A rock ’n’ roll lifestyle doesn’t typically involve saving lives, but for Anchorage-based Dr. Joanie Maier Hope and her bandmates, all gynecologic oncology surgeons from across the country, that’s exactly the case.
Hope, along with Drs. John Boggess of Chapel Hill, N.C., Nimesh Nagersheth of New York City, William “Rusty” Robinson of New Orleans, John Soper of Chapel Hill and William Winter III of Portland, Ore., make up band N.E.D., short for No Evidence of Disease. Spark Media Productions’ Andrea Kalin learned about the group — and its unique fan base — and was inspired to tell the story of N.E.D. and the gynecologic cancer patients that cheer them on. The film will be showing in Juneau at 6:30 p.m. tonight, Monday, April 21, at the Goldtown Nickelodeon. Hope will be in town for a Q&A session after the film.
The band got its start in 2008 at an annual conference of gynecologic oncologists, with the six doctors joining together to play cover songs to entertain the attendees.
“We played the concert and thought it would be a one-time, fun show,” Hope said. “But it was such a great experience … and we thought about how music can be inspiring, and educate and raise awareness about the cause.”
The group decided to continue making music together, despite being spread across the country, and started writing original music. They practice and collaborate remotely most of the year, but get together on average of four times a year to practice heavily. They’re putting out a third album soon.
What’s the music like?
No, it’s not about gynecologic cancers. But, Hope said, “some of the songs are certainly inspired by life experiences, the women we take care of.”
Dr. Hope said they make rock ’n’ roll music, with universal themes of love, heartbreak, loss and healing.
N.E.D. want fans to listen to their music and enjoy it, then wonder, “Who are these guys?” and discover that they are all women’s cancer surgeons and that they have a mission.
“It’s not music you’d have any clue that they have a specific mission,” Hope said, but she said they have put an insert into CDs with information about gynecologic cancers. They also often play gynecologic cancer events.
The band will play a gynecologic cancer awareness event in Girdwood in September, as well as participating in the Climbathon.
Being part of N.E.D. and playing shows isn’t easy, Hope admitted.
“We’re all incredibly busy people. It’s really challenging and takes dedication and commitment,” she said. “We have to take time away from our families and jobs. But it’s a labor of love.”
All proceeds from the band’s shows and concerts go toward a foundation dedicated to women’s cancer. In Alaska, an organization called Let Every Woman Know formed to help raise awareness for gynecologic cancers, the showing of N.E.D. is organized as part of the Let Every Woman Know campaign by Cancer Connection.
Awareness of gynecologic cancers is important, especially since it’s a topic not often talked about. There are different types of gynecologic cancer, some easily caught early, others not, and at least one type of cancer — cervical — can be prevented entirely, Dr. Hope said, if children are vaccinated against it.
Hope also wanted to raise awareness that it is not necessary to leave Alaska to get treatment for gynecologic cancers. She has the only practice in the state in Anchorage and recently brought on a second specialist.
“I want to let people know that there’s state-of-the-art, compassionate, evidence-based care here in Alaska,” she said.
Hope serves patients out of the Alaska Women's Cancer Care in Anchorage. One of the organizers of the film showing, Sheryl Weinberg, underwent surgery with Hope last May.
“About a year ago I was diagnosed with stage 3 endometrial cancer,” Weinberg shared. “Approximately 90,000 women are diagnosed with gynecological cancer annually; about a third of them die. I had successful surgery just after Memorial Day (2013), followed by a course of radiation treatments last August and have been pronounced cancer free.”
Sharing about her experience was not in character for Weinberg, but she said she is sharing to heighten awareness of the signs and symptoms.
Weinberg, Hope and others invite the Juneau community to join them Monday evening to learn more about gynecologic cancers — or as the film’s synopsis describes it: “below the belt cancers and a below the radar cause.”
Know and go:
“N.E.D. — No Evidence of Disease” by Spark Media Productions, with Dr. Joanie Maier Hope Q&A
6:30 p.m., April 21, at the Goldtown Nickelodeon
More information online:
Editor's note: Edited to reflect Dr. Hope's practice: Alaska Women's Cancer Care.