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Local Musician Wants to Share Valuable Lesson with Others

Cory Fisher

If he could, Angel South would give every American male a stern lecture.

In fact, the South Tahoe-based musician says his frank talks with friends may have already saved the lives of four men.

“Your body doesn’t lie. Small things can be a sign – I wish I’d known,” he said. Then he swallowed hard, looked straight ahead and said,”They’re telling me I might have a year and a half to live.”

Unfortunately, South’s illness is not a rare one.

It’s one that more than 165,000 American men each year discover they have – prostate cancer.

“They don’t put this on the news for nothin’,” said the blues guitarist, singer and composer. “If I can save a few guys by talking about it, it’s worth it.”

Because the prostate is a male sex gland, South, 54, says many men don’t get regular check-ups due to embarrassment, or they simply ignore what seem to be minor symptoms.

“Just like women need to get regular mammograms and pap smears, men should be screened for prostate cancer,” said Valerie Rudd, health services manager for the El Dorado County Public Health Department. “The problem is, most men just don’t.”

“It’s true,” said South. “Men aren’t educated about this at all. They’re used to toughing it out – those ugly cells couldn’t care less.”

In the United States, prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer in men. Researchers are still learning more about the causes and early detection of this common disease. American studies show that prostate cancer is found mainly in men over the age of 55, however an increasing number of health workers – including Rudd – recommend screening while men are still in their 40s.

Three years ago, South noticed he had to get up to go to the bathroom two or three times a night.

He didn’t see a doctor.

It went away.

Last summer, the problem came back, only slightly more intense.

He didn’t see a doctor.

It went away.

Finally, the same problem hit him harder in February.

This time, South went in for a checkup.

Tests revealed the cancer had already spread from his prostate to surrounding areas, including his pelvis and kidney.

These days, South struggles with bouts of fatigue and pain, and often finds it hard to walk. He takes close to 50 pills a day – including a variety of herbs – and gets regular blood checks.

Despite side effects of nausea and hot flashes, he is currently receiving hormonal treatment to “stop male hormones from feeding the cancer.”

“But I still have to work, and I sweat bullets when I do,” he said. “No one’s paying my rent.”

South continues to play one-man gigs around Northern California, including Sacramento, Auburn, Placerville, and the small town of Cool on Highway 49.

After playing backup guitar for B.J. Thomas, South joined a band called “Chase,” which had two hit albums and won a Grammy. After most of the members of the band were killed in a plane crash, South moved to Tahoe and began again as a solo blues artist. His album “Swamp Doggy Dog” was ranked one of the Top 10 Blues Albums of 1994 by Blues Revue magazine.

Two of his songs were featured on a CD album by blues legends John Lee Hooker and Charlie Musselwhite. His better-known hits include “Receipt for Playin’ the Blues” and “Heart Shaped Butt.”

But playing gigs is still one of his greatest loves, and an impressive number of fans is testament to his talents.

“I tell people about my condition at my shows – I want people to learn from my experiences,” said South. “I get a lot of standing ovations these days.”


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