When it comes to the word "cancer," people have reported a range of reactions, from feeling as though their world was about to end to an eerie sort of calm. For guitarist Ronnie Wood of the legendary rock group the Rolling Stones, he admits when he heard the news that he had a "touch of lung cancer" recently, he was floored, but believed that things would work out as they were meant to.
“I was prepared for bad news but I also had faith it would be OK," he admitted. "Apart from the doctors, we didn’t tell anyone because we didn’t want to put anyone else through the hell we were going through. But I made up my mind that if it had spread, I wasn’t going to go through chemo, I wasn’t going to use that bayonet in my body.”
Wood, 70, was a decades-long chainsmoker who gave up smoking the week before his twin girls, Gracie and Alice, were born in 2016. The discovery of the lung cancer came about as a result of a physical he was required to take before the Stones went out on their next tour, which starts September 2017.
When Wood's doctor wanted to go a little deeper into his physical tests, Wood encouraged the doctor to do so, knowing he'd not had a thorough chest x-ray since he went into rehab 15 years ago.
“I said go for it,” Wood said. “And then he came back with the news that I had this supernova burning away on my left lung. And to be totally honest, I wasn’t surprised. I knew I hadn’t had a chest X-ray since I went into Cottonwood (a rehab clinic in Tucson, Arizona) in 2002. He asked me what I wanted to do and my answer was simple, ‘Just get it out of me.’ ”
While Wood can be commended for his positive energy as far as his fears regarding lung cancer went, he can also be considered very fortunate because the lesion on his lung was discovered and a part of his lung was removed in a five-hour operation a few months ago, with apparently all of the cancer being effectively caught before it had the opportunity to spread.
Lung cancer is the second leading cancer diagnosed in both men and women, and it also happens to be the leading cause of death. Roughly 25 percent of all cancer-related deaths is from lung cancer. In addition, men who smoke are 23 times more likely to get lung cancer, with women who smoke being 13 more likely to get lung cancer than their non-smoking peers.
Because Wood's cancer was caught early, his chances of going beyond the five-year survival rate are pretty good; generally speaking, if Wood's cancer was of the non-small cell lung cancer variety - that's the most common type of lung cancer - and if it was staged at Stage 1A or 1B (this determines how big, roughly, the tumor might be and what area of the lung it affects, in addition to indicating whether or not the cancer has spread beyond the lung), Wood has roughly a 50-50 five-year survival rate ahead of him.
Wood was realistic about the diagnosis, knowing that his past lifestyle may have caught up with him.
“I had this thought at the back of my mind after I gave up smoking a year ago,” he said. “‘How can I have got through 50 years of chain-smoking – and all the rest of my bad habits – without something going on in there?’”
The Rolling Stones' No Filter Tour will see the band touring across Europe in September and October 2017.