In Pursuit of Music and Happiness: Camano Island musician finds peaceful inspiration in his uphill battle with cancer

In Features, Non-fiction, Uncategorized on December 8, 2014 at 10:28 pm


Written by Alex Ashley

It didn’t take long for a welcoming smile to come across the face of Camano Island’s Michael Gotz as he sat at the Camano Island Inn.

He and his wife, Dianna, have been staying there for two weeks thanks to a water heater leak at their Elger Bay waterfront home.

He strode calmly across the inn’s foyer to greet me; we shook hands and then planted ourselves before two steaming cups of fresh coffee.

“How are you feeling?” I asked.

“I feel great,” he replied. “I feel incredible.”

These are powerful words coming from a man who, for the past year, has been grappling with an aggressive form of cancer.

As we sat at the table of the Inn’s dining room, the room bathed in grayscale light through the sliding glass doors, I could not help but observe a subtle strength to Gotz.

Weather-wise, this day was a monochrome display of clouds and rain, and Gotz had the afternoon to speak.

“I was playing with a jazz trio at Bakes’s Place, a music venue in Bellevue, in February of last year,” he said. “As I was driving home from that gig, my feet started bugging me. It got so bad that five minutes from home, I pulled into the Elger Bay fire station and had to take my shoes off because my feet hurt so bad.”

Then, Gotz started to itch, and by July, he said, he started feeling odd.

“My feet started feeling like they were dying,” he said. “It felt like I was walking on sheets of cold metal all the time. Then I started to hurt. My calves felt like they do when you just get done with a really intense workout, that lactic acid feel. But it was all the time, constantly.”

It took Gotz a year to be able to get insurance, and finally see a doctor, who at first was stumped by Gotz’ symptoms. One skin biopsy and a few other tests later, Gotz was referred to a neurologist, who informed Gotz that the cause of his physical symptoms had been monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS).

Then, she gave him the news.

“She told me that it had graduated to what they call multiple myeloma,” he said.

Bone marrow cancer.

Even now, though, Gotz maintains a powerful optimism that is difficult not to admire.

“You didn’t use to survive multiple myeloma at all,” he said. “Except now you do.”

Multiple myeloma is a cancer that forms in plasma cells, the cells that help you fight infections by making antibodies that attack germs. It causes cancer cells to accumulate in the bone marrow, replacing healthy blood cells with abnormal proteins that eventually lead to kidney failure.

Despite all of this, however, Gotz has maintained his focus.
“It’s all about music and spiritual freedom,” said the musician. “I just want to be happy, really.”

Gotz is still a working musician, playing live gigs four nights a week, Tuesday through Friday. And when he’s not on stage, he is in his Elger Bay home studio working on new material.

“The cancer doesn’t scare me,” he said. “I would like to get more recordings done. I want to write more music.”

Gotz has played music all his life. Before he and his wife moved to Camano Island in 2006, he lived in different parts of Seattle, where he was heavily involved in the music scene there, including most of the 1990’s spent in the Wallingford district, playing in a reggae band.

But Gotz admits that his disease, of late, has had a significant effect on him musically.

“At first bad,” he said. “When I started to really get sick, the chills and aches that went with it were crazy, and I got frustrated because I would get weak, and it was affecting my playing. But that didn’t last long.”

Gotz says today the affect has evolved into something different, something more positive, and that it’s actually having a very good influence on his music.

“It’s almost like you know there’s a possible limit,” he said, “so something inside of you knows you want to accomplish a certain amount of freedom, so you just let loose, you just let go. You have to.”

Michael Gotz performs every Tuesday – Friday, 6-8:30 p.m., at Bake’s Place, Hillfair Shopping Center, 155 108th Ave NE #110, Bellevue, WA 98004, and will be performing at the Camano Island Inn on Christmas Eve.

Visit his website at for more information.

(This story appeared as a feature in the Stanwood-Camano News on December 9, 2014.) 

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