By K. Q. THOMAS, Four Points News
Longtime Steiner Ranch resident Cy Albertson is trying to beat death for a third time — and with his sense of humor, write a book about it.
Some Four Points residents might know him as the piano teacher who owned Albertson School of Music, or the pianist who plays for Esther’s Follies. Others might know him as a teacher at Vandegrift High School and Four Points Middle School, who onced owned a magic shop in Austin and entertained with magic tricks.
Albertson had his first brush with death as a pilot about 15 years ago. “I was flying over Manor and my engine caught fire,” he said. “It was frightening. I thought I was done. But I managed to land without the engine.”
After that experience, he felt that life was much more tenuous than he had imagined and he wanted to live it as fully as possible.
Albertson’s life has been anything but dull so far. He had a varied career as an entrepreneur, teacher and magician. At one time his music school was one of the largest music school chains in Texas, with 3,000 students and 170 teachers.
He has written music for films and had one of his songs picked up by Woody Allen. He wrote a play, “Wand the Musical,” that has been performed by schools and community theaters that has been optioned out to Broadway. He has recorded his music on CD, including “Classics by Candlelight,” a solo piano work.
Albertson is also a magician who owned Texas Magic Supply and has taught his magic skills in camps and classes.
“I tell people I’m a musician and a magician, but not a mortician,” he said.
His husband, J Snyder, and their daughter, Grace, have lived in the Four Points area for nearly twenty years. Snyder is a system administrator for Dell Technologies. Grace is a graduate of Vandegrift and attends Austin Community College.
Albertson’s second brush with death came in 2018, he was leaving Esther’s Follies after a show, with both hands in his pockets. He tripped on the sidewalk on 6th Street and face-planted into concrete.
A few days later, he began losing sensation in his legs and one arm. Emergency room doctors told him he had had a stroke and was likely permanently paralyzed from the waist down.
“So I went from being a healthy individual to all of a sudden being a person facing a lot of disabilities,” Albertson said.
A neurosurgeon suggested they try a new brain surgery. The doctor couldn’t promise a cure, but felt it was worth a shot. He also predicted that it could be a year or more of rehab post-surgery before he would be fully functioning again.
Albertson proved the doctor wrong. The night following the surgery, he was up and walking himself to the bathroom.
“I felt like I’d cheated death for a second time,” he said.
Following a second surgery, Albertson was doing well, having plenty of visitors and getting ready to get back to work and his life. Then the doctor asked to talk to him privately.
His recovery from the stroke was excellent, the doctor said. But he had stage 4 liver disease.
“Apparently, I have hemochromatosis,” Albertson said. (Hemochromatosis causes too much iron to build up in the body.) “One of its symptoms is liver damage. My blood work was horrible.”
So he is currently on the transplant list, while he follows a regimen to help his liver recover. He follows a low salt, low sugar diet and runs several miles every day he can. His blood levels are showing improvement, he said. But he will remain on the transplant list until he hits a certain level of improvement, or he gets an actual transplant.
Because of his health issues, Albertson has been quarantining to avoid COVID-19.
“I had planned to get back to teaching this fall, but I have virtually no immunity,” he said. “School would not be safe.”
During this quiet time, he has been adding to his teaching credentials with online study, improving his drawing skills and writing a book about his experiences.
“Humor has helped me get through this,” he said. “I want people to know that power.”
Albertson referred to M. Scott Peck’s quote, “Once we truly know that life is difficult, once we truly understand and accept it, then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”
Albertson has hopes and ambitions.
“I want to see my daughter grow into the woman she is meant to be. I want to teach again. I want to perform again,” he said. “But, if I die today, I walk out of life a winner.”