Remembering Guru Of GangStarr: A Lesson In Multiple Myeloma

Guru, the Boston-born MC, real name Keith Elam, was hospitalized in January 2010 after he suffered a heart attack and had been in a coma. On February 28, 2010, Guru went into cardiac arrest and, following surgery, fell into a coma. It was claimed that Guru had briefly awakened from his coma but died on April 19, 2010, at the age of 48, from a form of cancer, myeloma.

Guru rose to fame in the 80s as one half of Gang Starr, the conscious rap group he founded with Grammy award-winning producer DJ Premier. Gang Starr was also credited with the birth of the Hip-Hop/Jazz genre. About.com placed him on their list of the Top 50 MCs of Our Time, while The Source ranked him #30 on their list of the Top 50 Lyricists of All Time, saying “Guru dropped some of the most thoughtful rhymes on wax.”

A statement issued by his friend and producer Solar said: “Guru has passed away after a long battle with cancer.”

“Guru suffered from the malicious illness for over a year and after numerous special treatments under the supervision of medical specialists failed, the legendary MC succumbed to the disease.”

Multiple myeloma, also known as plasma cell myeloma, is a cancer of plasma cells, a type of white blood cell normally responsible for producing antibodies. Often, no symptoms are noticed initially. When advanced, bone pain, bleeding, frequent infections, and anemia may occur.

The cause is unknown. Risk factors include drinking alcohol, obesity, radiation exposure, family history, and certain chemicals.The underlying mechanism involves abnormal plasma cells producing abnormal antibodies which can cause kidney problems and overly thick blood. The plasma cells can also form a mass in the bone marrow or soft tissue. When only one mass is present, it is known as a plasmacytoma while more than one is known as multiple myeloma. Multiple myeloma is diagnosed based on blood or urine tests finding abnormal antibodies, bone marrow biopsy finding cancerous plasma cells, and medical imaging finding bone lesions. Another common finding is high blood calcium levels.

Multiple myeloma is considered treatable, but generally incurable. Remissions may be brought about with steroids, chemotherapy, thalidomide or lenalidomide, and stem cell transplant. Bisphosphonates and radiation therapy are sometimes used to reduce pain from bone lesions.

Cancer is among the three most common causes of death in adult males in the U.S. While a healthy diet can lower the risk of developing certain cancers, other factors like genes can play a larger role. Once cancer spreads, it can be difficult to treat.

Knowing early symptoms can help you seek treatment sooner to better your chances of remission. Early symptoms of cancer in men include:

– bowel changes
– rectal bleeding
– urinary changes
– blood in urine
– persistent back pain
– unusual coughing
– testicular lumps
– excessive fatigue
– unexplained weight loss
– lumps in breast

One in 10 patients who come to the hospital with the most severe type of heart attack have a history of cancer. Just like in Guru’s case. Although they are separate conditions, they do often interact with each other.

Gang Starr released six highly regarded albums in their time together until 2003 until their acrimonious split.