When guitarist Luke Fockler, from the Cleveland-based band Along Came A Spider, learned of his diagnosis of Hodgkin lymphoma, he turned his attention to battling the disease with the help and support of family, friends and his fellow band members. Not only was the entire band gripped with the pain of watching their friend struggle with the disease, but they also recognized an opportunity to use their artistry as a way to create music that would resonate with others dealing with “invisible diseases” or even mental health issues that are also often unseen.
“I was diagnosed in 2019 and my journey was a rough one,” Fockler says. “It wasn’t as bad as a lot of other cancer patients, but it definitely was not a walk in the park.” Fockler’s tenacity and determination to win his battle with cancer is evident in the chorus of the band’s recent song release, “Invisible Disease” which states: “This won’t break me/It tried to eat me alive, but I keep pushing.”
The emotional and compelling single resulted from the band’s journey of dealing with Fockler’s cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment. But its intent goes beyond that. To show Fockler their support and to connect with listeners who may be struggling with their own invisible issues, the band recruited friends to share their personal experiences, while clearly illustrating that these illnesses don’t define who they are. Throughout the music video of “Invisible Disease,” many of the band’s friends bear witness to their own “invisible diseases” by holding placards indicating the illness they are or have struggled with, including depression, cancer, drug addiction, anxiety and more.
Fockler has been playing live music since his teens in the late 90s and throughout the 2000s, joining Along Came A Spider in November 2011. Because of this longevity with the band, the bond among the members is very strong, which is evident in their collaboration and overwhelming support of Fockler throughout his cancer journey.
“One of the hardest parts of my cancer experience was eating, especially during treatment cycles,” Fockler says. “It was hard to enjoy food when everything is nauseating. Also I gained a lot of weight due to pre-chemo steroids. I wasn’t a fan of losing my long blonde locks and epic red beard. But I felt better about it when bassist John Calo shaved his head for solidarity.”
Having a difficult cancer journey can be physically and emotionally draining. So what did Fockler find that inspired him the most during his cancer experience and got him out of bed each day?
“I was inspired by all of my friends and family that came together to be there for me,” Fockler says. “It was all those people’s hope and positivity that kept me strong. Plus I wasn’t ready to call it quits on my musical career.”
Indeed, having a purpose by continuing to write and produce music for the band was a key aspect of Fockler’s cancer journey and subsequent recovery. The band also focused on producing an entire new album, “Your Reckoning.” But due to the pandemic, they were unable to tour their latest album and instead shared their new singles, including “Invisible Disease,” one by one.
“This record showcases what our band and all its members have been through since the last record,” Fockler says. “My experience is just one small part of our struggle.”
And while producing the record helped the entire band, it was also a therapeutic outlet for Fockler during his fight against cancer.
“Music has always been my passion, but it is also my escape. My music was one of the things that was the light at the end of the tunnel,” Fockler says. “I kept telling myself, ‘You’re gonna get through this, and tour again, and melt faces like nothing ever happened.’”
The band hopes “Invisible Disease” resonates with fans who may be dealing with similar crises in their lives.
“I want our fans, and really anyone who comes across our music or videos, to realize that a diagnosis is not a death sentence,” Fockler says. “With enough will and support, you can overcome anything. I also had a little help from some amazing health care workers, too.”
Fockler is currently in remission. Reflecting on his cancer journey, Fockler says he has learned a lot, including that “literally nothing can stop this band from moving forward.”
“We’ve had our share of setbacks, bad deals and member changes,” Fockler says. “You name it, we’ve probably been through it. Besides the pandemic, cancer is one of our biggest obstacles. I’ve learned that Along Came A Spider isn’t just five bros making music and getting into shenanigans. It’s my family.”