SPEARFISH | Gordy Pratt, longtime Black Hills musician and comedian from Spearfish, is aggressively self-treating his recently diagnosed cancer with what many say is the best medicine.
Pratt announced on Nov. 1 that he and his performing partner Dalyce Sellers have had to cancel their upcoming shows for the foreseeable future, as Pratt begins four months of radiation and chemotherapy treatment of tonsil cancer.
But the downtime from performing, he said, will allow him and Sellers to revamp their comedy and music act, adding what will likely be considered dark humor.
“We’re already looking for cancer jokes,” he said. “I’m serious.”
As he just begins to battle the disease Pratt has already accumulated more than $7,000 in bills, relating to treatment, mostly dental procedures to prepare for radiation and chemo.
A GoFundMe page (gofundme.com/f/gordy-pratt) has been established.
As of Monday afternoon morning, Pratt’s GoFundMe page had raised pledges of $13,300 toward a goal of $15,000.
Another benefit for Pratt is planned for Nov. 22 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Pump House at Mind Blown Studio, 73 Sherman St., in Deadwood.
Other benefit events are planned for 2 p.m., on Sunday, Jan. 19, at the High Plains Heritage Center in Spearfish and another on Sunday, Feb. 16 at 2 p.m. at the Homestake Opera House in Lead.
Pratt said he first noticed some tooth pain, but initially dismissed it.
"I'm one of those guys that goes to the dentist every seven years whether I need to or not," he said.
Then earlier this fall, while on a fishing trip in the Hills, he noticed that one of his tonsils was “as big as a cherry tomato,” without his experiencing other symptoms, such as difficulty in swallowing.
“How could you have something that big inside you and not feel anything else?” he said.
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He first sought treatment at a local urgent care clinic, and five days later was at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., where the diagnosis was confirmed.
Pratt said he had never heard of tonsil cancer.
“I asked the doctor: Who gets that?” he said.
The doctor replied that all the patients he had seen that day had been diagnosed with the disease.
According to mdedge.com, about 5,000 new cases of tonsillar cancer are diagnosed each year, with men 3-to-4 times as likely as women to develop the disease.
Pratt said potential treatments include surgery, but he decided to undergo four months of chemotherapy and radiation treatments as a less painful and less destructive option.
Pratt began his first round of chemotherapy last week. He said doctors are unsure if his singing voice will come back following treatment, or if he will sound the same.
“Consequently no one knows how long he will be out of commission and what the future holds for him professionally,” Sellers wrote in a social media post.
Pratt said he knows the continuing treatments will take a mounting toll, with weight loss and difficulties eating and swallowing likely to come.
From the outset, however, Pratt has remained amazingly upbeat, from his posts on the GoFundMe page.
“I will post updates, but only funny stuff,” Pratt said. “Dal (Sellers) had bladder cancer so we (are) working on cancer comedy. Really. Just the other day she said: Tonsil cancer, it's all in your head.”
Pratt has been performing as a theater and music professionally for 35 years, sharing stages with the likes of Kenny Chesney, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and the Beach Boys.
Known as the "Victor Borge of the Guitar," Pratt has also appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America and has been writing and performing his brand of clean, yet irreverent stand-up musical comedy since 1990.
He also created the Deadwood Production Company, producing 12 historical shows, which were performed more than 3,000 times.
Pratt is choosing to see the silver lining surrounding the dark cloud of his disease.
“Comedians are always on the lookout for new material," he said. "And I’m getting lots of it."