We have learned that last week, both Herschel and Joyce Sizemore received separate cancer diagnoses. I spoke with Joyce this morning, who relayed that she and Herschel took calls from their doctors less than 15 minutes apart.
Herschel, of course, is a legendary figure in bluegrass mandolin, widely regarded as among, if not the first mandolinist to develop a playing style wholly outside of what Bill Monroe had established. His distinctive technique, often called the Sizemore Roll, is now a commonplace in modern mandolin playing. It involves using adjacent strings in an alternating pattern to fill a “pause” in a musical idea, in much the way a banjo roll is used, as opposed to the tremolo Monroe would commonly employ.
Joyce has been by his side for more than 50 years, and is equally beloved within the bluegrass community. They, and their three adult children, live in and around the Roanoke, VA area.
Herschel had been experiencing some throat problems, and was scheduled for a tonsillectomy in late September, preventing him from attending IBMA as has been his custom. The biopsy revealed a tumor, and he is scheduled to begin radiation shortly.
Joyce went for a mammogram last week, where a mass was found which also showed a tumor. Like Herschel, she expects a course of radiation.
Fortunately, both of these cancers have a high curability rate, and their prognoses are good. Those who know them recognize the Sizemores as “tough old birds,” well-positioned to fight yet another battle.
We hope to report full recoveries in the near future.