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Cancer Killah

A punk creator discusses the death of it.
December 1, 2003, 12:00am

Photo by: Lu | Sent from: New York City

Subzero is one of those quintessential NYC bands like Madball and Sick of It All that goes back to the late 80s, when the LES was still scary. Unfortunately, in the past fifteen years, punk and hardcore have evolved into something even Kelly Osbourne and Good Charlotte can enjoy. The original bands can’t pack houses the way they used to and it’s hard to tell who’s not kidding. When Subzero’s singer was diagnosed with two types of cancer at the same time (lymphoma and leukemia) it seemed to some of the people close to him like that era of hardcore might disappear forever. Things got so bad, in fact, that he fucking died twice, but thanks to some unknown forces, each time he came back from the flatline and survived. Now Subzero is stonger than ever, and their new song “Lion Hearted” explains why. VICE: How did you survive death? Cancer Killah (Lu): While on the road touring the US, I was experiencing these severe bone pains, which grew worse as the tour went on. After around two and a half weeks of dealing with it, I went into shock from the pain and was hospitalized. By the time I realized how sick I was, the cancer was so far ahead it was infesting my blood. They didn’t think I was going to make it. I died twice and came back to life. I was puking my guts up and shitting myself. I was bleeding from my mouth, and my body had all these little purple bruises all over it. My skin was green. I had cold night sweats where I would sweat through my clothes and my bedsheets so much every night that they would have to come in and change me and my soaked sheets around six times a night. Then things got worse. I was shivering in my sleep. I had tubes in my chest. My hands, toes, and jaw were completely numb. I was the living dead. I was on about seven different kinds of chemotherapy a day for almost five years. I was getting spinal taps with chemo in the needles that would travel up through my spinal fluid and bathe my brain. I was getting brain radiation every day for a month. It was hell. There were bone marrows where they would shove this thick-ass needle (a little thinner than a pencil) into my hip bone and draw out the marrow from my hip, which was really painful because I had to stay awake as they did it. So how am I talking to you right now? I beat it. That’s how I earned the nickname Cancer Killah, and that’s what I wrote the song “Lion Hearted” about. It’s about defeating what I call the devil, cheating death. I owe it to my higher power to help inspire young kids and just all people in general that are going through a similar situation. One of the most important things to remember in a situation like this is to always keep that Positive Mental Attitude, like the Bad Brains say. Your mind is a very powerful tool that is capable of so much more than we understand. It most definitely has the power to heal all sorts of wounds, whether they be mental, physical, or, in my case, terminal. I’ve seen many come in and die in the hospital because of their attitudes towards the situation. So how do you feel right now? I think this whole experience has made me into a stronger and smarter man. I feel that if I beat this devil then I can do just about anything that I want to. One thing that I am very proud of that has been new to me since I went into remission is that I go into the hospitals to visit and talk to sick kids and elderly folks. Try to make them feel like, or know, that they have a chance to beat the disease. Keep your head up, and at the very worst, you’ll go down fighting.

Photo by: Sarah | Sent from: New York City

Who’s your hero?

I would have to say my former fiancée, Kristen. If it wasn’t for her, I would be dead right now. She was my biggest inspiration to stay alive. She kept my spirits up every day and night by staying with me in the hospital by my side as she took time from a really successful career modeling. This isn’t like taking time off as a carpenter or something. Modeling is all about staying current, and you only have one short window to make your money—basically for your whole life. She was doing covers for Vogue, Elle, and Cosmo and she was walking the runways with names like Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Campbell, and Cindy Crawford. By taking so much time away from her promising career at its peak, she selflessly put her future at stake for me. Then to add to any fear about her decision, she had to deal with her brother trying to commit suicide and a lot of other horrible things. She rode through all of it just to take care of me and she never complained once. It’s hard to list all the sacrifices she made for me or to explain to people what a big deal it was, but here’s just one example off the top of my head: After leaving the hospital I needed an in-house nurse to give me shots, medicine, and clean my catheter. The catheter was pretty hard to look at. It was connected to my heart and came out of my chest via a tube. The tube fed medicine to my heart, which would then pump it through my bloodstream. I couldn’t afford the hired help so Kristen set me up in her Manhattan apartment and learned from the nurses how to do all of these complex procedures for me and she kept doing them almost daily for about five years. I owe her so much. Today we are really close. I love her.

JENNA PAMESON