I promised Meg Cambern I’d not write an oversentimental piece about her recent multiple sclerosis diagnosis and the difficulties of learning to live with MS. For one, I respect her too much. I’ve called on her for help in past blogs. When I wanted to talk rock and roll fashion, she was the first person I went to, partly because she was managing vintage clothing stores at the time, but mostly because she has a wicked-awesome sense of style. If I’ve just needed some insight on the Houston music community, she’s been a good person to turn to, since she not only is part of the current incarnation but also grew up around area musicians. Her father, Dwain, was a longtime, local guitarist.
Moreso, I told Cambern I’d cool it on the drama because that’s just not her. She’s approaching these new developments in her life with a matter-of-factness that greatly enhances her chances to manage the illness instead of the other way around. But we all get by with a little help from our friends, and Cambern’s are coming together tonight at Rudyard’s for “Megsgiving.” The benefit fundraiser will feature Modfag, The Freakouts, Killer Hearts, Dead Roses, Talk Sick Brats, Hell’s Engine and sets by DJ Black Slacks.
“We had already been talking about a bunch of different ways to help her in general with the avalanche of bills piling up,” says Ash Kay, frontwoman for The Freakouts, of which Cambern is a former member. “[Freakouts bassist] Jerrica [Aelderich] actually asked [Modfag’s] Bill [Fool] what he thought of throwing a benefit show for her, and he thought it would be a good idea to make it a part of his annual Thanksgiving showcase. We are super grateful to him for hosting this event and the lineup is just top notch. It will no doubt be a fun night!
“I've seen Meg go through some rough shit over the time I've known her," Kay continues. "Some of which I thought, if it were me, I don't know what the hell I'd be thinking, or how to even begin dealing with any of it. The loss of many people very close to her, any streaks of bad luck, a truck accident I was sure she and [boyfriend and Modfag guitarist Jones] Steven hadn't survived, all of us almost rolling backward off of a mountain leaving California — and she's kept a positive outlook and a smile on her face. Through it all! MS is undoubtedly devastating to deal with in so many ways, but I have zero doubts that she'll get through this. I keep a smile on my face, just knowing that to be a fact.”
I asked Cambern to share some thoughts with us, not to garner more attendance for the show, but because this is one of those instances where music stuff is nudged aside for life stuff. As I mentioned before, Cambern’s always proven helpful. She shared some thoughts that might help anyone who could benefit from that positive outlook Kay mentioned.
Houston Press: When were you diagnosed?
Meg Cambern: In late August.
What’s been the biggest adjustment you’ve had to make to date, both lifestyle-wise and in terms of doing music stuff?
Having MS has made everything harder, but not impossible. I try not to let it hold me back from life as I knew it. I have my bad days for sure. There are times I don't want to get out of bed at all, times when I go out and feel like I'm outside of myself, but as the months pass, I'm learning how to deal with the odd feelings and push through it. And my passion for music will never die. Having MS has only heightened that.
People that know you – even just a little and from afar like FB friends you’ve met while helping them with crazy music stories they’re writing – know you to be a badass young woman. That group, females in their twenties to forties, is most susceptible to MS, though. It seems utterly contrary. So, was the diagnosis surprising to you?
I knew something was wrong, but you don't ever want to think it’s something they can't just fix. My mom has had MS since the ‘70s, so it was a little less surprising to me then probably your average person.
Could you share with readers what the first signs were that maybe something wasn’t right?
One morning I woke up and couldn't see out of my right eye. It was as if I had starred at the sun for a long time. I thought I might've just gotten something in my eye because physically it looked normal. A week passed, I was having an extremely hard time seeing at work, so I schedule an ophthalmologist appointment, which they didn't see anything wrong. I couldn't believe it! How could they not see anything but I'm seeing black? That night I had my first muscle spasm and I knew I needed to go to the hospital.
And, what’s been the most valuable medical advice you’ve received to help you manage MS?
Live and eat healthy! And try to stay relaxed. Stress is really bad for MS.
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You love music so maybe you seek it out on days that aren’t so good, MS-wise. Which songs, if any, have given you some solace on days like those?
Every song I listen to is music therapy for me. I try not to dwell on the fact and listen to as much feel-good music as possible.
Are you working on music right now? I know when you and Steven left The Freakouts there was some plan to maybe do something together.
Modfag has been working on a new full-length album that I've had the pleasure of being a part of. Steven and I still play music together and I still aspire to play live music again. Until then, you can catch me selling gear at good ol' Guitar Center!
It’s not surprising that your musician friends have rallied around you at this time. If I’ve learned anything by watching the Houston music community it’s that it is close-knit and it takes care of its own. As someone who is not only a part of the current Houston music community but also grew up surrounded by musicians, tell me what it means to have that support. How is it different, if it is, from the support you’re getting from family and friends who aren’t musicians?
The support has been overwhelming. I knew my friends were awesome, but I never expected this. When I first found out, I remember sitting in the hospital and looking at my phone and seeing everyone's post and it brought me to tears. I was out of work for a month, if it wasn't for the Go Fund Me campaign Raychel Fichtner started and the Black Sheep Parlor benefit, I don't know how we would've gotten by and paid for all the doctor visits I had. And now this benefit — Bill Fool has really outdone himself this time. I'm so grateful to know all of you and feel very loved. And as far as difference goes....the music scene is my family so there really is no difference.
Megsgiving, featuring Modfag, The Freakouts, Killer Hearts, Dead Roses, Talk Sick Brats, Hell’s Engine and sets by DJ Black Slacks. 8 p.m. tonight at Rudyard’s, 2010 Waugh. $10, 21+. Those wanting to help who can’t attend the show can donate here.