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'Solid drummer, even better human': Music helps Victoria drummer battle cancer

Tony Green hasn't missed a beat during his two-year battle with rare blood cancer
Tony Green, pictured in the middle in white with band Buzzard Asylum. (Paul Archer)

For Tony Green, drumming is more than a lifelong passion. It's what gets the well-known Victoria drummer through the largest battle of his life: against cancer.

"Drumming has helped me immensely. I pretty much look at drumming as I look at breathing. I live and breathe it, and it helps take your mind off of everything."

Green, 63, was diagnosed two years ago with myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPN), a rare type of blood cancer that leads to an overproduction of any combination of white cells, red cells and platelets and increases risks for heart attack, strokes and bleeding problems.

"On top of that, 11 years ago, I had a tumour on my pituitary gland, which required brain surgery. So I'm kind of a rare breed at the cancer clinic," Green said.

"It puts out chemicals to all the other glands and tells them what to do. And mine doesn't do that anymore, so I have to take pills to supplement the chemicals it's supposed to put out. It's caused me to have thyroid disease and a few other things."

Now on disability, Green has found that his passion for '70s/'80s rock and playing in two bands – Buzzard Asylum and cover band Hit and Run – keep his spirits up as he navigates extreme fatigue, soreness, headaches, sleeping problems and more brought upon by his medications which he said are currently keeping his condition "under control."

And Green doesn't let the hard things stop him from doing what he loves or finding his meaning.

"I have a little catchphrase. I tell myself to get up, get over it, and get on with it. If I was going to give anybody advice about it, I'd say just have a purpose in life, something that you love to do every day and stick with that."

Tony Green. (Paul Archer)

Over the course of decades, Green has brought joy and colourful performances to audiences, which pepper his memories of a life lived pursuing his passion for music.

Back in 1990, he and his brother won Q100's Rocktoria contest making it onto their distributed album with their band Haven. "A little later, we formed a band called Clown Show where we dressed as a bunch of clowns and we played Top-40 hits." Then, he was in a Led Zeppelin cover band called Black Dog. With Hit and Run, he plays at Smoking Joe's Cops for Cancer out in Sooke twice a year.

These days, the music is his meaning and the attitude towards which Green approaches it serves as an inspiration to the "really, really supportive" community around him including Buzzard Asylum bandmate Murch. Murch met Green in school when they were both eight and recalls him already being an accomplished drummer at that age. He attributes Green to getting him into music. "I'd go over and watch him play after school and was like, 'Holy cow, this guy is amazing.'" Now he describes their relationship as being "like brothers."

As for seeing Green get through his health struggles, he said he has seen him handle it with grace.

"With the diagnosis, it's like water off a duck's back kind of thing ... he really didn't change much at all."

Musician Lucius Perreault had similar sentiments, calling Green a "solid drummer, even better human," on Facebook.

Perreault elaborated in an interview.

"Tony is an exceptional rock drummer and a compassionate individual. Despite facing cancer, he demonstrates remarkable courage and devotion to his passion for music, as well as his commitment to his band members.

"Prior to our performance with them at Herman's Upstairs, there were concerns about his ability to participate. Tony truly impressed the crowd when he arrived ... his performance outshined many others present. This remarkable ability is what distinguishes Tony from his peers, making him truly outstanding."

Buzzard Asylum at a band practice in June, 2024. Pictured left to right: Murch, Tony Green, Sasha Nevermind, Glen Butcher. Samantha Duerksen/Black Press Media


Sam Duerksen

About the Author: Sam Duerksen

Since moving to Victoria from Winnipeg in 2020, I’ve worked in communications for non-profits and arts organizations.
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