Saxophonist James Casey (Trey Anastasio Band) and his battle with colon cancer were the focus of a segment on Friday morning’s episode of TODAY on NBC. The Dylan Dreyer-narrated profile on Casey, his cancer story, and the forthcoming album inspired by his journey came as part of the show’s Colon Cancer Awareness Month programming taking place throughout the month of March.

James Casey, now 40, had already forged an impressive resume as a sideman when he was diagnosed with cancer in August 2021. “From Anderson .Paak to the Jonas Brothers… I’ve been able to play with [members of] the Grateful Dead, Chaka Khan. I’ve had an amazing career at my age, and I’m just really blessed to be able to do this,” he told TODAY.

As Dreyer explained in the segment, “For months, the discomfort he had been feeling on the right side of his abdomen had gradually turned into excruciating pain.” After falling ill at Red Rocks Amphitheatre while performing with Bill Kreutzmann‘s Billy & The Kids, Casey finally went to the hospital to get checked out. “I went to the E.R. thinking that unfortunately I might have appendicitis,” he said. Instead, the doctors told him he had Stage 3 colon cancer.

“My stomach was distended so badly that I had to get emergency surgery because the tumor had blocked my entire colon,” Casey explained to TODAY. After undergoing surgery to remove the tumor, which had reached his lymph nodes, he began “debilitating rounds of chemo” to keep it from spreading further. “But once the chemo began,” Casey continued, “the cancer had metastasized, and now it’s a stage four.”

“I went from touring around the world to being in the hospital with emergency surgery, almost dying, and being told of a different outcome for my life,” he reflected.

Related: 2020 Reflections With Saxophone Player James Casey (Trey Anastasio Band)

Per TODAY, colorectal cancer is the fourth most common cancer among men and women and the fourth leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S. The statistics look even more dangerous among Black Americans, who are “20% more likely to get colorectal cancer and 40% more likely to die from it than any other groups.”

“I had no idea about colon cancer at all, I didn’t know anything about it,” James Casey explained in the clip, “and watching what happened with Chadwick Boseman, I mean, it hit everybody.” (The lauded actor died in of colorectal cancer in 2020 at age 43).

“Two years after being diagnosed,” Dreyer noted, “Casey continues to work on his music and is able to tour while undergoing treatment. He’s partnered with the Colorectal Cancer Alliance to raise awareness of the importance of getting tested.”

“The thing about colon cancer is it is preventable,” Casey adds. “It is 100% preventable if you catch it early enough.”

James Casey’s experience with cancer has prompted him to step into the spotlight and pursue recording music under his own name. He released his first solo EP, Christmas collection A Little Something For Everyone, in 2022, and used its rollout as a platform to advocate for proactive screenings and raise money for colon cancer research organizations like HOPES Clinic and the Colorectal Cancer Alliance.

His first-ever non-holiday solo album, The Kaua’i Project is due out this spring, and will carry the perspective on life that Casey has developed throughout the last two years. As TODAY notes, the lyrics of the album’s lead single, “New Bloom”, are a message of hope for those surviving colon cancer: “No matter what happens today, you’ll be okay.”

“That is the mantra I’ve had going through this cancer journey.” Casey explained. “I hope that it speaks to the people, because it spoke to me.” Listen to “New Bloom” by James Casey below.

James Casey – “New Bloom”

The United States Preventive Task Force recently lowered the recommended age for colon cancer screenings for all adults from 50 to 45. If you have a history of colon cancer in your family, you should consider testing even earlier. For more information about colorectal cancer and screenings, head here. Watch the full segment on James Casey from the Friday, March 3rd, 2023 episode of TODAY below.

How James Casey Is Raising Awareness For Colorectal Cancer – TODAY


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