Grateful Dead Guitarist Plays Concerts With Tribute Band To Benefit The Oral Cancer Foundation

Jun 09, 2014, 04:33 ET from Oral Cancer Foundation

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif., June 9, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Mark Karan, former lead guitarist for the post Grateful Dead band, The Other Ones, and Joe Pulitano, drummer for the Grateful Dead tribute band, Deadbeat, who are both stage IV oral cancer survivors, recently teamed up to play three benefit concerts in the North East to raise money for the Oral Cancer Foundation and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. Following Deadbeat's benefit performances this spring, with Mark playing guest guitar, the two men donated $7,500 of the concert proceeds to the Oral Cancer Foundation to support the organization's research, advocacy, and educational efforts.

What's interesting is how these two talented musicians, who did not know each other before their individual encounters with this deadly disease, came together. Like many who find themselves dealing with oral cancer, Joe had complained for 14 months to his doctor about voice change, shortness of breath when speaking, and a sore throat. He was eventually diagnosed with stage IV head and neck cancer. Years before Mark's diagnosis with oral cancer, and after Jerry Garcia's death, he was chosen to share his lead guitar slot with Steve Kimock in the Other Ones. Just two years ago, while laying in a hospital bed, Mark asked his wife to hand him his guitar and a piece of paper. Twenty minutes later, "Walk Through Fire" was written, a song about his personal resolve, humility, acceptance, courage and lessons learned in his brush with the life- threatening disease. "It was one of those songs you hope for, when the universe says, 'I've got a gift for you," Karan, now cancer free, shared with us.

Close to a year after Joe's treatment ended, his oncologist, Dr. Marshall Posner, approached him and his wife to discuss the formation of a Patient Advocacy Group (PAG). A few weeks later, after agreeing to the venture, he heard an interview with Mark Karan about his own battle with head and neck cancer. Just a few months after that, Joe saw Mark perform and reached out to the guitarist through an email address he found on his website. Joe told us, "I sent him an email about Dr. Posner's idea of a PAG.  I told him I wasn't looking for money, or back stage passes, or a benefit concert – in fact I didn't know what I was looking for – maybe just to lend his name and experience to the cause."

Two hours after sending that email, Joe received an email back from Mark's wife saying that of course he would be involved, after all it was his doctors in San Francisco that had reached out to Dr. Posner (Joe's treating doctor) for guidance on a treatment that would not involve surgery and a possible end to Mark's ability to sing.  After meeting that fall, their friendship, and subsequent advocacy work, began. They are now able to perform together as survivors in support of the cause that nearly took their lives. Profoundly changed by their individual cancer experiences, they are most certainly thriving and spreading awareness along the way.

A little back ground on oral cancer - Approximately 43,250 people in the U.S. will be newly diagnosed with oral cancer in 2014.  When found early; there is an 80 to 90 percent survival rate. However, due to a lack of public awareness, the majority of cases are found at late stages and treatment morbidity is significantly higher, survival rates lower. Early detection is the key to survival so the need of an annual oral cancer screening is of the utmost importance.

The Oral Cancer Foundation is a national public service, non-profit entity designed to reduce suffering and save lives through prevention, education, research, advocacy, and support activities. Check out to learn more about risk factors, signs and symptoms, treatments, current research and current oral cancer related news, among other important information. A FREE patient/survivor discussion forum is also open to the public, where those currently fighting oral cancer can gain insights and inspiration from those who have been there before them.

SOURCE Oral Cancer Foundation