The "Dear Dan" Letters
In May of 2005, a PSA test revealed that Dan had prostate cancer. That first test showed a level of 151. A week later a follow-up test showed a level of 364. The cancer was raging through him. We met with a well-known surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital only to learn that the cancer had spread beyond the prostate and was not operable. From that point on, treatment decisions would be made by our new oncologist.
We now had a definite diagnosis, a doctor, and a plan: we would finish the house we were building in Maine and drive to Boston for treatments. Dan wrote an email to his closest friends:
August 15, 2004
To my very beloved friends,
First, let me apologize for being out of touch for so long. Jean’s and my life has been extremely tumultuous for the past few months and we have been withholding communications purposefully so as not to add worry and stress to your lives until we necessarily had to. I hate being the bearer of bad news but I feel it is better you should be told by us before you hear second hand.
There’s no real way to sugar coat this, so I might as well tell you straight out. At the end of May, I was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer. Tests determined that it had spread to my bones and lymph nodes and was very aggressive. Apparently, it has been active for quite a few years. We immediately began researching our options and decided to enter treatment in Boston. We flew to Boston middle of June and I am currently in treatment at Harvard Med/Mass General, one of the finest and most advanced cancer treatment centers in America. The doctors that are treating me are some of the most prestigious and leading specialists in the field of urology/oncology.
We have been commuting back and forth from Maine and have been living for the last three weeks or so on the boat while we wait for the new house to be ready. Looks like we’ll be moving in sometime around the middle of September. We have a nice waterfront rental on the island for the rest of August. It’s a joy to see the new house getting so near to completion day by day.
Jean has been an absolute angel. I couldn’t be in better or more healing hands. We have completely converted our diet and living habits to be a powerful combination of pure nutrition and anti-cancer supplements and have been advised (thanks to Irving) by some of the best nutritionists in the country. I’ve already shed over ten pounds and am preparing to enter a sound fitness program once we have settled in. We both know that my body must be in the best shape it can be in order to fight this disease. Our outlook is very good and positive and our love has deepened to a place that neither of us could have expected. I have for the foreseeable future given up any thoughts of performing or recording (the fall tour we had booked is being canceled) and now will dedicate myself to beating this thing and returning to wellness. I know that I’m facing a tough, uphill battle, but we’re continually reading about, hearing of or meeting survivors. Research is evolving and improving every day practically, and so we live in hope.
I know you’ll want to get in touch with us but at this point we would prefer it to be by e-mail. It is just too emotionally taxing for us to discuss all this again and again. I swear the hardest part of this so far has been trying to comfort our families and business associates and getting them past the shock and fear and realize that we’re O.K. After two insane months even beyond description, we are at last finding some rest and peace on the sea. We will, of course, give you each a call at some point in the late summer or fall when things have finally leveled a bit. For now, please try not to worry too much.Your love is much cherished and your friendship and humor are so important to me now. I can assure you I’m doing fine and am the same frickin’ loony I’ve always been. There are tough days, for sure, but most days Jeanie and I are living and loving and laughing and looking towards a future that we refuse to allow this shit to darken.
Know that you are in my heart and thoughts and the love I feel for you strengthens me every day.
We announced the cancellation of the fall tour on the website:
DanFogelberg.com regrets to announce the cancellation of the Fall 2004 Solo Acoustic Tour. Dan has been recently diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer.
From Dan himself: "The reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated. I am undergoing treatment and we are very encouraged by the progress I am making. I would like to express my regret over the cancellation of my fall tour and thank my wonderful fans for all their prayers and heartfelt good wishes. I would also personally like to request that our privacy and the privacy of our families be respected. If there is any news that I wish to make known to the public, it will be posted here or released officially through HK Management.”
Now for the sermon.
To each and every man....
I cannot encourage you strongly enough to get a PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) test and DRE (Digital Rectal Exam) EVERY YEAR.
The medical community suggests this for men over 50, but black men and men with a family history of prostate cancer should start getting tested at 40 - 45 years of age.
The PSA test is a simple blood test...it only takes a minute or two. The DRE, okay, every man squirms at the thought of this exam, but hey, it too takes only a minute or two, and IT COULD SAVE YOUR LIFE.
Prostate cancer can be very slow growing or very aggressive, but detected early while it is still confined to the prostate gland, it can usually be treated and cured successfully.
Once it spreads beyond the prostate it is called Advanced Prostate Cancer (PCa). At this point it becomes imminently more life threatening and harder to treat. Do yourself and your loved ones a huge favor and GET CHECKED REGULARLY. I promise you, you DON’T want to go through what I’m going through if you can avoid it.
Education and awareness are key, I urge you to follow the link below to the Prostate Cancer Foundation web site and read up on how best to protect yourself and reduce your likelihood of contracting this terrible disease.
Good wishes for Dan can be posted at:
Many thanks to Deborah and Laurie of "The Living Legacy" website for all their hard work.
A year later, on his birthday, Dan posted the following on the website:
August 13, 2005
A personal letter from D.F.
First, let me send everyone some very good news. In our first 14 months of treatment, we have succeeded in slowing the progression of my prostate cancer down to an almost negligible level. Jean and I are thrilled and incredibly relieved and finally feel like we can at last take a breath. While we understand that what we’re dealing with is a long term condition that will have to be dealt with, monitored and treated for probably the rest of my life, we are terribly encouraged to have come so far, so fast. It has certainly been the most trying experience of our lives and yet has proven to be one of the most illuminating as well.
I cannot adequately express my gratitude to all of the thousands of wonderful people who have sent us such incredibly moving and supportive e-mails via the Living Legacy web site. I am quite certain that the love and prayers that have been directed to us from all over the world have had a tangible and potent healing effect. It is truly overwhelming and humbling to realize how many lives my music has touched so deeply all these years. Each one of you who have taken the time and effort to reach out to Jean and I have helped immeasurably to uplift our spirits and keep us looking strongly forward during some very rough moments. I thank you from the very depths of my heart.
I currently have no plans to return to the concert stage or the recording studio in the foreseeable future, but who knows? At least for now, I prefer to keep my options open.
Again my deepest thanks and love to all,
Deb Jelinek printed the "Dear Dan" letters and put them into an album, which she sent to Dan. Every few months she'd send along new pages and we'd add them, until the book was seven inches thick.
We lost Deb in 2019 and, with her, the Living Legacy website. The "Dear Dan" letters of hope, support and encouragement that she collected, and that touched Dan so deeply, are reprinted here.
Dan did indeed return to the studio, to record "Love In Time." Always one of the last sailors to take his boat out of the water, he sailed into October, coming in for football season.
He died at home on December 16th, 2007.