Red Eyes & Fears: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club drummer Leah Shapiro to undergo brain surgery


Black Rebel Motorcycle Club drummer Leah Shapiro relayed some frightening news late last week, revealing that she has been diagnosed with Chiari Malformations and must undergo brain surgery. The condition, also called CMs, have affected her balance and coordination and caused dizziness and headaches, making it nearly impossible to play drums.

The band cancelled its appearance at Los Angeles’ Block Moon Festival over the weekend, and will cancel all upcoming shows for the foreseeable future. Shapiro relayed the news on Friday via a lengthy social media post, where she remained optimistic that her surgery will be a success.

“I’m grateful that they caught it now so that I can have it addressed before things get worse,” Shapiro writes. “The good news is that there’s a surgical solution for it that is usually effective.”


Shapiro joined BRMC in 2008 after serving as touring drummer for the Raveonettes. A few years back, she inspired the tumblr page, fuckyeahleahshapiro. Read her note in full below…

I wanted to share something very personal with you in the hopes that my experience can help others. A few weeks ago, I started experiencing some unusual symptoms, including dizziness, insomnia, headaches, tingling/numbness in my hands, stiff neck & pain. Even for a drummer, these symptoms were unusual for me so I went to the doctor to get it checked out.

After having some pretty exotic tests, they have diagnosed me with something called Chiari Malformations, or CMs for short. Essentially, CM’s are structural defects in part of the brain and skull which control balance and other functions, such as the flow of cerebrospinal fluid, which is the liquid that surrounds and cushions the brain & spinal cord. CM has different causes. Some are caused by structural defects in the brain & spinal cord that occur during pregnancy. It can also occur later in life through a number of different causes.


But however it happened, I’ve got it and as bad as it is, I’m grateful that they caught it now so that I can have it addressed before things get worse. The good news is that there’s a surgical solution for it that is usually effective. The bad news is that when Rob, Pete & I tried to rehearse this week for the Moon Block Festival on Saturday, I realized that the effects of this illness has made it impossible for me to play drums. I just can’t do the music any justice right now.

And so, it is with deep regret that we’re going to have to pull out of the show on Saturday. The festival site at www.moonblockparty.org will have information on the show. I still urge you to attend the show, as there are a lot of great bands playing there. As you can imagine, I’m hardly looking forward to having my skull cracked open and my brain operated on, but it’s the only thing that’s going to help me get better.

And while the thought of not being able to play drums for several months while I recover from the surgery totally sucks, I’m determined to make a full recovery and get back to playing music with Rob & Pete as soon as I can. If you want to learn more about the disease I have, there are several good sites on the internet that provide information, including this one: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/chiari/detail_chiari.htm

Thanks in advance for your positive thoughts and for your understanding. Love, Leah/BRMC xx


Here’s a quick look at Shapiro’s handiwork…

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