Q&A with Young Adult Cancer Survivor Andrew McMahon

Andrew McMahon, founder of Dear Jack Foundation and front man of the band Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, was diagnosed with leukemia at 22, in the midst of his musical career. Like other young adults with cancer, McMahon’s treatment affected every aspect of his life, from career to relationships and everything in between. Learn more about his experience below.


Dana-Farber: What was the most difficult thing for you when you were diagnosed with and treated for leukemia?

Andrew McMahon: Putting my career on hold was particularly hard for me. I had so many exciting things going on with my music at the time and stepping away from that was very difficult for me.


DF: How has your music helped you cope with cancer?

AM: Being a songwriter served me well both in coping and cataloging my experience during and post cancer. The things I struggled sharing in conversation often manifested themselves in the songs I wrote and that helped me continue to move forward.


DF: Now that you’re 10 years out of treatment, does cancer still play a role in your life? How?

AM: There will always be a piece of my cancer experience traveling with me. Philanthropy is largely how I engage with my role as a survivor. My work with Dear Jack is a constant reminder of how lucky I am to have survived and how important it is to continue to advocate for those who find themselves in the same position I was in years ago.


DF: What would you say to another young adult who just found out they have cancer?

AM: Breathe, breathe, breathe. Your ability to find peace in the moment will largely depend upon practicing deep breathing. This practice will help reduce your stress, guide the medicine on its voyage through your body, and will pull you through the darkest most confining moments of your cancer journey.


Learn more about McMahon’s cancer experience in the video below, prepared for Dana-Farber’s Young Adult Program’s annual conference.

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