Charlie Lustman is giving voice to cancer survivors.
On his new CD, “Made Me Nuclear,” which he dubs “the first pop record about surviving cancer,” the singer-songwriter chronicles his journey from diagnosis through recovery and beyond.
Lustman will perform original selections from the recording on Sundays from 3 to 4 p.m. during free shows in June and July (except July 6) at the Cuervo Theatre in Hope Village. The Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center sponsors the performances.
The CD represents the cancer journey from start to finish. “It’s like theatre — from the first phone call of diagnosis to when they tell you to can go back to your regular life, which is impossible,” he said.
Lustman knows the journey well. On March 1, 2006, doctors diagnosed a bump on his gum as osteosarcoma of the jaw, an extremely rare cancer.
He underwent two major surgeries within two weeks near his Santa Monica, Calif., home. “They took about three quarters of my upper jaw. This,” he said, pointing to his jaw, “is all prosthetic.”
A year of chemotherapy followed.
He was sustained by his strong constitution and rebellious spirit and by reflecting on what his father, a Holocaust survivor, endured at Auschwitz. When Lustman could only eat soup, he reminded himself that his father (now nearly 80) had survived on little else for four years.
Despite his experience, Lustman clung to his optimistic attitude, which pervades the CD. He calls cancer a “health opportunity to live and love as never before.”
Lustman, now 43 and a resident of Idyllwild, Calif., wrote commercial music before performing as a singer-songwriter in Europe. In 1999, he bought, renovated and managed the Silent Movie Theatre in Los Angeles, but sold it after his diagnosis.
Cancer propelled him back into music and deepened his appreciation for his family. While he was undergoing chemotherapy on the lower level of the hospital, his daughter, Gita, was born three floors above him.
“It was very powerful to have my child upstairs when I was fighting for my life,” he said. Gita arrived five weeks early, prompting Lustman to write “Just When I Needed You.”
He hopes eventually to take his message to cancer patients in hospitals across the United States. Survivors are in a “special club,” he said.
“If you really listen and look and feel the signs that are handed to you through this experience, you’ll live life truly as it’s intended to be lived — in the moment,” he said. “You’ll realize how beautiful everything is, and all those little things that frustrated you will fall by the wayside.”
For information on Lustman’s City of Hope performances, call ext. 69301. Details on his album are available on www.mademenuclear.com.