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January 18th, 2011
08:15 AM ET

Human Factor: Transcending pain, for a passion

In the Human Factor, Dr. Sanjay Gupta introduces you to survivors who have overcome tremendous odds. Confronting a life obstacle – injury, illness or other hardship – they tapped their inner strength and found resilience they didn’t know they possessed. Be inspired by their successes, as we have been. Today we hear from acclaimed pianist Byron Janis.

When I was 11, an injury to my little finger left it permanently numb and almost ended my budding musical career. Since that day,  I have understood what it means to overcome adversity.

When I learned I had arthritis in my hands and wrists, I again had to summon all my inner strength to face the pain. I've suffered  for more than 38 years with psoriatic arthritis,  an inflammatory form of the disease that causes pain and swelling in the joints.

For 12 years after my diagnosis I did not reveal I had this disease. With the support of my wife, Maria Cooper Janis, the daughter of the actor Gary Cooper, I continued on a journey that despite the pain, allowed me to play with only sporadic absences from the  stage.

Maria has for more than 40 years been at my side, chronicling my performances and daunting  challenges.  She has been an instrumental force in bringing our story to public television and to the writing and publication of a book. We have been lucky to have lived a life of international glamour, romance and triumphs in spite of this adversity.

I have been the ambassador and spokesperson for the Arthritis Foundation since 1984,  when my condition was revealed at a White House luncheon with Nancy Reagan. Recently, the Arthritis Foundation and I announced an extended relationship that I hope will benefit the 50 million Americans who suffer with arthritis, the nation’s most common form of disability.

I will donate to the Arthritis Foundation 25% of proceeds  from the sale of a DVD documentary of my life, my recently published book,  and my soon-to-be-released CD.

I want you to know that arthritis has taught me to look inside myself for new sources of strength and creativity. It has given my life a new intensity. I have arthritis, but it does not have me.

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Filed under: Arthritis • Human Factor

soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. Bret C. Harmon

    Here are some good songs!

    Dreams.

    When All We Had Was Love

    January 18, 2011 at 08:26 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bret C. Harmon

      Hello.

      I"ve been working on my videos so -out with the old, in with the new. It's not part of a publicity thing or anything. After a while of hearing what I've created, I notice something is missing.

      Here is the ling to the final version of "When All We Had Was Love".

      Please feel free to comment, and enjoy!

      March 10, 2011 at 08:33 | Report abuse |
  2. Holy Moses

    Does his CD have any songs by The Bugaloos?

    January 18, 2011 at 08:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Joseph Mallord

    "My wife, Maria Cooper Janis, the daughter of the actor Gary Cooper" – ??? What was the purpose of throwing that in? A little full of ourselves, perhaps? Yuck...

    January 18, 2011 at 09:50 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ee

      Agree!

      January 19, 2011 at 00:02 | Report abuse |
    • Joseph Mallord

      I apologize for and retract my comment. When I read this story I did not know there was a video associated with it (thank you for pointing it out, rhubarb). The reference to Gary Cooper makes sense in context. The written story should have explained the significance of the reference.

      January 19, 2011 at 09:56 | Report abuse |
  4. ApeHanger

    Keep the music flowing. BTW, that aside about his wife being the daughter of Gary Cooper is totally gratuitous and has nothing to do with what Mr. Janis is experiencing. I suspect some zealous editor tossed that into the salad.

    January 18, 2011 at 12:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • rhubarb

      If you, and everyone else who is commenting about the reference to Gary Cooper, would actually WATCH THE VIDEO, you would see that the comment has a great deal to do with this story! It is NOT "gratuitous".

      January 18, 2011 at 17:20 | Report abuse |
  5. Philip

    @Master...no they don't "love it". They just think they do. Shame and humiliation are not natural feelings. Love and kindness are though. So what twisted their minds to the point where natural human feelings have been replaced with one's not natural? (besides perverted individuals cheering them on)

    January 18, 2011 at 12:18 | Report abuse | Reply
    • T3chsupport

      Pain isn't the same as shame or humiliation. You can have the first one without the other two.

      January 18, 2011 at 12:41 | Report abuse |
  6. Philip

    @T3...thanks for pointing that out. Master was obviously referring to pain closely associated with shame and humiliation though.

    January 18, 2011 at 12:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • T3chsupport

      He never mentioned anything having to do with shame or humiliation. That's an assumption on your part.

      January 18, 2011 at 13:15 | Report abuse |
  7. Master

    Here here...I was just relating to the article...transcending pain for a passion. BDSM is a widely and somewhat accepted practice. Its heightens the orgasm to sometimes almost intolerable levels and therefore one must be aware at all times...Good luck my friends.

    January 18, 2011 at 13:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Philip

    A child-like mind simply cannot deal with the emotional stress caused by the man who sodomized him, until that mind has fully developed. Once the mind develops the capacity to deal with the emotional trauma, then the truth about how shamefull and humiliating the experience truly was. Ditto those who only think their orgasms are made better somehow by subjecting themselves to humiliation. They are only fooling themselves and risking heart disease while they are at it.

    January 18, 2011 at 13:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Leighton Cooper

    I think your story is inspirational. I also am a pianist with disabilities. What I think is funny is All my relatives own pianos in their houses and none of them play it. Piano is much harder than most people understand. Also music can run so many different directions. Have you seen the story about the organist who treans 2 quarts of miilk before he does his concerts? Forget the name. But someone knows. I don't process "Rests" in real time so While I can expect certain phrases should sound a certain way the running clock is disabled so in a Classical Session work I would be too slow to work with a sight reading orchestra. Best of luck

    January 18, 2011 at 14:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Philip

    Limited musical capacity does not equate to how one choosed to gratify ones lusts. Nice try though.

    January 18, 2011 at 15:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. my2cents

    If he had adopted a largely raw vegan diet, he would have cured his arthritis. All this suffering was unnecessary. He could have kept his career if he was willing to make a lifestyle change in his diet.

    January 18, 2011 at 18:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Laura

    Byron, ignore the idiotic comments. You're giving people hope, thank you. My husband has suffered with immune mediated polyarthritis for a number of years, and at age 42, was hospitalized with every joint in his body inflamed. His entire spine was affected. It was awful. Loved Gary, and love knowing people are hearing his name again. Awesome!!!!!

    January 18, 2011 at 19:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. DYBO

    I liked Gary Cooper as an actor.

    January 18, 2011 at 21:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. cindychicago

    Finally safe way to abrade stretch marks at home http://www.medicalcrystals.com

    January 21, 2011 at 04:40 | Report abuse | Reply

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.