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'Jonny is special': Moncton music community rallies around drummer

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Even though he's recently received a serious diagnosis, Jonny Flanagan still loves to pound away on his drum kit in the basement of his Moncton, N.B., home.

The well-known and well-loved musician recently found out that he has Stage 4 colorectal cancer, and just finished his second round of chemotherapy treatment.

His musician friends are holding a big benefit concert for him on June 1 at Casino New Brunswick, and a recent GoFundMe campaign raised $49,500 in just a few weeks.

"It’s unbelievable. The community and friends helping like that, it just blew us away," said Flanagan.

His partner, Gillian Jackson, said all the love and support has been amazing.

"It’s overwhelming and it means that we don’t have to worry and he can focus on getting better and I can focus on taking care of him," said Jackson.

A life-long metal head and punk rocker, Flanagan has been playing drums since he was a kid, and the 47-year-old has been a fixture on the Moncton music scene for decades.

Jonny Flanagan sits at his drum set. (Derek Haggett/CTV Atlantic)

Longtime friend and fellow drummer Ken Kelley said Jonny is an optimistic and uplifting person.

"No matter what you could be going through, he’s always had this incredibly sunny outlook on life," said Kelley.

Kelley's band The Monoxides will be performing at the benefit show in June and lead singer Steve Hickox organized the GoFundMe along with Jackson.

Hickox said when he knew exactly what Flanagan was facing he wanted to get the online fundraiser up and running.

"Initially we asked for $10,000. We had almost that in the first few hours," said Hickox. "Honestly, I had no idea it would take off like it did."

Hickox said his friend is the kind of person who just makes everyone feel better.

"It starts with that permanent smile of his and continues with his infectious laugh and warm personality," said Hickox. "He is absolutely one of the most lovable people I’ve ever met."

His treatments have kept him from his day job, teaching drums at Long and McQuade, for about a year.

"We’re doing this to support Jonny," said Kelley. "As many people know, the arts and music specifically is a tough, tough go. A lot of musicians and artists aren’t lucky enough to have the safety net of health benefits."

Jonny Flanagan sits and smiles for a photo. (Courtesy: Gillian Jackson)Flanagan loves to teach and said he'll miss his students while he's away.

"It’s so much fun and the kids are so great. It’s very rewarding work to see them progress," said Flanagan.

Flanagan and Jackson moved into a new home last year, so the cancer diagnosis was a big blow to the couple.

The support they are receiving from the music community is crucial to them right now.

"It’s humbling to have to ask for help. so, for everyone just to step up and do it without us asking was amazing," said Jackson. "Jonny is special to me. I knew that he was special to everybody, but this has exceeded any expectation I ever could have had for help, support and love."

He’s looking at three months of treatment with chemotherapy and then doctors will re-assess to see if he needs more.

Radiation and surgery are definite possibilities.

"It’s been scary. It’s not something that we ever anticipated. Nobody really anticipates getting this diagnosis," said Jackson.

No matter what, Flanagan said he’ll stay optimistic and keep smiling.

"There’s really no other way. You have to have a positive mind and honestly and truthfully I have zero doubts that we’re going to beat this and move forward," said Flanagan.

The drummer will be performing with his band “Iron Giant” at the June 1 concert.

More information on the one-night show is available on the Smile for Jonny Facebook page.

For more New Brunswick news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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