Phil Leadbetter ready for round two

Team PhilibusterWithin the close-knit community of bluegrass musicians, there are few figures as widely beloved as Phil Leadbetter. This prominent reso-guitarist has worked at the top levels of our music, touring with J.D. Crowe while also handling his booking arrangements for many years, and being involved in the formation and launch of two popular bands, Wildfire and Grasstowne.

But it has been his endearing personality, winning smile and outsized sense of humor that have made him such a favorite among his peers. You’ve not arrived in bluegrass if you haven’t been pranked by Uncle Phil, as he is affectionately known, and his phone shenanigans are the stuff of legend.

We have written many times about Phil’s struggle with cancer over recent years, and the seemingly miraculous success of the stem cell treatment he received at Vanderbilt two years ago. Now it appears that the disease has returned, and he must again move into survival mode.

He has asked that we share this open letter with all his fans and friends.

Phil Leadbetter“As many of you may know, I was treated and cured of cancer following a stem cell transplant on September 10, 2012. I had battled Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (cancer of the lymph nodes) for 24 months. I have had nearly two really good years following my stem cell transplant that allowed me to return to life. I have enjoyed two years back playing as a member of The Dale Ann Bradley Band, as well as recently completing a new solo CD titled The Next Move which will be released on Pinecastle Records this Fall.

On June 4th, I received what should have been my last scan. I was feeling great. Feeling healthy. I was told if this scan remained clear (as all the others had), that I would need no further scans. The news wasn’t good. New cancer had shown up in my pelvis, stomach and neck. I had a biopsy on June 10th that showed that the cancer had returned.

I met with my cancer doctor at Vanderbilt who told me that my only real chance at survival would be another stem cell transplant. This time with donor cells from one of my siblings. The plan is for me to enter a new type of chemotherapy. Hopefully I can reach remission. If I do, I will have to relocate to Nashville where I will be hospitalized for 3 months during this life saving proceedure. The timing for this couldn’t be worse, but my main objective is survival. I know this is going to be a very difficult time for me and my family.

Once again, it looks like I will have to walk away from music, and focus on living. I am very positive, and ready to get started on recovery again. I hope you will keep me and my family in your thoughts and prayers as we start this fight all over again.

Thanks for all your friendship and support.”

It is also feared that Phil suffered a mini-stroke over the weekend, and he is slated to start on medication to help prevent further episodes today.

Leadbetter is a fighter, and he remains upbeat and positive, just as he did through a year and a half of prior treatment – even when things looked bleak. You can bet that he will give this everything he’s got, and we’re certain that all our readers will join us in wishing his Godspeed with his therapy.

As he put it…

“I want to beat this devil that took James Alan Shelton and Mike Auldridge from us. I know this time it’s going to take a bigger fight, but I’m ready to hit it head on.”

Two of his close friends have created a Facebook page to follow his progress, and a PayPal account where donations can be made. If you feel moved to contribute, please do so.

A colorful Team Philibuster arm band will be sent to all donors of $5 or more.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.