[Billy] My father always used to say, "Into every life some rain must fall. Sometimes we have to learn how to dance in the rain."
[jazz music] [audience claps]
My first diagnosis with cancer was in 1996. I had a cancerous tumor in my kidney.
Eleven years later, in 2007, we found that I had a metastasis to my lungs and liver, and shortly after that, we found we had some lesions in the brain.
You know, at that point I started writing my memoirs.
If you get a cancer diagnosis, it's kind of like a shot across the bow, that hey, you're not gonna be here forever, and if there's some things you wanna do, you better get busy doing it.
My wife and daughter have been a great support system for me. Sometimes it makes you feel kind of guilty because she didn't bargain for this, really, but it's a lot to go through.
[Billy's wife] I had to realize that in order for me to help him, I had to overcome the thought of him dying, and how best to support him and what it was that he needed.
[Billy] She's been a tremendous help to me. I couldn't have made it through this thing without Renee. She goes to all my appointments.
[Wife] You've got to give me a kiss. That's a good one. [laughs]
[Billy] She has a built-in piano player and I have a built-in singer, so...
[Wife] That's why I married him.
[Billy] [laughs] That in itself.
[Wife] So he could write my music. [laughs]
[Billy] And so that she can sing mine. [laughs]
[Billy] [laughs] Yeah, it's pretty convenient. When you're writing music, you can feel like a connection with a higher power. And I think music is a healing force.
Especially jazz. I can remember playing through sick times but just like everybody else, you play through them.
One, two, a-one, two, three, four.
[Director] Do you think life is like a series of performances or a series of rehearsals?
[Billy] [laughs] Rehearsals.
[Director] Why is that?
[Billy] Well, if it were a performance that I could clean up, I would never have cancer.
[Director] [laughs] Oh, good answer.
[Billy] Cancer isn't necessarily a death sentence. I think it's a help to see someone who actually has had this disease for some time, and they're doing okay.
The future for me is more music, more writing, more teaching, and so on. I'm pretty optimistic about the future.
[Wife] With me.
[Billy] With Renee.
[soft music] [applause]
Billy's story: Making every note count
At Billy's jazz performance, the bass player taps a smooth, steady line of deep notes.