There is never a convenient time to get cancer. It doesn't matter what age you are or where you are in life; no one wants this roadblock. And, worse, when it comes to lymphoma, it can happen to anyone, regardless of his or her health.
But when Michael Palmer, guitarist for the Scottish quartet We Were Promised Jetpacks, received his diagnosis of Stage 2 Hodgkins lymphoma, it couldn't have come at a worse time — especially considering where the band was at that point. After completing a U.S. tour and recording their second album, In the Pit of the Stomach, late last year, the band had to put everything on hold indefinitely. There had been a healthy (and passionate) amount of critical praise for the band's debut, These Four Walls, and the more the band toured, the more heads they turned.
People didn't just respond with a light recommendation, either — their praise and suggestions to check out We Were Promised Jetpacks often sounded more like a mandate.
We Were Promised Jetpacks
We Were Promised Jetpacks perform Saturday, November 5, at Trees.
Of course, Palmer and his bandmates — vocalist and guitarist Adam Thompson, bassist Sean Smith and drummer Darren Lackie — have a slightly different memory of how their debut played out.
"There were some good reviews and we were very, very pleased by how it was received," Palmer says. "But I can certainly remember a few bad ones."
Still, the good outweighed the bad for this band. Until Palmer got word from his doctor.
While not a death sentence — especially since it was Stage 2 — Palmer's cancer journey was not a small challenge. Given that lymphoma is treatable with a very good chance of recovery, one has to blend caution with optimism when tackling it. It wasn't easy: Between January and July, Palmer's immune system had to be destroyed in hopes of building a new one. There was the expected hair loss and fatigue. There was a lot of vomiting, too. With chemotherapy every few weeks and almost 20 sessions of radiology in June, the good parts of his body were knocked around as the bad parts were hunted down. And, Palmer confirms, the mental drain was as bad as the physical drain.
Ask anyone who has gone through cancer treatment and he or she will probably explain that the boredom of sitting around and waiting is every bit as bad as the chemo. That was certainly the case with Palmer, who quickly saw his attitude about touring with his loud rock band change over the course of his treatment.
"I was itching to get back," he says. "It's good, actually. We toured pretty hard before, and I was beginning to approach each tour with an 'OK, here we go again' attitude. Now I can't wait to get back into it."
He has other reasons to be excited now, too. While not completely in the clear, Palmer reports that he feels much better at the moment. Sure, the effects of cancer can stick around well after treatment is done, but, though he occasionally feels ill in the morning, he truly believes he's finally making some headway.
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Fittingly, his band too is starting off somewhat anew. After wrapping up the recording of In the Pit of the Stomach last year, We Were Promised Jetpacks finally saw the album earn its release earlier this month. It's a strong effort, as the sound retains the vitality found on These Four Walls.
But, after this cancer scare, it's safe to say that audiences can expect to see a band with even more drive and desire as We Were Promised Jetpacks move forward. With new songs like "Circles and Squares" and "Act On Impulse" standing on the same pedestal as older songs like "Quiet Little Voices" and "Ships With Holes Will Sink," there are plenty of reasons for older fans and newer fans to come to the band.
Their goal with the album, Palmer explains, was simple: "Hopefully just to get to keep touring and to make another record," he says. "That's always been our goal: To get to make another record."
If nothing else, second chances are something this band appreciates even more these days.