Nine Musicians Discuss Chronic Illnesses

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These nine musicians who were open enough to talk to Paste about their experiences with chronic illness prove that the musical life isn’t always as glamorous as it seems. Listen to their stories about the realities of playing music while struggling with chronic illnesses ranging from kidney failure to multiple sclerosis.

Tony Ruland
The Lonely Forest
photo_5950_0-34.jpg Photo by Chona Kasinger

Chronic Illness:
Ulcerative Colitis

How long have you had Ulcerative colitis?
Diagnosed ‘07, suffered from since ‘06. 

How does it affect your professional life?
When I first started having symptoms of UC I was in complete denial. However, it led to me quitting the band for a year. From ‘07 to ‘08, I was recovering from a life-threatening situation. I had ignored the disease for so long writing it off as stress or “just a stomach ache” that eventually I lost half the blood in my body. After two weeks in the hospital I had to have a massive blood transfusion. Since then I’ve only had one flare up. These days I’m pretty careful about what I eat on the road and keep a very strict probiotic regiment. While really sick, I had the pleasure of talking to Mike McCready of Pearl Jam who also has Crohn’s disease. Getting tips from a veteran like that is a huge inspiration and also restores hope in a bleak situation. However, a flare up while touring is my worst nightmare. 

How does it impact your personal life?
The disease is even more debilitating to one’s personality in my opinion. It has led to severe depression and occasional substance issues for me while sick. Usually sprouting from just wanting to escape feeling sick and drinking my self to a stupor. I’ve been back and forth with depression meds during a flare up and they usually just make me lethargic and bored. I’m not sure what’s worse—the physical or mental part.

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