack ("Facing Ali") about possibly filming the trek for a documentary.
Many took to Twitter to express their sadness at Mann's diagnosis and send him well wishes. Here are a few of them:
Good thoughts and deep respect for SOTW John Mann. http://t.co/B8g5Evc2xm— Arlene Bishop (@arlenebishop) September 8, 2014
Stunned to hear the news of John Mann being diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Courage, energy & love to him & his family.— Enough (@Stroppy_Girl) September 8, 2014
Listening to "(Putting up with) the Joneses" and feeling genuinely sad about John Mann of Spirit of the West. Honest to God Canadian talent.— Ryan Belbin (@ryan_belbin) September 8, 2014
Spirit Of The West have a show Wednesday night (Sept. 11) in Revelstoke, B.C. According to his official site, Mann also has a string of solo shows throughout September and October.
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