If you’re the type who believes that everything happens for a reason, then you won’t be surprised to discover Andrew McMahon thinks his battle with leukemia was, in some ways, meant to be.
The Jack’s Mannequin frontman, who was diagnosed with with acute lymphoblastic leukemia on the same day his band finished remastering its debut album in 2005, says on the heels of writing a record that drew on the symbolism of being a sick man, he felt a bizarre sense of fate attached to the whole experience. “Obviously it was one of the biggest struggles of my life but there was sort of a peacefulness in that situation that I think people assume wouldn’t be there. A lot of me felt like it happened for a reason and whatever that reason was, I would eventually come to find out.”
Now, having raised funds for cancer research through his non-profit initiative, the Dear Jack Foundation, and having also released the band’s second delivery, The Glass Passenger, McMahon says the whys and wherefores have become much clearer. “What has become a very hopeful thing for a lot of people seems like my struggles at least have played out in ways that are positive for other people. And in that sense, it was hard, but I wouldn’t change it if I had to. I learnt a lot about myself,” he says. “There were a lot of patterns in my life that were negative and that frankly, had they been permitted to continue, probably would have put me in a far worse place than I was sitting in the hospital fighting leukemia.”
McMahon started the piano-rock group Jack’s Mannequin in 2004 as a side project when his former outfit, emo-rockers Something Corporate, took a break. Jack’s quickly became McMahon’s major focus and while doctors wouldn’t agree, McMahon is certain the frantic lifestyle he had been living until that point played a part in his illness. “I was working at a pace that was so ridiculous and so manic for the entire time I was in Something Corporate. We took this break but I dove head-long into making the Jack’s project, and I was more passionate and more electrified toward that one experience than anything I had ever done,” he says. “I rarely slept and rarely ate for over a year. I just did not take care of myself. I was wasted more than 50 percent of the waking day and I would be lying to say I didn’t have some of the most fun of my life. It was incredible and I wouldn’t trade it for the world but I think that inability to find balance and that inability to take a breath—I don’t think it was healthy. And it doesn‘t surprise me it culminated into a brutal illness.”