By Andy Tennille
For being all of fourteen months old, Lydia Ingram runs in some high company.
In the year that she's been alive, Lydia's rubbed elbows with Stevie Wonder, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne and John Mayer and counts Sheryl Crow, Eric McFadden and Dave Schools as personal friends. She's been to Coachella, chilled with George Clinton and had her Almost Famous moment hanging with Kate Hudson at a hotel in London.
With all of her star-studded encounters, you might say Lydia's been pretty lucky, but she might not even be the luckiest person in her family. That distinction goes to her dad, Wally.
Stevie Wonder & Lydia Ingram
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"You're probably going to hear some pretty strange noises coming through the phone line. A lot of hacking, wheezing and definitely some spitting. It's not gonna be pretty."
Wally Ingram croaks a gravely laugh from his hospital bed at Los Angeles' Cedars Sinai Hospital. It's nearly ten o'clock at night and Ingram is into the second hour of his four-hour daily hydration treatment to aid in his recovery from Squamous cell carcinoma, a disease that strikes more than 200,000 people in the United States alone every year. Ingram was diagnosed last June after discovering a lump on the right side of his neck.
Wally with wife Laurie and daughter Lydia
"According to my doctors, I was probably walking around for two years and didn't know I had cancer," Ingram says solemnly. "And it was caught early only in the sense that it didn't kill me. I was stage 4A and 4B is considered terminal, so I was pretty damn close."
Since September, the 44-year-old veteran drummer – whose recording and touring credits include stints with Raitt, Browne, Crow, Tracy Chapman, David Lindley, Stockholm Syndrome, and Eric Burdon & the Animals, among many more – has endured six weeks of intense induction chemotherapy followed by seven weeks of dual radiation/chemotherapy treatments, five days a week. The aggressive nature of the treatment resulted in the loss of Ingram's hair along with severe burns on his neck, cheeks, ears and inner mouth and throat.
"I could sit here and complain about all of this but on the other hand, I'm so grateful for where we're at," Ingram explains. "The whole treatment process was extremely hard but the love we've been shown from all our friends and family as well as my doctors and nurses has been genuinely amazing. As far as I'm concerned, we're batting 1.000 right now and we're incredibly grateful for it."
Wally "Llama" Ingram :: 01.31.07 Benefit Concert
The love Ingram's received in his battle against cancer has come in all forms, including several benefit concerts held over the past six months by his legion of musician friends in hopes of helping to offset some of the financial burden of his escalating medical costs, which ultimately may exceed half a million dollars.
This weekend in San Francisco, Stockholm Syndrome, the allstar rock brainchild of singer-songwriter Jerry Joseph and Widespread Panic bass player Dave Schools which included Ingram on drums and Eric McFadden on guitar and Danny Dziuk on keys, will reunite for two shows at The Independent with special guests Les Claypool and Gov't Mule keysman Danny Louis to benefit their recovering drummer.
"San Francisco is one of my favorite cities in the world and really my home away from home," Ingram says. "I'm thrilled that we'll be there and I've been dying to play with Stockholm Syndrome again. I really miss that band. Now that I'm through with some of this shit, I just wanna rock and I can't think of another band I'd want to do it with more."