A Battle with Glioblastoma out of the Spotlight
- Grammy-nominated producer and songwriter Busbee battled a type of brain cancer called glioblastoma privately. He passed in September 2019.
- Busbee chose to share his cancer diagnosis with figure skating icon Scott Hamilton who has survived cancer three times.
- A glioblastoma (GBM) is the most aggressive primary brain tumor.
- There’s no right way to deal with cancer. A person’s health is a private matter, and a cancer battle is arguably even more private. This is why some people, including celebrities like Busbee, choose to keep their health struggles out of the spotlight.
Michael James Ryan Busbee was diagnosed with glioblastoma, a type of malignant brain tumor, in 2019. Known professionally as Busbee, he achieved great success working with a wide variety of artists ranging from Maren Morris to Pink to Keith Urban to Shakira. He passed at the young age of 43, but it’s safe to say his contributions to the music world have had a lasting impact since his death in September 2019.Read More
His passing came as a shock to many, but one person that Busbee confided in was Hamilton.
“I spent some time on the phone with him, just encouraging him and trying to help him wrap his head around second opinions or seventh opinions or whatever it would take to extend his life,” Hamilton, 63, says in a recent interview about the conversation he had with Busbee before he passed. “I was just taken aback by his love of life and family and just how, in his last year, what he created was so profound. It was unbelievable.”
And this powerful conversation has stuck with the iconic skater to this day. This year, he decided to dedicate his 5th Annual Scott Hamilton & Friends Ice Show to Busbee. The event will feature skating performances from Olympic skaters like Katia Gordeeva, Ilia Kulik and Kaetlyn Osmond, but there’ll be an added twist that makes it more of a tribute to Busbee. He’s handpicked artists whose personal and professional lives have been touched by Busbee’s story including the country trio Lady A, commanding vocalist Grace Potter and Christian pop duo For King & Country to perform songs Busbee had a hand in creating for them.
“There’s going to be some moments in this show that are just going to allow people to understand what it feels like to be alive,” Hamilton said of the event. “This is what it feels like to feel, and this is what it feels like to empathize, and this is what it feels like to have the power that they have in their hands to change the world.”
All the proceeds will go to the Scott Hamilton CARES Foundation which was created to help fund cancer treatment research – a cause near and dear to Hamilton’s heart after his own cancer battles.
“I wouldn’t be alive without the research,” he said. “You know, there were these two doctors from Indiana that just came up with a cocktail that allowed my cancer to be eradicated. So, we just got to keep funding research.”
Hamilton was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 1997, a brain tumor in 2004 and another brain tumor in 2016. He’s gone five years without any chemotherapy to date, and now he’s focused on staying healthy and keeping a positive attitude.
“The tumor shrinks and grows and shrinks and shrinks and grows and shrinks,” Hamilton notes. “Right now, I’m just focusing on getting strong and working out and eating less and eating cleaner and being active and just laughing a lot. It’s just about doing all of those things that allow every cell in your body to just wake up and be alive.
“I have my down days, of course, but in general, I wake up every day with the thought, ‘I’m going to get strong and I’m going to live my life.'”
Understanding Brain Cancer
Normal function of the brain and spinal cord can become difficult when a person has brain cancer. This is because a tumor can put pressure that is on or spreads into nearby normal tissue.
There are many different types of brain tumors. Some types of brain and spinal cord tumors are more likely to spread into nearby parts of the brain or spinal cord than others. Slow-growing tumors may be considered benign, but even these tumors can cause serious problems.
The type of brain tumor that Busbee had, for example, is called a glioblastoma (GBM). It is the most aggressive primary brain tumor. But despite the aggressive nature of GBM, the top brain researcher in the U.S. and neuro-oncologist at Duke University Medical Center, Dr. Henry Friedman, tells SurvivorNet that, “You are not dead just because you’re diagnosed with a glioblastoma. So many people are told by their doctors or their institutions that they’re at, ‘I’m sorry, put your affairs in order and just move on.’”
This message of hope comes from the promise of future clinical trials like the one Dr. Friedman and his colleagues are conducting at The Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center using the modified poliovirus.
“The modified poliovirus is used to treat this tumor, by injecting it directly into the tumor, through a catheter. It is designed to lyse the tumor and cause the tumor cells to basically break up,” Friedman previously told SurvivorNet. “I think that the modified poliovirus is going to be a game-changer in glioblastoma, but I should also say that its reach is now extending into melanoma, soon to bladder cancer.”
Keeping a Cancer Battle Private
A person’s health is a private matter, and a cancer battle is arguably even more private. This is why some people, including celebrities, choose to keep their health struggles out of the spotlight. Busbee, for example, apparently battled brain cancer unbeknownst to most people.
People like actress Kelly Preston, who was married to actor John Travolta, also kept her cancer battle a secret; she died of breast cancer at age 57 last summer. Her death was a surprise to many as her cancer diagnosis was widely unknown to the public.
On announcing her death, Travolta, now 67, noted at the time that he – like his late wife – would opt for a quiet, private road ahead as he began to grieve his wife. The actor posted to Instagram: “I will be taking some time to be there for my children who have lost their mother, so forgive me in advance if you don’t hear from us for a while. But please know that I will feel your outpouring of love in the weeks and months ahead as we heal.”
Actor Stanley Tucci also recently revealed for the first time that he privately fought tongue cancer three years ago. And actress Helen McCroy, wife to actor Damien Lewis, passed away in April at age 52 after a private battle with cancer.
People have different reasons for whether they share the news of their cancer diagnosis or not. For Marquina Iliev-Piselli, she says that sharing the news can be a burden.
“Deciding when and who to tell became quite a burden,” she previously told SurvivorNet. “So you have to relive your story over and over again.”
This alone is reason enough for people to keep their cancer diagnosis under wraps, but, in the end, the decision is up to the person diagnosed with the disease. And it’s important to remember that there’s no right way to deal with cancer; everyone handles it differently.