Rikki Rockett has cancer. The 59-year-old Poison drummer told Sirius/XM Radio DJ Eddie Trunk on Tuesday that he’s been battling oral cancer, which he has kept private until now, Rolling Stone is reporting.
Rockett (real name: Richard Allan Ream) told Trunk that he first got sick in June, with pain in his mouth and throat. Rockett first shrugged it off as a sore throat or a cold, but the pain got worse. He eventually saw his doctor, who discovered a tumor at the base of his tongue.
— Rolling Stone (@RollingStone) December 15, 2015
Rikki describes the pain he went through.
It was just a battle that I had to get through, and I got to the point where I couldn’t really talk. I had, I think, 16 canker sores in my mouth at one time. And it’s, like, if you could take your throat and turn it inside out and sunburn it… I had to use this stuff called Magic Mouthwash just to drink the water. It hurt so bad, I couldn’t…. And I’m still on a liquid diet.”
Rikki Rockett isn’t the only rock star to get oral cancer. Iron Maiden vocalist Bruce Dickinson and Aerosmith bassist Tom Hamilton have all had oral cancer, and in all three cases, the cancers were caused by the same thing: the human papillomavirus, or HPV.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HPV is the most common of all sexually transmitted diseases; nearly all sexually active adults will get it at some point in their lives. The result of an HPV infection can range from no problems at all – it goes away on its own – to a mild case of genital warts to cancers such as of the cervix or, in Rikki Rockett’s case, the mouth.
Still, mouth cancer caused by HPV isn’t a death sentence, according to the National Cancer Institute. Mouth cancer caused by HPV is no laughing matter, but the prognosis is good depending on whether the patient is/was a smoker. Patients who don’t smoke have a three-year survival rate of 93 percent. However, the odds of survival get progressively worse depending on how much the patient smokes. It is not clear if Rikki Rockett is or ever has been a smoker.
— Genetic Testing Labs (@gtldnauk) July 31, 2015
Fortunately for Rikki, his cancer, which his doctor called “a hell of a cancer,” was “very treatable.” He underwent nine rounds of chemotherapy and 35 rounds of radiation therapy. He says his mother-in-law drove him to his appointments.
“That kicks your d**k into the dirt. But I went, OK, this is what I’m gonna do. I wanna beat it, so I’m just gonna go head first into this.’”
And it looks like Rikki’s chemo and radiation treatment did the trick. He says he’s “feeling great,” and his doctors think he’s beaten cancer, but he won’t know for sure until February.
“Both [of my] doctors said I’m doing excellent, and they both have excellent prognosis,” he said. “In early February, I get my PET scan, and that’s the end-all. That tells you if there’s any activity. They both said they suspect that there won’t be. And so I’ve got fingers crossed…. It looks like it’s in remission.”
Once his cancer is officially behind him, Rikki Rockett hopes to get back to work. He still tours with his old band, Poison, and he’s been known to appear behind the drums for Devil City Angels, composed of former members of L.A. Guns and Cinderella.
[Photo by Valerie Macon/Getty Images]