Valentine’s Day brain surgery: Why Frenzal pulled out of the Descendents tour
Frenzal Rhomb has finally revealed the reason behind the band’s sudden decision to pull out of the Descendents February Aus tour.
Frenzal was supposed to play four shows with the US punk legends, but pulled out just days before following “a sudden and unexpected illness” to one of its members. FL can now confirm it was frontman Jay Whalley who was struck down by illness while loading a bass cabinet into his car on January 25.
Posting on Facebook tonight, Jay says he suffered two seizures and was rushed to hospital where scans revealed a small one-centimetre tumour on his brain. After an anxious three-week wait he had surgery to remove the tumour on Valentine’s Day. “Valentines Day Brain Surgery,” he wrote. “Sounds like a Ramones song. They gave me general anesthetic and cut a 10cm rectangle at the back left of my skull, took out the offending alien and put the skull piece back. It was over in about three hours.”
Thankfully, the “tumour” turned out to be neurocysticercosis – the egg from a pig tapeworm – which Jay contracted while visiting Central America four years ago. The long-time vegetarian believes he may’ve caught the parasite from a restaurant worker who didn’t wash their hands properly. “Once in the brain the body reacts by sealing it in a kind of cocoon or cyst where it quite happily lived for 4 fucking years! It’s only when it dies that the body has some kind of inflammatory response resulting in swelling which in turn lead to the seizures.”
We’re pleased to report Jay is finally out of hospital after a lengthy stay. He picked up two separate infections after the operation, experiencing fevers and headaches, but is now eager to begin work on Frenzal’s ninth album, the follow-up to 2011’s Smoko at the Pet Food Factory. “If it wasn’t for the fear of death and the horrific pain, I’ve actually been living close to my dream lifestyle, lying down watching movies and bathing in opiates,” he joked. “I don’t feel like I’ve retained any deficits from the brain surgery but I guess only time will tell.”
Read Jay’s full (and graphic) account below.
Related: Frenzal Rhomb vs Descendants
Jay’s full account:
So here’s what happened.
On the 25th of Jan I was loading a bass cabinet into my car at the Pet Food Factory for a Chinese Burns Unit gig that night, when I started to lose vision and feel pretty strange. I thought I probably shouldn’t drive right now so I went inside and tried to buy a water. I was looking at the coins in my hand and realised I had no idea what they were or what they were for. Luckily my friend Davis from Front End Loader was there and after a brief moment of thinking I was on drugs, ushered me down a corridor where I proceeded to have the first of two seizures. This has never happened before and I’m so grateful Davis was there with a cool head to see me through it and call an ambulance.
The next thing I remember was waking up in hospital with an incredibly painful back and neck and my family all around trying to smile through stressed expressions. I also have a vague memory of Lindsay McDougall by my bed laughing at how he’d seen me in the nude.
The actual doctor came and told me I’d had two seizures, that they’d scanned my brain and found a small tumour about 1cm in diametre, the nature of which, we wouldn’t know until they operated, removed it and sent it for biopsy. Worst case would be a malignant melanoma, the best would be a benign tumour or an infection of some kind. I didn’t feel a lot of positivity from the neurosurgery team. The earliest they were going to be able to do the op was Feb 14th.
What followed was a grim three weeks waiting for the operation trying not to think the worst. My beautiful wife, family and friends that knew were amazing during this time, cooking food, looking after our three year old, sending super positive messages/phone calls and generally trying to lift me out of what I reckon was the bleakest time in my life. Gordy Forman’s visit boosted my spirits regardless of his real motive to check which of the pills I’d been prescribed he could use recreationally. There were several.
Valentines Day Brain Surgery. Sounds like a Ramones song. They gave me general anesthetic and cut a 10cm rectangle at the back left of my skull, took out the offending alien and put the skull piece back. It was over in about three hours.
Two hours later I was in intensive care when the head of the neuro team came in and said
“Good news, looks like it was some kind of infection ”
Holy shit, the relief I felt was overwhelming, not just for me but for my family as well. I felt like I could breathe for the first time in three weeks.
No cancer! Or as Gordy put it “Happy Valentines Day you tumourless fuck.”
So what the hell was it? How did I get an infection in my brain?
I was tested for all sorts of things over a couple of days until finally they got some results back from the lab. Here’s an approximation of the conversation.
“Have you been to Central America in the last few years?” Asked the good doctor from the infectious diseases department.
“We think it could be a parasite”
” Again!? Is this somehow related to Pico the botfly larva I picked up in the same region?”
“No, this is specifically neurocysticercosis, basically the egg from a pig tapeworm”
“A what tapeworm?”
” A pig ”
“A pig?!? I’m fucking vegetarian! How did I get the egg from a fucking pig worm in my brain?!?”
They then very calmly explained the life cycle of this thing, this is my understanding of it but you can read more here if you’re interested.
So the tapeworm eggs live in pig flesh (most common in C America but found in loads of other countries too), the pig is killed and the meat undercooked and eaten by old mate. Old mate grows a tapeworm in his intestine which eventually produces eggs. Old mate goes to el baí±o, doesn’t wash his hands properly then busies himself cooking my vegetarian burrito. Gross. Once in my stomach they never become tapeworms but they migrate into the muscle, most of the time causing no problem and you’ll never know it’s there, the only place you’ll have problems is if they make it to your brain or eyes.
Once in the brain the body reacts by sealing it in a kind of cocoon or cyst where it quite happily lived for 4 fucking years! It’s only when it dies that the body has some kind of inflammatory response resulting in swelling which in turn lead to the seizures.
I’m out of hospital now finally after an extended stay due to picking up two separate infections post operation, headaches, fevers and the like.
If it wasn’t for the fear of death and the horrific pain, I’ve actually been living close to my dream lifestyle, lying down watching movies and bathing in opiates.
I don’t feel like I’ve retained any deficits from the brain surgery but I guess only time will tell. Perhaps the slice will be taken out of my golf swing. My friend Clem thinks I will become racist.
Sorry about the Decendents shows, I’m sure I was more bummed than anyone that was silly enough to buy tix because we were on the bill. I heard it was great.
I’m having a hard time putting into words the depth of gratitude I have for the love I’ve felt from my amazing wife, my family, this band and my friends. So that’ll have to do in this forum. I’ll get emo with you over a beer real soon.
Now, let the jokes begin, if I may start with a couple of ideas thrown around between myself and Gordy about what my name should be on the next record:
Jay Edgar Hoove-er
You get the idea… So back to ‘work’ on album no. 9 and see you at a show soon enough.
Shit For Brains.